on these days in the American Restoration Heritage: May 17-23

May 17

May 17, 1823 – Today a challenge is answered.

Alexander Campbell receives word today from a preacher in the Presbyterian Church, William Latta McCalla of Augusta (Mason County, Kentucky), that he is interested in meeting Campbell in public debate on the topic of baptism. Following an earlier debate on infant baptism with another Presbyterian minister, John Walker in 1820, Campbell had stated that he was ready to meet anyone who wanted to discuss the matter further. McCalla, keen to defend the practice of infant baptism, now takes up Campbell’s challenge. After several months of correspondence between the two following today’s letter, the two engage in a week long debate at an outdoor campground in Augusta, Kentucky in mid-October 1823. Campbell travels by horseback to Augusta for the debate, but he does not travel alone: Sidney Rigdon is his sidekick.

In the Campbell-McCalla debate, Campbell tackles the topics of baptism’s action (immersion, not sprinkling or pouring), design (for the forgiveness of sin), and subjects (believing adults, not passive infants). This is the first truly extended and public airing of Campbell’s take on baptism as being for a person’s forgiveness.

Despite the fact that Campbell is, at the time, relatively unknown in Kentucky (certainly in comparison to his opponent), the clear consensus of those hearing the debate is that Campbell is the winner. Campbell’s logic and extemporaneous communication skills, McCalla’s decision to make reply to Campbell’s points by reading from a manuscript he prepared prior to the debate (an exceedingly odd and awkward thing to do when arguing the negative in debate), and Campbell’s introduction of “new” information for the benefit of the crowd all work together to form the perfect storm that is McCalla’s undoing. Campbell works his speaking skills “magic” with the crowd, too, by employing humor at critical junctures. For example, when McCalla asserts that baptism by immersion can be dangerous to a person’s physical health, Campbell points to McCalla’s moderator, Jeremiah Vardeman, as rebuttal. Understand: Vardeman weighs about three hundred pounds. The crowd eats it up.

As a result, Campbell gains hundreds and hundreds of new subscribers from the state of Kentucky for his paper (Christian Baptist) and the stage is set for him to make a preaching tour through the state the year following (1824). And it is while he is on that trip that Campbell will meet Barton W. Stone for the first time.

May 18

May 18, 1858 – Today, a man becomes a newcomer to Christ, and sees to it to keep coming to him, for life.

At the age of twenty-six, Alexander Newcomer becomes a Christian. He becomes an embodiment of love. And so, through the course of his life, the fruit of God’s Spirit becomes abundant in him.

Alexander loves people, especially the vulnerable. He frequently visits the sick and the poor. Poor children receive his special attention; he buys them clothes and books and teaches them music. In return, he receives a nickname frequently used by them over the course of the years: “Uncle Aleck.” The poor are generously remembered in his will.

He loves to be with God’s people and is faithful and humble toward them. It is said that no matter what the weather, Alexander will “be at church.” When he drops his offering in the plate ($20 each week; no small sum), he makes sure the amount is always broken down into small bills lest anyone think that he, or any one person, is the giver of twenty dollars.

He loves animals and his horse, Jin, knows it; Jin will allow no one to care for her or ride her except Alexander. Birds are a special delight to him.

He loves nature. Flowers and sunshine never fail to make him smile.

He loves books and papers. Coupled with this love for writings is a memory that is nothing short of astounding. It is said that he can “refer to any article in the Millenial Harbinger, the Christian Baptist, or Lard’s Quarterly.” He knows large portions of the Bible by heart and is often called upon in church to do the Scripture reading – always doing so from memory. The prophets, the psalms, and the writings of Paul are his forte. And so, earning a reputation for being the best informed and wise person in the area, adults tag him with a nickname of their own: “Judge.”

He never marries, choosing instead to live with, and help care for, his blind sister, Ellen.

When he dies in Washington County, Maryland in 1903, a fellow church member writes of him in J.H. Garrison’s The Christian Evangelist:

“He was a happy soul. God sent ten thousand singing truths into his heart which were singing there day and night. To every selfish, discontented, ungrateful, and querulous nature his life was a perpetual rebuke. Sunshine and peace were in his heart and shown out irresistibly in his face and in every word an action of his life. As much of heaven as any man could bear about him without being in heaven itself he showed us in every way.

