Among the things that happened this past week in American Restoration Heritage history …
* March 1, 1829 – John William (“J.W.”) McGarvey is born in Hopkinsville (Christian County), Kentucky. He will grow up to be one of the Stone-Campbell Movement’s most highly respected and internationally-known scholars.
Baptized into Christ in Buffalo Creek shortly after entering Bethany College in 1847, J.W. grows close to the Alexander Campbell family and is often found reading the Bible to the now virtually blind Thomas Campbell. Graduating as valedictorian of his class (1850), he will go on to preach with the Christian church in Dover (Lafayette County), Missouri (1852-1862) and Lexington, Kentucky (1862-1902), but the real impact of his life is felt through his teaching in the College of the Bible in Lexington, an institution over which he also serves as president for sixteen years.
Through his high respect for, and deep devotion to, careful study of Scripture, his vocal pacifist perspective during the Civil War, and his prolific writing, J.W. is a huge influence on the minds of many a young preacher in the Restoration Heritage of the time. Two of his most important books, the impact of which cannot be overstated, are his Commentary on Acts and Lands of the Bible. During a time of great challenge and change in the field of hermeneutics, J.W. is a champion of conservative interpretation of Scripture. And he will grow increasingly conservative with age. One example of this is seen in his shift in views regarding the Holy Spirit, a shift most evident in his commentary on Acts. In the first edition (1863), J.W. advocates for direct and personal work of the Holy Spirit in every Christian’s life, but moves to a word-only position in the revised edition of 1892.
* March 1, 1936 – Foy E. Wallace, Jr., editor of the Gospel Guardian, makes the following statement:
“If war is incompatible with Christianity, then a Christian’s participation in it is impossible. It would comport far more with the gospel of Christ for our preachers to be exhorting Christians to follow Christ and the apostles even to prison and martyrdom than to be instilling within them the spirit of militarism, war, and hell. … God help us in time of war to remain Christians, live or die.”
However, such sentiments on Wallace’s part are not long for this world. Wallace will completely forsake his pacifistic views and will announce his shift in the March 1942 issue of his paper The Bible Banner. He will become a vigorous proponent of Christian involvement in government and military service and will, therefore, in effect seek to undo (at least in terms of these two matters) all of the effort of his polar opposite of a preceding generation, David Lipscomb.
March 2, 1799 – A woman who will come to be known as “Mary Hayden” is born. Her maiden name is unknown to me.
Mary’s husband, William (1799-1863), a close associate of Walter Scott, is a preaching and singing dynamo during some of the earliest years of the Restoration Heritage. His memory is nothing short of phenomenal; it is believed that he has the vast majority of the New Testament memorized and he always has right at hand, without the aid of journal or notes, copious, accurate information regarding his travels and doings.
Speaking of travels, during the first twenty-five of William’s thirty-five years of ministry, he spends, on average, two out of every three days preaching or travelling to preach. His travels total 90,000 miles, two-thirds of those miles made on horseback. Nine thousand sermons proceed from his lips and he baptizes over 1,200 people. No wonder Walter Scott once said of him:
“Give me my Bible, my head, and William Hayden, and we will go forth to convert the world.”
Oh, but wait – this entry was supposed to be about William’s wife, Mary, wasn’t it? And there’s just something about her.
Quietly, at home, behind the scenes, raising the children by herself, is Mary. During the last two years of William’s life, Mary will increasingly care for him as he’s slowly robbed of his mobility and strength by a rare neuro-muscular disease (the symptoms of which sound much like what we know today as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; aka: ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease). And then, following William’s death, Mary will go on to live out her remaining fourteen years of life as a widow, dying at the age of 78 (1799-1877).
Truth be told, we know nearly nothing of Mary. What we do know is that she, William, and their children are referred to as “an excellent family.” But, while some of her husband’s life is well-documented, precious little exists to tell Mary’s story of quiet, hard-working, steady service to others.
And yet, that is her story, isn’t it? Quiet, steady service to others. It’s a story very familiar to many of us, isn’t it? For standing beside many a minister, then and now, is a “preacher’s wife,” one who is typically and truly in every sense of the phrase, “the better half.” And this world is a far better place because of such Christian women.
And so, thank you, Mary Hayden. For surely far better than most, you can appreciate the fullness of the meaning of the Scripture inscribed on your gravestone:
“There remaineth therefore a rest for the people of God.” (Hebrews 4:9)
March 3, 1866 – Via the Gospel Advocate, David Lipscomb continues to air out his heartbreak and bitterness over the effects of the Civil War on the people and churches of the Restoration Heritage. He loathes the American Christian Missionary Society (ACMS) and the effects of its resolution in 1863 to throw its moral support behind the cause of the Union.
