How Lyle's Diary Relates to the
Heresy of Decisional Regeneration

presbyterian sacramental meeting

What we call "Camp Meetings" were originally Sacramental Meetings of the Presbyterian Church. Sacramental Meetings originally were held by Presbyterian ministers in the rural areas of Scotland who rode in circuits and held Meetings at least once a year. When Scottish ministers came to America, they also held Sacramental Meetings at least once a year in rural areas of America. Please read the book Holy Fairs: Scottish Communions and American Revivals in The Early Modern Period by Leigh Eric for a good understanding of the Sacramental Meetings. Every practice of 19th century American Presbyterian evangelism was firmly established by 200 years of Presbyterian Sacramental Meetings. The so-called "new measures" of Charles Finney were tame compared to the emotion-inspiring practices of Presbyterian ministers in the Sacramental meetings.

The Presbyterian Church in America in the nineteenth century re-wrote the history of the Camp Meetings, claiming they were run by the Methodists, but the Sacramental Meetings where the "jerks" and "slain the spirit"manifestations took place were Sacramental Meetings run by Presbyterian ministers. The reason the American Presbyterian Church re-wrote the history was the most educated Presbyterians in the nineteenth century no longer believed in the immediate activity of the Holy Spirit and called the "jerks" and "slain in the spirit" manifestations "animal motives.

These educated Presbyterians believed the Scottish Common Sense Realism..."truth impression" theory of regeneration as a tipping point when the rational mind is convinced to begin serving God over self. This was a radical departure from the New England Way of the puritans.

The events were structured to achieve maximum evangelistic results. Participants were exhorted to examine themselves over a period of days culminating in the sharing of the Lord's Supper. The restoration of regenerate believers was emphasized as much as the regeneration and conversion of unbelievers. This should help modern readers understand the psychological pressures on participants to conform to holiness standards in order to qualify to receive a Communion Token to be admitted to the Lord's Table.

Lyle expresses sorrow that Presbyterian ministers of the frontier were mostly uneducated and held "Arminian sentiments". He incorrectly thought Arminians believed that anyone could be saved if they had rational faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Actually, this was a growing sentiment, but it was not Arminian. The "bare faith" sentiment came from Presbyterians educated in the Scottish Common Sense Realism “truth impression” theory which was accepted as the new salvation paradigm of Presbyterians educated at the College of New Jersey, and the colleges headed by graduates of the College of New Jersey.

Every American "bare faith" advocate believed and taught the Scottish Common Sense Realism "truth impression" theory. Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell were the two most famous advocates.

This first John Lyle original document is a Narrative of J. Lyle's mission in the bounds of the Cumberland Presbytery, during the year 1805 (The diary was typed from the actual manuscript in 1922). The more famous document of the 1801-1803 Sacramental Meetings follows after this 1805 account.


The Rev. John P. Campbell, having declined the appointment given him to ride two months in the bounds' of the Cumberland Presbytery; on a motion made by Mr. Campbell, the Synod of Kentucky unanimously agreed to appoint me as a missionary to go the above route; I thereupon set out on my journey from Denville, where the Synod sat on Friday, the 18th of Oct. 1805, in the evening,

Sabbath Oct. 20, 1805

I preached at Hardin's Creek Church in Washington County, to an attentive audience, on Psalm 110:3, first clause. The Rev. William Dickey who is a member of the Cumberland Presbytery and who set out from the Synod with me made an appointment to preach at Captain Mulder's six miles further on our way. When he had done preaching, I delivered a short discourse on '2 Corinthians 3:17, last clause, to a small but attentive audience.

Monday Oct. 21, 1805

I traveled in company with Mr. Dickey from Capt. Mulder's to Mr. Jameson's, about 18 miles southwest of Little Barren River. The wind blew from the southwest and in the evening there fell several showers of cold rain. I felt somewhat disordered with the cold.

Tuesday October 22, 1805

Tuesday Evening we arrived at a Mr. James Reid's, 10 miles south west of Warren Court House.

Wednesday, October 23, 1805

In the morning I parted with Mr. Dickey.

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In the course of our journeying together I conversed with him on experimental religion - on several doctrinal points - on some parts of literature - so far as I am capable of judging I think he is tolerably well calculated to be a missionary.

I enquired of him whether he would be willing to undertake a mission. He said he intended to itinerate in Louisiana the ensuing winter, or sometime shortly, but would do it at his own expense, that the funds of the General Assembly might be expended on more useful and worthy men.

He gave me a brief history of the Cumberland Presbytery from which history I learned that the vacancies are chiefly filled up with illiterate exhorters and licentiates who are chiefly Arminians in sentiment and who ride in circuits after the manner of the Methodists. The forepart of the day spent in writing to the Stated Clerk of the Synod on business. The rest of the day was chiefly spent in conversation with Mr. Reid and family. Being fatigued with riding -  at the request of Mr. Reid, I agreed to preach here tomorrow.

Thursday October 24, 1805

Preached at Mr. Reid's to a small but attentive audience, and, this evening came to the Rev. G. Rankin's.

