Elder Lewis Frazee
I have promised to give an article for the Messenger of Peace, and I thought, perhaps, I could not do better than give a short history of my life and labors among the churches of Salem Association and elsewhere. In doing this I realize my inability to give it as I would like to, but ask the forbearance of those who may read this article.
In the year 1883, in the state of Iowa, I was made to see myself lost, ruined, and undone, and separated from God by wicked works. I learned that my best efforts and the efforts and prayers of friends could not bring me into favor with God or the forgiveness of my sins, but Jesus the blessed Son of God was brought to my view as the one that could save to the uttermost, and I was given a good hope in his name, which hope has been to me an anchor through the trials of the past thirty years, and which hope I have to this day. I united with the Missionary Baptist church that same spring and was baptized with a number of others. Going to Missouri shortly afterwards, I united with a church of the same faith at Greensburg, by letter. During this time my mind was much exercised and I spent most of my time reading the Scriptures and talking to others of the wonderful plan of salvation. Many were the sweet and happy hours I spent with my dear mother, who was rejoicing over the return of her prodigal boy. I will say here that although I belonged to a people who believed in a conditional salvation, yet in my case, I knew it was by grace alone. I felt to say with the great apostle, "Unto me who am less than the least of all saints was this grace given." I found in reading the scriptures it was also the Bible plan. I began to realize there was some discord in my views and the views of my brethren. However, the church licensed me to preach, I think, in June or July of that year. I went back to Iowa where I first united with the church. My coming and the fact that I had begun preaching caused a great deal of commotion throughout that part of the country, and arrangements were made for me to preach at a private house on Sunday afternoon. A very large crowd assembled at the time and place of meeting to hear the "boy preacher." I felt I could never face that crowd or lift my voice in trying to preach. I would have given anything if I could have been somewhere else. But the old deacon encouraged me.
After they had engaged in singing and a brother had offered prayer, I arose to my feet and read from the second chapter of Ephesians, "For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves." I remember some of the things I said in the opening of this subject. I said I saw in this text God's wonderful plan of salvation, and I could bear witness to it through my experience. I also could see by this text the total depravity of man and his inability to save himself. I continued in this line of talk for perhaps three- quarters of an hour, but I never heard a single amen from any of the brethren. If I ever preached the doctrine of grace, I did that day, and I felt I had been given sweet liberty of speech; but there was none who came to me and bade me Godspeed.
A few days after this meeting a local preacher and one of the deacons came to me to instruct me in the way of the Lord more perfectly, as they thought. They said they wanted to talk to me in regard to the things I had preached on Sunday, to tell me I was entering upon dangerous ground. They admonished me not to preach that doctrine any more. I was dumbfounded at this, and asked them to kindly show me where I failed to preach the Bible. They said those things were too deep for a young preacher. I began to see the difference widening between me and the people I was with. I prayed God would give me understanding and teach me the ways of life. In September, I went to Kansas and while there went with Brother J. M. Slusher to Cherryvale to attend a meeting of the Primitive Baptists at a church called Big Hill. Elder Showalter was the pastor.
That was the first Primitive Baptist I had heard since I received a hope. How my soul feasted on the good sermon! I saw and believed those people were my people, and their God was my God. I told Brethren Slusher and Anderson that evening how I felt and that I would like to have membership with them, if they thought I was worthy. They said they would like for me to offer myself to the church the next day, which I did, and was received into their fellowship and baptized the next meeting. I had found a home at last.
I returned to Missouri that winter and, after spending a time with the folks at home, I came to Illinois. Once again amid the scenes of my childhood and among my former associates, I realized old things had passed away and new things had taken their place. The things I once hated I now loved. I went to the old church at Providence where Elder Castlebury was still their pastor. When I met the old brother he wept. He had seen me grow from boyhood to manhood, was a close friend to my father and the family, and had preached father's funeral. He was mother's counselor through the dark days following father's death. I sat there in the old church that day where I went when a child with my parents, when my heart would swell with pride when father got up to preach. I could not then understand and see the beauty and grandeur of the gospel he preached, as I could at this time. On the following Saturday and Sunday I attended the regular meeting at Middle Creek Church. Here I met the brethren and sisters who later received me in sweet church fellowship, which has given me strength and courage, and they have ever held up my hands in hours of discouragement and doubt. Elder B. R. Warren was then pastor of the church, and a very able preacher and good, safe counselor. On the next Sunday I attended the regular meeting of Smyrna Church in Bentley. Elder Thomas Jones was pastor. He certainly was a father in Israel to a boy like me. I was very closely associated with this good man in the short time he lived, living with him in his home through the summer. During the early spring and summer of this year Elder Phillips, who had returned from an extended trip through Virginia, did some very able preaching among the churches of the association. The churches were much revived and many were added to them. Among the number was the little girl who afterwards chose to share with me life's joys and sorrows.
