Among the things that happened this past week in the American Restoration Heritage history:
April 26, 1885 – Two months after her death at the age of fifty-three, a women’s missionary society in the Restoration Heritage today honors the memory of the first female editor of a paper within our tribe. Over the course of 20+ years, Marcia Melissa (Bassett) Goodwin had edited several papers: The Christian Monitor (the first paper among us designed exclusively for women), Mother’s Monitor, Ladies Christian Monitor, Christian Companion, and Missionary Tidings.
Marcia was married twice. Her first husband, Orson Rodolphus Colgrove, a sheriff, was murdered in 1869, the chief suspects in the case being the Ku Klux Klan. Her second husband, Elijah Goodwin, was a quite influential pioneer evangelistic preacher in our heritage in Indiana, well known for his skills in persuasion. And yet, Elijah struggled with how a lack of deep unity among us often impaired our witness. He once put it like this:
“We have said more on this subject than any other people during the last quarter of a century, and yet we do not exhibit to the world any more of that union than we ought.”
April 27, 1865 – Today, the worst maritime disaster in the history of the United States takes place on the flood-swollen Mississippi River and it’s all about greed. Some of those killed are of the Restoration Heritage, as are some of those who survive, and it is a family with deep roots in the Restoration Heritage that is instrumental in saving the lives of no small number of the survivors.
The U.S. government is offering money for safe passage of every Union soldier recently liberated from Confederate POW camps in the South to Northern soil. The amount offered is five dollars per enlisted man and ten dollars for each officer. The greed of a Union officer with a strong say as to the transport of the men, Lt. Colonel Reuben Hatch, and the Captain of the steamboat Sultana, J. Cass Mason, leads to the placement of 2,350 people (2,150 of them ex-POWs) on a craft rated to safely ferry less than 400. On this trip, literally every available square foot of room on the ship is occupied by human flesh.
During the trip up river, just a few miles north of Memphis, Tennessee, one of the Sultana‘s boilers, hastily patched up recently rather than truly repaired, explodes. The explosion of that boiler is quickly followed by the explosion of two more. As a result, whether due to the effects of the explosions, the ensuing fires, or by drowning in the waters of the mighty Mississippi, 1,800 of the 2,350 aboard die. Captain Mason is among the dead.
The vast majority of the ex-POWs aboard the Sultana are from states in which members of Restoration Heritage churches are numerous: Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Consequently, a number of the fatalities, as well as the survivors, are of our tribe. For example, we know that John C. Maddex of the U.S., 54th Indiana Infantry is one of those who survives today’s disaster and it is Maddex, who, years after the war, is a founding member of a Restoration Heritage church in Paynesville, Indiana.
While rescue efforts come to pass through the efforts of many, no small number of those who survive are saved through the efforts of members of a well-known Restoration Heritage family in that area, the Bartons, who are also married into another Restoration Heritage family, the Edmunds.
April 28, 1772 – Abner Jones, a man born today in Royalton (Worcester County), Massachusetts, reminds us to not be too smug about our religious ancestors. Those who comprised the leadership and membership of the Stone-Campbell Movement are anything but alone in attempts in the United Sates in the 1800’s to “restore primitive Christianity.” To leave man-made traditions and to seek Scripture alone as guide does not mean people will arrive at the same understanding of Scripture or the same practice of expression of Christian faith. The ministry of Abner Jones, an associate by the name of Elias Smith, and the “Christian Connection” alone is proof enough of the point.
In 1791, years before the Stone-Campbell Movement grows legs and in an entirely different neck of the woods (New England), Abner Jones takes up preaching. However, as he preaches, he seeks to be “just a Christian,” totally free and independent of denominational creeds, doctrines, and ties. In his quest to do such, Jones jettison’s his Calvinist upbringing, including such matters as unconditional election and predestination. He plants several churches and these churches establish ties with each other, becoming known simply as the “Christian Connection.” Elias Smith assists in the development of this ministry, but will eventually leave the Christian Connection in 1817 to join the Universalist faith.
In years to come, Christian Connection churches often sprout up in the same fields that Stone-Campbell churches are often found growing. However, while those of the Christian Connection share a number of things in common with the Stone-Campbell churches, matters both great and small, they differ enough that they do not unite. They both seek to be independent of man-made teaching and to be guided solely by Scripture, but they approach the process differently and so, arrive at different conclusions One example of difference is that Christian Connection churches are not minded to practice weekly communion, practicing quarterly observance instead, something Stone-Campbell churches cannot abide.
As time rolls on, the Christian Connection evolves. Ultimately, it merges with the Congregational Church in 1931 and then later with the Evangelical and Reformed Church in 1957, and so, comes to form the group known today as the United Church of Christ.
