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: March 22-28

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

March 22

* March 22, 1829 – Today, for the first time, the Baptist church in Windham (in the ‘Western Reserve,’ as the western portion of Ohio is known at that time), begins observing the Lord’s Supper on a weekly basis. The church had been “constituted a church of Christ” the preceding May by Thomas Campbell and Marcus Bosworth. To be “constituted a church of Christ” a group of believers rejects existing creeds and confessions and begins to look to the “New Testament as a perfect rule, directory and formula for the faith, discipline, and government of the church.”

In a letter from William Hayden (a preaching partner with Walter Scott) to Thomas Campbell in May 1830, Hayden speaks of the period of change within the congregation from its existence as a Baptist church to a church within the Restoration Heritage. Matters of transition were not conducted overnight, but were gradually phased in.

“A wise forbearance ruled the church, and they eventually all came to the unity of the faith and practice of the apostolic order.”

In his letter to Campbell, Hayden also comments on the spread of the Restoration Heritage in the Western Reserve:

“The Word of God has great success with us. The churches are growing in knowledge, spirituality and numbers. New churches are rising up in very many towns on the Reserve, where we are laboring.”

* March 22, 1833 – On this day, thirty-three year old Absalom Rice, one of the earliest pioneer preachers in Missouri, pens a letter to Alexander Campbell reporting on some of the spread, trials, and influence of the Restoration Heritage in “the West” (i.e. – east central Missouri). Campbell publishes the letter in the Millenial Harbinger.

“Calloway County, MO., March 22, 1833

“Surrounded with opposition by all sectarian societies, and as far in the wilds and forests of the West, we, a few names, constituted ourselves on the second Lord’s Day of December [9], 1832, into a congregation of the Lord; there being only nine in number, three males and six females. We have since increased to twenty-three in number, and I am of opinion that the prospect is somewhat flattering for gaining many more. Our friends of the Baptists and other denominations have many hard sayings concerning our belief, but utterly refuse investigation. But I have succeeded in getting some of them to read for themselves, and they confess that they find no such views in your writings as are attributed to you. I received a request a few days ago to visit a Methodist society, 20 miles distant. They had got hold of the Harbinger, and in spite of all their priests can do, are about to blow up. Light is spreading, and men’s minds cannot be much longer manacled by sectarianism. – Absalom Rice

March 23

* March 23, 1827John Franklin Rowe is born just outside of Greensburg, Pennsylvania. He will grow to become a significant writer and publisher in the Restoration Heritage. He is most remembered for his work with the American Christian Review (1867-1886), his own paper (Christian Leader – 1886-1897), and, most significantly, his book entitled History of Reformatory Movements: Resulting in a Restoration of the Apostolic Church, with a History of the Nineteen General Church Councils (1884). Rowe’s book of history, virtually excising the record of Barton W. Stone and his influence from the work of the Stone-Campbell Movement, depicts Campbell’s work as the summit of the mountain that all preceding reformation movements have attempted to climb. This book helps seal this understanding of the Restoration Heritage’s place in history in the minds of many young ministerial students for nearly half a century. It is not until the appearance of F.W. Shepherd’s book The Church, the Falling Away, and the Restoration in 1929 (published by a son of John Franklin Rowe) that Rowe’s history is superseded.

* March 23, 1830 – On this day, Robert B. Semple, a prominent Baptist preacher in Virginia of the time, pens a letter to Alexander Campbell regarding the work of the Holy Spirit and the interpretation of Scripture. Campbell publishes Semple’s letter, and his reply, in the Millenial Harbinger (vol.1, no.3). In his reply to Semple, we learn of some of Campbell’s early quest and habits toward understanding Scripture, who he has read after, and what a change of approach and mind has taken place within him.

“From the age of sixteen I read devoutly, at intervals, the most ‘evangelical writers.’ … ‘Dr. John Owen was a great favorite with me; I read most of his works …

“… how laboriously and extensively I … examined the question of faith. For the space of one year I read upon this subject alone. Fuller, Bellamy, Hervey, Glass, Sandeman, Cudworth, Scott, M’Lean, Erskine, cum multis aliis, were not only read, but studied as I studied geometry. And I solemnly say, that, although I was considered at the age of twenty-four [1812] a much more systematic preacher and text expositor than I am now considered, and more accustomed to strew my sermons with scores of texts in proof of every point, I am conscious that I did not understand the New Testament; not a single book of it. Matthew Henry and Thomas Scott were my favorite commentators. …

“… I began to read the scriptures critically. Works of criticism from Michaelis down to Sharp, on the Greek article, were resorted to. While these threw light on many passages, still the book as a whole, the religion of Jesus Christ as a whole, was hid from me.

