The Civil War in North Carolina

Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians

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everything that was estimable, and the absurd stories of his fondness for gaming and other low vices are utterly groundless. It is true that his good qualities were all obscured by a more than ordinary neglect and perhaps contempt of religious obligations. And it is this that led him, when afterward connected with the church, to loathe himself to the degree which was so remarkable a trait of his religious character. But many a mere moralist has built his claims for acceptance with his God upon a foundation far more slender than the morality which Mr. Ravenscroft practiced during this period of his life, though without any reference to his accountability. Some groundless stories respecting the immediate causes and manner of his conversion have been related, and even published, but it is well for Mr. Ravenscroft's own reputation that he left in writing an excellent, interesting and detailed account of the rise and progress in his heart of that great change by which he "put off, concerning the former conversation, the old man and put on the new man." Up to that time that he lived without "God in the world," as he himself was ever most ready to acknowledge, and his life had been the mere details of an ordinary irreligious life, passed in the obscurity of the country, possessing neither novelty or instruction.

        Though blessed in many ways, more especially with a wife who seems to have found her happiness in promoting his; with an estate that was equal to his utmost wishes, and with the respect and affection of a large circle of friends, he yet experienced that truth which enters so largely into the experience of every man, that the happiness of this world is empty and unsatisfying, and his well-informed mind, after a night of delusion, was brought to the conviction that "here was not his rest." This he thought he found in a body of Christians then called Republican Methodists; and influenced by a personal attachment for one of their preachers, Mr. John Robinson, of Charlotte County, he and his wife, "who opened her mouth with wisdom, and whose tongue was the law of kindness," took membership with that body. This was in the year 1810; in 1815 he became much exercised on the subject of the ministry, believing he was called thereto, and was earnestly solicited by his brethren to assume its duties. He was compelled, after thoroughly canvassing the matter, to look to the Protestant Episcopal Church for that deposit of apostolic succession, in which alone is the verifiable power to minister in sacred things, to be found in the United States. On February 17, 1816, Bishop Moore gave him letters of license as a lay-reader, and on April 25, 1817, in the Monumental Church at Richmond he was made deacon, and, for reasons satisfactory to the Bishop and standing committee of the diocese, at the same time he had conferred upon him the orders of priesthood, being ordained thereto on May 6, 1817, at Fredericksburg; he returned to his parishes of Cumberland, in Lunenburg, and of St. James, in the County of Mecklenburg. Having lost his wife in 1814, he was married to his second wife in 1818, a Miss Buford, of Lunenburg County, whose consistent Christian character was at once a comfort and an aid to him during their union.

        In 1823 he received an invitation to take charge of the large and flourishing congregation at Norfolk, but not conceiving that any call of duty accompanied this invitation, he promptly declined it, "as nothing in the shape of emolument could move him from where he was, and induce him to sacrifice his predilections and attachment to his own flock." He was shortly afterward "called" to the Monumental Church, in Richmond, to be the assistant of that venerable prelate, Bishop Moore. For the good of the church, Mr. Ravenscroft was preparing to yield to what he considered as an imperative call of duty and to accept this invitation, when a call of a yet more imperative nature reached him from North Carolina, coming under circumstances which at once forbade a rejection.

        The church in North Carolina had shared the same fate during the Revolutionary war that had involved all other portions of it in this country in so much gloom and depression. The violent prejudices, to the injustice of which it is hardly necessary to recur, which had brought odium and persecution upon its ministers elsewhere, existed here in their full vigor. The effect, indeed, of these prejudices seems to have been more remarkable in North Carolina than any where else, the church being identified as one of the concomitants of royalty. The cry of "down with it, down with it even to the ground," accomplished the wishes of the enemies of the church; and long after this Zion had arisen from the dust and put on her beautiful garments, in other portions of her borders, her children here had still to weep when they remembered her. It was not until the year 1817 that three clergymen who had been called to the towns of Fayetteville, Wilmington and New Berne, encouraged by some influential laymen in the two last-mentioned towns, proposed a
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