April 29, 1820 – Today, a man is born in New York who will come to offer the church a unique evangelistic tool, and it is the very production of this tool that perhaps reveals to us some of the state of mind of not just that man, but a large portion of a movement. The man’s name is Montgomery C. (“M.C.”) Tiers and he will become a preacher within the Restoration Heritage.
Remarkably, it is during the third year of the American Civil War (1864) that Tiers edits and publishes a 289 page book entitled The Christian Portrait Gallery: Consisting of Historical and Biographical Sketches and Photographic Portraits of Christian Preachers and Others. Of course, given the war, there would be no chance for such a work to originate in the South, much less for it to acquire any real success in terms of circulation there. This work is published in the North, in Cincinnati, Ohio, with expectations of its widest circulation being in the North.
Close to forty pages of text open the work and attempt to sketch with words something of what Restoration Heritage churches are about; what life as member of such a church is like. For example, the work contains the following snapshot of precisely how, as we say today, people “officially place membership” with a specific congregation:
“As soon as expedient after immersion, the new disciple is expected to present himself to some particular congregation for membership; and he is received into the communion of the Church by the right hand of fellowship, presented by either one of the elders in behalf of the congregation, or by the entire membership in person. The latter is the usual method, but there are some exceptions in favor of the former.”
The textual portrait of Restoration Heritage church life is followed by pictures and textual abstracts of sixty preachers, none of whom are under the age of forty. Who to include, and who not to include, in such a work? Some of the preachers who make appearance are people we would expect to see, their names still instantly recognized by many today (e.g. – Alexander Campbell, Sr., Thomas Campbell, Walter Scott, Barton W. Stone, Sr., etc.). Naturally, others are figures not nearly so well remembered now (e.g. – A. Chatterton, George Elley, Almon B. Green, Eleazar Parmlay, etc.). Doing so politely, without naming names, Tiers notes in the book’s preface: “One or two well-known brethren, whose prominent positions and increasing influence are highly appreciated by the writer, as they are by brethren at large, have, after repeated importunities, ‘respectfully declined’ representation among ‘distinguished brethren.'”
I find Tiers’ book intriguing. Not so much for its content, but for its approach … and what it might be saying about the times in which the book appeared. Is it possible that Tiers’ book includes more pictures than Tiers intended to share? That is, is it simply an evangelistic tool best used in the hands of those who are a bit more well-to-do with those who, being yet to believe, are also a bit more well off in society (i.e. – a tool the well-heeled and/or prosperous can use to reach the skeptical prosperous)? Or does this book’s very existence also portray a growing desire on the part of Restoration Heritage members for more respectability in society, representing a distinct turn from standing against culture to a stance seeking more acceptance by it? Is there a growing restless in the Restoration Heritage, at least in the northern half of the country at that time, to make sure that those with whom they interact know that they are not composed of merely – to borrow a phrase from the KJV in Acts 4.13 – “unlearned and ignorant men?”
The work is clearly at pains at times to “dress up” the Heritage’s preachers in finer duds. For example, while “Raccoon” John Smith is included among the sixty, his nickname is not published, but reads instead (perhaps in our eyes today even worse!), “R***** John Smith.” And, in several remarks in the preface, Tiers is quite revealing, the following serving as an example:
“… this work is written with reference to its influence on the ‘uninformed’ world, rather than of the Church. I have desired to let the ‘world’ know, what I am entirely conscious is the fact, that the Gospel which we preach has not been received simply by the ignorant, illiterate, and rude of this generation, but that many of the highly-gifted and influential of our age have been constrained, by the weight of the evidence, to yield assent to its claims, and to devote themselves to ministry. Feeling conscious of this, I am willing and desirous that the character and extent of our success as a people shall be made known everywhere through the persons, lives, and characters of those who have been the instruments.”
Is such an approach a good one? Or is it one of the reasons some “well-known brethren … respectfully declined” to participate? We’re left to wonder, but it is not at all difficult to imagine the possibilities.
And so, we’re moved to ask today: can efforts to extend the good news of Christ to others actually be motivated by, and morph into, the bad news of the church seeking the world’s acceptance … and the church being utterly blind to it in all in the process? And if so, when and where exactly is the tipping point reached, and how can we discern its placement, lest we possibly go past the point of no return?
April 30, 1863 – Today, a preacher preaches a strong word that still needs to be heard.
“The rude and denunciatory style of political discussion, the irreverent and oft-times slanderous attacks on our rulers – such as the Bible will not allow to be employed against the devil himself* – ought to be religiously discountenanced. Prayer, earnest and affectionate, should be constantly offered for those in authority, particularly in these perilous times.”
