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Mr. Stone and his friends still continued to preach repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; also, that a man must know his sins forgiven. At length, the great agitation commenced among them concerning baptism by immersion. Then the question arose, Who should baptize them? The Baptists would not do it unless they joined their Church. And finally they concluded that if they were authorized to preach the gospel, they were authorized also to administer the ordinance of baptism; and they immersed one another. That is, Messrs. Stone, McNemar, Dunlary, and Houston, were in favor of immersion, though Messrs. Marshall and Thompson would not go into it. Thus commenced the great work of immersion. Thousands of people, it is said, flocked to them, and were immersed. Soon many Baptist churches laid aside their discipline and joined them, taking upon themselves the name of Christians, or Stoneites.
Thus, their churches grew and multiplied. But their pride was soon humbled by a very extraordinary circumstance. Three missionary Shakers, from the East, whose names were Bates, Meacham, and Young, came among them. They were eminently qualified for their mission. They were neat but plain in dress, and quite prepossessing in their general appearance. In manners, they were grave and unassuming. and, at the same time. they were very intelligent and ready in the Scriptures, and of great boldness in the faith. They informed them that they had heard of them, and greatly rejoiced in the work of God among them. They told them that as far as they had gone they were right, but they had not gone far enough into the subject, and that they were sent by their brethren to teach them the way of God more perfectly, by obedience to which they would be led into perfect holiness. They seemed to understand all the springs and avenues of the human heart. They delivered their testimony, and labored to confirm it by the Scriptures, promising the greatest blessings to the obedient, but threatening damnation to the disobedient. They urged the people to confess their sins to them, especially the sin of matrimony; and to forsake them all immediately. Husbands must forsake their wives, and wives their husbands. This was the burden of their testimony. It was said they could perform miracles, and they related many as having been done among them; but they never could be persuaded to work miracles among the people. Many such things they preached; the consequence of which was similar to the case of Simon Magus. Many said they were the great power of God; and many confessed their sins to them, and forsook the marriage-state. Among these were three of their preachers, Matthew Houston, Richard McNemar, and John Dunlary. Several of their preachers, alarmed, fled from them, and joined the different denominations around. Never did a man exert himself more at that time than did Barton W. Stone; and he saved the people from the vortex of ruin. He yielded to no discouragements, but labored night and day, far and near, among the churches where the Shakers went. By this means, their influence was happily checked in many places. Mr. Stone labored so hard and constantly that a spitting of blood ensued; but God again restored him to health and he was spared to a good old age. Next the Shakers became their bitterest enemies. They denied the literal resurrection of the body from the grave, and said the resurrection of the body meant the resurrection of Christ's body; meaning the Church. They professed that the elders had constant communion and conversation with angels and departed saints. They looked for no other or better heaven than that on earth. Their worship, if worthy of the name, consisted in voluntary dancing together. They lived together, and had all things in common, and entirely under the direction and control of the, elders. They flourished greatly for some years, and built several superb villages; but afterward they began to dwindle away. Their doctrine was that the Christ appeared first in a male, and through life was preparing the way of salvation, which he could not accomplish till his second appearance in a woman-Ann Lee-who was now the Christ, and had full power to save. They had new revelations superior to the Scriptures, which they called the old records, which were true, but superseded by the new. When they preached to the world, they used the old records, and preached a tolerably pure gospel, as a bait to catch the unwary; but in the close of their discourses, they artfully introduced their testimony, and in this way they captivated hundreds and ensnared them in ruin. Their coming was at a most auspicious time. Some of the late reformers were verging on fanaticism; others were disgusted at the spirit of opposition against them and the evils of division. The Shakers well knew how to accommodate each of these classes, and to coil them in a trap set for them.
Soon after the great shock of Shakerism took place in Kentucky, Messrs. Marshall and Thompson returned to the Old Presbyterian Church. Hugh Andrews, one of their preachers, joined the Methodist Church. Out of the five preachers that were expelled by the Synod for preaching against the Confession of Faith, Barton W. Stone was the only one left to contend for the reformation. He continued to preach and form churches until his party became quite numerous in Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana. They were generally known in those days by the name of Stoneites, though they called themselves Christians.
I think it was in 1824 that Mr. Alexander Campbell made his appearance in Kentucky, though his fame as a great reformer had already spread throughout the length and breadth of the country. He and Mr. Stone met. It is said they had a very friendly interview. Mr. Stone viewed him as one of the greatest men he had ever met with. They differed on some points in divinity. Especially, Mr. Stone thought he was not explicit enough on the operation of the Spirit. They also differed on some points in connection with the atonement of Christ. At length they agreed to disagree, and throw their influence together. Then the name of Stoneites ceased, and they took the name of Reformers or Campbellites. I have ever viewed the Stoneites, as they were called, as a better people than these modern Campbellites; they preached repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ, and that a man should know his sins forgiven. These modern Campbellites do not thus preach, or at least I have never heard them.
I have always viewed Barton W. Stone as a great and good man. He was a man of remarkable humility and modesty. These traits of his character were known wherever he was known. He was a man of peace; and it was pity, I think, that he, with his party in Kentucky, did not make the same stand that the Cumberland Presbyterians made in this country. If they had stricken out the doctrine of unconditional election and reprobation from the Confession of Faith, or formed a new creed and discipline, and called themselves Kentucky Presbyterians, I think their course would have contributed to the advancement of the gospel. But doubtless Mr. Stone did what he thought was best in the case. He was a great instrument in the revival of 1800 in Kentucky. He traveled and preached nearly to his last days. He died in 1844, in Hannibal, Missouri, at the house of his son-in-law, Capt. William Bowen; and I am told he gave ample and cheering testimony of his entrance upon a bright and glorious immortality beyond the valley and shadow of death. I knew Barton W. Stone, and I would do injustice to myself if I were not to say that I viewed him as a great and good man.
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