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History Of The Church
Lesson 14 Part 2: The Restoration Movement
The Latter Part of the 18th Century and the 19th Century

Speaker: John Phillis
Date: December 15th, 22nd, 29th, 2004 and January 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th, 2005, Wednesday Evening Adult Bible Class


We want to notice just a couple of other leaders of this Movement. There are many who could be mentioned, and each one of them has an interesting biography; each one of them has made good contributions to this Movement, but in the interest of time we won’t be looking at each and every one. We’ve already talked about Barton W. Stone; we’ve talked about Thomas and Alexander Campbell.

We also would want to mention, as well, Walter Scott, who was very prominent in this effort during the 1820’s. He was a very eloquent person, and he influenced the area of the Western Reserve, which is now Ohio—actually the central and western parts of the state of Ohio. He was instrumental in preaching and teaching in that area. He is the one who said that faith, repentance, confession and baptism were the logical steps to becoming a Christian. And this, of course, was the conclusion that he came to through his own study of the New Testament. Walter Scott was born in Scotland on October 31, 1796, and he died in April, 1861. He edited a paper entitled The Evangelist, and he worked very closely with Alexander Campbell and some of the other leaders. I was trying to think of the nickname that he had; it escapes me right now. I mentioned that he was a very well-recognized speaker, and he had a nickname that was something like “the Golden Orator,” [“the Golden Oracle,” according to Dwight Eshelman Stevenson in his book, Walter Scott, Voice of the Golden Oracle, A Biography. St. Louis, Mo., Christian Board of Publications, 1946, 240 p. front. (port.) bibliography, index.] or something like that; I don’t think that was it, but he apparently had a very powerful voice and an excellent delivery. And so, he was remembered in that way in one of the references that I was reading.

Well, there’s another one that I want to mention, as well. Not only was this particular gentleman important to the Movement in the early days, but he was also a very, very colorful character. His name was John Smith. Well, that’s not very notable, is it? There are a lot of John Smiths in the world, then, as well as now, but he had the nickname “Raccoon.” This was “Raccoon” John Smith. He was a Baptist preacher in Tennessee, and he would learn the faith, and he would leave the Baptist persuasion. Alexander Campbell said of “Raccoon” John Smith that he was the only man that he knew who an education would have spoiled. He was an uneducated man. As a matter of fact, the record says he had no formal education.

This nickname of “Raccoon” came from his telling people that he lived so far back in the “holler”—that’s a hollow for those of you who don’t understand Tennessean—but he lived back up so far in the “holler” that there was only himself and raccoons that lived there. Oh, as a matter of fact I’ve got that quote. He said, “I am John Smith from Stockton’s Valley. In more recent years, I have lived in Wayne, among the rocks and hills of Cumberland. Down there, salt peter cave abound and raccoons make their homes. On that wild frontier we never had good schools, nor many books. Consequently, I stand before you today as a man without an education. But, my brethren, even in that ill-favored region the Lord in good time found me. He showed me His wondrous grace and called me to preach the ever-lasting Gospel of His Son.” That comes from a biography entitled Elder John Smith. But, again, that name “Raccoon” would catch on and he is forevermore known as “Raccoon” John Smith. Well, he would become a prominent figure. The record says that in 1827 he baptized 2,000 people in Kentucky and nearly that many in 1828.

I ran across a couple of notable stories about “Raccoon” John Smith. He was a psychologist. Now, mind you that he had no formal education, but you’ll see the psychology in his thinking.

One story goes that he came into a small town to an empty meetinghouse on the outskirts of the town. He went in, and he began preaching at the top of his voice—much ranting and raving. A passerby stopped and peeked in. He hurried back to town to tell everyone about how this “nut of a preacher”—and that’s a quote—was down at the meetinghouse preaching with no one there! With that, the whole town came out to hear him. He really knew how to get a crowd.

Here’s my favorite story: Once at a camp meeting, they were waiting for John Smith to arrive. He was the keynote speaker on that particular evening, and he was a little bit late in arriving, but apparently, purposely so. He was on horseback, and of course, this camp meeting was outside, and so on. The account says that he came storming in on horseback, and as he neared the area where the people were assembled, he rode under a tree. He grabbed a low-hanging branch, and the horse kept on going, and he hung there for several minutes. He was swinging back and forth, and while he was swinging back and forth he cried out, “Take heed! Take heed!” He kept saying that over and over again. Finally, losing his grip, he fell to the ground calling out “Lest ye fall!”—giving a good introduction, of course, to 1 Corinthians 10, and verse 12. That sermon was intended to dispel the “once saved, always saved” doctrine.

So, indeed, he was a very colorful character. One writer made this comment: “Only God knows what John Smith contributed to the Restoration of New Testament Christianity.”

Well, there were some others: John T. Johnson [1788 – 1856], Philip Slater Fall [1798 – 1890], Walter Scott [1796 – 1861], Tolbert Fanning [1810 – 1874], H. Leo Boles [1874 – 1946, great-grandson of “Racoon” John Smith], Moses E. Lard [1818 – 1880], J. W. McGarvey [1829 – 1911], David Lipscomb [1831 – 1917], A. G. Freed [1863 – 1931]—all of these men have a part in the history of the Restoration Movement.

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