on these days in the American Restoration Heritage: May 10-16

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

May 10

Today, death is close at hand. Very close, indeed.

* May 10, 1816 – Having made a recent trip to Kentucky, eighteen year old Thomas Miller (“T.M.”) Allen and a young female friend are making their way back to Virginia on horseback. However, they are caught out in the open as a storm envelops them. The storm’s strong winds blow over a large tree which lands on them, killing Allen’s friend and the horse. Allen escapes death, but suffers injuries to an arm that will leave that arm crippled for the rest of his life.

Seven years later, Barton W. Stone, Sr. will baptize Allen into Christ and he will come to be used as a mighty instrument of God for the advance of the Restoration Heritage in the state of Missouri. [cf. the entry for March 24 in this series for more information on Allen]

* May 10, 1863 – With his army outnumbered two-to-one near Chancellorsville (Spotsylvania County), Virginia, Confederate General Robert E. Lee risks all and defies conventional military wisdom by dividing his troops in the face of his foe, Union General Joseph Hooker. Sending many of his men out on an attempt to outflank the Union Army of the Potomac, Lee selects Lieutenant General Thomas J. (“Stonewall”) Jackson to lead the effort. Jackson’s attack is more than just a little successful and the Union Army is served one of its greatest defeats of the entire American Civil War.

However, the victory comes at great price to Lee and the Confederacy for Jackson himself is one of the battle’s casualties, suffering three wounds, all of them from a volley of friendly fire. In efforts to save his life, surgeons amputate Jackson’s left arm, and though the surgery is a success, the doctors are no match for the case of pneumonia that follows. Still, death does linger long enough in claiming its victim for Jackson’s wife to arrive and be at her husband’s side at his passing. Jackson’s last words are: “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.” Upon learning of his friend’s death, Lee says: “I have lost my right arm.”

Jackson’s deathbed is on Fairfield Plantation, the property of a man by the name of John Chandler .. and Chandler is one of the elders of a nearby Restoration Heritage church in Guinea Station. Just before what was to become known as the Battle of Chancellorsville, Chandler, sympathetic to the Confederate cause and having sons in Confederate service, had offered his home to Jackson to use as his headquarters. Jackson graciously declined that offer, but he now has no say in the same serving as his deathbed. Ironically, the following spring (1864), this same elder’s home is taken over by the staff of Union General U. S. Grant for use as their headquarters during the Battle of the Wilderness.

To this day, the National Park Service maintains John Chandler’s home, Fairfield Plantation, as a shrine to Stonewall Jackson. The property is located just south of Fredericksburg.

May 11

May 11, 1800 – Today, William P. DeFee, the first Restoration Heritage preacher known to regularly minister in Texas, is born to William & Delilah DeFee in Darlington County, South Carolina. He will labor hard for Christ’s kingdom for several decades among people who are largely unreceptive, his most effective sermon being his godly life.

We know precious little about DeFee’s youth; however, we do know that at the young age of fourteen he serves with General Andrew Jackson’s army in the Battle of New Orleans. He marries Nancy Ann Partee in 1820 and he determines to become a doctor, and so, enters a medical school in Tennessee. And it is there, in Dyer County, Tennessee in 1827, that a man by the name of “Goodman,” an elder in a Stone-Campbell Movement church, baptizes DeFee into Christ.

Making his living now as a travelling physician, DeFee’s growing family (William and Nancy will come to have at least fourteen children) move to east Texas in 1833. As DeFee travels and treats people’s physical ills, he also seeks to address their spiritual health through sharing Scripture and preaching in homes. And it is somewhere in the region we know today as Sabine, San Augustine, and Shelby counties in Texas that DeFee takes a moment to pen an ever so brief report of his ministry for publication in Barton W. Stone’s Christian Messenger. The note reads:

“I have started a society on the Christian doctrine.”

We would likely refer to such today as a “community Bible class.” Three years later (1836), in Rhoddy Anthony’s home just a few miles outside of San Augustine, DeFee gathers enough members together so as to organize a church known as “Antioch.”

DeFee continues to practice medicine and preach throughout the area. In Shelby County in 1847, DeFee and W.K. Withers plant a church in the home of Richard Hooper in Shelby county. The little flock of eight charter members put forth the following statement of their intent (church covenant):

“We, the Christians of the church called Zion, have met together this day, the 18th of July, 1847, and give each other our hearts and hands and all agree to take the Bible as the only infallible rule of faith and practice.”