“Socially, he was a charming companion. His uniform cheerfulness, his sweet music, his freedom from every semblance of harsh criticism, of gossip, of all uncharitableness; his constant an unconscious illustration of what a Christian gentleman must be; his perfect courtesy; his kindly consideration for all men – these were felt by all who came in touch with him. …

“Best and noblest was his Christian character and life. How he always lived in communion with his Maker, how he stored up in mind and heart the imperishable riches of the inspired Word, how he lifted us to the throne in his prayers so simple and reverent and beautiful, how he exhorted us in words of great wisdom, how day by day he lived these things – we that knew him can never forget.”

Oh, and Alexander Newcomer lived out all of his days in darkness, having been born blind.

May 19

May 19, 1816 – A man becomes a Christian, and no one thinks otherwise.

William Hayden is baptized today and in doing so, becomes a member of the Baptist church. He will become an early Restoration Heritage pioneer preacher and sidekick of Walter Scott. His baptism – like those of a great many of the pioneer preachers in our heritage – is not “administered by someone within our heritage,” but is unquestioningly accepted. It is not until decades later that “rebaptism” of the previously immersed becomes anything even remotely like “an issue” among “us.” [cf. the post for March 2 in this series for more info on William Hayden]

May 20

May 20, 1859 – Today, a sixty year-old preacher consults a phrenologist.

Surely he does so just so for grins but, he does not tell us. And, he records the matter in his journal, the length of entry for which is hardly equaled by any other and far exceeds the average entry’s length.

According to Webster, phrenology is “the study of the conformation of the skull based on the belief that it is indicative of mental faculties and character.” It is a popular topic of discussion in the mid-1800’s. And today, in Memphis, Tennessee, Jacob Creath, Jr. receives a “phrenology chart” from Professor Orson Squire Fowler of New York, one of the leading proponents of phrenology in the United States. His chart reads:

“Strength, power, efficiency, go-ahead, and the utmost indomitability, is your predominant trait, and is remarkable. You inherit it from your father, whom you resemble; and are adapted to carry on some great undertaking requiring the utmost perseverance; and have made your mark on the intellect of the community where you reside, partly because of your strong, active sense; more because of your tremendous energy of character.

“You have extraordinary lungs, great muscles, a splendidly-balanced constitution, and have a world of vitality; can go through Herculean labors, and have not a lazy bone in your body. You are excitable a little, though not much; rarely ever let your feelings get the better of your judgment.

“You have not any thing like as much culture, in proportion, as you have natural talents. You have excellent digestion, but have over-eaten all your life. You have extraordinary breathing power, and hardly know what fatigue is, and must be out of doors most of the time. You have an organism more favourable to judgment than brilliancy.

“You are a ladies’-man, almost worship the sex, and appreciate female beauty. You should marry a woman who was dependent, not obstinate, for you could never tolerate an obstinate women.

“You have one of the best wives that ever was, because you know how to select a woman, and because you would live well with any woman; and would so live with a poor woman as to make her a good wife, even if poor; and your wife would lay down her life for you. You are thoroughly sexed, are pre-eminently manly, and have a high, noble bearing.

“You have a very strong love for children, especially daughters, literally doting on them as if they were angels. You are devotedly attached to home, are one of the most indulgent of husbands and parents, are a true, warm, generous friend, and have a warmer heart than often comes under my hands. You are a true patriot; are wanting in continuity; are able to attend to a great diversity of business in short order and without mistake.

“You have great fortitude to bear up under disease, and will not allow yourself to be sick, and will not give up.

“You never quarrel with others, but stand your ground like a man. You are determined to conquer, but never punish a fallen foe. You have an excellent appetite; go in for the plain and substantial; can make money, but it must be in a large way.

“You can never dabble. You are perfectly candid, never act in a cunning way to attain your end; but always straightforward and correct. You are barely cautious enough to prevent improper action.

