on these days in the American Restoration Heritage: January 25-31

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

January 25

Jan. 25, 1989 – Having served as a preacher for over fifty years and as an influential editor of both the Firm Foundation (1955 to 1983) and Image magazine (1985-1989), Reuel Gordon Lemmons dies of a heart attack in Austin, TX at the age of 76. Lemmons’ ministry through the years is characterized by a strong emphasis on evangelism (especially foreign mission work) and as acting as something like a mediator between, or bridge reaching out to, both “traditional” and “progressive” elements in the Restoration Heritage.

January 26

Jan. 26, 1828 – Samuel Robbins, a deacon in a church, writes in his diary: “All the Baptist church went from Braceville Ridge to Warren to hear Walter Scott preach for they heard that he was turning the world upside down.”

January 27

Jan. 27, 1942 – Eighty year-old John Moody (J.M.) McCaleb, a long-time Restoration Heritage missionary to Japan, marries forty year-old Elizabeth Reeves. Two years later, John & Elizabeth will welcome the birth of a daughter, Ann Elizabeth.

I will relate more about J.M. McCaleb in a future entry (on Sept. 25, his birthday). For now, I’ll just note that some of us with gray hair today can remember having sung many times in years gone by a song that J.M. wrote: The Gospel is for All.

January 28

Jan. 28, 1812 – On this day, Lewis Lettig (“L.L.”) Pinkerton is born to William & Elizabeth Pinkerton near Baltimore, Maryland. L.L. will be baptized by Alexander Campbell in the fall of 1830. He will make his living for a time as a doctor, but in 1838 will become a preacher. Near the close of the following year he will move to Kentucky and will be instrumental in the baptism of literally thousands of people there in the 1840’s and 1850’s.

In 1859, his ministry will become a center of controversy as he leads a church in Midway, Kentucky to make regular use of a melodeon during Sunday services. He is not the first to introduce instrumental music into corporate worship gatherings of a Restoration Heritage church, but he will come to be the one best remembered for having done so.

When the Civil War breaks out, L.L. will become a surgeon, as well as something of a chaplain, in the U.S.A., 11th Kentucky Cavalry. During the course of his military service he will suffer a severe heat stroke and his health will never be the same again.

Following the war, and much to his dismay, though he will be able to regain employment with the University of Kentucky, L.L. will find that he is no longer welcome as a preacher in most Restoration Heritage churches in Kentucky. Why? Apparently not so much because of the melodeon and Midway, but because of his having served in the Union Army rather than the Army of the Confederacy. His grief is compounded upon the sudden death of his first-born son, William White Pinkerton, at the young age of 26, on Christmas Day, 1866.

As a result, Pinkerton will increasingly develop something of an odd duality of character. In the company of family, friends, and supportive church members, he will be very well known for his humility, sympathy, peacefulness, prayers, and how he spends much of his time in ministry among poor blacks in Central Kentucky. However, whenever L.L. takes up pen in hand, his character can undergo a less than constructive transformation. The paper that he co-edits for a short time in 1869-1870 (The Independent Monthly) is, in the words of one biographer, laced with “fiery prose and personal attacks against those who oppose him.”

L.L. will die on this same day, Jan. 28, his birthday, in 1875, at the age of 63.

January 29

Jan. 29, 1826 – Alexander Campbell pens the preface to his first edition of a translation of the New Testament entitled The Living Oracles (TLO). In this work Campbell builds on a translation of the New Testament done years earlier (1818) by George Campbell [known especially for his work in the Gospels; no relation to Alexander Campbell), James MacKnight (a scholar of the epistles), and Philip Doddridge (a preacher/hymn-writer). A. Campbell’s contribution consists not only of edits of the translation’s primary text, but also the addition of prefaces to the books of the New Testament, notes, an appendix, and the work of publication. TLO quickly becomes popular within the Restoration Heritage, especially its leaders, and, to a much lesser degree, the wider circle of Christendom who practice baptism by immersion; however, TLO will never be widely adopted outside of these contexts. Still, over the course of Campbell’s years, TLO will appear in six editions and will be frequently reprinted.

