"Slavery was by far the most fruitful of mischief of all the questions that agitated the Baptist churches of Kentucky from 1788 till 1820. Opposition to slavery extended to every part of the territory, and engaged the talents of some of the ablest ministers of the denomination. Cornelius Duese, John Murphy, John H. Owen, Elijah Davidson, and Carter Tarrant, all men of piety and influence, openly opposed slavery in Green River Association from the constitution of its first churches. Joshua Carman, Josiah Dodge and Thomas Whitman, disturbed the churches of Salem Association, by preaching against slavery until that fraternity was threatened with dissolution. The opposers of slavery, in Elkhorn and Bracken Associations, were among the ablest men in those bodies. Among them were William Hickman, John Sutton, William Buckley, Donald Holmes, George Smith, George Stokes Smith and David Barrow. But this subject has been sufficiently presented in detail in the former pages. It is only necessary in this place to garoup it among the causes that disturbed the churches, and retarded the growth of the Baptist denomination in the West in its infancy." A History of Kentucky Baptists - J. H. Spencer, 1860
The Emancipating Society This society is composed of ministers and churches, who have separated from their former connection on account of slavery. They named themselves "Friends to Humanity; " but they were generally known by the name of "Emancipators", they began to separate in the year 1805; some of their own choice, and others by the explusion from their respective churches and associations to which they belonged. "Having taken a decided stand against slavery, in every branch of it, both in principle and practice, as being a sinful and abominable system, fraught with peculiar evils and misteries, which every good man ought to abandon and bear his testimony against"
These men were, in substance, in their sentiments respecting slavery; and in their desires and endeavors to effect, as soon as it can be done, and in the most prudent and advantageous manner both to the slaves and their owners, the general and complete emancipation of a race of enslaved, degraded beings, who are unfamiliar of freedom and liberty, who were by the laws and customs of the land, exposed to hereditary, and perpetual bondage. And with sentiments so noble and humane, one would think they must certainly meet the approbation of every benevolent Christian.
But, to the slaveholders this was an abomination of the worst kind. "To declaim against slavery and slave-holders, in the hearing of the multitude of negroes, they pervert the most proper reasonings to improper purposes, ... this is certainly a most dangerous endeavor and behavior of totally imprudent conduct." Of this, the Emancipators were continually accused, and their "perversion of their discourses for the negroes" was laid as a peculiar evil.
Mentored by Cater Tarrant, in 1806, Elijah Davidson warmly espouses the cause of the Emancipationists, and, with his father-in-law Elder John Murphy, in 1808, they declared non-fellowship with their church, because it tolerated slavery and joined the Licking- Locust Association, Friends of Humanity movement, where Elijah was ordained to preach.
This must have been difficult because Elijah’s father, Reverend Alexander Davidson and his older brothers, owned slaves. Elijah’s abolitionist views came about partly because of his adopting the "New Light Religion" and its so-called “heretical views” of free-will over the Baptist’s traditional views of predestination. These “New Lights” would later join with Barton Stone and Philip Mulkey to become the Christian Church or churches of Christ, the first completely American indigenous religious movement.
Elijah, John Murphy and Carter Tarrant worked to organize an Emancipation Society called the Friends of Humanity. With eleven preachers and nineteen other messengers who left their churches, they formed a new church association, called the Licking-Locust Association, which quickly grew to nine new churches, aggregating 190 members in central Kentucky. The Friends of Humanity policy advocated not only the call for immediate abolition but also, non-fellowship with any slaveholders within their own congregations. Influenced by the Second Great Awakening and postmillenialism's faith in the ability for human improvement and advancement, these men optimistically saw themselves as carrying forward divine mandates to better American society.
The advocates for slavery who oppose the Emancipators with such arguments as: "What can a few individuals do in this business? The Government has sanctioned the holding of slaves; and unless they interpose their influence, nothing effectual can be done towards setting them free."
The September following, the emancipators met, and established their fraternity into an organized body, under the name of "The Baptized Licking-Locust Association, Friends to Humanity." The Association received its name from that of a church called Licking-Locust, was considered a mother establishment to the emancipating interest in Kentucky.
The first meeting of the Emancipators as a body, was in August, 1807, when they convened in conference, to deliberate on the mode of their future proceedings. At this meeting, eleven ministers and nineteen private brethren entered their names as advocates for emancipating principles.
Eleven queries were presented at this Conference, and most of their time appears to have been taken up in discussing and resolving them. First query was: Can any person be admitted a member of this meeting, whose practice appears friendly to perpetual slavery? Answer. We think not.
Is there any case in which persons holding slaves may be admitted to membership into a church of Christ? Answer. No; except in the following: 1st. In the case of a person holding young slaves, and recording a deed of their emancipation at such an age as the church to which they offer may agree to. 2nd. In the case of persons who have purchased in their ignorance, and are willing that the church shall say when the slaves or slave shall be free. 3rd. In the case of women, whose husbands are opposed to emancipation. 4th. In the case of a widow, who has it not in her power to liberate them. 5th In the case of idiots, old age, or any debility of body that prevents such slave from procuring a sufficient support; and some other cases, which we would wish the churches to be at liberty to judge of, agreeably to the principles of humanity.
Shall members in union with us be at liberty in any case to purchase slaves? Answer. No, except it be with a view to ransom them from perpetual slavery, in such a way as the church may approve of.
The last query which we shall notice, was, Have our ideas of slavery occasioned any alteration in our view, of the doctrine of the gospel? Answer. No.
Their maxims were approved of by many, but, still would not unite with them, because they still held slaves and with the state laws respecting its propriety. There was such a strong current against the emancipation of slaves, and covetousness, that there seemed but little prospect, that any material change would be effected, in the condition of this numerous race of enslaved and degraded beings.
But God moves, planting seeds in often unassuming ways, and a great change was coming.
On June 12th, 1806, a young couple is married; presiding over the ceremony was a Baptist Preacher, Reverend Jesse Head. The couple had moved to a cabin near Elizabethtown where Thomas worked as a carpenter making cabinets, door frames, even coffins. Thomas and his wife Nancy joined the Little Mount Separate Baptist Church. A daughter, Sarah, was born to the couple on February 10, 1807. That fall, Thomas and Nancy Lincoln’s church was united as one of the churches of Baptist Licking-Locust Association. In the fall of 1808, the Lincolns moved to the Sinking Spring Farm on Nolin Creek about three miles from Hodgenville. There, on the morning of Sunday, February 12, 1809, Nancy gave birth to a boy. He was born on a bed of poles covered with corn husks. Peggy Walters, a neighbor who was only 20 years old, assisted with the birth and said "Nancy had about as hard a time as most women, I reckon, easier than some and maybe harder than a few. It came along kind of slow, but everything was regular and all right. The baby was born just about sunup on Sunday morning." The boy is named Abraham after his paternal grandfather who had been killed by an Indian attack on his farm in 1786.
Elijah Davidson is elected a deacon in 1812, licensed to preach in 1820, and ordained, in 1824. Like his father Alexander he was a farmer, a blacksmith and a volunteer to fight in New Orleans as a American patriot.