So preached Isaac Errett today – a Thursday – to all assembled in a Restoration Heritage church building in Detroit, Michigan. Errett’s sermon is entitled “The Claims of Civil Government” and the occasion is the fact that today, by resolution of the U.S. Senate and by proclamation of the President, Abraham Lincoln, is a day “set apart … for National prayer and humiliation.” The proclamation reads:
“Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.
“And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
“And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
“It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
“Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
“All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.
“In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. …
“By the President: Abraham Lincoln
“William H. Seward, Secretary of State.”
It must be remembered in our time, that at that time, in many quarters, not merely the South, Lincoln was anything but popular. Indeed, he was despised by many in the North. That revulsion and hatred will grow all the more bitter and intense the following year (1864) as Lincoln signs off on “total warfare” (i.e. – General Sherman’s infamous “March to the Sea“). Even the one who signed this proclamation with him, William Seward, frequently and vigorously – some might say viciously – disagreed with him and opposed him. One need only peruse the political cartoons of the time to get a feel for the sort of speech that was common on the street … the very sort of speech upon which Errett took careful aim and fired.
Wouldn’t you like to know how Errett’s words were received and if they drew any return fire? What sort of personal price, great or small, did Errett pay to say such, if any? I don’t know, though I do know his sermon is still in publication in paperback today. And wouldn’t you really like to know if anyone really changed their words and ways as a result of Errett’s sermon? But, God alone knows. I like to think that even if Errett had known ahead of time the worst possible scenario, that these words would fall on deaf ears and no one would make any change at all, he would still have proclaimed them.
And so, three questions come to mind. (1) Are we preachers today as quick, clear, and courageous as Errett to confront similar sin from our pulpit when we know that many of our people daily mock and revile President Barak Obama, and/or other government authorities? (2) If we heard such words in a sermon, could/would we truly hear them deeply, and then go on to change our spirit and speech? (3) Would we strongly encourage and support our preacher in speaking to us words of truth forthrightly, in love, on every subject, including this one?
* May 1, 1866 – The founding editor of what is to become the flagship publication of our heritage tells us why the paper exists.
Today, Tolbert Fanning reveals to us the driver behind the publication of the Gospel Advocate (GA). Fanning founded the GA and served as its editor from its start in 1855 until November 1861, at which time the Civil War caused it to shut down for a time. When the GA resumed publication in 1866, Fanning co-edited the paper with David Lipscomb. In the GA, Fanning tells us:
“The fact that we had not a single paper known to us that the Southern people could read without having their feelings wounded by political insinuations and slurs, had more to do with calling the Advocate into existence, than all other circumstances combined.”
* May 1, 1870 – Church raffles, lotteries, and auctions are innocent, harmless affairs, actually even helpful, to a church, right?
“Wrong!” says “C.C.L.” in an article appearing in The Millenial Harbinger under the title “Religious Fairs.” After a lengthy quotation of condemnation of such by a secular paper, C.C.L. adds his own remarks, some of which read:
“It is sad to think that with many Christian people, and in many churches, the scandalous exhibition of raffling, lotteries, mock auctions, or real ones, selling things often utterly useless or ten times their sale value, together with the endless, ridiculous maneuvers, chicaneries and trumperies, – are not in themselves sufficient to show the utter unfitness of such practices in the church, or for the purposes of the church of Christ. …
“It is the old strategy of the temptation in the wilderness over again – evermore repeated through the ages. Every ingenious device is to be borrowed from the world and used to make up for the deficiencies of the divine arrangements, in order to make religion more attractive and more successful than the New Testament order makes it. We see this all around, and often very near us. – We will not ‘assist,’ as the French say, that is, give our presence and countenance, at the unlawful marriage of the church and the world … or pray over it. We find daily more and more, that what is needed – we say we feel it, – is a strong, vigilant resistance against the besieging temptation of worldliness around the gates of the church.”
Who is C.C.L.? The man Alexander Campbell considered to be the finest student/scholar with whom he ever had dealings in his school, Bethany College: Charles Louis Loos.
May 2, 1611 – Which translation of the Bible is a preacher or teacher to use, and should its acceptance, or lack thereof, help determine the selection? Is there “a right one” and just who is to hold court to decide the matter?
Today, the version of the Bible that those of us with a few gray hairs have heard some of our fellow church members say “was good enough for Jesus and the apostles and so, should be good enough for us today,” makes its publishing debut.
One of the factors that helps the King James Version of the Bible (KJV) to ascend to dominance in the field is that it is deliberately translated for how it will sound when read aloud. That is, one of its translators’ foremost concerns is that it is worded in such a way as to strongly appeal to the ear. Further, the translators choose to utilize many words no longer commonly in use during their time (e.g. – “thou,” “sayeth,” etc.). Why? So as to help convey the impression that the Bible is indeed an old authority, lest their fresh rendering of it be perceived as “some new thing” and be rejected.