However, not everything is roses. In brief reports through the years during this time, DeFee communicates to the brotherhood that the work in east Texas is more than just a little difficult. Preachers are exceedingly few and far between and DeFee describes Christian faith in general as being in a “cold state” in that portion of the world. Indeed, if one judges by the number of Christians of the heritage and the number of congregations, east Texas lags behind any other portion of Texas in terms of growth even as late as 1860, and the coming of the Civil War decimates what is found there. In the words of one preacher, J.H. Cain, in 1866:

“Our churches in East Texas, most of them, have come to nothing.”

The following year (1867), DeFee concurs, once again using the word “cold” to describe the difficulty of the field and the state of the churches in East Texas.

But, DeFee is made of tough material and he soldiers on, sowing the seed of the kingdom until his dying days. J.A.A. Hemphill authors Defee‘s obituary notice that appears in the Nov. 4, 1869 issue of the Gospel Advocate. In it Hemphill notes:

“Never, perhaps, at least not in modern times, has any man lived nearer the cross, for near a half century than did Father Defee. Always hopeful and cheerful, he went forth battling for the cause of his blessed Redeemer. When he began preaching he was completely alone in contending for the faith and for the Gospel as the power of God to salvation. He lived to be able to count good and true brethren by hundreds among his acquaintances. He was possessed of a piety that put scorners to the blush, and, though not eloquent as a preacher, his influence as a Christian was great, owing to his orderly walk and Godly conversation.

“About a year before he died he was stricken with paralysis, and for the remainder of his life had but little use of one arm and leg, and was almost wholly unable to ride on horseback. Yet, so earnest was he for the perseverance of the Saints that he would walk for miles around in his neighborhood, encouraging the brethren and sisters to be faithful. When death came he was ready, and by his words and acts showed that he desired to be absent from the body and present with the Lord. An aged wife, the companion of his youth, and a numerous offspring join his spiritual brethren in mourning his loss.”

May 12

Today, we (A) hear a careful scholar make a grand boast and (B) play “name that county and church” (though precious little “play” ever happened there).

* May 12, 1863 – A writer, editor, publisher, and book lover gushes praise today for a book that is about to come from the press. Speaking in regard to J.W. McGarvey’s forthcoming Commentary on Acts, Benjamin Franklin writes in his paper, the American Christian Review:

“It is a commentary on the part of the New Testament most needed and one of the kind demanded. We are satisfied this work will meet the expectation of the brotherhood as fully as any book that has appeared for many years.”

Just a few days earlier, in an article in the Gospel Advocate, McGarvey himself had written about the making of his commentary. Aside from his most pressing work related to ministry, the research and writing of this commentary has been his point of focus during the past three-and-a-half years. He penned his work so that it would be “a book to be read, and not merely a book of reference.” And, he sees it as a work “adapted to circulation among sectarians and the unconverted” as well as “for the edification of the brethren.”

However, it is McGarvey’s claim for his brethren, not his commentary, that is perhaps most interesting (amazing?) of all. In his words – and McGarvey, if anything, is a man not prone to exaggerate anything in the slightest degree and of a deliberate habit of stating matters precisely as he believes them be – his commentary on Acts:

“… presents the real meaning of the text, as developed in the writings and teachings of our brotherhood, the only people of modern times who have understood and appreciated this book [the book of Acts].”

One hundred and fifty two year after its initial publication, McGarvey’s commentary on Acts is still available, now in both paper and electronic formats. However, McGarvey’s boast that we are “the only people of modern times who have understood and appreciated” the book of Acts is a bit … suspect.

* May 12, 1864 – It’s now time to play “name that county and church.” You’ll receive six clues as to the identity of both.

(1) This church was begun in 1832, rather early on in the Restoration Heritage. Eighty-one year old Samuel Alsop led the design and construction of the existing church building.

(2) On several occasions before the American Civil War, Alexander Campbell himself preached in the county where this church is situated.

(3) The county in which your church building is located is the setting not only for a great deal of all kinds of fighting throughout the course of the war, but serves as the battlefield for four – yes, f-o-u-r – major battles.

(4) During the course of one of those major battles – the last of the big four and one in which there are over thirty thousand casualties – your church building is made use of as a hospital for Confederate soldiers. The Zion Methodist Church will serve as a hospital for Union troops.

(5) What is agreed on by many veterans, both Union and Confederate, as being truly the most horrific hand-to-hand combat of the entire war, not just in this particular battle, goes on rather close to your church building, some of it as close as half-a-mile away.

(6) And as a part of that battle, today, a cannonball flies through the front doors of your church house/hospital, lodges in a wall … and by the grace of God, does not explode.

Name that county and church building. Five bonus points will be rewarded if you can name the specific battle referenced; ten points if you can identify the battle and the scene of the battle’s most gruesome combat.

