Tag Archives: Barton W. Stone

Restoration Movement Week – Barton W. Stone (part 2)

From Sketches of Our Pioneers: a Brief Restoration Movement History.



July 2, 1801, B. W. Stone married Miss Elizabeth Campbell, a pious woman. In August of the same year came the great meet­ing at Caneridge. “The roads,” he tells us, “were crowded with wagons, carriages, horsemen and footmen, moving to the solemn camp.” The number was estimated as be­tween twenty and thirty thousand. Method­ists and Baptists united with them in these meetings. The services continued six or seven days until provisions gave out. There were many conversions. Most remarkable bodily agitations were seen here. Some with a pierc­ing scream would fall like a log and appear dead for an hour at a time and awake crying for mercy. Others would be seized with “the jerks,” sometimes the head alone being af­fected, jerking backward and forward or from side to side so quickly the features could not be distinguished, or moving backward and forward till the head would almost touch the floor. Wicked people cursing “the jerks” would be seized with this exercise. Sometimes the jerks would cease and they would begin to dance, praying and praising as they moved until they fell exhausted. Barking would also at times accompany this strange affection, and at other times loud, hearty laughter. The subject of these curious agitations would be solemn and his laughter or actions would im­press others with the deepest solemnity. It was indescribable. The running exercise was another of these manifestations when, through fear, persons would run until they fell. Some indulged in a peculiar singing, the sound is­suing not from the lips but from the breast, and the music was described as heavenly.

Stone was employed day and night, preach­ing, singing, praying and visiting, until his lungs failed him and he felt that his end was near. His special associates at this time were Richard McNemar, John Thompson, John Dunlavey, Robert Marshall and David Purviance. The distinguishing doctrine they preached was that God loved the world—the whole world—and sent his Son to save men on condition that they believed on him; that the gospel was the means of salvation, but to be effectual must be believed and obeyed by the sinner; that God required men to believe and had given sufficient evidence in his Word to produce faith; that sinners were capable of un­derstanding and believing the testimony and acting upon it by coming to Christ and obey­ing him, and from him obtaining salvation and the Holy Spirit. They urged the sinner to believe now and to receive salvation, that in vain they looked for the Spirit to be given to them while remaining in unbelief. God was willing to save now, and no previous qualifica­tion was required as necessary to come to Christ.

This teaching aroused the sticklers for or­thodoxy, and they cried, “The confession is in danger!” The matter came before the Synod of Kentucky, at Lexington, which re­sulted in the suspension of Stone and his co-­laborers. They were bitterly assailed on all sides. Stone called together his congregations and stated he could no longer conscientiously preach the doctrines of the Presbyterian Church, but would henceforward labor to extend the Redeemer’s kingdom irrespective of party, and dissolved his connection with them. At this time, also, he emancipated his slaves and retired to his farm. He continued preaching, however, night and day. He concluded to throw all creeds overboard and to take the name “Christian.”

In 1804 he had become disturbed on the question of baptism and was immersed, and came also to feel that baptism was for the remis­sion of sins when Acts 2:38 occurred to him while mourners were gathered at the altar and were being prayed for. But for the full Scriptural views of the design of baptism he acknowledges his indebtedness to Alexander Campbell. In the winter of 1809 his only son died, and in May following his wife died also, leaving four daughters. In 1811 he married again, a cousin of his first wife. About this time A. Campbell visited Kentucky. He saw no distinction between Campbell’s teaching and that he had preached for years except on the doctrine of baptism for the remission of sins, and the practice of weekly communion. He did not think Mr. Campbell sufficiently explicit on the influ­ences of the Holy Spirit. In 1831 special meetings were held in Georgetown and Lexing­ton, and a union between the followers of Stone and Campbell was readily secured.

In 1826, Stone began the publication of the Christian Messenger. John T. Johnson was associated with him. The work went forward with great success, and A. Campbell’s visits to the state gave it renewed impetus. In 1834, Stone moved to Jacksonville, Ill. In 1841 he was stricken with paralysis, still he made preaching tours into Ohio, Indiana and Ken­tucky. He died at Hannibal, Mo., in 1844.

Some years ago I visited the old Caneridge meeting-house. It was here this great and good man instituted, in the face of great opposition, a church on the Bible alone, and in harmony with Christ the great head of the church. And in pursuance of apostolic example, it was called the “Christian Church” or “Church of Christ.” And here on the 28th of June, 1804, he proclaimed to the church and to the world, that he took from that day forward and forever the Bible alone as his rule of faith and practice, to the exclusion of all human creeds, confessions, and disciplines, and the name Christian to the exclusion of all, sectarian or denominational names.

The union of Christians on Christ’s own terms was nearest and dearest to the heart of Stone. For forty years most sincerely, indus­triously, consistently, and successfully he ad­vocated this doctrine. He loved the church of God, and wished to see it harmonized. He loved the world lying in wickedness, and longed to see the church united that the world might be converted. Hence when the Campbells came forward to advocate the return to primi­tive Christianity in faith and practice, laying down the simple terms of Christian union as found in the Scriptures, and sanctioned by common sense, Stone and his co-workers hailed them at once as brethren and fellow laborers in the gospel.

Restoration Movement Week – Barton W. Stone

Since we’re still away, we’ve decided to give you some more special freebies!

