Daniel Sommer: Caring for Our Bodies Better Than We Do for Our Souls

Daniel Sommer: Caring for Our Bodies Better Than We Do for Our Souls

Daniel Sommer (1850-1940) lived ninety years and spent about seventy of those years preaching the gospel. This would be an amazing feat in our modern time; yet for one who was born in the mid-nineteenth century, his longevity was truly remarkable. However, while there are some who almost idolize their physical health to the neglect of their spiritual health, Sommer saw the folly of that. He recognized that the well-being of one’s soul was far more important than bodily nourishment or outward appearance. He made the following remark in one of his sermons:

“‘Man is what he eats.’ This is an old saying, and it is as true of man spiritually as it is of him physically. Man’s body is made up of that which he eats, or receives into his system by eating, drinking, and breathing. The same is true of him educationally, socially, politically, morally and spiritually. In view of this we do not wish our bodies to be imposed on, nor poisoned, with impure foods. But we are not, generally, so careful about food for our souls. Though, as a rule, we do not take the best care of our bodies, yet we care for them better than we do for our souls. We wash our hands and faces several times each day, and pay some attention to the hairs of our heads. As a rule, we are much more concerned about the appearance of our bodies before mankind than we are about the appearance of our souls before God. If we go into a picture gallery and have a photograph taken of our facial expression we may be so pleased with it that we will order an extra dozen photos made to hand around among our friends. But suppose we could have a picture taken of our souls, especially if we have not fed them well on the word of God. We certainly would not wish the extra dozen of such pictures made. But what avails a well-kept, well-nourished body, if our souls are in a starving condition?” (Plain Sermons, p. 107).

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I.B. Grubbs’ Six Rules of Biblical Hermeneutics

I.B. Grubbs, rejecting legalism

When it comes to studying the Bible, it is common for people to come away with their own understanding of the word of God. Many see nothing wrong with this, despite the varied and sometimes conflicting interpretations people have of the Scriptures. However, when Paul wrote to the brethren in Ephesus, he said, “By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4). He did not expect each of them to have their interpretation of the epistle he wrote by inspiration. Instead, he expected them to have the same understanding as he did. The only way this could happen is for each one to follow a common set of principles as they try to determine the meaning of a particular passage under consideration.

Isaiah Boone Grubbs (1833-1912) was a preacher and also a professor at the College of the Bible in Lexington, KY at the end of the nineteenth century and into the early part of the twentieth century. In the introduction to his material on the epistles of First and Second Corinthians and Galatians,* he outlined six hermeneutical rules that would allow students of the Bible to properly interpret the text. (Hermeneutics simply means “the study of the methodological principles of interpretation (as of the Bible).”**) These principles are not unique to Bible study; rather, they are the same principles that can be used to correctly identify the meaning behind any body of instruction or teaching.

So let us briefly consider these six rules for Biblical hermeneutics.Continue Reading

“Raccoon” John Smith: Alexander Campbell Was a Fool

"Raccoon" John Smith and Alexander Campbell

“Raccoon” John Smith (1784-1868) was one of many preachers in the 19th century who saw the division in the religious world and the departures from the New Testament that had occurred. As a result, he became associated with an effort to restore the doctrines and practices of the New Testament.

Smith was also known for his quick wit and colorful statements. One example of this was in a conversation with a certain Baptist preacher who wanted to discredit another well-known preacher associated with the Restoration Movement – Alexander Campbell – by exposing an inconsistency in his teaching. He planned to point this out to Smith and boasted to his brethren that Smith would never be able to answer it.

“‘How does it come to pass,’ observed Elder F—, addressing Bro. Smith, ‘that Alexander Campbell in his debate with McCalla took the ground that Paul was really pardoned when he believed, but formally pardoned when he was baptized, and in his debate with Mr. Rice affirms, in substance, that no man is really pardoned until baptized? Here is a glaring contradiction—an irreconcilable inconsistency. What will you do with it, my brother?’

