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

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

March 8

March 8, 1965 – In response to the events occurring in Selma, Alabama on “Bloody Sunday,” Fred D. Gray – a preacher within Churches of Christ and an attorney for Martin Luther King, Jr. – along with other lawyers on behalf of Hosea Williams, John Lewis, Amelia Boynton, themselves, and other plantiffs who are “similarly situated,” files a complaint, a motion for a temporary restraining order, and a motion for a preliminary injunction with the United States District Court in Alabama. The defendants in the resulting case are George C. Wallace (the Governor of Alabama), Al Lingo (Director of Public Safety for the State of Alabama), and James G. Clark (Sheriff of Dallas County, Alabama).

“The plaintiffs seek to have this Court guarantee their right to assemble and demonstrate peaceably for the purpose of redressing their grievances concerning the right to register to vote in the State of Alabama without unlawful interference. Included in the rights plaintiffs seek and ask this Court to adjudicate is that of walking peaceably along the public highway in the State of Alabama between Selma and Montgomery. Plaintiffs also ask this Court to enjoin and restrain the defendants and all persons acting in concert with them from arresting, harassing, threatening, or in any way interfering with their peaceful, nonviolent march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama, for the purpose of protesting injustices and petitioning their State government, particularly the chief executive officer — the Governor — for redress of grievances.”

The class action suit (Williams v. Wallace) results in Governor Wallace and the State of Alabama being ordered by the court to no longer oppress, but actively protect, those who will march from Selma to Montgomery. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is the ultimate consequence of these actions.

March 9

March 9, 1889 – A preacher’s wife dies in Paris, Texas. The notice of her death, penned by John T. Poe, appears in the Gospel Advocate on March 27. Sadly, the story and some of the circumstances it references, are not terribly unusual. The notice reads:

“The wife of Bro. M. H. Lynn, died March 9, while he was away in the country preaching. He had been for some time on a preaching tour, and as his work was in destitute places, far from telegraphs and railroads, his children could not reach him with the news of her sickness. He did not hear of her death until the 15th, six days after death. He is left with a family of little children to mourn the loss of the good wife and mother. Her great desire was to see him again before death. She called for him in her last hours, but he was far away doing service for Jesus. Thus another instance is presented of sacrifice that must be made by the wife of the poor, pioneer preacher. While he preached she took care of family and family interests at home as best she could. And when battling at last with grim death, she wanted him with her, and called for him, but he could not hear. She was a Christian, and who shall say her crown will not be bright? We tender our sympathy to Bro. Lynn, but he needs more than that. He has traveled and preached many weary months, and was paid scarcely anything. Some churches in fair standing called him for meetings and did not pay his expenses to and from, although his preaching was good, and many have been baptized through his labors. Will not those churches where he labored make up some amount and send him word in this hour of need? Send to M. H. Lynn, Paris, Texas. Brethren if you are sorry for Bro. Lynn, just send an expression of your sorrow in something substantial to help the poor preacher in his hour of trial.”

March 10

March 10, 1845 – Alexander Campbell, Sr. sets out on a two-month, 2,500 mile preaching tour through a portion of the South. His itinerary consists (in this order) of travels through Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Some of his major stops along the way include time in Augusta, Baltimore, Charleston, Frederickburg, Richmond, and Wilmington.

Earlier, in 1838, Campbell had conducted a far more extensive tour of the South, covering twice the distance, through Alabama, the Carolinas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Virginia.

Significantly, this 1845 tour through the South begins just one month after Campbell initiates a fascinating article series in the Millenial Harbinger, the title of which is “Our Position to American Slavery.” Campbell’s stance on slavery is careful and nuanced; there is something in it to excite, and disappoint, everyone, no matter their perspective. To the abolitionist, Campbell comes across as an unquestionable ally, but a needlessly weak one; something like a thin walking cane. To the slaveowner, Campbell is most certainly challenging, to say the least, but at least he seems more sensible and less offensive, than the abolitionists.

We can summarize much of Campbell’s take on “the peculiar institution” in the form of a brief question-and-answer session:

Q. Is Campbell a slaveowner? A. At this time, no. While it is true that he once owned slaves, he freed them. Q. Is slavery a moral matter; a question of sin? A. No. “… there is not one verse in the Bible inhibiting it, but many regulating it. It is not, then, we conclude, immoral.” Q. Should slavery be a test of faith and fellowship? A. Since it is not immoral, most certainly not. Q. Is slavery even an issue then at all? A. Absolutely – as a matter of politics and practicality. Q. What of slavery now in the U.S.? A. “… in this age and in this country it is not expedient.” The peculiar institution might, “in certain cases and conditions,” be “right,” but this is no longer the right time in this country. Slavery is an institution that finds itself at the wrong time in the wrong place for it is “not favorable to individual and national prosperity” and is “not in harmony with the spirit of the age …”

Many, especially those who have more of their roots in the Stone, rather than Campbell, wing of the Stone-Campbell Movement, will urge Campbell to make slavery a more central issue and to see it as a core value, a matter of faith and fellowship. However, Campbell will consistently ignore such appeals, seeking instead to pursue what he believes to be a much deeper value, a more necessary goal, namely, the union of Christians.

March 11

March 11, 1811 – Barton W. Stone, Sr. and Reuben Dooley embark on a preaching tour through the state of Ohio and are exceedingly well received by those who hear them. In his journal, while on this tour, Stone comments:

“We preached and baptized daily in Eaton [Preble County] for many days. No house could contain the people that flocked to hear. We had to preach in the open streets to the anxious multitude. At night, after service, the cries and prayers of the distressed in many houses around were truly solemn. Almost the whole town and neighborhood were baptized and added to the Lord. We left this place and preached and baptized in many other places.”

