Laura Davidson Baird was a grand-daughter of Rev. Alexander Davidson. In 1905 she wrote the following letter.: “My great-grandfather Alexander Davidson II, was a native of Scotland, lineal decedent of an old Scotch family. He emigrated from his native land in an early day, and located in Gloucester County, Virginia, before the days of the Revolution. Rev. Alexander Davidson III was my grandfather. Grandfather’s first wife Anna Bridges, she was a very pious lady, and she finally wished to unite with the Baptist Church. It was with reluctance that Grandfather gave his consent for her baptism. At that time he was opposed to religion. He only owned one horse, so took his wife riding behind him to the baptismal waters, and as he rode home he said he felt just like she was not his wife any more. Not long afterwards, he went with her to prayer meeting at church, to which an old colored brother was a member. He was absent on that occasion and one of the brethren asked where he was. Grandfather rose to his feet and replied that he did not know unless he was ‘robbin some one’s hen roost’! Not a great while after this, he was convicted of his sinfulness and sought mercy at God’s throne of grace; and eventually he obtained that peace of mind this world can neither give nor take away. Some years afterwards, the wife of his early manhood, the mother of his children, passed away, leaving him and the children very desolate. After the demise of his first wife, he was wedded to Miss Mary Ellis, daughter of Jacob Ellis. Her parents were of English descent and were natives of Virginia. In those early days of the Revolution, our grandfather and his family, consisting of six sons and three daughters, were exposed to many hardships. The country was infested with Tories, who often robbed them of the little they had accumulated. On one occasion they came at night, searched grandfather’s cabin, only found a few dollars and a pair of steelyards. Fortunately, he had most of his money in the pocket of some old pants hanging to the wall, which escaped their notice. Often, they would be driven from their homes, perhaps get another cabin built and a few acres in cultivation and be driven miles away. Grandma Ellis related to me many thrilling incidents in which her father and family passed through. When quite a girl, Grandma saw General George Washington crossing the James River with a company of soldiers. Grandfather subsequently became an eminent pioneer minister of the Gospel, and was pastor of several churches in Kentucky. Grandma told me Glasgow was a small town, and that calico was one dollar per yard; coffee, one dollar per pound; and everything else in proportion. Grandfather’s home was three miles south of Glasgow. That homestead is now called South Fork, taking the name of the creek, which ran through Grandfather’s farm which contained seven hundred acres. The neighbors were located far apart. Col. George Murrell, who emigrated from Virginia, was at one time Grandfather’s nearest neighbor. There were no better citizens to be found anywhere than those primitive settlers. The neighbors were more devoted to each other then, than at the present time. Grandma told me that Grandfather’s liberality knew no bounds. He never would let little Mill Boyd pass his home of evenings. Had him (and others) stay over night and after breakfast start them on their way home, which, perhaps, was several miles distant. Grandfather and Col. Murrell were Barren County delegates to the Second Constitutional Convention of the state of Kentucky. It must be remembered that Barren County, at that date, was yet a part of Warren County. With the aid of his sons and slaves that he brought from Virginia, soon a plantation was cleared. Everything, almost, in the way of clothing was made on the farm. Even the hides of the beeves killed for family provision were tanned in large troughs down by the wide, flowing spring branch, for shoe leather, with sap bark. The hair, also, was utilized, mixed with cotton, carded, spun, and woven into blankets for the colored family. A blacksmith shop was built close by and Grandfather did his own smithing and some for others. On one occasion a widow lady sent her plows by her son, putting in some old castings in the wagon for Grandpa to use on her plows. It fretted Grandfather. He stepped to a briar patch near by and tossed the old pot lids as far as he could send them. I told Grandma I imagined that Grandfather’s Scotch temper rose. The old lady that sent them perhaps knew no better than to suppose that a blacksmith could use any kind of iron in his shop. She knew better, afterwards, I imagine.. Uncle Hezekiah, Grandfather’s fourth son, was a splendid gunsmith and made many guns in those early days. Grandma had a table made by him when they first came to Kentucky. The walnut timber was just hewn. He had neither saw nor plane to work with. Some may think this incredible; nevertheless, it is true. I had it from the lips of dear Grandma. Uncle John Davidson (he was a Chain carrier for Edmund Rogers) went to visit a neighbor, who lived some distance across the creek from his home. He wished to borrow an augur. At late bedtime he started home, had not gone very far before he found he was pursued by a panther which screamed. Uncle would turn and wave the augur to and fro at the panther and scream back at him as loud as possible, but still it followed on until the creek was reached. Uncle crossed over on the footlog; I suppose in that way Uncle’s life was saved for he did not