In August, 1885, I received a letter from Big Hill Church, in Kansas, and united with Middle Creek Church. The church officially recognized in me a gift of the ministry and gave me liberty to speak wherever God in His providence cast my lot. I have often had grave doubts about the judgment of the church in this matter. In the year 1888 I was ordained to the full work of the ministry. This was at their regular meeting in May. In June I was called to Knox County, Missouri, where I administered, for the first time, the ordinance of baptism to a brother Bennet Koontz, Sister Ollie Hardy, and Sister Ollie Grove. This was a time of rejoicing with the little church of Hopewell.
I now began to realize some of the responsibility, not only of the ministry in feeding the church of God, but also of a home, having been married in the fall of 1885 to Amanda B. Alley. In 1886 a little girl came to gladden our hearts and our humble home, and many times we were made to forget our poverty when we got our hymn books and lifted our voices together in song.
Perhaps it would be well to give a little history of Middle Creek Church, as it is the oldest church in Salem Association. It was constituted in 1832, by Elders Bradley, Ray, and Thomas H. Owens, and they erected the first house of worship in Hancock County. From her was organized most all the churches in Salem Association. The church house was constructed of brick, with two very large fireplaces in the end. The pulpit was placed between the fireplaces. They worshipped in this house for ten years before the floor was laid. She was blessed with a very able ministry, Elders Bradley, Ray, and Owens. Elder Owens was the author of the Owen's Church History which is so familiar to the Baptist people. Elder Owens was pastor of the church until May 1847, and was released by his request. Elder Castlebury was then called to the care of the church and served them faithfully for many years. In the meantime Providence Church was constituted and many went to Providence by letter.
Elder Castlebury was also moderator of the Salem Association, and by his wise counsel she was safely guided through some dark and trying times. He served as moderator until his death. The last sermon he preached was at Providence, in the fall of 1885. His text was "They that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country." Hebrews 11: 14. He preached with wonderful power and demonstration of the spirit. In a few days he took his bed and soon succumbed to the ravage of age and disease, and was gathered to his fathers. He was succeeded as moderator of the association by Elder B. R. Warren. Until this time, the association was blessed with such able ministers as Elders Owens, Castlebury, Newton Frazee (the writer's father), Jones, Warren, Harris and Riley, who were members of the association. Elders Vanmeter, Dark, Cottrell, D. W. Owens, and a number of able preachers from Missouri made frequent visits among the churches. These men all came preaching peace by Jesus Christ.
In August 1886, my wife and I attended the Two River Association for the first time. It was held with ear Creek Church, near Hannibal, Missouri. Here I first met the late Elder Jonas Sutton. They put me up to preach one night. When I got through Elder Sutton came to me and said, "Tonight I have heard the fourth generation of your family preach. I heard your father, your grandfather, and also your great-grandfather in the state of Ohio." I met a number of brethren at this meeting that I was permitted to labor with in the ministry in after years.
In 1890 or 1891 I was pastor of a church near Jacksonville, Illinois, for one year. In 1892 I was called to the care of Middle Creek Church, where I held my membership. Elder Warren had resigned on account of age. I was also serving Rock Creek Church at this time, where I labored for several years with much discouragement. Here I learned this great truth, one may plant and another may water, but God gives the increase. When he was pleased to smile on this little church they were much revived, and there were five added to the church. One of them was the late Senator Harris, who afterwards became an able preacher. About the year 1894 I accepted a call from Providence Church, the old church where my father preached, it being near my old home. During these times Elders Dobbs and Querry were making frequent visits among our churches. Their labors were much appreciated by the brethren and there was a number added to the churches. In January 1896, I accepted a call from Smyrna Church at Bentley, having previously resigned at Rock Creek. I also at this time was serving Union Church in Spoon River Association, which made me four churches, and at the time was laboring hard to maintain my little family and keep the wolf from the door. I never traveled extensively outside of our corresponding associations. However, at the earnest solicitation of Elder Daily, I made a trip through the state of Indiana for five weeks. I have never forgotten the sweet fellowship and generous hospitality of the many brethren and sisters I met on this trip.