“I feel intensely the degradation to the Christian religion and the Lord Jesus Christ, of making his church in any way the tool of the politicians of the partizans, to any of the strifes and conflicts of the institutions and governments of the world. The … Society [ACMS] in our esteem did this so far as it was in its power …
“… the action of this society … sent men into the Federal Army; we know it sent some brethren of good intentions, but strong impulses and feelings, into the Southern Army. Some, too, who never returned. We felt, we still feel, that that Society committed a great wrong against the Church and cause of God. We have felt, we still feel, that without evidence of a repentance of the wrong, it should not receive the confidence of the Christian brotherhood.
* March 4, 1866 – “The Sage of Bethany,” Alexander Campbell, Sr., first-born child of Thomas & Jane (Corneigle) Campbell, dies at his home in Bethany (Brooke County), West Virginia at 11:45 p.m. at the age of 77.
Through the years, Campbell, and those who drank deep from his wells, have often been interpreted by others as being intransigent and divisive. While this is certainly true of many who came after him, it was not true of Campbell himself. Hope and unity were two of his greatest life values. For example, shortly before Campbell’s death, Robert Richardson visited him and reported to him of a meeting between some of the “Reformers” (those of the Stone-Campbell Movement) and the Baptists. The meeting’s purpose was to discuss the possibility of unity. Upon hearing this news Campbell told Richardson:
“There was never any sufficient reason for a separation between us and the Baptists. … We ought to have remained one people, and to have labored together to restore the primitive faith and practice.”
Fittingly, it is Campbell’s last published article (Nov. 1865), “The Gospel,” that perhaps captures some of his perspective and efforts in life best of all. It is a perspective long since either deliberately forsaken or just plain forgotten by a great many of the Restoration Heritage, namely, that there is a distinction between the preaching of the good news of Christ and the teaching of doctrine by Christ’s apostles. Leroy Garrett sums up Campbell’s understanding thus:
“Campbell’s plea for unity since Christian Baptist days had been related to the distinction he made between preaching the gospel and teaching the apostles’ doctrine. The gospel consists of [seven] facts that we accept or reject [specifically, the birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and coronation of Christ], while doctrine involves theological opinion over which we can and will differ. Campbell never understood believing facts to be simple intellectual assent to information but, a transforming appropriation of the reality to which the facts point. In the case of the gospel the facts point to the proposition that God is love. Campbell had long maintained that this proposition alone had the power to unite believers to God and one another. Believing and obeying the gospel unites us in Christ and is the basis of our unity and fellowship. The apostles’ teaching is the curriculum we study once we are enrolled in Christ’s school. In that school we are in different grades and we can and will differ in understanding.
“This distinction was so vital to Campbell that he presumed one could not have a proper understanding of the New Testament without recognizing it. It is not surprising, then, that he made it part of his last essay.” (The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement; pp.133-134)
Echoing her husband’s lifelong emphasis on hope and oneness with Christ, Campbell’s wife, Selina, says to him on his deathbed:
“The blessed Savior will go with you through the valley of the shadow of death.”
With his last words, Campbell makes reply:
“That he will! That he will!”
* March 4, 1880 – James A. Garfield is sworn into office, inaugurated as the twentieth President of the United States of America, by Chief Justice Morrison Waite. During the course of his (relatively) poorly-attended inaugural address, Garfield cautions the nation to diligently safeguard the rights of African-Americans so that they do not become “a permanent disfranchised peasantry.”
March 5, 1871 – Dr. John Thomas dies and is buried in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Kings County [Brooklyn], New York.
(a) Have you ever known anyone to be convinced that their specific branch (leaf?) on the tree of Christendom is “the one true church?”
(b) Have you ever dealt with someone who thinks all churches not like their own are suspect, at best, more nearly “synagogues of Satan?”
(c) Have you ever encountered anyone who believes that if a person isn’t baptized specifically “for the remission of sins” that their baptism isn’t valid and that they must, therefore, be re-immersed or else, their soul is in jeopardy?
If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of those three questions then you need to know the name John Thomas.
Born in London, England, John Thomas is an intelligent individual. Teaching himself Hebrew while in his teens and taking up the study of medicine at the age of sixteen, Thomas is a determined and focused spirit, too. These traits will only intensify with age.