Mr. Rankin appeared to be much displeased with the conduct of the Synod towards the Cumberland Presbytery with respect to licensing & ordaining illiterate young men etc.

Friday October 25, 1805

Early this morning Mr. Rankin Voluntarily declared his sentiments which appeared to be to be evidently of an Arminian cast. He said that God had given to every man a sufficiency of grace, which if he would improve, he would get more etc. until he would arrive at true conversion or a living faith, etc.. After we had conversed for some time on this subject the

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Doctrines of election & effectual calling were introduced. These he in effect denied. After his mouth was stopped that he appeared to have nothing to say in favor of his tenets. He said when he held the sentiments I had vindicated he was less successful than since he had engaged in preaching those in opposition to them – etc., thus seemed to make his success or main argument in favor of his erroneous opinions - For my part I am far from thinking that success in converting people to error is success in the cause of God.

After breakfast I travelled to company with Mr. Rankin 24 miles to Little Muddy meeting house, where a sacrament was appointed, in a kind of vacancy where the circuit riders preached. Two young men spoke who have been lately licensed, the one to exhort- the other to preach. These young men, I am told, have not even studied Eng1ish grammar and appear to be Arminians in principle. In evening I held society at Captain Porter's where about 20 people attended, and most of them seemed very devout.

Saturday - An illiterate licentiate named Bell preached - the weather being exceptionally cold & the house being small and open, the people were very uncomfortable as to the external circumstances, and appeared to be generally inattentive. In the evening I spoke briefly on Matthew 5:3. Some of the people appeared very attentive and to hear with satisfaction - one of the Elders observed afterwards that his soul was much fed by the discourse. The same observations were made by some of the lively shouting professors. Mr. Rankin, being Sick, went home. In the evening I held society at Mr. Hay’s who was sick – spoke to an attentive audience on - Many are the afflictions of the

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Righteous etc. – The people appear attentive. Some were affected and some occasionally shouted, but in general, good order was preserved.


Preached the action sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. The people heard with attention even the doctrine of a holy or effectual calling with seeming patience – a doctrine not much preached or believed in these parts. Mr. McGready introduced or fenced the tables lengthily and served the first. He spoke affectionately. Some of the communicants appeared tenderly affected – some wept and some rejoined; others seem but little engaged. The wicked were in the general to appearance unmoved. I served the second table. The people were then dismissed.

Sabbath  Evening

I was at Society at Captain William Porter’s. Mr. McGready preached on “Draw nigh unto me and I will unto you”. He seemed to labor with great earnestness – the people appeared devout and attentive; but no unusual stir till dismissed – then a Baptist preacher began to sing loudly, which singing was attended with violent gestures – others joined him – a Baptist negro took the jerks and began to holler or exhort – the Baptist preacher also exhorted awhile.

I could hear nothing distinctly – the negro began in a shuffled step which he performed with activity and ease. Sometimes he sang – sometimes prayed – some of the people attempting to sing a tune for him – but Mr. McGready and most of the people stood and looked at the negro dancing, I think half an hour.

The negro then stopped a little while – some began to sing (I believe), the tune of a reel or march to a hym – the negro began to dance in a step by which he beat it exactly.

I inquired into the reason of this exercise – I was told by Captain Porter – that the dancing relieved the negro from jerking, etc.. Mr. McGready said sometimes afterwards that we could not

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account for jerking etc. on any natural principle – that the jerks were designed to answer the end of miracles – in drawing the attention of mankind and convincing infidels of the power of God.

Note: It is interesting that Lyles wrote this after witnessing the “jerks” and “slain in the spirit” and many other fantastic manifestations for four years. He never doubted that they were somehow tied to the immediate activity of the Holy Spirit. Lyles was educated in Scottish Common Sense Realism, but he never believed the verbal restrictive theory, and when McGready expressed a “bare faith” view that was the logical end of the “truth impression” theory, Lyle saw it as heresy. Within a few years of this 105 account, the American Presbyterian would re-write history and proclaim the manifestations from "natural motives".


Mr. McGready preached on “to him that ever cometh will I will give to eat of the tree of life”. He appeared fervent, but the people exhibited no great signs of eagerness. After him Mr. Combs Hodge, one of the illiterate preachers, spoke for some considerable time. His discourse seemed pretty well calculated to be useful to the people.

This evening I rode to Mr. Davidson’s; and a great deal of conversation with Mr. Samuel Hodge and others about election and other doctrines of grace.

Tuesday. Some enquired at me about the order of church assemblies – wanted whether they ought to shout under sermon when happy, etc. I referred them to 1 Corinthians 14 and talked to them till about ten o’clock – then I rode in company with Mr. Hodge to Mr. McGready’s – 23 miles. I learned from Mr. McGready and Mr. Hodge that the Methodists had cunningly proselytized some Presbyterian societies in their infancy; and carried away many disciples after them; and that some of their preachers had given offence by preaching falling from grace at sacramental meetings. As McGready professed to esteem our confession highly, except two or three particulars, he seemed a good deal irritated at this conduct of the Methodists.


