Thomas Rhodes

Thomas Rhodes was an extraordinary man, born in North Carolina, and baptized at County Line church, Oglethorpe county, about 1802. He soon began to exercise in public, and though he had been a green, awkward boy, sprung from a family whose opportunities for refinement had not been great, yet he astonished his acquaintances. Very soon he became a persuasive speaker, acquired a considerable knowledge of books, quoted the Bible correctly and fluently, and exerted for a dozen years great influence throughout the State. Few men, with his limited opportunities for education and general improvement in early life, have risen up so rapidly to high reputation as a pulpit orator and theologian. His memory was very retentive, his imagination creative, and his powers of description unsurpassed. His person was tall and commanding, his address easy and persuasive, and his tears would flow whenever he touched a pathetic subject. Crowds were attracted by his reputation, which were often deeply affected under his masterly efforts. How beautiful is this side of the picture! What young man, desirous to be useful, does not burn to imitate and surpass in shining qualities the example before him?

But we must look at the other side. If Mr. Rhodes' mind had been improved in youth by a sound education, which might have served as ballast and kept the vessel steady, the sails of his popularity might not have overturned his vessel and destroyed all. Because he was popular as a preacher and acquitted himself well in this department, he was so blinded and bedizened by the indiscreet praises of some, that he supposed he would succeed in anything. He entered with his sons into mercantile business; issued change bills, and became involved. He took his sons' part--prevaricated--became deeply involved himself, and was finally excluded for his incontinency. Oh, how many tears were shed over his defection, and how much his brethren Mercer, Matthews, Davis and others labored that he might see and turn from his errors, before his sad overthrow! But he, giddy with popularity, supposed they were jealous of his reputation and wished to impede his progress, lest he should outshine them. Oh what sobs of anguish have been heard at meetings, designed to bring him to see the obliquity of his course and the injury he was inflicting on the cause of Christ; while he would sometimes acknowledge himself in fault, but soon give his confessions such a version as to lead his brethren to question his sincerity.

After several trials to be restored to the ministry, (for his ambition to preach was insatiable,) and not succeeding, with a portion of the Williams' creek church he declared himself no longer of the denomination, supposing he could raise up a party who would sustain him as their leader. But in this he was mistaken--he kept sinking lower and lower, till there was none so mean as to do him reverence. He was afterwards restored to membership at Shiloh, and soon removed to Jasper, where he was restored to his ministerial functions; but he never regained his former standing. Many churches would not hear him preach. Through the influence of his friends, as he was in reduced circumstances, he was elected one of the commissioners for the sale of fractions in the Cherokee purchase. He died suddenly in Milledgeville of pleurisy, in the discharge of his duty in the office to which he was then elected, in December, 1832, over fifty years of age.

Contributed by Jeanne Arguelles