About the year 1900 I received an invitation from the Church of Canada to attend their quarterly meeting held at Duart, Ontario. It was with the deepest concern I consented to go, as it was a long way from home and among people of a different nation. I did not so much care for that, if I knew the Lord was in the matter. I met with a warm reception, but I don't think I ever was in so great darkness as I was when we met at the church on Friday morning. The meeting was opened by the pastor, and he also did the preaching that day. The next day Elder H. M. Curry preached, and still I was in great darkness. On Saturday night we met at Sister Bellue's home, in the little village. We did not have preaching that night. Quite a number had come in. They asked me to tell my experience and call to the ministry, which I did. Then I think each one present related his or her experience. I think I never attended such a meeting as we had that night. The darkness and gloom lifted and I felt I was among my brethren. The next day I was expected to preach. When the hour came for meeting I thought I never saw such an orderly gathering of people. They filled the large house to overflowing. There were many Indians in the congregation, there being an Indian reservation near. I read the 139th Psalm, using for a text, Deut. 32: 2, 3, "My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew; as the small rain upon the tender herb and as the showers upon the grass." I was blessed with sweet liberty that day, and I was enabled to see the wonderful beauty in this text. I would like to give in detail the form of worship of those dear brethren, but it would take too much space. I made three trips into that country, and met many good brethren and sisters. On my second trip I met the late Elder Chick, at that time editor of the Signs of the Times .
In 1896 I was chosen moderator of the Salem Association and have served continuously from year to year until the present time. During the past twenty-seven years, there has never been anything come among us to cause division or give us trouble. I have been given the support and counsel of my brethren. Notwithstanding, there have been times when it required great care and united counsel to avoid some things that would have brought division and trouble among us, the same that have divided other associations and churches.
In the year 1903 I received a call from Friendship Church to take the care of the church. I resigned the Union Church in McDonough County, and accepted the call. This little church had passed through a very sore trouble by which they had lost some of their members. They were weak in numbers, but good, faithful brethren. I felt it my duty to accept their call. I tried to serve them faithfully. Ere long I found some of God's little ones that should be in the church, but it was several years before I could see interest manifested by others. The attendance began to increase and a deep concern was manifested by some. I began to have courage. Then five dear ones came telling what the Lord had done for them, were received and baptized. Two more joined by letter, and it was not a great while until her membership was almost doubled. These four churches are the only active churches of Salem Association. The majority of the present membership of the four churches I have baptized, and you may know, dear reader, that I love them dearly. This world would be a dreary place for me if I could not have a home with these dear people. How many times they have held up my hands with their loving and tender encouragement. So many times I feel I have not given them the service they should have. And when I look back and see so many things I have left undone I wonder that they have continued my service so long.
Throughout my thirty years of service among the churches of Salem Association, I have endeavored to declare the whole counsel of God, teaching them to observe all things that Jesus commanded; and they have been blessed in their faithfulness. Brotherly love and fellowship abounds in their midst. Oftentimes I am made to exclaim with David, "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. It is like the precious ointment upon the head that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard, that went down to the skirts of his garments." While death has removed from our midst most all who were members thirty years ago, yet the younger ones have come in and taken their place in the dear old church. Associations and churches with whom we formerly corresponded have ceased to exist and have passed into history. Is there not a cause? I feel sure if we seek only the glory of God and the honor of his cause, and walk in the commands of Jesus he will not remove the candlestick from our midst, and we will enjoy sweet fellowship and blessings of his kingdom.
I sometimes feel my work is almost done. I have always told my brethren when my work ceases to be profitable to the churches, to fill my place with another. I desire above all things to see the cause of Christ prosper. There are many things I would like to have spoken about and many brethren and sisters I would like to give special mention in this article, but space would not permit. I ask you to cast a mantle of charity over my imperfections. Let us stand united for the peace of Zion, and for the cause of Christ. May grace be with you.