However, the KJV is largely rejected during its first few decades of existence; the older and well-established Geneva Bible is perceived as better than this new creation. However, the KJV eventually ascends to the translation throne and secures it from any potential rivals. Its reign is measured not in decades, but centuries.
Now language is a very fluid thing; it is constantly changing. And by 1826, the English language has changed a great deal since the time of the KJV’s first publication. Those of the Restoration Heritage are not immune to the effects of this change and so, when Alexander Campbell edits and publishes the New Testament known as the Living Oracles (LO), he does so largely out of frustration with how the KJV’s language has come to obscure the meaning of Scripture. But, similar to the KJV, the LO is not widely adopted by the rank-and file members of the Restoration Heritage, even though it is often utilized by preachers and respected church leaders. No small number of folks in the crowds and in the pews are somewhat suspicious of, even rebellious against, any change in which version of the Bible appears to hold sway.
One example will suffice. John Augustus Williams, an early chronicler of the experiences of pioneer preacher “Racoon” John Smith, tells us of some of the trials Smith faced – literally – because he dared to make use of something other than the KJV:
“For the mere reading of that book [LO] John Smith was arraigned before the North District Association in 1827. He was formally charged not only with reading it in his family, but actually quoting it from the pulpit. During the discussion of that serious charge, some of the good old preachers present declared King James’ Bible to be the only true word of God. John Smith in reply expressed his deep sympathy for the poor Dutch, who consequently had no word of God among them, and could not read it if they had. A prominent clergyman had, just before this, obtained a copy of the book, and, having read it, atoned for his offense by piously burning it to ashes.”
Some things never change – including the natural tendency to resist change.
Among the things that happened this past week in American Restoration Heritage history …
Feb. 15, 1915 – Lew Wallace dies at his home in Crawfordville, Illinois at the age of eighty-seven. While experiencing a great deal in life, Wallace is best known to us today as the author of the novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. Though firmly convinced of Jesus’ humanity and deity, Wallace never claimed, or attempted to make, any connection with any earthly expression of church. However, the Restoration Heritage left its mark on Wallace as a youth.
Well, sort of.
Wallace’s mother (Esther French [Test] Wallace) died when he was only seven years of age. His father re-married two years later (1836), marrying Zerelda Sanders, who was a dedicated member of the Christian Church. In his autobiography, published posthumously, Wallace tells of how he spent his time while in church services with her:
“She was a member of the Christian Church, and insisted upon my attendance once every Sunday. I fear the services failed to impress me as she desired. My headgear was a flat-topped, black oil-cloth cap, visored before and behind, and, as it allowed penciling of delicacy on its surface invisible until held at a certain angle against the light, I converted it into a drawing-tablet. Greasy, and always in need of deodorizing, still it was eagerly sought on the return from “meeting.” The preacher, his assistant, the characters of the congregation, and all who had a peculiarity of face or manner were there penciled in unmistakable likeness. So the prayer, the sermon, even the communion, observed as it was every Lord’s day, might have been tedious to the others in attendance; they were not to me. I carried an occupation into the pew.”
As to the inspiration behind Wallace’s well-known book, it was a chance conversation in 1876 with famed agnostic Robert Ingersoll (who was the son of a preacher) that set the wheels in motion. Ingersoll recognized Wallace as they made their way by train to the third National Soldiers Reunion in 1876 (both men had served in the Union Army and had been at Shiloh, where Wallace had been wrongly made a scapegoat for a near Union disaster). Engaging in private conversation for about an hour, Ingersoll did his best to win Wallace over to skepticism. However, Ingersoll’s attempt had quite the opposite effect, launching Wallace into a sustained, personal investigation of the life of Christ. To keep himself fully engaged in the task and to increase the odds of others reading his conclusions, Wallace decided to turn them into a novel. Hence, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ – essentially Wallace’s careful, considered response to Ingersoll’s take on things as well as a shadow of Wallace’s own journey toward faith.
We’re left to wonder if Wallace’s unintended motivation by Ingersoll to seriously look into Christ’s life would have ever happened, had it not been for the gospel seeds planted in a young man’s mind by years of regular church attendance. All of the latter due to a young mother’s great efforts every Sunday morning just to “be at meetin’,” no matter what. We never know just when the will cause the seeds we have planted to germinate. Let us not grow weary in doing good.
[Incidently, Zerelda, Lew Wallace’s step-mother, is quite a force. We’ll note more about her in a post later this year. And yes, she did live for twenty years after her son’s book was published and so, she did know of his coming to believe.]
