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A TRUE STORY Of
THE LIFE OF BIDE RUSSELL
THE BLIND ORPHAN
By C. B. MASSEY
Her Pastor (By Her Request)
Aunt Bide never saw this earthly realm, but she excelled in that true VISION of eternal and spiritual matter, which is rare today and without which, the Bible says, “the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18) (This note added in 1994 reprint)
PREFACE TO THE 1994 REPRINT
Once in a very great while an account of a life is written which captures the essence of true “Christianity.” From this little booklet we can see that not so long ago someone
(1) suffered much affliction as patiently as Job,
(2) endured a long life of blindness cheerfully by grace,
(3) lived her life wholly by faith as Jesus taught,
(5) loved and served God in spirit and in truth with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength,
(6) moved both the power of heaven and lost sinners toward it with her prayers,
(7) was fearless in her witness to lost souls,
(8) supported her church with utmost love, zeal, and faithful attendance,
(9) believed and practiced Old-Time Baptist doctrine to the letter,
(10) and was a joy and inspiration to people around her.
We are sure that Aunt Bide was not without fault, for she too was a humble sinner saved by grace. It was not a perfect life or great feats, however, which distinguished her life, but the way she honored her Lord in persistent holding to His hand, overcoming mountainous obstacles all along her pilgrim pathway. Old Union should be glad that she was for a while a member of our church. No doubt some are still profiting from her faith and works who may be quite unaware of it. This testimony endorses nearly all of the cherished practices which still make our old-fashioned faith distinct from most modern churches. Except for foot-washing, which our church has no record of ever having practiced, (but is not hostile toward sister churches which do so) all of the descriptions of religion herein are recognizable at Old Union to this day. Perhaps we do not embrace them with nearly enough zeal and dedication, but belief in their value has not vanished as it has from most “churches” of this date. This reminder should increase our zeal; if so, Aunt Bide, just as Abel, while “being dead, is still speaking.” (Hebrews 11:4)
To strangers to our ways who may happen to read this booklet, Old Union commends to all of you the humility, conviction, mournful seeking to know God, and victorious spiritual experience herein described. Such is “the old-time religion” which God renewed in this world through the great revivals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Those revivals, more than all else, made America The Beautiful what she has been. This experimental “knowing God” and “knowing the Lord Jesus” was then common among most religious denominations in America, and certainly to all Baptists, until well into this century of decline. We would have you to know that such religion is not just a relic of the past. We still have it today, and jealously guard it. May this account help to enlighten some of you so that you may someday come to KNOW that “THIS IS ETERNAL LIFE, that they might KNOW THEE, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) Elder J.A. Reynolds June 1994
This booklet is a true story, as told by Aunt Bide, as she is always known by her friends far and near, together with such things as the author has known to be true about her life. It tells her experience in her own words. It is not a fable, but the real life of one of the most consecrated children of God I ever knew.
For a long time we have been contemplating the writing of her life, as she has wanted it written for a long time; and in hope that it will help some one of God’s children to be more faithful, or alarm some sinner to the need of repentance, we undertake the job. We dedicate it to the Lord and His cause.
THE AUTHOR (Elder C. B. Massey was pastor of Old Union from 1913 through 1926.)
THE LIFE OF BIDE RUSSELL
Bide Russell was born at Red Boiling Springs, Macon County, Tenn., April 1, 1856. She is the daughter of Thomas J. and Bernettie (Sutton) Russell. Her parents were poor; her father was a cripple. When she was three months old she took the scrofula, and it spread all over her, and like Job she was full of sores from the crown of her head to the soles of her feet. At six months old it put her eyes out, and then for two years it was thought she could not live another day.
Her name that was given her was Millia Elender, but the people that came to see her would ask if she still “abides,” and they finally got to calling her “little Bide,” so everybody has called her Bide ever since, and since she has grown older they call her Aunt Bide.
