Thursday, December 04, 2014

Vincent Redman Thornton

Georgia Baptist minister Vincent Redman Thornton has long been of particular interest to me. He lived near and pastored my ancestors before they moved from Georgia to Texas. A great-great uncle, Vincent Thornton Vaughn, was even named after him. Here are a couple of excerpts about Thornton from J. H. Campbell's Georgia Baptists (the entire bio can be read at the link below).

First is a somewhat humorous anecdote regarding a couple of overnight stays of A. C. Dayton. "[Elder Thornton] required a conformity to the usages of his household, which to some was a serious impediment to the enjoyment of his hospitality. An instance may be stated in reference to that most excellent and distinguished brother, Dr. A. C. Dayton, author of Theodosia Ernest, etc. The first time he visited Georgia, he came as a Bible agent. After spending a day or two at Penfield, he was advised to go to Thornton's, who could give him full information in regard to the churches in Burke and Jefferson counties. Thornton received him gladly, and enjoyed his society. But at eight o'clock he had worship and went to bed, dismissing Dayton in about these words, "Brother Dayton, you can go to your room up stairs, where you shall have fire and candles, but I always go to bed at eight." Theodosia went to his room well enough pleased with his part of the arrangement and sat up pretty late writing. What was his horror, however, to be disturbed next morning by a servant coming in at four o'clock to make a fire, summoning him to prayers and breakfast. About two months afterwards, having finished his tour in the lower counties, Dayton again visited Thornton, was again gladly welcomed and kindly entertained, and was once more sent to bed at eight o'clock and called up at four. That day, a little after sunrise, as good brother Davis, of Greensboro', (whose house was a free Baptist hotel,) was going to breakfast, he heard a call at the gate. It was from Dr. Dayton, who had come nine miles from Thornton on one of the coldest winter mornings. "Brother Dayton, I am glad to see you. Breakfast is just ready; come in and eat with us." "Well," replied Dayton, "I ate breakfast last night at brother Thornton's, but I'll take a little more, as it's morning now." Dayton never went to Thornton's again, though the latter never knew that it was his anti-lucan repast that drove him off." [From Georgia Baptists: Historical and Biographical, J. H. Campbell, 1874, pp. 342-343]

Next is the memorial of him in 1856 by the committee on deceased ministers at Georgia Baptist Association (written by H. H. Tucker, then President of Mercer University). "Endowed by nature with a mind of remarkable power, he had enriched it with large stores of that knowledge which is above all knowledge most useful to a preacher of the gospel. If his intellectual endowments were not varied, they were certainly profound. Some one has remarked, that 'a man of one book is always to be dreaded.' If thorough acquaintance with a human production so arms a man for the conflicts of life, what must be the power of him whose one book is the Bible? Brother Thornton was emphatically a man of the Bible. Few other books claimed his attention; yet he had one other favorite. The writings of the learned John Gill were his constant study. Perhaps few men have ever made themselves so thoroughly familiar with the voluminous works of that author as the subject of this notice. As might be inferred from what has just been stated, brother Thornton was a zealous advocate of the precious doctrines of grace. There are those who love these doctrines, but who preach them in a form half disguised, as if to apologize for what some are pleased to call their severity. Brother Thornton preached them boldly. The most startling issues to which they give rise he did not avoid, nor half avoid, but stated them fully and fearlessly, and met them with surprising ability and ease. Perhaps the most remarkable feature in his preaching was the apparently effortless manner in which he explained and defended, with irresistible argument, the great doctrines of the cross. He has gone to his reward, but we dare to believe that he has not changed his theology. Grace was his theme while among us, and grace is his theme now that he is among the angels." [From Georgia Baptists: Historical and Biographical, pp. 344-345]

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