I rode in company with Mr. Hodge to Mr. King’s in Shiloh – con- Tennessee (40 miles). We had a great deal of conversation about the call and qualifications of a gospel minister – church

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Spent the chief of this day in conversation with pious Mr. king. He told me a great deal about the revival in this country – and especially dwelt on the great numbers that he said were reformed & converted by the instrumentality of illiterate exhorters & preachers. I learned form him and some others that religion is not so lively here as formerly. Human learning is degraded here.

Likewise up on Stone River at Big Spring in Mr. King’s congregation religion seems to decline, but even lately under serious impression, etc. But it said several joined communion at a sacrament(al meeting) this fall.


Preached at Shiloh on Ephesians 2:10. people attentive. Mr. William Hodge has supplied here about four years. He is now absent in Carolina. The people of this congregation were principally gone to a sacramental meeting at beech church in William McGee’s bounds; as it rained about 11 and 12 oclock there were but few people out – they were mostly of a party who were not agreed that Mr. Hodge should be their minister, because the Methodists were permitted to join in communion, etc.. These people were called opposers of revival.

I was certainly informed that the Elders and a number of the people of this congregation collected a circular letter published by the Synod of Kentucky with other pamphlets which were for sale in these parts, and burned them; and that Mr. Hodge highly approved their conduct.


I went to the Beech Meeting House. There I heard a sermon delivered by a Mr. Nelson who has been lately licensed by the Cumberland Presbytery and is said to be a man of learning. There is

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Nothing very remarkable in his discourse except his pressing exhortation to the people to pray out – shout, dance and so on in the time of divine worship. He told the people to shout – pray aloud or do whatever duty they felt an impression to do. Said he, “I believe it will not offend God and I am sure (althought I was speaking) it will not offend me.” The people were roused to action – shouted and prayed aloud exhorted and jerked till nearly the setting of sun. The people camped in wagons and tents around the stand.

I retired to the Reverend William McGee’s. The people who lodge hear appear engaged in singing, conversation, leaping and shouting – they appear much like a drinking party when heard from the other room; but when I draw neigh, I find their language and rejoicings are of a religious kind.

Sabbath November 3, 1805

Preached on 1 Corinthians 13:13, last clause. The audience was large, very attentive and solemnity seemed to rein in almost every countenance, especially during the application. I heard that an infidel being convicted – exclaiming saying, where did that man come from: fell on his knees and cried for mercy.

Mr. McKindre, a Methodist Elder, preached after me; and then the ordinace was administered to a large number of communicants, many of whom appeared deeply affected; some shouted – some wept – some leapt, and some danced and jerked and danced a long time after they arose from table. After the tables were served the people were dismissed.

Note: Methodists and Presbyterians both held Sacramental Meetings in the British Isles. Presbyterians belonged to the state church of Scotland and Methodists belonged to the state church of England. They held almost identical views of Communion and water baptism, so it was much more reasonable for Methodists to fellowship in the Presbyterians Sacramental Meetings than the various Baptist denominations.  There was one difference between the Anglican Methodist and Presbyterians custom of serving Communion. The Presbyterians served Communion to people sitting down while Anglican Methodists served Communion to people kneeling. As you will see in the descriptions, these meetings were run by Presbyterian ministers, not Methodist ministers.

I retired to Mr. McGee’s with whom I conversed about the conduct of the Cumberland Prebytery in licensing young men who were illiterate and tainted with Arminianism. He seemed to vindicate their conduct.

Note: At this point in the journal was written, “(here write the piece on Stones)”, perhaps referring to Barton Stone .

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I attended in the camp, heard one of two speakers – saw several dance, holler, etc. After exhorting in the evening I rode to Colonel William Trig’s. I Suppose  there were about 40 exhorters and preachers at this camp meeting.


In the morning I engaged a religious conversation with Colonel Trig’s family on the doctrine of grace which he did not seem to understand clearly. I also conversed with the old lady and a married son who lives with his father.

About 11 o’clock I set out toward the Reverend Craighead’s meeting house to an attentive audience on proverbs 11:9. The evening I spent in conversation on the doctrines of religion and hearing the Reverend C__________ exhibit his system of divinity which appears to me to resemble that of Pelagius – he sets it forth in a masterly manner and seems to believe it cordially.

Note: “cordially” means “from the heart”. In theology, “from the heart” means “from a regenerate heart” since only a regenerate person can believe from the heart.  “Head” belief would mean “rational belief” without an unchanged heart.


Having caught a cold and having been taken some medicine, I tarried all day at Mr. Craighead’s which I spent in reading the Scriptures and in conversations.


I learned from Craighead that his elders had all left him; and most of his people – so that very few came to hear him preach – he is counted a an enemy to the revival, and treated with neglect, partly on account of his doctrine, and partly owing to his opposition to what he deems the extravagance of the times.

About 10 o’clock I set out on the way through Nashville to Mr. Casselman’s on Richland Creek.

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I went this morning to Mr. castleman’s where I had previously appointed to minister the Sacrament of the Lord’s supper. Mr. Sam’l Hodge one of the young ministers of this Presbyter (mentioned before) – whom they licensed without a liberal education, preached in the forenoon – In the afternoon I preched on 1 Corinthians 11:28. The people were attentive and some affected.