Feb. 16, 1864 – The building housing Kentucky University burns down, forcing one of its professors to move back to Bethany, West Virginia and find employment once more at Bethany College. The professor’s name is Robert Richardson. Two years later (1866), “The Sage of Bethany,” Alexander Campbell, will die and it is Richardson who will be selected to edit Campbell’s memoirs. Since his twenties, Richardson knew and worked closely with Campbell. Richardson will work tirelessly at his task and so, both volumes of Campbell’s memoirs, comprising over 1,200 pages in two-volumes, will be in publication by the end of 1869. Seven years later (1877), at the age of 70, Richardson will die and his body will be buried in the Campbell family cemetery in Bethany.
Feb. 17, 1869 – V. Livingston dies at his home in Washington County, Texas.
Though the Gospel Advocate (GA) is published in Nashville, TN, it has a large, and growing, number of subscribers in Texas in the 1860’s and 1870’s. Obituaries of no small number of members of the Restoration Heritage are commonly submitted to the GA for publication. Today, those entries shine a light on what “church life” was like in those days gone by. What people believed, how they lived, and the words they used to described matters are all recorded in these obituaries, and so, are a gold mine of information. The death notice for “V. Livingston” serves as an example.
“Died, at his residence, in Washington county, Texas, February 17, 1869, Bro. V. Livingston, in the 43rd year of his age. He was a devoted Christian, a bishop of the congregation at Black Jack Grove, always at his post and never tolerated anything not taught in God’s Word. During the war he was greatly persecuted on account of his anti-war principles, from which, however, he never deviated. He was a resolute opposer of all human societies, ever striving to withdraw the brethren from them. He was a living exemplification of the Bible precept ‘Owe no man anything but to love one another.’ He was emphatically a Bible man. We truly sympathize with his bereaved family in their great affliction, and trust we may all live faithfully in the service of the Lord, that we may unite with our dear brother in that blissful abode where parting is no more.” (J. H. Wilson, Gospel Advocate, March 18, 1869)
Now I ask you, how many rural or small town churches do you know of today that have elders in their early 40’s? I suspect not many. How many How many of members do you know who are pacifists, and have held to their convictions as to such during war-time, in a region strong in terms of military enlistment, and at great personal cost? I suspect the number is quite small. How many do you refer to as a “bishop?” None, right? And yet, there was a time in our Heritage when such would not have been all that unusual. “V. Livingston” is just one, enduring witness to such. We have not always done things as we do them now. Things do change, even if in our eyes the perceived rate of change is often exceedingly slow.
Feb. 18, 1935 – In Ardmore, Oklahoma, C. R. Nichol, Joe S. Warlick, J. D. Tant, and Basil D. Shilling conduct the funeral service for Jehu Willborn (‘J.W.’) Chism, a prolific debater and long-time associate editor of the Firm Foundation. Chism had been in bad health for two years and had died of pneumonia on the 16th at his home in Ardmore (416 Wheeler St.).
Finding a place to read, study, and reflect at length that is truly free of interruption can be a real challenge for most preachers. This is especially true for individuals whose personalities require quiet and freedom from visual distraction in order to focus and think well. As a result, what might appear odd to others can appear as an attractive and practical solution to a minister.
However, even ministers would likely agree that Chism’s typical habit of study was … unusual. Not the fact that his place of study was located at his residence, but that he would quite literally “crawl under a bed to study.” Yes, as in down “on the floor.” When his study hours were at night, it was not unusual for him to be at it until 2:00 a.m. or even later. [Picture it: your wife in bed above, and you studying, underneath.]. When his study time took place during daylight or evening hours, he would tell his wife that should anyone come by looking for him that, unless it was a matter of emergency, she was to tell them,
“He was here awhile ago, but I don’t see him now.”
Feb. 19, 1899 – Charles Chilton Moore, Jr., a grandson of Barton W. Stone, Sr. (through B.W.’s youngest daughter, Mary Anne), publishes in his newspaper, The Blue Grass Blade (TBGB), a list of items he wants to see take place. The list includes, quite amazing for its time, the following:
“* No Bible reading in public schools; * Stop paying chaplains out of tax money; * Churches should pay property taxes; * No more blasphemy laws; * No more liquor traffic; * Women should have the right to vote; * An international league of nations; * Publication of scientific information on sexual relations.”
At one time, Moore, like his famous grandfather, had been a preacher within the Restoration Heritage. He had attended Bethany College and had served a number of congregations in eastern Kentucky. However, after a time, Moore walks completely away from all faith. Moore does not stop “preaching,” though his content and audience will, naturally, change dramatically. He begins publication of TBGB in Lexington, Kentucky in 1886 and a phrase in its masthead tells all: “Published by a Heathen in the interest of good morals.” TBGB garners a large number of subscribers and the name C.C. Moore becomes a household name among well-read American agnostics and atheists. He will be one of the last in our country who will do prison time for the charge of blasphemy, but will secure his release from prison by special pardon at the hand of President William McKinley.
