on these days in the American Restoration Heritage: April 26 – May 2

Among the things that happened this past week in the American Restoration Heritage history:

April 26

April 26, 1885 – Two months after her death at the age of fifty-three, a women’s missionary society in the Restoration Heritage today honors the memory of the first female editor of a paper within our tribe. Over the course of 20+ years, Marcia Melissa (Bassett) Goodwin had edited several papers: The Christian Monitor (the first paper among us designed exclusively for women), Mother’s Monitor, Ladies Christian Monitor, Christian Companion, and Missionary Tidings.

Marcia was married twice. Her first husband, Orson Rodolphus Colgrove, a sheriff, was murdered in 1869, the chief suspects in the case being the Ku Klux Klan. Her second husband, Elijah Goodwin, was a quite influential pioneer evangelistic preacher in our heritage in Indiana, well known for his skills in persuasion. And yet, Elijah struggled with how a lack of deep unity among us often impaired our witness. He once put it like this:

“We have said more on this subject than any other people during the last quarter of a century, and yet we do not exhibit to the world any more of that union than we ought.”

April 27

April 27, 1865 – Today, the worst maritime disaster in the history of the United States takes place on the flood-swollen Mississippi River and it’s all about greed. Some of those killed are of the Restoration Heritage, as are some of those who survive, and it is a family with deep roots in the Restoration Heritage that is instrumental in saving the lives of no small number of the survivors.

The U.S. government is offering money for safe passage of every Union soldier recently liberated from Confederate POW camps in the South to Northern soil. The amount offered is five dollars per enlisted man and ten dollars for each officer. The greed of a Union officer with a strong say as to the transport of the men, Lt. Colonel Reuben Hatch, and the Captain of the steamboat Sultana, J. Cass Mason, leads to the placement of 2,350 people (2,150 of them ex-POWs) on a craft rated to safely ferry less than 400. On this trip, literally every available square foot of room on the ship is occupied by human flesh.

During the trip up river, just a few miles north of Memphis, Tennessee, one of the Sultana‘s boilers, hastily patched up recently rather than truly repaired, explodes. The explosion of that boiler is quickly followed by the explosion of two more. As a result, whether due to the effects of the explosions, the ensuing fires, or by drowning in the waters of the mighty Mississippi, 1,800 of the 2,350 aboard die. Captain Mason is among the dead.

The vast majority of the ex-POWs aboard the Sultana are from states in which members of Restoration Heritage churches are numerous: Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Consequently, a number of the fatalities, as well as the survivors, are of our tribe. For example, we know that John C. Maddex of the U.S., 54th Indiana Infantry is one of those who survives today’s disaster and it is Maddex, who, years after the war, is a founding member of a Restoration Heritage church in Paynesville, Indiana.

While rescue efforts come to pass through the efforts of many, no small number of those who survive are saved through the efforts of members of a well-known Restoration Heritage family in that area, the Bartons, who are also married into another Restoration Heritage family, the Edmunds.

April 28

April 28, 1772Abner Jones, a man born today in Royalton (Worcester County), Massachusetts, reminds us to not be too smug about our religious ancestors. Those who comprised the leadership and membership of the Stone-Campbell Movement are anything but alone in attempts in the United Sates in the 1800’s to “restore primitive Christianity.” To leave man-made traditions and to seek Scripture alone as guide does not mean people will arrive at the same understanding of Scripture or the same practice of expression of Christian faith. The ministry of Abner Jones, an associate by the name of Elias Smith, and the “Christian Connection” alone is proof enough of the point.

In 1791, years before the Stone-Campbell Movement grows legs and in an entirely different neck of the woods (New England), Abner Jones takes up preaching. However, as he preaches, he seeks to be “just a Christian,” totally free and independent of denominational creeds, doctrines, and ties. In his quest to do such, Jones jettison’s his Calvinist upbringing, including such matters as unconditional election and predestination. He plants several churches and these churches establish ties with each other, becoming known simply as the “Christian Connection.” Elias Smith assists in the development of this ministry, but will eventually leave the Christian Connection in 1817 to join the Universalist faith.

In years to come, Christian Connection churches often sprout up in the same fields that Stone-Campbell churches are often found growing. However, while those of the Christian Connection share a number of things in common with the Stone-Campbell churches, matters both great and small, they differ enough that they do not unite. They both seek to be independent of man-made teaching and to be guided solely by Scripture, but they approach the process differently and so, arrive at different conclusions One example of difference is that Christian Connection churches are not minded to practice weekly communion, practicing quarterly observance instead, something Stone-Campbell churches cannot abide.

As time rolls on, the Christian Connection evolves. Ultimately, it merges with the Congregational Church in 1931 and then later with the Evangelical and Reformed Church in 1957, and so, comes to form the group known today as the United Church of Christ.

April 29

April 29, 1820 – Today, a man is born in New York who will come to offer the church a unique evangelistic tool, and it is the very production of this tool that perhaps reveals to us some of the state of mind of not just that man, but a large portion of a movement. The man’s name is Montgomery C. (“M.C.”) Tiers and he will become a preacher within the Restoration Heritage.

Remarkably, it is during the third year of the American Civil War (1864) that Tiers edits and publishes a 289 page book entitled The Christian Portrait Gallery: Consisting of Historical and Biographical Sketches and Photographic Portraits of Christian Preachers and Others. Of course, given the war, there would be no chance for such a work to originate in the South, much less for it to acquire any real success in terms of circulation there. This work is published in the North, in Cincinnati, Ohio, with expectations of its widest circulation being in the North.

Close to forty pages of text open the work and attempt to sketch with words something of what Restoration Heritage churches are about; what life as member of such a church is like. For example, the work contains the following snapshot of precisely how, as we say today, people “officially place membership” with a specific congregation:

“New Members

“As soon as expedient after immersion, the new disciple is expected to present himself to some particular congregation for membership; and he is received into the communion of the Church by the right hand of fellowship, presented by either one of the elders in behalf of the congregation, or by the entire membership in person. The latter is the usual method, but there are some exceptions in favor of the former.”

The textual portrait of Restoration Heritage church life is followed by pictures and textual abstracts of sixty preachers, none of whom are under the age of forty. Who to include, and who not to include, in such a work? Some of the preachers who make appearance are people we would expect to see, their names still instantly recognized by many today (e.g. – Alexander Campbell, Sr., Thomas Campbell, Walter Scott, Barton W. Stone, Sr., etc.). Naturally, others are figures not nearly so well remembered now (e.g. – A. Chatterton, George Elley, Almon B. Green, Eleazar Parmlay, etc.). Doing so politely, without naming names, Tiers notes in the book’s preface: “One or two well-known brethren, whose prominent positions and increasing influence are highly appreciated by the writer, as they are by brethren at large, have, after repeated importunities, ‘respectfully declined’ representation among ‘distinguished brethren.'”

I find Tiers’ book intriguing. Not so much for its content, but for its approach … and what it might be saying about the times in which the book appeared. Is it possible that Tiers’ book includes more pictures than Tiers intended to share? That is, is it simply an evangelistic tool best used in the hands of those who are a bit more well-to-do with those who, being yet to believe, are also a bit more well off in society (i.e. – a tool the well-heeled and/or prosperous can use to reach the skeptical prosperous)? Or does this book’s very existence also portray a growing desire on the part of Restoration Heritage members for more respectability in society, representing a distinct turn from standing against culture to a stance seeking more acceptance by it? Is there a growing restless in the Restoration Heritage, at least in the northern half of the country at that time, to make sure that those with whom they interact know that they are not composed of merely – to borrow a phrase from the KJV in Acts 4.13 – “unlearned and ignorant men?”

