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David Lipscomb and The Gospel Advocate

September 17th, 2013

Part 2 (1880-1917)

In this essay, we are going to continue in our study of the life and ministry of David Lipscomb. His was a life of service committed to the Lord of Glory. One theme permeated his life. It can best be summed up in a statement he made in the Gospel Advocate in 1866.

“Wherever God, through truth may lead us.”

As the 1880’s progresses, editing the Gospel Advocate occupied David Lipscomb’s time and preaching the Gospel. The idea of Christian education was clearly on his mind. It had been on his mind for many years. In 1884, he helped establish the Fanning Orphan Home and served on its board till his death. Charlotte Fanning conducted this school, the widow of Tolbert Fanning. It was located where the present day airport is in Nashville.

James Alexander Harding had come to Nashville to preach a series of meetings and to conduct a debate with the Baptists in the late 1880’s. Both he and Lipscomb were staunch believers in Christian education. The time they spent together was used to discuss the possibility of establishing a Christian school in Nashville. Harding, because of prior evangelistic meetings, could not commit himself to the work until 1891.

In 1890 David Lipscomb first publicly endorsed the idea of a school in Nashville. In the June 17, 1891 issues of the Gospel Advocate, this notice appeared.

“It is proposed to open a school in Nashville, in September next, under safe and competent teachers, in which the Bible, excluding all human opinion and philosophy, as the only rule and practice; and the appointments of God, as ordained in the Scriptures, excluding all innovations and organizations of men, as the fullness of divine wisdom, for converting sinners and perfecting saints, will be earnestly taught. The aim is to teach the Christian religion as presented in the Bible in its purity and fullness; and in teaching this to prepare Christians for usefulness in whatever sphere they are called to labor. Such additional branches of learning will be taught as needed and helpful in understanding and obeying the Bible and in its teaching it to others.”

The Nashville Bible School opened its doors on October 5, 1891 in facilities on Fillmore Street. Nine students showed up the first day. By the end of the term thirty-two students finished the course. The teachers in the school were James A. Harding, William Lipscomb, and David Lipscomb. The classes taught besides Bible were: English, Latin, Greek, Mathematics, Logic, Metaphysics and Natural Science. There were three courses in Bible taught daily. One course was in the Old Testament, the second in the New Testament and the third on a Biblical topic. The first year closed on May 26, 1892. Of the thirty-two students who finished the year’s classes, twenty-four intended to preach the Word.

Not all around the ‘brotherhood’ shared Lipscomb and Harding’s belief that Christian Schools were needful or, in fact, even scriptural. In the November 21, 1893 issue of the Octographic Review, Daniel Sommer penned these words.

“There is a Bible School in Nashville, Tennessee, which we presume is doing a good work, but if brethren who have it issue degrees and a diploma with titles, then we predict it will be an institution of mischief. Collegism among Disciples led to preacherism, and preacherism led to organism and societyism, and these led to worldlyisms in the church.”

As the years went by the Advocate enjoyed great success. Some writers were as follows: F. D. Srygley, T.R. Burnett, J.D. Tant, E.G. Sewell and J.C. McQuiddy. The enrollment of the Nashville Bible School for the year 1895-96 was up to 110. In May of 1896 five diplomas were given out to these brethren, John Nelson Armstrong, R.C. White, J.E. Dunn, G.W. McQuiddy and Leon K. Harding.

As the turn of the century drew near Lipscomb continued to edit the Advocate, teach in the Nashville Bible School and preach the Gospel. On August 2, 1900, F. D. Srygley, front page editor of the Advocate passed away. James A. Harding by this time had left Nashville for Bowling Green, Kentucky to establish Potter Bible College. He had taken his son-in-law, J. N. Armstrong with him. In 1902 David Lipscomb deeded sixty-two acres of his farm to the school.

In the religious census of 1906 they listed the Churches of Christ as a separate communion from the Disciples of Christ. What had been evolving for decades was now officially sanctioned by the United States Government. The non-instrumental Churches of Christ were now a distinct communion.

In the early 1900’s David Lipscomb continued to preach in the Nashville area. In 1906 he was seventy-five years old. His health was getting worse as the second decade of the twentieth century broke on the scene. In 1916 he passed his eighty fifth birthday. His days of preaching and writing were over. In 1917 he grew steadily worse. His death came on the Lord’s Day November 11, 1917. Dr. Earl Irvin West, in his book, The Life and Times Of  David Lipscomb, gives us this account of the funeral.

“The funeral services were conducted at the South College Street Church building the following afternoon at 3:30 p.m. Visiting brethren came from far and wide. Lipscomb, always opposed to a show, a lover of simplicity, had wanted a plain funeral. A double quartet from Nashville Bible School sang. At Uncle Dave’s special request, Dr. C.A. Moore, long a fellow elder at the South College congregation, and E.G. Sewell preached the funeral. E. A. Elam and J. C. McQuiddy helped them . . . Pallbearers were David U. Lipscomb, Horace S. Lipscomb, H. Leo Boles, John E. Dunn, Sam H. Hall and John T. Lewis.”

The influence of David Lipscomb continues to live in the Gospel Advocate and at David Lipscomb University. May we always be willing, as David Lipscomb was to believe and follow the statement, “Wherever God, through truth may lead us.” 

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Christian Articles to Edify Folks