have even a pocket knife with him to defend himself. He was united in marriage to Miss Sarah Ellis a sister of Grandmother, much younger than herself. She was quite a Doctress, using medical herbs, performed many cures, and was held in high esteem in the community in which she lived. Uncle John was captured by the Indians; I don’t know how long he was held a prisoner, but in their travels he had to sit in a circle with the Indians around a large kettle and take mouthfuls about with the Indians, using a large iron paddle. When he was at home, he was particular; would not use a spoon even that his wife had used. I told Grandma it was a bitter dose, but better than starving. Mt. Tabor Church is located on Beaver Creek some two miles west of Glasgow in Barren County; it was fathered by Alexander Davidson and was constituted of seven members by the assistance of the famous old pioneers, William Hickman and Carter Tarrant. November 5, 1798, Alexander Davidson was chosen pastor; John Murphy was elected clerk; and John Bough was appointed to hold meetings in the absence of the pastor Alexander Davidson. I regret so much not having more of the early ministry of our beloved Grandfather. All the information from my dear Grandma and all obtained from her youngest sister’s son, memory and shall be faithfully preserved for the benefit of our dear kindred. In the early days of the year eighteen hundred, Grandfather visited Grandmother’s father, Jacob Ellis, who resided fifty miles distant, and on Sunday a stand was erected in Shady Grove for Grandfather to preach. A large congregation assembled and Grandfather’s text was “is there no balm in Gilead, is there no physician there?” It will be found in the book of Jeremiah, 8th chapter, and is a part of the 22nd verse. There were but few dry eyes in the congregation when preaching was over. How sad that this is the only text of Scripture we know that he used for a foundation for his sermon."
Is There No Balm in Gilead? A Sermon by Rev. Alexander Davidson - Spring 1800
Seated in the congregation were some of the most rugged yet noble men of God that could be found west of the Appalachian Mountains. These men, in the face of untold difficulties, had plunged into the howling wilderness of the American frontier, and in the face of their bitter enemies, had conquered the land for Christ. When the legal persecutions against the Baptists began in Virginia and North Carolina. where many were imprisoned for preaching and their possessions, gained by hard labor, were taken from them, they had fled into the hills of Tennessee, then to Kentucky and there suffered incredible hardships. They endured hunger, fatigue, cold, and nakedness. The only clothing which many of them could obtain was the skins of animals. And yet the scattered and homeless ones would assemble to unite their voices in singing, and praising God. They encouraged and cheered one another, and were grateful for even their miserable retreat. Many of their children sickened and died from cold and hunger, yet the parents did not for a moment think of yielding religion. They praised the love and favor of God far above earthly ease or worldly riches. If there ever was a religion that functioned during the week-days as well as on Sundays, it was the type found among the pioneers.
Present were such men as Robert Stockton who was said to have been thrust into jail at one time 'for preaching the gospel and William Matthews who, for religious sake, was almost drowned by wicked men while on his way to preach. Also present was Richard Skaggs, one of the old "Long Hunters" who had explored Kentucky, and blazed trails to lead settlers there. He was a man who knew how to survive in the wilderness surrounded by fierce animals and warring Indians. Others included Rev. Benjamin Lynn, for whom No-Lynn (Nolin) River was named. His knowledge of Indian wiles and of the wilderness ways had saved many a settler's life. He had performed the first baptism in Kentucky, in the waters of Nolin River, while men armed with rifles had guarded them against the Indians, which were lurking in the surrounding trees.
Many of the old soldiers of the Revolutionary War were present. Such men as Jonathan Cowherd, who participated in the Battle at Great Bridge near Norfolk, Virginia; Philip Crowder, who was with George Washington at Yorktown and saw the British commander hand his sword to Washington when the war ended. Abraham Harding, who served in Capt. Shin s Company in Pennsylvania and came to Kentucky to assist the recovery of his sister from the Indians; and many others whose countless acts of valor would fill a book of great size.
One participant afterwards said "I have seen a rural audience in those backwoods, made up of men and women of strong nerve, and not to be moved by any story of pain, danger, or death, weep with the deepest emotions."
Note: These early outdoor sermons were often all day revivals, sometimes lasting over the duration of 2 to 3 days. We do not have the actual sermon that Alexander Davidson preach, but what we do know, is that his sermon was based on the scripture from Jeremiah chapter 8, verse 22 "is there no Balm in Gilead?" The following is my imagined recreation of his sermon, based on my knowledge and understanding of Alexander Davidson and his life's travels and experiences as a blacksmith, soldier in the Revolution, Justice of the Peace and a pioneer Preacher, responsible for the founding and organizing the very first Baptist churches near Glasgow in Barren County KY.
