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“Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” Fire fell as the piercing question was proposed and the eternal
subject expounded from Holy writ. Every man was riveted with fixed attention to hear the heavenly message. With surprisingly subdued tones, the message was conveyed swiftly to the heart by the Holy Spirit’s convicting power. A battle was raging, but most in that congregation were simply unaware.
Born in Boston, Charles Bowles would know prejudice and privations such as most white men never saw. His African father and mulatto mother started their family when war was being waged on many fronts. It was 1761 when this tiny newborn first opened his eyes to this sin filled world. Truly a colorful world of heated issues and red, hot-blooded men who dared to risk all. His mother’s father was no stranger to this world of challenges. Colonel Morgan was a celebrated officer in the American army. Charles would follow grandfather’s footsteps and serve in the army during the Revolutionary War.
                Chapter 2
     Often from the lashing winds of storm and adversity comes strength and determination. An example is the life of Charles Bowles. A black man not only in a white man’s world but destined to be a leader among white men.
As a golden sunset settled over the green mountains of Vermont, the elder stood and proceeded to lift praises to His sovereign God and King for choosing such an unworthy vessel. “O my dear brothers and sisters, how could such a one as I ever harvest for you the manifold gleanings for the hungry souls of sinners from the graciousness of our loving Lord? How could such a one as I bring forth the treasure and priceless gems of eternal value to the impoverished of spirit and despite of heart? I pray our great God to receive praise and honor and glory this hour from this man of clay whom He so mercifully saved.”
     The elder, so humble, recounted his childhood to manhood to servanthood continually praising Jesus along the way! Born the son of a servant, his father was African, his mother the daughter of celebrated Col. Morgan, an officer in the Rifle Corps of the American army during the Revolutionary struggle for Independence. Spending only a brief portion of infancy with his father, Charles lived in Lunenburgh, Mass., till age 12 when his guardian, Mr. Jones, died. Now living with the family of a Tory, Charles developed his own opinions of “the divine right of kings,” and by the age of 14 was serving the Colonial army as an officer’s waiter. For two years he remained looking for the opportunity to join the American army to defend the holy cause of liberty. As a mere boy, he was exposed to horrors that not even the eyes of men should behold. The mangled carnage of war upon fields of blood demanded immeasurable courage from the young lad. From the shadows of death to his declaration of independence, Charles was forged by many a fiery trial.
     The British defeated and the army disbanded, Charles marched on to New Hampshire to marriage and a farmer’s life. Attempting to settle down with his new wife, Mary Corliss Bowles, his cousin and granddaughter of Colonel Morgan, Charles found himself engaged in another war. Once he had fought with musket and bayonets the forces of an earthly king. Now the fortress of his heart was being bombarded by holy conviction as he lived in open rebellion against the throne of heaven. The siege of his soul continued night and day as Charles tried to resist. “Over and over I heard the Holy Spirit’s cry of charge as mercy and love repeatedly rushed my resistance. The all-powerful artillery of God’s truth exposed my helpless, hopeless condition lost forever without ‘So Great Salvation.’ But Hallelujah what a Saviour, victory carne. Hell’s gates trembled, darkness crumbled and beneath the crimson flow my sinful soul was set free.”
     Elder Bowles was baptized and united with the Calvinistic Baptist Church of Wentworth, New Hampshire. Even though victory had come to die sin-torn soul of Charles Bowles, a new war must be fought. He now carry the banner of the King of Kings into battle against the forces of Hell. With congregationalism the controlling power in the state, Elder Bowles as a Baptist faced much persecution. But on this night the war plunged to a new level of hatred. Heaven’s banner unfurled the color of truth. “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
     What color was Elder Charles Bowles? Many a folk in Hinesburg, Vermont, knew what color or at least they soon learned. That wooden horse standing outside the meeting hall is colored hate and prejudice. It was painted by die brush of Hell, stroked by the wicked hand of vile whiskey-soaked, oath-uttering sinners. It’s strange how some bate goodness so. And these men surely hated Elder Bowles. They promised him a ride on the rail and afterward a humiliating dunk in the pond if he didn’t leave town.
     While they were disguising themselves for the devilish deed, the elder was on his knees in a distant grove praying for his Lord’s power and presence to clothe him in the gospel armor.
      So the hour came, and as the preacher entered the pulpit and the angry mob gathered in seats waiting as the predator for his prey. Yet, Elder Bowles said, “God will take care of me, and I shall do my duty though the enemy trample me under their feet.” On his sable brow, God has lit up a calm and dignified serenity, expressive of the holy trust that pervades his soul. With that confidence, he announced the sermon text: “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” Without question, divine power settled over that gathering as every man was riveted to the message. In climax to this awesome exhibition of conviction, the preacher announced the avowed intentions of some present and said, “I shall make no resistance at all; I am all ready, but, before starting, I have one request to make. I wish you to put one of your most resolute men forward, because I have another subject from God to preach on the way; and we will have music as we go along, glory be to God! Yes, we will have music, glory be to God!” The trust and power with which the elder spoke those words jolted the audience like an electric shock. Paralyzed, those intent on carrying out their act of hate began to cry, “What shall we do to be saved?”
     The once hated elder who was to be ridden out on a rail and dunked in the pond now dunks many of those very men who became Christians in the waters of baptism. Shouts of joy echoed over the hillside as a great multitude watched the results of heaven’s triumph. The men who once hated this preacher now knew him as a friend and beloved servant of Jesus. What color was Elder Charles Bowles? The colors of love the color of power with God and power with man.