Mercifully, Stone does not live to see these days in the life of his grandson, as Stone dies in 1844 when Moore is only seven years of age.
Feb. 19, 1903 – The death notice of Parmelia H. Farrar, written by J.D. Floyd, is published in the Gospel Advocate.
Some of the history of the Restoration Heritage can be told by examining the lives of its prominent leaders. Much more of our history can be told through a look at the lives of church members who, though not nearly so well known, made a powerful, consistence difference where they were with what they had been entrusted. Quite simply, they lived out their faith and their devotion to Christ, showed. Parmelia H. Farrar was apparently just such a Christian.
“Sister Parmelia H. Farrar was born in North Carolina on April 2, 1830, and died at Flat Creek, Tenn., on February 2, 1903. Sister Farrar was the mother of twelve children, seven of whom are living. Before the Civil War she became a member of the church of Christ at New Hermon, Tenn.; and when the church at Flat Creek was formed, in 1868, she was one of its charter members. I knew Sister Farrar intimately for forty-five years, and feel that I can make a just estimate of her worth as a Christian and a neighbor. While she was always poor (as the world calls poor), always plain and unassuming, yet it can be said that she was worth more to our community than any other person who has lived in it during the last forty-five years. She visited and waited on more sick people and ministered to more who were in distress than any one else. There are three reasons why she could do this: (1) She was a woman of unusual bodily vigor; (2) she was never so engrossed in worldly affairs but that she could leave them; (3) she had the disposition of heart that led her to make sacrifices for others. She was a plain woman. I never saw her with any head covering but a sunbonnet. She was always plainly, but neatly, dressed, and never tried to follow the fashions. The dress pattern which she used when I first knew her would have answered for her last one. I said at her funeral, and I repeat here, that one woman like her is worth more to a community than a ten-acre lot full of the befrilled, dancing, card-playing devotees of fashion that are found in many places. Sister Farrar was faithful in her church relation. She seldom missed a service. When her seat was not filled, we knew that she or some one who needed her attention was sick. We bid our faithful sister good-by here, but trust that we shall meet and greet her in a fairer clime than this.”
Feb. 20, 1872 – Benjamin Franklin, editor of the American Christian Review (ACR), airs his total disgust with the Central Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio upon their having constructed a new church building styled after French Gothic architecture, complete with choir loft, an organ, what is thought to be the largest stained glass window in the United States (at the time), and seating for 2,000 people. It on an order of magnitude far beyond any other facility then utilized by those of the Restoration Heritage. The cost of the facility? $140,000 (a sum equivalent to over $3.1 million in today’s dollars). The date and location of its erection is especially significant: the Reconstruction of the South, devastated by the Civil War, is still just getting underway and Cincinnati is bounded from Kentucky (a border state strongly divided by the war) only by the Ohio River. W.T. Moore, the congregation’s preaching minister, will use some of Jesus’ last words on the cross – “It is finished” (John 19.30) – as his sermon text during the building’s dedication service.
Reminding Central that God “is not attracted by imposing temples, worldly show, nor fine entertainments,” Franklin will declare to all of his readers:
“These leading men in Cincinnati … have utterly disregarded the view of the great body of the brotherhood … They have put us to the test, to come up and tacitly endorse their folly, extravagance, and pride, with their corruption of the worship, or stay away. We can tell them plainly that we will never endorse them in their present worldly course. They will find many thousands more of the same mind. We would blush to talk of the ‘ancient order,’ the ‘gospel restored,’ returning to the ‘primitive order,’ the ‘man of sorrows’ who ‘had not where to lay his head’ … in this temple of folly and pride.”
Not to worry: Franklin is just getting warmed up. Until his death, six years later in 1878, he will continue to write of his great unhappiness with how he sees things playing out in the Restoration Heritage. Franklin, always having lived in poverty, has long believed that since at least 1850, that there has been two strong, competing groups in the Movement: one concerns itself with the common people and one is more minded about the well-to-do of society. He sees the gap steadily widening between these two groups, and his own life is a microcosm of the matter (especially his experience in working with, and being dependent on the benevolence of, well-to-do David S. Burnet in the 1850’s).
In short, the Movement, now in its second-generation of leadership, is leaving simplicity and the masses behind, trading them for bettering oneself and greater acceptance by those higher in society. Outreach is being traded off for outward appearance and so, the fundamental problem among the brethren is more attitudinal, than doctrinal. That is, it is Franklin’s conviction that the multitude of specific issues (instrumental music, missionary societies, etc.) that appear to be increasingly dividing brethren (in Franklin’s words as expressed earlier in the Millenial Harbinger in January 1870) “are not the cause, but only the occasion” for the real problem to do its deadly work. To attempt to address the specific doctrinal questions rather than the underlying attitude is like addressing the symptoms of a disease rather than the disease itself.
