“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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“Raccoon” John Smith: Relying More on the Word Than the Holy Ghost

"Raccoon" John Smith: Relying More on the Word Than the Holy Ghost

When “Raccoon” John Smith (1784-1868) began preaching, he was part of the Baptist church. As a result, he was heavily influenced by Calvinism. This led him to believe that no one could be converted except by a direct operation of the Holy Spirit on his/her heart. Without this kind of direct operation of the Spirit, no one could be saved.

At this time, his wife – who was “unconverted” when they married – developed an interest in religion. She asked him the meaning of a certain passage of Scripture; however, he would not answer her question. It was not because he did not have an answer or because he did not want her to know the answer. There was another reason behind his refusal to answer her Bible question:

“His wife, who was unconverted at the time of her marriage, soon became deeply concerned on the subject of religion. He was, of course, much interested in the progress of her experience; but he reverently and hopefully left her alone with her God. The young husband, who, in any other trouble, would have succored her, even at the sacrifice of his life, abandoned her in this, the most solemn and perplexing of her trials; for no obtrusive human agency, he thought, must interfere with the work of the Spirit. She asked him one day, what was the meaning of a certain text; and he was too considerate to give her any explanation at the time, fearing that, in the simplicity of her unregenerate heart, she might improperly take comfort from it, and rely more on the Word than on the Holy Ghost” (Life of Elder John Smith, p. 59).

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“Raccoon” John Smith: Hard Preaching

During the time when “Raccoon” John Smith (1784-1868) was preaching, the erroneous tenets of Calvinism were widely believed by those around him in the religious world. Smith himself had believed Calvinism early in his life before learning the truth. After learning the truth, he ardently opposed it in his preaching.

His wife Nancy, however, thought that he was “too hard” against Calvinism. In the following excerpt, Smith explained to her why he preached the way he did.
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