on these days in the American Restoration Heritage: March 29 – April 4

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

March 29

March 29, 1859 – On this day, Leonard Daugherty is born. He becomes the music editor for the Christian Standard (Standard Publishing Co.) and will serve many years with them, compiling several songbooks commonly used among us from the 1890’s until the mid-twentieth century. He is an associate of James A. Harding and commonly conducts gospel meetings with Hall L. Calhoun (arguably J.W. McGarvey’s chief protege).

March 30

March 30, 1830 – On this day, someone – who addresses Alexander Campbell as “my dear brother” and who signs his name only as “F” – pens Campbell a letter. Campbell reproduces the letter in its entirety in his paper, Millenial Harbinger. A portion of the letter reads:

“Last evening I attended in this place a meeting of a Bible Class, composed chiefly of members, both old and young. I being pro. tem. the acting ‘Elder,’ was requested by the Deacons to take the lead. No chapter having been previously given out, I asked, What one shall we consider? Elder B____, (an Elder indeed, a blind teacher, 75 years old, who has been the leader of this people upwards of 30 years) named the 13th chapter of Luke. Very well, we all turned to this chapter. After prayer I remarked that I had before me a different translation from the one in common use; and as it was desirable that we should avail ourselves of every means in our power for coming to a right understanding of the Sacred Oracles, if the class would look over, I would read the chapter in Dr. George Campbell’s translation; after which we might note the difference, and profitably consider it. I read. The Elder sat uneasy. As soon as I got through he gave his mind unasked. ‘He was an old-fashioned sort of a man,’ he said, ‘and liked the old Bible better.’ He marked several differences. ‘There is “reform” for “repent,”‘ said he. ‘Now a person may reform, but that isn’t repentance. Repentance means something more. It is a very different thing. Evangelical repentance is a godly sorrow for sin,’ &c. &c. After speaking much against the New Translation, he called upon the Deacons to instruct me into the proper manner of conducting these meetings. I turned to them for instruction. They wished me to take my own way. I therefore proceeded to make some further remarks on this translation, to ask and answer, to hear asked and answered, questions upon the chapter.

“I will only add, if not deceived, I do ardently desire to see a pure speech, the ancient gospel, and ancient order of things, fully restored among the people of God. Yours in hope of immortality, through a crucified Savior – F.”

Sound familiar? Apparently, some things never change (e.g. – disagreements and disgruntlement over versions of the Bible, differences and tensions between generations, the view that the older ways were better ways, etc.).

* Also on this same day and year (March 30, 1830), David Statts (“D.S.”) Burnet marries Mary Gano. Mary is the youngest daughter of John Stites Gano and a cousin of John Allen Gano (who was mentioned in the March 24 post in this series).

It is interesting to note just how many of the leading figures of the earliest years of the Restoration Heritage are related to each other by blood and/or marriage. This seems to me, at least in the course of my research thus far, especially true of the second-generation of leaders (as might be expected). While I haven’t attempted to keep a tally, the number is not insignificant.

March 31

* March 31, 30 – The exact date of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ has been a matter of scholarly debate for centuries, and remains a question today. However, it is on this day in 30 A.D. that the Restoration Heritage scholar J.W. McGarvey believes Jesus died in Jerusalem at the hands of men for the sins of all of humanity and to defeat the powers of darkness. This date is recorded in The Fourfold Gospel, a work of J.W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton, first published in 1914 (three years after McGarvey’s death).

Interestingly, this date disagrees with the commonly held belief among the rank-and-file members of Churches of Christ that the crucifixion occurred in 33 A.D. In fact, a great many church buildings constructed by Churches of Christ in the 20th century will have affixed to them a plaque stating that the church of Christ was “established in 33 A.D.” Had McGarvey lived to see one of these signs (he died in 1911) he would surely have given it an eye-roll.

* March 31, 1881 – On this day J.M. Mathes, one of the earliest and most influential preachers in our heritage in the state of Indiana, has an article published in The Evangelist (the paper started by Walter Scott). The article is entitled “The Organ Once More” and speaks to the use of instrumental music in corporate worship. Mathes, watching a steady stream of churches in Indiana adopt the use of instruments, would rather have things otherwise, but despite such convictions, he refuses to make such a test of fellowship and continues to wok and worship with brethren on both sides of the aisle. He says:

“I am opposed to the organ in the worship, but make no factious opposition to it. I suffer no organ to drive me from my place in the church of Christ, nor from my duty as a disciple of Christ.”

Mathes‘ forbearance, as well as his valuing union over a particular stance on this issue, is intriguing. As for us today, whether we’re looking back into history or thinking of matters of the present day, we do well to keep more than just two colors on our palette with which to paint our understanding of things on the canvas of our mind. After all, which one of us sees everything in black and white? J.M. Mathes understood that well.

April 1

* April 1, 1807 – Thomas Campbell leaves Ireland and begins a roughly five-week journey to the United States. His intent is spy out the land, so to speak, and move his family to the States. His trip is prompted by health factors; his doctors are urging him to find a different occupation on account of the stress of (1) overwork and stress (he is a school teacher and a Presbyterian minister, greatly frustrated over the entrenched attitudes and pervasive disunity of his church tribe) and (2) to relocate to a climate more conducive to improvement in his health. Thomas acts on their advice and so, sets out on this journey alone, his wife and children remaining in Ireland for now. He leaves his son, nineteen year-old Alexander, in charge of the academy that he and Alexander have operated together at Rich Hill. It will be the fall of 1809 before Alexander, and the rest of Thomas’ family, arrives in the States.

