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Chicago: O.L. Baskin & Co., Historical Publishers
186 Dearborn Street

Page 228

The Disciples
Transcribed by: Kristin Vaughn.

This body of people, known as Disciples, Christian or Church of Christ, had its origin in Western Pennsylvania. It originated thus: In 1809, Thomas Campbell, aided by his son, Alexander Campbell, both of whom were Presbyterian ministers, becoming deeply impressed with what they regarded as the unfortunate divisions among professed Christian people, made an effort to bring about a union of all, not intending to start another "sect" or party. It was thought that taking the Bible alone, without any standard of interpretation, would do this. Quite a number or people, mostly Presbyterians, went into this enterprise. Soon the question of the mode and subject of baptism was mooted among them, and this resulting in a rejection, by the majority, of infant baptism and affusion; the body becoming thus one of immersed believers, they were soon united with the Redstone Baptist Association. Not many years after this, views were developed at variance with the Baptist church, and the "Disciples" were formed into a new sect. About three years before the beginning of the move by the Campbells in Pennsylvania, a Presbyterian minister in Kentucky had tried to bring about a union of all Christians on the basis of the Bible alone. This movement was introduced and led by one Barton W. Stone, who had been for years a Presbyterian minister. He had collected quite a little band together, and, after considerable time spent in controverting various points by the two leaders, a union of the two parties, forming when united quite a large body. The followers of Stone were called New Lights, while Campbell's party was denominated "Disciples." But, for sake of distinction, some persons who belonged to neither called one party Stoneites and the other Campbellites; neither were these names given in reproach, but merely to distinguish them. For many years after the union of the two parties, the name "New Lights" was kept up, and thus applied to the "Disciples." Soon after the consolidation of the two, they began work in earnest, sending out missionaries to various parts of the country. It is almost certain that the "New Lights," as they were called here, sent preachers into this part of Illinois as early as any, unless it was the Methodists and Hard-Shell Baptists. As said before, Rev. Mr. House, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was the first preacher in the county, and it is probable that old Mr. Crow, the Regular Baptist, was the next. As early as 1820 or 1821, a New Light preacher of the name of Henderson came to Sugar Grove and preached in the cabin of Roland Grant, but there is no evidence that her ever attempted to organize a society. Not very long after this, Barton W. Stone himself preached in Clary's Grove, which he did several times after. He was followed by Sidney Rigton, then a New Light, but who afterward became a Mormon, becoming one of the twelve apostles of that church, and visiting various parts of Europe as a missionary. A congregation of "Disciples" was formed in Clary's Grove as early as 1827, and a few years after, they erected a "log meeting-house." This log church was occupied for several years, when a new frame edifice was erected. This last served them till after the village of Tallula was laid out and settled up. The Church, seeing that this village was destined to be the center of the community, they disposed of their house in the grove, and, just at the close of the late war, they erected in the village the large and commodious house in which they now worship. The date of the organization of the "Disciples" Church in Sugar Grove is not definitely known, but it was at a very early day, as all admit. This soon became a very strong and prosperous body, and was for many years the largest and most wealthy congregation in the county. It continued to hold this enviable reputation till about 1867, when misfortune seemed to overtake it, and, in a short time, it was nearly annihilated. This happened in this wise: One J.K. Spears, of Indiana, a man of more than average ability, was employed as Pastor. At first, his preaching was in conformity with the doctrines of the Church; but it was not long till he began to drop expressions occasionally that pointed to materialism very strongly. When interviewed on the subject, he boldly affirmed the doctrine of "soul-sleeping," denying, in toto, all spiritual existence, and, as a consequence, denying the immortality of man, except in the resurrected body. He also taught that the Bible clearly affirmed the second advent of Christ as being just at hand. Such was his influence and tact, that he carried off with him about one-half of the entire congregation, among them some of the most influential, intelligent and wealthy of the entire flock. They all seemed utterly demented; they were re-baptized, and some of them were ready for months to start, at a day's warning, to Jerusalem, to meet the Savior there. Others believed that he would make his appearance right in Menard County, and some actually made the remark that they expected to go fishing with Christ in Salt Creek. Mr. Spear would not preach for a stipulated salary, as he regarded it as very sinful to do so; all he wanted was a simple support for himself and family; but he was exceedingly careful to have the support specified in every particular, so that it aggregated more than any salary pain in all this region, hence, he and his did literally "fare sumptuously every day." In order to the quiet of the community (for the excitement was at fever-hunt for months), a public discussion was inaugurated, and Elder Linn, of Indiana, met Mr. Spear in open conflict. The debate, perhaps, did not do much toward quieting the troubled waters; but, after the people had anxiously awaited the coming of Christ for several months, they began to grow incredulous; the enthusiasm died out, and then the revenues almost entirely failed. This was hint enough for Mr. Spear, who, in a short time, like the "star of empire," took his way westward. In an incredibly short time, all mention of "soul-sleeping" ceased to be made. As far as we can now learn, all those who followed Mr. S. in his folly are now open and avowed infidels. We often wonder what the feelings and thoughts now are of those who were at one time so enthusiastic as to become teachers of the new faith, but are now blasphemously profane! The old Church has never fully recovered from this blow, though it is gradually approximating its former strength.

The Church in Petersburg is of comparatively recent origin. In August, 1875, Elder D.R. Lucas came to this place, bringing with him a tent, capable of holding eight hundred or one thousand people. In this he conducted a protracted meeting of about six weeks' continuance, which resulted in the addition of something near one hundred persons to the Church. Immediately after the close of this meeting, an effort was made to build a house of worship. These efforts were crowned with success, and before the next spring, a neat brick edifice, some 40x60 feet, and finished in beautiful style, was ready for use. Elder M.M. Goode was engaged as Pastor, who still serves his people to the entire satisfaction of all. Being an intelligent, eloquent and very sociable gentleman, he commands the respect and friendship of all classes.

Of the Church in Athens and Greenview, the reader is referred to the history of those townships.

This Church has in Menard County five church edifices and as many prosperous congregations. The ministers in the county are: Elder Breeden, Pastor at Tallula; W.W. Linn, near Tallula, not now actively engaged in the ministry; M. M. Goode, Petersburg; D.T. Hughes, Greenview; Dr. Engle, Athens; Elder Hughes, Sweetwater, and G.A. Davis, Petersburg, not now actively engaged.

The Disciples are an intelligent, liberal and enterprising people, keeping full pace with the age in all that advances and elevates the people.

1879 Index

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