SOME GREAT LEADERS OF THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT
In November I wrote three essays under the above heading, with vignettes of three great leaders constituting each essay. I have been encouraged by a number of readers to write some additional articles along this line, and intermittently over the next several weeks I plan to do so. I will resume with the previous numbering of the articles (i.e., this will be Part 4), as well as with the numbering of the men I shall mention (i.e., Barton W. Stone will be number 10, etc.).
10. Barton Warren Stone (1772-1844). Born in Port Tobacco, MD on Christmas Eve in 1772, Stone’s father died when he was three years old and his mother moved the family to Virginia. As an infant his mother had him sprinkled in the Church of England. In 1790 he entered Guilford Academy in North Carolina, a school operated by David Caldwell, a Presbyterian preacher. In 1791 Stone united with the Presbyterian Church, and in 1796 he received his license to preach in that denomination. In 1798 he received a call from the Cane Ridge and Concord Presbyterian Churches in Kentucky to preach for them, but he became increasingly dismayed by Calvinism. In 1804, after preaching six years for the two Presbyterian congregations, he informed them that he could no longer conscientiously preach Presbyterian doctrine. He and four of his fellow Presbyterian preachers withdrew from the Presbyterian Church. Independent study led them to abandon infant baptism and sprinkling. They baptized (immersed) each other and soon many others followed them in taking this step. In a famous document known as “The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery,” among a number of other items, they said, “We will, that the people henceforth take the Bible as the only sure guide to heaven; and as many as are offended with other books, which stand in competition with it, [they] may cast them into the fire, if they choose; for it is better to enter into life having one book, than having many to be cast into hell.” In 1826 Stone began editing and publishing The Christian Messenger and it continued until 1845. In 1801 he had married Eliza Campbell. Eliza died in 1810, leaving him with a son and four daughters. The next year he married Cecilia Bowen. By both wives he fathered nineteen children. Stone died on November 9, 1844 in Hannibal, MO in the home of his son-in-law, Captain Samuel Bowen. (I do not know what kinship may have existed between Stone’s second wife and Samuel Bowen who married his daughter Amanda). When asked if he had any fear of death, Stone’s response was, “Oh, no, I know in whom I have believed and in whom I have trusted. God bless you, my brother. I hope to meet you in heaven.” He was buried in Hannibal, but the body was later reburied at Cane Ridge in Kentucky. A stone marker bears this inscription: “The church of Christ at Cane Ridge and other generous friends in Kentucky have caused this monument to be erected in a tribute of affection and gratitude to Barton W. Stone, minister of the gospel of Christ and the distinguished reformer of the 19th century.”
11. Samuel Rogers (1789-1877). Rogers was born in Charlotte County, VA on November 6, 1789. His mother, a member of the Church of England who had taken her stand with the Methodists, had Samuel christened by the famous Bishop Francis Asbury. On January 14, 1812, Samuel married Elizabeth Irvin who became a great spiritual influence in his life. Her family had been converted to the principles of the restoration by Barton W. Stone (see above), and because of her, Rogers came under the influence of Stone. Shortly after his marriage, he was immersed into Christ. In spite of a lack of much formal education, Rogers began preaching the gospel and calling people back to the Bible. After preaching for a while in Kentucky, he moved to Clinton County, OH. He preached to his neighbors and gathered together a group of Christians. Rogers expanded his field of labor and spent much time preaching on the frontier of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri. He was the second man to preach the gospel in Missouri and the first to preach it in St. Louis. Both success and hardship were parts of the life of Samuel Rogers. Of his preaching he said, “The story was plain and easy to tell. There was nothing to do but open my Bible and let it tell to a perishing world the way of salvation. It was not necessary to warp or twist a single word or sentence” (H. Leo Boles, “Biographical Sketches of Gospel Preachers,” Gospel Advocate Company , pp. 52-53). Of all the hundreds of people Samuel Rogers baptized, probably the most famous was Benjamin (Ben) Franklin, the object of the next sketch. Though deaf and almost blind in his closing years, Rogers remained happy. He retained his mind and memory to the very last, and closed his eyes in death in Carlisle, KY on June 23, 1877. (Note: For much of the preceding, I am indebted to Don Deffenbaugh and his lecture on Samuel Rogers delivered at the Faulkner University Bible Lectures in Montgomery, AL in 1997).
12. Benjamin Franklin (1812-1878). The great-great nephew of his famous forebear and namesake, Ben Franklin was born in Belmont County, OH on February 1, 1812. The Franklin family moved to Henry County, IN in 1833. The same year, Samuel Rogers (above) moved with his family to Henry County, IN and established a church after the New Testament order. Rogers set out to convert the Franklins (who were Methodist in their religious background), and succeeded in doing so, with Rogers baptizing Ben in December of 1834. The following month, Ben went to work studying the Bible and preparing himself to preach. Though his education was limited and his grammar initially quite poor, he continued to study diligently, and went on to become one of the greatest and most influential preachers among those pleading for a restoration of the New Testament order of things in Christianity, especially in the North. Of him Earl West wrote, “He did not pretend to be a philosopher, a politician, a teller of stories, or anything of the kind. He was a gospel preacher in everything the term implies . . . It is not likely that a greater, nobler, truer, purer preacher of the gospel lived since apostolic times than Ben Franklin” (The Search for the Ancient Order, Volume 1, p. 103-104). Two volumes of his sermons were published under the title The Gospel Preacher. When Samuel Rogers had grown old and Ben Franklin had become famous as a preacher, Rogers took great satisfaction in knowing that he had introduced Franklin to the gospel. In 1850 Franklin and his family moved to Cincinnati, OH, and in January of 1856 he began editing and publishing the American Christian Review, a periodical devoted to upholding the principles of apostolic Christianity. Franklin engaged in a number of debates with Universalists as well as with various denominationalists. He was bitterly opposed to the use of instrumental music in worship and refused to preach where the instrument was used. In 1864 he moved to Anderson, IN where he spent the rest of his life preaching, debating, and writing for the advancement of the New Testament way. He died on October 23, 1878 of an apparent heart attack, after spending the morning writing editorials. West notes, “Until that Tuesday afternoon of October 23, 1878, Franklin was a busy man in the kingdom of the Master.” His funeral was conducted two days later and he was buried in the Anderson Cemetery in Anderson, IN. Of him, Jacob Creath, Jr. said, “If our own brethren believed in canonizing men, he could soon be placed on the front ranks of the roll of canonization . . . He has left no one who can fill his place, and we shall not see his like soon again” (American Christian Review [March 4,
1879], p. 73, as cited by West).
December 12, 2017