                            Chapter 3
“A fight you want—a fight you will get,” and on no few occasions, in the thick of it all, was to be found Elder Bowles. He had entered a warfare that knew no retreat. From Rhode Island, friends of Elder Bowles recount one such story:
     In a certain town, a hall had been fitted up by an irreligious man for the accommodation of that class of people who have their brains in their heels. Those whose god dwells in their stomachs and whose zeal is drawn from the demijon, who meet in the night to celebrate the orgies of Bacchus, worships by copious offerings of gold and wealth. Qn the death of the owner, his widow mined to overthrow the altar and the tables of the moneychangers and drive them from the temple, which they desecrated. But this could not be done without offending the worshippers of the heathen god. He rallied his devotees to the rescue of his broken altars and his former temple of worship, for when the first meeting was held for the purpose of dedicating it to the worship of the Christian’s God, Bacchus assembled his worshippers from his various altars, their faces burning with zeal and hearts filled with the spirit of their mission, they seized the minister dragged him to a pump, and drenched him with water until he left the place. Soon after, Elder Bowles received an invitation to attend a meeting in the hall. He was informed of the character of the place and his probable reception. But always ready, like Paul, to preach the gospel to barbarians as well as Jews, he accepted the invitation. He had entered on a warfare that knew no defeat, no retreat—his motto was onward. The time of meeting arrived and a large concourse of people assembled. Elder Bowles had not come unarmed to throw himself into the dangerous breach; but had chosen his weapons from the best arsenal in the world. He had gone to the armory of heaven and selected the old and tried armor of Paul; and he came forth having his loins girt about with Truth; on his black chest shone the breastplate of righteousness; his feet were well encased with a preparation of the gospel of peace; and over his head he held the shield of faith. Qn his brow rested the helmet of salvation, and in his hand glittered the sword of the spirit; the whole having been newly burnished by praying always with all prayer. The mob came too, with their hearts nerved with the dark spirit of the pit, bent on deeds of violence. But they knew not the power of that Mighty Qne, who had commissioned this dark son of Ham to sound his gospel to dying men.
     They vainly supposed that all they would have to do would be to enter the town, seize him and bear him away. But this work, which was so easily planned, was not so easily done. Brother Bowles requested the brethren to take their stand around him and lift their hearts in silent prayer to Daniel’s God for deliverance. And when the mob entered, there stood that adamantine breastwork of prayer girt around the object of their fury. Elder Bowles was sending his well tempered blade deep into the hearts of his enemies, while he was defended by a claim of prayers into whose embrace it was dangerous for a mob to enter. They saw at a glance the weapons that they must meet, and their faces blanched, their eyes quailed, their hearts faltered, and their arms were palsied. After hesitating a moment, they retired from the presence of him who had power with God. Concluding the service, and taking tea with the family, the Elder took his cane and his overcoat and passed out into the street. There the mob had gathered. Yet they opened to the right and the left, as though held in awe by an unseen hand, and he passed on, none daring to do him harm.
                                Chapter 4
Icy winds cuts at his face. Like a razor sharp sword, winter ripped at the lone preacher atop his faithful horse. Penniless and hungry, the two had plodded all day through the brutal New England snow. Charles began thinking of supper and shelter by a warm fire. But he did not know where to find such a haven. Soon he knew the situation would be desperate. So this dark son of Africa did the only thing he knew to do. Holding tight to the reins of his shivering rnount, he knelt in the cold snow and sought help from above. Back in the saddle, the elder loosed the reins and rode on into the night. Strangely, his horse passed up several houses, finally turning into a farm where he stopped at the barn as if this had been their destination all along. By lamplight one could see the family inside gathering around the evening meal. After a gentle knock at the door, the half frozen preacher was invited into warm himself by the fire. On the opposite side of the room, a child, possibly five or six years of age, began to weep ever so sorrowfully. The mother took the little girl into another room, apparently to prevent disturbing their guest. Ever so quickly they both returned with the mother boisterously exclaiming, “Who are you? Where are you going? Are you hungry?” Without opportunity to respond, Charles found himself at the family table enjoying a wonderful meal along with an invitation to stay the night. Now this family did not know they were entertaining a preacher.
      After several neighbors carne in, Charles learned that a Methodist circuit preacher had an appointment to preach that night in this family’s home. The hour grew late, but the minister did not arrive. Finally, the husband requested Elder Bowles to preach. To his knowledge, no one in the place knew he was a preacher. Obviously, this was a divine appointment and could not be refused. After reading the scriptures and making some introductory remarks, the circuit preacher arrived. At the insistence of the Methodist brother, Charles Bowles stood with open Bible in hand and expounded to this small gathering the wonderful words of Life. The mighty power of the gospel moved upon the hearts of those precious few, and several were converted on that cold New England night. As a result, a glorious revival commenced in that community.
It broke his heart to see the error and the exercise of power to control, yea even persecute the brethren. Charles Bowles was forced to make a decision.
      Soon after his public profession, Charles had been baptized in the Calvinistic Baptist Church of Wentworth, New Hampshire. At that time, the Baptists were persecuted and even called heretics due to the all-controlling influence of Congregationalism. Yet, it was obvious the spirit and power of the gospel was evident in the Baptists.