Campbell’s publication of TLO arises from his awareness of manuscript discoveries and their comparative research, the advancements in understanding and translation of the Greek language, and a growing, personal dissatisfaction and weariness with the popular, but obsolescent, King James Version (KJV). He had tilled the soil for the public’s reception of TLO in the preceding years (1824-1825) with a series of articles in the Christian Baptist entitled “History of the English Bible.” In this series he laid out his conviction that fresh Bible translation is crucial to the successful inauguration of reformation.

As a sample of the translation offered by TLO, compare it’s rendering of Acts 2.38 with that of the KJV:

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (KJV)

“And Peter said to them, Reform, and be each of you immersed in the name of Jesus Christ, in order to the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (TLO)

Given its reasons for being, especially its habit of replacing “churchy” words with words more readily understood, a strong case can be made that TLO is the forerunner of most modern Bible translation work in that it sought to simultaneously bring the latest findings of scholarship to the public and to render the Biblical text in such a fashion as to be more readily grasped and understood by all.

This is all the more interesting since over the course of the past sixty years it has been common in some Restoration Heritage quarters to (mistakenly) argue that the KJV was the deliberate and happy translation of choice among the early Restoration Heritage leaders. For as Bobby Valentine has noted: “… there is not a single defense of the King James Version written by a member of the Stone-Campbell Movement whether ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ in the nineteenth century!” The Restoration Heritage’s early leaders longed not to enshrine the KJV, but to be done with it. The existence and pervasive use of TLO is evidence enough to the fact.

TLO‘s preface, as well as Campbell’s series of articles, remain potent reading to this day for any and all who either lift up any one translation as supreme or who are skeptical of the need for ongoing translation work. In Campbell’s words: … the illiterate have stronger faith who read many translations, than the same class who have read but one.”

[Sidebar: If you’ve ever sung O Happy Day, likely at a baptism, then you’ve sung the work of Philip Doddridge. Though not living to the age of fifty (1702-1751), Doddridge authored over four hundred hymns, often concluding or following up his sermons with one of his songs.]

January 30

Jan. 30, 1908James Sanford (J.S.) Lamar dies in Augusta, Georgia. An 1854 graduate of Bethany College, he had taken up preaching in Augusta, Georgia. Having a keen interest in writing, Lamar had wasted no time in putting his talent to use and so, had established a paper entitled the Christian Union, a paper that often took to task not only Benjamin Franklin’s American Christian Review, but Tolbert Fanning and David Lipscomb’s Gospel Advocate as well. Aside from relatively brief interruptions (1864-1865; 1875-1876), J.S. lived, and preached, in Augusta for not much short of thirty years (1854-1884).

The year 1859 was a watershed year in J.S.’s life. That year he had turned thirty years old, had received his M.A. from Bethany College, was selected as a trustee of Bethany College, had become one of the vice-presidents of the American Christian Missionary Society (ACMS), and had penned his best remembered, most influential, and most highly praised book, The Organon of Scripture; or, the Inductive Method of Biblical Interpretation (OS). The OS had received high praise among Restoration Heritage leaders and was well on the way to becoming “one of “the” hermeneutical handbooks on Bible interpretation for an entire generation. In the words of Tim Sensing, the OS “… effectively systematized the grammatical-critical model of interpretation advanced by first-generation leaders like Alexander Campbell and Walter Scott.” The effects of this work continue to be felt today.

If 1859 had proved to be a year of great achievement for J.S., 1864 had been a year of great tragedy. In January, his first wife (Mary Rucker, a cousin) had died and in November, Union general William T. Sherman’s “total war” in his March to the Sea had forced J.S. and his children to flee their Augusta home.

