Monday, September 8, 2014

"Esteem Reproach" by Harper & Jacumin: A Review

As a Baptist I am well aware of the history of my denomination. As a Kentucky Baptist, I am well aware of how Baptists were treated during the founding of our nation. Many of the first Kentucky Baptists fled Virginia to Kentucky in order to escape persecution from the Anglican-controlled state. Many will be surprised to know that Virginia, at our nations founding, was Anglican. Virginia was not the only state to be primarily controlled by a certain denomination.

I am a descendent of such persecuted Baptists. Seven generations back, my ancestors fled Virginia after repeatedly incarcerated for their Baptist convictions. One of those ancestors was Joseph Craig. Like many in his family and like most Baptist in Virginia, Craig was frequently persecuted and jailed for his beliefs. Craig, along with his brothers Lewis and Elijah, joined the ministry and began preaching the gospel.

I came across a fascinating book called Esteemed Reproach : The Lives of Rev. James Ireland and Rev. Joseph Craig by Keith Harper and Martin Jacumin. The authors offer the writings and personal testimonies of the only two men who experienced persecution in Virginia for being Baptist and wrote about it. As a descendent of Craig, I had to "pick up and read. The authors provide the reader with an excellent introduction that informs the reader on who these two great men were. I found their discussion of Craig particularly informative.

The authors note the eccentricities of Craig, especially compared to his brothers. One paragraph reads:
Craig's zeal notwithstanding, his eccentricities could be disconcerting. John Taylor, a well-known Virgina Baptist preacher who also relocated to Kentucky, held the Craig family in high regard but occasionally found himself embarrassed by Joseph's antics, beginning with their initial meeting. Taylor recalled preaching a candlelight meeting at the lower South River Church in Virginia. When the service ended Joseph Craig ran up to him and exclaimed, 'Here is the ass's colt that my Master rode to Jerusalem.' Craig may have meant that Taylor had done an excellent job of 'conveying' Jesus to the people, but he never bothered to explain precisely what he meant. 'After this,' Taylor noted, 'Craig would introduce me to strangers as 'the ass colt' without telling them my name.' Of course, Taylor also appreciated the methods Craig devised for baffling those who tried to arrest him whether it involved running through swamps, climbing trees to avoid bloodhounds, or pretending to be completely deranged.
I think we all know someone like that.

But overall, this book provides keen insight into the daily life and troubles of Baptists in Virginia. Through their journals and songs, the reader finds real men who struggled with real issues. I recommend this book. It is more than just insight into an ancestor, but insight into where we have been and how much we have to be thankful for . . . especially as Baptists.
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