Elder Isaiah Guymon
My grandfather, Isaiah Guymon (for whom I was named), was left an orphan, and was raised by a man named Curry, and was known by that name until grown, and about to be married to a Miss Elizabeth Flynn, when it became necessary that his proper name be known. From this union there sprang ten children - four sons and six daughters. My mother's maiden name was Sarah Gordon, and from the marriage of my father and mother there sprang eleven children, of whom there were six sons, Isaiah (myself), John, William, James, Noah and Martin. I was born in Stokes county, North Carolina, February 15th, 1810. I am now in my 76th year since February 15th, and have been trying to preach Christ and him crucified for over forty years. The first Baptist I ever heard preach was before I was six years old; his name was Thomas Oliphant, and his text was Isaiah 7: 25. In the fall of my 7th year my parents moved from North Carolina to the south part of Kentucky, near the north line of Jackson county, Tennessee, in which they subsequently purchased a small farm, and remained in this county ten years. During this time there was much religious interest amongst the people in that part of the country, which was then and there known as "new lights," under whose influence my youthful mind became much impressed with the great necessity of serving God in order to obtain salvation from sin, and also to obtain the approbation of good people, and especially my parents and neighbors, in whom I had much confidence. Though I was what was considered a moral and an obedient boy, I was conscious that I fell far short of perfection. In my 17th year my father migrated to Illinois and settled in Edgar county, and I was then hired out to a man named Hicklin, whom I thought much of; he was also of the "Christian" order (for so they were now called).
I now became impressed with the necessity of being a Christian, which I thought I could be by doing good and abstaining from evil. And when thus covenanting before God to do, in a very short time I became convinced that I fell short of the law of righteousness; and when in this there were repeated failures, I became uneasy, and anxious to know why it was that I could not keep my promise to God. These failures were by an increase of conscious sin and condemnation to me, and the blackness of darkness covered me. In this state I tried to seek God, praying to him to have mercy upon me. It seemed to me that I would have given anything to have been a bird or a beast, or had never been born.
I would go to meeting, but no relief could I get there; I felt condemned, but could not do righteousness. The preachers would say, "Give your heart to God; repent and turn to God; seek God; pray to God," and such like exhortations, which I had tried to do but could not, until I was ashamed to offer God such a deceitful heart, or so sinful a prayer. And to repent, or turn away from my sins, I would have given the world to have done; and to seek God, I knew not where to go, or what to do. While in this condition I went to a meeting of these good people (to me), and while there I saw my brother John much affected, and the thought went to my heart that he could be saved, but that I was lost forever. Just then I lost consciousness of what I did, and the next thing I recollect was something saying, "Praise the Lord." My feelings were indescribable, and to me all nature was dressed in a glorious order; I loved every thing I saw or my thoughts centered upon. The heavenly illumination gradually passed away, and I became calm in my feelings: the burden of guilt and condemnation was gone, and I did not know how or why, but after a while I began to question with myself what does this mean? have I seen a vision in which the heavens and the earth were glorious? and am I yet deceived? if so, Lord, undeceive me; give me to know the real state of my case. My friends exhorted me to join the church and be baptized to which I consented, and was immersed (after relating my experience) by Calvin Kimbrough, a minister of the then Christian order, as they were called. Being now identified with them, I was in regular attendance at their meetings, and becoming alarmed at what they preached as prerequisites unto salvation obligatory on the sinner, because I had not done them, I tried to throw away my experience as a delusion; for I supposed that they knew the truth, and understood the scriptures, which I had read but very little, as I was no scholar, and could scarcely read at all. In such a state, between their preaching and my experience I was truly miserable, so much so that I quit going to meeting and betook myself to reading the New Testament, with the expectation of finding their teachings sustained; but to my surprise and comfort I found "that God, for the great love wherewith he loved poor sinners, even when they were dead in sins, quickened them together with Christ (by grace ye are saved), and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus," &c., &c. This with many other like scriptures relative to the desired end, killed me to a trust in creature merit, and gave me consolation and good hope through grace. Thus I became separated from my Christian friends, but where to go I know not, for I knew nothing of the Primitive Baptists, but had heard unfavorable remarks made of them, religiously; so I concluded to live alone, and make the scriptures my counselor. I will now state that during the year before, I had made the acquaintance and became married to a Miss Hannah M. Martin, with whom I was living happily, and who is yet living, and is the mother of twelve children, six sons and six daughters, seven of whom are yet living, (five sons and two daughters) she being 74 years old past since the 10th day of last October, being born in 1811.