We had Society in the evening at Mr. Cas’ – the pious people seemed very lively – they sang – prayed and danced – one woman gave glory to Godthat she was born to die, etc.. The Society was dismissed about midnight.

Note” The “Society” was the for-runner of the Inquiry Meeting and Inquiry Room used universally by 19th century evangelists. The Inquiry Meeting and Inquiry Room WERE NOT invented by Charles Finney. Finney was a Presbyterian well acquainted with both Presbyterian practices long before he began his ministry.


I preached in the forenoon on Luke 24:46, 1st clause. The people were generally attentive and the pious people appeared solemn – Afterwards I administered the Supper. The communicants appeared in general to be affected and some to feel very tenderly.


I preached on Psalm 11:6 upon the wicked, etc.. Many of the professors and others seemed deeply affected. There were but few that did not shed tears. During this occasion several appeared under serious [impressions]. This evening I lodged at Mr. Ewing’s Clerk of Davidson County.


I visited some time this morning with Mr. Hodge. In the meantime I entered into a free conversation with old Mrs. Ewing and a daughter of her’s, who appeared to be in consumptive illness. I was much pleased with the reasons they gave of the hope that was in them.

Mr. Hodge came about 10 o’clock. We then set out for Franklin, a town about 30 miles nearly south of Nashville, where we arrived this evening about 3 o’clock. Reverend Mr. William McGee had sent forward an appointment to Franklin but failed in coming. Mr. Hodge Preached

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to the people in his stead.


I preached in Franklin to an attentive audience. A small congregation formed here by the Presbyterians has fallen prey to Mr. Stone and his emissaries from Kentucky and are now, except a few, he never heard with the Pelegian and Socian doctrines. Colonel Green Hill a Methodist preacher, attended and most of the Methodist society and some Baptist came out to hear. I preached about two hours on faith, its antecedents, concomitants and consequents from 1 Peter 1:8. I was heard attentatively by the audience in general. Some of the Methodists and a few Calvinistic Presbyterians were deeply affected, but I thought the Stonites were much displeased.
In the evening I felt weak and fatigued and as it rained very hard I did not set out as I intended for Yellow Creek, a settlement to the left of the way to Clarksville.

Thursday November 14, 1805
though it continued to rain heavily, Mr. Hodge and I set out on our way to Clarksville. The way being bad and Mr. Hodges horse being foundered, we wrote about 25 miles.
This evening I was apprehensive that my health would be injured as I was both wet by the reins and by writing in deep water. This evening we obtained lodgings act one Baldwin’ on Turnbull Creek.

Friday November 15, 1805
We set off a little after sunrise to Mr. McAdo’s Mr. Mcado is a debilitated Presbyterian preacher from Carolina. We arrived at Mr. McKay does about 10 o’clock. I learned that several Presbyterians on yellow Creek and Jones Creek, owing to their being disaffected with the Presbyterian preachers for communing with the Methodists and encouraging what they account the extravagances of the revival have joined the seceeders

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and subscribe for the labors of one Mr. Baldridge whom they are about to call from Virginia. I had not an opportunity of forwarding an appointment to Yellow Creek - I determined now, as the time is short, to proceed to the Little East Fork on the north side of Cumberland River where I’ve appointed to be next Sabbath.

Saturday November 16, 1805
This morning set off from captain symptoms near Barton’s Creek - and came by Bell’s furnace to Clarksville, where I arrived about dusk. I lodged tonight and Mr. Hamilton’s about a mile from Clarksville.

Sabbath November 17, 1805
About 12 o’clock I arrived at Mr. Watson’s on the west fork of red river about 12 or 14 miles nearly west of Clarksville. When I came Mr. Finis Ewing, one of the illiterate ministers of this presbytery was about to preach; but would proceed no further and though ill with a bad cold and much fatigue, I had to preach. My text was in John 8:36. The audience (considering this meeting was in a destitute place and numbers of the people not all brought up to religion) was very attentive. The pious part of the audience appeared solemn and devout-some appeared to be deeply affected with the things spoken. After the sermon Mr. Ewing assisted in administering the sacrament to about 30 or 40 communicants who appeared to be warmly engaged. Notwithstanding the coldness of the evening the people would not concede to a proposal of having societies in the neighborhood-but camped according to the custom of the country in the open air and intense. I retired to Mr. Jeffries.

Finding myself very horse and having not heard Mr. Ewing preach I insisted that he should preach. He preached accordingly and

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made a tolerably good practical discourse. Afterwards Mr. Mcplane having his passions warmed, voluntarily gave us an exhortation-I attempted to give the people a concluding address: but my lungs in a great measure refused to do their office. I spoke but about 15 or 20 minutes. I dismissed the people. This evening I rode about 20 miles in company with Mr. Ewing to his own house, where we arrived about 8 o’clock at night. The synod, having appointed a commission to sit at Gasper to try the Presbytery of Cumberland for licensing illiterate young men - those young men seem to be greatly alarmed - we therefore had a good deal of conversation on the subject of qualifications of a gospel minister etc.. A number of these young men seem to lament their want of learning, but would be very unwilling to lay down their office on this account.