The answer? That would be the Berean Christian Church in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Whether Alexander Campbell ever preached in Spotsylvania, I don’t know, but it is known that he preached a number of times in nearby Fredericksburg. The four major battles fought in Spotsylvania County are Chancellorsville, the Battle of the Wilderness, Fredericksburg, and Spotsylvania Court House. Some of the war’s most gruesome fighting takes place at what becomes known as the “Bloody Angle” portion of the “Mule Shoe” (about four miles from Berean Christian Church) and at “Heth’s Salient” about a half-a-mile away from Berean Christian.

Today, the Bearean Christian Church building serves as the Spotsylvania County Museum.

May 13

May 13, 1846 – A preacher confesses his deep regret over having left some things unsaid.

Today, war between the United States of America and Mexico begins. And two years later, Alexander Campbell expresses the trouble in his heart over having not spoken more freely and fully against Christian participation in warfare before the Mexican-American War began. Indeed, Campbell fears that his relative silence may have cost some young men their very lives. Campbell poignantly writes in an 1848 issue of the Millenial Harbinger:

“I must confess that I both wonder at myself and am ashamed to think that I have not spoken out my views, nor ever before written an essay on this subject … I am sorry to think, very sorry indeed, to be only of the opinion, that probably even this much published by me some three years, or even two years ago, might have saved some lives that have been thrown away in the desert—some hot-brained youths. We must create a public opinion on this subject. We should inspire a pacific spirit, and show off on all proper occasions the chief objections to war.”

May 14

May 14, 1861 – Today, while one man helps steer men toward heaven, his nephew helps lead the way to the creation of (what John Denver famously styled) “almost heaven” here on earth.

Less than one month ago (April 17), a convention assembled and voted for the secession of the state of Virginia from the United States. The matter is anything but unanimous with over one-third of the delegates present voting in opposition to secession (55 of 143). Those on the losing end of the vote now schedule their own convention and meet today in Wheeling, Virginia for the explicit purpose of condemning the recent vote to secede. By means of a referendum a little over one month following (June 20), the dissenters announce that the western portion of Virginia is now separate and apart from the rest of the state. It is decided that the city of Wheeling will be the seat of government for this new “state.” Two years later, to the day (June 20, 1863), West Virginia is admitted into the union of the United States of America.

A leading figure in all of these doings toward the formulation of the new state of West Virginia is the editor of the Wheeling Intelligencer, Wheeling’s newspaper: Archibald Campbell, Jr. Archibald is a nephew of Alexander Campbell, a son of Alexander Campbell’s younger brother, Archibald, Sr. In fact, a letter Archibald penned to President Abraham Lincoln is considered by some to have played a significant part in tipping the scales in favor of West Virginia’s admission to the Union.

At the time of today’s dissenter’s convention, Archibald, Jr. is twenty-eight years of age and his uncle, Alexander Campbell, Sr., is seventy-two.

There is no shortage of abolitionists in the immediate, and extended, family of Alexander Campbell; however, there are others, such as Alexander Campbell, Jr., who serve the Confederacy. As one might imagine, the relations between all of the Campbell family members are, as we are apt to put it today, “complicated.” Following the war, the strained relations between Archibald, Jr. and Alexander, Jr. eventually heal, with Alexander, Jr.’s wife, Mary Anna, being the prime mover for their reconciliation.

May 15

May 15, 1896 – Death knows no bias today as a preacher and his wife – James Daniel & Martha Frances Shearer – are among several dozen killed by the effects of a rare F5 tornado that cuts a twenty-eight mile long swath of destruction through north-central Texas. An obituary notice in the Gospel Advocate (June 11, 1896) reads:

“Shearer, J.D.

“Brother J. D. Shearer and Sister Shearer (“Nee” Taylor) [Martha Frances (Taylor) Shearer] were both killed by a cyclone that swept away their house in the suburbs of Sherman, Texas, May 15, 1896. Mistaking the noise of the cyclone for a passing train, there was no effort to escape until it was too late. Two of their sons were with them in the same room, and were badly bruised, but not seriously. Brother Shearer was instantly killed. Sister Shearer lived a few hours, and, it is supposed, died of the shock. Almost everybody was wild with excitement. What words could describe the feelings of the son who were away from home when they heard that their father and mother were thus taken away? One of the sons was so far away that he could not come in time to see the remains. The hearts of the entire community went out in sympathy toward the distressed ones; and one of the largest audiences ever assembled in Grayson County at a funeral gathered around the grave, where I tried to say some fitting words in memory of my schoolmate and fellow-laborer, J. D. Shearer.

