on these days in the American Restoration Heritage: June 7-13

Among the things that happened on this week in American Restoration Heritage history:

June 7

June 7, 1838 – Today, a preacher gets a hearing – while losing much of his own.

The Stone-Campbell movements have now been officially unified as one for the past six years. And today, in Indianapolis, Indiana, a gathering of Restoration Heritage churches gets under way. No less than one hundred and fifty churches are represented by those present. Naturally, this is deeply gratifying and thrilling to the featured speaker, Barton W. Stone. He addresses the crowd five times during the course of this six-day meeting (June 7-12).

However, during the course of this conference, Stone inexplicably suffers a sudden and significant loss of hearing. His health had been seriously challenged by illness two years previous, but he had long since made a full recovery. Three years from now he will suffer a stroke and be partially paralyzed, but he will make a full recovery from that, too. However, Stone will never regain any of the hearing he loses during this week’s conference. In fact, he will steadily lose much of the hearing he has left during his six remaining years of his life, a hard blow to one who has helped so many hear the good news of Christ.

June 8

June 8, 1814 – Never underestimate the power of granddaughters.

The three year-old Brush Run Church is located in Washington County, Pennsylvania (near the southwestern corner of the state) and Alexander Campbell has been its preacher for the past two-and-a-half years. Alexander, having resolved when he entered ministry to never accept money from a church for his work, serves the church “for free.” He had gone against his father’s advice when he had made that decision, and so, his father (Thomas) had predicted that Alexander would wear many a tattered coat through the course of his days. Thus far, Thomas’ prediction has proven correct; Alexander is anything but a prosperous man and his father can do precious little about it.

Now, to the west, in neighboring (eastern) Ohio, opportunities for growth are developing. Consequently, many of the members of the Brush Run Church have their heads turned that way, so much so that they’re seriously considering relocating the church to Zanesville, Ohio (a hundred miles to the west). And today, the little church votes on that very matter. Their decision? Move to Ohio.

Now at this time, Alexander and his wife, Margaret (Brown) Campbell, have been married just over three years. They have two children: two year-old Jane and eight month-old Eliza. Margaret’s father, fifty-two year-old John Brown [no, not that John Brown] is a very well-to-do farmer and carpenter who owns no small amount of land in several places. Margaret is the apple of his eye and his two young granddaughters have a hold on his heart. To say that he is disheartened by the thought of them moving far off is an understatement.

And so, John makes Alexander an offer he can’t refuse: he’ll give Alexander a 140 acre farm in nearby Bethany, Virginia (about ten miles from Brush Run) if he’ll just not make the move to Ohio.

When all is said and done, Alexander and his family are set for life with a farm in Bethany, the church doesn’t move … and John Brown gets to keep bouncing his two granddaughters on his knees far more often than might have been. Land for granddaughters; good trade. And especially so since John will outlive his daughter, Margaret (who dies in 1827 at the age of 36) and one of these two granddaughters, Jane (who dies in 1834 at the age of 22).

June 9

June 9, 1851 – I say, preacher, when are you ever going to get around to talking about dancing … and how on earth are you going to do it?

Today, a frustrated John Rogers pens Alexander Campbell a letter, a portion of which reads:

“It is now seven years since I felt myself called upon, in view of the increasing disposition to frivolity in our churches, to prepare and publish a discourse against dancing, as an amusement. … most certainly it is still on the increase in this section of Kentucky. … ‘Watchman, what of the night?’ I call upon you, my dear Bro. Campbell, in the name of God – the the name of the crucified one – in the name of poor, bleeding Zion; upon Bros. Richardson, Pendleton, and every editor and every scribe who can lift a pen, and every orator in this Reformation, to speak out in a voice of thunder, and say, O say! is this the goal to which you have been driving the car of this Reformation! … to introduce … the elegant, healthful, inoffensive, improving practice of social dancing into our families! …

“Bro. Campbell, more than a year ago I wrote you in reference to some of these matters, and urged you strongly to present your views concerning them. You promised me you would; but a press of business, I suppose, has prevented. … Are Christian parents to be allowed to send their children to dancing school, and have social dancing in their houses? Is the church to tolerate and encourage all this? Circus going, card playing, as an amusement – theatre going, and all kindred practices? Give us, my dear brother, your best thoughts on this subject.”