Historian and author James DeForest Murch (Christians Only; p.91) adds that:

“… in Adams County [Stone] converted Matthew Gardener who became a giant in evangelism. In this area many churches sprang up which Stone visited every year for twenty years. In Meigs County, he went to baptize William Caldwell, with whom he had a long correspondence, and stayed to bring almost every Baptist church in the country into the ‘Christian Connection.'”

Stone and Dooley set out on this preaching expedition with precious few resources. Stone, in his journal, notes:

“We were poorly clad and had no money to buy clothes. Going on at a certain time through the barrens, a limb tore Brother Dooley’s striped linen pantaloons very much. He had no other, nor had I another pair to lend him. We consoled ourselves that we were on the Lord’s work and he would provide. He tied his handkerchief over the rent, and we went on and preached to the people. That night we lodged with Brother Samuel Wilson, whose wife presented Brother Dooley a pair of home-spun linen pantaloons.”

March 12

March 12, 1811 – At the age of twenty-three, Alexander Campbell, Sr. marries his first wife, Margaret Brown, who is twenty years of age.

Margaret (Brown) Campbell is the daughter of John & Eliza Ann (Grimes) Brown, John being is one of the most successful businessmen in that part of Virginia. Alexander and Margaret will enjoy sixteen years of marriage and the birth of four children (Jane Caroline, Alexander, Decima Hemans, and William Pendleton) before Margaret is taken away by death at the age of thirty-six in 1827. The inscription on her gravestone in the Campbell Cemetery in Bethany (Brooke County), West Virginia reads, in part:

She was in truth a good wife, a tender
mother, a faithful and affectionate friend.
She lived the life of a christian and died full
in the hope of a blessed resurrection unto Eternal Life.

The Last Lines she had sung declared her praise
and feeling in the prospect of death and the grave.

‘No terror the prospect begets,
I am not mortality’s slave;
The sunbeam of life as it sets,
Paints a rainbow of peace on the grave.’

The words of this song, The Angels That Watched Round the Tomb, were penned by William Bengo Collyer and first published by him in 1812. Years later in 1911, not many months before his own death, J.W. McGarvey will quote the words of this same song, in its entirety (eight stanzas), in a chapel talk to his students at the College of the Bible in Lexington, KY. Its meter is such that it could be sung today to the tune of Without Him I Could Do Nothing.

March 13

March 13, 1812 – At 3:00 p.m. today, Alexander & Margaret (Brown) Campbell welcome the birth of their firstborn child, a daughter. They name her after Alexander’s mother, Jane Caroline. Jane will grow up to marry (at age sixteen) Albert G. Ewing. She and Albert will make their home in Tennessee (Nashville) until Jane dies at the age of twenty-four of “consumption” (aka: tuberculosis; TB), the same illness that claimed her mother.

Alexander is twenty-four years of age at Jane’s birth. Robert Richardson, Alexander’s first biographer, tells us of the powerful effect Jane’s birth had on her father’s theology, particularly his understanding of soteriology:

“Soon after this event, a considerable change took place in his views in regard to baptism. His wife, with her father and mother, was still a member of the Presbyterian Church, and, as the child grew, it is natural to suppose that the question of infant baptism became to him one of immediate practical interest. It is certain, at least, that up to this period he does not appear to have given to the subject of baptism a sufficiently careful attention. The unity of the Church, the overthrow of sectarianism and the restoration of the Bible to its primitive position, had been the leading objects with him, and with his father; and, regarding the question of baptism as one comparatively of small importance, they seem to have left it, in a good degree, undecided in their own minds.” (Memoirs of Alexander Campbell)

March 14

March 14, 1854 – The man the famous statesman and orator Henry Clay once referred to as the finest natural orator he had ever heard, Jacob Creath, Sr., dies at the age of seventy-seven in Lexington, Kentucky.

Though having never attended school, Creath had been ordained as a Baptist preacher in 1798. His unusually fine speaking skills, coupled with great ability to just get along with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations, had lead to his being something of a force among Baptists in Kentucky. However, at the age of fifty (1827), nearly thirty of those years being invested in Baptist ministry, Creath left the Baptist Church for the Restoration Heritage. His decision, long in coming and filled with much soul-searching, resulted in a significant number of Kentucky Baptists following him into the Restoration.

Alexander Campbell, upon hearing now blind Creath preach in 1850 (Creath was totally blind the last seven years of his life), wrote of him in the Millenial Harbinger:

“Though his once brilliant eye is quenched in darkness and his subduing voice is broken into weak tones, he rises in his soul while nature sinks in years; and with a majesty of thought which naught but heaven and hope can inspire, he spoke to us a few last words, which so enraptured my soul, that in the ecstasy of feeling produced by them, when he closed there was silence in my heart for half an hour; and when I recovered myself, every word had so passed away that nothing remained but a melancholy reflection that I should never again hear that most eloquent tongue which had echoed for half a century through Northern Kentucky with such resistless sway as to have quelled the maddening strife of sectarian tongues and propitiated myriads of ears and hearts to the divine eloquence of Almighty love. Peace to his soul; and may his sun grow larger at its setting, as his soul expands in the high hope of seeing as he is seen, and of loving as he has been loved.”

Note: Jacob Creath, Sr. is not to be confused with Jacob Creath, Jr. (cf. the post for Jan. 9 in this series). The Jacob Creath, Sr. (1777-1854) spoken of in today’s post is the uncle, not the father, of Jacob Creath, Jr. (1799-1886).