He was a colored man, and a slave:

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He was a colored man, and a slave:

Postby Rvaughn » Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:25 am

the Ministry of Rev. Caesar Blackwell.

I happened across this story while researching in the pages of the South Western Baptist, a Baptist religious periodical published at Tuskegee and Marion, Alabama, which eventually merged with the Christian Index. Below is an excerpt from “A Condensed History of Antioch Church,” by a Former Pastor (South Western Baptist, Vol. 11—No. 23, Tuskegee, Alabama, Thursday, October 13, 1859, page 1), all of which I posted on my blog. After discovering this, I also found online an article about him at The Free Library, “Caesar Blackwell (1769-1845): the work and times of central Alabama’s nineteenth-century slave-evangelist.” I think this later article presents a more realistic and less idealistic view than the South Western Baptist. Caesar Blackwell’s story is an unique and intriguing, nevertheless.
In 1821, Cæsar, a servant of John Blackwell, joined the Antioch church by experience and baptism. Two years after he was licensed by the church to preach the gospel, and in 1827, he was solemnly ordained to the ministry by a Presbytery consisting of elders Harris, Davis, McLemore and Harrod. In 1828 a move was made by the church to purchase Cæsar from his owner, Mr. Blackwell, it being understood that he could be bought for the sum of $800. Cæsar enjoyed the unlimited confidence of his master (who was not a member of the church) he committed much of his most important business to his care, and he never deceived him. The sum asked (800) was considered a high price for a slave in those days. The matter was presented to the Alabama Baptist Association at its next session, and met its hearty approval. A committee was appointed to make the purchase, and the churches composing the body promptly responded to the call to defray the expenses. The title was vested in Trustees appointed by the Association, who directed his labors in the ministry, and made provisions for his support. He visited churches in the bounds of the Association, acting as a Domestic Missionary. He occasionally made tours in various parts of the State at the call of the church, preaching with much acceptance wherever he went. – After he became the property of the Association, he made his home at Rev. Jas. McLemore’s, who owned his wife and only child. He was furnished with a horse to ride—and had an extensive library of books; and as he had been taught in early life to read and write, he spent his time, when not otherwise employed, in reading and study. “Uncle Cæsar” was an excellent mechanic, and before his strength failed, he devoted a part of his time in working for his neighbors, who rewarded him liberally for his services. While thus engaged with his hands, he was in the habit of having his Bible, or some other good book before him, and occasionally reading a paragraph for study and meditation,—and in this way he acquired much of that knowledge which elevated him above others of his race. As a preacher of the Gospel, “Uncle Cæsar” had few superiors in his day and generation. His theology was of the Calvinistic school, and he loved to discourse upon the doctrines of grace,—election, effectual calling, the perseverance of the saints in grace, &c, were the themes he delighted to dwell upon. He did not neglect, however, to present to his hearers, the practical duties of religion, and to warn the ungodly to flee from the wrath to come. When he was called upon to administer the ordinance of baptism, he generally in some brief remarks alluded to the ordinance, and the writer of this notice has never heard any man, who could give stronger arguments for believers’ immersion than those he listened to from him on such occasions.
Last edited by Rvaughn on Mon Nov 12, 2018 1:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: He was a colored man, and a slave:

Postby Haruo » Sat Nov 10, 2018 11:23 pm

Intriguing. Is this sort of use of Presbyter (or Presbytery, if it was a typo on your part or the author's) common Baptist usage, then or now, in Alabama?
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Re: He was a colored man, and a slave:

Postby Rvaughn » Mon Nov 12, 2018 1:11 pm

Haruo wrote:Intriguing. Is this sort of use of Presbyter (or Presbytery, if it was a typo on your part or the author's) common Baptist usage, then or now, in Alabama?
I went back and checked. It was a typo on my part -- Presbyter should be Presbytery. I think Presbytery would have been common Baptist usage then in Alabama. Can't say for the present. I can say that it is in common usage among Baptists whom I am around. In the case of ordination we mean a group of ordained presbyters/elders who are called together to officiate in the ordination of another. I'd say that substance of the officiation consists of prayer and the laying on of hands, but there are often several other added parts to the ceremony, such as questions, sermon, charge, etc. This is what we and the folks I am familiar with do. I can't speak for others.
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Re: He was a colored man, and a slave:

Postby Haruo » Mon Nov 12, 2018 1:27 pm

Rvaughn wrote:
Haruo wrote:Intriguing. Is this sort of use of Presbyter (or Presbytery, if it was a typo on your part or the author's) common Baptist usage, then or now, in Alabama?
I went back and checked. It was a typo on my part -- Presbyter should be Presbytery. I think Presbytery would have been common Baptist usage then in Alabama. Can't say for the present. I can say that it is in common usage among Baptists whom I am around. In the case of ordination we mean a group of ordained presbyters/elders who are called together to officiate in the ordination of another. I'd say that substance of the officiation consists of prayer and the laying on of hands, but there are often several other added parts to the ceremony, such as questions, sermon, charge, etc. This is what we and the folks I am familiar with do. I can't speak for others.

