Biography of Joshua S. Callaway

Was born in Wilkes county, Georgia, May 30th, 1789. He was the fifth child of Joshua and Isabella Graves Callaway. His mother's maiden name was Henderson. At the time of his birth, his parents were members of Hutton's Fork (now Sardis) church, in said county. It was for one of his uncles, Samuel Callaway, that Callaway county, in Kentucky, was named. Another uncle, James Callaway, settled in Virginia and raised a large family. Rev. Jesse Mercer was pastor of Hutton's Fork church. The subject of this brief memoir was impressed with the importance of religion while yet a child, and at the early age of eleven, obtained hope in Christ. Though he gave decided evidences of genuine piety, he was discouraged from joining the church by his parents and others, most of the Christians of those days being prejudiced against young persons making a profession of religion. We give a portion of his religious experience in his own language: "Thus my soul was troubled, because I had sinned, and that I was a sinner against a good and holy God. These troubles, more or less, continued with me until December, 1800. When, one night, I was lying on my bed, afraid to go to sleep, in deep meditation, for fear I should be lost, both soul and body, it did appear to me that I saw a way by which I could be saved, and the way of salvation through Jesus Christ did appear so complete and glorious, I did verily think that any and all might be saved if they would only look to that blessed Saviour. Here my troubles were all banished, and while in my ecstacy and joy, father and mother awoke. They seemed to be alarmed more than otherwise, and, as I had been lingering for some time, they seemed to fear I was going to die right away. But I assured them they need not fear, for I saw that Jesus Christ could save all sinners if they would only come to Him, and as I had great love for my brother-in-law, John Milner,* [who had been kind in teaching him and others of the family the rudiments of an English education,] on that memorable night, I told my parents if they would send for him, I knew I could explain to him how he might become a Christian. And I did verily believe I could tell him so that he would understand and know for himself. So they sent for him, and I began and told him all about it, so that I thought he must understand. But, alas! when I had finished, he slowly raised his head, which had been hanging down, and remarked, 'Oh! Joshua, I know nothing about it.' "

*He knew that Milner was serious oa the subject of religion.

It was not until he was in his twentieth year that he received such encouragement from Rev. Jesse Mercer, with whom he sought an interview, as to induce him to offer to the church. He was baptized by that eminent servant of God into the Sardis church, September 23d, 1809. Of all things in this world he desired an education, yet the only schooling he ever enjoyed was from February to September, 1808, during which time he enjoyed the instruction of a certain Mr. Walker, of whom he says: "I often heard him say that the English grammar was a cheat, and that some men were trying to impose upon the people, and to my certain knowledge he could not pronounce half the words in Dilworth's Spelling Book correctly. Yet I determined, if God permitted me to live, I would yet know something; and the first few dollars I got I took to a merchant and told him I wanted a book. He readily told me he had the right sort of a book for me, and showed me Euclid's Elements. I, immediately bought it, and paid every cent of money I had for it, about four dollars. Many nights I sweated and poured over it until midnight. Thousands of pine-knots did I burn while I gazed on that book." Yet the man who had such poor opportunities in early life, became an eminent minister of the gospel in subsequent years. Joshua S. Callaway was a profound theologian, deeply versed in the doctrines and discipline of the gospel, and an exceedingly interesting and powerful preacher.

In the year 1818 he removed to Jones county and became a member of Sardis church, by which he was called to the work of the ministry, and at her request was ordained in June, 1820, by a presbytery consisting of Edmund Talbot, Benjamin Milner and John M. Gray. He was soon preaching to four churches, and his time and attention were almost wholly engrossed with the duties of the sacred calling. He says he could not have thus given himself up but that he had a pious wife und one faithful deacon. She would say to him, ?Go and preach, and I will stay at home and work." Of that deacon he says, "There was a noble man of God, a deacon, belonging to Elam church, Jones county, whose name was Thomas Blount. Through his instrumentality I was able to serve all four of my churches, but without whose help I should have been compelled to resign all my churches in order to provide for my family." He bears further honorable testimony to the fidelity and liberality of this deacon, for whose posterity, to their latest generations, he records his prayer.

He remained in Jones county ten years, or until 1828, when he removed to Henry county. Those ten years seem to have been the happiest portion of his life. Soon after his removal to Henry county those dissensions in the denomination arose which resulted in its being divided into the missionary and anti missionary parties. A man of his prominence could not but be involved in those troubles. Circumstances seemed for a time to throw him into the anti-mission ranks. But it was only in appearance, for he soon found opportunity to assert his real sentiments, and under his leadership the Flint River Association took decided missionary ground, a minority of her churches, under Rev. William Mosely, having withdrawn and formed the Towalagi Association. He was moderator of the Flint River Association about fifteen years in succession immediately preceding his death, and was a model presiding officer. During the early years of his ministry he kept an account of the baptisms he performed until it reached upwards of fourteen hundred, when, conceiving the idea that it was wrong to keep such accounts, he promptly desisted. For a number of years he represented his Association in the Georgia Baptist Convention, by which body he was highly respected. Indeed, there were few men in that intelligent body of Christians who possessed as much weight of character. He spoke seldom, but when he did, he received the most marked attention, especially from, the older members. His views were always clear and scriptural, and were expressed in a Christian spirit.

J. S. Callaway was a person of slender frame, and from his childhood of exceedingly delicate constitution. He was erect and dignified in his carriage, of pleasant voice and winning address, and an unusully interesting and persuasive speaker. Though conciliatory in manner, he possessed a strong will, indomitable perseverance and unflinching integrity. His views were strongly Calvinistic, and he knew as well how to sustain them by the scriptures as most men of his day, and, that is saying a great deal for him, for he lived in an age of giants. He maintained an unblemished character to the day of his death.

This event, which must happen alike to all, occurred at Jonesboro (where he then resided,) about the year 1854. He was confined to his bed several weeks, during which it was the privilege of the writer to visit him frequently. Of all the instances "of the patience of hope and the triumph of faith" which he has witnessed, none have been more striking and glorious than this. The decease of the apostle who said, "Oh, death, where is thy sting! oh, grave, where is thy victory!" could scarce have been more triumphant. All who witnessed that event were constrained to acknowledge that his death was a beautiful commentary on his life and an indubitable confirmation of his faith, and that a great man in Israel had fallen.

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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874, by
In the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

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