Tuesday November 19, 1805
I rode in company with Mr. Samuel Hodge to his father’s in Christian County Kentucky.

Wednesday November 20, 1805
I wrote to Mrs. Campbell’s in Mulenburg (Muhlenburg) County. Here I took some medicine to relieve my lungs. There I preached to an attentive audience on Titus 3:5. My breast was better and though weak, had a comfortable liberty in speaking.

I visited one of their presbyters lately licensed, who lives in this neighborhood. Our conversation turned on the disorders and unusual exercises of the congregations of this country. I plied him with the 14th chapter of first Corinthians (Bible in hand). We also conversed on the doctrine of impressions-a doctrine of great weight in this presbytery and which mightily induces to various practices,

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Which are unknown in many other places. I returned to Mrs. C-----‘s where the evening was spent in conversation and singing hymns.

Being an unfavorable day I did not ride out to visit any family, but spent the day, reading, and conversation.

Sunday November 24, 1805

Preached in Mulenburg Court House on John 5:40. The people appeared attentive and some of them were affected.
Monday, being court day, I attended at the Court-house to see the inhabitants of the country and having a good opportunity, I sent an appointment to Mr. Irvine’s in the bounds of a small congregation called Mount Zion, which is connected with the one around the Court-house called Mount Carmel. In Mount Carmel, there are about 8 or 9 families in which there are about 21 communicants who are Presbyterian or Calvinist in sentiment. The most of these live agreeably to their profession; but though they have a minister among them, they lament that they are destitute of the means, or in other words, that they do not hear those doctrines preach to which they are attached; and that experience which gives all the glory to God, I would hear observe that among the people and ministers with whom I have formed some acquaintance in the bounds of this presbytery, there are but 2 or 3 young or old who are not either altogether Arminians or deeply tainted with Arminian doctrine, except the few in this congregation mentioned above.

I visited two families.

Being unwell and the day unfavorable, I stayed at my lodging.

I rode 8 miles and preached at Mr. Irvine’s on 2 Timothy 1:9. The people were generally attentive - some were deeply affected - some were comforted.

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In Mount Zion church there are about 5 families that adhere to the doctrines of one confession. My breast ached unusually after preaching. I understand that the elders in Carmel and Mount Zion were not elected by the people, but were nominated by Mr. McCready and never set apart in the usual mode. Two of these nominated in Carmel were brothers-in-laws of Mr. Nelson. One of these presented a supplication to the Presbytery and had Mr. Nel ordained the pastor of those congregations within their knowledge.

Felt unusually unwell and was much troubled with a tickling cough. Stayed at my lodging. Spent some part of the day in studying, reading, writing etc., and some in conversation. I think great encouragement would be given by these United societies to missionary labor. I have given an address on the subject of contributions into the hands of Mr. Claiborne Rice was formally an Elder and Catechist in the Reverend David Rice’s is charge in Mercer County.

I preached in Mulenburg Courthouse on the Song Of Songs 5:16. Yea he is altogether lovely. The audience was generally attentive. Some appeared pleased and edified.
Mr. Nelson arose and spoke many things, but in the conclusion spent, I suppose half an hour in urging the people to, dance, shout, etc. He told them, “that in these matters they ought to act like little children. When little children come together, they act without design. One will shout, another sing and another dance, etc., without design. Brethren, it is not necessary that you should know from the word of God that things are right before you do them: if you wait to search the word of God you will lose the impression and you will not do these things at all etc.”. I do not

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pretend that I have written down his very words, but I think I have given an accurate statement of his meaning; and this statement will give a view of the sentiments of the preachers of this party with respect to impressions and church order. I suppose it would be needless to relate what has been long known, that the ministers of this Presbytery are divided into two parties which do not commonly hold communion with each other. Messieurs McGready, Hodge, Rankin, McAdo and 27 young exhorters and preachers form one party; and messieurs Craighead, Templan, Balch, Bowman, Donnel and Dickey the other. The ministers of the same party agreed among themselves in everything. Mr. McGready though he agrees with his party for the most part, in the matters of church order and impressions, etc., yet he says he is a Calvinist. Mr. Samuel Hodge also professes to be a Calvinist. Mr. Craighead, of the other party, though he is zealous for good discipline, does not explain some doctrines of our confession as his brother in do.

But to return from this digression. After Mr. Nelson had done speaking, as a number of the audience sleep belong to my charge and others where my intimate acquaintances, I rose to give them a validictory address, in which, together with other things, I exhorted them to preach the scriptures, and do all things decently and in order. I received from Captain King 3 dollars and from Mrs. Campbell three dollars and a half. After a very affectionate and mournful parting from the religious people of this place, I rode in the company with Mr. C. Rice about 10 miles to one Robert Bell’s on my way to Mr. Balch’s.

Monday December 2, 1805
I rode to Mr. Balch’s.

