The entrance of John Weatherford into the ministry must have occurred about the year 1761. He became at once a zealous and successful herald of the cross. He not only preached in his native county, but traveled much, especially in the southern part of the state of Virginia. As he was among the earliest Baptist ministers of Virginia, it was his honor to suffer persecution for the sake of Christ.
The rulers of the Episcopal Church were much vexed at the success of Weatherford. Wherever he went, his ministry was attended by crowds, and many were converted through his instrumentality. Various measures were adopted to silence him and his fellow-laborers.
Having gone down as far as Chesterfield, preaching the good news of salvation, he was arrested by Col. Cary, and thrown into prison. The imprisonment of Elder Weatherford occurred in the year 1773. He was in confinement five months. During this incarceration, he enjoyed much of the Divine presence. And, as it was with the Apostle, his trials only promoted the furtherance of the gospel. He continued to exercise a powerful influence in the county. His courage forsook him not. The love of Christ constrained him.
He preached at the door of the prison as long as allowed the privilege; when refused that, he preached through the grates of the window. But such determined opposition did he meet, that an effort was made by his enemies to put a stop to that also. For this purpose they built an outer wall, or fence, above the grate; but Weatherford devised means to overcome the obstacle. A handkerchief, by the congregation, was to be raised on a pole, above the wall, as a signal that the people were ready to hear. His voice being very strong, he could throw it beyond these impediments, and convey the words of life and salvation to the listening crowd. Before his release, some souls were blessed, and he was owned as the honored instrument in their conversion.
Of those who felt that they had experienced the renovating influence of Divine grace, nine wished to follow their Master, by being buried in baptism. He sent to his native county for Elder Williams to come down to perform the ordinance, but he shrunk from the dangerous undertaking. He then remembered that Elder Chastain, of Buckingham, was, as he thought, of a truer stamp, and sent for him. He came, and in the night, or perhaps about twilight, these persons were baptized.
James B. Taylor, Virginia Baptist Ministers