Saturday, September 09, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History September 10

James Caldwell Shares Doubts with Fowler, September 18, 1840

One of the most prominent citizens of the Republic of Texas was James P. Caldwell  (1793-1856).  He had been born in Baltimore, and lived in Kentucky before his arrival in 1824.  He settled on the lower Brazos at Velasco and is credited with building and operating one of the first sugar mills in that fertile river bottom.  In 1852 he shipped 200 hogsheads of sugar.  

He was also a participant in the Battle of Velasco and an organizer of the first Masonic Lodge in Texas.  

On September 18, 1840, he wrote Littleton Fowler a letter expressing the hope that the two would see each other in October when Methodists planned to gather for the Centenary Campmeeting.  The letter also reveals some interesting doubts about Caldwell’s assurance of salvation.
I want to realize those feelings of Joy which belong alone to the Christian, ah! Bro Fowler, I have some bitter moments of reflection, at times I imagine I have sinned against the best of beings too long ever to hope for repentance, these thoughts will obtrude themselves uncalled for, and though I never give them audience long before I banish them yet they cause at times phantoms to flit across my breast, that this may possibly be, or why so long without the evidence of redemption from sin. Parson Allen & Baker talking to me on the subject thought it probably I expected to receive too much, that we should be satisfied, etc., etc., etc. Well, I have not that evidence that I am a changed man, and until I experience that I have passed from death until life, I shall never feel that I am prepared to die, and until I can feel ready to die, assured of my acceptance with God in heaven, I shall never feel that I am a Christian in my acceptation of the term.

Allen and Baker refer to William Y. Allen and Daniel Baker, both Presbyterians, who along with Jesse Hord, the Methodist circuit rider, had been preaching in the Velasco area.

Our interest in the letter comes from the fact that most Methodist correspondence of the period is full of the assurance of salvation rather than doubts about it.   It sounds much more like letters and diaries from 17th century Puritans who were obsessed with the question of whether they were saved.  One of the features of the revival movement of the early 19th century was the “sure and certain” promise of salvation that penitents received at the mercy seat.  Caldwell’s letter shows that he wanted some dramatic sign even though his spiritual advisors provided reassuring advice.
Caldwell died in one of the periodic yellow fever epidemics and was buried at Peach Point.


Post a Comment

<< Home