Feb. 21, 1901 – The notice of David G. Fleming’s death appears in the Gospel Advocate. Reference is made to the fact that as an adult he had been “baptized into Christ.”
Our speech betrays us; it reveals us. What we say, and what we don’t say, unveils what we actually believe, value, and want to emphasize. The phraseology we choose as we announce a person’s conversion to Christ is no exception. And as the vocabulary of our Heritage evolves through the years, death notices capture our beliefs, values, and emphasis.
While I’ve not made anything like an in-depth, comprehensive study of the matter – it would interesting to see one – my general impression through decades of reading Restoration Heritage obituaries (whether appearing in the GA or elsewhere) is that the earlier/older the account, especially in the mid-1800’s, the far greater the likelihood that baptism will be mentioned and that it is “into Christ.” However, during the latter 1800’s, and especially during the first half of the 1900’s, that tendency decreases and phrases such as “obeyed the gospel,” etc. appear more frequently. Of course, there are many exceptions to this observation, and so I realize I’m “painting with a roller brush” to put it this way, but still, it’s not too much to say that the emphasis is on Christ early on, then either the church or the gospel, and finally neither, but simply on the act, or fact, of baptism itself. A few examples will illustrate the evolution/devolution. In each instance below, note the year of death and so, thereby, the year the words describing the person’s conversion are crafted:
James C. Anderson (d. 9/12/1857) – “He was baptized into Christ …”
James R. Allen (d. 10/6/1859) – “… buried with Christ by baptism …”
Christian C. Elkins (d. 4/15/1873) – “… immersed into Christ …”
Maggie L. Alexander (d. 8/6/1876) – “… was buried with her Lord in baptism …”
Mary E. Grigg (d. 1/3/1887) – “She was baptized into Christ …”
W.H.H. Griffin (d. 6/27/1896) – “… she became obedient to the faith …”
G.G. Griswold (d. 12/19/1902) – “She was baptized into the church of Christ …”
Mary C. White (d. 3/8/1910) – ” … she united with the church of Christ … being baptized by …”
John Ogden Collins (d. 10/31/1920) – “He obeyed the gospel …”
James David Taylor (d. 7/12/1929) – “… was baptized into the church of the Lord Jesus Christ …”
Dovie Williams (d. 5/24/1932) – “Her obedience to the gospel occurred at Henderson …
From the 1940’s onward, the tendency to make direct reference to a person’s baptism greatly decreases in death notices of those within the Restoration Heritage, or if notice is made, it is simply of the fact of it occurring, the year it was experienced, or by whose hands.
A.H. Taylor (d. 7/25/1940) – “He was baptized …”
I have not read all that many notices dating from the 1950’s up through our time, and so, I will not speak as to the trajectory of our vocabulary since the 1940’s.
Change, church, contextualization, Millenials, outreach, relevance & vision: 5 Reasons There are No Millenials in Your Church
“Here are five (of many) reasons why there are no Millennials in your church …”
Church & expectations: Expecting Less, Discovering the More [required reading]
“The more we expect from our local church or the church universal the less we will discover in the church. But, when we expect less than our dreamy ideals the more church we will discover. Idealism wrecks reality and the church is not an ideal but a reality.”
Compliments: 4 Keys to Accepting Compliments Well
“A surprisingly difficult aspect of pastoral ministry is accepting and receiving compliments. It’s not that we don’t appreciate compliments or find them encouraging. But there is a danger of basing our identity upon them, or simply receiving them in the wrong way.”
Divorce, marriage & remarriage: MDR: A Question from an Elder [essential reading]
“It seems there’s a fresh questioning of the traditional view blowing across the Churches — a very good thing.”
Government, gridlock, mid-term elections & voting: Cancel the Midterms
“There was a time when midterm elections made sense — at our nation’s founding, the Constitution represented a new form of republican government, and it was important for at least one body of Congress to be closely accountable to the people. But especially at a time when Americans’ confidence in the ability of their government to address pressing concerns is at a record low, two-year House terms no longer make any sense. We should get rid of federal midterm elections entirely. … the two-year cycle isn’t just unnecessary; it’s harmful to American politics.”
Change & habits: How to Form a Habit, a Scientific Approach
“… habits are reinforced by a three-part loop: trigger, behavior, and reward. The trigger tells you—consciously or unconsciously—to start the behavior, the behavior is the habit or action, and the reward is the benefit that you get from that action. You can see the loop: That coveted reward teaches us to continue the behavior, over and over again, until it turns into a habit.”