      With joy, Charles ministered in neighboring towns and villages. He labored faithfully for the salvation of lost souls and gained considerable respect among fellow preachers. However, Charles saw some disturbing trends among the Baptists. They were all to ready in their preaching to expose the errors of Congregationalism, yet unwilling to recognize their own error. Soon the persecuted became the persecutor. The Baptists now used their power to manipulate and control. Charles prayed for divine guidance. “Ye shall know this truth, and this truth shall make you free.” Error could not stand against liberating power of the gospel. A new era had dawned in America, and Charles knew he “must seek some more congenial soil, where the free showers of heaven might water the tender plant of gospel grace.” He turned to the authority of God’s Holy Word, immersing himself in study to be approved. He yielded to a complete examination of Christian doctrine giving the Holy Spirit absolute control of his heart
and mind to lead in all truth. With humble dependence upon God’s Word, divine wisdom carne. Burning deep within was the pure motive to promote this Glory of God and win the lost with the message of Jesus Christ. He found freshness among new converts. There was a difference in the fellowship with those who had this breath of heaven upon their soul and those self-righteous politicians posturing for positions of power. The Lord was gracious, and revival fires burned.
He met Elder Colby in Gloucester, Rhode Island. Together they preached and many souls came to Christ. Both men were earnest, faithful servants with a fearless spirit and fire in their souls.
Through fellowship with men hike Elder Colby, along with his intense study and this period of revival, Charles Bowles withdrew from the Calvinistic Baptists and identified his interest with the young fledgling group of Free Will Baptists in the area. At this time, he was led to sound the note of Free Grace and Free Salvation among the Green Mountains of Vermont.
From 1808 on, Elder Bowles experienced the “unmistakable manifestations of Divine power and blessing attending his labors.” On July 24, 1816, he preached in Huntington, Vermont, for the first time. Brother Charles commenced the message by reading a portion of this hymn:
“With love and pity I look round, Upon my fellow clay;
See men reject the gospel sound,
Great God! What shall I say?”
The preaching of Free Grace and Salvation yielded the conversion of almost one hundred souls in that Green Mountain village. A church was organized with this name of Free Will Baptist. The Sword of this Lord Foundation published Profiles in Evangelism by Dr. Fred Barlow. In that book, Barlow writes about Evangelist Jacob Knapp (1779-1874). A quote from Dr. Frank G. Beardsley is given that is quite interesting:
“...aside from the Separate Baptists and Free Will Baptists, the Baptists as a class did not favor special efforts to promote revivals of religion. Since that would have been an interference with the operation of divine sovereignty it was considered presumptuous to undertake anything of the kind. The salvation of sinners was determined by God’s elective grace and was to be accomplished independently of all human agency... The strength of the church, therefore, was to “sit still” This was largely the attitude taken by the Baptists when Elder Knapp began his labors.”
Elder Bowles also recognized this error and knew the message of So Great Salvation must be preached to Whosoever Will! “Sit still” nothing! Revival fire burned in his soul, and he “could not stay!”
Indeed it would be presumptuous, yes preposterous, for this one of African descent, saved from the chains of sin and darkness of night to “sit still” with the glorious truth and power of Jesus Christ shut up in his heart. He must, for he was commanded, do no less than GO!
Chapter 5
Ready to preach, pray or die! Elder Bowles indeed faced the urgency of all three on numerous occasions. The former two took with glorious results when in the town of Richmond, Vermont.
A certain gentleman from New York had taken the night’s lodging in the tavern. The landlord informed his guest that a colored man was to preach near by and invited the traveler to attend the meeting. The fancy New Yorker promptly laughed, “It will be a borrowed sermon. I have no time for such.” However, the tavern keeper pressed his guest the more until finally - “I will go on one condition. I will give the colored preacher the sermon text and he must preach on it then and there.” That evening, at the appointed place, the surprise text was placed on the desk and the two men were seated. When Elder Bowles came to give greetings, he read the note requesting him to preach from Proverbs 30:18 & 19. “There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.” Now Elder Nathaniel Bowles, a white man
who had labored with Elder Charles Bowles in many meetings, was present on this occasion, so Bro. Charles requested Nathaniel to conduct the hymn and lead in prayer. Bro. Nathaniel read two long hymns and made a long prayer giving Elder Charles time to prepare his subject. Whether preparation was needed or not, heaven came down with divine results.
The preacher announced the text and spoke for a few moments upon the literal meaning. Then he commenced to make spiritual application. “The Spirit lifted the big gates of glory, and the power rolled through the congregation; the gentleman who gave the text was cut to the heart, and soon after converted to God.”
So it was time and time again. The preaching was simple and practical. Elder Charles Bowles never attempted to make any display of ignorance or learning, but always endeavored to get at the plain import of the subject and urge its claims home upon the attention of his hearers.
The gentleman from New York who supposed that Elder Bowles “declaimed borrowed sermons,” found in the pulpit a man preaching from no ordinary book. A man saved by grace and anointed to preach out of the depths of his own experience what God can do for any lost soul. There was no theological quackery in this place. The congregation beheld a flaming herald of salvation deliver the thrilling, powerful truth of God’s Word.
Chapter 6
Black as he was, the people flocked to hear this anointed servant preach. The Lord blessed as the Word flowed from the black fountain, and many were converted as powerful conviction fell upon sinful hearts. Yet the old backslidden, cold professors and unconverted assailed him with their weapons as only they could use. “We will not hear a ‘nigger’ preach.” So vile, so mean can people be toward another.
Even some little aristocrats in their country villages, who imitate the city purse-proud nabobs, turn up their noses at a colored minister; when at the same time, in point of intelligence and good manners, the Negro is far their superior.  One of the codfish aristocrats in the shape of a member of a certain church, invited the [preachers] to tea. One particular preacher was escorted into a back kitchen to a table to sit by himself while the family ate in another room.
Shame on such nuisances of Christianity. They are a stench in the nostrils of religion to say nothing of our Lord.
