Robert Graham News from Arkansas (1855)







N E W S   F R O M   A R K A N S A S .

FAYETTEVILLE, June 5, 1855.      

      BROTHER CAMPBELL--It is not often we trouble you from this part of the world. We prefer preaching to writing, and cultivating our garden at home to speaking of its beauties abroad. The insanibile scribendi cacoethes, is not a disease of this part of the "Reformation." I think I have heard you say it meant a kind of incurable malady of scribbling. Several of our brethren have had symptoms of it. Thank God it proved fatal to some! Now, I must qualify this ejaculation, if you will, by telling a little circumstance said to have happened in Kentucky. I will not be responsible for its truth: I can only vouch its appositeness. A Dutch class-leader having held a meeting in a neighborhood where lived an incorrigible old sinner, was invited by him to go home and stay all night. At worship the class-leader laid the case of his host before the Lord; and, in conclusion, prayed most lustily, as Dutch class-leaders are wont to do, that he would either convert the man or kill him. Well, as was natural, the old offender preferred conversion, even in the Dutchman's way, to killing in the Lord's. So in the night he "got religion," as the story goes, and became very happy. I think this prayer was pious enough, at least the sequel proved it; and in this sense my feelings above expressed are to be understood. I go for curing our scribblers or "killing them [403] off." The intemperate zeal of some of our scribes has led them into a few blunders, from which they have never recovered. I hail with pleasure the dawning of a brighter day.

      I have of late been much instructed and pleased by a careful perusal of Religious Reformation, by Bro. Richardson; Christian Union, by Bro. Scott, and the True Method of Reading the Scriptures, by Bro. Fanning. These three little books are perfect jewels--works of very superior merit, and they should be largely circulated by our brethren. They are just the books for the times--pointed and clear--not too extensive for this fast age. They are not crudities, sent forth upon an ephemeral mission. If our brotherhood East, West, North and South, will circulate them as they should, we would see a great change in a few years. In speaking of these works I do not mean to disparage others; but I doubt if any three little books can be selected more worthy of a general circulation. I would not, in speaking of them thus, and classing them together, be understood as saying they are of equal merit. My object is not to compare. Comparisons among friends are odious. Every one will have his own opinion--his likes and, preferences. But I do say, that every one of these books is just what we want, in the department of which it treats. And I am clearly of the opinion, that they should be followed by other works of a similar kind, on kindred subjects, by the same or other authors, which would reach the popular mind and heart. In this age, books of their size are more likely to receive, from the majority of readers, a careful examination, than those larger or smaller. The former intimidate the many; the latter are despised by the few. I am in real warm earnest in recommending these three works. If our brethren would devote means to put them in the reach of every one throughout the land, a great change would soon be wrought in the popular mind. They would, by their good sense and good taste, completely neutralize the slanders and slang of Mr. Graves, and expose your friend Jeter's gross blunders in Bible hermeneutics.

      These men are giving us some terrible lessons in human frailty and perversity. When men will, in this age of light and knowledge, after volumes have been written, giving clear and perspicuous developments on all the great items of our faith and practice, our piety and humanity, retail slanders to keep men from the obedience of the gospel, and, by their theological enchantments, will withstand the servants of God, I can compare them to none better than to Jannes and Jambres, of the olden time. The day of judgment will reveal wonders in human character, and will show that even good men, under the influence of partizan feelings, have done things which their Lord and Master will condemn. [404]

      It will be well for many of the leaders of the people--the Priests and Levites, the Scribes and Pharisees, of our modern Jerusalems--if they shall be able to plead even ignorance and prejudice as an excuse for their conduct. Charity would prompt me to hope that Mr. Elliott, of Jackson, Bro. Gordon's man, may be able to exonerate himself in some such way.

      I do believe that those violent opposers of the great cause we plead, will be found either wofully ignorant of it, or men reckless of truth and destitute of the fear of God. To guard the uncommitted--those who are not under the domination of ambitious men, and who will think for themselves--the books referred to should be sent out by thousands. There will always be those whose interest will induce them to oppose us, at least for a while. These will have fuglemen; and as things are made double, and one thing set over against another, there will be found many to listen to changes rung on such words as Sabbath, Sacrament, Holy Ghost, Baptism of Fire, Sanctification, Election, and others, of which many who now presume to make the press speak their views, are as ignorant as they are devoid of Christian courtesy and self-respect. Such are those who are so lavish of their denunciations of you before they have read a single page of your works impartially. We have some of these in this State. It is not many moons since some of this class got together and passed a series of resolutions in approbation of the Vandal attacks of the redoubtable Graves, of Tennessee; and, still later, a body dignified with the name of Convention, wound up its proceedings by passing similar resolutions--quite a salvo to him and themselves, in the unenviable attitude in which his indiscretions have placed them.

      It will be found that these are generally opposed to revision, or much grieved that the Disciples have a hand in it. Well, God has his own way of effecting his designs, and who can now say what may not grow out of this mighty movement to give the word of God fairly to his people and the world. It has already softened the asperity of some men; others may be hardened by it. "The sun softens wax; it hardens rock." We are all in favor of revision in Arkansas, so far as I have spoken with any of the brotherhood on the subject. If any liberal-minded Baptist brother should travel as an agent in our State, you will find us disposed to show our faith by our works. How it may be with our Baptist friends, I have not the means of knowing so well; but from what I can find out, I think the better informed are generally in favor of the movement.

