Lewis Duncan (1806-1852) was a native of Virginia, and born in Culpepper County, March 1st, 1806. Duncan grew up in moderate circumstances but nonetheless only received a partial common-school education. However, he managed to acquire a sufficient knowledge of the English branches to teach school. He professed conversion and was baptized in the spring of 1828. After his ordination to the ministry, Duncan quit teaching school.
On October 16th, 1828, Duncan’s family started for Missouri arriving about the middle of the following December and settling in Lincoln County where Lewis Duncan lived the rest of his life. For twelve years he lived in the vicinity of Troy, the county seat, and was a member successively of the Antioch Baptist Church, Sand Run Baptist Church, and Sulphur Lick Baptist Church.
While belonging to Sand Run Baptist Church, Duncan moved his family several miles away from their home church, a distance so far, it required a move in membership to the Sulphur Lick church. Duncan, therefore, asked for a letter of dismission. According to Duncan’s biographer,2 during the session when the formal request for dismission was asked, one brother, who afterwards became a celebrated anti-mission Baptist preacher, arose and said: “I object to the applicant having a letter of dismission in full fellowship, on the ground that he believes in a general atonement.”
Duncan, who is described as scrupulously honest and candid, arose and reportedly said: “Brother Moderator, I believe in a general atonement, and am perfectly willing for my view of that doctrine, or any fact in this case, to be stated in my letter.”
The case was continued until next meeting, and, by unanimous consent, the letter was granted, and Lewis Duncan became a member of Sulphur Lick church, of which he remained a member for some years. By this church Duncan was ordained to the full work of a gospel minister on the 23d day of May, 1838. The ordaining presbytery consisted of Elders William Davis, Robert Gilmore and Ephraim Davis. In addition, Duncan’s pastorates included Sulphur Lick, New Salem and Pleasant Grove churches in Lincoln County; Zion in Montgomery County; and Indian Creek in Pike County, totalling an active ministerial career of about twenty-five years.
By my count, that’s at least five Baptist churches in Missouri in the first half of the 19th century which received a regular preaching diet of Christ dying for the world (general atonement) not the anti-missions doctrine of Christ dying for the elect only (limited atonement).
When the questionable historical notion that most American Baptists in the 19th century were five-point Calvinists will be surrendered as the dubious conclusion it is remains hard to tell. Even so, we intend to continue posting contrary historical snippets to definitively demonstrate for Southern Baptists that Calvinism most certainly is not our singular theo-historical heritage.