Kerr, John

Kerr, John, a Baptist minister of Scottish descent, was born in Caswell County, N. C., Aug. 14, 1782, converted in 1800, baptized in 1801, and at once licensed to preach. "Determined to avail himself of every means in his power to render his ministry efficient and useful, the young evangelist travelled to South Carolina to see the excellent Marshall and listen to his preaching, and thence to Georgia to form the acquaintance of the distinguished and venerable Mercer. Returning from the South, he visited Virginia, and became personally known to the lamented Semple and other valuable ministers of the state. Wherever he went his preaching produced a thrilling effect. His youthful appearance, the ardor and gracefulness of his manner, and the beauty of his diction, attracted universal attention. There are not a few who still remember his visit to Eastern Virginia with lively emotion after the lapse of almost half a century." In 1811 he embarked on the stormy sea of politics, consenting to become a candidate for Congress, and he was twice elected thereto. He was a member of that body during the War of 1812, and served his country at that critical period with a fervent and enlightened patriotism. At the close of his Congressional career he returned to Halifax, and served the churches at Arbor and at Mary Creek. In March, 1825, he removed to the city of Richmond, and became the pastor of the First Baptist Church. Here his fine pulpit talents were brought into active and successful operation. Crowds hung with delight on his ministry. In less than a year more than five hundred members were added to the Church, two hundred and seventeen of whom were white. This successful work continued until dissension was sown among his parishioners by the preaching of Alexander Campbell, whose efforts finally drew from Kerr's church nearly half of its members (in 1831). By the close of 1832 he had grown weary of the contentions to which the division had given rise, and resigned his charge. He died Sept. 29, 1842. He was naturally of a frank, generous, and disinterested disposition. Incapable of artifice himself, he was not always guarded against it in others. His temperament, peculiarly ardent, sometimes perverted his judgment. His manners were uniformly bland, gentle, and conciliating. In social intercourse he was highly gifted, never failing to impart an interest and a charm to conversation. He was dignified without ostentation, and cheerful without levity. "As a Christian, he imbibed in a high degree the spirit of his Master. His piety was not the dwarfish and stunted growth of sectarianism- morose, censorious, and persecuting, but the product of enlarged and liberal views-cheerful, candid, and conciliatory. Though he was firm to his convictions as a Baptist, he was remarkably free from bigotry, and was a lover of good men of every communion. As a preacher he possessed commanding talents. A fine person, a sonorous voice, and a graceful manner at once prepossessed his hearers in his favor. His apprehension was quick, his perception clear, and his imagination remarkably vivid. He is ranked among the most popular preachers of his day in Virginia, and for more than thirty years he rarely ii ever failed to be appointed at associations and other important meetings to preach on occasions of the greatest interest."-Sprague, Annals, 6:446 sq.

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