The work is clearly at pains at times to “dress up” the Heritage’s preachers in finer duds. For example, while “Raccoon” John Smith is included among the sixty, his nickname is not published, but reads instead (perhaps in our eyes today even worse!), “R***** John Smith.” And, in several remarks in the preface, Tiers is quite revealing, the following serving as an example:

“… this work is written with reference to its influence on the ‘uninformed’ world, rather than of the Church. I have desired to let the ‘world’ know, what I am entirely conscious is the fact, that the Gospel which we preach has not been received simply by the ignorant, illiterate, and rude of this generation, but that many of the highly-gifted and influential of our age have been constrained, by the weight of the evidence, to yield assent to its claims, and to devote themselves to ministry. Feeling conscious of this, I am willing and desirous that the character and extent of our success as a people shall be made known everywhere through the persons, lives, and characters of those who have been the instruments.”

Is such an approach a good one? Or is it one of the reasons some “well-known brethren … respectfully declined” to participate? We’re left to wonder, but it is not at all difficult to imagine the possibilities.

And so, we’re moved to ask today: can efforts to extend the good news of Christ to others actually be motivated by, and morph into, the bad news of the church seeking the world’s acceptance … and the church being utterly blind to it in all in the process? And if so, when and where exactly is the tipping point reached, and how can we discern its placement, lest we possibly go past the point of no return?

April 30

April 30, 1863 – Today, a preacher preaches a strong word that still needs to be heard.

“The rude and denunciatory style of political discussion, the irreverent and oft-times slanderous attacks on our rulers – such as the Bible will not allow to be employed against the devil himself* – ought to be religiously discountenanced. Prayer, earnest and affectionate, should be constantly offered for those in authority, particularly in these perilous times.”

So preached Isaac Errett today – a Thursday – to all assembled in a Restoration Heritage church building in Detroit, Michigan. Errett’s sermon is entitled “The Claims of Civil Government” and the occasion is the fact that today, by resolution of the U.S. Senate and by proclamation of the President, Abraham Lincoln, is a day “set apart … for National prayer and humiliation.” The proclamation reads:

“Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.

“And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

“And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

“It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

“Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

“All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

“In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. …

“By the President: Abraham Lincoln

“William H. Seward, Secretary of State.”

* Jude 9-10

It must be remembered in our time, that at that time, in many quarters, not merely the South, Lincoln was anything but popular. Indeed, he was despised by many in the North. That revulsion and hatred will grow all the more bitter and intense the following year (1864) as Lincoln signs off on “total warfare” (i.e. – General Sherman’s infamous “March to the Sea“). Even the one who signed this proclamation with him, William Seward, frequently and vigorously – some might say viciously – disagreed with him and opposed him. One need only peruse the political cartoons of the time to get a feel for the sort of speech that was common on the street … the very sort of speech upon which Errett took careful aim and fired.

Wouldn’t you like to know how Errett’s words were received and if they drew any return fire? What sort of personal price, great or small, did Errett pay to say such, if any? I don’t know, though I do know his sermon is still in publication in paperback today. And wouldn’t you really like to know if anyone really changed their words and ways as a result of Errett’s sermon? But, God alone knows. I like to think that even if Errett had known ahead of time the worst possible scenario, that these words would fall on deaf ears and no one would make any change at all, he would still have proclaimed them.

And so, three questions come to mind. (1) Are we preachers today as quick, clear, and courageous as Errett to confront similar sin from our pulpit when we know that many of our people daily mock and revile President Barak Obama, and/or other government authorities? (2) If we heard such words in a sermon, could/would we truly hear them deeply, and then go on to change our spirit and speech? (3) Would we strongly encourage and support our preacher in speaking to us words of truth forthrightly, in love, on every subject, including this one?

May 1

* May 1, 1866 – The founding editor of what is to become the flagship publication of our heritage tells us why the paper exists.

Today, Tolbert Fanning reveals to us the driver behind the publication of the Gospel Advocate (GA). Fanning founded the GA and served as its editor from its start in 1855 until November 1861, at which time the Civil War caused it to shut down for a time. When the GA resumed publication in 1866, Fanning co-edited the paper with David Lipscomb. In the GA, Fanning tells us:

“The fact that we had not a single paper known to us that the Southern people could read without having their feelings wounded by political insinuations and slurs, had more to do with calling the Advocate into existence, than all other circumstances combined.”

* May 1, 1870 – Church raffles, lotteries, and auctions are innocent, harmless affairs, actually even helpful, to a church, right?

“Wrong!” says “C.C.L.” in an article appearing in The Millenial Harbinger under the title “Religious Fairs.” After a lengthy quotation of condemnation of such by a secular paper, C.C.L. adds his own remarks, some of which read:

“It is sad to think that with many Christian people, and in many churches, the scandalous exhibition of raffling, lotteries, mock auctions, or real ones, selling things often utterly useless or ten times their sale value, together with the endless, ridiculous maneuvers, chicaneries and trumperies, – are not in themselves sufficient to show the utter unfitness of such practices in the church, or for the purposes of the church of Christ. …

“It is the old strategy of the temptation in the wilderness over again – evermore repeated through the ages. Every ingenious device is to be borrowed from the world and used to make up for the deficiencies of the divine arrangements, in order to make religion more attractive and more successful than the New Testament order makes it. We see this all around, and often very near us. – We will not ‘assist,’ as the French say, that is, give our presence and countenance, at the unlawful marriage of the church and the world … or pray over it. We find daily more and more, that what is needed – we say we feel it, – is a strong, vigilant resistance against the besieging temptation of worldliness around the gates of the church.”

Who is C.C.L.? The man Alexander Campbell considered to be the finest student/scholar with whom he ever had dealings in his school, Bethany College: Charles Louis Loos.

May 2

May 2, 1611 – Which translation of the Bible is a preacher or teacher to use, and should its acceptance, or lack thereof, help determine the selection? Is there “a right one” and just who is to hold court to decide the matter?

Today, the version of the Bible that those of us with a few gray hairs have heard some of our fellow church members say “was good enough for Jesus and the apostles and so, should be good enough for us today,” makes its publishing debut.

One of the factors that helps the King James Version of the Bible (KJV) to ascend to dominance in the field is that it is deliberately translated for how it will sound when read aloud. That is, one of its translators’ foremost concerns is that it is worded in such a way as to strongly appeal to the ear. Further, the translators choose to utilize many words no longer commonly in use during their time (e.g. – “thou,” “sayeth,” etc.). Why? So as to help convey the impression that the Bible is indeed an old authority, lest their fresh rendering of it be perceived as “some new thing” and be rejected.

However, the KJV is largely rejected during its first few decades of existence; the older and well-established Geneva Bible is perceived as better than this new creation. However, the KJV eventually ascends to the translation throne and secures it from any potential rivals. Its reign is measured not in decades, but centuries.

Now language is a very fluid thing; it is constantly changing. And by 1826, the English language has changed a great deal since the time of the KJV’s first publication. Those of the Restoration Heritage are not immune to the effects of this change and so, when Alexander Campbell edits and publishes the New Testament known as the Living Oracles (LO), he does so largely out of frustration with how the KJV’s language has come to obscure the meaning of Scripture. But, similar to the KJV, the LO is not widely adopted by the rank-and file members of the Restoration Heritage, even though it is often utilized by preachers and respected church leaders. No small number of folks in the crowds and in the pews are somewhat suspicious of, even rebellious against, any change in which version of the Bible appears to hold sway.