“Brother and sister Shearer had struggled hard to rear their large family, and had seen them grow up to be useful and honored citizens, a happy family. The sons great desire was to see their parents comfortable in their declining years. Alas, how bitterly disappointed! Brother Shearer had spent his life since he was a student at Kentucky University in preaching and teaching, and Sister Shearer has toiled faithfully by his side. The mother’s life seemed wrapped up in the lives of her boys. To care for them and to help them was her sweet joy, and to dote upon and care for their mother was happiness itself to these sturdy young men. Responsibility was thus suddenly removed, but there came the greatest of all earthly affliction. May the Father of the fatherless comfort and help them to bear their heavy burden, and may they be brought at last to their Fathers house on high.

“O. A. Carr”

The man preaching the funerals and writing this obituary notice is Dr. Oliver Anderson (“O.A.”) Carr, considered to be “perhaps one of the best known educators in the South” at the time. O.A., and his wife, Mattie, former missionaries to Australia, had recently (1894) founded Carr-Burdette College, “a school for young ladies” in Sherman. Mattie raised the money to build the school by selling two hundred and fifty $200 lots in the rapidly growing city. The school continued until the onset of the Great Depression (1929) brought its work to an end. O.A. Carr and the deceased preacher, J.D. Shearer, were the same age (both born in 1845) and, as noted in the obituary, were both graduates of Kentucky University.

May 16

May 16, 1811 – Today, a twenty-two year old preacher by the name of Alexander Campbell embarks for the first time on what will become a very common thing in his life: a preaching tour. He journals his experience and in the course of reading over his shoulder we learn of the connections he makes, where he preaches, what Scriptures he preaches from, and how he is received.

“I set out from my home on Thur., May 16, 1811, and stopped first evening at Lutham Young’s. Conversed upon the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion. Next morning, accompanied to the river by Mr. Young, I crossed [into eastern Ohio] opposite Steubenville. Introduced myself to Mr. James Larimore and Dr. Slemmons, and was received with courtesy. Was introduced by Dr. Slemmons to Mr. Buchanan, lodging at the Doctor’s. After dining, reasoned with Mr. Buchanan on the general state of religion, and argued the principles with him which we advocate; but he would not see. In our discourse a Mr. Boyd, of Steubenville, interrupted by vociferously taking Mr. Buchanan’s side of the argument. Finished in a disorderly manner. Appointed to preach in the courthouse, Sabbath day [Sunday], at 12 o’clock. Proceeded to James McElroy’s, where I tarried till Friday morning, hospitably entertained. On Sabbath day, I preached, according to appointment, in Steubenville. Had a crowded house, notwithstanding Messrs. Buchanan, Snodgrass, Lambdin, Powel, etc. I had a mixed audience of Presbyterians, Unionists, Methodists, etc. Mr. Lambdin, the Methodist preacher, was present. I was introduced to a Mr. Hawkins, a most respectable citizen, and a Methodist. Sabbath evening, preached at Mr. McElroy’s, among whom was Mr. McMillan, with whom I sojourned that night at Mr. Thompson’s. Reasoned with him upon our principles. He granted me three things of magnitude.: 1. That independent church government had as good a foundation in Scripture as the Presbyterian. 2. That the office of a ruling elder was not found clearly in the Scriptures, but was a human expediency. 3. That he did not believe that the Confession of Faith was the system, that is, the precise system, the whole system, or the only system of truth contained in the Bible. Preached on Monday, at the McElroy’s, to a respectable assembly, from Gal. iv. 15,16 – On the Sabbath at Steubenville, my text was Heb. ii.3. In the evening, Mark xvi.15. On Wednesday morning, left McElroy’s, and arrived at Cadiz. That evening lodged at Squire McNeeley’s. Thursday morning, proceeded to Dr. McFadden’s; tarried with him until Sabbath morning. Preached, Sabbath day, two sermons, to a large audience – one from John v. 39, and the other from Acts xi.26. Sabbath evening, lodged at Samuel Gilmore’s. Monday evening at James Ford’s. Preached at James Ford’s, Tuesday, two discourses – one from Rom. viii.32, and the other from 2 Tim. 1.13. Tuesday evening lodged at a Methodist exhorter’s. Wednesday at James Sharpe’s. Preached, Thursday, at William Perry’s. Stopped all night. Friday, stopped at Samuel Garret’s. Preached, Saturday, at Samuel Patten’s, in Wheeling, from Phil. iii.8. Lodged with him, and preached, Sabbath day, June 2, at St. Clairsville, from Rom. viii. 32, and secondly, from Isa. lxvii. 14, with lxii.10, and lodged at Mr. Bell’s.”