“O! If poor sinners did but know,
How much for them I undergo,
They would not treat me with
contempt,
Nor curse me, when I cry Repent.”
But no matter the opposition, Elder Bowles was sure to overcome by earnest prayers and faithful preaching. Stubborn hearts and even outright enemies often became friends of the colored man and far more importantly, friend of his Master. “It was common to hear the groans of the mourner around the temple gates of Zion, and the shout of the old saints from the camp of Israel.”
Admittedly, times came when the powers of darkness were overwhelming. The clouds of opposition veiled the light, but the Elder’s friends would lift him up to the throne by faith and prayer. Then the light would break into his soul, and the Elder rising upon His wing would sing:
“I love the Lord, he heard my cry,
And pitied every groan,
Long as I live, when trouble’s nigh,
I’ll hasten to His throne.”
A favorite place for the Elder was a silent grove, where bowed before his Heavenly Master he poured out his soul in earnest supplication. Amidst all his trials and discouragement, this was that quiet place where the gospel armor was newly burnished and prepared for heavenly warfare. Constant communion with God, directed by the Holy Spirit, through His Holy Word by prayer was a must. Yes, it must so be for His honor and glory and for the good of poor erring man. Time and again this proved true. One example was Rhode Island Corners.
“The power of the Lord came down in a wonderful manner; some poor souls began to cry for mercy, and one poor soul found salvation through the blood of the Redeemer; backsliders began to tremble and weep like Peter as the dear compassionate Jesus looked on them, as He did on [Peter]. I began to hear the inhabitants shout from top of the Rock, and my cry was, Lord roll on the mighty power of thy salvation. I felt that the Lord heard my cry.”
It never failed when Elder Bowles saw the power of God, the forces of hell were sure to raise their vile heads. Souls were being saved, saints revived, and Satan was sure to come round. The preacher knew to keep vigil lest the enemy creep in unawares and attempt to snatch victory away.
“But a great trial came on my mind on account of some difficulties I saw beginning to get in the church. I began to get down at the foot of the Throne and beg for Zion, and glory to God, He heard my cry, and granted deliverance and kept out the trouble. Though Satan came among us in the form of a little opposition, God overruled it!”
CHAPTER 7
“Elder Bowles never labored long in a place, unless he saw some open manifestations of Divine power in the conversion of his fellow men. He was constantly on the wing, from one appointment to another...” The daily trials could only be met by constant communion with his God. Men like Bro. Bowles were holy, devoted preachers of the gospel. Often their very lives were in peril in an effort to simply deliver the goodnews to the next lost soul. Our present life of ease with all the advantages was clearly unknown. They did not even have opportunity to enjoy the literary advantages of their own day.
(From Life and Times of Elder Bowles)
It is intimated by some, without foundation in truth, that those holy men, opposed education, and gloried in ministerial ignorance. They did not glory in ignorance; neither did they depend on education simply in its power and accomplishment, refined elegance, to confound the wise of this world, and carry conviction to the hardened heart of man. They doubtless improved their opportunities as best they could, considering the advantages of their times, in the infant state of the [churches]. And if they opposed anything of an educational character in the ministry, it was the arrogance and conceit fostered in the character of the men who attempted to lord it over God’s heritage, and whose interest in the work of the ministry, was controlled by worldly selfishness, rather than God’s glory and the salvation of men. For it must be remembered, that what those good men lacked in Academic and Collegiate literary endowments, they enjoyed in a clear practical knowledge of human nature, and with discriminating minds, enlightened by the power of the glorious gospel, and with consciences that would not justify them in compromising God’s truth for worldly popularity.
In the name of God, the honor and glory of His kingdom, and for the good of poor erring man, they by the grace of God, laid the foundation of the [church’s] interest; they labored with untiring and unceasing interest to show to the world the Infinite love of the great Redeemer of mankind, and to respond to the sentiment of the great and good apostle, “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich.” In order to lead men to humbly appreciate the Infinite love of the compassionate Redeemer, these good men as fathers of [their churches], were self-denying and grace depending, and doubtless could say in all their travels, with the Apostle, “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And also, “We have this in Earthen Vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” Now such a ministry, rich in faith, and the grace of God, and divinely instructed by the power and Spirit of Him who spoke as never man spoke, could not be without its influence, and could not with any real degree of consistency be denominated an ignorant ministry. It was just such a ministry as is needed in any age of popular dependence on literary educational qualification for so great a work.
Now if the present ministry in the [church], with greater literary advantage, in keeping pace with the educational improvement of the present age, should possess the same living faith, and practice the same holy self-denial, and grace-depending spirit of those good [pioneers] of the [church], might not their influence be greater in continuing on what they begun? And would not the light of gospel liberty shine greater in all our churches? I venture to say, no one can doubt it. We cannot doubt the importance, and advantage of an educated ministry for the present age, to labor for the successful overthrow of the kingdom of darkness, in all its combined popular influence. The ministry should have a practical knowledge of the moral, and political condition of the world. They should be studied in a thorough knowledge of human nature, and the motives, feeling and influences that impel men to action. And the more thorough his knowledge is, in the field of literary and scientific research the better. It is an age of skepticism and gross error. The human mind is in opposition to the truth of God’s Holy Word; but not in the spirit of mobocratic opposition, as in the days of the fathers. Under the rule of Satanic influence, there is employed the most cunning sophistry and false reasoning, to dupe the weak and unlearned, and misrepresent the great design of an Infinite God, in the plan and purposes of his Government, for the benefit of the world. The human mind must be convinced in order to be convicted. If the ministry “is set for the defense of the gospel,” none can doubt if ministers are to be successful the more they know, and the more they feel, the greater will be the power of their action in the world. And the greater their knowledge of history, both ecclesiastical and profane, and of philosophy, and law, and the different departments of language, the more efficient they will be in their calling. And if they would fulfill the Apostolic injunction, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth,” no one would have opportunity to complain of ignorance or inefficiency among the ministry of the present age. It is immaterial whether this knowledge is gained in the Collegiate or Academic halls, or under the discipline of self-culture in the midnight study, or in manual labor, amidst the daily avocations of life. I venture to say if a voice from the silent grace of those holy men of the past could come to our ears, it would justify these remarks in willing approval.