One example will suffice. John Augustus Williams, an early chronicler of the experiences of pioneer preacher “Racoon” John Smith, tells us of some of the trials Smith faced – literally – because he dared to make use of something other than the KJV:

“For the mere reading of that book [LO] John Smith was arraigned before the North District Association in 1827. He was formally charged not only with reading it in his family, but actually quoting it from the pulpit. During the discussion of that serious charge, some of the good old preachers present declared King James’ Bible to be the only true word of God. John Smith in reply expressed his deep sympathy for the poor Dutch, who consequently had no word of God among them, and could not read it if they had. A prominent clergyman had, just before this, obtained a copy of the book, and, having read it, atoned for his offense by piously burning it to ashes.”

Some things never change – including the natural tendency to resist change.

on these days in the American Restoration Heritage: April 19-25

Among the things that happened this past week in the American Restoration Heritage history:

April 19

April 19, 1826 – Of what use are varying Bible translations? Why burden the earth with yet another? Isn’t the best rendering one that is literal, word-for-word, so to speak? Which version is “best,” or is there even such a thing? And just how exactly is one to approach the reading of Scripture? How can a person maximize their comprehension and practice of what it says?

These are just come of the questions Alexander Campbell anticipates as two thousand copies of the first edition of the Living Oracles (LO), a translation of the New Testament edited by Campbell, rolls off the press today. In the Preface to this first edition, Campbell is careful to make a strong case for – to address the question of “why” – another translation. He offers several arguments, one of which reads:

“… we are now in possession of much better means of making an exact translation, than they were at the time when the common version [King James Version] appeared [over 200 years earlier]. The original is now much better understood than it was then. The conflicts of so many critics have elicited a great deal of sound critical knowledge, which was not in the possession of any translators before the last century.”

Campbell continues to parry the anticipated thrusts of those who might try to find fault with the LO as he goes on to note in this first preface:

“… some who may be pretty well acquainted with the classical use and meaning of words and phrases, will think and say, that in some passages the common version is more literally correct than this translation. Indeed, we remember since we once thought so ourselves. But after forming a better acquaintance with the idiomatic style of the apostolic writings, and of the Septuagint Greek, we have been fully convinced that what a classical scholar, or a critical etymologist, might approve, as a literal version of some passages, is by no means the meaning of the writer. And the king’s translators have frequently erred in attempting to be, what some would call, literally correct. They have not given the meaning in some passages where they have given a literal translation.”

Touche! It is indeed difficult to beat “I’ve been there, done that, and got the t-shirt. Is that the best you’ve got?”

Naturally, the LO will quickly prove to be a hit with preachers, teachers, and leaders of the Restoration Heritage, ultimately appearing in six editions. But, it is eighteen months after this first edition appears today, that Campbell pens a new “Preface to the Reader” [October 5, 1827] for a future edition of the LO. That “Preface to the Reader” is just as relevant to us now as the day it was penned. Do read it in its entirety; you will not find it burdensome, but pleasant, and you will not be disappointed:

“You are here furnished with a new and excellent Version of all the Apostolic Writings, by the combined labours of three eminent Critics [George Campbell, James Macknight, and Philip Doddridge]. This very important and seasonable work is by no means intended to diminish your regard for the Common Version, but rather to render it more profitable for the advancement of your knowledge, and the establishment of your faith, than the best translation could possibly be alone.

“That you may understand the utility of various different versions of Scripture, it may be observed, that distinct languages do not consist of precisely the same number of words, corresponding with each other in their signification and extent of meaning, like the several pounds which compose any given sum, or the four sides of a square, which are in all respects alike, so that any one of the same kind is equivalent to any other; but the corresponding terms of distinct languages agree with each other in meaning with slight shades of difference, like those natural productions which are in many respects similar, without being in all things absolutely equal. If one be furnished with a large collection of different kinds of flowers or fruits, and required to match every one of them as nearly as possible, in a garden where there are large quantities of every given sort, he will find it very difficult, in some cases, to fix on the one, out of many similar, which corresponds most nearly with the sample received: and if various persons be employed in succession, they will not always hit on the same selection. Thus, the same word of Greek may be rendered, according to circumstances, by the English word, church, assembly, or congregation; another word, by either bishop, superintendent, or overseer; another, by master, sir, or lord.

“Now, were a translator to interpret every word of the Greek by all the English words that have a similar meaning, the result of his labours would be a very clumsy paraphrase, rather than a faithful version, equivalent to the original. As, therefore, he must select, from among various similar terms, that one which he considers the most proper, to the exclusion of all the rest; and as different translators always deviate more or less from, each other in making their selection, the use of sundry versions is calculated to give the English reader a more distinct, full, and certain understanding of the sacred text, than could be obtained by the exclusive perusal of any single one, however excellent. Hence, it is not your duty to lay aside the common version, as less perfect than that which is here offered, or vainly to set the one in opposition to the other; but to compare them together, verse by verse, and combine the ideas suggested by both. Do this deliberately: do it repeatedly, with attention and candour; and its utility in advance your knowledge of the mind of the Holy Ghost, beyond all that could be attained from any single version, will exceed your most sanguine hope.

“But you must carefully study the whole of the Old Testament also, that you may be prepared to understand the New. Contemplate, therefore, the account which it gives of the original condition and the fall of man, in connexion with the only infallible illustration of the subject which has been given by our Apostle. See Gen. i. ii. iii.; Rom. v.; 1 Cor. xv. Consider, especially, the divine covenant of promise, made with Abraham and his seed; the covenant of the Ten Commandments, made with the nation of Israel, with the judgments and ordinances which were added to it; the everlasting covenant which was afterward made with David respecting the endless reign of his seed; and the intimations which were given by the Prophets of the establishment of a new and perpetual covenant in the days of the Messiah. All these covenants have an important and conspicuous place in the Sacred Volume, and its meaning cannot be properly understood if they be neglected, confounded, or in any way misrepresented. Make it your care, therefore, to observe the true nature, order, and design of them; and mark wherein they differed from each other, how they were mutually connected, in what manner the Prophets introduced them, and how the glorious consummation of them was disclosed by the Apostles.

“Examine the several component parts of divine revelation in their natural order and succession, without vainly attempting to comprehend all those things at once which were communicated at various distant periods, or beginning with those which are the most abstruse and sublime. Make the simple narrative of facts your first study. Then proceed to the leading doctrines, precepts, promises, and threats. Get a distinct acquaintance with the literal sense of Scripture, before you attempt to investigate the figurative or allegorical meaning of any part of it; and let those predictions which have not as yet received their accomplishment be your last study. To invert this order would expose you to endless perplexity and delusion.

“Keep some special subject of inquiry in view while you read the Scriptures, and attentively mark all those passages which treat of it, or throw light upon it. For example, you may make it your particular object, in reading the four Gospels, to ascertain all the different kinds of miracles which Jesus Christ performed, together with the various classes of persons who witnessed them, their surprising magnitude, the deep impression that they made upon enemies as well as friends, and all the other circumstances calculated to render them convincing. Or, you may read the Gospels to discover what new doctrines Jesus taught, — what he said of his own person, office, and salvation, — what representation he gave of vital religion, a general resurrection, and a state of endless retribution. In reading the Apostolic History and Epistles, your immediate object may properly be to ascertain the rapid success with which the Apostles preached after the effusion of the Holy Ghost; the additional information which they imparted beyond all that Christ had taught before his death, what they called sinners to believe in order to their justification, and how they commanded the disciples to walk so as to please God.