She wore a tar cap for four years, and her throat ran seven years. She can see the glimmer of light, but no object is visible to her. When she was eight years old her mother died. Oh! What a loss for one who is blind to lose their dear mother, and especially one not only blind but afflicted as she was! For two years before her mother died she said she would soon have to die, but she would leave her little blind girl in the hands of God. Often she said such things, and said she did not mind dying, only she hated to leave her little blind girl. The evening she died, she motioned for them to bring Bide to her. ‘They led me to her; she laid her hand on my head, and big tears ran down her cheeks. I faintly remember those trembling limbs. I can feel that hand on my head now as my mind goes back to those days of childhood. It was evident that she was calling down God’s blessings on me. Mother left me in the care of God, and I certainly have been in His care ever since. I missed my dear mother so bad in the years that came and went, but God has been my stay.”
In about a year after her mother died her father broke up housekeeping, and she has worked her way through life from then till now, staying at the start with anybody that had anything she could do. She learned to card before her mother died, so she would card for people, wash, knit, spin, and sweep or do anything that other people could do. She has worked all her life, staying with people. Some were good and kind; others were not so kind. She has been through good and bad, rough and smooth, hot and cold. She had been in perils, at many times. I will now give her Christian experience in her own words.
“I was living at Eli Carter’s the year I was eleven years old. There was a big meeting going on at old Timber Ridge, and Addison Cartwright was a mourner, and this was one of the greatest meetings I have ever seen. The people prayed, sang and shouted, and mourned and wept. Most everybody was interested. On the 12th day of August, 1869, about 10:00 a.m., Addison Cartwright professed religion at home. He came to me and got down on his knees and asked me if I would be lost if I was to die. I told him I did not know –1 would have to study a little. I studied a moment and I knew I was lost. It came like a thunderbolt from a clear sky. I said, ‘yes, I would be lost! Lost!’ He said, ‘Go to praying right now,1 and I did. I never heard such prayers as he prayed for me. I prayed almost constantly, but no relief could I find. I was miserable everywhere I went: blind, both spiritually and naturally. I tell you the gloom was deep. Nothing was any pleasure to me. One whole year I was a mourner. During this year I moved to Ike Grissam’s. They were all sinners and could not give me much encouragement.”
“August, 1870, Brother Ira King was holding a meeting on Peyton’s Creek at Pleasant Shade, Tenn., in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. I was a mourner in their meeting and I had trusted in everything that it was possible to trust in except the Lord. On August 12,1870 old Brother King preached a wonderful sermon. My conviction came on me with renewed power. I was calling upon God with all my might. Uncle Luther Smith was standing over me singing this song:
‘Oh! Sisters, are you ready To meet me in bright glory? There is a dying day a coming, 0 Lord have mercy, There is a dying day a coming, Make ready for to go.”
“I had my thumbs gripped in my hands. I felt that I was sinking into Hell while this song was being sung. I opened my hands and said, ‘Lord, if I am saved it’s mercy; if I am damned it’s just; Lord I risk it all with thee,’ and I trusted Him. The burden was instantly moved away, and I felt and knew that I would meet my Uncle Luther and my loved ones in heaven.”
“I arose from my seat, realizing as David did that my feet had been taken out of the miry clay and that I was brought out of a horrible pit, and He put a new song in my mouth. I was happy and praising God. I loved everybody. I loved God’s cause. I went to old Uncle Jesse Kemp’s to stay all night. I was still happy. I got down by Uncle Jesse’s and Aunt Betsy’s bed and prayed for them. It made Aunt Betsy mad. She said she could stamp me, but thirty years after that the Lord heard my prayer and saved Aunt Betsy. When she was saved she said, ‘it was the prayer of that little blind girl thirty years before that brought conviction to my heart and followed me until now, and I am saved.’ Six years before this, Uncle Jesse was saved, and he said the same. They joined the Baptist church and made faithful members until death.”