I now return to where I left off. In continuing to read I increased in the knowledge of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in counsel, purpose and promises; their fulfillment by Jesus Christ, until I would have given more to have known who of all (if any) of the professors of the Christian religion held and preached it, than for anything else; and moreover, if I ever had an ardent desire to preach the gospel, I then had it. So it went on in this way for a time, until I had to opportunity of hearing an old Baptist preach, whom I supposed knew nothing, but, to my surprise and comfort, he preached the glorious doctrine of salvation by grace. Yet I did not suppose that it was common with them, and wondered what they would do with him; but to me, he was the only religious brother I had in the world. But upon further acquaintance, I found that this (religiously) despised people held that doctrine in common, for which they were evil spoken of; but I loved them, from which I took encouragement that I had passed from death unto life, for I was confident that they were the called of God, according to his own purpose, given them in Christ Jesus before the world began. But the impression to declare these things continued with me, but how to do it I knew not, for ignorance and diffidence both opposed, and I cried, "Lord, lay it on the wise and prudent." The doctrine (among other things) of the unity of the Trinity became a subject of deep interest to me, and in contemplating it upon my bed I fell asleep, and dreamed that I was in the woods of an old deadening, and was standing on the trunk of a large fallen tree, with my face toward to south, and saw three suns of equal size and glory; and in contemplating the wonder, I saw those two on the right and left verging toward to central or noonday sun, until they entered into it, and became one body; neither increased in size or glory; moreover, I beheld all the stars, in their brightness, then verging toward the sun and entering into it, without increasing either the size or glory of it; and to my mind it was said in my dream this is the mystery of the unity of the Trinity; and I awoke, and behold, it was a dream.
Dear brother, when I contemplate the glorious unity as set forth by Jesus Christ in the seventeenth chapter of John, I am made to cry, "Glorious oneness" (thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.) After the things above mentioned, I moved from Edgar county to Coles county, Illinois, and settled in a Baptist neighborhood, and was a regular attendant at their meetings, and desired to live in church relation with them, but my baptism was in the way for a time, until I came to the conclusion that they who preached not the gospel are unauthorized to administer baptism. Then I went to the church and told the same experience that I had related to my Christian friends, and was received and baptized by Elder William Martin. After remaining here a few years I moved to Hancock county, Illinois, in the fall of 1836, and lived one year without offering our (myself and wife's) letter to the church. During this year I got my left shoulder put out of place in an epileptic fit, of which I had of late become the subject, without knowing the cause. I remained in this condition six weeks and four days before getting my shoulder righted; after which I hired to one of my wife's uncles to plow, which I performed with one hand, carrying the other in a sling. After this, but before my shoulder was well, I was attacked with bilious fever. I now became dependent on the mercy of the people, my dear wife doing all she could. After recovering from this (though occasionally afflicted with epileptic fits), and being without a home, through the intervention of my wife's uncle, I obtained one hundred and sixty acres of land in Hancock county, which I afterward paid for and improved, by the help of my wife and kindness of my neighbors; but being without a team, and becoming tired of imposing on my neighbors,
I purchased a pair of oxen from Elder J. G. Williams, of Adams county, on time, for which I afterward paid. I now became more encouraged, though still afflicted with fits; but the impression to preach Christ Jesus and him crucified had never been abated; the cause for which I left Coles county, hoping to be excused, and also why I had held my letter in secret until I should become settled. But the time had now come that I could not stay away from meeting; so my wife and I went to New Harmony Church meeting, of which Elder George Walker was pastor. After preaching the church commenced business, and when the door as opened for the reception of members I offered our letter, which was read, and a motion made to receive us, pon which I arose and said: "Brethren, you see from the date of letter that I have held it for a year or so, being unsettled; and if you wish additional information, I will try to answer any question you may wish to ask." I volunteered a little history of the time, after which a motion was seconded, and we were received. On the next day Brother Walker called on me to conclude the meeting; this was a severe trial, but I complied as best I could. At the next meeting he called on me to open by prayer, and I felt like it was impossible, but how to refuse I did not know, and consequently submitted. Thus it went on for a time, in which I sometimes would forget myself; after which I would feel much mortified, and think that I would never do so again, but as often fail, until the brethren moved that I be liberated by the church to exercise in public, to which I remonstrated, with feelings of deep emotion. But they said that the privilege would not be compulsory, and that I would feel more at liberty; so I went on, until the church called for my ordination, which, I think took place in the year 1840, and the ministers composing the presbytery were Thomas H. Owen, of Middle Creek Church; Joel G. Williams, of New Providence Church, and George Walker, of New Harmony Church, all of which churches belong to the Salem Association, between the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. Those churches bore the appellation, "Regular Old School Predestinarian Baptist." After my ordination my ministerial labors increased. Being very poor, and having no horse to ride, I would walk when it was not too far; otherwise would borrow of my good neighbors, who were very kind to me. About this time one of my oxen died, and so I was again left without a team. I did not know what to do, but my good neighbors advised me to go to a sale and bid off a mare that was to be sold, and have her to ride to meeting and to plow, and after my crop was laid by, sell her and pay the sale debt, which I tried to do, but failed. So I borrowed the money at 10 per cent to pay the debt, which I repeated two or three times before I got it paid. In the year 1840 our oldest daughter died, which very much grieved us. In 1845 I sold out and moved to Adams county, and in 1846, we lost our third daughter. In this county we joined the New Providence Church (by letter), and in 1849, we lost our fourth daughter, and we again moved (but only a few miles), and joined the Little Flock Church (by letter) and remained there until I oved to Missouri in 1857, and joined the Siloam Church in 1858. I have remained on the same place ever since, and have seen much affliction and trouble, but thanks be to God, who delivereth us out of them all.