Campbell publishes Rogers’ letter in the August 1851 issue of the Millennial Harbinger (MH) and responds:

“The subject laid before us in the above communication from its excellent author, merits our profound consideration and that of all the brethren. We will attend to it in our next. – A.C.”

Campbell does just that in the September 1851 issue of the MH (pp.503-507). He confesses that he has not:

“… for more than forty and five years, seen a dance [Campbell is 63 years of age at this time], and but once before that, (having been, by mere accident, precipitated in its midst;) and, still more unfortunate, having, during its progress, fallen most profoundly asleep, acquired no accurate knowledge of the curious affair.”

To fill in his gap in understanding, Campbell then turns to Webster’s dictionary and references to dancing in the Bible “to make amends” for his “shameful ignorance of the mystery.” Having done so, he continues:

“… in New Testament manners and customs, in evangelical ordinances and usages, the word, nor the idea of dancing, is not found. ‘Is any one merry,’ says the Apostle James, ‘let him dance.’ That is an Episcopalian Testament. It is not our version of it. We read it by authority of King James, ‘Is any merry, let him sing psalms.’ He does not say let him dance. Still, if I saw a Christian man or woman hymning or singing psalms and dancing, I could not condemn him, because I read of one so joyful in the Lord that he entered into the temple walking, and leaping, and praising God. …

“But why introduce Bible authorities in this case? Who claims precedent in Holy Writ for courtly balls and midnight masquerades? Surely no disciple of Christ!! To play the fool at a masquerade, is no very honorable amusement for a saint or sinner. … Why look to Paris, the metropolis of atheism, sensuality and crime, for any other fashion or custom than those which drown men in destruction and perdition? I would say, if need there be, to every brother in the land, ‘Lift up your voice like a trumpet, cry aloud and spare not. Show Israel their transgressions and Jacob their sins:’ for because of these things ‘iniquity abounds – the love of many waxes cold.'”

June 10

June 10, 1880 – Today, as both a close friend and fellow brother in Christ within the Restoration Heritage, Jeremiah Sullivan Black writes a letter to James A. Garfield. At the time, Garfield is running for nomination as the Republican candidate for the office of the President of the United States. Jerry Rushford continues the story, and as he does so, he quotes an excerpt from Black’s letter to Garfield:

“Another Disciple who could not conscientiously give his support to the Garfield candidacy was Jeremiah Sullivan Black. When Black heard the news of Garfield’s nomination, he was torn between old Democratic loyalties and his strong personal friendship with Garfield. But he could not bring himself to vote for the Republican party.

“‘I am sure that if elected you will try your best to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God,’ he wrote Garfield. ‘But to a certain extent you are bound to fail, for in our country the leader of a party is like the head of a snake—it can only go as the tail impels it , and your tail will be a very perverse one.’

“When Black was called upon to campaign for the Democratic ticket, he willingly complied. In the heat of the closely contested race, Black took the stump aggressively against Garfield.”

Garfield replies:

“I know how grounded you are in the ways of political thinking which seem to you just and for the highest good of your country — and so all the more for that reason I prize your words of personal kindness. … Succeeding or failing I shall none the less honor your noble character, great intellect, and equally great heart.”

And Rushford tells us the rest of the story:

“When the Credit Mobilier scandal [of 1872] became an issue [just a little later] in the campaign, Black testified that Garfield had actually held stock in the company and had received dividends as well. This accusation seriously damaged the Garfield-Black friendship. They never saw or wrote to one another again.”

[Aside: Garfield faces William H. Hancock, another former Union General of the Civil War, as his Democratic opponent in the 1880 Presidential election. Hancock’s running mate (for Vice-President) is William H. English. English had edged out Richard M. Bishop in the bid for the VP nomination and Bishop, like Garfield and Black, was a fellow Christian within the Restoration Heritage.]

June 11

June 11, 1835 – Today, the tension between the kingdom that is not of this world and the kingdoms that are of this world manifests itself in the life of a man.

Today, in Overton County, Tennessee, William Harrison Fleming is born to a veteran of the War of 1812 and his wife, William & Mary (Hall) Fleming. God grants son William seventy-five years of life. In 1859, at the age of twenty-four, he marries. The following year he is baptized into Christ and, soon after, decides to become a preacher. However, before he can take up preaching, the passions that flame up into the Civil War build and on July 30, 1861, Fleming chooses to enlist as a Corporal in Co. B of the CSA, 25th Tennessee Infantry Regiment. Just short of a year later (August 10, 1862) he is simultaneously transferred to Co. D and promoted to serve as its Captain.