In 1832, Thomas comes to the United States. His trip aboard the Marquis of Wellesley is a stormy one, the lives of all aboard being in constant peril. During this voyage Thomas vows to God that if he survives the storm that he’ll spend the rest of his life in the study of religious faith and the truth about life and death. Twenty-seven year old Thomas survives, and winds up in Cincinnati, Ohio, ready to make good on his promise to God.
While in Cincinnati, Thomas encounters the Stone-Campbell Movement. In October 1832 he is baptized by Alexander Campbell. Campbell urges this bright young man to take up preaching and Thomas does just that. He then travels back east, marries (Ellen Hunt on January 1, 1834), and takes up residence in Philadelphia.
As an outlet for the fruit of his study, Thomas starts up a paper, the Apostolic Advocate (AA). It is soon filled with the teaching that if a person’s baptism isn’t specifically “for the remission of sins” then their conversion isn’t genuine. He believes this is not a matter for private, personal opinion, but for a test of fellowship; the line in the sand, so to speak. Harsh denunciation of all Protestant churches also fills the AA.
Now if all of sounds strangely reminiscent of Campbell’s Christian Baptist, The Third Epistle of Peter, etc., a decade earlier, you’re spot on. However, Campbell (and the other leading figures in the Restoration Heritage) are now appalled by Thomas’ views. Campbell quickly and strongly takes Thomas to task, even issuing a special supplement to the December 1837 issue of the Millenial Harbinger regarding Thomas’ sectarian teaching. Understand, the John Thomas affair is the context for Campbell’s article series ‘Any Christians Among the Sects?’ and quite likely even the exchange known as ‘The Lunenberg Letter.’
Campbell’s perspective is clear:
“I cannot … make any one duty the standard of Christian state or character, not even immersion.”
Thomas’ view is equally clear, being the exact opposite of Campbell and all of the other major leaders of the Stone-Campbell Movement of the time.
Thomas will remain stone deaf to Campbell’s arguments and entreaties. He will becomes even more dogmatic in his views and will go on to do all he can to disturb the churches of the Restoration Heritage within his sphere of influence, especially in a church in Richmond, Virginia, a church in which Thomas Campbell had preached the first sermon (back in March 1832).
Thomas has himself rebaptized, leaves the Stone-Campbell Movement, and consolidates his followers into the group now known as Christadelphians, which, like most groups, through time, splinters even further into even smaller, exclusive fellowships.
The John Thomas affair does not go unnoticed by those outside of the Restoration Heritage and some observe, rightly so, that the mid-1830’s, 1837 in particular, marks a time of real change in Campbell’s tone, though not trajectory, in regard to the place and work of the American Restoration Heritage within greater Christendom. Campbell will, you might say, mellow; becoming markedly kinder and more gentle in his dealings with other tribes.
Similarly, the John Thomas affair also reveals all too clearly for all to see that sectarianism is alive and well even among the members of the tribe that claims to fight sectarianism. Just who is and who is not a Christian (on the basis of baptism) will continue to be an issue in the decades following within the Heritage, even to our own time, and the specific issue of baptism/rebaptism will come to a head in the 1880’s in Austin McGary’s clash with David Lipscomb [cf. the Feb. 6 in this series].
March 6, 1826 – As he addresses someone who strongly disagrees with him, Alexander Campbell says in an article in the Christian Baptist (vol. 3, no. 8; p.223):
“I will esteem and love you, as I do every man, of whatever name, who believes sincerely that Jesus is the Messiah, and hopes in his salvation.”
March 7-8, 1862 – During the Battle of Pea Ridge (aka: Elhorn Tavern) near Fayetteville, Arkansas, Benjamin Franklin (“B.F.”) Hall, chaplain of the CSA, 6th Texas Cavalry Regiment (Stone’s), distinguishes himself – with his lust for blood.
Hall had come into the Restoration Heritage at the age of twenty through his reading of the Campbell-McCalla debate. Upon noting that baptism was “for the remission of sins” he had literally jumped to his feet, begun clapping his hands, and shouting,
“Eureka! Eureka! I have found it! I have found it!”
Hall will go on to become a widely-travelled and well-known preacher in the Stone-Campbell Movement. And it is during travels in Texas in 1849 that Hall becomes mightily impressed with the spirit of the people there. He writes of them:
“The people of Texas, among whom I have travelled and preached, are hospitable, intelligent, independent, every man claiming the right to believe and act for himself in religion. I have never seen a people more ready to hear and … obey the gospel. I know of no country which presents so fine a prospect for usefulness as Texas just now. The people are not yet sectarianized.”
