Abner Jones – Part Two

The following comes from Abner Jones: Christian Only (by Bradley Cobb) and is available in the book Abner Jones: A Collection (Volume 1).

We continue our story, already in progress from yesterday

What to Preach?

Baptist Doctrine?

Slowly, he began to get involved and pray and to preach at some meetings, but as of yet was not baptized, which was not a surprise considering that it is not deemed necessary for salvation in the faith in which he was raised. The urge to be baptized, though, weighed heavily on him. He finally followed through with this in 1793 at age 20 by Elisha Ransom, a preacher from the Baptist Church.[1] Six days later, Abner Jones became reacquainted with Elias Smith, a friendship which would later lead to great strides towards restoring the New Testament church.[2]

After a few months, Abner was regularly preaching things he had been taught, all the while looking into the Scripture and wondering how some of the Baptist doctrines could be right. He searched for evidence to prove Calvinism was in the Bible, but “discovered that they [the Baptist preachers] preached complete contradictions on the subject.”[3] He was very confused about these things, and he took to seeking the inspired word’s message on the matters. He discovered, as did many others in the Restoration Movement, that many of the doctrines he had been embracing were not to be found in Scripture.

The first problem he noted was the name “Baptist.” He correctly discovered that there is no group of “Baptists” in the Bible. From that point onward, he determined to be called nothing but a Christian.[4] After that, he looked into how Baptists founded congregations. He looked at the articles of faith, the church covenants, their constitutions, and their leadership counsels and found that they were all, as he calls them, “anti-Christian” and “as popish and unscriptural as infant sprinkling.”[5] They were traditions of men, and not from God. When these things were presented before the minister of the Baptist congregation, Abner was told that those things to which he objected were necessary, though the man could not recall the Scriptures that commanded them, “because they were not in the Bible.”[6] Other Baptists acted as though he was insane and that he “had denied the Bible.”[7]

The Fight Against Calvinism

From that point, Abner Jones fought vigorously within his mind against the ideas of Calvinism,[8] especially that of predestination;[9] but he did not make his views public for almost five years for fear that he would be viewed as a castaway.[10] He assumed that he was the only one in the world who finally understood the simple truth contained in the Bible, not realizing that many other people in the United States were coming to that very same conclusion at around that same time.[11] During those five years, he felt lonelier and lonelier as he struggled against the knowledge which was in him. It is during this time that he became a medical doctor, practicing what was called “frontier medicine.”[12]

When he finally gave up fighting and turned back to the Lord in 1800, many asked “what has befallen Dr. Jones?” or said “he is a little deluded, he will soon get over it.”[13] After this return to following what he had found in God’s word, he proceeded to preach to whomever would listen. A man by the name of Peck invited him to come speak in his house to all the neighbors he could round up. He was shortly thereafter invited to many more houses in the area to preach. Many more requests of him were made in subsequent meetings.

Because of filling these meeting requests, his medical practice suffered. His wife was worried about what would befall them and their family with the lack of funds coming in. He reminded her that, before they were married, he had told her that he knew he would eventually have to preach. He had told her that if that was not acceptable, not to marry him.[14]

It was in 1801, in Lyndon, Vermont, that Abner Jones began a congregation of “Christians only.” Disagreeing with the Baptists, they called their congregation a “Christian Church.”[15] Some historians argue for different years, some stating this took place in September of 1800[16], while still others present a date of September of 1802.[17] His son states that it was September of 1801.[18] This simple congregation of just over a dozen members set about to go back to New Testament Christianity.[19]

In February, 1802, a surprising event occurred. Three men among many to whom he preached pulled Abner Jones aside and stated “we understand that you have a family, and we believe the Lord has called you to preach. And we conclude it is our duty to take your family and take care of them, in order that you might be liberated to preach.”[20] After a time, he took them up on their offer and felt free to preach without concern for his family’s well-being.

One of the places where he went to preach was Hanover. The people of Hanover, New Hampshire responded well to the message of free-will that Mr. Jones preached. The only doctrine they had heard, perhaps in their entire lives, was that of Calvinism. They had taken that false doctrine to heart and understood it to mean that nothing they did mattered: if God wanted them to be saved, they would be, if God wanted them lost, there was nothing they could do to change His mind.[21]

His preaching against the tenants of Calvinism led him into great favor with the Free-Will Baptists. They ordained him a minister in 1802.[22] This was done, not because he agreed with them (for he still taught that the name “Baptist” was not scriptural), but because it gave him more clout and freedom to go about with places to preach. During this time, the Free-Will Baptists accepted him readily, even though he “refused to submit to their rules and regulations.”[23] He insisted that he was a “Christian only” and that the congregations he established were not Baptist, but Christian churches. Within the next few years, Jones established congregations in Bradford, Vermont and Piermont, New Hampshire.[24]


 

[1] New England Christians.

[2] Mattox, Eternal Kingdom, Pg 313.

[3] Jones, Memoirs, pg 59

[4] New England Christians.

[5] Jones, Memoirs, Pg 61.

[6] ibid, 63.

[7] ibid.

[8] Gielow, Frederick, Jr. Popular Outline of Church History (Standard Publishing, 1926) Pg 184.

[9] Olbricht, Tom. “Christian Connexion and Unitarian Relations 1800-1844” Restoration Review Vol. 9, No. 3 (1966).

[10] ibid, 66

[11] Womack, Morris. Thirteen Lessons on Restoration History. (College Press, Joplin, MO, 1988) Pgs 52-55.

[12] New England Christians.

[13] Jones, Memoirs, Pg 75.

[14] ibid, 99-100

[15] North, James. Union In Truth: An Interpretive History of the Restoration Movement (Standard Publishing, 1994)   Pg 26.

[16] Haley, J.J. Makers and Molders of the Reformation Movement (Christian Board of Education, St. Louis, 1914) Pg 43.

[17] Jennings, Walter Wilson. Origin and Early History of the Disciples of Christ (Standard Publishing, 1919). Pg 64.

[18] Jones, A.D. Memoirs of Elder Abner Jones (Crosby, Boston 1842)

[19] Haley, Makers and Molders, pg 43.

[20] ibid, 103

[21] ibid, 106-107.

[22] New England Christians

[23] ibid.

[24] Vogel, Dan. Religious Seekers and the Advent of Mormonism (Signature Books, Salt Lake City, UT, 1988), online text (see Bibliography).

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