During the war the 25th will experience some of the worst the war has to offer. In January, 1862, the 25th reports that it has six hundred and eighty-three men present for duty. During the Battle of Murfreesboro (aka: Stone’s River; Dec. 31, 1862 – Jan. 3, 1863), over one-third of the 25th’s men become casualties. Nine months later at Chickamauga (September 19-20, 1863) the regiment loses so many of its men (nearly forty percent) that it is necessary to consolidate those who remain with those of the 44th Tennessee. [Chickamauga is the Civil War’s second bloodiest battle. In it the 25th is a part of Fulton’s Brigade, a force that engages John T. Wilder’s famed “Lightning Brigade’ at the Log School House on the first day of battle. During the battle’s second day of fighting, the 25th engages, among others, W.C. Whitaker’s command at Horseshoe Ridge. Many of Whitaker‘s troops are from Ohio and a percentage of them are a part of the Restoration Heritage. Whitaker himself is a graduate of Bethany College (though he spends this day “deep in his cups ” [drunk]). And, during the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff (aka: Fort Darling; May 12, 1864) the 25th/44th again loses over a third of its men.

At the time of the 25/44th’s surrender in April 1865 only four officers and twenty-one men are present.

Regarding Fleming’s service in the military, H. Leo Boles writes (in 1930):

“He was reputed to be a gallant soldier who commanded the respect of his fellow soldiers and superior officers. The scenes of a soldier’s life were registered vividly upon his mind, and he never forgot the hardships which he and his comrades had to endure.”

“Scenes” and hardships.” Such understatement for man’s inhumanity to man.

After the war, Fleming returns to his wife, Martha, and to farming and, in 1868, begins to preach. Boles tells us something of his ministry:

“He preached in Kentucky, Texas, and Tennessee. However, most of his work was done in Tennessee, in the counties of Jackson, Overton, Clay, Putnam, Pickett, Fentress, and White. … Brother Fleming was a farmer by occupation. He cultivated his farm and made his support for himself and family on his farm. He received very little for his preaching and expected nothing. … Brother Fleming worked through the week during ‘crop time’ and preached on Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes he would ride horseback more than twenty miles on Sunday morning and preach twice on Sunday, and return home the same night and be ready for his farm work early Monday morning. … Brother Fleming baptized hundreds of people, and is said to have married more couples than any other preacher in that part of the country.”

Fleming dies in 1910. His body is interred in the cemetery of Flat Creek Church of Christ in Overton, Tennessee. The stone is the most prominent one in the cemetery, located close to the center of it and towering over all of the other stones. A person is naturally drawn to it by its appearance to take special note of it; however, it is not grandly adorned. Other than the text of inscriptions, a single image is engraved on it: an open Bible. And like many gravestones, aside from the usual listing of name, birth, and death, a quote is included. However, the quote on W.H.’s grave are the words of Scripture (2 Timothy 4.7-8a):

“I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course
I have kept the faith
henceforth there is laid up
for me a crown of
righteousness.”

Another Scripture quotation is included for W.H.’s wife, Martha (d. 1933). The words are those of Jesus in Matthew 5.8:

“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”

From what is included – and what is not – on the Fleming family gravestone it is quite clear exactly which kingdom and which battles in life the Flemings wanted emphasized and remembered should a person stands at their grave: life, death, and the word of God. The utter simplicity of it and the emphasis on the rule of God “preaches” still.

However, many years later, no doubt with many good intentions, some well-meaning soul(s) added something to the grave, something Fleming and his immediate family had deliberately elected not to include: a large bronze marker noting W.H.’s allegiance to the Confederacy, his military rank, and unit. Indeed, a small Confederate flag often adorns the site. And so, at least as it seems to me, the subject has been changed; changed from pointing toward the holy and good deeds of God to the horrific and deadly deeds of men. And so, the struggle between kingdoms continues. And so, let us preach the word, the good news of peace.

June 12

June 12, 1812 – Today, a church witnesses the baptism of their preacher and six others.

In Buffalo Creek, Washington County, Pennsylvania, about noon today, Thomas & Jane (Corneigle) Campbell, Alexander & Margaret (Brown) Campbell, Dorothea Campbell, and James & Sarah Hanen (Henon), are immersed by a Baptist minister, Matthias Luse (Luce). Most of the members of the Brush Run Church, as well as a large number of others “attracted by the novelty of the occasion,” witness the event. The following excerpt from Robert Richardson’s Memoirs of Alexander Campbell gives us a glimpse into the moment.