      I look upon this enterprise as one of the greatest of the age in which we live. It is in accordance with the spirit and genius of our free institutions and government. The common version is, indeed, a [405] volume dear to us from many holy associations. Its forms and phrases have incorporated themselves with nearly all our trains of thought. For the age in which it made its appearance, it is a remarkable translation. Whatever errors may be discovered in it, should be repudiated at every hazard, and the pure word of God, as spoken by the warm hearts and eloquent lips of heavenly inspired Prophets and Apostles, should be given to the church and the world by America, unfettered by a hierarchy; its scholars left free to act under their reverence for God and love of truth, without regard to the fleshly interests of any government, party or sect in Christendom. My soul magnifies the Lord, in prospect of a speedy execution of this great work. It will require much patient forbearance, much prayer and much benevolence, on the part of the people of God, for the complete success of this most glorious enterprise. I will not fail to send up my petitions, public and private, for the blessing of God upon those men who are, with much labor and severe application, engaged in the work, that their health may be preserved, and their lives spared to see the matter achieved. We need more faith, more trust in God; the great mass of our people and of the Baptists, and others who are favorable to the work, must be aroused by those who, in a measure, control public sentiment; indeed, mainly from it. If the catholic version shall come forth under the prestige of feelings begotten in the hearts of Christians by the course I recommend, its general circulation is secured. Let, then, all our people unite in constant remembrance of this subject at the mercy seat, public and private, and we will see a sentiment pervade the church that will bear down all opposition, and our God, who bears the petitions of those who come to him through Jesus and by the Holy Spirit, will be pleased to smile on the Bible Union.

      Our cause is onward in this part of Arkansas. Last winter, Bro. Hayden, of Missouri, visited us, and in union with Bro. Robertson, our county evangelist, held a most interesting meeting, that resulted in about 30 additions to the congregation in this place. It was a time of much joy to the Disciples, and a good impression was made on many minds. A majority of those who were added to our congregation were young persons, some of them students of Arkansas College; from whose Christian zeal, united with a classical education, we count on much benefit to the cause we plead. Of late our congregation has resolved on a more efficient presentation of the word of life. Bros. Marshall, formerly of Pittsburgh, and Jackson, of Missouri, are both able to present our cause in an attractive and acceptable manner to the world, and are now so engaged, whenever a favorable opportunity offers. Our Sunday-school is in a most flourishing condition, and is doing much good. Never have I seen prospects so [406] bright, for ultimate success, in this place and county before. It will give you and your readers pleasure to learn, that by the untiring labors of our efficient evangelist, Bro. John Robertson, about one hundred and thirty persons have been induced to make an intelligent confession of Jesus, the Christ, in less than nine months. I presume to say, that by his labors and the occasional aid of a few others, by the close of a year's labor, over 175 additions will have been made in this single county. What cannot a good man do, when sustained in the field by his brethren? Bro. R. is just the man for this community in the aggregate. He is fearless in the truth, mild in his manners, of fair powers of speech; a close student of his Bible; and better than all, a man of great practical piety and common sense. We can, I believe, sustain another like him at a salary of $400 or $500. You will probably recollect, that about three years ago I wrote to you for an evangelist. In response, I received letters from some ten or twelve, signifying a willingness to immigrate to this point. Out of them, we made choice of a Bro. Edmonds of Alabama; and after the matter was agreed on, we could hear nothing more from him, though we wrote some three or four times to him. I am not authorized to employ another evangelist now, but I am sure that if any one desires to migrate West and South, he might do well to visit this section; and if a workman that needeth not be ashamed, he could find ample employment, and, I think, be well sustained. The Disciples of this village and county are now devoting about twelve hundred dollars to the proclamation of the truth and the establishment of Reformation in this region.

      We are still extending the circulation of the Harbinger here. I have heard several subscribers say, that the last number was worth more than the price of the whole volume.

      May God bless you abundantly in your great labors, and inspire us all with more faith and love. As ever, your brother in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.


      We thank Bro. Robert Graham, President of Arkansas College, for this very interesting communication, now laid before our readers, and hope that he will more frequently communicate with us on the progress of the gospel by the ministrations of our brotherhood in that State.

      Bro. Graham, one of our best graduates of Bethany College, gave its Faculty satisfactory proof that he would be a workman not needing to blush on any stage or theatre of action upon which the church or the State might place him, with his own consent. We congratulate [407] the friends of Arkansas College in possessing such a President, and the churches around, which he may occasionally visit.

      Our brethren, too, in Illinois, now having three incipient Colleges in actual operation, will, we trust, greatly promote the cause in that Commonwealth, and we hope that they will keep us posted in all matters of public interest.

A. C.      


[The Millennial Harbinger, Fourth Series, 5 (July 1855): 403-408.]


      Robert Graham's "News from Arkansas" (with Remarks by Alexander Campbell) was first published in The Millennial Harbinger, Fourth Series, Vol. 5, No. 7, July 1855. The electronic version of this essay has been produced from the College Press reprint (1976) of The Millennial Harbinger, ed. Alexander Campbell (Bethany, VA: A. Campbell, 1855), pp. 403-408.

      Pagination in the electronic version has been represented by placing the page number in brackets following the last complete word on the printed page. Inconsistencies in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and typography have been retained; however, corrections have been offered for misspellings and other accidental corruptions. Emendations are as follows:

 Page       Printed Text [ Electronic Text
 p. 406:    Spirt, [ Spirit,

      Addenda and corrigenda are earnestly solicited.

Ernie Stefanik
373 Wilson Street
Derry, PA 15627-9770

Created 26 July 2000.

Robert Graham News from Arkansas (1855)

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