Vol.XVI No.II Pg.6
April 1979

He Found It — In 1826

Robert F. Turner

This interesting bit of history is taken from "Hazard of the Die;" the account of Tolbert Fanning and Restoration, by James R. Wilburn (p.14-15).


In 1825, at the age of 21, (B.F. Hall) had been ordained by Stone and during the following summer preached in several series of meetings. He discovered the "mourner's bench" still in use by many of Stone's associates. Hall was disturbed because so many meetings closed without the "mourners" receiving deliverance from their obvious distress.

The next year ... he was visiting on Line Creek which separates Tennessee from Kentucky. In the cabin of a friend he found a copy of the Campbell — McCalla Debate and read carefully Alexander Campbell's discussion of the N.T. design of baptism. Suddenly he cried, "Eureka! Eureka! I have found it, I have found it!" The book dropped to the floor as the whole "plan of salvation" became clear to him for the first time. Puzzled mourners did not need to wait in vain for God to enter their hearts miraculously. Confronting Christ, they could respond to God through their own free will and as an expression of their own intellect, being immersed for the remission of their sins. Such was the obvious picture in the first century, and God was the same in 1826!

When Hall excitedly approached (B.W.) Stone about this, Stone replied that he also had preached baptism for the remission of sins. But its effect on his listeners, he reported, was similar to throwing cold water on them, and so he discontinued the practice. .... ....

Unaware of Tolbert Fanning, B.F. Hall made his way to Alabama. On the last day of Sept., 1827, he preached at Cypress Creek, just north of Florence. He had determined to imitate the preaching of the apostles, and so for the first time he urged his hearers to be baptized for the remission of their sins. To encourage his listeners to respond, he decided to ask the group to sing an "invitation" hymn. His message came through to Fanning "in a manner which was so simple and plain that anyone could understand it." He was convinced of its truth. When the invitation hymn was sung (for the first time among these people), he came forward and confessed his faith in Christ.


Wilburn gives as sources for this material: Autobiography of Samuel Rogers; Standard Pub, Cincinnati; 1880; and an article in Restoration Quarterly, V. 5, No. 1, (1961) by Thomas H. Olbricht.

B. W. Stone and others wrote "Last Will and Testament of Springfield Presbytery" in 1804; beginning then to establish independent churches and take the Bible only as their guide. But we are often hasty in assuming that this meant "all truth" was found and followed. We also err in thinking "the way we do it now" has "always" been done. (Oh, how our brethren love "always.") Far better that we face the facts of history, and learn the spirit of restoration that makes each responsible before God's word.