My, what these men might have accomplished with today’s high-tech churches and tools. No, possibly, they too would be encumbered and distracted by the diversionary tactics of the gospel’s enemy. Could we learn from the pioneers and circuit riders of old who through the power of Christ brought right to those in darkness even in the face of incredible lack and deadly opposition?
Whether laboring among the churches, or with his family on the Huntington farm, the elder’s heart belonged to the Lord. His greatest effort was to the prosperity of Zion, and the salvation of lost souls. Even when his body felt worn down, the Lord gave strength equal to the day. “Not by might, nor by power but by my spirit saith the Lord.” Yes, it was the spirit of the Lord in the heart of this colored man that made infidelity wince under the power of the Almighty’s truth.
(From Life, Labors, and Travels of Elder Charles Bowles)”Although Elder Bowles was a colored man, his manly bearing, his noble spirit, and his amiable Christian character, so greatly endeared him to the people of Vermont, he was warmly recognized as a brother. And as Vermont as a State is identified with the American confederacy, in the great political and ecclesiastical interest of the American nation, God only knows how far the influence of that man has been felt in revolutionizing the public sentiment of the State against the abomination of American slavery. But I cannot doubt that it has been, and still has an influence in destroying prejudice against color. And not he alone, as a colored man, for contemporary with him was another colored man in the State, of remarkable influence as a Christian, and a Bible scholar, although he was once a slave in New York. I allude to Brother Jeffrey Brace. I am acquainted with several brethren, in whose hearts were planted the seeds of Abolitionism, by the simple tale of that man’s wrongs, inflicted by the cruel slave power. Said one brother, to hear Elder Bowles preach, and brother Jeffrey Brace talk, was enough to make abolitionists of a whole community.
“No doubt many who read this book and this allusion to brother Jeffrey, have read with pleasing interest a book once published giving a minute history of that man — Brother Jeffrey was kidnapped in Africa when a small boy, together with a little sister. They were bathing in a small pond of water near the home of their infancy and parental affection, the dearest spot on earth to them, far more than any spot on this land of legalized heathenism, and baptized oppression. While there, enjoying all the happiness of youth, and unconscious of  danger, the cruel man thief came there, and with a heart seared with crime and cankered with avarice, which the slave buyers and drivers in America had fitted for that business. In a moment he thought of the money they would bring in the land of freedom and Bibles. The next moment his tiger grasp was upon them, and the heel of oppression, crushing every tie that bound them to home, where waited in anxious expectation their fond parents. They were soon placed on board the slaver, the death prison of thousands of their fellow countrymen, and with a cargo of their friends and countrymen, to endure all the horrors of the middle passage, they set sail for the land of whips, and chains welded and riveted by the descendants of liberty-loving patriots. Men who themselves boasted of liberty and equal rights to mankind. A land where amidst the loudest professions of Christianity, human misery and suffering has scarcely a parallel in the history of nations. On arriving to this land to be exposed at sale in the slave mart they were plunged in the deepest misery and wanton cruelty by the merciless oppressor. And amidst the reading of the American Declaration of Independence, “That all men are born free and equal,” they were legalized into chattels, to endure all the caprice of a master during their earthly existence, with the scalding tears chasing each other down their youthful cheeks, as they stood among strangers, to meet the bitter scorn. It was a sight to be pitied. Alone in a land of foes, to be used only as avarice may dictate, and lust demand-no doting mother to attend to their wants, and to anticipate every childish wish — no fond bosom upon which to lean their aching heads, after being forced to toil all the live-long day— no strong father to protect them from harm, and guide their unwonted feet in the paths of childhood; but the ships and chains their only relatives, and money the only tie to their master.”
CHAPTER 9
“Up to the 22nd of May, 1834, Elder Bowles continued to live in Huntington occupying his time in farming some, and itinerating. At times the clouds seemed filled, and occasionally a holy shower fell on the churches. He had many precious opportunities to go down into the limpid streams, and bury the happy convert in the likeness of the great Immanuel. He often during this time, enjoyed happy communion with God, and his brethren, in breaking bread to the churches in the several Quarterly Meetings. Religion was his only, his entire theme. No excitement in the community of a secular or political character could tempt him aside from the cause of God. He lived in Vermont at a time when the State was completely convulsed in a popular excitement on the subject of Free Masonry — when the pulpit and press was drawing every man into the whirlpool of excitement. It was said of Elder Bowles, that he turned not to the right or left, if his sympathies were at any time needed, and by him manifested, it was for truth and right, and it was peaceably conveyed to them that needed it.