Hall cannot keep himself away, and so, finally moves to Texas in 1856. However, as the cyclonic storm of impending civil war bears down on Texas, and the entire country, Hall’s spirit is slowly but steadily caught up in its rage.
Shortly before the Battle of Pea Ridge, fifty-six year old Chaplain Hall is paid a visit by fellow Stone-Campbell Movement preachers William Baxter and Robert Graham (respectively, second president and founder of Arkansas College in Fayettville). Baxter and Graham are horrified and stunned virtually speechless by what they encounter in Hall: a man who loves war and counts all of his brethren in the North as “infidels.” One excerpt from their conversation tells all. Hall relates to them, with joy and laughter, as to how a friend of his, Alf Johnson, “had gone over the battlefield after the Battle of Wilson’s Creek and who, when seeing a wounded Federal soldier begging for medical assistance, instead ruthlessly shot him.”
Louis & Bess White Cochran continue the story:
“At the Battle of Pea Ridge near Fayetteville, Arkansas … [the regiment of which Hall was a part] was engaged in battle under General [Benjamin] McCulloch, and ingloriously routed. But the taste of blood was evidently sweet to Dr. Hall, and the desire for revenge obsessed him. It was reported that he behaved more like a fiend than a Christian gentleman. His total concern was to kill. His stated ambition, legend has it, was to catch every Yankee soldier he could find and cut off his right hand, and then send him back to his command with the severed hand tied to his saddle.” (Captives of the Word; p.145)
Some of the deep irony in all of this is not to be missed. It was Barton W. Stone, Sr. (a died-in-the-wool pacifist) who officially set Hall out on his way in ministry in 1825 and, ironically, it is Stone’s son, Barton W. Stone, Jr. (who is anything but a pacifist) who commands the regiment in which Hall serves as chaplain during this battle. Hall will serve as chaplain of the 6th Texas for nine months, the same period of time during which Stone serves as its Colonel.
To capture a sense of just some of the horrors of war – and such having quite the opposite effect on a man than they did on B.F. Hall! – hear the remembrances of Isaac Smith. Smith served as a Private in Co. E of the CSA, 3rd Missouri Infantry. Listen to his reflections on the night following the second day of battle:
“It was a very cold night and it was pitiful to hear the wounded calling all through that night in the woods and alone for some water or something to keep them warm. I hope I never will hear such pleadings and witness such suffering again. Such cruelty and barbarity ought not to be tolerated by civilized nations. Young men, the flower of the country in the bloom of youth to be shot down and left on the field of battle to suffer untold agony, and die the death of the brave, to be forgotten by their countrymen and all that can be said of him is ‘He was a brave man and died for the cause he thought was right.’ Some were buried and some were not; left on the field of battle to be devoured by wild animals. Oh, these things are fearful to contemplate. Yet men will say from the stump and in the Halls of Congress that it is a war of Humanity and that it is a war for humanity. My observations are that humanity has no part in it. Everything that is barbarous and savage is put in full force by all who engage in war.
“In writing these lines forty years after this battle, above referred to, I have been forced to stop in the middle of it and express my feelings with regard to this matter and to let all who may read these lines know that I am utterly opposed to this thing called War, and hope I may never hear of one nation going to war with another nation. No matter what the grievance, these things ought to be settled without blood shed.”
During the Battle of Pea Ridge, the 6th Texas suffers the loss of nineteen men (3 killed, 3 wounded, 13 missing).
Of course, as is the case with all of the large battles of the Civil War, there are no small number of men involved in combat who are either Christians in the Stone-Campbell Movement or who will become such following the war. As we’ve seen, some of them are, or will become, preachers. And among those who fight in the Battle of Pea Ridge who later become preachers in the Restoration Heritage, we’ll note three here.
Isaac Polk Scarborough serves in the CSA, 19th Arkansas Infantry Regiment. He will become one of the earliest preachers to work in West Texas.
And James Harvey (“J.H.”) Garrison, highly influential editor of the Christian-Evangelist, serves as a Private in Co.F of the U.S.A., 24th Missouri Infantry. Garrison is seriously wounded (a shattered leg) at Pea Ridge, but is able to make recovery. Garrison had been prompted to enlist after seeing the effects of the Confederate victory at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek (Aug. 10, 1861) in his home county in Missouri – the very battle B.F. Hall referenced in his conversation with Baxter and Graham. [For more on J.H. Garrison, cf. the Feb. 2 entry in this series.]