“You are not particular as to what people say about you; pursue an independent course; do as you please, and let people say what they life. You are most uncompromising when your mind is once made up, yet are judicious when making it up. You are rather conservative. You are a true worshiper of the Deity, but always under your own vine and fig-tree; skeptical, and never admit any thing unless proved to a demonstration. You ought to be a judge. You are a true philanthropist; are generous; too kind for your own good. Don’t let your friends put their hands too deep into your pockets; and don’t indorse, unless you are willing to lose. Don’t confide too much in friends. Learn to say no. I would not wonder if you have lost half you have made. So turn a corner.

“You are better informed than one in a thousand with your means of knowledge. You have a poor memory as regards names and dates, but good at recollecting countenances, facts, and ideas. You ought to be a speaker, not because you have so great a flow of words, but because you say impressively what you say at all.

“You have a wonderfully accurate eye to judge of bulk and proportion, and cannot tolerate architectural disproportion. You never lose your way in city or country.

“Your forte lies in the adoption of ways and means to ends, in originality, forethought, forethought, contrivance, and penetration. You lack the agreeable; you pass no compliments, not enough; but read a man right through the first time, and are happy in what you say; it just hits the nail on the head. Your criticisms are remarkable. You illustrate well.

“The fact is, sir, you are, by nature, a great man; and need only circumstances to make you a great man. And you, certainly, are one of the best men I have ever examined, and are universally beloved.”

In truth, Creath is as independent a spirit as can be found among the early preachers within the Restoration Heritage. Indeed, in his lifetime he earns the nickname of “The Iron Duke of the Restoration.”

May 21

May 21, 1856 – Today, the distant violence in Bleeding Kansas comes home all the more to the Campbell family back east.

Lawrence, Kansas is a community establisahed by abolitionists (i.e. – Free-Staters). And today that community is attacked and sacked by pro-slavery men (i.e. – Border Ruffians). Learning of this, abolitionist John Brown promises revenge and within days will make good on his promise.

Now Matthew & Jane (Campbell) McKeever are good friends with John Brown. Jane, you understand, is one of Alexander Campbell’s sisters. The McKeever’s are more than just a little sympathetic with Brown’s views on abolition; they, like Brown, are deeply involved in The Underground Railroad for runaway slaves. However, with Brown’s distinct turn toward the use of violence this week (he shoots a man in the head during the Pottawatomie massacre to insure that he is dead), Brown and the McKeevers choose two very different paths as to how to go about freeing the nation’s slaves: one path violent, the other not.

Did Alexander Campbell and John Brown ever meet face-to-face? I’ve not yet found evidence of such, but it seems most likely. For example, just a few months later (February 1857) Alexander Campbell, Sr. serves as chairman of a convention of “wool-growers” (sheep farmers) in Steubenville, Ohio and we know that John Brown, renowned for his expertise with sheep, is one of those attending the convention. The McKeevers are wool-growers, too. Given the McKeever-Brown connection and the status of Campbell, would Brown have not sought him out? If they ever did meet, one wonders what that conversation must have been like.

A bit over three years from today, John Brown leads a raid on an arsenal in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Seriously wounded in the attack, Brown survives his wounds, only to be tried, convicted, and hanged by the neck until dead in December 1859.

Ironically, the name of Campbell’s first father-in-law is also John Brown, but he is not to be confused with the John Brown of today’s post.

May 22

* May 22, 1801 – Today, strange things begin to happen.

Today, a Friday, a thirty year-old preacher by the name of Richard McNemar is preaching at his church, the Cabin Creek Presbyterian Church in northern Kentucky. “Revival” suddenly breaks out and the “various operations and exercises” that accompany the revival for four days and three nights are quite a sight to see. McNemar tells us some of what transpired:

“The scene was awful [which means then what we mean today by the word “awesome”] beyond the description; the falling, crying out, praying, exhorting, singing, shouting, &c, exhibited such new and striking evidences of a supernatural power, that few, if any, could escape without being affected. Such as tried to run from it, were frequently struck on the way, or impelled by some alarming signal to return: and so powerful was the evidence on all sides, that no place was found for the obstinate sinner to shelter himself …

“No circumstance at this meeting, appeared more striking, than the great numbers that fell on the third night: and to prevent their being trodden under foot by the multitude, they were collected together and laid out in order, on two squares of the meeting house; which, like so many dead corpses, covered a considerable part …”

Now exactly what sort of “operations and exercises,” what “new and striking evidences of a supernatural power,” are we talking about here? McNemar, and others, speak of eight distinct expressions of such, namely: barking, dancing, falling, “the jerks,” laughing, rolling, running, and experiencing either a trance or vision. McNemar says “the falling exercises was the most noted.” An estimated three thousand people experience the “falling” exercise.

