SOME GREAT LEADERS OF THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT
Below are vignettes of three more great leaders of the Restoration Movement. The numbering sequence continues from last week.
4. “Raccoon” John Smith (1784-1868). John Smith was born on October 15, 1784 in what is now Sullivan County in East Tennessee. In 1795 the family moved to Kentucky. Smith was reared in a Calvinist home, and as a young man “seeking religion” he struggled with the doctrine of predestination as taught by the Baptists of his day . . . that a person could do nothing toward his salvation. His mother told him “to wait on the Lord.” On December 26, 1804, Smith appeared before the Baptist Church, made a simple statement of his religious feelings, and was voted into the Baptist Church. In 1808 he was ordained to preach in the Baptist Church. In 1815 he was asked to speak at the Tate’s Creek Baptist Association meeting in Crab Orchard, KY. He began his sermon by saying, “I am John Smith from Stockton’s Valley. Down there saltpeter caves abound and raccoons make their homes.” Forever thereafter he was known as “Raccoon” John Smith! He continued to struggle with and to question Calvinistic teaching. To a congregation of Baptists he said, “Brethren, something is wrong—I am in the dark—we are all in the dark; but how to lead you out to the light, or to find the way myself, before God, I know not,” and abruptly ended his sermon. But by 1826 he had become acquainted with the principles of the restoration movement and began to preach the need to return to the ancient order, thus disassociating himself from the Baptists. He became a fervent and effective proclaimer of “the ancient order of things.” In one letter to his wife he reported on his evangelistic efforts by saying, “I have baptized 600 sinners and capsized 1500 Baptists.” On one occasion Smith was asked the difference between baptism and the mourner’s bench. He replied, “One is from heaven, the other is from the saw mill.” “Raccoon” John Smith passed from this life on February 28, 1868 and is buried in Lexington, KY. A part of the inscription on his tombstone reads: “Strong through affliction, and wise by the study of the Word, he gave up the Creed of his fathers for the sake of that Word. By its power, he turned many from error; in its light he walked, and in its consolations he triumphantly died.”
5. Moses E. Lard (1818-1880). Moses Easterly Lard was born in abject poverty in Bedford County, TN on October 29, 1818. When he was fourteen years old his family moved to Missouri. At the age of seventeen he was unable to write his name, but went on to become one of the great scholars and preachers of the principles on which apostolic Christianity is possible in any age of the world. He came into possession of Walter Scott’s The Gospel Restored, and after reading it became convinced of the validity of New Testament Christianity. In 1841, at the age of twenty-three, he obeyed the gospel. When Lard met Scott for the first time, he threw his arms around him and said, “Brother Scott, you are the first man who taught me the gospel.” Past the age of thirty and after he was married and the father of two children, Lard entered Bethany College where he completed the four year program in three years and graduated as valedictorian of his class. All of this was accomplished while supporting his family with secular work. After college, he returned to Missouri where he preached for ten years, then moved to Kentucky. He was a gifted orator and when he preached on the Prodigal Son it was said that he painted the scene so vividly that the audience would turn and look back to the door to see if the prodigal was coming home! He founded and edited Lard’s Quarterly, wrote extensively for several other publications, and in 1875 issued his Commentary on Romans, representing the ripest of his scholarship. The dedicatory note to the book reads: “To my Savior, in profound humility, this volume is gratefully inscribed.” I have owned and used this volume for over sixty years. Moses E. Lard passed from this life on June 18, 1880 in Lexington, KY. As death approached he said, “There is not a cloud between me and my heavenly Father.”
6. J. W. McGarvey (1829-1911). John William McGarvey, destined to become one of the greatest Bible scholars, was born in Hopkinsville, KY on March 1, 1829. He attended Bethany College and graduated at the head of his class in 1850, delivering the Greek valedictory address. He moved to Missouri where he preached for eleven years, before moving to Lexington, KY to serve as minister, first with the Main Street church, and then the Broadway church. In addition to his preaching, McGarvey taught at the College of the Bible (then a part of Kentucky University), and also was a prolific writer. At the age of thirty-three he completed a commentary on the book of Acts, being motivated to write it because of the futile efforts of denominationalism to provide the Bible answer to how one becomes a Christian. I have owned and used this book for almost sixty years. In 1879 McGarvey made a six month trip to the Bible lands, and the following year his book, Lands of the Bible, made its appearance. McGarvey believed unreservedly in the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures and wrote often in opposition to the liberal critics of the Bible. In 1886, he wrote Text and Canon of the New Testament and in 1891 produced Credibility and Inspiration. The London Times said of him, “In all probability, J. W. McGarvey is the ripest Bible scholar on earth.” McGarvey was strong as a doctrinal preacher. He delighted in preaching on the cases of conversion found in the book of Acts. In the summer of 1893 he preached for the Broadway church in Louisville, KY and preached all the cases of conversion in Acts. The following year a book containing the Broadway sermons was published. This became his most popular book. The young preacher boys at the College of the Bible would ask on Sunday morning, “Where are you going to church today?” The answer was, “If I knew Lard (Moses E. Lard, a gifted orator but with a limited number of outstanding sermons, hf), was on his high horse, I would go to Main Street, but there is doubt about this, so I will go to Broadway, for ‘Little Mac’ never disappoints.” J. W. McGarvey passed from this life on October 6, 1911 and is buried in Lexington, KY near the graves of “Raccoon” John Smith and Henry Clay.
(To Be Continued)
October 31, 2017
November 8: West Fayetteville Church of Christ, Fayetteville, TN