William Bell Riley Establishes Fundamentalism

William Bell Riley was born to a devout Baptist family, in Indiana on March 22, 1861, just before the start of the American Civil War. He grew up on his parents’ tobacco farms, was converted at the age of 17, and cherished dreams of going to law school.  But the call to preach was inescapable.

After many sleepless nights, he tells us, he knelt between two rows of tobacco on a Kentucky hillside and cried:  “I will!  I will preach!  I can do nothing else!”

He entered the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. From 1888 to 1897 he pastored in Lafayette and Bloomington in Indiana, and Chicago Illinois. In Chicago he met and befriended YMCA worker Billy Sunday. In 1897 Riley commenced a 45-year pastorate at the downtown Minneapolis’ First Baptist Church. During those years membership rose from 585 to 3,600.

Riley married Lillian Howard on December 31, 1890, and they had six children. Lillian died in 1931 and two years later Riley married Marie Acomb.

Riley believed that Christians should be ready to engage in political issues if need be. “When the Church is regarded as the body of God-fearing, righteous-living men, then, it ought to be in politics, and as a powerful influence.”

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Riley championed the cause of evangelicalism and held many revival campaigns. His first social campaign targeted alcohol, and then modernism and liberals. He invented the label “fundamentalist” and became the prime mover, along with A C Dixon, and R A Torrey, in the movement that took that name, founding the World Christian Fundamentals Association.

In the 1920’s Riley targeted evolution as the underpinning belief behind modernism and its various expressions. He vigorously debated with evolutionists on university campuses. Riley’s efforts helped to bring about the Scope’s Monkey Trial, which his side won, but which turned out to be a hollow victory. His efforts to ban evolution failed and he became sidelined among Baptists in the years that followed.

Over 60 books came from his pen.  Evangelistic campaigns took him around the world.

His Northwestern Bible Training School, founded in 1902, saw hundreds of ministers and missionaries trained in its classrooms.

For his successor as President of Northwestern Bible and Missionary Training School he chose a young man named Billy Graham.  Thus it was, for three and half years after Riley’s death, Billy Graham headed up the work.

Riley died in Golden Valley, Minnesota, in 1947.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

William Howard Doane the Man of Melody

William Howard Doane was born in Preston, Connecticut, USA, February 3, 1832. He was to become one of the leading gospel songwriters of his era, writing more than 2,000 hymn tunes, and numerous cantatas. By the age of 14 he was conducting the choir of the Congregational school he attended, Woodstock Academy.

Converted a few years later, in his final year at school, he joined the Baptist Church (his mother was Baptist), where he served as a faithful layman for the rest of his life. For 25 years he was Sunday-School Superintendent and choir director at Mount Auburn Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Music was Doane’s ‘avocation’ (something done outside his vocation). He made his living by working for J.A. Fay & Co, which made woodworking machinery, where he excelled as a businessman. He became President of the large company.

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The music of his soul bubbled forth throughout his life. He composed his first piece at age 16 and in 1852 he was engaged as conductor at the Norwich Harmonic Society. His first published songs were for Sunday School use, reflecting his life-long interest in that ministry (as has been seen in other hymn-writers – such as Alfred Midlane 1825-1909 – see Jan 23, 2009 post).

Note the titles of his first book of songs, published in 1862, “Sabbath School Gems”. The second book, published two years later was “Little Sunbeams”, and in 1867 came perhaps the most popular Sunday-school book of its day, “Silver Spray”.

Doane’s first book of songs for adult use, “Songs of Devotion”, came in 1868 and was very popular.

Doane is noted for his creation of Christmas cantatas, which popularised the genre, especially through his work entitled, “Santa Claus”.

Doane married the daughter of his father’s business partner in Doane & Treat, cotton manufacturers. That union produced two daughters.

A personal friend of blind hymn-writer, Fanny Crosby, she would often ask him to compose a melody for words she had written. One evening, whilst she visited Doane’s home, they spoke of God’s nearness. Before retiring Miss Crosby penned the words:

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice,

And it told Thy love for me…

Next morning she asked Doane if he would compose the tune, which he did.

On the other hand, he sometimes composed a tune and asked Fanny Crosby to supply the words. In 1869 he mailed her such a tune, and as she later sat in a New York Mission, the words came to her:

Rescue the perishing,

Care for the dying …

On another occasion Mr Doane composed a melody and played it to Miss Crosby on a small organ. “Why,” she at once exclaimed, “that tune says Safe in the Arms of Jesus. I’ll see what I can do about it.” (Sankey’s Story of Gospel Hymns, page 263).

Jesus, Keep me Near the Cross was also written by Miss Crosby to one of Doane’s previously composed melodies.

The melody of Katherine Hankey’s Tell me the Old, Old Story came from Doane’s pen.

