Combs - Michael - Montgomery InGenWeb Project

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Combs - Michael


Source: Evans, Madison. Biographical Sketches of the Pioneer Preachers of Indiana. Philadelphia: J. Challen & Sons, 1862, p. 139

Prominent among the early Reformers in Indiana was Michael Combs. He was born in East Tenn Feb 17, 1800. His father, Job Combs, was of Scotch descent and of the Presbyterian faith. The Combses were generally an intelligent, high-toned people, though they moved in the humbler walks of life, and were not blessed with liberal education. As a general thing their predilections were not so much for the ministry as for the worldly professions especially law. His mother's maiden name was Abigail Coons. She was of German descent. The Coonses were mostly Baptists noted for their piety and zeal for God. Among them were many preachers, one of whom, John Coons, was imprisoned, in the days of the Revolution by the English or Episcopal Church. The mother of Elder Combs died when he was quite young; whereupon he and his brother Job were placed in a family of a maternal uncle who was a strict Baptist of the Calvinistic dye. By him the orphan boys were taken exclusively to the Baptist church, where they received a strong bias in favor of that faith. Being brought up under such circumstances their education was of course, greatly neglected. They were simply taught to read and write - no more. In early youth, however, they were both very fond of good books; and they read with great avidity every volume upon which they could lay hands. Michael especially became much interested in the histrocial portions of the Old Testament; and the account of the creation, the translation of Enoch, the destruction of Sodom, and other important events did not fail to make a deep impression on his mind and heart. The earnest appeals of the Baptist preacher also effected him seriously and so did the earthquakes that occurred about 1811. On account of these various causes, his soul was greatly cast down and disquieted; and had the preachers of that day spoken according to the oracles of God, he would, no doubt, have been a disciple before he reached his 14th year. As it was, however, his religious impressions soon wore away; and he walked in the way of his heart and in the sight of his eyes unmindful of Solomon's admonition, that "for all these things God would bring him into judgment."

Being a very mirthful and mischievous disposition, he was easily turned altogether out of the way. About this time, his father, who had married again determined to remove to Ohio, which was then regarded by the East Tennesseeans as a land flowing with more than milk and honey. Finding no location to suit him, he proceeded as far west as Wayne Co, Indiana where for a short time he pitched his tent. His neighbors were nearly all Quakers, whose quiet worship and solemn demeanor had but few attractions for his two sons, who had accompanied him from the land of their birth. At length their father settled in Preble Co Ohio near the line separating it from Indiana. Here Michael fell among a class of Christians called Newlights - a people as different from the Quakers as the Quakers were from the Baptist. It was commonly reported that they denied the divinity of Christ, and the doctrine of the atonement; that they were Arminians; that they held faith to be merely an act of the creature; that they had no creed but the Bible; and that as to their origin they were a people only of yesterday. By far the most prominent preacher among them at that time and place was David Purviance. One day, when he was to preach nearby, young Combs felt like the Jews of Rome when they said, "We desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest; for as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against." Accordingly he went to the meeting, and was favorable impressed by the fine personal appearance and the mild, affectionate bearing of the speaker. The text was, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden; and I will give your rest." The sermon was the plainest, the most consistent, the most effecting he had ever heard - altogether different from the discourses of the Calvinist Baptist to whom he had been wont to listen. With them clearness or simplicity was no desideratum. Indeed, the most incomprehensible the subject could be made to appear to sinners, the more indubitable was the evidence that the preacher was "sent from God." for they reasoned thus: ... After hearing Elder Purviance that day, Elder Combs frequently attended the meetings of the Christians. He became convinced of the propriety of their plea for a union of all the saints; and was favorably impressed by the fact that they themselves loved one another fervently and endeavored to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Therefore, though he did not unite with them, he became a zealous defender of their characters, if not of all their views.

