SOME GREAT LEADERS OF THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT
Here are the remaining three vignettes in this series of some of the great leaders of the Restoration Movement. The numbering sequence continues from the two preceding articles.
7. Tolbert Fanning (1810-1874). Born in Cannon County, TN on May 10, 1810, the Fanning family moved to Lauderdale County, AL in about 1818. When he was 17 years old, Fanning heard the gospel preached by B. F. Hall during a meeting held on Cypress Creek in Lauderdale County. Young Tolbert responded to the invitation and was immersed into Christ by James E. Matthews. Within a few years he was preaching and, according to Earl I. West, became the most influential preacher in the South before the War Between the States. Fanning was a giant of a man physically, intellectually, and spiritually. As an adult, he stood 6’ 6” tall and weighed 240 pounds. He was possessed of a strong physical constitution and was capable of an immense amount of work. At the age of thirty-three, he founded Franklin College in Nashville, on land now engulfed by the Nashville International Airport. In 1855, with William Lipscomb, Fanning founded the Gospel Advocate and was its first editor. Except for a short period of time during the Civil War, the Advocate has been in continuous publication since its founding. I have treasured copies of the 100th, the 150th, and the 160th anniversary issues of this journal. In addition to his preaching, school work, and work as an editor, Fanning was a farmer and a breeder of cattle. West says of him, “It was nothing unusual for him to spend all day at school or on the farm, and then write or study until 2:00 A.M. The next day he would continue his usual program. Fanning possessed a powerful brain, a strong will, an indomitable courage, great self-reliance and perseverance.” He passed from this life on May 3, 1874, a Lord’s Day, and is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville.
8. David Lipscomb (1831-1917). David Lipscomb was born in the Old Salem Community of Franklin County, TN on January 21, 1831. His family had been members of the Baptist Church, but left the Baptists when they learned the principles of the restoration of apostolic Christianity. Lipscomb was a diligent and thorough student of the Scriptures. At the age of thirteen he memorized the four gospels, as well as the book of Acts. He entered Franklin College under Tolbert Fanning (see above) where he was a good student. He preached his first sermons around 1857 or 1858, and when the Gospel Advocate resumed publication after the Civil War, Lipscomb was listed as co-editor with Tolbert Fanning. Because of Fanning’s other interests and activities, much of the editorial work of the Advocate fell on Lipscomb. For the next almost 50 years he served as editor of the Advocate and wielded a great influence on the church throughout the South. He wrote in strong opposition to missionary societies, instrumental music in the worship of the church, and women preachers, issues then confronting the church. In 1906, those issues led to a split between those who were for the innovations and those who opposed them. Those who supported them became known as the Christian Church, which later again divided into the Christian Church and the Disciples of Christ. Those who stood on the original ground of the New Testament were known simply as churches of Christ. (It is alarming to note that instrumental music and women preachers are again plaguing the church in some quarters today). In 1891, Lipscomb and James A. Harding established Nashville Bible School. In 1903, the school moved to Lipscomb’s farm—Avalon—on Granny White Pike which Lipscomb had donated to the school. Following Lipscomb’s death in 1917, the name of the school was changed to David Lipscomb College, and today is known as Lipscomb University. Lamentably, the current Lipscomb University does not hold to the principles and truths so ardently advocated by Lipscomb the man. David Lipscomb passed from this life on November 11, 1917 at the age of 86 and is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville.
9. N. B. Hardeman (1874-1965). Nicholas Brodie Hardeman was born on May 14, 1874 near the little town of Milledgeville in McNairy County, TN. He was baptized into Christ in 1890 while a student at West Tennessee Christian College in Henderson, TN. Hardeman later taught at WTCC, and its successor institution, Georgie Robertson Christian College. In 1908, he and A. G. Freed founded National Teachers’ Normal and Business College in Henderson. This school was renamed Freed-Hardeman College in 1919 and Hardeman served as its president from 1926 until 1950. In 1990 it became Freed-Hardeman University. I am honored to be an alumnus of this great school. In addition to being an outstanding educator, Hardeman was a great preacher and debater. From 1922 until 1942, he held five extended meetings in Nashville – known popularly as the “Hardeman Tabernacle Meetings.” The first four meetings were held in the famous Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The fifth meeting was conducted in the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville. The sermons from the meetings were published in their entirety in both The (Nashville) Tennessean and The (Nashville) Banner, Nashville’s two daily newspapers. It has been said that Hardeman’s Tabernacle Sermons did more to advance the cause of New Testament Christianity in Middle Tennessee than anything else. I own all five volumes of these published sermons and commend them highly as being representative of the kind of preaching that is still badly needed today! Hardeman also was an extremely able debater and conducted a number of outstanding discussions with exponents of religious error. In 1923 he met Ira M. Boswell of the Christian Church in the Ryman Auditorium in a debate on the use of instrumental music in worship. Hardeman showed convincingly that instrumental music is not authorized in the worship of the church, and he often felt that this was his best debate. The Nashville newspapers gave wide coverage to the discussion. In 1938, he met Ben M. Bogard of the Baptist Church in a debate in Little Rock, AR. They discussed the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion, the necessity of baptism, the establishment of the church, and the possibility of apostasy. I have read and relished both of these published debates. On the evening of May 18, 1959, more than 750 people gathered at the elegant Peabody Hotel in Memphis, TN to honor N. B. Hardeman on his 85th birthday. Among an array of dignitaries present were Governor Buford Ellington, Senator Albert Gore, Sr., and Senator and Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas. N. B. Hardeman passed from this life in Memphis, TN on November 5, 1965 and is buried in the City Cemetery in Henderson, TN.
To borrow the language of the writer of Hebrews (11:32, 38), “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of” Barton W. Stone, John T. Johnson, Samuel Rogers, Benjamin (Ben) Franklin (not to be confused with the statesman of the same name), T. B. Larimore, A. G. Freed, F. D. Srygley, F. B. Srygley, J. D. Tant, and a host of others “of whom the world was not worthy.”
November 7, 2017
November 8: West Fayetteville Church of Christ, Fayetteville, TN