Tuesday December 3, 1805
We rode with Mr. Balch to Gasper meeting-house; where, according to the appointment of Synod, I opened the

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commission of Synod with a sermon on Hebrews 5:4 I spoke on the call and qualifications necessary to the gospel ministry about 3 hours. The audience appeared to be very attentive. Some were apparently please and edified while others, especially some of the members of the Cumberland presbytery appeared uneasy and dissatisfied. The commission of synod constituted soon after the sermon. Members present were from Transylvania Presbytery were Messieurs Cameron, Wilson and Kleland, ministers and Colonel McDowell, Colonel Alen, Major Wallace, Captain Branck’s, Captain Cains, Elders from the West Lexington Presbytery , Messieurs Tull, Rannals, Howe, Stuart and lyle, minister. 

Sabbath December 8, 1805
Having been employed in the commission of synod till late Saturday evening, I concluded to spend the Sabbath in this place. At the request of some of my brethren, I preached on 2 Timothy 1:9. I spoke with considerable Liberty about three hours. The people were generally attentive and some were apparently edified. I spoke longer than usual because the circumstances seemed to demand it.

This evening I wrote to Mr. Skiles about ten miles South East of Gasper. Here I have an appointment for next Sabbath. Having been engaged in much speaking and exposed to rain and night air and cold; I have contracted a troublesome cough and pain or soreness in my side.

Wednesday December 11, 1805

The commission of synod adjourned finally today at about 12 o’clock. It might be that the committee of missions would wish to know what the commission was about so long in this place. I would briefly observe, that the business was various and complicated. However, one important part of it was to inquire into the case of the illiterate men license and ordained by the Cumberland Presbytery and adjudicated upon it.

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The commission, up an inquiry, found that the Cumberland Presbyterian had been shamefully careless with respect to receiving candidates under their care and that they had licensed about 27 persons very irregularly; some of these they had ordained notwithstanding a complaint made to the Synod as to their licensure, on which complaint, the Synod had come to no final decision.

One of them had hanged himself. Two had imbibed the principles of Barton stone, and the rest we had reason to believe (owing to private conversations some of us held with a number of them, and from common fame) were nearly all Arminians in sentiment; and somewhat enthusiastic in practice.

The commission therefore called upon these men to appear before them to be examined as to their qualifications for the gospel ministry. Mr. William Hodge, in the name of the party, rose and said, “I stand between the young man and your bar”. The young men who were present were then called upon by name; but they individually refuseed to stand examination.
The commission then declared that as they had never obtained regular authority to preach etc., from the Cumberland Presbytery, that they should not preach by any authority derived from the Presbyterian Church, until they would submit to the requisite examination.

The old members were cited to appear at the next state session of synod to account for their contemptuous conduct etc. The Reverend Thomas B. Craighead was examined by the Commission on election and the operations of the Holy Spirit in believing and conversion, doctrines common fame said he denied. His answers were agreeable to the Confession except a few views expressed ambiguously, with which the commission were not entirely satisfied.

Observations and experience have taught me not to be fond of allowing

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Men in such examinations to be their own witnesses and to exculpate themselves by their testimony.
This evening I wrote to Mr. Skile’s about 10 miles from Gasper. Here I made an appointment for next Sabbath. Having been engaged in much speaking and exposed to cold, rain, and night air, I caught cold, and have a pain or soreness in my side, and a troublesome cough. I have concluded to rest for some time.

Sabbath December 15, 1805

Preached at Mr. Skile’s to a very attentive audience on Philippians 1:6. There is a small society of Arminian Presbyterians in this neighborhood to which the Reverend Rankin and the Circuit Riders sometimes preach.

Rode 30 miles to Mr. Jamison’s in Barron County.

Rode to Greentown and preached in the evening at Mr. Robert Allen’s to an attentive audience on Proverbs 10:28.

Wednesday December 18, 1805.
Found that an appointment I had sent to Mr. Irvine’s in Washington County had been miscarried.

Rode to Mrs. Irvine’s on Salt River.

I rode to the Reverend James Blythe’s in Lexington.

Saturday December 21, 1805

I arrived at my own house in Clark County about 14 miles East of Lexington. I would observe that I think missionaries might be employed very profitably on the following route; beginning in Madison County where Mr. Houston, the Socinian formally preached at Silver Creek; and Paint Lick meetinghouse; thence South West through New Cumberland where there are some newly formed Societies, thence to Shiloh and Beech meetinghouses in Tennessee or Old

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Cumberland where Mr. Hodge and Mr. McGee preach. My reason for wishing missionaries to spend some time in these congregations, and higher up on waters of Cumberland River is that I think there are many pious people here who are in a measure deluded, that would receive the truth were it proposed in a plain, affectionate manner. I understand after I left this place that I had a considerable influence and success among the people and I was told by one of the illiterate preachers that if I would come a second time, I might.

THE END OF THE 1805 LYLE'S DIARY - the 1801 diary follows.