How I wish now that I had established such a habit of journaling so early in ministry and had faithfully kept up with such through the years! If you are “in ministry,” let me encourage you to “just do it.” And if you do have such a habit, exactly how do you do it: on paper or electronically?

on these days in the American Restoration Heritage: May 3-9

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

May 3

* May 3, 1824 – Before both God and man, what does true honesty – or dishonesty – look like in the pulpit? What place ought prayers and sermon notes have – or not have – in connection with sermon delivery? And, did Alexander Campbell ever skip school, cheat on exam, or receive corporal punishment in his youth?

Today, in an article in the Christian Baptist entitled “Pulpit Honesty,” Alexander Campbell us gives answer to all of the above. He writes:

“When I was a boy I sometimes played truant, and fearing the ferula, I would sometimes write off my lesson on a slip of paper, cut according to the dimensions of my book; and with this before me, I was enabled to translate with some degree of fluency. I was lately reminded of my boyish tricks, when attending ‘the divine service’ of a popular divine, of a neighboring county … His text was, ‘Among whom shine ye as lights in the world.’ After a ‘solemn prayer’ for divine assistance in delivering a suitable message, he opened his Bible, in which he had very ingeniously inserted his manuscript. He held the book in his right hand, and with considerable sleight of hand turned the leaf seven or eight times, during the pronunciation of this heaven dictated message. He must have read 14 or 16 pages of matter, no doubt well arranged and condensed. His eyes turned askance to the right, at proper intervals, furnished his tongue with inspiration. Thought I, this is a sure method of obtaining an answer from heaven for a suitable message: first to have it in writing, and then to ask it from God. But the recollection of the double portion of the rod, which I used to receive for such a trick, (for I was whipped, when detected, first for not having my lesson, and secondly, for striving to cheat my preceptor) brought such a train of reflections to my mind, that I was ready to charge the parson with having been the cause of ‘my thinking my own thoughts,’ while ‘he was shining a light in a dark place.’

“I thought that the sacred desk was never elevated to be a protection against the detection of theft. I thought how deleterious to morals was such an example. To see a character so sacred, on so sacred an occasion, strive to cheat the eyes of gallery critics, by the agility of his fingers, and the charms of a well directed glance of the eye. In vain to remonstrate against hypocrisy when the finger is separating the concealed leaves; in vain to recommend honesty to the youth, when the pen, and perhaps the words of another, are made to speak what was never felt, and to act the part of a prompter behind the curtain; in vain to teach sincerity in our prayers to God, when the parson prays with apparent sincerity for a sermon, while he has it in his pocket. In fact, I was so mortified by this clerical fraud, that I could not but commend the honesty of the Catholic priest, and the Episcopahan curate, who, when he reads his sermon, manfully and honestly lays it before him in the presence of all, and never dares to ask from heaven what he has in writing, as if to impose upon the superstition of his hearers.”

* May 4, 1824 – How ought a church leader handle the reception of an anonymous letter? Today, in the same issue of the Christian Baptist just cited, we learn how Alexander Campbell dealt with such.

Today, Campbell responds to a man who has sent him an anonymous letter containing seven questions. Campbell responds to the anonymous request by answering the man’s questions … in public print, in the Christian Baptist. Yes, he publishes the letter and his responses to the seven questions … and then, taking the gloves off, adds seven questions of his own for the man to respond to in reply, the first of which reads:

“What is your name? Should you honor me with another epistle and suppress your name, I cannot answer it, because I could not then consider you an honest and well-meaning lay-man who fears not the light.”

Campbell’s response brings to mind the “bubbles” superimposed over fight scenes in the original ‘Batman’ TV series (e.g. – “WHAM!,” “POW!,” etc.).

May 4

* May 4, 1842 – The future president of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis, pays a visit to Alexander Campbell and Bethany College.

Davis is impressed with Bethany College and so, leaves William J. Stamps* of Wilkinson County, Mississippi, his favorite nephew, with Campbell for enrollment in Bethany. In a lengthy letter published in the August 6, 1903 edition of the Christian Evangelist under the title “The First Graduating Class of Bethany College,” J.A. Dearborn tells of how Davis esteemed Alexander Campbell and his work. Dearborn writes:

“I remember … that Jefferson Davis remained at Bethany for several days, and that he was said to be a warm admirer of Mr. Campbell and sympathized with the grand religious enterprise that Mr. Campbell had in charge.”

[* Not many months later, in early 1843, Stamps dies on the campus of Bethany College from injuries he suffered in a fall while ice-skating on nearby Buffalo Creek.]

