Biography of William A. Callaway

The subject of this brief notice was born in Wilkes county, Georgia, about the year 1804. His parents were pious members of the Baptist church. The author heard him relate his christian experience in substance as follows: "From his earliest recollection, his father kept up family worship. When taken down with his death sickness, these exercises were suspended for several days. One morning, however, all the family, white and black, were summoned into his room. (William was then perhaps fifteen years old.) The sick man was propped up in bed?was much emaciated, and breathed and spoke with difficulty. He informed his family that 'the time for his departure was at hand,' and that he confidently expected that day to 'depart and be with Christ.' He then read a chapter as usual, and offered such a prayer as none but a dying Christian can make. To each of the servants he then addressed a few parting words, and then to his children in their turn, ending with William, who was the oldest. That scene, and those words of his dying father, were never forgotten. Before sunset that father's soul was with his God. He grew up to manhood, and became a married man, before his conversion; was what the world calls moral, as he never indulged in profane swearing, drunkenness, nor any of the grosser vices. Yet he was fond of gay company, and delighted in the ballroom and the dance. Often, amid scenes of frivolity and mirth, would that death-bed scene and the faithful warning of his dying father recur to his mind, and drive him to retirement and prayer. He had been married two or three years to his first wife, a Miss Pope, and had removed to Henry county, Georgia, where he was engaged in farming, when he was fully aroused to a sense of his lost condition as a sinner, in the sight of God. By what means he was awakened is not remembered by the writer. But one night he had become so troubled that he could not sleep, and retired from his house for prayer. While thus engaged, Christ was revealed in him as the hope of glory, and his heart was made to rejoice in God, his Saviour. He promptly returned to the house, and told his wife of the gracious change he had experienced. But he could not stop there. He had a brother, living about sixty miles distant, to whom he must communicate the joyful intelligence without delay. Next morning he took his breakfast before daybreak, and set off on horseback to see his brother. Before he slept, he had related his Christian experience to his brother, and they had joined in prayer together. It was not long ere that brother was also rejoicing in hope."

More than thirty years have elapsed since the writer heard the foregoing relation, which was given on the occasion of his ordination to the ministry. He believes it to be substantially correct, though his memory may be at fault in some particulars. His visit to his brother, as above related, strikingly illustrates his character. He was eminently a man of decision and promptness. Whatsoever his hand found to do?whether relating to things temporal or spiritual?he did with his might.

In 1833, he was ordained at McDonough B. H. Willson and J. H. Campbell, the presbytery. As a licentiate, he had been active and useful, and now his influence was felt in all the regions around. He was one of the four ministers, who were delegates in the Constitution, and were connected with the early history of the Central Association, and performed his full share of the labor which devolved upon them, in consequence of the great revivals which were experienced in that body in those times. Day and night, for weeks and months together, was he engaged in protracted meetings. And yet he seemed to know no weariness. His person was tall and rather slender; his countenance exceedingly benign; his voice musical, and his elocution easy and natural. As a public speaker he was always pleasant and sometimes powerful. His sermons were short and his exhortations animated. And then he could sing so sweetly! All these things combined rendered him popular as a preacher, and especially qualified him as a revival preacher.

In secular affairs, his attention was given mostly to farming and merchandise, in both of which callings he was quite successful. Indeed, his native good sense, his sound judgment, his probity and his energy qualified him for almost any undertaking, and would have been a guarantee of success in any business to which he might have turned his attention.

The writer having been intimately associated with Callaway for several years as a member of the same church and Association, most heartily adopts and indorses the following notice of him, written by Rev. E. B. Teague for the "Christian Index:"

Brought to a knowledge of the truth in early manhood, he soon consecrated himself to the service of the Master in the work of the ministry. Endowed with good abilities and unusual solicitude for souls, he overcame in a great measure the deficiencies of early training by making full proof of his ministry in unwearied and incessant labors. He will long be remembered in Middle Georgia as the modest and amiable coadjutor of such men as Sherwood and Dawson, in the many labors by which they sought to build up the cause of Christ in the Central and neighboring Associations. Not the least of the services of this good man was the nerve manifested in the advocacy of the scriptural independence of the churches, assailed at one time in that region by the influence of eminent brethren. Though but a licentiate, he exhibited the cairn courage of a veteran. It is interesting to read in this connection the special blessing of God on his ministry in the midst of obloquy and reproach. At a later period he labored with much earnestness and success in Western Georgia. Few men have been the instrument in winning a larger number of souls to Christ.