“Father said I was too little to join the church, but I could not be satisfied to stay out of the church. This is the only thing that I ever disobeyed my father in. For three months I had an awful time trying to decide whether to obey father or the Spirit that was leading me to join the church, but finally I decided to join if he whipped me, and on the 12th of November, 1870,1 joined the Missionary Baptist Church at Mt. tabor, Smith County, Tennessee. On Sunday, the 16th, I was baptized. Father sent me word every day not to be baptized, but I felt I must obey God rather than man. In later years father was sorry that he had tried to hinder me from joining the church. I was baptized by Uncle Luther Smith. Sam Oldham picked me up and carried me out of the creek. I have had many grievous trials, but I have been a happy Christian ever since. I lived about at various places for nine years. Then father brought me and my youngest brother back home, and I kept house for them two years and six months. I was happy in our home, though it was a great burden on me to try to cook and wash and keep the home in order and me blind.”
“We lived near Defeated Creek Church, where I had moved my membership. It was my delight to get everything ready to go to our meetings. We lived in sight of the church. I only missed two appointments at my church in fourteen years. After we had been living in our home two years and six months father said to me one day, “Bide, you are blind and it is so hard on you to keep house. I can’t afford to let you keep house any longer.” He said that he was going to hunt him a wife, and that he would give me the privilege of picking my stepmother. I said, ‘well, I will pick Jane Canter,1 and father went to see her and they soon married, and a nobler woman never lived. She was good and kind and took special care of me. She was so good to my afflicted father, and as true a stepmother as ever lived. We lived happily together a long time. I was the first one of father’s children to get religion, and I prayed for the rest of them until they were all saved. My sister Polly Ann was the first one to be saved. Oh, how it filled my heart with joy when she was saved. I felt like she would gladly help me to pray and work for the others to come to the Lord. Soon after this brother Lon was saved and also joined the church and was baptized, but brother Buck was so hard-hearted he had no interest in religion. I prayed for him fifteen years and I would talk to him at home and at church. He would curse me and curse my religion, and swear he would cut my throat if I came to him to talk to him again, but I remembered that the scripture said that the prayers of the righteous avail much, and that the Lord said he would withhold no good thing from them that walked uprightly, and that Paul prayed so earnestly for his brethren. I was determined to get him if he killed me. He stayed away from church two whole years trying to get me to promise that I would not come to him. I always told him that if I felt like I ought to come to him I would come, and if not I would not bother him. At the end of two years he got to coming to church and hiding from me. I believed he was under conviction to some degree. All these two years he was going to the barn to pray secretly, but some of them heard him praying and came and told me. This gave me great joy to know that the Lord was bringing him in and I was encouraged to pray on. He came to church one day and came up about half way and heard the preaching. When the preacher called for mourners he refused to go, and several went to him, and I also went to him and said, ‘Buck, you said you would go to Hell before you would go to the altar or the mourner’s bench.’ He said, ‘yes, I said it.’ I said, ‘you will have to go,’ and he just jumped up and ran to the mourner’s bench. I went to him and said, ‘brother, you are mad at your brother-in-law, Tom Donoho, and the Lord will not save you until you forgive him.’ He said, ‘let me go home and study about it/ and he jumped up and started. I said, ‘go, brother, and be willing to forgive everybody.’ He went home under deep conviction feeling that he could neither eat nor sleep until this matter was fixed. His wife went to her mother’s and left the children with him that evening. He had his baby on his knee and the other one was standing by. He was pondering the matter in his mind, saying, ‘Why can’t I forgive everybody? Why can’t I lay these matters down and trust my Lord?’ Just at this time his little girl clapped her hands, and just at that moment he trusted the Lord and felt he was saved. Like the woman at Jacob s well that left her water pot and went to tell the news to the city, he laid his baby on the bed and left his children there, caught his horse, and started to the church to tell the news. His little girl called her mother and when she got home he was gone. When he got to church, we had assembled, but services had not begun. He rode up, turned his horse loose, and went straight to Tom Donoho and laid his arms around his neck weeping for joy, having forgiven him all. He then came to me. That was the happiest hour of my life. We had one of the most wonderful services I was ever in. The next day his wife was saved, and they both joined the church and were baptized.” This is her story, which no one doubts in the least.