“On the 22nd of May, 1834, he broke up housekeeping. By a letter to one of his friends, it seems that it was a solemn time with him. He had lived in Huntington about twenty years with some of his children and grandchildren. And although he was a faithful and laborious minister, doing the work of an evangelist, he was an affectionate father, and as a citizen and neighbor he was much respected. Many of his friends in Huntington, were warmly attached to him, but he felt it to be duty to go, and he could not confer with flesh and blood, in his own rest and ease, thus went to Rutland. On the evening of the 29th, he enjoyed an interesting prayer meeting. He spent several days in the place holding meetings, and visiting; at first nothing appeared encouraging, but soon there appeared a giving way, and one evening twenty persons came forward for prayers. Then the waters of free salvation began to rise, the cloud began to break, the cry began to be heard in all directions. Through the months of June and July, the elder’s soul seemed to be in a constant travail for Zion in that community. In one meeting he says to a friend in a letter, “We are having a wonderful time in this place; last evening the power of the Lord came done in great majesty-many cried for mercy — the struggle lasted some two hours —at last victory turned on Zion’s side. Glory to God.” During the remainder of the year, the Elder attended several protracted meetings in Rutland county. In all of them the power of the great head of Zion was more or less manifested. We do not learn that he went to house-keeping; probably he did not, but his children and grandchildren went into different families of his friends to live.
“During the years 1835 and 1836, he found a home wherever duty called him to labor as an evangelist. In those two years, he spent much of his time in the Corinth and Wheelock Quarterly Meetings, though he attended the sessions of the Huntington and Enosburg Quarterly Meetings, and labored some with the churches. 1836, was the winding up of his long and faithful labors in Vermont. For thirty years he had been familiar with the mountains, rivers and valleys of the State. He had traveled thousands of miles, enduring midsummer’s heat and the peking storrns of winter, he had wept in many a family circle over the erring wanderer, and the returning penitent prodigal, and could the rocks and trees speak, they could tell of many groans ‘and tears in the silent grove, that fell from his eyes and heart, in deep sympathy for poor erring man, while the Angel guard watched over him in his solemn hours. He had seen the grave close over many a lovely youth, and manly form, as well as the aged, and in all places, his heart did sympathize like the compassionate Jesus at the grave of Lazarus while he wept with Martha and Mary. In imitation of the dear Jesus, Elder Bowles often wept at the bedside, and at the grave, with those that wept, and rejoiced with those that rejoiced. The spirit of humanity was cherished there in the sympathies and prayers of a Colby, a Bowles, a Haynes, a Jeffrey Brace, and others, that shows that religion with humanity as its soul living in the heart of the humble, faithful Christian, will have an abiding existence somewhere. And it can be said of such men in much truthfulness, in the language of the Poet: -
“It shan’t be said that praying breath,
 ever spent in vain.
This shall be known when we are dead
And left on long record,
That as yet unborn may read,
And trust and fear the Lord.”
“Elder Bowles in leaving his friends in Vermont, could say with the Poet —
“How sweet the hours have passed away,
When We have met to sing and pray,
How loathe we’ve been to leave the place,
Where Jesus shows his loving face.
Oh, could I stay with friends so kind,
How would it cheer my fainting mind;
But duty makes me understand,
That we must take the parting hand.”
“Sometime during the latter part of 1837, Rey. Charles Bowles 2nd, son of Elder Bowles, then Pastor of the Presbyterian church in Hopkinton, New York, carne into Vermont to visit his father and friends. Seeing the great good affected by his father’s labors in the Eastern States, he urgently solicited him to visit Northern New York, and spend some time as an evangelist. After making it a subject of inquiry and prayer to the Lord, he made up his mind to go, and after making suitable arrangements, as to his temporal affairs, he bid adieu for the present, to his friends in Vermont, and turned away from the Green Mountains with deep feelings, to occupy a new field of gospel labor. He crossed the beautiful Champlain and trod the soil of the Empire State, with a solemn cry in his soul to God to accompany him on his route Like old Eleasar, he begged for Divine Assistance to bless him in his journey, and crown his labors with success. In passing on the turnpike by way of the Chataguay woods, he carne in the evening to a shanty of wood-cutters, and asked a lodging among them; although a rude set of wicked men, they not only opened their cabin to him, but their hearts were open to give him a cordial welcome. There in that lonely spot, among strangers, the man of God rested his body, while his soul travailed in pain for them to enjoy the blessing of saving grace. In the morning before he left, he bowed at mercy’s altar to lift the voice of prayer in their behalf. Its influence had not effect only in heaven, but in those wicked hearts; several of them were deeply effected and promised him that they would seek the Savior and give their hearts to him, which they afterwards did it produced a change; the sound of the woodsman’s axe in its deep echo in the forest, mingled with the deep toned echo of his voice, in praise to the great Immanuel, opened a new era in the scene in the history of that forest living. It was a fitting place to dedicate one’s self to God; in the bosom of nature, amidst all her beautiful harmony, where religion could appear natural and send forth its spontaneous out-gushing of a generous nature; it is a perfect emblem of the blessed heaven, where the soul is harmonized with the works of God, and see God in the existence of the whole. The humble cabin with all its appurtenances, the rugged cliff, the somber appearance of the forest, may all appear uncouth to the eye of popular refinement, amidst the stately edifices of art, but thank God, nature is free from that endless monotony so common in refined society, as everything is instinctive so is it harmonious. In the spring all nature dances and skips in gladsome merriment, while the tender vine, with all its kindred, springs up and throws its arms lovingly around the sturdy oak the maple, or the beach, while the little rill warmed by the smiles of spring goes bounding and singing in beautiful harmony with the music of the birds, and all seem to be in love with one another. It seemed quite providential for Elder Bowles, that his journey to New York lay through the long pathway of the Chataguay, and that poor hut of the woodsman laid on that route.”