On the 1st of Jan 1818, he married Mary Edwards, who had been brough tup among the Quakers of NC. She of course inclined to that faith, although to her it was very far from being "full of comfort." On the contrary, she was a victim of despondencey, having been forced to the conclusion that she was one of the "vessels of wrath fitted to destruction." Her husband though yet a great sinner, became a preacher of righteousness so far as to dispel all her fears of reprobation, and induce her to attend the meetings of the Christians. With them she soon united, being received without baptism, out of deference to her Quaker views. This error also she subsequently corrected; and although 42 years have since elapsed, she still lives "In hope of the glory of God." She is mother of 13 children, 11 of whom are living and all of whom, save one, have become obedient to the faith. Soon after her conversion, Elder James Hughes, "an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures," but "knowing only the baptism of John" came to a camp meeting held in that vicinity. Among his hearers on Monday morning was Job Combs, Jr. who had, perhaps, spent the previous day in the society of his sinful associates; and who had come there "to see that Newlight cut up" - as he expressed it on leaving home. In a sad, earnest, tone the speaker announced his text: "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord hath spoken; I have nourished and brougth up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master's crib but Israel doth not know; my people doth not consider." The passage touched the heart of young Combs, to whom it was so beautifully applicable; and for once he resolved to listen to the preaching of the word. Of its effect he himself could not better tell than in the touch words of the melancholy poet: ... The conversion of Job led his brother to consider his ways and determine to reform his life. But he was not equally fortunate in obtaining speedily a satisfacdtory evidence of the remission of his sins. He did indeed forsake his wicked ways and his unrighteous thoughts and he did experience a great change in his feelings but he could not give a reason for the trembling hope that was in him. In short, he was converted in heart and life; but in state or relation he was unconverted. After remaining long in this doubtful state of mind, he finally resolved to attempt the cleansing of his way by "taking heed thereto according to God's word." ... ... about the year 1822 he and his brother Job both commenced exhorting and preaching. A short time afterwards there occurred in their nieghborhood a great "revival" ... about the year 1826 he removed to Montgomery County, Indiana having entere 80 acres of land near Crawfordsville. There he found no organized church; but there were a few brethren and sisters, whose religion was bitterly opposed and grossly misrepresented.

He at once volunteered his services as a preacher, but being a stranger there it was feared by the brethren that he might not be able to resist the attacks which, it was certain, any demonstration on their part would provoke. Finally, however, they agreed to let him preach one sermon. At the same time it was privily agreed that a certain old brother, the "wise man" among them, should sit in the 'judgment seat" on the occasion. If in his opinion the discourse should indicate present ability and future usefulness on t he part of the preacher, they were to commit their precarious cause to his hands. If, on the contrary, the effort should be feeble and unsatisfactory, they were to give him neither encouragement nor a second trial. The day came. With anxious hearts came also the persecuted few who held fast the Lord's name; while those of the world of the unorthodox churches took their places in the assembly, thinking, "What will this babbler say?" Inspired by the circumstances surrounding his critical position, he made a most happy effort, which won for him, not only the favorable decision of the judge, but also the love and confidence of the entire little brotherhood. That day was the beginning of active operations in a new and extensive field. It was the early dawn of the Reformation in that section of Indiana. Many false and injurious impressions were soon removed; the views he advocated found favor in the eyes of a few of his neighbors; and the materials were soon ready out of which to organize a new church. But before this object could be accomplished it was necessary that he should be ordained. For that purpose he went to the Conference, which convened that year at Old Union in Owen Co. Having passed his examinations he was required to give his examiners a specimen of his sermonizing. For this, the second time, he was successful in running the gauntlet; and it was therefore ordered that he should be ordained to the ministry by Jesse Hughes and Jesse Frasier. This being done he immediately organized a small church near or upon his farm in Montgomery Co. The organization was subsequently removed to Crawfordsville; and thus the present flourishing church at that place had its origin. From Crawfordsville he visited many points in the White River Valley... For 12-15 years Elder Combs gave himself almost entirely to the word, leaving to his wife the care of his family. During all this time he stood in the front rank of Reformers and exerted a strong influence in many parts of the state... elected to state senate about the year 1851. 1853 - moved to Illinois, hoping to secure some land for his children. At a subsequent period he moved to Iowa in which state he still resides near Bellaire Elder Combs is a medium sized, rathe rheavey set man about 5'8" and weighing about 160 pounds. Though now enfeebled by age, he was once a man of much sprightliness and great physical a husband and father he is indulgent, provident, kind and affectionate....

File Created: Nov 27, 2007 - revised 24 May 2016
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