“[In days prior to their baptisms, Thomas] … suggested … that in view of the public position they [Thomas and Alexander] occupied as religious teachers and advocates of reformation, it would be proper that the matter should be publicly announced and attended to amongst the people to whom they had been accustomed to preach; and he requested Alexander to get Mr. Luce … at whatever time might be appointed.

“[As everyone was gathered for the baptisms] … Thomas Campbell thought it proper to present, in full, the reasons which had determined his course. In a very long address, he accordingly reviewed the entire ground which he had occupied, and the struggles that he had undergone in reference to the particular subject of baptism, which he had earnestly desired to dispose of, in such a manner, that it might be no hindrance in the attainment of that Christian unity which he had labored to establish upon the Bible alone. In endeavoring to do this, he admitted that he had been led to overlook its importance, and the very many plain and obvious teachings of the Scriptures on the subject; but having at length attained a clearer view of duty, he felt it incumbent upon him to submit to what he now plainly saw was an important Divine institution. Alexander afterward followed in an extended de fence of their proceedings, urging the necessity of submitting implicitly to all God’s commands, and showing that the baptism of believers only, was authorized by the Word of God. …”

“Alexander … stipulated with … Luce that the ceremony should be performed precisely according to the pattern given in the New Testament, and that, as there was no account of any of the first converts being called upon to give what is called a ‘religious experience,’ this modern custom should be omitted, and that the candidates should be admitted on the simple confession that ‘Jesus is the Son of God. …’

“The meeting, it is related, continued about seven hours …”

“At the next meeting of the church of Brush Run, which was on the Lord’s day [Sunday, June 16] succeeding the baptism of the seven, thirteen other members … requested immersion, which was accordingly administered by Thomas Campbell, each one making the simple confession of Christ as the Son of God. On subsequent occasions, some others came forward in like manner, so that the great majority of the church speedily consisted of immersed believers, upon which, the other individuals who had been in the Association abandoned the cause, being unwilling to follow the reformatory movement any further. …

“Immersion had been unanimously adopted as the only true scriptural baptism; infant baptism had been finally and absolutely rejected as a human invention, and the simple confession of Christ, made by the early converts to Christ, was acknowledged as the only requirement which could be scripturally demanded of those who desired to become members of the Church.”

These baptisms are not the first for Brush Run Church members. On July 4 the preceding year (1811), Thomas Campbell had baptized Abraham Alters, Joseph Bryant, and Margaret Fullerton in Buffalo Creek.

Earlier today, one of those previously baptized, Joseph Bryant, had received word that war had been declared on Great Britain and that a muster of volunteers was to take place. Bryant had ridden off to be a part of this muster, only to learn on his arrival that the word is false (the declaration of war will not occur for another two weeks yet). Galloping back to Buffalo Creek, he arrives in time to hear just a bit of preaching before witnessing the baptisms. One of those baptized, seventeen year-old Dorothea, is one of Alexander Campbell’s little sisters … and Bryant’s future wife.

June 13

June 13, 1803 – Today, a man is born who rises to mightily influence many who will touch the lives of far many more.

Today, Benjamin Franklin (“B.F.”) Hall is born in Nicholas County, Kentucky. During the course of his years of ministry, Hall, among other things, influences John Mulkey and Barton W. Stone on the matter of baptism being “for the remission of sins,” is instrumental in the baptism of Tolbert Fanning (the future editor of the Gospel Advocate) and John A. Gano (father of R.M. Gano), mentors Mansel W. Matthews (a fellow dentist, Sam Houston’s physician, and a preacher in north Texas), plants the Restoration Heritage in Little Rock, AR, keeps company with men like Alexander Campbell, T.W. Caskey, and Jacob Creath, Jr., and becomes a long-time, close friend of Collin McKinney (planter of many Restoration churches in north Texas).

However, between grave financial difficulties, a torturous second marriage that ends in divorce, and his spirit during the Civil War that can perhaps best be described as macabre, his influence for good becomes seriously crippled and wanes through the years. In his autobiography, Hall laments:

“Owing to my second marriage my life has been a sad disappointment.”

Hall’s fascinating autobiography is available for reading online.

[cf. the post for March 7 in this series for more on B.F. Hall]