“Bro. Smith looked the Elder full in the face, and instantly replied: ‘When Alexander Campbell said that Paul was really pardoned when he believed and formally pardoned when baptized, he was then debating with Wm. L. McCalla in the year of our Lord 1823, was a member of the Baptist Church, and just about as big a fool as you are. Now, sir, any further contradictions? If so, I am ready to reconcile them.’

“The Baptist brethren roared with laughter, and Elder F— proposed no further puzzling questions on that occasion.” (Recollections of Men of Faith)

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Resolutions from the Last Will and Testament

Mutual forbearance

On June 28, 1804, Barton W. Stone (1772-1844) and five other men signed the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery. This document was one of the most significant of the Restoration Movement. It expressed a desire to dissolve their recently-formed body (the Springfield Presbytery) as they recognized that all such denominational bodies and creeds were inherently divisive. The Last Will and Testament also encouraged the members of other such bodies to do the same and unite together simply upon the teachings of the Bible.

“We will, that this body die, be dissolved, and sink into union with the Body of Christ at large; for there is but one Body, and one Spirit, even as we are called in one hope of our calling.”

“We will, that the people henceforth take the Bible as the only sure guide to heaven; and as many as are offended with other books, which stand in competition with it, may cast them into the fire if they choose; for it is better to enter into life having one book, than having many to be cast into hell.”

“Finally, we will that all our sister bodies read their Bibles carefully, that they may see their fate there determined, and prepare for death before it is too late.”

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A Sermon Delivered in the Dark

A. L. Todd: At the End of the Trail

The book, Christians on the Oregon Trail, describes the lives and labors of those who were part of the Restoration Movement during the time when settlers were first trekking across the continent to the Oregon Territory. These early pioneers faced many challenges in the Pacific Northwest. As these settlements grew, efforts were made to spread the gospel among those who were arriving in the area.

One of the men who endeavored to preach in Oregon during this time was A. L. Todd (1820-1886). In the book mentioned above, the author presented a picture of this man’s labor.

“A. L. Todd traveled far and wide in pursuit of souls for Christ, and often his audiences were very small. On one preaching tour through Coos County he sent word ahead that he would be preaching at Burton Prairie school house. It was a rainy afternoon in the wintertime, and only four persons came out to hear him preach. All four of his hearers were men, and none of them had thought to bring any matches for the candles. There was not enough time for any of the men to return home, so Todd began preaching in the fading light of a winter evening. The school house was cold, damp and dark, and as he preached the darkness deepened.” (Christians on the Oregon Trail, p. 319)

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L. F. Bittle: Lions and Skunks

L. F. Bittle: Lions and Skunks

L. F. Bittle (1833-1905) worked for about twenty years with Daniel Sommer in producing the Apostolic Review. Sommer described him as “the best educated and the most modest man I ever knew” (Daniel Sommer: A Biography, p. 153). On one occasion when he was challenged for a debate, Bittle gave the following response:

“We can imagine a man brave enough to go forth into the forest to hunt lions, but on his return that same man would step aside when he would be confronted by a skunk” (Daniel Sommer: A Biography, p. 158).

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Tolbert Fanning’s Seven Rules for Studying the Bible

Tolbert Fanning: Study upon the Proper Plan

Most religiously-minded people will affirm that reading the Bible is vital. Many of these would also say that studying the Scriptures is important. Yet among those who read and study the Bible, there is usually a wide range of beliefs and practices that often conflict with and contradict one another. Is this to be expected and accepted? Or is that a sign that we should re-evaluate our approach in studying the Bible?

Tolbert Fanning (1810-1874) was a preacher from Tennessee who had a strong influence among brethren in the South. In his book The True Method of Searching the Scriptures, he outlined seven rules for studying the Bible. As we consider these rules, we will see that these are not just one man’s opinion; instead, these are some basic principles we need to apply if we are to understand God’s word in the way He intended us to understand it.

So let us briefly consider these seven rules for studying the Bible.Continue Reading