on these days in the American Restoration Heritage: February 8-14

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

February 8

Feb. 8, 1864Abraham Conn (“A.C.”) Huff is born to Thomas Huff and his wife in Hallettsville (Lavaca County), Texas. A.C. will begin preaching at the age of twenty and will continue preaching until the age of 101, for a total of 81 years of ministry. He will die (Dec. 8, 1967) just two months shy of his 104th birthday, having at that time forty-two great-great grandchildren.

February 9

Feb. 9, 1946 – Funeral services are conducted at the Grace Avenue Church of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee for Henry Leo (‘H. Leo’) Boles. Boles – a gg-nephew of ‘Racoon’ John Smith, son of a Union Army veteran, and student of David Lipscomb – had a long-time association as professor and president of David Lipscomb University. Though a well-known preacher and debater, he is probably best remembered today through the influence of his many articles in the Gospel Advocate (for which he served for a number of years as editor), his volumes in the Gospel Advocate New Testament commentary series (Matthew, Luke, and Acts), and a great deal of Bible class curriculum.

February 10

Feb. 10, 1851James Turner & Julia (Sowers) Barclay, along with their two sons (Robert Gutzloff and John Judson) and daughter (Sarah Margaret), arrive in Jerusalem. They are the first foreign missionaries to be sent out from the Stone-Campbell Restoration Heritage and are sent out by the American Christian Missionary Society. They will minister in Jerusalem during two periods of time: 1851-1854 and 1858-1862.

James is a particularly interesting personality. His grandfather, Thomas Barclay, was a close friend of both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. James was a physician long before he was a missionary. For a few years early on in their marriage (1830’s), James & Julia owned Thomas Jefferson’s mansion (Monticello) and during that same period in life and for several years thereafter, owned as many as eleven slaves. For a long period in life, James claimed to have read the Bible from cover-to-cover every six weeks. His evangelistic work found little traction among his hearers in Palestine, but once it became known that he was a physician his medical mission work there boomed. While in Jerusalem, James developed a keen interest in the geography and archaeology of the city and assisted the well known archaeologist Edward Robinson. In fact, James was the first non-Muslim to be granted access to the interior of the Dome of the Rock (known by Muslims as ‘The Noble Sanctuary’) in Jerusalem in several centuries. Also during his time in Palestine, James’ eschatological views radically shifted from postmillenial to premillenial. One of his sons (John Judson) married Alexander Campbell’s daughter, Decima Hemans Campbell, in 1863.

Between the drain of the American Civil War on finances, abolitionists’ objections to the Barclay family having been former slave-owners, and James’ switch to a premillenial perspective, the Barclays saw their financial support for the Jerusalem mission dry up and blow away, forcing them to return to the then divided States. James continued to long for a third opportunity to do mission work in Palestine and had a great desire to be buried there, but he died in 1874 with his dreams unfulfilled. His remains are to be found today in “God’s Acre,” the Campbell family cemetery in Bethany (Brooke County), West Virginia.

Feb. 10, 1874Thomas Wesley (“T.W.”) Brents pens the preface to the first edition of his book entitled The Gospel Plan of Salvation. This book will become essential reading to a great many preachers within the Restoration Heritage during the latter quarter of the 1800’s and the first half of the 1900’s. Accounts are common as to how when preachers traveled and had room to take only one book along with them other than the Bible, they didn’t take a concordance, but took along The Gospel Plan of Salvation. Of greatest significance is the fact that this work discusses salvation solely as a matter of things accomplished in the past; any present or future aspects of salvation are not noted. The consequences of that myopia of perspective not only on the formulation of sermons, but the reception of them, and how salvation is to be rightly viewed, cannot be understated.

[Sidebar: Even in the latter half of the 1970’s when I first mentioned to a preacher the thought of my taking up preaching, Brent’s work was the first suggested to me to own and read.]

February 11

Feb. 11, 1880William Baxter, a native of England, dies at the age of 59. He had come to the States in 1829, was baptized in 1838, and was a co-worker with Walter Scott. A graduate of Bethany College (1845), Baxter went on to become the president (1859) of Arkansas College in Fayetteville, a role that came to an end when the Confederate Army, retreating from the Battle of Pea Ridge, burned the college down (March 1862). Prior to, and during, the Civil War, Baxter was known for his opposition to slavery. Holding those views while living in a state that had seceded from the Union, caused no small amount of trouble for Baxter, but he never wavered from them.

Though having been a preacher, songwriter, and college president, Baxter is best remembered today as having penned (1874) the first in-depth biography of Walter Scott (The Life of Elder Walter Scott: With Sketches of His Fellow-Laborers, William Hayden, Adamson Bentley, John Henry, and Others). Baxter’s body is buried in the Lisbon Cemetery in Lisbon (Columbiana County), Ohio.

February 12

Feb. 12, 1823William Watts is born to William Samuel & Roxanna (Ware) Watts in Pikeville, Kentucky. His family soon moves to Georgia and raises him there, but when he gets out on his own he moves back to West Virginia and works as a school teacher and Baptist minister. During the Civil War, he is a sympathizer of the Confederate cause (he will even name one of his sons “Jefferson Davis”), but because he encounters so many troubles related to his holding such a view in Union West Virginia, he moves to Confederate Virginia. While there in 1865, Watts hears some sermons by a preacher within the Restoration Heritage and, with time, is convicted and submits to baptism by the preacher.