This highly successful Christian businessman gave large sums of money to further the spread of the gospel, including a music building at Moody Bible Institute. The Doane Memorial Music Building in Chicago, Illinois, was named after him.

He died on Christmas Eve, 24 December, 1915.

Dr Doane compiled some forty books, and wrote about twenty-three hundred songs, ballads, cantatas, etc, also a number of vocal and piano pieces in sheet form. Millions of people across the globe have sung Doane’s tunes, even though they would not know his name.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Adoniram Judson Gordon the Baptist Fundamentalist

Adoniram Judson Gordon died on February 2, 1895, at the age of 58, having been born in New Hampshire on April 13, 1836. He was a leader of early Baptist fundamentalism.

Gordon’s parents were devout Calvinist Christians. His father was named after John Calvin and Gordon was named after the famous American Baptist missionary to Burma. The family’s devotion prompted their son, at the age of 15 to seek salvation for his soul. A year later he told his church that he desired to become a minister.

Entering Brown University in 1856 and Newton Theological Seminary in 1860, he pursued his calling and on graduating became pastor at Jamaica Plain, near Boston. He enjoyed six successful years there before becoming pastor of the Clarendon Street Baptist Church in Boston, where he remained for 25 years and from which pulpit he became a famous preacher.

Gordon was challenged by an unbelieving community and an unmotivated congregation. He met those challenges with the simple truth of the gospel, ultimately transforming his church into a spiritual powerhouse.

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Dr Gordon, as he was known, lived a saintly life and wrote much about the Spirit-filled life.

Gordon spoke at the Niagara Bible Conference of Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario virtually every year from 1877 until his death in 1895, and he was D L Moody’s right-hand man at the Northfield Conventions, even being privileged to host the event in 1892 while Moody was in Europe. Gordon was a regular speaker at Northfield.

Gordon’s presence in these conferences is significant, as very few Baptists were part of the fundamentalist Convention movement in the late nineteenth century. Most of the speakers and organisers were Presbyterian and Congregationalist.

Gordon’s ministry embraced a strong missionary emphasis, he wrote prolifically on the Second Coming of Christ, and he advocated ‘faith healing’. He was personal friend to A. B. Simpson, who had a faith healing ministry.

He believed in the premillennial return of Christ and preached on this, among other things, in the convention meetings. He penned The Ministry of Women in 1894, defending women’s right to preach.

One book that is regarded as possibly his finest work, Ministry of the Spirit, defines the three aspects of the Spirit’s work as: sealing; filling; and anointing.

This contemporary fundamentalist also put pen to paper to compose the melody of one of Christendom’s loveliest hymns, the tune Gordon, which is used to William Featherston’s words, My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine.

On the morning of February 2, 1895, Dr. Gordon, with “victory” as the last clearly audible word on his lips, fell asleep in Jesus.

Gordon’s life and his generation represented the shift in America from the doctrinal preoccupation of the Calvinists, to the practical missiology that dominated American evangelicalism since then. His emphasis was on practical theology and effective evangelistic ministry, saying, “We believe we ought to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints, but in doing this we should seek to be like the saints once delivered to the faith.”

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

John Gill the Baptist Theologian

John Gill was born on November 23 in 1697. The place was Kettering, Northamptonshire, England.

Gill grew up in a good Christian home, where his parents, Edward and Elizabeth Gill, were God-fearing Calvinistic Baptists who had been ministered to by William Wallis; his father serving as a deacon in the Baptist work in Kettering.

Gill’s early years were spent studying in the local grammar school where he was an outstanding student and excelled in languages. At the age of 11 his school master insisted that all students attend church with him each day, as a deliberate challenge to the dissenters in the community. This was the end of Gill’s formal education but he spent his time wisely teaching himself and not only excelled in Greek and Latin but was quite adept at Hebrew by the age of nineteen, for which he was completely self taught.

John’s love for Hebrew became a life-long theme, amplified in later life by immersion in the rabbinic writings as a source of insight into the scriptures. He later wrote a worthy treatise on “The Antiquity of the Hebrew Language”. Latin and Greek likewise were mastered by this profound scholar.

John was so diligent in attending the bookseller’s shop when it was open on market days that it became a local proverb, “as sure as that John Gill is in the bookseller’s shop”. In later life Gill’s studious life prompted a revised proverb, “as sure as Dr Gill is in his study”.

Gill came to faith at the age of 12 but declined baptism (a key focus on the Baptist tradition to which he had been raised) out of respect for its seriousness, but also to protect himself from being called into Christian ministry too early. The eyes of the Kettering church were upon him as a prime candidate to assist the minister who was falling behind in his duties.

“Gill’s thirst for knowledge was insatiable”, writes one biographer – and it was no surprise that after his baptism, at the age of 19 (1716), he began to preach.