* May 4, 1871 – Today, a letter penned by the famous Confederate General Robert E. Lee is published in the Apostolic Times.* It is a letter Lee originally penned to a friend, telling him of what he (Lee) thought of Alexander Campbell:

“As Dr. Symonds said of the great Milton, so may I say of the late President of Bethany College, ‘That he was a man in whom were illustriously combined all the qualities that could adorn or elevate the nature to which he belonged. Knowledge, the most various and extended virtue that never loitered in her career, nor deviated from her course. A man who, if he had been delegated as the representative of his species to one of the many Superior worlds, would have suggested a grand idea of the human race. Such was President Campbell.”

* [Both Campbell and Lee are dead when this letter appears in the Apostolic Times; Campbell having deceased in 1866 and Lee having passed on in 1870.]

May 5

May 5, 1889 – Today, one week after “Harrison’s Horse Race,” a one-armed preacher organizes the first Restoration Heritage church in the newly opened “Unassigned Lands.”

The church is located in the city now known as “Guthrie.” With the land run a week ago, Guthrie went from non-existence to being a city of ten thousand, quite literally, overnight. James M. Monroe leads the church’s organization efforts and he and Dick T. Morgan serve as shepherds of the twenty-one member congregation. The fold for this little flock is a 12′ x 15′ cabin that has walls, but doesn’t yet have a roof or floor.

Guthrie? But, what of Oklahoma City, you ask? A nineteen-member church will be organized there one week from now. Guthrie (Logan County) will serve as the capital of the Indian Territory until the region is granted statehood in 1907 and it will serve as the capital of Oklahoma until 1910, at which time Oklahoma City takes over that role. Oklahoma City is located just north of the center of the state and Guthrie is on the northern edge of what is now the greater OKC metroplex.

What do we know of James M. Monroe? Monroe is born in northeastern Ohio in 1843. During the Civil War he serves as a Private in Company G of the U.S., 42nd Ohio Infantry Regiment … yes, your memory serves you correctly, the 42nd Ohio is the regiment James A. Garfield raises up and leads. Monroe suffers the loss of an arm in the siege of Vicksburg in the summer of 1863. His debilitating wound marks the end of his military service, but affords him time to attend college – Hiram College, Alliance College, and Butler University (where he receives a Master’s degree). In the 1870’s he serves as a college professor and president in California. In 1886 (in Ohio) and 1890 (in Ohio) he makes unsuccessful bids as a candidate for Congress on the Prohibition ticket.

By 1904 – fifteen years after the land run and still three years prior to statehood – the land now known as Oklahoma can claim to have over three hundred Restoration Heritage churches with over sixteen thousand members. At least one congregation can be found in every county of the state and no community with a population of least one thousand is without a Restoration Heritage church.

[A sidenote: The northern half of Oklahoma and the southern half of Oklahoma are somewhat different from each other and no small part of those distinctions can be traced back to who settles these areas. A much higher percentage of the earlier settlers in north and northeast Oklahoma come from states that were associated with the Union during the Civil War than do those who comprise the populace of the south and southwestern portions of the state. Many of the those living in the southern half of Oklahoma came to the land from Texas (which aligned itself with the Confederacy). The evidence for such can clearly be seen by simply walking some of the older cemeteries in the state. Gravestones inscribed with the initials “G.A.R.” (“Grand Army of the Republic;” i.e. – the Union Army) are far more common in the northern half of the state than in the southern half. Walk some of the cemeteries on, or shortly after, Memorial Day and you’ll notice a much higher percentage of small Confederate battle flags posted on graves in the south than you will on graves in the northern portions of Oklahoma. In fact, southeastern Oklahoma is still referred to by some today as “Little Dixie” and a community once existed in my home county in south-central Oklahoma (Stephens) that was known simply as “Dixie.”

May 6

May 6, 1864 – The birth of a child has, for the first time, made you a parent. You have been thrust into a brave, new world! What do you need to know, and always remember, most of all? And just what sort of advice or help might you expect to receive from your father or father-in-law at such a time? Or, looking from the other direction, who can understand, much less communicate, the depth of joy and thankfulness, pride and hope, that well up in the heart of a grandparent at the birth of a grandchild? And, just how is a parent to relate well to his adult child and son-in-law with sensitivity and the offering of advice?

We learn some of the answers to these things as a man pens a letter today to his son-in-law and his youngest daughter upon the birth of their first child, a girl. The letter’s author is Alexander Campbell, the recipients are John & Decima Barclay, and it is the birth of Virginia Huntington Barclay that provides the occasion. The Barclays are overseas at the time, in Larnaca, Cyrpus. Let me encourage you to read this letter very slowly, so as to truly savour the state of mind and the choice of words and phrasing by father-in-law/grandfather Campbell.