In late 1865, J.S. had remarried (Sallie Mayson Ford), returned to Augusta, and resumed ministry there with the First Christian Church. Upon J.S.’s return he had found that his parsonage (paid for by fellow church member Emily Thomas Tubman) was located next door to the parsonage of a Presbyterian minister by the name of Joseph Wilson. The Lamars and the Wilsons became good friends, as did their sons, Thomas Woodrow Wilson and Joseph Rucker Lamar, who were less than a year apart in age. Though J.S. didn’t live to see the day, his son, Joseph Rucker, served as a U.S. Supreme Court justice (1911-1916) and Thomas Woodrow grew up to become the 28th President of the United States (1913-1921).

In 1866, J.S. had had a strong hand in the creation of a new, and very influential, brotherhood paper, the Christian Standard (CS). Edited from the start by Isaac Errett, J.S. had come on board as co-editor of the CS in 1869. The CS is still in publication today.

However, perhaps of greatest significant we should note that J.S. Lamar, increasingly so with age, had come to view the interpretive perspective he had laid out in the OS as a young man as both deficient and defective. Consequently, in his latter years he became increasingly open in terms of how Scripture was to be rightly understood and applied. It is not too much to say that, in a sense, J.S.’s very life was a stage on which one could see an issue played out that many future Restoration Heritage leaders would wrestle with, and still do today, namely, “is it about the man, or the plan?” He had focused the first half of his life primarily on the latter, but spent the latter quarter of his life, increasingly so, on the later. Having always had a deep and passionate desire for unity among Christians, ultimately, J.S. came to view, and practice, the confession that “Jesus is Lord and Christ” as the only practical basis for union among Christians, a position far removed from that which he had once taken, and declared, in the OS.

[Sidebar: * I have yet to discover if J.S. is kin to Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, the complicated and colorful second President of the Republic of Texas (1838-1841). However, it is known that both J.S. and Mirabeau’s parents lived, and raised their children in, central Georgia. * J.S. Lamar’s parsonage in Augusta still stands. It now functions as the visitor center for the “Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson.” * J.S.’s daughter-in-law, Clarinda Pendleton (J.R.’s second wife), was the daughter of Alexander Campbell’s son-in-law, William Kimbrough (W.M.) Pendleton.]

January 31

Jan. 31, 1804 – In Lexington, Kentucky, on this date, the four month-old Springfield Presbytery publishes An Apology for Renouncing the Jurisdiction of the Synod of Kentucky; To Which Is Added a Compendious View of the Gospel and a Few Remarks on the Confession of Faith. The purpose of its 141 pages is to justify the group’s departure from the Presbyterian Synod. The work has three parts, each penned by three different authors: Robert Marshall penned the Apology, Barton W. Stone, Sr. wrote the View, and John Thompson crafted the Remarks.

Word of the Springfield Presbytery’s scandalous existence and the Apology‘s publication quickly spreads among Presbyterian churches in the surrounding area. Seven churches in Ohio (Beaver Creek, Clear Creek, Eagle Creek, Orangedale, Salem, Springfield [modern day Springdale, Cincinnati] and Turtle Creek) and eight churches in Kentucky (Bethel, Cabin Creek, Cane Ridge, Concord, Flemingsburg, Indian Creek, Paint Lick, and Shawnee Run) will quickly join the Springfield Presbytery. James D. Murch has observed: “While there were other churches of like views and many groups, unorganized and unidentified where the revival preachers were welcome, there seemed to be little disposition among them to submit to any kind of ecclesiastical authority.”

However, the very growth of the Springfield Presbytery will plant the seeds of its own demise. Again, it is Murch who sums up matters well: “The men who organized the presbytery were soon [among themselves] in the throes of a doctrinal discussion of the atonement and other issues, and it was increasingly apparent that there was little real unity or stability among them. Stone was almost the only stable and dependable man in the group, as time was to reveal.”

The Springfield Presbytery will pen it’s own Last Will and Testament and dissolve itself on June 28 of this same year.