After reading the descriptions of these experiences, I’d opt for laughing or running, thank you very much. Following is McNemar’s description of “the jerks” exercise:

“Nothing in nature could better represent this strange and unaccountable operation, than for one to goad another, alternately on every side, with a piece of red hot iron. The exercise commonly began in the head, which would fly backward and forward, and from side to side, with a quick jolt, which the person would naturally labor to suppress, but in vain. The more one labored to stay himself, and be sober, the more he staggered, and the more his twitches increased. He must necessarily, go as he was stimulated, whether with a violent dash on the ground, and bounce from place to place like a football, or hop around with head, limbs and trunk twitching and jolting in every direction, as if they must inevitably fly asunder. How such could escape without injury, was no small wonder to spectators. By this strange operation, the human frame was so transformed and disfigured, as to lose every trace of its natural appearance. Sometimes the head would be twitched right and left to a half round, with such velocity that not a feature could be discovered, but the face appeared as much behind as before. In the quick, progressive jerk, it would seem as if the person was transformed into some other species of creature. Headdresses were of little account among female jerkers. Even handkerchiefs bound around the head, would be flirted off almost with the first twitch, and the hair put into the utmost confusion. This was a great inconvenience, to redress which the generality were shorn, though directly contrary to their confession of faith. Such as were seized with the jerks, were wrested at once, not only from under their own government, but that of every one else, so that it was dangerous to attempt confining them, or touching them in any manner, to whatever danger they were exposed; yet few were hurt, except it was such as rebelled against the operation, through willful and deliberate enmity, and refused to comply with the injunctions which it came to enforce.”

“Well, that’s all well and  … odd, but what does this have to do with the Restoration Heritage?,” you ask.

In a word: much. In a few words … McNemar and twenty-eight year-old Barton W. Stone are close friends. Less than three months later (August 6), this revival spreads from Cabin Creek to Stone’s Church, the Cane Ridge Presbyterian Church. Thus, the Cane Ridge Revival. McNemar, Stone, and others will soon make a clean break with the Presbyterian Church, first by forming their own presbytery (the Springfield Presbytery), then by dissolving that presbytery (hence, The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery, drafted by McNemar in 1804). After that, you know what happens with Stone, but what of McNemar? Perhaps not surprisingly, he joins the Shakers in 1806 and remains with them until his death in 1839. His account of the events associated with the revival that are reproduced here are taken from his book The Kentucky Revival, first published in 1808. That book is the first bound volume published by the Shakers.

* May 22, 1807 – The first foreign missionary in our heritage, James Turner Barclay, is born to Robert & Sarah Coleman (Turner) Barclay at Hanover Courthouse, Virginia .. maybe. The date of May 22 is recorded by his friend and biographer, John T. Brown. However, the date of May 7 is what is engraved on Barclay‘s headstone in the Campbell Cemetery in Bethany, West Virginia. [Given my own experience of comparing the records of literally hundreds and hundreds of gravestones with written records of Civil War veterans in three different states, something being “engraved in stone” means nothing more in terms of accuracy than what is written on paper or family tradition. In my mind, it’s a coin flip as to which date, May 7 or May 22, is correct. cf. the entry for Feb. 10 in this series for more info on Barclay]

* May 22, 1848Today, Selina Campbell, Alexander Campbell, Sr.’s second wife, suffers the death of her seventy-seven year old mother (Ann Marie Bakewell) and welcomes the birth of a grandson, Alexander Overton Ewing, to her daughter, Margaret Ewing. However, the grandson’s health is poor and he will live only eighteen months.

May 23

May 23, 1861 – A wife is unhappy with the way her husband votes on a matter of great importance.

A law passed in Virginia in January 1861 results in the creation of a state convention to consider secession from the Union. The law requires that if the convention votes for secession (which it does), the voters in the state must then vote on the matter in a referendum. The referendum is today and Alexander Campbell, Sr. casts his vote, voting against secession. However, to his wife, Selina, secession is the way to go.