“My dear son and daughter:

“We cordially congratulate you in the reception of an heir from the Lord. This is a rich and precious gift from the Lord, which the wealth of the richest monarch on earth could not purchase, though possessed of all the gold of Ophir. It constitutes you parents, and lays upon you an obligation of paramount importance. For such a precious gift kings would sometimes give a kingdom. But all the gold of Ophir could not purchase it. Still, it is to be nourished, cared for, protected, and brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Many are the duties incumbent upon us for such a present from the Lord. In the reception of it our heavenly Father virtually says to us: ‘Take this child, educate, and train it for me, and great shall be your reward.’ It is, indeed, withal, a pleasing task. But to secure this, the Lord has wisely, kindly, and deeply planted in the maternal and paternal heart – a paramount affection. Mothers have more generally a deeper and a more enduring natural affection than fathers. Because, we presume, they need it most. Their faithful efforts are, indeed, well rewarded. Children generally love their mothers more than their fathers; and so, me thinks, they ought; for a mother’s affection is generally stronger and more enduring than a father’s.

“But there are exceptions to all general rules. We have all, if observant, seen some of them in this case. To love and to be loved is, in all the relations of life, the richest and the greatest blessing, on earth which we can achieve. We cannot buy it. We must earn it. To be loved we must love. But to love not only our friends, but our enemies, is required by the great Teacher. This is godlike. When we remember this, we cannot but examine ourselves. And, indeed, it is to us all-important that we should habitually examine ourselves, and say to the Lord, ‘Search me, O Lord! and try me, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and show it to me, and lead me, and guide me in the way everlasting!’

“We have peace and tranquility in our position in [West] Virginia. College is in session, with a considerable increase of students. And, were it not for our newspapers, we should not know that there was any war in our country; for which blessing we should be most grateful to the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Everything here moves on in its wonted channel. Civil wars are very uncivil things, and wholly contraband to both the letter and spirit of the gospel of the God of peace.

“Your description of the island of Cyprus, published in the April number of the ‘Harbinger,’ has been read with great interest and pleasure, as we learn from all quarters. It is, indeed, a feast to us all; when finished by you, we shall dilate more fully upon it. I am not sure, indeed, but that a full history of it from your pen would be a most useful and interesting volume. … Think of it, and gather and keep all documents of interest, … and on your return give a history of your whole tour. I am constrained, though with reluctance, to close this scroll with an apology. All our family at home unite with me in all affection to you and Decima, father and mother.

“Most affectionately,

“A. Campbell”

Sadly, “Virgie” will live to see only eighteen years of life here. And, perhaps not surprisingly, it is her gravestone that is by far the most unique and elaborate of the nearly three hundreds graves that comprise the Campbell Cemetery in Bethany (Brooke County), West Virginia.

May 7

May 7, 1827 – Have you ever come to be viewed with suspicion simply because you read religious writings penned by those who see things differently? Have your ever found yourself on a trajectory away from some matters you once held to dearly in terms of faith? Have you ever found yourself shot at by the very people you felt sure would support you in your quest for more certain faith? Have you ever been shaken to the very core because it became clear to you that a great many others are infinitely more concerned with status, tradition, control, or power than they are with Scripture, truth, consistency, or purpose?

Well, no matter what it feels like, you’re by no means alone and it isn’t a new experience. And, by means of a letter by “S.E. S______,” reproduced today in Alexander Campbell’s Christian Baptist (CB), we’re reminded of such.

“Brother Campbell,

“You will, undoubtedly, be surprised to hear of the unparalleled proceedings of ‘The Northumberland Particular Baptist Association,’ relative to the Little Muncey church [in Mingo County, WV; the opposite end of the state from Bethany]. I never knew any body of men, religious or political, guilty of such glaring inconsistencies, before. Neither did I think that any body of people, regarded even MEN, would have hazarded their reputation in such a manner. It is some time since I become convinced that confessions of faith, when used as TESTS of orthodoxy, are attended with great mischief in the church of God. Of this I was convinced by the proceedings of the above association.

“As soon as I was thoroughly convinced, I publicly, unequivocally, and solemnly entered my protest against them, and drew upon my head the united opposition of the sects in this country. Some declared me to be a SOCINIAN [Unitarian]. Others affirmed that I was a UNIVERSALIST. Some of the Baptists were apprized of my taking The Christian Baptist, and consequently blamed YOU with my ‘departure from the faith.’ The news had no sooner reached the WHITE DEER, than THOMAS SMILEY said he must be put DOWN. This FIELD MARSHALL mounted his ROZINANTE [‘Rozinante’ was the name of Don Quixote’s old, broken-down horse] and hied [hurried] him away to Shamokin [in Pennsylvania], to the largest division of this little army, and gave orders that they should be in readiness the next August when the whole forces would be collected, (or rather REPRESENTED) in that place, to transact important business. He informed them that ‘a certain young man,’ who had, not long since been ORDAINED, had renounced ‘THE PHILADELPHIA’ [the Philadelphia Confession of Faith of 1742], and all other confessions of faith. He reminded them that they, by their delegates, had solemnly subscribed it, and concluded by expressing his hopes that they would never relinquish it. He also hoped that they be forward to contend for it at the NEXT ASSOCIATION.