Lyle's Diary 1801

John Lyle was a Presbyterian minister, born in Rockbridge County, Virginia, October 20, 1769, and graduated at Liberty Hall in 1794. Soon after he was employed in teaching, pursued his theological studies, and was licensed in 1797. He was ordained in 1799, and in 1800 took charge of the churches of Salem and Sugar Ridge, in Clark County. In 1805 he was appointed a missionary within the bounds of the Cumberland Presbytery, and subsequently a commissioner of the General Assembly. He moved to Paris, Bourbon County, Kentucky in 1807, established an academy, and at the same time preached to the churches of Cave Ridge and Concord. He next preached at the church of Mount Pleasant, in Cynthiana, Harrison County, and spent the summer of 1814 in the counties of Bourbon, Harrison, Nicholas, and Fayette, preaching chiefly to black Christians. Having been instrumental, between 1815 and 1818, in the settlement of ministers on the field of his own labors, he devoted the rest of his life to missionary service, in which he was successfully engaged till his death in Paris, Kentucky, July 22, 1825. He published Contributions to Periodicals: — A New American English Grammar (1804): — A Sermon on the Qualifications and Duties of Gospel Ministers (1821).

The above biography of John Lyle was published after the American Civil War. The fact that the biography does not mention Lyle’s Diary is evidence that the Presbyterian Church has successfully buried this original source document. The Presbyterian Church did not want Americans to know that the so-called “Camp meetings” were typical Presbyterian Sacramental Meetings that had been held periodically by Presbyterian ministers since at least as far back as 1580. The most famous Presbyterian Sacramental Meetings were held in Scotland at Cumbuslang in the 1740’s. They were every bit as exciting and the Holy Spirit every bit as active as in the Cane Ridge Sacramental Meeting described in Lyle's Diary. Many letters were exchanged between ministers in Scotland and Jonathan Edwards of what God was doing in both sides of the Atlantic in the First Great Awakening.

Mr. M'Culloch wrote from Cambuslang, Aug. 13, 1743 to Edwards, “The happy period in which we live, and the times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, wherewith you first were visited, in Northampton, in the year 1734; and then, more generally, in New England, in 1740, and 1741; and then we, in several places in Scotland, in 1742, and 1743; and the strong opposition made to this work, with you and with us, checked by an infinitely superior power”.

But the Scottish Common Sense Realism taught at Liberty Hall to John Lyle held that the Holy Spirit did not work apart from preaching.  For more on the problems of Scottish Common Sense Realism, and why it taught that the Holy Spirit no loger did ANYTHING more than quicken Scripture tot he understanding, read about John Witherspoon and the many false premises of Scottish Common Sense Realism.

In 1847, Reverend Robert Davidson published History of the Presbyterian Church in the State Of Kentucky.  In the Introduction he wrote, that providence had stepped in to make his history possible.

|“The Diaries of the Rev. John Lyle were just on the point of being committed to the flames as waste paper, when they fell into the author's hands, through the friendly agency of the Rev. Robert Stuart. In looking over the contents, which were seen at a glance to be of inestimable importance, the following paragraph came to light. “The foregoing short sketches were written hastily for private use; and should I die before I destroy them, I would not allow my friends to hand them about, or any one to use them, except some judicious friend might make an extract of those few particulars which might be useful in writing a history of the progress of religion in Kentucky.”

Why did Lyle NOT want his diary published? Why did he want only a “judicious” friend to use only an excerpt or two? The answer is Lyle knew that if the manuscript came into the hands of someone not schooled in Scottish Common Sense Realism, the manuscript would be hailed as evidence of fantastic miracles of God, something Lyle did not believe. The idea that the Holy Spirit would manifest Himself in anything other than quickening Scripture truth to the rational mind of hearers was anathema to the new theology of Scottish Common Sense Realism.

Lyle was believed the “verbal restrictive” theory of the Holy Spirit taught ever since John Witherspoon took over the College of New Jersey. Witherspoon identified miracles like 3,000 people being “slain in the Spirit” as the result of “animal excitement”. He condemned the Presbyterian Sacramental Meetings like the one in Cambuslang, Scotland, and did not believe God was glorified with events as recorded by George Whitefield: “It far out-did all that I ever saw in America. For about an hour and a half there were scenes of uncontrollable distress, like a field of battle. Many were being carried into the manse [pastor’s home] like wounded soldiers [because they were overcome with severe conviction of sin].” 

Witherspoon wrote in his Blacksmith Letter, “I cannot help thinking, that all the rational people of our communion must be shocked with the indecencies, and follies, that attend the administration of our Lord's Supper, known among the common people by the name of an occasion. We accuse the Roman church of superstition, and that very justly; but in this instance me may fairly retort and tell us, that we blame in others, what we approve of, or at lead allow in ourselves; for if our people did not imagine that there was some superior virtue, in sermons preached  upon these occasions, some sanctity in the place, or some merit in their attendance, it is unlikely that such Numbers, who have no intention to communicate, should crowd from all quarters, leave their parish churches almost empty, and flight as good sermons, which they might hear without the fatigue of traveling, or the inconveniencies that attend a crowd.