All of this gives me pause to wonder: would any of us be doing anything close to what we’re doing these days in terms of faith if Thomas Campbell had simply acted like a great many of us guys – shrugging off, or postponing acting on, a doctor’s advice?

* April 1, 1834 – In a letter to Peyton C. Wyeth in England, Alexander Campbell speaks of his estimation of the current membership size, organization, and growth rate of those associated with the Stone-Campbell Movement in the United Sates. Campbell’s reply, in part, reads:

“From the best information I can gather, there are about one hundred and fifty thousand brethren in the Reformation in the United States: but of those there may not be organized into churches more than from five to eight hundred into churches. Many of them are large – from one to four hundred members – many from fifty to one hundred. But the revival has been very great. Since you left us last year, there could not be less than ten thousand immersed in the United States and Canada.”

John Allen Hudson records this matter in his book entitled The Church in Great Britain.

April 2

April 2, 1841 – It is Barton W. Stone’s understanding of Scripture that Christian union will usher in Christ’s return. And it is today that his dream of a grand meeting of leaders from across the spectrum of Christendom to discuss Christian unity and to bring an end to sectarian strife is finally realized.

Depressingly so. For though the gathering’s objective is to be “a convention of all denominations of Christians” in the state of Kentucky with Alexander Campbell being one of the chief speakers, it is poorly attended.

Knocked down, but not out, Stone gets up, regroups, and takes another run at organizing the same sort of event two years later in 1843 … with even worse results. At that time, not enough people even commit to be representatives for the convention to make.

Stone is broken-hearted, but not in despair; he continues to hold on tight to his dream of Christian unity, even though now he is much more muted about it. He dies the following year (1844).

April 3

April 3, 1826 – Alexander Campbell writes in the Christian Baptist regarding some of his relationship with his father, Thomas, and also how he seeks to be his own man when it comes to understanding the Bible.

“I call no man master upon the earth; and although my own father has been a diligent student, and a teacher of the Christian religion since his youth; and in my opinion, understands this book as well as any person with whom I am acquainted, yet there is no man whom I have debated more, and reasoned more, on all subjects, than he – I have been so long disciplined in the school of free inquiry, that, if I know my own mind, there is not a man upon the earth whose authority can influence me, any farther than he comes with the authority of evidence, reason, and truth. To arrive at this state of mind is the result of many experiments and efforts; and to me has been arduous beyond expression. I have endeavored to read the Scriptures as though no one had read them before me and I am as much on my guard against reading them today, through the medium of my own views yesterday, or a week ago, as I am against being influenced by any foreign name, authority, or system whatever.”

This is one of those quotes that make me wish I could step into a time transport machine and be whisked back to the moment this statement was penned and engage the author in a brief conversation. I imagine myself standing beside Alexander, looking over his shoulder at the paper and pen, and then remarking (perhaps speaking in some way as they did then):

“Do you mean to say, sir, that such an effort is practical and essential? Do you actually believe it is wholly possible for an individual to read any portion of Scripture at all and simultaneously be completely devoid of influence by others? It seems to me that such a task can, yea, must, be a lofty, indeed, necessary, goal, but ultimately, it cannot ever be fully realized or attained. No man completely knows the exact depth of the deep waters of his own mind, does he? We all are subtly and unconsciously influenced by a multitude of others, past and present, most of whom we did not, nor ever will, know. It seems to me this is as sure a fact as the fact that we are influenced by the sunlight falling on this very page now anchored by your palm, even though we cannot see the sun directly. And so, if in stating the matter here as you just have, you actually mean to say that such a stance in attitude is a noble and necessary ‘goal,’ please add a sentence here and say so. To the point: is this mind you seek something you shoot for, though you know you are inadequate to the task and will inevitably fall short, or is it something you believe you shoot with, absolutely essential to hitting the mark? For the sake of all who seek truth, please state for us the fact of the matter.”

Oh, to hear how he would respond!

April 4

April 4, 1825 – As Alexander Campbell continues his article series in the Christian Baptist entitled “A Restoration of the Ancient Order of Things,” he makes the following statements:

“I have no idea of seeing, nor one wish to see the sects unite in one grand army. This would be dangerous to our liberties and laws. For this the Savior did not pray. It is only the disciples of Christ dispersed amongst them, that reason and benevolence would call out of them. Let them unite who love the Lord …

“… the constitution of the kingdom of the Saviour is the New Testament, and this alone is adapted to the existence of his kingdom in the world. To restore the ancient order of things this must be recognized as the only constitution of this kingdom. …”

“When the ancient order of things is restored, neither more nor less will be demanded of any applicant for admission into the kingdom, than was asked by Philip. And every man who solicits admission in this way – who solemnly declares that, upon the testimony and authority of the holy apostles and prophets, he believes that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God, should forthwith be baptized without respect to any questions or dogmas derived wither from written creeds or church covenants.”