“Let it be distinctly remembered, that the four Gospels were intended for the instruction of all classes of mankind, but that the Apostolic Epistles were addressed to Christians exclusively, as a peculiar people called out of the world, and united in church-fellowship. Read them, therefore, that you may understand what a true Christian is, in distinction from a hypocrite; what a church of Christ is, in distinction from every other kind of assembly; what description of persons were admitted to be members of the primitive churches; what ordinances they were united to observe; what duties were required of them toward each other, as brethren; and how they were directed to act toward them who were without.

“Take heed of perverting the sacred Record by imposing an arbitrary meaning upon any part of it, or artfully accommodating it to any human theory or system of religion. You are not called to mend or improve the Scriptures, by making them more spiritual or perfect than they actually are; but to search them with singleness and candour. Beware of imagining that you may safely hold fast your preconceived opinions, as long as you can force any detached texts to give them apparent countenance or resist arguments of an opposite kind. The question concerning any particular text should not be, ‘What turn can you give to it?’ or, ‘What can you make it seem to teach?’ but, ‘What sentiment did the Holy Ghost intend to impart by it?’ Make it your daily care to ascertain his mind, as it is set before you in his word; and implicitly receive every passage in that sense which appears the most natural and obvious, when viewed in connexion with the context, and all the parallel passages which treat of the same subject.

“Keep the reality and unspeakable importance of eternal things in view, that your mind may be truly serious, sincere, and teachable. It is not with erring mortals chiefly, but with the Searcher of hearts, that you have to do in the investigation of his word. Remember, therefore, while reading it, that his all-seeing eye is upon you. He addresses you, in particular, as an individual; he sets his great salvation freely before you; he warns you to flee from impending wrath, and seek everlasting life; he demands your heart, without delay or reserve; and he will reward you at the last day according as you now receive and honour, or reject and violate what he reveals. While you ponder his holy Record, the personal interest which you have at stake to be decided according to it, is of infinitely greater value and duration than any temporal kingdom. Reflect on this, and you will no more trifle with sacred things, as if they were only matters of doubtful speculation.

“Join the prayer of faith with all your reading. None can properly understand the Scriptures without the inward illumination of the Holy Spirit. God has promised to give the spirit of wisdom to them who ask it. Seek his effectual teaching, therefore, with self-diffidence and unfeigned faith, earnest importunity and perseverance. Turn the sacred word into humble prayers, corresponding with the several parts of it; by confessing your sins which it reproves, imploring those spiritual blessings which it reveals, pleading the accomplishment of its promises, and asking grace to sanctify you according to its holy precepts. This is the most effectual way to discover the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, to fix it in your memory, impress it upon your heart, and secure the ultimate benefit of it.

“Make a practical application of all that is addressed to you in the Scripture. Receive it without gainsaying, as the sure testimony of God, who cannot lie — the immediate ground of your confidence before him — the immoveable foundation of your hope for eternity — the divine charter of your unfading inheritance — and the perfect rule of your future conduct. Treasure up the word of Christ in your heart, make it the chief joy of your life, and never hold any part of it in unrighteousness; but resolutely forsake every evil way, put off all your perverse habits, deny your own will, crucify your carnal affections, cherish every gracious disposition, observe the ordinances of Christ with godly sincerity, and keep all his commandments. If you comply with his will, in the manner now proposed, you ‘shall know of the doctrine,’ and become ‘mighty in the Scripture’ — you shall attain the delightful assurance, even in this world, that the truth is in you, and that you shall enjoy it for ever.”

[cf. the entry for Jan. 29 in this series for more information on the LO.’]

April 20

April 20, 1829 – Isn’t the Bible a bit suspect? After all, doesn’t it have some errors and mistakes in it? And so, can we truly trust it? Should we? Today, in his debate with renowned atheist Robert Owen, Alexander Campbell gives answer to just such questions.

Campbell does so, in part, by quoting a skeptic turned believer, by the name of Soame Jenyns (1704-1787). He relates how Jenyns had set out to author a book “against the Christian religion,” but in the course of his research and reflection, came to write as to “the truth and authenticity of it” instead. Campbell’s quote of Jenyns follows:

“… I will venture to affirm, that if any one could prove, what is impossible to be proved because it is not true, that there are errors in geography, chronology, and philosophy, in every page of the Bible; that the prophecies therein delivered, are all but fortunate guesses, or artful applications, and the miracles there recorded, no better than legendary tales: if any one could show, that these books were never written by their pretended authors, but were posterior impositions on illiterate and credulous ages, all these wonderful discoveries would prove no more than this, that God, for reasons to us unknown, had thought proper to permit a revelation by him communicated to mankind, to be mixed with their ignorance, and corrupted by their frauds from its earliest infancy, in the same manner in which he has visibly permitted it to be mixed, and corrupted from that period to the present hour. If, in these books, a religion, superior to all human imagination, actually exists, it is of no consequence to the proof of its divine origin, by what means it was there introduced, or with what human errors and imperfections it is blended. A diamond, though found in a bed of mud, is still a diamond, nor can the dirt which surrounds it, depreciate its value, or destroy its lustre.”

* April 20, 1880 – Winthrop Hopson, widely regarded as one of the finest preachers in our heritage at the time, dies in Nashville at the home of his son-in-law, R. Lin Cave.

April 21

* April 21, 1836 – Today, under battle cries like “Remember Goliad!,” “Remember the Alamo!,” “Take prisoners like the Mexicans do!”, and “Give them hell!,” a militia of “Texians” led by Sam Houston, Sr. surprise and overwhelm a far bigger Mexican army beside the San Jacinto River in southeast Texas. And, the following day, they are able to capture the Mexican army’s commander, General Antonio López de Santa Anna, as he tries to slip away disguised as a lowly Private. This victory not only brings a halt to Mexico’s attempts to squelch the bid of Texas settlers for independence from Mexico, it gives quick birth to that freedom.

How so? With cold-blooded executions and massacres like Goliad and the Alamo vivid in their mind, few of the Texans are in any mood to show mercy. And so, just hours earlier – despite Houston’s passionate attempts to prevent such – hundreds of Mexican troops are shown no mercy (a fact underscored by the highly disproportionate ratio of troops killed to those who are wounded; well over six hundred killed and only two hundred wounded, the exact opposite of what would be expected in most battles). However, Santa Anna himself – the instigator of the atrocities of the Alamo, Goliad, etc. – is now offered an opportunity to receive mercy for himself: recognize the “full, entire, and perfect Independence of the Republic of Texas” and be given safe passage to Veracruz. Santa Anna agrees and the Lone Star Republic of Texas is born.

Now in the course of the Battle of San Jacinto, the Texans suffer the loss of nine men killed and thirty wounded, and among the wounded is Sam Houston himself. His ankle wound is attended to by the Texan Army’s twenty-nine year old surgeon, Dr. Mansil Walter Matthews – a preacher in the Restoration Heritage.

