BARTON W. STONE
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.