Selina’s viewpoint is held by only a tiny minority of the residents of Brooke County, but is in keeping with the vast majority of fellow-Virginians. Along with his wife, we know that at the very least Alexander’s namesake son (Alexander Campbell, Jr.), two of his daughters (Virginia and Decima), a son-in-law (William K. Pendleton), and a grandson (Joseph Pendleton) favor secession.

Alexander votes the same way the vast majority of his immediate neighbors do. His choice is greeted with delight by others in his family, among them being two of his sisters and brothers-in-law (Joseph & Dorthea Bryant and Matthew & Jane McKeever), a son-in-law (John Campbell), and a nephew (Archibald Campbell).

In voting against secession, Alexander is not softening his opposition to slavery; it’s that he hates the thought of the needless slaughter of war even more. Just the day before the referendum, a Union soldier on picket duty, Thornbury Bailey Brown, was killed, becoming the first official fatality of the Civil War. And, just a few days later (June 3), at Philippi, a little over one hundred miles southeast of Bethany, the first skirmish of the war between Union and Confederate troops takes place. Ill-equipped and poorly prepared Confederates are defeated. Given the flight of Confederates from the field, Union troops come to refer to the battle as “The Philippi Races.”

Soon after marking his ballot, Alexander publishes the June issue of the Millenial Harbinger. In it he writes:

“Of all the monstrosities on which our sun has ever shone, that of professedly Christian nations, glutting their wrath and vengeance on one another, with all the instruments of murder and slaughter, caps the climax of human folly and gratuitous wickedness. Alas! Alas! Man’s inhumanity to man has made, and is still intent on making countless millions mourn!!”

links: this went thru my mind

Baptism, Carrie Underwood, joy & music: The Truth Behind This Song Had Me Yellin’ ‘Amen!’ You’ll Love This Super Star’s Song About Baptism [4 min. video; essential listening]

“I don’t know that there is anything better than hearing a song about baptism coming through my speakers! Preach it, Carrie!”

Choice, focus, mindset, mission, perspective, productivity & vision: 3 Mindsets You Must Conquer to Live Your Mission Each Day

“Jesus’s lived his mission each day by conquering three mindsets.”

Christian faith, evil, Hitler, martyrdom, Nazism, nonviolence, pacifism & WWII: The White Rose Martyrs

“I don’t know about you, but I always get a bit depressed when I think about the lack of Christian resistance to the rise of Hitler and Nazism in Germany. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is the main figure who comes to mind here. But were there any others? Any other heroes of the faith? Christians who pushed even harder than Bonhoeffer?

“Yes there were. The White Rose.”

Conflict, history & war: The Greatest Buildings You’ll Never See: 19 Priceless Monuments Lost in Conflict

“It is a cruel irony that a region so blessed with the treasures of early human civilizations is also among those most troubled by conflict. As the violence threatens to annihilate some of history’s greatest monuments, we count the cost of our irreplaceable losses.”

Prayer: Encountering God in Prayer

“If we are going to be imbalanced, better that we be doctrinally weak and have a vital prayer life and a real sense of God on the heart than that we get all our doctrine straight and be cold and spiritually hard.”

links: this went thru my mind

Change, church, contextualization, Millenials, outreach, relevance & vision: 5 Reasons There are No Millenials in Your Church

“Here are five (of many) reasons why there are no Millennials in your church …”

Church & expectations: Expecting Less, Discovering the More [required reading]

“The more we expect from our local church or the church universal the less we will discover in the church. But, when we expect less than our dreamy ideals the more church we will discover. Idealism wrecks reality and the church is not an ideal but a reality.”

Compliments: 4 Keys to Accepting Compliments Well

“A surprisingly difficult aspect of pastoral ministry is accepting and receiving compliments. It’s not that we don’t appreciate compliments or find them encouraging. But there is a danger of basing our identity upon them, or simply receiving them in the wrong way.”

Divorce, marriage & remarriage: MDR: A Question from an Elder [essential reading]

“It seems there’s a fresh questioning of the traditional view blowing across the Churches — a very good thing.”