He married Elizabeth Negus in 1718 and they raised three children beyond infancy: Elizabeth, John, and Mary. In 1719 he became pastor of London’s famous Horselydown. Benjamin Keach had preceded him as pastor and in time C. H. Spurgeon would pastor this church.

For over 50 years he pastored the same congregation, and wrote voluminously. Of his Commentary on the whole Bible, Spurgeon writes: “For good, sound, massive, sober sense in commenting, who can excel Gill?” (Commenting on Commentaries, page 9). His portrait hung in Spurgeon’s vestry.

But it needs to be added that Gill was a hyper-Calvinist, so zealous to emphasise the sovereignty of God that “he denied preachers the right to offer Christ to unregenerate sinners” (Dictionary of the Christian Church, page 413).

As a Particular Baptist Gill elevated the role of predestination and so did not consider preaching to the doomed un-regenerates as a worthy exercise. General Baptists, on the other hand, appeal to the free will of all. Those who decline to celebrate Gill mostly do so over this Hyper-Calvinism emphasis.

Some see Gill as the first systematizer of a Baptist Hyper-Calvinist theology while others argue that he is not of that persuasion. Particular Baptist Churches began their decline into Hyper-Calvinism at that time as so Gill is seen as a likely influence to that trend.

Gill was keen to systematise theology even though creeds and systematic doctrines were in disrepute at that time. His stands as the first major Baptist theologian and his works retain their influence even to this day. Ed Reese comments that Dr Gill “may be the greatest scholar the Baptists ever produced” … but that would probably depend upon one’s theological leaning!

Gill wrote pamphlets in challenge of John Wesley’s publications, contending topics related to predestination, grace and free will. Gill respected Wesley’s piety and impact but saw him as shallow in theological insights, thus able to present his poorly defined arguments in good faith.

Another matter of grave importance to Gill is that of the Trinity and the true nature of the persons of the godhead. His final word on that matter was published after his death.

Gill recognised his impending death and declared his enduring trust in the Lord, with absolutely no reliance on his own efforts or achievements for merit in his salvation. Thus he gloriously terminated his mortal career, without a sigh or groan, on the 14th day of October 1771, at about eleven o’clock in the forenoon, at his house in Camberwell, Surrey, aged seventy-three years, ten months, and ten days.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

William Franklin Graham Evangelises the Nations

William Franklin Graham was born on November 7 in 1918, in North Carolina.

Born four days before the end of World War I, Billy was reared on a dairy farm in Charlotte, North Carolina. During his childhood he helped on the family farm and spent many hours reading a wide variety of books in the hayloft.

In the fall of 1934 Graham yielded to the claims of Christ through a series of revival meetings under Mordecai Ham, a traveling evangelist. In March, 1938, “on the eighteenth green of a golf course”, he promised the Lord he would devote himself to preaching the gospel.

The next year he was ordained by a church in the Southern Baptist Convention. His theological training came from Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College in Florida) and Wheaton College in Illinois. He married fellow student and daughter of a missionary, Ruth McCue Bell, who had grown up on the mission-field of China.

Graham pastored the First Baptist Church in Western Springs, Illinois, then became an evangelist for Youth for Christ, which was founded to reach youth and servicemen during the second world war. In this capacity he preached across the US and also in Europe in the post war years, coming to attention as a young evangelist.

He became a nationally known figure with his 1949 Los Angeles CrU.S.A.de. That Crusade was initially scheduled for three weeks but ran for over eight, in a huge tent erected in downtown LA.

In 1950 The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was born, and since that time he has “preached the gospel to more people than any evangelist in the history of the church, reaching nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories. Hundreds of millions more have been reached through radio, television, video, film, and webcasts throughout the world.

Many of his crusades were extended, including London which lasted 12 weeks, and a New York City crusade in Madison Square Garden in 1957 which ran nightly for 16 weeks.

It is estimated that two million individuals have responded to the invitation given at the close of his sermons.

Whilst he has his critics, some saying he is too ecumenical and others that he is too Arminian, many have found the Saviour as a result of his clear-cut gospel presentation.

Billy Graham’s ministry has been augmented by his weekly “Hour of Decision” radio program which has run for more than 50 years, “Decision” Magazine with more than half a million subscribers, and World Wide Pictures which has become one of the foremost producers of evangelistic films in the world.

Many of the 25 books written by Graham have been best-sellers. He has been sought out by presidents and leaders and given many honours. Since 1948 he is the most frequently included person in the Gallop organisation’s Ten Most Admired Men in the World.

CF personal note: My parents found Christ when Billy Graham preached in Sydney in the late 1950’s. I remember attending a tiny wooden Methodist church in West Wyalong where we heard Graham by landline from the Sydney Cricket Ground. I also remember asking a man, “Where are my mummy and daddy?” He replied, “They’ve gone to the front to talk to someone about Jesus.” My parents were transformed, their marriage saved and they went on to plant churches.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.