In 1901 her father died and left her without mother or father or money, but not without friends. Her father was a good Christian man who lived a godly life and died in the faith he lived. This brought her to consider again her life. She said:
“I felt I was left alone in a cold and heartless world to make the battle of life alone and without eyes. I then consecrated my life anew to my God, giving my whole being into his hands. I said, ‘Lord I don’t want to go to a poor house. I will give you all my life if you will save me from a pauper’s home. I am willing to be blind if you want me to. I have been afflicted all my life and I am willing to be afflicted if you want me to be.’ From that day I have worked in the Lord’s cause as best I could. Many times it looked as if I would be in want, but the Lord would send me something to supply. I have lived like the little sparrow and have never been in want. Brother Buck died June 13,1904. He always said that I caused him to repent and that it was in answer to my prayers that he was saved. He called Brother Jim Swann to him on Sunday morning and asked him to organize a Sunday school at Cornwell’s Chapel and have his children to go to it, and this was done as he directed. He died Wednesday following. He held up his hands and said, ‘Glory, glory,’ and passed out to his reward. He left eight children. Help me pray for them.”
“I have worked in big meetings as opportunity would afford, every year talking to sinners and praying for them, going from place to place as the good people would carry me about, and they have come after me for miles to be in their meetings. I have felt my way among the sinners and led many to the altar. I have prayed with the earnestness of my soul for sinners, and I have witnessed many professions of religion. But to God be all the glory. I have been called the old fuss maker. I have shouted the glory of God for years. He has filled my soul with many a blessing and I guess I have disturbed the devil’s cause considerably, and I will, by God’s grace, praise Him as long as I live, and then praise Him forevermore. God has been both father and mother to me. He has been brother, sister, and friend. He has saved me, clothed me, fed me, blessed me, and answered my prayers, and saved many I have prayed for, and I will praise him as long as I live. I have always felt sure, ever since I gave myself wholly into his hands, that I would not suffer. The Baptists have been good to me, often giving liberally to me. Also, the Masons have been good to me, helping me many times. I don’t pretend to be perfect. I only am trying to do what I can for the Lord. I have made many mistakes in life and it is only through Jesus I am going through.”
“Some of the noblest preachers in the world have been my pastors, and I have belonged to some of the best churches in the world. I will give you their names: Mt. Tabor, Defeated Creek, Bellwood (Willett); these are in Smith and Macon Counties,
Tenn.; last, I moved to Old Union, Warren County, Ky., and my membership is there now. My pastors have been as follows: E.L. Smith, E.B. Hainey, W.M. Kuykendall, T.A. Hudson, Wiseman Drury, WJ. Watson, G.W. Ramsey, T.W. Matthews, W.H. Smith, W.M.S. Wilks, Jim Rich, and at present, C.B. Massey. These men have been the standard-bearers for us through our Christian life.”
“I have lived as circumstances would demand, from place to place. I have lived most of the time of late years among my people. I lived a few years ago with my sister and brother-in-law, but they went to Texas, and I did not want to go. They tried to get me to go, but I refused to go. I did not know where I could get to go, but about the time they were ready to start, Brother C.B. and Sister Fannie Massey told me that I could live with them. I was delighted to get to live with them. I was heart-broken about my sister leaving for the West. Bro. Massey and wife and children did all they could to comfort me and make me happy. They were good to me. The children treated me like I was their mother. I went with Bro. Massey to nearly all his appointments for a long time. This afforded me the best opportunity to work for the Lord I most ever had, and also gave me more pleasure than anything to get to go to meetings. I got to be in protracted meetings so much. Finally my sister came back from the West and then I lived with her until her husband died, which was a short time later. We lived with her son, Alvis Donoho, a while, and sister married again, and got a good man. Since then I have moved to Warren County with my nephew, where I now reside. I used to stay with Brother Robert and Sister Martha Wright. We have had many good times together. They are both dead and gone to their reward.”