While I have yet to attempt to research the matter, it is probably safe to assume that Matthews is not the only one involved in the Battle of San Jacinto who has, or who will have, connections with the Restoration Heritage. Of the hundreds of Texans who fight in this battle, a percentage of them have come to Texas only recently from states where the Restoration Heritage has been experiencing great growth (Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, etc.), Matthews himself being a prime example of such, even helping lead a large band of migrants to Texas. [cf. the post for Jan. 17 in this series for more info on Matthews]

One wonders: given the immense impact of Sam Houston’s life on the future history of Texas, how things might be different today if Mansil Matthews‘ treatment of Sam Houston’s wound at San Jacinto not proven effective.

* April 21, 1839 – At the age of nineteen, Isaac Errett preaches his first sermon. His subject is God’s promise to David that his kingdom will never fail. [That’s a far deeper subject than I attempted with my first sermon! How about you?]

* April 21, 1888 – It’s all too easy for those of us within the Restoration Heritage to think of the earlier years of our heritage as being limited to the United States. Such is hardly the case, of course, and a man who dies today, Gilbert Young Tickle, is a striking example of a leader within our heritage “across the pond.”

Tickle is a prominent church leader among our tribe in Great Britain and his influence is particularly felt far and wide through his gift of songwriting. The vast majority of his lyrical and musical work consists of putting the Psalms – and most remarkably, Matthew’s Gospel, John’s Gospel, and the book of Acts – to meter. However, this is not his only work and one of his songs, “Lord of Our Highest Love” can still be found today in a hymnal still commonly found among many Churches of Christ in the United States. “Lord of Our Highest Love” is #261 in the current edition of Songs of Faith and Praise.

In addition to hymn-writing, Tickle plays a quite vocal role in the the discussion of a number of social issues of his time in England, especially on the issues of slavery (he is an abolitionist) and the temperance movement (he is a teetotaler).

The next time you sing ‘Lord of Our Highest Love” – perhaps most likely to occur immediately preceding sharing in communion, I would guess – remember how the roots of our heritage have long reached much further than just this country of ours.

* April 21, 1898 – Spain severs diplomatic ties with the United States today. Consequently, the United States initiates a blockade of Cuba. Two days later (April 23) the government of Spain formally declares war on the United States. And on April 25, the U.S. Congress responds with a word that a state of war has existed between the two countries since the blockade of Cuba began.

Arguably the most plain-spoken preacher of the time within the Restoration Heritage is Jefferson Davis (“J.D.”) Tant. As the events that lead up to the start of the Spanish-American War reverberate in the minds of many, Tant is peppered with questions as to his take on Scripture and whether Christians should go to war or not. Finally, about three months after today’s events, Tant will succinctly, and with characteristic color, declare his perspective in print in an article published in the Gospel Advocate:

“I would as soon risk my chance of heaven to die drunk in a bawdy house as to die on the battlefield, with murder in my heart, trying to kill my fellowman.”

April 22

April 22, 1889 – Do you remember the land rush scene from the 1992 movie Far and Away starring Tom Cruise and Nichole Kidman? If so, you have a vision of what things are like at noon today as over fifty thousand people pour across the border in the first land run into the “Unassigned Lands.” These lands – nearly three thousand square miles – make up a portion of what will, eighteen years later, become the state of Oklahoma. Of course, members of the Restoration Heritage make up a percentage of the homesteaders and each seek to stake a claim to 160 acres of free land as a result of the passage of the Homestead Act in 1862 and today’s rush (commonly known at the time as ‘Harrison’s Horse Race’ due to President Benjamin Harrison’s sanction of it).

Naturally, this run results in whole communities springing up, quite literally, overnight and Oklahoma City, the future capital of the state of Oklahoma, is one of them. A number of the homesteaders of our tribe gather together there on the first Sunday following Harrison’s Horse Race (April 28) and so, make for the start of, what will with the passage of time, become dozens of congregations of our heritage in that city and the immediate area.

The wild times only begin with this initial rush to claim land; the months that follow are wooly as well. So much so that Oklahoma City quickly gains the reputation of being “tougher than a boiled owl.” So tough, in fact, that six weeks after today’s run, when the first congregation there in Oklahoma City wants to walk together to the nearest water (the North Canadian River) for several to be baptized, their preacher, T.J. Head, requests that two hundred cavalrymen escort their coming and going and to keep watch over them during the proceedings.

April 23

* April 23, 1861 – Walter Scott dies today of typhoid pneumonia. Reminiscing of Scott, Alexander Campbell will write of him: “Next to my father, he was my most cordial and indefatigable fellow laborer … I knew him well. I knew him long. I loved him much.”

* April 23, 1912 – A glowing report authored by Arthur Wilkinson and published in the Firm Foundation speaks of a “boy preacher” who’s preaching skills leave everyone amazed. The report reads:

“Last Sunday was the day for _____, to occupy the pulpit at the Christian church in Sunset [located in Montague County, Texas].  _____ is known as the ‘boy preacher,’ which is indeed true. He is only 15 years of age, and is still wearing his knee pants, but his ability as a preacher is indeed wonderful.

“The house was crowded to its fullest capacity, and judging from the expression on the faces of the departing crowd, not one was disappointed over their attendance at either morning or evening discourse, but all were agreeably surprised, and no doubt greatly benefited by the lessons presented.

“Brother _____ not only has the startling ability to entertain his audience, but presents the Scriptures in meekness and love, causing all to realize that what he says, though it falls from the lips of a boy, comes from a heart that is sincere, and is intending to point people from the hopelessness of sin to the light of life in a risen Lord.

“It makes us rejoice to see such interest and earnest zeal manifested by one so tender in years, and we can almost feel the pride of the father and mother of so noble a son. And as this thought leaves our mind a sadder one comes to take its place, and we think what a pity it is that there are fathers and mothers whose heads are made to bow low in shame over the disgraceful conduct of their boy. This being true, we think that [in] the giving to the world [of] such a noble character in the young Christian, such as Brother _____, is made even more commendable, though it be that their parents have only done their duty.

“Now, we do not believe in singing the praise of one gospel preacher over that of another, but we do believe that the efforts of our young preachers deserve the commendation and that they should have our encouragement and prayers, therefore we have written the above.”

Who is this boy wonder? Foy E. Wallace, Jr. And in only seventeen more years, this young man will be the editor of the most influential paper in our heritage at the time, the Gospel Advocate.

April 24

April 24, 1831 – Today, the first merger between those of “The Christian Connection,” the movement of “Christians” who rally to Barton W. Stone, Sr., and those of the movement known as the “Reformers” (aka: “Reformed Baptists”). The latter are made up of “Disciples” who look to Alexander Campbell, Sr. for direction. This merger of the Stone and Campbell movements becomes pervasive and official seven months later on January 1, 1832. For the next several decades, the merged movements will be most commonly referred to as the “Christian Church” or the “Disciples of Christ.”

April 25

April 25, 1826 – Today’s post has two springboards. (1) Today, the daughter and son-in-law of one of the Restoration Heritage’s key pioneer figures follows the the common wisdom of the time to “Go west!” and it costs them literally everything, except their lives. (2) Which great pioneer leader of our heritage has a grandson who offers a $1,000,000 reward for the kidnapping of Adolph Hitler?