Rev. Alexander Davidson speaks to the congregation: "Some twenty five years ago, it had become evident to all of the political leaders of the original colonies that they realized that a more equitable, lawful and permanent form of government was necessary. Yet this was impossible, as long as the colonies and her people remained subjects of the King of England. We were still members of the British empire, and we could nought move towards establishing a permanent government till we had declared ourselves independent. This dire situation existed in all thirteen colonies and those delegates whom signed our Declaration of Independence were hardy men, their confidence partially inspired by the victory at Moore's Creek Bridge on February 27, 1776, where Americans hath defeated the British. That victory ended British authority in North Carolina. E'en though 'twere only the beginning. And they may not hast realized it, they were now about to take the greatest step of their lives in creating a new existence of self-governed freedmen, a new country free of tyranny. We can gather hither today, breathing in the fresh air of freedom, enjoying the fruits of those who suffered and sacrificed, e'en to the point of the unrelenting deadly bayonets from Lord Cornwallis’ Redcoats. But alas, today, there still are calamities facing our countrymen that ought to be the upmost grief of our souls. A gracious spirit should'st be our public spirit, a tender spirit our uniting spirit, a charitable spirit and a mourning spirit for those still unknowingly in chains, captives of their own sins. Because as believers, we whom declared allegiance to God Almighty, must share the redemptive charity of Jesus Christ, and tell all, that His was thou’s greatest sacrifice possible. It has become incumbent upon us to lament the miseries of our fellow-creatures, who yoked eternally to a hell much more than that what was laid at the heart of the past calamities, but set before them a new country of liberty, God’s eternal Kingdom.
In the book of Jeremiah, chapter 8, and in verse 21, the word of God says: “for the hurt of the daughter of mine people am i hurt; i am black; astonishment hath taken soft me.”
Today, I go in black as mourners doth, and I wot not what to try, nor which way to turn. 'tis for the hurt of a deeper and eternal liberty for our people that I am thus hurt. 'tis for their souls, and their miseries they hath brought upon themselves; it is for this, that I am black, and that I look black!
Yes, we hast fought and gained our freedom, defeated the evil Tories through blood and sacrifice, yet the fact remains we are still living as captives, living under a yoke of tyranny. Today, we all bray out in their steadfastness and commitment, we bray out in our victorious revolution, in our freedom and independence from the tyrannical monarchy of King George. Yet , the fact remains, we are not of this world we sojourners in a strange land. Not unlike many of our fathers whom left Scotland and the homes of their ancestors behind to join hither as indentured servants, to this new world hold, but for a generation since. Hence we readily recognize and appreciate the stories of a life being a bond servant to a master. In the book of Jeremiah in the previous chapter 7, the prophet had proceeded to magnify and to justify the destruction that God was bringing upon this people, primarily Jerusalem - his “daughter’, first, to discover how grievous their sins had been and yet, secondly, how righteous it is. In chapter 7, verses 1 through 12, Jeremiah speaks of the judgments coming as so most terrible that death should'st appear so as most to be dreaded and yet should'st be desired. He aggravates the base stupidity and willfulness of this people as that which brought this great oppression upon 'em. He goes on to describe a great confusion and abomination that all of the land should'st be in upon the alarm of it. As Patriots and sons of Patriots, we can relate, and are deeply affected with it and it lays very much to our own hearts. When Jeremiah had prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem, and though the truth of his prophecy was questioned, he did not rejoice in the proof of the truth by the accomplishment of it, preferring the welfare of his country before his own reputation. Yet, for us today rather than the abomination of and destruction of Jerusalem, it is the abomination and destruction of our very souls, ... and we must be held of the same mind of accountability!
History tells us that Jerusalem was destroy by Chaldeans in 586 BC., and it inhabitants were either killed or carried off. If Jerusalem had repented and been spared, Jeremiah would have been far from fretting as Jonah did. And in the judgments brought upon them God reckoned with them for it and ignoring Jeremiah’s pleading his prophet’s cause; he was far from rejoicing in the fulfillment of his words. For over a year, the Jews suffered the effects of the Chaldean siege. As famine set in, morale among the Jews sank. Due to their weakened condition, plagues of one kind or another began to afflict the people. Eventually the food supply was depleted and misery soared high as many were reduced to cannibalism. Finally, in 586 B.C., the Babylonians broke through the walls and began pillaging and looting the city. Many Jews were slaughtered. The city, temple, and walls, were razed to the ground. Those not killed were taken captive to Babylon, except for some of the peasantry. All that was left of Jerusalem was ash and rubble. Sadly, the prophet Jeremiah, who had witnessed the destruction, wrote, “How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary!” After the fall of Jerusalem, a Babylonian general, was sent to complete its destruction. Jerusalem was so plundered, and Solomon's Temple was so destroyed that the Ark of the Covenant, overseen by Moses himself disappeared forever.. King Zedekiah attempted to escape but was captured on the plains of Jericho. There, after seeing his sons killed, Zedekiah was blinded, bound, and taken prisoner to Babylon and there he died. If only Jerusalem had repented and been spared, Jeremiah would hast been far from fretting as Jonah didst. And in the judgments brought upon 'em God reckoned with 'em for it and ignoring Jeremiah’s pleading his prophet’s cause; he was far from rejoicing in the fulfillment of his words."