Government, gridlock, mid-term elections & voting: Cancel the Midterms

“There was a time when midterm elections made sense — at our nation’s founding, the Constitution represented a new form of republican government, and it was important for at least one body of Congress to be closely accountable to the people. But especially at a time when Americans’ confidence in the ability of their government to address pressing concerns is at a record low, two-year House terms no longer make any sense. We should get rid of federal midterm elections entirely. … the two-year cycle isn’t just unnecessary; it’s harmful to American politics.”

links: this went thru my mind


Church, church decline, leadership, ministry, morale & vision: * How Churches Became Cruise Ships (part 2); * Six Subtle Signs Your Church is Dying [essential reading]

* “Eventually we will learn that no matter how much money, effort, or innovation the church possesses, it will never be as cool as the culture. Relevance is a race it cannot win, but in our misguided attempts to compete with the culture we risk losing sight of the only thing of value the church can offer the world–Jesus Christ.”

* “There is more talk of the past than of the future. … More effort goes into keeping people than winning people. … There is no budget for evangelism, outreach, missions, or advertising. … Everyone wants to know everyone in the ‘church family.’ … The church is mono-generational (relating to one single generation). … No new leaders are being trained.”

Corporate worship, nationalism & patriotism: Why Younger Evangelicals May Feel Uneasy in a Patriotic Service [required reading]

“The church transcends the state, a truth that should be proclaimed clearly in a worship setting.”

Cynicism, happiness & joy: The Giant Hole in Cynicism

“[There is] a radical difference between cynicism and joy. Cynics seek darkness wherever they go. They point always to approaching dangers, impure motives, and hidden schemes. They call trust naive, care romantic, and forgiveness sentimental…They consider themselves realists who see reality for what it truly is and who are not deceived by “escapist emotions.” But in belittling God’s joy, their darkness only calls forth more darkness. [Henri Nouwen]”

Divorce & remarriage: Divorce & Remarriage

“‘A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.’ (I Cor. 7:39)

Holy Spirit & intercession: Weakness, Groaning, and the Holy Spirit

“The Spirit does not simply know our suffering in some mere cognitive sense. Rather, the Spirit is present within us and experiences our suffering as a sympathetic friend, and thus the Spirit groans as well. The Spirit groans with us and for us, and this groaning becomes part of the experience of the Triune God. God is for us not only in the intercession of the Son, but also in the intercession of the Spirit.”

Prayer: A New Way to Pray

“… rather than have one ‘quiet time’ a day … pray for at least 15 minutes four times daily.”

this went thru my mind


Christian living: * The High Calling of Everyday Ordinary Living; * The Spiritual Formation of Things Not Going Our Way

* “Being a ‘radical,’ ‘missional,’ Christian is slowly becoming the ‘new legalism.’ We need more ordinary God and people lovers (Matthew 22:36-40).”

* “My Facebook feed is less populated by baby pictures and shots of other people’s food (yay!) and more a place to argue over the issues (sigh).”

Culture & vision: Where Will You Be in 2073?

“Who in 1953 was thinking that in 2013 our world would be as different as it is today? … So what will life in the USA be like in 2073?”

Facebook: What Really Happens When You Like

“The only reason scammers go to such lengths to create this kind of approach is simple. There’s a lot of money to be made. There are several ways to exploit your quick response to liking things.”

God: Tom Wright Skewers the New Marcionism

“Marcion, of course, was a second century bishop who taught that the Old Testament God, a jealous and retributive tribal deity, was incompatible with the God revealed in and through Jesus, who is an entirely benevolent God of love and compassion.”

Parenting: It’s Not The Bible’s Fault. You Might Just Be A Bad Dad

“Let me be clear about this: PARENTS DON’T BABY-SIT! PARENTS PARENT!”

Perceptions: Do the Best Professors Get the Worst Ratings?

“Do students give low ratings to teachers who instill deep learning?”

Preaching: Does Preaching Have a Future?: Technological and Sociological Trends in Preaching

“As a homiletics professor, I usually spend the last class of each semester peering into my crystal ball and imagining what the future of preaching holds. Not being a prophet, I am only making assumptions so please read the following with a discerning mind. Also, I don’t make these statements to be critical of anyone in particular or any church. I am simply making observations and doing a little forward thinking. So here are 14 statements about current trends and guesses as to the future of preaching.”