A sterling example of a young man who attempted to “go west,” but wound up limping home “back east” is a son-in-law of Walter Scott. It is on this day in 1826 that William Church is born to Samuel & Mary (Hannen) Church. William grows up to marry Walter Scott’s daughter, Emily, on January 1, 1849. William and Emily make their home for a time in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; however, in the summer of 1857 they decide to move out “out west” onto “the unbroken prairie” of Caldwell County, Missouri. John Woolf Jordan tells us the rest of the story:

“The hardship, suffering, and danger involved in this daring enterprise can hardly be exaggerated. The part of Missouri in which they took up their abode was very sparsely populated, and every necessity of life was in the crudest form. On arriving at their new home in the wilderness they, with the help of some neighbors, built a log cabin from timber hewn on the premises – a dwelling which, like all others of that region, consisted of but one room. There was no money in part of the country, and the few necessaries which could be obtained were purchased on the basis of exchange for other commodities. The prairie home was unprotected by fences, and had but a meagre outfit of live stock. No food could be regularly obtained, with the exception of bacon, a few potatoes, and cornbread made by grating the corn direct from the ear. On rare occasions a sack of flour and a few luxuries, such as tea, coffee, and sugar, were brought from a town fifty miles distant. Mr. Church attempted to improve the quality of their civilization by establishing a sawmill on Maribone Creek, an enterprise which was regarded with great favor by the neighborhood, sawed lumber being at that time unknown on the prairie, and no house boasting the luxury of a wooden floor. After a few weeks’ trial, however, the engine broke down, and there was no skilled labor available to keep it going. Finally, the spring rains overwhelmed the little lumber mill, which, together with the engine, was swept away in the rushing waters. …

“The slavery controversy had at this time assumed in Missouri a condition of great bitterness, and bushwackers took advantage of the state of affairs to commit robbery and murder, carrying their hatred of the anti-slavery principles which were held by the northern people like the Church family to such an extreme that persons were sometimes hanged for their opinions at their own roadsides. …

“Accordingly, in the spring of 1859 [two years before the death of Walter Scott], Mr. and Mrs. Church, with their family, now four children, entered their wagon, and as there was no possibility of selling their effects, they abandoned everything, including house, furniture, live stock and land, and set out across the country for Lexington, Missouri, completing their journey by boat, down the Missouri River to St. Louis, and up the Ohio to Pittsburg, profoundly thankful to arrive an unbroken family at their old home. Mr. Church became associated with the Pittsburg and Oakland Street Railway Company, serving as its secretary and treasurer throughout the brief remainder of his short life. He died March 11, 1863, having not yet completed his thirty-seventh year, and leaving the following children: Walter, Emily, Mary, Samuel Harden … and Sarah.”

Now William and Emily’s youngest son, Samuel Harden Church, grows up to enjoy, among other things, a very successful career in the railroad business, international recognition as a first-rate British historian and the longest tenure ever as president of the Carnegie Institute (1914-1943). And it is Samuel, a grandson of Walter Scott, who, at the age of 82, makes the following word public via a letter published in the New York Times on April 30, 1940:

“In order to prevent further bloodshed and outrage in this war of the German aggression, I am authorized by competent Americans to offer a reward of the person or persons who will deliver Adolph Hitler, alive, unwounded and unhurt, into the custody of the League of Nations for trial before a high court of justice for his crimes against the peace and dignity of the world. This proposal will stand good through the month of May, 1940.”

on these days in the American Restoration Heritage: April 12-18

Among the things that happened this past week in the American Restoration Heritage history:

April 12

April 12, 1861 – Since it seceded from the United States in December 1860, South Carolina has been steadily seizing Federal property and today, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard orders artillery batteries to open up on Fort Sumter in Charleston Bay. Though, remarkably, not a single man will die in the day-and-a-half long bombardment, this incident effectively marks the start of the American Civil War. The cost and consequences of the war to the nation are truly incalculable, the deaths of at least 750,000 American soldiers being only a small portion of the price paid and the endpoint of the generations significantly affected still yet to be reached.

With the shelling of Fort Sumter, the iconic leader of the American Restoration Heritage, Alexander Campbell, Sr., immediately feels the effects of war on his ministry. In the days just before the shelling of Fort Sumter, he had been speaking in Charlottesville, Virginia (roughly 70 miles NW of Richmond). Hearing of the bombardment, Campbell cancels future speaking appointments and he and his wife, Selina, make their way back to Bethany. If speaking tours, The Millenial Harbinger, and Bethany College form the backbone of his work, the lifeblood of his ministry is surely the funds that come in to fund, funds that come largely from the South. However, with the coming of war, travel through, and mail service with, the South comes to a halt. Military recruitment and the decline in funding threatens to close Bethany College and brings the Harbinger to its knees.

Further, what torment in spirit he feels as he knows that a huge percentage of those he has poured his life into leading toward greater light and Christian union are now about, daily, trying to kill each other off, and are greatly succeeding at the task. His lifelong dream of Christian union and his age being a harbinger of Christ’s return, is literally being shredded apart before his very eyes and, much of the fruit of his ministry being left to rot on battlefields unburied.

All this of this pales in comparison, of course, to the emotional distress that comes to him, a long-time pacifist, as those of his own family choose sides and march off to war. Heavy on his heart is the fact that his namesake son, Alexander Campbell, Jr., enlists and becomes a colonel in Confederate cavalry while a favorite nephew, Archibald Campbell, Jr., casts his lot with the Union. And there are others.

Perhaps it is the apostle Paul who can convey to us something of the misery in Campbell’s heart at this time:

“Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” (2 Corinthians 11.28-29)

Campbell, Sr.’s health, particularly his amazing mental abilities, had been slowly deteriorating prior to the war, but his decline now becomes much more obvious, seemingly accelerating, as the war years (1861-1865) go by. He will hardly survive the war. He dies the year after (1866) the cease of military hostilities.

War is hell. So our ancestors, and the experience of our heritage, would tell us. And so, in the name of Christ, may we ever flee from it. For the sake of all who are yet to believe, as well as for those who do, in this generation, and the generations to come.

April 13

April 13, 1861 – The final blow is struck today to the mind of Walter Scott. Long consumed with depression over the state of the nation’s affairs and worry over the specter of coming war, Scott learns today of the bombardment and fall of Fort Sumter … and what is left of his sixty-five year old heart is broken. Just a very few days later, Scott pens a letter to his oldest son, John, and says:

“Alas, for my country! Civil war is now most certainly inaugurated, and its termination who can foresee? Who can predict? Twice has the state of things filled my eyes with tears this day. Oh, my country! my country! How I love thee! How I deplore thy present misfortunes!”

The depth of Scott’s depression has been obvious and troubling to others for some time. Of late, he has been unable to even bring himself to share in the Lord’s Supper. An excerpt of a letter he wrote just a few months earlier (also to his son John) tells us of the very great weight of the burdens on his heart:

“You say: ‘ I am so disheartened and cast down, so overwhelmed with the general gloom that overspreads my dear, my native land, that I can scarcely think of anything else.’ These words, my son, precisely describe my state of mind. I can think of nothing but the sorrows and dangers of my most beloved adopted country. God is witness to my tears and grief. I am cast down, I am afflicted, I am all broken to pieces.”

To understand Scott’s grief, one must appreciate his understanding of eschatology. Scott passionately believes that the United States is destined by God to lead the world’s nations to faith in Christ, ushering in the millenium. As he stated in the last book he penned (just two years earlier in 1859), The Messiahship: The Great Demonstration:

“… there are in the elements of the Revolution of 1776 unmistakable proofs that the Republic of the United States is a historical and political verification of the unerring prediction of prophecy touching ‘a new government’ and ‘a new people.'”