Rev. Davidson continues: "Jeremiah asks in verse 22 of chapter 8 “is there no balm in Gilead?; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of mine people recovered?
Gilead was a place in their own land, well known for its apothecary - ' twere across the River Jordan, not far from Jerusalem. Long before Moses, ‘twere famous for its spices, ointments, and herbal remedies. The merchants to whom Joseph was sold "had join from Gilead with camels bearing spices, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry 'em down to Egypt” (Genesis 37:25) How small their hopes were? All is lost, ... if there could be no balm?, no proper physics for a sick and dying world. ‘Is there no physician, no quaint faithful hand to apply the physics?’ By his most question, "is there no Balm in Gilead?" God is asking, "why haven't thou join to me for healing for thy souls?" This problem is not unique to people of ancient Jerusalem. People today, perhaps e'en thou and I, neglect to join to the heavenly physician for spiritual physic.
Why did God allow such horrible misery and destruction to come upon his chosen people? The answer given in the scriptures, it was because of the wickedness of the people. Thou may ask, ‘but why does the Lord destroy wicked people? At least one purpose is stated in the scriptures."For the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man. And when the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man then cometh speedy destruction, and this grieveth my soul” Jeremiah saw their situation to be deplorable, well past relief, and beyond any hope. There would be no Balm in Gilead for the Israelites that could cure their disease of their abominations, there's no physician possible that can restore the health of a nation now quite overrun by such a foreign power as that of the Chaldeans. Their desolations were made irreparable, and the disease hath anon join to such a height that there was no checking it. They had among themselves God’s Word, they had the Old Testament law and his prophets, with the help of which they might hast been brought to repentance, and their wrack might hast been prevented. They had princes and priests, whose business 'twere to reform the nation and redress their grievances. But they paid no heed. What could hast been done more than had been done for their recovery? Listen to Isaiah 59, verses 1 - 2 "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. Was God’s ears are not so deaf that He could not hear their cries?, nor His arms too short that he could not save? No! Their iniquities had separated them from their God.
They refused to recognize their own spiritual infirmities. In a similar way, David, after he went in to Bathsheba, did not recognize his sin, until Nathan pointed it out with skill - 2Samuel 12 : 1 - 15 . After this David wrote Psalm 51, in which he pleads, "Restore me to the joy of your salvation and sustain me with your generous Spirit".
Indeed the ancient Israelites were not owing to God, yet to themselves; it were not for the crave of a Balm or a physician, because they would not admit it or apply the applications and submit to Jeremiah’s methods of a cure! Ye brethren, today, thou are no longer under the thumb of a foreign king, we are a sovereign nation unto ourself. Hence, we may better understand as laying all the blame of the incurableness of their disease upon themselves with no remedy, no ointment of a cure; and yet, what is the state of our condition? The good news is, today the question can be answered, in the affirmative! Is there no balm in Gilead? Yes!, forsooth there is a physician available to us; God is more than able to help, heal and restore us. There is a sufficiency in Christ to redress all our grievances. Today the physician and physic are both ready, but ye, is the patient willful? If sinners die of their wounds, their blood is upon their own heads, 'lest they turn towards the forgiveness for their depraved state of being. The blood of Christ is the Balm of Gilead! His spirit is the physician, er’ all-sufficient, and most importantly available today, so that thou might be healed. There's a great physician and a balm in the heavenly Gilead, where grows the trees whose leaves are for the healing of the all nations. Alas, so many know they are sick in spirit, but do not know that the balm of Gilead is there to heal them! The Gospel of Luke says in Luke 5:30-32 that there is a Great Physician verses 30-32; ‘And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, 'Why doth thou eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?' And Jesus answered ‘em, 'Those who are well hast no want of a physician, yet those who are sick doth. I hast not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.'” Alas, there’s comfort for there is a balm in the heavenly Gilead: Revelation 22: 1-2; “Then the angel show’d me the river of the water of life. The river was bright as crystal. It flowed from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the city’s street. On either side of the river, grew the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit. The tree yielded its fruit each month. And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations”. Thou can recognize an illness and know thy cure, but fail in its application. Yet it's such a simple matter if thou’st have faith in Jesus.
Peter tells how... For the unrepentant: “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”(Acts 2:38) For the Christian: “Repent of your wickedness, and pray to the Lord that he might forgive you” (Acts 8:22)
Thou must recognize thy own spiritual sickness, know the cure, and apply it today. The "Balm of Gilead" is there for everyone to use and be healed —especially thou! Amen.!”