Hugh’s News & Views (Some Great Leaders . . . Pt. 6)


16. J. M. Barnes (1836-1913). Born in Montgomery County, AL on February 10, 1836, Justus McDuffie Barnes was brought up on an old-time Southern plantation. His father was a cotton planter and slave owner, and his plantation was only another name for plenty, prosperity, and happiness. An only son with two sisters, Justus had as his constant boyhood companion an older slave boy named Ben. As a boy, Barnes had music in his soul, hilarity in his feet, and harmless good humor in every fiber of his being. The first time his mother heard the plea for a “thus saith the Lord” in all religious matters she accepted it, and for years she was the foremost defender of the truth in her section of the country, being such privately and person to person. Barnes entered Bethany College in 1854 and graduated in 1856, studying under Alexander Campbell, the founder of the school. After graduating, he returned to his father’s plantation in the little village of Strata, south of the city of Montgomery. With his two brothers-in-law, he established an educational institution in Highland Home, AL in which the Bible was taught and in which a number of men from the South were trained to become gospel preachers. In addition to being a preacher and educator, Barnes was a writer of some note. He preached extensively in evangelistic meetings in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Texas, as well as other states. As a preacher, teacher, and writer, he was known for the closeness with which he adhered to the Scriptures. He was a careful and constant student of the New Testament in the original Greek. In the spring of 1913 while driving down the road in a new automobile, an old black friend, working in a nearby field, waved and called to him. Taking his eyes off the road for a moment to return the greeting, he lost control of the car and died from injuries on April 28, 1913. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama. Though small in stature, he was a giant among leaders in the Restoration Movement in Alabama in the latter half of the 19th century and the early 20th century. (Note: I am indebted to F. D. Srygley, Biographies and Sermons, Gospel Advocate [1961, a reprint], pp. 395-404, for much of the above material).

17. E. A. Elam (1855-1929). The oldest child of James Elam’s second wife, Edwin A. Elam was born on March 7, 1855 at Fosterville in southern Rutherford County, TN. His father had been a Primitive Baptist until converted to the New Testament way by the preaching of Tolbert Fanning. His mother had never been anything religiously but a Christian only. Edwin was baptized when he was sixteen years old. When he was seventeen he entered Franklin College near Nashville where he attended one year. In 1876 he entered Burritt College in Spencer, TN, graduating in the spring of 1879. At the invitation of T. B. Larimore, he moved to Mars Hill, near Florence, AL, to teach at Mars Hill Academy, a school established by Larimore. It was while teaching at Mars Hill that he preached his first sermon in the courthouse in Florence, AL in November of 1879. Significantly, Elam never attended any Bible school or college to learn how to preach. Both Franklin College and Burritt College were literary schools, and he went to Mars Hill as a teacher, not as a student, though he did spend some time studying the Bible with the great Larimore. In June of 1880 he returned to Middle Tennessee where he spent the rest of his life. On February 5, 1884, he married Mary Thompson of Bellwood, TN, near Lebanon. He preached extensively in Middle Tennessee and throughout the South and into Canada. In addition to preaching, Elam seized every opportunity to write, with most of his literary talents going to the Gospel Advocate. His first article appeared on March 4, 1880, three days shy of his 25th birthday. In February of 1901 he was listed for the first time as co-editor with David Lipscomb and E. G. Sewell. When F. D. Srygley died in the summer of 1900, Elam succeeded him as the front page editor of the Advocate, and held that position until February 1909. He gained wide brotherhood attention when in 1922 he began writing his highly acclaimed Elam’s Notes. He was one of “A Noble Quintet” recognized in the 100th anniversary edition of the Gospel Advocate of July 14, 1955, a treasured copy of which I have owned since I was seventeen years old. In that momentous issue it was said of him: “Few men could write so well on Christian living as Brother Elam. When he launched an attack on the ramparts of sin, it was relentless.” In 1901 he was added to the Board of Trustees of Nashville Bible School, and in 1906 he was elected president of the school, holding the position until 1913. After retiring from the school, he spent most of his time writing for the Advocate. He passed from this life on March 14, 1929, one week past his 74th birthday. As to what he most admired in preachers he said, “Some preachers are praised for their logic and others for their pathos and eloquence; but when I am dead, what I would rather could be said of me than anything else is: ‘Here lies a man who did not shun to declare the whole counsel of God.’ ”

18. M. C. Kurfees (1856-1931). Born into a Methodist family on January 31, 1856 near Mocksville, NC, Marshall Clement Kurfees was destined for greatness as a proclaimer and defender of New Testament Christianity. As a youth he wanted to be a Christian, but did not know how. He sought salvation in the way that all the preachers of his area advised—by the mourner’s bench. At the age of fifteen he joined the Methodist Church with the determination that he would do the best he could to live a pure life. A few weeks later he heard a gospel preacher by the name of G. W. Neely. Neely quoted the Bible freely and fully, and taught exactly what the Bible said, nothing more nor less. He aroused the animosity of all the denominational preachers in the area. One day in a family conversation at home where “Neely’s doctrine” and the abuse he was receiving was being discussed, young Kurfees, who had read the New Testament completely through for himself, spoke up and said, “They may say what they please about Brother Neely, but one thing is certain: he is preaching what is in the Bible.” On July 24, 1872, at the age of sixteen, he was baptized into Christ by W. L. Butler. Later, his father and mother renounced Methodism for the apostolic way. In 1874 Kurfees entered the College of the Bible in Lexington, KY where he remained for a year before moving to Western Kentucky and then Southern Illinois to teach school and preach. He preached his first sermon in Graves County, KY on August 29, 1875. Later, he returned to North Carolina where he spent a few years in evangelistic work before returning to Lexington in 1879 to finish his college work, graduating in 1881 with highest honors. In 1886 he became minister of the Campbell Street (later Haldeman Avenue) church in Louisville where he remained for forty-five years until his death in 1931. On September 13, 1887 he married Sallie E. Eddy of Louisville. He was a studious and dedicated preacher of the gospel. Likely his greatest literary work was his classic on Instrumental Music In The Worship, published in 1911, showing that instrumental music in the worship of the church is not authorized by the Scriptures. He held debates with Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Mormons, and Quakers. He wrote extensively for the Gospel Advocate, and in 1908 was named one of its editors. He was one of “A Noble Quintet” recognized in the 100th anniversary edition of that publication in 1955. (See preceding sketch). He wrote much about the church and its worship. In the spring of 1928 he wrote an extremely important series of articles titled “The Need of Continued Emphasis on the Restoration of the Ancient Order.” He passed suddenly from this life on February 17, 1931. His funeral was conducted on February 19 at the Haldeman Avenue building by N. B. Hardeman and T. Q. Martin, with F. B. Srygley reading the Scriptures, leading a prayer, and making a few remarks. He is buried in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.

(To Be Continued)

Hugh Fulford

February 13, 2018

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