Just three days after Sumter’s fall, Scott comes down with typhoid pneumonia. He will live only ten more days, his physical condition steadily deteriorating. His dear friend and associate, John Rogers, visits him, as does L.B. Streator. Scott ever so briefly, but ever so remarkably rallies, a bit right after one of Streator’s last visits, and spends this moment of greater strength and clarity speaking of the happiness and delight of the saved as they’re ushered into heaven and then, after a brief nap, he awakens once more, this time to speak of some of the men who have blessed his life. Alexander Campbell, Thomas Campbell, John T. Johnson, ‘Raccoon’ John Smith, and Barton W. Stone are among the names he mentions.

Scott then becomes too weak to speak any further and two days later, on April 23, passes away peacefully. His current marriage, his third, is by no definition of the term a pleasant one; indeed, it is the polar opposite of his preceding two (both having ending by deaths in 1849 and 1854). No mention is made of the presence of his wife, Eliza (Standidge) Scott, at Scott’s death [at least no mention that this writer has yet to see]. Further, though trying to make it to him in time, none of his six surviving children are able to be with him while he is on his deathbed. John Rogers and L.P. Streator conduct Scott’s funeral service and his body is buried in May’s Lick, Kentucky.

It seems exceedingly difficult to escape the conclusion that Walter A. Scott is one of the first of a multitude of “unnumbered casualties” of the American Civil War.

April 14

April 14, 1895 – Not far from LaVergne, Tennessee and close by the Rock Spring Church of Christ, in a farm pond owned by Columbus Brittain, Samuel Harris baptizes a man who, for several decades, will be the most mocked and reviled man in the entire Restoration Heritage. And perhaps the greatest irony of it all is that this will all come to pass simply due to the steady, godly teaching of men like James Harding and David Lipscomb.

At the time, no one could have possibly guessed that twenty-year old Robert Henry (“R.H”) Boll would become the brotherhood lightning rod, including – especially – Boll himself.

Born in Germany and raised in the Catholic church, Boll comes to the United States at the age of fifteen. He is exposed to the Restoration Heritage when he is befriended by a public school teacher and a state lawmaker who are of our ilk. Their friendship shapes him so that he is baptized into Christ and sets off to be a student at Nashville Bible School (NBS). He does well in his studies at NBS (1895-1900) and enjoys peaching, but he excels at writing. When he takes up preaching with the Portland Avenue congregation in Louisville, Kentucky in 1904, he takes it up for life, a ministry that lasts over half a century. But, it is his writing that is Boll’s forte, so much so that the Gospel Advocate (GA) names him as their front page editor in 1909. For six years he will serve in this capacity – and it is his writing for the GA that builds the fire over which Boll will be slow-roasted for the rest of his life. In 1915, he is ousted by the GA and in the following year, he takes the editorship of Word and Work, moving its base from New Orleans to Louisville.

What makes Boll’s teaching and writing so upsetting to so many is that he deliberately swims against what is now the popular tide. He lives in a time when our tribe is hungry for respectability and the establishment of physical progress, but it is Boll who continues to call  for simplicity. The proclamation and understanding of grace has peaked and is now on the downhill run, but it is Boll who doesn’t just keep talking about it, but emphasizes it. A generation earlier the work of the Holy Spirit was more often seen as personal and direct, but now the Spirit is largely perceived as working indirectly, only through the revealed word, and is, therefore, rather impersonal. Still, Boll views the Spirit’s work through old glasses. While the churches in our branch are becoming known for their being distinctive and as “a peculiar people,” Boll preaches tolerance and practices much greater openness and diversity. The book of Acts and the epistles are where it’s at with most brethren now, but Boll emphasizes what he sees as largely, and terribly, forgotten: the prophets. And as this world’s nations and powers rush off to murder each other in World War One, most of the relatively few pacifist elements that remain in our heritage run to catch the train of nationalism, patriotism, and social acceptance. Even so, it is Boll who continues to call believers to view their role in life as a part of a kingdom that is not of this world. Our heritage, having jettisoned Campbell’s postmillenial views with the coming of the American Civil War, is now racing toward an amillennial stance … while Boll takes a determined premillenial posture.

Quite simply, Boll is a man out of step with the rest of the troops and those who would back him in most of these views – indeed, who raised him in faith – are quickly fading away with age (Lipscomb dying in 1917 and Harding passing away in 1922). But, he will become the champion of a portion of our heritage that has all but faded into oblivion: premillenial Churches of Christ. Until his death in 1956, Boll will be the whipping boy of many a preacher and he will have to face the slings and arrows of other giants among us virtually alone, most notably in a debate with H. Leo Boles (1928) and one who will make a name for himself primarily due to his relentless and belittling attacks on Boll: Foy Esco Wallace, Jr.

April 15

April 15, 1869 – Though Lard’s Quarterly had a short run and folded the previous year (1863-1868), Moses Easterly Lard still sees a strong need for an additional paper in our heritage and so, on this day, the first issue of a new weekly paper, the Apostolic Times (AT), is published. Moses Lard, Robert Graham, Winthrop Hopson, J.W. McGarvey, and Lanceford Wilkes are its editors.

If we descend to the level of thinking in terms of “Left” and “Right,” perhaps we can categorize the AT’s placement among some of the brotherhood’s papers at that time in the following fashion. Ben Franklin’s American Christian Review (ACR) holds the ground of the distinct right and David Lipscomb’s Gospel Advocate (GA) is not far from that same position. Isaac Errett’s Christian Standard (CS) is perhaps representative of those in the center or just to the left of it. The AT attempts to speak for the moderate right. For example, while the AT supports the work of missionary societies (something unthinkable for the ACR or GA), it opposes the use of instrumental music (as does the ACR and GA).

The upshot of this stance is that the AT is widely perceived as a more moderate, even independent, voice in the discussion of matters, one not necessarily beholden to any one wing of the Restoration Heritage. However, the downside to its attempt to occupy ground closer toward “the center” is equally obvious: it manages to often either let down, or somewhat offend, since for most it just never quite goes “far enough.”

Lard’s hand at the AT’s tiller will soon end (Jan. 1873) as he takes time off to pen what will become his magnum opus, his commentary on Romans (published in mid-1875).

April 16

April 16, 1861 – Is following a flag to war consistent with following Christ? What is the good news a preacher is to preach as a multitude of men consider military enlistment? Is there a tipping point that can be reached that changes the answer and response to such questions? And so, why do we believe what we believe and what price are we willing to pay for it? Today, one of the most prominent pioneer leaders of the American Restoration Heritage sounds the alert on such concerns and digs in for the battle to come.

As the clouds of war rapidly build in the spring of 1861, the question of military service is naturally the hottest topic on the table among all, including church members and Church leaders. Often contrary to the practice of their recent ancestors, the vast majority of the most prominent opinion leaders of the still quite young American Restoration Heritage are thorough pacifists. However, their ability to persuasively make the case for such convictions to the younger generation and for them to embrace and practice those beliefs when the cost of doing so is now at its greatest, are thrown into the crucible. What will be considered slag, fit for nothing, and what will be the resulting, refined metal of belief in terms of actual practice, remains to be seen.

One of the great opinion leaders in our tribe at the time is Benjamin Franklin, a great-nephew of the not so pacifist American hero of Revolutionary War days by the same name. Nephew Benjamin is a well known preacher and the editor of the widely-circulated and well-respected Cincinnati-based American Christian Review (ACR), arguably the flagship publication of “the conservative wing” of the Stone-Campbell Movement, particularly among adherents in the North. Just as surely is the case with every leader of the time, Franklin converses with others about the coming war and one of those he communicates with is his good friend J.W. McGarvey. In a letter Franklin pens today to McGarvey we’re allowed to overhear how Franklin attacks the war question. His answers are classic Franklin: sharp as steel and uttered with a mind made up to give no quarter. It is equally clear that he expects others to follow him up the hill, no matter the personal price to be paid.