“I am now set for the work of the master as long as I live. I have traveled through this old dark world feeling my way. I am perfectly content to be blind if the Lord wants me to. I am living in strong faith of seeing in the world above. I know my redeemer lives and I will see Him some day when He comes with a shout. Bless God, I will meet Him with a shout and give Him glory forever. Then I will look upon Him; I will see the glories of Him and His new world where there are no blind, halt or lame. We will all be like our Savior.”
“I am a Missionary Baptist. I believe the doctrine to the letter. I believe in repentance of the old time sort, calling uponGod, seeking Him with the whole heart. I believe that the Baptist church is the TRUE church of Christ, that it alone has the right to administer the ordinances, that one must be approved by the church, and then be baptized by a Baptist preacher before he can be a member of God’s old church. I believe the preservation of the saints is a glorious fundamental in the doctrine of Christ. I would by the grace of God have my head cut off before I would give up even one of these old principles in the doctrine of Christ. I believe in feet-washing, and have for many years. I have been made happy many times when washing feet. It will be a glorious day when the Lord is married to His church. I will be able to see by then and how glad I will be. The last word I want to say in this old world is, ‘sinners, come to Jesus,’ and that is the last word I want in my little book. When you hear that blind Bide is dead, shout for joy; for I will be happy then.”
Aunt Bide is indeed a loyal Christian, and a blessing to every home. Everybody who knows her loves for her to come and stay with them. She helps to make the home happy. She is strong in the faith and full of good works. She has a pleasant spirit, always lively, and seldom ever grunts when sick. She is as entertaining as anybody, a big talker who will talk all day about religion, or she will talk of other things. She has a great intellect. She can go about the place when she gets acquainted almost as good as one who can see. In any community where she is familiar she can get in the buggy and ride along the road and tell you where everybody lives and every time you pass a road she can tell you just about the time you are passing it, and where it goes. She has guided me through these hills on many roads I had never traveled before. I remember once she wanted me to take her to her brother’s-in-law. It was about eight miles. I did not know the way, and many roads to lead off, but she guided me to their home and told me when we were getting about in sight. Few blind people ever equaled her in those things. She has no means of support except the Lord puts it into the hearts of the people to help her, and she always has plenty to live on.
I carried her to Nashville once to have her eyes operated on. The doctor thought he could make her see, but he failed. He hated to tell her that she would never see. He thought it would cause her to grieve so, but to his surprise she said, “If the Lord don’t want me to see, I don’t want to see.” I made up some of the money and paid the remainder of $16.00 myself. I would have given anything if she could have gained her eyesight.
She has been active in leading people to Christ. She can talk to anybody with all patience. She does not care how hard he is or what he says. If they curse her it’s all right. She just continues to tell them of the way. The Baptists have always been proud of Aunt Bide, and her work. She has her faults as other people, but I think she has as few as anyone I ever saw. She has lived at my house and been in and out for ten years, and we are always glad to see Aunt Bide come. She is a noble hand with the sick and a great lover of children, and they all take up with her.
Well, we all have our ups and downs here, but we live in hope of better times when the Lord comes with a shout, with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall arise. Then we will go where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest. Then we will be happy in our new mansions that Jesus has prepared. Then we will shout and sing, and praise God and enjoy the things of Heaven forever. While we are here let us do all we can to help out the Master’s cause. Let us work and warn sinners to repent. Sinners, you will see some day that you have lost time in not repenting when you were young. The Lord said, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth while the evil days come not, and the years draw nigh when you will have no pleasure in them.” Oh, sinners, COME TODAY! COME TO JESUS!
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