“Having heard that WAR was declared against me, I declined attending the association that year, as a DELEGATE. I, however, attended, as a spectator, the second day. Not long after my arrival the GENERALISSIMO began cannonading. I returned a few shots. Night coming on, we could not get into actual engagement. I was in hopes the storm of battle would blow over.

“The next morning, however, they fired at me at least one hour with a LARGE GUN, which they obtained from NEW-JERSEY. It contained nothing but BLANK charges. They spent one hour more in firing at me with a POP-GUN, which they called HENRY CLACK. Finding that I was still on the ground, the CHIEF-GENERAL concluded that he would let loose upon me. But some of the most influential members of the Shamokin church, hearing several gentlemen declare that they would leave the ground ‘if Mr. S______ was not allowed to speak,’ determined that I should have the next SHOT. I arose and had the satisfaction of seeing some of their VETERANS leave the ground before I concluded. The FIELD MARSHALL endeavored to rally his forces, but in vain. I knew of but one who would stand by me in the day of battle, but to my great surprise I heard, a NON-COMMISSIONED officer of the Shamokin department declare that my cause was just, and that he also renounced confessions of faith. ‘I then thanked God and took courage.’

“There are several in this department who are disgusted with ecclesiastical tyranny; but they can’t fight – I am, however, not alone. The people in this section of country, who have never been MARRIED to creeds, I believe, are universally opposed to them.”

“S.E.S______

“Moreland, the 30th of January, 1827”

[Note: In his letter, S.E.S______ placed emphasis on certain words by two means: italics and ALL CAPS. In the reproduction of his letter above, I’ve retained S.E.S______’s use of ALL CAPS where he used them, but have converted his use of words in italics to ALL CAPS.]

May 8

May 8, 1886 – Imagine a Presbyterian Church inviting you, a Restoration Heritage preacher, to “hold a meeting” for them. Yes, imagine that.

Today is a Saturday, and every night this week T.B. Larimore has been preaching at the Presbyterian Church in Florence, Alabama. No, the Restoration Heritage churches in Florence have not borrowed the Presbyterian’s building in which to conduct their own evangelistic effort. Rather, Larimore is conducting a meeting at the invitation of the Presbyterian Church in Florence. The local paper, the Florence Gazette, reports that his preaching this week has been “to large congregations” and “with marked effect.”

And yes, like you, I’m still working on that “imagine” business.

May 9

May 9, 1895 – Why is it the greatest antagonism is typically shown between people who have the least differences, while kinder and gentler words and ways are selected for those with whom we have far less in common? Is it not because money and material things are worth so very much to us? And do we think those of the world who are yet to believe, don’t notice?

The year 1906 is generally recognized as the year the major split in the Restoration Heritage is officially recognized. But, of course, the rip in the fabric of the heritage had been growing for several decades prior. Serious church fights are all too common from the 1860’s onward and, as a result, lawsuits over church property have steadily increased.

Due to this very problem a letter from the pen of Thomas R. Burnett is published today in the Gospel Advocate. Burnett counsels brethren to take the hit and not take matters of church property into civil courts for decision. But, his letter also speaks of the great bitterness that boils in the hearts of many brethren who disagree over matters such as church government, instrumental music, missionary societies, and open or close communion … his own heart, not excluded.

“Brethren, proceed to re-establish the ancient order of things, just as if there never was a Church of Christ in your town. Gather all the brethren together who love Bible order better than modern fads and foolishness, and start the work and worship of the church in the old apostolic way. Do not go to law over church property. It is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong. Build a cheap and comfortable chapel, and improve it when you get able. It is better to have one dozen true disciples in a cheap house than a thousand apostate pretenders in a palace who love modern innovations better than Bible truths.”

“True disciples” and “apostate pretenders.” (sigh) One has to wonder how the division between our religious ancestors might have played out – and what witness of Christian spirit might have been given to the world – if churches then had simply not sought to own property at all in the first place, choosing instead to gather together as the church first did in Jerusalem – in public places and in private homes. And, some of us wonder why churches need to own billions of dollars property today … and whether Christ’s kingdom is really better off for it or not.