"His theory always was that a man must take care of his family, and that the necessary secularization is not incompatible with or opposed to the successful prosecution of the great work of preaching the gospel. Accordingly, he provided well for a very large Family, and preached more than most men do. The estimable character of that large family is testimony to his uprightness, sincerity and wisdom. Perhaps most ministers, towards the close of life, if they do not indorse, yet look with leniency on this theory. Unfortunate with all the rest of us of late years, his life and labors had so conciliated his acquaintance, that we trust those of his children who are yet young, and his beloved wife, will never want friends or a helping hand.

"Brother Callaway was a man of marked traits of character. So sensitively pure and conscientious was he, that any apprehension that his fellow-laborers were actuated by questionable motives, so damped and fettered him that he was unmanned. He read men's motives with unerring accuracy. On the other hand, unbounded confidence in those about him developed unwonted energies and kindled him into unwonted fervors.

" He was in theology a moderate Calvinist, and singularly free from all extravagance of views on all subjects?eminently a safe and prudent man. No man was more instinctively discreet in all things. He rarely or never did anything imprudent or ill-timed. Constitutional modesty often induced him, in our larger gatherings, to withhold the assistance for which his eminent wisdom fitted him. He was, therefore, less widely known than he deserved to be. In protracted meetings and associations he preferred a subordinate place, delighted if he might occupy himself in hortatory discourse after his brethren had preached, or when occasion offered in the conference and prayer meetings. On these occasions he often became the soul of the meeting, enchaining the riveted -attention of his brethren find going right home to the conscience of the impenitent by the simplicity, fervency and affectionateness of his address, backed by a confidence on their part that knew no limits.

"No temptation could ever induce him to offer any strange fire before the Lord. He always spoke and acted just as he felt, in the pulpit and out of it. If cold, you could scarcely wring a word of exhortation or a sermon from him; if in season, he manifested the utmost alacrity. Heartlessness and form froze up his spirit and sealed his lips. He felt powerfully that God is a spirit, and seeks such to worship him as worship in spirit and in truth.

"His pulpit abilities were good, his address grave, decorous and tender. "We often heard the remark that 'he was in preacher shape.' With early training, exclusive occupation in the ministry and extensive reading, he might have been great.

"But he is gone!?gone up to join 'the general assembly and church of the first born.' Distrustful of himself, and feeling the effects of late years, as he often said, of relaxation from the ministerial work in consequence of the partial failure of his voice and nervous derangement, he was much comforted during the last six months of his life, especially during his long and painful illness by clear and precious views of the adaptation of the Saviour to all our wants. Retired upon his farm, in a neighborhood somewhat out of the way, he interested himself very actively in the spiritual wants of his neighbors. They had become greatly attached to him. He was indeed beloved wherever he lived, confided in to the last degree, ?a living epistle, known and read of all men.' He passed away in quiet and holy triumph, lingering in memory with the brethren with whom he had labored and to whom he was fondly attached. The writer records with inexpressible feelings the prayerful and tender interest in him and his. May the spirit of the father imbue his two sons in the ministry, Revs. S. P. and J. M. Callaway. Alas! my brother, very pleasant hast thou been to me!"

He was called to his reward in heaven in June, 1865.

Additional Comments:
From:

GEORGIA BAPTISTS: HISTORICAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL
BY
J. H. CAMPBELL,
PERRY, GEORGIA.

MACON, GA.: J. W. BURKE & COMPANY. 1874.

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

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