“I took the naked text and followed common sense; I read it, subject to the ordinary rules of interpretation, and thus it was it became to me a new book.

“… as I learned my Bible I lost my orthodoxy, and from being one of the most evangelical in the estimation of many, I became the most heretical. I can only say for the spirit which actuated me, that it was a most vehement desire to understand the truth. I did most certainly put the world out of my sight. I cared no more for popularity than I did for the shadow that followed my body when the Sun shone. I valued truth more than the gold of Ophir, and I sought her with my whole heart, as for hidden treasure. My eye was single, as King James’ Translators said. I paid no court to the prejudices of the world, and did sacrifice every worldly object to the Bible.

“… I would only add that experience has taught me that to get a victory over the world, over the life of fame, and to hold in perfect contempt human honor, adulation, and popularity, will do more to make the New Testament intelligible, than all the commentators that ever wrote.”

March 24

March 24, 1818 – On this day, a Tuesday, Barton W. Stone, Sr. conducts a wedding for Rebecca Willamson Russell and a young veteran of the War of 1812, twenty year-old Thomas Miller (“T.M.”) Allen. Given his experiences in the war, T.M. has lost all interest not only in the church in which he was reared (Presbyterian), but in matters of faith altogether; however, the friendship that is kindled between him and Stone, and hearing Stone preach, ultimately leads to his baptism into Christ by Stone in May 1823.

T.M. is, if anything, a human dynamo, being diligent in focus and labor. Between his marriage (1818) and his baptism (1823), he studies law at Transylvania University, becomes a grand master in a Masonic Lodge (the same lodge in which Henry Clay is a member), and practices law for a time in Indiana with his law partner, James Whitcomb (who later becomes the Governor of Indiana, and then, a U.S. Senator). However, within two years of his baptism, T.M. takes up preaching and John Allen Gano is one of his first converts (July 1827).

In 1836, T.M. and Rebecca move to Boone County, Missouri, and T.M., now making a living by farming, becomes wealthy and purchases several slaves.  He treats his slaves well, so well in fact that despite the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War, most of his slaves refuse to leave the Allen family (and all keep connection with the family).

Throughout this time, T.M. continues to preach and though he continues to farm, he also travels through much of Missouri and even makes time in the early 1840’s to help edit Stone’s paper, the Christian Messenger. H. Leo Boles once said of T.M.:

“No man did more to spread the cause of Christ in the State of Missouri than did Thomas M. Allen.”

Over the course of his life, T.M. baptizes a total of 3,570 people and plants/organizes eighteen churches.

And what of John Allen Gano? It is an article regarding the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper that appears (1831) in the Christian Messenger, penned by John Allen Gano, that powerfully influences members of the Stone Movement and so, does much to pave the way the following year (1832) for official union between the Stone and Campbell Movements. Oh, and John Allen Gano is the father of Richard Montgomery (“R.M.”) Gano, a man we will speak more of in a future post.

March 25

March 25, 1857 – In the May 1857 issue of the Millenial Harbinger, Alexander Campbell reproduces a letter penned to him on this day, March 25, 1857, telling of the advance of the gospel in Alliance, Ohio. In it we’re allowed to listen in on and overhear the private conversation of a preacher and one coming forward to be baptized. The introduction and letter reads:

“Bro. P.K. Dibble writing to us from Canton [Ohio] under date of March 25 [1857], says – ‘On Monday night last I concluded a meeting of 16 days at Alliance, in this county, which resulted in the organization of a congregation of 53 members. Of this number, 12 confessed their faith in Christ Jesus and were immersed into his death; 6 united from the Baptists, 2 from the Methodists, and 4 reclaimed; the balance were disciples living in Alliance and the neighborhood, many of them not knowing that there were any brethren in the neighborhood besides themselves.

“‘On Monday night I went to the Mahoning and immersed a young lady; as I came out of the water, a physician of that place came forward and said, “Here is water, what hinders me from being baptized?” I answered, “If you believest with all thy heart thou mayest.” He replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” We both went down into the water, and I baptized him.'”

