Elijah Craig: A Biography Written By James B. Taylor

I am a pastor who is blessed to be the descendant of several faithful ministers of the gospel. Slowly over the years, I have been researching several of their stories some of which has made its way onto this site and even publication (see here). Recently, I began to do more research on another ancestor, a Baptist, named Elijah Craig who was a significant player in the history of Kentucky and the founding of Georgetown, its college, and some of the local churches (many which still stand). Craig’s exodus to Kentucky is due to religious persecution in Virginia. Below you will find a biographical insert from James B. Taylor’s book Virginia Baptist Ministers.

The earliest information which has been obtained respecting Elijah Craig, is connected with his conversion, about the year 1764. Having heard Elder David Thomas preach, he was arrested I his indifference to Divine things, and, for a length of time, was much alarmed, I the consciousness of his fallen and helpless condition. At length his mind became somewhat relieved, though not satisfied. In 1765, he found an opportunity of hearing Samuel Harriss, and such was the coincidence between his own views and feelings and the delineation of gospel truth drawn by Elder Harriss, that he became perfectly satisfied, and rejoiced in the freedom wherewith Christ had made him free. He began, at once, to exhort his fellow-men, whenever he could collect them I his neighborhood. Says Mr. Semple:

“His tobacco-house was their chapel. Being most of them laboring men, they used to labor all day, and hold meetings almost every night at each other’s houses, and on Sundays at the above mentioned tobacco-house. By these little prayer and exhortation meetings, great numbers were awakened, and several converted.”

In a short time he began, amid much persecution, to extend his exertions, and to preach wherever he went, that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin. In these exercises he was accompanied by several others, who were of a kindred spirit. The Lord wrought by them, and attended their efforts, by his signal smile. In the county of Culpepper, he met with much opposition. One of the exhibitions of violence, on the part of his enemies, is thus referred to by Elder Semple. “They sent the sheriff and posse after him, when at his plough. He was taken and carried before three magistrates of Culpepper. They, without hearing arguments, pro or con., ordered him to jail. At court, he, with others, was arraigned. One of the lawyers told the court they had better discharge them; for that oppressing them would rather advance than retard them. He said they were like a bed of camomile, the more they were trodden, the more they would spread. The court thought otherwise, and determined to imprison them. Some of the court were of opinion that they ought to be confined in a close dungeon, but the majority were for giving them the bounds. Mr. Craig says ‘they were fed on rye bread and water, to the injury of their health.’ After staying there one month, preaching to all who came, he gave bond for good behavior, and came out. He was also confined in Orange jail, at another time.”

Mr. Craig was considered a man of considerable talent. No doubt can be entertained that what he did possess, he employed well. With a zeal which the floods of persecution could not quench, he prosecuted his Master’s work, and was made a blessing to many. In his labors, as pastor of Blue Run Church, he was very successful. It became a large and flourishing body.

In the year 1786, he removed to Kentucky. Terre he unhappily became implicated in some personal altercation, which resulted in his exclusion from the church. He was, however, restored, and continued in fellowship until his death, which occurred in the year 1808. He seemed, by this and other circumstances, to have given away, in his declining age, to a censorious temper. It is said by Mr. Semple, that,

“in a pamphlet he published, he undertakes to prove that stationed preachers, or pastors of churches, are precluded by the Scriptures from receiving any compensation for their services. In this pamphlet, he takes so many opportunities to condemn preachers for being money seekers, hat it would seem the main design of the publication was to indulge in fault-finding temper.”

The following testimony by one who knew him well will close this article: “Elijah Craig was considered the greatest preacher of the three brothers; and in a very large association in Virginia, Elijah Craig was among the most popular for a number of years. His preaching was of the most solemn style – his appearance as a man who had just come from the dead, of a delicate habit, a thin visage, large eyes and mouth, of great readiness of speech, the sweet melody of his voice, both to preach and sing, bore all down before it; and whine his voice was extended it was like the loud sound of a trumpet. The great fervor of his preaching commonly brought many tears from the hearers, and many no doubt were turned to the Lord by his preaching. He was several times a prisoner of the Lord for preaching. he moved to Kentucky at a later date than his brothers; his turn for speculation did hi harm every way; he was not as great a peacemaker in the church as his brother Lewis, and that brought trouble on him: but from all his troubles he was relieved by death, when perhaps he did not much exceed sixty years of age, after serving in the ministry, say forty years. (65-67)

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