The following year, Watts returns to West Virginia, but since he is now preaching “some new thing,” his reception is mixed. No small number are persuaded by him (including his wife’s family), but many others are not, and he is forced to leave his pulpit in the Baptist Church. With those he has persuaded in the area, he plants a Restoration Heritage church. Watts and the new congregation will face strong opposition, but they experience some growth and at least one other congregation is planted in the county as a result.

Watts will live in poverty the rest of his days. Upon his death in 1879 at the age of fifty-six, his family is so poor they cannot even afford to purchase the necessary cemetery plot in which to bury his body. The Masonic Lodge steps in and donates a plot and gravestone.

William Watts was never well-known outside of his county. He was the recipient of unending, merciless ridicule and mockery by many. Derisive songs were even made up and sung about him. He was hardly even able to provide his family with a means to survive and he died rather early on in life. Still, two of his sons will choose to become preachers.

What is perhaps most remarkable is that this man’s life was anything but unique, for a great many preachers within the Restoration Heritage traveled a very similar path in life. Those of us in this Heritage today stand on his shoulders and those of many others like him. May the memory of such come often, and never cease to humble us.

February 13

Feb. 13, 1843Robert Catlett (“R.C.”) Cave is born to Robert Preston & Sarah Francis (Lindsay) Cave in Orange County, Virginia. R.C., and both of his brothers (Lindsay Wallace and Reuben Lindsay) will all serve in Co. A of the CSA, 13th Virginia Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. This regiment is exposed to some of the hardest fighting and bloodiest battles of the war. It is virtually cut in half (losing 111 of the 250 men it fielded) in the Battle of Gaines Mill (June 1862). The 13th VA also suffers significant losses in the battles of Cedar Mountain, Second Manassas (aka: 2nd Bull Run), Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Cold Harbor (fought on the same ground as Gaines Mill), and Cedar Creek. When the South surrenders in April 1865, only ten officers and fifty-two men of the 13th VA are present. Remarkably, although all three Cave brothers are wounded in combat, all three survive the war. All three go on to take up preaching.

R.C. begins preaching in 1867 and will soon come to serve as editor of two departments for J.W. McGarvey’s Apostolic Times. He will eventually take up preaching in 1888 with the Central Church in St. Louis, Missouri, the congregation where J.H. Garrison, editor of the Christian-Evangelist, is a member. Learned, eloquent, and a man of wide-reading, R.C. is well received at first. However, in late 1889, R.C. preaches a series of sermons that explicitly denies all sense of anything miraculous about Scripture and the Christian faith as a whole. The local newspaper, the St. Louis Republic, begins running transcripts of his sermons and these are picked up by the national media. his sermons. Word of the matter, and the resulting shock, runs like electricity through Restoration Heritage churches, as well as other groups, and R.C.’s ministry with Central will come to a swift end. Upon leaving Central, R.C. and a number of other former members, start up the Non-Sectarian Church of St. Louis. In R.C. word’s their rationale is clear:

“We claim that we have freed ourselves from many superstitions and errors still taught by the Church, and planted ourselves on higher ground. We claim that we have come nearer to the truth as it is in Christ Jesus; that we have truer and nobler conceptions of God, and of Christ, and of worship, and of sin and salvation. We claim that instead of weakening moral obligation, we place morality on a more rational and permanent foundation, making it, instead of obedience to the arbitrary will of a supreme ruler whom we must obey to avoid his vengeance, conformity to the eternal law of right which is written in man’s being and in the constitution of the universe, and to which we must conform because it is right, and because conformity to it is necessary to the preservation and development of true, noble, and self-respecting manhood. We claim that, instead of opposing true religion, we have separated the religion of Jesus from the traditions and dogmas and forms imposed upon it …”

R.C.’s views soon evolve into full-blown universalism, taking in all religions as valid expressions of faith. In 1911 he authors a book entitled Defending the Southern Confederacy: The Men in Gray, a work passionate in its quest to justify the Confederacy’s vision and cause. And perhaps most surprisingly of all, in 1917 (six years before his death) R.C. returns to the Restoration Heritage, to the branch now known as Disciples of Christ, and is largely embraced, even though he makes clear he is not changing any of his views.

One of the great challenges in life is in the observation of events to not learn the wrong lesson. Unfortunately, among the most enduring influences of ‘The Cave Affair’ within the Restoration Heritage is that it helped make a case in the minds of many for anti-intellectualism. According to this perspective, wide-reading, higher education, exposure to views other than those you currently hold, and communication with those of other faiths will inevitably lead one astray and are, therefore, ways to be viewed with deep suspicion and avoided.

February 14

Feb. 14, 1862James Madison Pickens, a Christian and aspiring preacher within the Restoration Heritage from Maury County, Tennessee, re-enlists today in the Confederate Army. While serving in Co. B of the CSA, 2nd Tennessee Infantry Regiment (Robinson’s), Private Pickens decides to preach a sermon to his comrades in arms. However, they are not inclined to listen to him at the time and their disinterest rankles Pickens. Finally, ending his sermon in disgust, Pickens exclaims,

“If you fellows don’t want to listen to me, you can just go to hell and be damned!”

Following the war and during the period of Reconstruction, Pickens will continue to preach. He will be the first Restoration preacher to arrive and minister in NW Alabama to re-establish and organize the churches devastated by the war. Soon joining him in this work is T.B. Larimore. Pickens will continue to preach until his untimely death (at the hands of a murderer, over political matters), at the age of forty-four.