March 26

March 26, 1830 – On this day, the Book of Mormon makes its first appearance to the public. Not wanting to lend the Book of Mormon any publicity and hoping it will die a natural death by being ignored, Alexander Campbell does not publish a review of it until the following February (1831). He feels prompted to review it then only because rather than dying a quick death, Mormonism’s influence has been increasing. His review in the Millenial Harbinger is nothing less than a broadside and is entitled “Delusions.” Following are a few of Campbell’s comments on the Book of Mormon and the head of the Mormon faith, Joseph Smith:

  • Mormonism is “… the most recent and most impudent delusion which has appeared in our time.”
  • Joseph Smith is “as ignorant and impudent a knave as ever wrote a book …”
  • In publishing the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith has set forth an “impious fraud.”
  • “This prophet Smith, through his stone spectacles, wrote on the plates of Nephi, in his Book of Mormon, every error and almost every truth discussed in New York for the last ten years. … But he is better skilled in in the controversies of New York than in the geography or history of Judea.”
  • The Book of Mormon is “without exaggeration the meanest* book in the English language … It has not one good sentence in it. … I would as soon compare a bat to the American eagle, a mouse to a mammoth, or the deformities of a spectre to the beauty of Him who whom John saw on Patmos, as to contrast it with a single chapter in all the writings of the Jewish or Christian prophets. It is as certainly Smith’s fabrication as Satan is the father of lies, or darkness the offspring of night.”
  • “Let the children of Mormon ponder well, if yet reason remains with them … Isaiah 44, and if they cannot see the analogy between themselves and the sons of ancient imposture, then reason is of as little use to them as it was to those of whom the prophet spake …”

In addition to the ‘Delusions’ article, Campbell adds a brief article entitled “Sidney Rigdon” (pp.100-101). Sidney Rigdon had once been a preacher in the Restoration Heritage, but had left to join the Mormons early on. Of Rigdon, Campbell has this to say:

“He who sets out to find signs and omens will soon enough find enough of them. He that expects visits from angels will find them as abundant as he who in the age of witchcraft found a witch in every unseemly old woman. I doubt not but that the irreverence and levity in speaking of the things of God, which have been too apparent in Sidney’s public exhibitions for some time past, and which he has lately confessed, may yet be found to have been the cause of this abandonment to delusion.”

[* As in “small-minded, ignoble, inferior in grade, of little consequence, or shabby.”]

March 27

March 27, 1824 – We all find strength in, and require strength from, others. And so we might ask: if those of us who are “mere mortals” look to “giants” in faith and scholarship for the articulate expression of matters, to whom do the giants turn? In a great many cases, we will never know, and in cases where we do, it is often people we have not heard of, or who for whatever reasons, are largely forgotten.

On this day, one is born who becomes one of those that one of the giants among us turned for insight into meaning and expression. Namely, on this day, Lanceford Bramblet (“L.B.”) Wilkes is born to Edmund & Cynthia Hartshorn (Houston) Wilkes in Maury County, Tennessee. He will become, among other things, a scholar, preacher, writer, and debater. And though not a name nearly so well remembered today as that of J.W. McGarvey, it was MaGarvey who once said of Wilkes:

“If my life were dependent statement of an argument, I would have Bro. L.B. Wilkes state it.”

March 28

March 28, 1855 – On this day, John Naylor writes a letter to Alexander Campbell from Halifax, Nova Scotia. The heart of his letter reads:

“I have been a pretty careful reader of your writings for years, with few intermissions, when I could not obtain them; and as the opportunity casually offers, to write to yourself … Dr. Jeter [Jeremiah Bell Jeter, a prominent Baptist critic of Campbell] charges you with materially modifying your views – or, rather, the expression of your views – and that you have altered your opinion of ministerial education, &c.

“Well, it seems to me, my dear Sir, that he is somewhat correct in some of these matters. You formerly used some terms, and advanced some sentiments, which do not agree with your late publications. I cannot refer to the Christian Baptist at present; but, if my recollection serve me, I think I could cull out a few paragraphs, and not take them from their connection either, which would not quite tally with your late efforts for Colleges.

“However, no person who has ever written one-tithe of the matter that you have done, is less open to the charge than yourself; and it would certainly be very strange if, by garbled extracts, such discrepancies could not be shown.”

Campbell’s reply in Millenial Harbinger begins with these words:

“Touching these changes of which you have spoken, and to which you allude, I have leisure, at present, only to state, that I am not conscious of any change in any Christian doctrine since I wrote the first volume of the Christian Baptist. That my horizon has been much enlarged during the last thirty years, I should be ashamed not to avow. But it has mainly been in deepening my impressions of the great departure, in the exhibition and practice of the present Christian world, from Primitive Christianity.”