Superstition in all countries has the same effect, though it may be directed to different objects: in Popish countries, people crowd from place to place to visit the shrines downwards, or covered with their bonnets; there you find a knot of young fellows and girls making assignations to go home together in the evening or to meet in some ale-house; in another place you see a pious circle fitting round an ale barrel, many of which stand ready upon carts, for the refreshment of the saints.
The heat of the summer season, the fatigue of travelling, and the greatness of the crowd naturally dispose them to drink; which inclines some of them to deep, works up the  enthusiasm of others, and contributes not a little to produce those miraculous conversions that sometimes happen at these occasions; in a word, in this sacred assembly there is an odd mixture of religion, sleep, drinking, courtship, and a confusion of sexes, ages, and characters.

…you will find some weeping, and others laughing, some pressing to get nearer the tent or tub in which the parson is sweating, bawling, jumping, and beating the desk; others fainting with the stifling heat, or wrestling to extricate themselves from the crowd; one seems very devout and serious, and the next moment is scolding and cursing his neighbor, for squeezing or treading on him; in an instant after, his countenance is composed to the religious gloom, and he is groaning, sighing, and weeping for his sins; in a word, there is such an absurd mixture of the serious and comic, that were we convened for any other purpose, than that of worshipping the God and governor of nature, the scene would exceed all power of farce”.

He compares the Presbyterian Sacramental Meetings to the Roman catholic Church Holy fairs:
“their holy days are fixed, and, our idle days moveable; theirs are dedicated to some saint, and ours are devoted to some occasion; theirs foster superstition and idleness, and so do ours; theirs are signalized now and then by miraculous cures, by which the patient's health is seldom bettered; and ours by miraculous conversions, by which the convert's morals are rarely mended , and to do the Papists justice they deal more fairly in their miracles than we, for a man can see if a crooked limb be made straight, because it is the object of the sense, but a miracle wrought instantaneously in the mind, must be taken upon the word of the patient or the parson; but the truth is, their holy days, and our idle days, whatever miracles they may produce, do hurt to true religion”

The last sentence is particularly revealing, and typical Witherspoon. Scottish Common Sense Realism taught that the change of regeneration is merely a “tipping point” when the rational mind is convinced to begin serving God over self. “a miracle wrought instantaneously in the mind” would be against his view of salvation gradually attained.

1) Salvation for Witherspoon was a progressive illumination of the mind until it reached a “tipping point”, not an instantaneous change at all. In fact, Witherspoon believed that the moment a person became a saint, he could only be 51% saint and 49% sinner.
2) Salvation for Witherspoon was NOT A MIRACLE. Since God used material cause and effect “truth impressions” to gradual convince the rational mind, no miracle was needed or wanted. In fact, miracles were completely out of the question, because Scottish Common Sense Realism was designed to conform to Francis Bacon’s empirical standards of truth. For this reason, the “truth impression” theory limited the Holy Spirit to “quickening Scripture to the understanding”, what is called the “verbal restrictive” theory.
3) Notice Witherspoon does not say salvation is a miracle wrought in the heart. Scottish Common Sense Realists made the heart and the spirit appendages of the mind.

Witherspoon passed on his disbelief in miracles to his students. All the authorized Presbyterian histories of the Sacramental Meetings in America (called camp meetings in order to disassociate them from the Presbyterian church), dismissed the idea of miracles altogether. These histories are a shame and a reproach on the writers who instead of giving glory to God, took the same bigoted and ignorant view expressed in the Blacksmith Letter.

It is no wonder that ministers trained by Witherspoon believed the ”strange occurrences” at Cane Ridge were merely “animal excitement”.

Reverend Robert Davidson did not publish Lyle’s Diary…he did not want readers to make up their own minds as to whether or not The Holy Spirit was involved. Instead, he hinted to readers that the “strange occurrences” were the result of Methodist influence over the “camp meetings”.

Here are facts that Presbyterian ministers educated in Scottish Common Sense Realism did not want published:
1) They were NOT called Camp Meetings. They were called Presbyterian Sacramental Meetings.
2) Four-day Presbyterian Sacramental meetings had been held in Scotland and the American colonies for over 200 years!
3) While Methodists and Baptists participated, the Lord’s Supper was always conducted in a way that was alien to Methodists and Baptists. Methodist and Baptists require that the participant be born again. Presbyterians require only that the participant answer correctly questions from the Small Catechism and not have a bad reputation. Let the reader make up his own mind.


Page 1
Narratio Factorum  (factual narration)
June 14, 1801:
The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was administered at Salem.  Messieurs Crawford, Rannelly, Blythe, Howe, Stewart attended.

Note: see Presbyterian Sacramental Meeting for a description of these 5-day events.

On Friday I preached myself from James 1:5. “If any like wisdom”, etc..  I had heard by a letter from Mr. Standoff the wonderful work carrying on among them.  I concluded the Lord was doing terrible things in righteousness with a kind design that the nations might see and fear and flow together.  That perhaps the falling down in distress etc.  Might answer instead of ancient miracles to arouse the attention of a sleeping world and convince deists and gainsayers.  I preached tenderly and wept much towards the close.  One person was awakened - Beth McDowel Hickman.  Mr. Rannells and Blythe ably preached - people seemed solemn and attentive Sunday and their people were moved especially at the time of serving the tables.  Monday Mr. Howe preached on “Surely they will reverence my Son”. After this Mr. Burke exhorted and near the close Esther