Explorations in Stone-Campbell Bibliography, #3, Devotional Literature

In my last installment, I reproduced a ca. 1963 list of books B. C. Goodpasture recommended for church libraries.  My working hypothesis is that his list of books both reflects the concerns of mainline Churches of Christ in the mid-20th century at the same time it functions as a sort of script for what the agenda should be.  In other words, choose what people read (or don’t) and you influence what they believe (and do).  And vice versa.  What we read (or don’t) reflects our interests and concerns.  I recognize that this is a pretty simplistic hypothesis, but it seems a good starting point.  I don’t envision Goodpasture with a gang of cronies in some basement backroom of McQuiddy Printing Company, cigar smoke hanging thickly in the air, ties loosened and sleeves rolled up, planning how they could master the brotherhood through the printed page.   But it is undeniable that he had influence, and when he spoke (or wrote) people listened.  And when he recommended books, folks bought them.

I noted in installment #2 that one would look in vain for any devotional literature as part of his basic church library.  I think the list itself bears me out that the primary concerns of the day were marks of the church (over against denominations), specifically doctrines of baptism, instrumental music, and the Holy Spirit, and our particular view of church history.  The life of the soul doesn’t seem to be on the radar screen.

In fairness to BC, just because he didn’t recommend a list of devotional aids doesn’t necessarily mean he wasn’t concerned about the inner life of the soul, it just appears (to me) that other things were more important (to him).  Also in fairness to BC, he’d have to look pretty hard to find any devotional literature in the Stone-Campbell movement, period.  We produced periodicals, we produced books of sermons, we produced tracts, we produced doctrine, we simply weren’t producing very much devotional literature.  It wasn’t in short supply on the larger Christian bookshelf, so to speak, but it was rare for us. 

Nonetheless, there were a few places to go for spiritual nourishment.  Here’s a short list; I have a few more comments at the end:

R. Richardson, Communings in the Sanctuary. Lexington: Transylvania Printing and Publishing Company, 1872.

Isaac Errett, Letters to a Young Christian. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, 1877.

J. H. Garrison, Alone With God: A Manual of Devotions Being a Series of Meditations with Forms of Prayer for Private Devotions, Family Worship and Special Occasions. St. Louis: Christian Publishing Company, 1891.

J. H. Garrison, Half-Hour Studies at the Cross. St. Louis: Christian Publishing Company, 1895.

Ashley S. Johnson, The Life of Trust, A Series of Biblical Sermons on the Conditions, Limitations, Encouragements and Possibilities of Believing Prayer. first edition 1897, reprinted by Eugene S. Smith, Dallas, TX, 1949.

James E. Chessor, The Health of the Soul and Other Essays. Cincinnati: Christian Leader Corporation, 1928.

Charles R. Brewer, Be Not Dismayed, Messages of Cheer and Lessons of Truth. Nashville: World Vision Publishing Company, 1946.

C. R. Nichol, The Lord’s Supper, Prayers. Clifton, Texas: The Nichol Puyblishign Company, 1957.  This is subtitled The Institution of the Lord’s Supper, The Observation of the Supper, Thanks, Prayers for All Occasion.

E. W. McMillan, The Minister’s Spiritual Life. Austin: Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1958.

Periodicals:

Power for Today

Twentieth Century Christian

World Vision

Honorable Mention:

Word and Work*

——-

Briefly, here are the limits I imposed upon myself for generating this list:

–I limited myself to pre-1963 items since it is not a fair criticism for me to bring up items that would not have been available when Goodpasture penned his list. 

–I have also limited the Christian Church and proto-Disciples literature to the 19th century.  With the exception of Murch’s Christians Only (1962), Goodpasture didn’t include any 20th century items by Christian Church authors.  But he made sure the necessary items from the 19th century were available: through GA or through his own business, the Harbinger Book Club.  Given how much doctrinal matter Goodpasture reprinted from the 19th century Restoration Fathers (Christian Baptist in 7 vols., Millennial Harbinger, Living Pulpit of the Christian Church under the title Biographies and Sermons of Pioneer Preachers to name a few), I think its fair to wonder why didn’t the devotional works come back into print?

*Word and Work garners an honorable mention although I know there is no way BCG would have recommended it.  However, it was available and it did have a substantial devotional element to it.  If pressed, I’d say it is primarily doctrinal, but not exclusively doctrinal…and even so, it has a different feel to it than anything else on the periodical landscape at the time (certainly prior to the arrival of 20th Century Christian and Power for Today). 

Closing note, in the absence of such devotional literature coming from our authors, preachers and publishing houses, and in the absence of folks like B. C. Goodpasture making recomendations to those in his sphere of influence, our folks and churches either didn’t give much thought to it (too busy with doctrine, especially ecclesiology, baptism, instrumental music, Holy Spirit) or when they did (and found little by our publishing houses) they went elsewhere because they had to.

Look for future installments, Lord willing, on the 27th of each month.

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