Christ, Ephesians 4, Psalm 68 & nonviolence: A Christological Reading of Psalm 68 [required reading]
“… what is startling about this imagery is how Jesus wins his victory over his enemies non-violently. On the cross Jesus is disarming and defeating his enemies–sin, death and the Devil–and taking them as captives in war.”
Churches of Christ, humility, leadership & the Spirit of God: Fix Me, Jesus: Jesus’ Plans for the Churches of Christ
“If God answered the prayer, ‘Fix me, Jesus,’ at the congregational level, what would a congregation under repair look like? what stories might we be able to tell?”
History, Middle East, politics, President Obama & Vietnam: Will Syria Be Obama’s Vietnam?
“War has a forward motion of its own. Most of Johnson’s major steps in the escalation in Vietnam were in response to unforeseen obstacles, setbacks and shortcomings. There’s no reason the same dynamic couldn’t repeat itself in 2014.”
Learning & study: Better Ways to Learn
“‘Most of us study and hope we are doing it right,’ Mr. Carey says. ‘But we tend to have a static and narrow notion of how learning should happen.’ … The first step toward better learning is to simply change your study environment from time to time. … “
Attitude, life, outlook & perspective: How to View the Struggles of Your Day
“In every situation, we can choose to think higher. We are not to live in denial of the rugged nor insulting terrain. Rather, we are to set our minds upon the many more elements that are going right. In every case (note: every), conditions could be much worse; but they are not. I’ve encountered brutal take your breath away kinds of days. By His clear call, I have understood that even these could be worse. Leading my mind to think upon the many issues going well has allowed God the room to prove His above point. Peace that cannot be explained … arrives.”
Change, fear, generations & the Holy Spirit: Why are We So Afraid of Change?
“Fear isn’t to be the church gauge. Trust in the Spirit is. Change is an ever-present trait of the Holy Spirit of God. Each generation needs to remember this as we strive to move forward in the most exciting kingdom ever!”
Communication, leadership, problems & relationships: A Culturally Intelligent Way of Handling the Elephant in the Room
“I’ve always been a fan of directly addressing the elephant in the room. I don’t enjoy conflict but I loathe avoiding it even more.”
Depression & mental illness: * Five Common Myths About Depression; * Mental Illness & The Church: An Interview with Amy Simpson
* “1. Depression is synonymous with sadness. … 2. Depression is a sign of mental weakness. … 3. Depression is always situational. … 4. Depression symptoms are all in your head. … 5. If you are diagnosed with depression, you’ll be on antidepressants the rest of your life.”
* “One of the most painful elements of mental illness is that it’s marked by isolation, which is exactly the opposite of what people need. Everybody needs community and loving friendship and a place where they belong. And one of the things people with mental illness most need is for this kind of loving community to tighten around them, not to loosen. This is one of the things the church can provide.”
Discipleship & faith: Kent Brantley: Every Now and Then a Disciple Breaks Outs
“Who says that kind of thing in that moment?”
NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (June 22) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.
Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.
To note the company that baptism keeps, giving it meaning, as related by the authors of the Four Gospels.
These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.
• … Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28.18-20 NRSV)
• Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. (Mark 16.15-16 NLT)
• He said to them, “This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. … Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. … Change your hearts and lives! Turn back to God so that your sins may be wiped away. (Luke 24.46-47; Acts 2.38; 3.19 CEB)
• Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3.5-8 NIV)
Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.
1. Tell us about your experience in the use of a compass. Did one ever help you get “un-lost?”
2. Tell us about someone’s baptism that was especially meaningful to you or deeply moved you.
These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.
1. How is it the rest of Matthew 28.18-20 flows into, and out of, the “due north” word “disciple?”
2. Mark 16.9-20 was likely not a part of Mark’s original Gospel, but is, nonetheless, ancient teaching. In several different English translations, note the explanatory footnotes of this text.
3. What words in the four sets of texts above stress how baptism is for all people, everywhere?
These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.
1. “Baptism is meant to be part of the beginning, not the end, of becoming a Christian?” How so?
2. What does it mean to be a “disciple?” Why do we tend to use the word “Christian” instead?
3. One person says baptism is a matter of immediacy and urgency. Another says it’s not to be rushed into, but must be approached with premeditation and preparation. Weigh in, allowing the four sets of texts above to determine and shape your perspective.
4. Which of the four main thoughts concerning baptism above is easiest for you to grasp? Most challenging? Most comforting? Why?
5. When is a person truly “ready” for baptism? When are they not ready?
These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.
1. Are you ready right now to learn of Christ, lean on Christ, line up with Christ, and live by his Spirit? Well then, decide to be baptized into Christ today.
2. Compose a prayer that centers on how you will live out the meaning of your baptism.