Very interesting. Few if any of the Baptist churches I have dealt with close up ordain their elders, and I don't think I have ever heard the term used in a Baptist (or for that matter any non--you guessed it--Presbyterian) context. I know Methodists have elders (like Tim Bonney) but I've never heard them use the term, either. Anybody else want to share here? (Fox, Dave, Jon, Tim, Bruce, Neil, Ed, Keith, Gerry, William, Chris? ... lurkers?)
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Re: He was a colored man, and a slave:

Postby Rvaughn » Mon Nov 12, 2018 2:51 pm

Leland, to be clear, when I speak of elders or presbyters, I mean ordained preachers, not some other officers as in the Presbyterian Church.

Here's a few samples uses I found:
16. We believe that no minister has a right to the administration of the ordinances, only such as are regularly called and come under imposition of hands by the Presbytery.

Abstract of Principles, Kehukee Baptist Association, Pitt county, North Carolina, 1799

9. We believe that no minister has a right to administer the ordinance of the Gospel, except such as the regularly called, and come under the imposition of hands by the presbytery.

Articles of Faith, Mountain Union Baptist Association, 1880, Alleghany County, North Carolina

10. We believe that no minister has the right to the administration of the ordinances only such as are regularly baptized, called, and come under the imposition of the hands of a Presbytery.

Articles of Faith, 1892 Hopewell Baptist Association, Lamar County, Alabama

The History of the Polk County Baptist Association (Polk County, Missouri, 1897) uses "presbytery" numerous times to refer the ordained ministers called together to ordain another, and those called together to constitute a church.

16. We believe that those who give proof that they are called of God to the ministry, by edifying the church in that exercise, should be ordained by a presbytery and set apart to that work.

Articles of Faith of the Little Zion Primitive Baptist Church, Bellflower, California

In Chapter 26, Paragraph 9, The Second London Baptist Confession (1689) uses "eldership" in the same manner:
The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person, fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit, unto the office of bishop or elder in a church, is, that he be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage of the church itself; and solemnly set apart by fasting and prayer, with imposition of hands of the eldership of the church, if there be any before constituted therein; and of a deacon that he be chosen by the like suffrage, and set apart by prayer, and the like imposition of hands.
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Re: He was a colored man, and a slave:

Postby Tim Bonney » Mon Nov 12, 2018 4:47 pm

Really old annuals of the Indiana Baptist Convention (Predecessor to ABC/Indiana-KY used the term "Elder" in its annual to describe pastors much the way we do in the UMC. They listed that pastors as "Elder Smith, Elder Jones" etc.

I've wondered for years why that was dropped for "Rev." when Elder/Presbyter is the more Biblical term. And I've wondered for years why Presbyterians want to have "lay elders" when it appears the NT usage is more likely for clergy. But that is a whole other thread.
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Re: He was a colored man, and a slave:

Postby Bruce Gourley » Mon Nov 12, 2018 6:37 pm

Rvaughn, I suggest you contact Gary Burton, a pastor and local historian near Montgomery, Alabama who has done extensive research on Caesar Blackwell. His email is garyburton1@charter.net
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Re: He was a colored man, and a slave:

Postby Rvaughn » Mon Nov 12, 2018 8:53 pm

Thanks, Bruce. I notice Gary is the author of the article at The Free Library (which may have originally appeared in Baptist History and Heritage).
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Re: He was a colored man, and a slave:

Postby Rvaughn » Mon Nov 12, 2018 8:56 pm

Tim Bonney wrote:Really old annuals of the Indiana Baptist Convention (Predecessor to ABC/Indiana-KY used the term "Elder" in its annual to describe pastors much the way we do in the UMC. They listed that pastors as "Elder Smith, Elder Jones" etc.

I've wondered for years why that was dropped for "Rev." when Elder/Presbyter is the more Biblical term. And I've wondered for years why Presbyterians want to have "lay elders" when it appears the NT usage is more likely for clergy. But that is a whole other thread.
The use and non-use of "elder" is an interesting historical curiosity. Apparently some of it is regional, because I have seen some areas (Georgia, e.g.) using "Rev." regularly quite early in their history, while others held on to elder into recent times.
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Re: He was a colored man, and a slave:

Postby Haruo » Mon Nov 12, 2018 9:18 pm

I think the Primitive Baptists still use Elder that way. I have run into a few Baptist churches, though, that have an order of Elders separate from the Pastors, more like in Presbyterian polity, e.g. I think the First Baptist Church of Lynden, Washington. I am interested in this terminological issue, "Presbyter(y)" among Baptists, though. I apologise for raising it in this thread about the Alabama BC's ordained slave, so I think I'll start a separate thread for it.
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Re: He was a colored man, and a slave:

Postby Tim Bonney » Mon Nov 12, 2018 9:49 pm

Haruo wrote:I think the Primitive Baptists still use Elder that way. I have run into a few Baptist churches, though, that have an order of Elders separate from the Pastors, more like in Presbyterian polity, e.g. I think the First Baptist Church of Lynden, Washington. I am interested in this terminological issue, "Presbyter(y)" among Baptists, though. I apologise for raising it in this thread about the Alabama BC's ordained slave, so I think I'll start a separate thread for it.


General Baptists, a fairly common group in Indiana, have a Presbytery.
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