Our most popular book each and every month is Sketches of Our Pioneers: a Brief Restoration Movement History.  So, this week, we’re going to post some of the twenty chapters contained in it.

Without further ado, here’s chapter one: Barton W. Stone (part 1)


This co-laborer of Alexander Campbell was born at Port Tobacco, Md., December 24, 1772. He was the son of John Stone and Mary Warren. When he was very young his father died, and his mother moved to Pittsylvania County, Virginia, in 1779, during the Revolu­tionary War. General Greene and Lord Corn­wallis fought at Guilford Court House, N.C., about thirty miles from his home, and young Stone heard the roar of their guns. He at­tended school for four or five years, and re­ceived instruction in the simpler branches. He was a great reader, but could get but few books. Religion was at a low ebb following the war; the Bible was little read, the Lord’s day was given to pleasure, and the houses of worship were deserted. Then came the Bap­tists into that region, and young Stone was greatly impressed by the scenes he witnessed at their revivals. People claimed to be de­livered from sin by dreams, visions, voices or apparitions, or the actual sight of the Savior. “Knowing nothing better,” he tells us, “I considered this to be the work of God and the way of salvation.” These preachers had a way of affecting their hearers by a “singing voice” in preaching.

Following these came the Methodists, who were very plain and humble, but zealous men, and were warmly opposed by the Baptists, who represented them as “the locusts of the Apocalypse” and warned the people against them. Young Stone’s mind was much agi­tated by their conflicting teachings. He had an earnest desire for religion, and often retired in secret to pray, but, ignorant as to what was required of him, he became discouraged, and joined in the sports of the time.

February, 1790, he entered Guilford Acad­emy, North Carolina, worked hard, lived on milk and vegetables, and allowed himself only six or seven hours out of twenty-four for sleep. There was great religious excitement at the time, and many of the students united with the Presbyterian Church. This was distasteful to him, and he determined to leave the institu­tion, but a little circumstance changed his plans. His room-mate asked him to go with him to hear the preacher. The sermon so im­pressed him that he resolved to become a Christian. For a year he was tossed on the waves of uncertainty, laboring, praying, and striving to obtain “saving faith,” sometimes desponding and almost despairing. The com­mon doctrine was that men were so totally de­praved they could not believe, repent, and obey the gospel; regeneration was the im­mediate work of the Holy Spirit, and now was not the accepted time, but the sinner must wait.

While in this state he heard a sermon on the words, “The Sacrifices of God are a broken Spirit.” It described his condition, and hope sprang anew in his breast. But another ser­mon on “Weighed in the Balances and Found Wanting,” cast him down as profoundly as before, and his days were full of sighs and groans. Still another discourse, on “God is Love,” gave him great comfort, and he found his way to peace.

He was very poor. He could not secure sufficient clothing. But he passed through the Academy, and in 1793 became a candidate for the ministry. The particular subjects assigned him for study were the Trinity and the being and attributes of God. “Witsius on the Trinity” greatly confused him, and before he was licensed he became so unsettled by the doctrines presented that he determined to give up the idea of preaching. Early in 1795 he went to Georgia and became teacher of languages in a Methodist school near Wash­ington. In the spring of 1796, however, he returned to North Carolina, and was licensed to preach. He preached for a time in Wythe County, Virginia, and then journeyed into Tennessee, preaching at Cumberland. The Indians were still in this region, and he had several narrow escapes from them. In 1798 he was regularly ordained pastor of Caneridge and Concord churches, Bourbon County, Ken­tucky. Knowing he would be required to adopt the Confession of Faith, he determined to examine it. This was the beginning of sor­rows. The doctrines of election, reprobation, and predestination, and of the Trinity as set forth in that instrument, he could not accept. When the Presbytery put the question, “How far are you willing to accept the Confession?” he answered, “As far as I see it consistent with the Word of God,” and on that statement they ordained him.

His mind was constantly tossed on the waves of speculative theology, the all-engrossing theme of that period. “I believed and taught,” he declares, “that mankind were so totally de­praved that they could do nothing acceptable to God till his Spirit, by some physical, almighty and mysterious power, had quickened, en­lightened, and regenerated the heart, and thus prepared the sinner to believe in Jesus for sal­vation. Often when addressing listening mul­titudes on the doctrine of total depravity, their inability to believe, and the necessity of the physical power of God to produce faith; and then persuading the helpless to repent and be­lieve the gospel, my zeal would be chilled by the contradiction. How can they believe? How can they repent? How can they do im­possibilities? How can they be guilty in not doing them? Wearied with the works and doctrines of men, I made my Bible my constant companion. I earnestly, honestly, and pray­erfully sought for the truth, determined to buy it at the sacrifice of everything else.”

In 1801 he was led “out of the labyrinth of Calvinism and error into the rich pastures of gospel liberty.” He preached from Mark 16:16 on the universality of the gospel and faith as the condition of salvation, and urged sinners to believe now and be saved. His con­gregation was greatly affected. He tells how religious excitement ran high at this time. In the revivals scores would fall to the ground pale, trembling, speechless. Some attempted to fly from the scene panic-stricken, but either fell or returned to the crowd, as if unable to get away. An intelligent deist approached him and said, “Mr. Stone, I always thought you an honest man, but now I am convinced you are deceiving the people.” “I viewed him with pity, and mildly spoke a few words to him. Immediately he fell as a dead man, and rose no more till he confessed the Saviour.”