David Lipscomb-The Early Years

In this article we are going to continue the series dealing with the second generation pioneers of the Restoration Movement. They quote Daniel Sommer as saying that David Lipscomb did more than any individual in the Southland to stem the tide of liberalism. The subject of our essay was born on January 21, 1831 in Franklin County, Tennessee. His parents were Granville and Nancy Lipscomb. They named David for his maternal grandfather. While David was quite young, Granville Lipscomb, along with his wife and some of his relatives were converted to the teaching of New Testament Christianity. They were charter members of the Old Salem congregation. Dr. Earl Irvin West, in his biography of David Lipscomb, The Life and Times of David Lipscomb, tells us about this event,

“The Old Salem congregation began in May 1834 with two male members and two females. Also, five colored people belonged. By Christmas that year the number had grown to thirty-four whites and twelve blacks.”

Granville Lipscomb owned some slaves as was the practice in the South, but he felt that slavery was not right. In 1835 he moved his family to Illinois so he might free his slaves. Within the year his wife Nancy died leaving him with three small children. He then returned to Tennessee in 1836. On August 11, 1837, he married Jane Breedan.

At the age of fourteen David Lipscomb responded to the Gospel and was baptized in Christ by Tolbert Fanning in 1845. He attended Franklin College graduating in 1849. He then spent two years managing a plantation in Georgia. He returned to Tennessee and settled down to a life of farming and preaching. In 1855 Tolbert Fanning and William Lipscomb established the Gospel Advocate. The next event of importance was the Civil War. David Lipscomb believed that engaging in carnal warfare was wrong for the Christian. On July 23, 1862, he married Margaret Zelner. Their only child died in infancy.

In July of 1866 the Gospel Advocate resumed publication with David Lipscomb and Tolbert Fanning as co-editors. Fanning soon withdrew leaving David Lipscomb as the sole editor. We mentioned above Lipscomb’s belief that Christians should not engage in war. Concerning his view of the Christian’s relationship to civil government we give you the following quotation from the Gospel Advocate of December 11, 1866.

“Thus the true position of the church of Christ to this world power is definitely fixed. The pen of inspiration marks the Christian’s connection with it, and no man need be in doubt concerning his duty to it. This connection is one of simple submission to, not of active participation in, or support of. There is not a word of information in the sacred Scriptures that suggest it is the duty of any Christian to support, maintain, or defend any institution or organization of man, further than a quiet, passive, but conscientious and faithful submission to its requirements. That submission, he may render, not as a duty he owes to government, because of any virtue or merit it possesses, but as a solemn duty he owes to His Master. This sense of duty to God connects him with all the governments and powers of earth alike. It permits him to become the partisan of none . . . If we follow the examples and precepts of the Bible, as taught and presented under the dispensation of God to man, but especially in the examples and precepts of the Savior and His Apostles, we will never come into a closer contact with these governments than submission to their authority.”

In 1867 P.S. Fall, John T. Walsh, Jacob Creath, Jr., T.W. Brents and Carroll Kendrick were added to the editorial staff of the Advocate. In 1870, E. G.  Sewell was added as co-editor. This gave Lipscomb more time to preach.

His views concerning instrumental music? Writing in the Gospel Advocate, dated September 11, 1873, he wrote the following,.

“The New Testament is at once the rule and limit of our faith and worship to God . . . Our rule limit man’s worship to the exercises approved from the Bible.  Prayer, praise, Thanksgiving, singing and making melody in the heart unto the Lord are acts of worship ordained of God. Yet no authority do we find for the instrument . . . Again, if we open to the door to expediency, where shall welcome it? Why the stop at the organ? If we can make an inanimate object as the organ answer as a substitute for singing. Why will not one do for praying? Counting beads is the same character of a substitute for praying that the organ is for singing.  Whatever Jesus found in Judaism that He approved, he retained in Christian worship. Whatever disapproved, He left out, failing to adopt it in the Christian worship. When Christ dropped it out, who dares place it in?”

There were those around who wanted Lipscomb to state his views concerning the Sunday School method of teaching God’s Word. He wrote the following in the Gospel Advocate, dated April 27, 1857,.

“There is just the same authority for teaching old and young the Bible in classes or in a school Sunday at churches as there is for preaching sermons. God requires the Bible to be taught to the old and the young. He has not ordained any specific mode of teaching, but has sent the example of teaching in the public sermons, by question and answers, by reading the Scriptures to one or more, or letting them read it and question them concerning its meaning, or by simple verbal statement to one or more.

It is the duty of the church to teach children and old people whom they can induce to attend the meeting. Teaching them in the way it can be most effectively done is right. We have not had any doubt for years that the most effective way of teaching the Word of God, if they will study, is to take them in classes, read and study the Word of God . . . .”

In the next essay, we will be dealing with the influences of David Lipscomb and his place in the Restoration Movement from 1880 till his death in 1917. We will be mentioning some of these facts in other articles as well. So, until we meet again, MARANATHA!


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