Chapter 10
“Being a colored man drew much attention and created much interest among the people. From meeting to meeting multitudes came out to hear the word dispensed by one of the disenfranchised race of Ham. Still, all else appeared discouraging. A powerful sectarian influence sought to crush everything deviating from the sectarian track of ages, as sectarian bigotry and superstition always does, without hearing or investigating. But this hard master whose sting is in his creed, had now assailed the wrong man. He might have looked on this dark son of Africa, and, backed up by all the mountain of prejudice hanging over him like a millstone, and imagined him an easy prey. But he was as much mistaken, as was [Apolion] when he met Christian in the Valley of Humiliation. Brother Bowles was too old a soldier to be easily vanquished; his weapons were not carnal; he like young David, had slain his Lion and Bear in Vermont; he was ready to meet the uncircumcised destroyer of God’s holy vineyard. His faith was to be brought into action, and his confidence in his God encouraged him to hope.
“But in such an emergency, he went not to councils or synods, but he went to the great head of the church, and in answer to prayer God was pleased to encourage his heart, in a singular dream at brother Merrit Howard’s. He dreamed that he was in the barn where Brother Howard was threshing grain; that he heard a rustling in the hay, and putting his hand in, took out a squirrel, and then another, and continued to do so until he took out twenty. He interpreted this dream as an omen of the organization of a church of twenty members, and thus predicted it to Brother Howard, and told Brother Howard that he would be a deacon in the church by the representation of the first squirrel he took out. He labored on until a number professed religion, and others were reclaimed, and prepared to form a church. The modern Sanballats, Tobiases, and Gersems, appeared in opposition to the works, but the walls of God’s spiritual Jerusalem must go up in the name of the Lord. On the 20th of January 1839, he met the brethren at the schoolhouse. Brother Howard and his wife, with some others from the Methodist church came forward and united with the church. Elder Bowles was partially blind, and the brother who took down the names reported nineteen; Elder Bowles was so influenced by his dream of twenty squirrels, that he exclaimed there is one more, and in his characteristic manner, he said, “You, dear creature, if you are in the house, come right forward.” A young man at the back part of the congregation rose up and acknowledged that he had been sitting trembling under the cross, and gave in his name. The church was then organized, and Brother Howard was chosen deacon, according to the interpretation of the dream. The church adopted a covenant and a plan for a regular Monthly meeting and agreed to walk in gospel order in mutual fellowship, and confidence as a living branch in Christ as the vine.
“It will be important here to mention, he had become quite blind in his natural sight, but his spiritual discernment was clear, his memory was good, and he had the Bible well stored in his mind; it was his study in which he took delight. He would name the chapter and verse as his text and repeat it; he would name the number of a hymn in the book, and repeat it with as much precision as he could with sight, and the book before him. On being introduced to a brother or sister, he would take the tone of their voice in his mind, and ever afterward recognize them by their voice whether in or out of meeting, and call them by name. As a fact on this point, we give an instance, while he was holding meeting in Pierpont: Elder William Whitfield a licensed minister, then living in Lawrence, (a brother that Elder Bowles had never seen, but only heard his voice,) came into the Howard schoolhouse while Elder Bowles was preaching; after sermon, several brethren and sisters spoke in exhortation. Elder Whitfield, as an entire stranger in the meeting, rose up and began to speak; as soon as he had done speaking, Elder Bowles exclaimed, “Brother Whitfield, will you come forward and chose the meeting?” He knew Brother Whitfield readily by his voice, though he did not know until then that he was in the town.
“It was a great consolation to him and his brethren, that he loved the blessed gospel and loved to preach it, although deprived of that important faculty, the power of sight. Thank God, he had the consolation to know that in the heavenly paradise, the sight will be restored and the enjoyment of life and love will fill the soul with infinite joy. In a clear day, Elder Bowles could discover objects moving before him, and could see a person standing between him and the door or window, but he could not distinguish one person from another. Although Elder Bowles was blind, the brethren and friends manifested a warm Christian sympathy for him, and even the youth in every family he visited, esteemed it a great privilege to wait on him and lead him about from house to house, and to his meetings.
“The subjects of temperance, missions, and anti-slavery came up for consideration, and it was recommended to the delegates to lay it before the several churches, calling for an expression of sentiment of the subject. Thus Elder Bowles had lived to see the day when the poor colored man in chains, with whom he was in part nationally identified, pitied by those whom he had been the instrument in leading to the cross of the compassionate Redeemer, to obtain pardon from sin, and the slavery of Satan. Much was accomplished in cooperation with the friends of the African in an annihilating the spirit of unholy prejudice existing against the colored race.
“Elder Bowles had now arrived to his eighty-second year of age, and some over forty of his ministry. The giant frame and powerful lungs, that had sent forth such mighty sounds of gospel salvation, that so often shook the Babel of darkness, began to fail, like the mighty Oak that had breasted the storm and the tempest. He had some temporal means, by way of his annual pension from the government, and amount of which with some present from brethren, was sufficient to make him comfortable. In company with one of his daughters, he went to Malone to spend his last days. He bought a small farm of a Mr. Hildreth, and went to housekeeping with his daughter Eunice. He continued to preach with the church, as his age, and feeble health would permit. He doubtless felt to say with the Poet:
Happy if with my latest breath,
I may but gasp his name,
Preach him to all, and cry in death,
Behold, behold the Lamb.
