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Historical society welcomes documents

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Before today’s church publications – even the 150-plus-year-old Gospel Advocate – there were Alexander Campbell’s Christian Baptist and Millennial Harbinger. Now, scholars researching the 19th-century past of Churches of Christ can access a newly available treasure trove of materials that include famous works by Campbell as well as books from the personal libraries of other Restoration figures.
A gift by Cincinnati-based Standard Publishing to the Disciples of Christ Historical Society, the materials include roughly 200 bound volumes of Restoration Movement journals, 300 loose periodicals, 3,500 files with biographical information and photos, many pamphlets and more than 50 books from early Restoration leaders F.W. Emmons and Isaac Errett.
While Emmons was converted by reading Campbell’s writings and later wrote for Restoration journals, Errett launched the Christian Standardjust after the Civil War. The Ohio-based journal sometimes provided atheological counterpoint to the Tennessee editor David Lipscomb’s Gospel Advocate.
Still produced by Standard Publishing, which Errett himself eventually would manage as sole owner, the Christian Standard today is the flagship magazine of instrumental Christian Churches.
Among works by Campbell in the gift were complete sets of the Christian Baptist, published between 1823 and 1830, and the Millennial Harbinger, begun in 1830 and published until 1870.
While the historical society already houses copies of Campbell’s periodicals and other important Restoration journals, the Standard gift is “going to fill in gaps” in the archive’s collections, said McGarvey Ice, public services archivist at the society and associate minister at the Central Church of Christ in Nashville.
Ice singled out as especially important in the gift two copies of Campbell’s seminal “sermon on the Law,” preached by the unity leader in 1816 in what is now West Virginia to the Redstone Baptist Association. Emphasizing the special place of the New Testament in determining God’s will for the church, the sermon was a factor in Campbell’s eventual break with the Baptist of his day.
Before the gift, the Nashville archive had only one copy of Campbell’s sermon, Ice said.
While the donated periodicals supplement the society’s journal holdings, the personal books in the Standard materials let historians peer over the shoulder of past leaders to see the tomes they actually held in their hands.
For Ice, it’s important “anytime you have … the materials used by someone significant in our past, like an Isaac Errett, who’s a very influential editor and writer. The archivist added, “I can’t say how long he sits up at night reading form these books and how much he absorbs  from them, but I do know that they were available to him and that they’re in his library.”
The historical materials came from a library Standard Publishing maintained over the years, Christian Standard editor Mark Taylor said. When Standard moved to a more up=to-date facility after more than 50 years in the same Cincinnati location, the company could no longer keep all the materials gathering dust over the decades. So the Cincinnati publisher got in touch with the Nashville archive.
The biographical and photographic files in the Standard materials, still being processed but likely dating from the 1930s to the 1960s, are probably of greatest interest to historians of instrumental churches, Ice believes. But he emphasized the broad value of the gift for all the groups in the Restoration Movement.
“The further back in time you go, the more we have in common,” Ice said.
For historian Leonard Allen, director of ACU Press in Texas, the Standard materials from the past offer a chance to better understand the present.
History always has to be retold, because the blinders we wear and the issues that drive us change,” Allen said.

Filed under: National Staff Reports

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