“I know not what course other preachers are going to pursue, for they have not spoken; but my own duty is now clear, and my policy is fixed. … Whether I remain a citizen of this Union or become a citizen of the Southern Confederacy, my feelings toward my brethren everywhere shall know no change. In the meantime, if the demon of war is let loose in the land, I shall proclaim to my brethren the peaceable commandments of my Savior, and strain every nerve to prevent them from joining any sort of military company or making any warlike preparation at all. I know that this course will be unpopular with men of the world, and especially with political and military leaders; and there are some who might style it treason. But I would rather, ten thousand times, be killed for refusing to fight than to fall in battle or to came home victorious with the blood of my brethren on my hands.”

Commenting further, this time speaking specifically to what everyone knows will be a frequent venue on the battlefield – Christians trying to wound or kill other Christians – Franklin adds:

“… however things may turn or whatever may come … we will not take up arms against, fight and kill the brethren we have labored for twenty years to bring into the kingdom of God. Property may be destroyed and safety may be endangered, or life lost; but we are under Christ, and we will not kill, or encourage others to kill, or fight the brethren.”

Franklin courageously and consistently backs up his walk with his talk. Despite the vast majority of the ACR’s subscribers being residents of the North (roughly 7,500 of 8,500), he continues to hold his pacifist position throughout the years of killing and will keep the ACR’s stance during the war neutral, not showing favoritism toward North or South. His view costs him a great many Northern friends and support and garners him frequent mockery as a coward, great suspicion of being a traitor, and a host of real enemies. In addition, since mail service to the South is cut off during the war, the times cost him all of his Southern subscribers. And, Southerners are unhappy with him for the same reasons those in the North are put out with him: though personally against slavery, he keeps the ACR’s stance on the subject neutral and he does not align his paper with either cause. For choosing a third way, Franklin is caught in a deadly crossfire.

Midway though the war in 1863, the American Christian Missionary Society’s passage of a resolution of support of the Union marks the start of a change in Franklin’s views. Not on pacifism, but as to missionary societies and other para-church organizations. Within a very few years, he will be adamantly and vocally opposed to such. Naturally, this conviction only adds fuel to the fire others are building under him. Due to several factors, Franklin moves his family from Ohio to Indiana in 1864 to be close to one of his sons, Joseph.

And what of the ACR? Resuming publication in 1866, David Lipscomb’s Gospel Advocate (GA) speaks well of the ACR, but doing so doesn’t salvage much for the ACR’s subscription base in the South. The GA assumes the flagship status of brotherhood papers in the South. With those in the North, the ACR still has something of a loyal fan base, but the war has crippled it seriously. It will remain that way the rest of Franklin’s life and for a nearly a decade more. However, it will experience a revival of strong influence during the days following its purchase by Daniel Sommer in 1886. And, remarkably, it will continue in publication until 1965.

As for Franklin himself, his star has peaked. His influence will never be nearly so great after the war as it was before. He will work hard – too hard – to attempt to regain much of what was lost and his health breaks in 1868. He lives yet another ten years, but does so as a virtual invalid, dying in 1878 at the all too young age of sixty-six. Still, his legacy of faith will continue through his sons and daughters, with preachers, as well as missionaries to India, counted among their number.

As I rehearse the experience of Ben Franklin, my mind is caught up into an endless loop of four questions:

First, is it actually Scripture that determines my values and beliefs or, in reality, are they more subtly shaped by the culture and other influences around me? Just exactly why do I believe what I believe?

Second, with what tenacity would I continue to preach and practice the convictions I now hold if they were suddenly put to the ultimate test, that test lasting perhaps even for the rest of my days and costing me, as well as those nearest and dearest to me, much in every way? If seemingly the whole world turned against me, how would I respond?

Third, what lasting effects will the troubles I face in life for my beliefs, and the way I handle those troubles, have on my wife and children? Will they continue in vital, active belief or will they grow bitter and jettison faith?

Fourth, isn’t it exceedingly odd how pacifism was once the consensus “conservative” position of our tribe, but is now commonly viewed today as a “liberal,” if not altogether stupid, perspective? We’ve come a long, long way, baby – but, in what direction and by the influence of what and whom? Which leads me back to the first question, and the cycle begins again.

April 17

April 17, 1866 – What is the most difficult thing in the walk of life? Some say it is repentance, for repentance is a very long walk uphill away from something toward which we are mightily drawn. But, perhaps it is reconciliation that is more difficult still, for it involves two trips: the journey of repentance and the journey of reconciliation itself, which is an equally long, pack-laden walk uphill toward someone who might want little, if anything, to do with us … or still worse. In addition, dangers of all kinds await along the way.

Just over ten months ago the Civil War ended and now the arduous task of the South’s Reconstruction is underway. At the war’s start, people North and South asked themselves the unthinkable: “Dare I try to kill my brother?” A significant majority decided, “Yes, I will, or help with the process.” Now, during Reconstruction, these same people – many of them members of the Restoration Heritage – ask themselves a new, scarcely imaginable question: “Dare I trust my brother who just tried to kill me or mine, and to some degree, succeeded?”

Today, in the Gospel Advocate, a revered leader of the Restoration Heritage in the South, Tolbert Fanning, reveals to us some of what is in his heart and how that he is still contemplating whether or not to even pick up the pack and start what appears to be a death march toward reconciliation. He unzips his heart, er, the pack, and shows us some its contents: many items of sharp bitterness, weighty distrust, and unwieldy reservation.

“There are reasons … which lead us to doubt the propriety of a hasty religious reconstruction with the friends of Christ North or South … the report has reached the disciples South, that the Brethren generally in the North, like a few, and very few in the South, have been employing the fist of wickedness for a few years past to put down transgressors and subjugate rebels against governments. … passing and approving RESOLUTIONS in Christian missionary meetings. We charge no one, but it occurs to us that men engaged in such service, may not be very well prepared to engage in genuine spiritual cooperation.”

Eight years after these remarks and three years before the South’s Reconstruction is said to be complete, Fanning dies in 1874, gored to death by a bull.

The Civil War was fought over the course of four years and Reconstruction took twelve more. But, in a great many ways we are still fighting the consequences of the former and wrestling with the heavy pack of the latter today. Our journey’s end is still not yet in view and many dangers face us along the way. But, let us continue, let us pray for strength for each day, let us not grow weary in the task, and test, of seeking to get along and going on.

April 18

April 18, 1864 – Missouri native Lewis Bradford Grogan is a Private in the CSA, 31st Texas Cavalry (Hawpe’s) Regiment and is a participant in the atrocity-laced Battle of Poison Springs in southern Arkansas. Grogan survives the battle, and the war, and in either 1865 or 1866, becomes a Christian within the Restoration Heritage.

Not long after his conversion he begins to preach. He marries Julia Emily Bates of Hunt County, Texas in 1870 and serves for a time as postmaster in Ravenna (Fannin County), Texas. In 1895, Lewis & Julia move from Texas to Chickasha, Indian Territory – twelve years prior to Oklahoma statehood – to work with a congregation there. Lewis’ ministry in Chickasha includes starting up a school (1906) and penning a history of mission work in the Indian Territory.