“ Elder Bundy led Elder Bowles into the pulpit; it was an interesting, affecting and solemn sight; blind and borned down by the weight of eight-two years, yet bearing up a spirit full of hope. The scene drew tears from many eyes in the congregation. They were tears of affection and Christian sympathy; but many of those who wept, wept not as those who weep without hope. Thank God, they knew by experience, that arm on which he leaned. He rose up and with a strong voice gave out the 82Oth hymn in the Christian Melody. He named the number, and distinctly repeated the hymn:




















After prayer, he rose up and named the first chapter of Romans and sixteenth verse, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation, unto every one that believeth.”
“Although Elder Bowles greatly desired to preach at this session of the yearly meeting, to leave a dying testimony his anxiety of mind was more than his bodily strength. He was notable to finish his sermon, and he called upon Elder Bundy who sat by him in the pulpit, to address the people. It is said to have been an unusually solemn and weeping time. His voice had become much broken by age and long use; still his soul seemed to dive into the deep fountains of God’s infinite love. The sympathy and love of every Christian heart in that meeting seemed to flow on holy harmony, in the great channel of gospel liberty. A remark has been made that it seemed like a little Heaven on the earth.”
Elder Bowles was led back to Brother Whitney’s, where many of the brethren and sisters flocked in to take the last earthly look of one about to put off the holy armor. Elder Whitfield remarked to him on shaking his hand, he hoped to meet him again on earth. He feelingly exclaimed: “No, never, Brother Whitfield, in this world, but I hope we shall meet in Heaven.” He was fully conscious that his barque was nearing the port of endless bliss. By faith he could look to God and exclaim with good old Simeon, “Now Lord, lettest thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy great salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people.” His son, Charles was with him during the last of his sickness; and when he could leave his father’s bed, he filled some of the appointments made by the Elder before his illness.
A few days before his death, by his request Deacon Carlton McEwen of Lawrenceville, his old friend, was sent for and came speedily to his bedside. He was perfectly conscious of the close of his earthly life. But he had no fear to tread the banks of Jordan. The religion that had borne him on amidst scoffs, and tumult, and toil, and life, for forty years, that had been his comfort and consolation in the silent grove, and his joy in the pulpit, now shone forth in his struggle of disease and death, he could reach out and take hold on the Infinite hand that had lifted him over many a billow in life, and although there were moments when the power of his disease overturned the throne of reason, the genius of Heaven, the power of religion, would right it up again, and thus alternately his disorder and religion would triumph over the poor body, and often he would exclaim, “Glory to God, I am almost home. Bless the Lord my soul is happy!” He could realize the sentiment of the Poet:
“What’s this that steals upon my frame?
Is it death? Is it death?
Which soon will quench this vital flame,
Is it death? Is it death?
If this be death,, I soon shall be
From every pain and sorrow free,—
1 shall the King of Glory see,
All is well! All is well!”
How true is the language of the poet in reference to the situation of the dying saint in the last great struggle in life!

“Jesus can make a dying bed
Feel soft as downy pillows are.
While on his breast I lean my head
And breathe my life out sweetly’ there.”
 
On being asked if he had any fears of death, he replied with his characteristic earnestness: “No, glory to God, all is well.” He lingered until the 16th of March, 1843, when the manly form that had stood on many a hard fought battle-field, both in carnal and spiritual warfare - that had faced so many dangers unharmed, and breasted so many storms in the Redeemer’s cause, gave way before the last conqueror, and yielded itself to the cold sepulchral stillness of the tomb. And that spirit whose moral power had held in awe the excited and maddened mob---had won so many victories over the powers of darkness—had been instrumental in extending the cause of truth to thousands of impenitent hearts—and cheering on their way by the faltering ranks of the great Immanuel’s army— bid adieu to its earthly tenement, and conveyed by bright seraphic messengers, winged its flight to the courts above. There to enjoy an eternity of rest, at the right hand of God, and to participate in all joyous results of his faithful labors in this life. There, where the cruel, and soul-crushing caste spirit against color, can never thrust its hideous form, for the very reason, that those who profess it, have no inheritance in that place of equality.
Such was the triumphant death of this old soldier of the cross, Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him, and lies down to pleasant
dreams. “How cheering to stand in the chamber where the good man meets his fate,” and witnesses the sublime triumph of the gospel in chasing away the gloom of the grave, and lighting up the dark abode within the rays of hope and joy, and its power to bear the spirit safely over the Jordan of death, and land it upon the banks of fair Canaan. Infidelity looks not thus into its grave of endless sleep, whose dark labyrinth sends back no cheering sound of a glorious resurrection, but one long, long eternity of dreary, lonesome, solitary non-existence, unbroken by the sweet angelic songs, that cheer and enrapture the Christian in his passage through its caverns. No! No! Infidelity, we envy not thy death of endless oblivion. But rather let us be cheered by the presence of Him who passed the bounds of the tomb, and wrought out a royal highway from its cold embrace up to the paradise of God.
The funeral services were attended on the 18th, and although a violent snow storm was raging, a good number of people came together, to pay a last tribute of respect to his memory, and consign his mortal remains to its final resting place. The sermon was preached by Elder William Warner, of New Hampshire. And thus the good and useful man, passed from earth to heaven, and hundreds could apply the language of the Poet: -
“How blest the righteous when he dies,
When sinks a weary soul to rest,
How mildly beams the closing eye,
How gently heaves the expiring breath.”
Of his family of several children, we cannot learn that but three survived him, viz: Charles, Deborah and Eunice. His son Charles, a Presbyterian minister, late of Pitcairn, St. Lawrence County, N.Y., died in the falloff l850, at Pitcairn. Of the daughters, we have now no certain knowledge; nor of his grandchildren, excepting the son Rev. Charles Bowles, now residing at Pitcairn.