Explorations in Stone-Campbell Bibliography, #8: Unpublished Books

In my scanning of our periodical literature I found a few references to books which for one reason or another have never been published.  Some are proposed and evidently the author never carried through, or sometimes a call is issued for a study on topic X or Y but no one takes up the challenge, or even more tantalizing are those books which we know are being written but just can’t find.  I had a researcher at DCHS just this week who knows his person  was writing a book on prophecy…but whatever became of it is a mystery.

In the proposed-but-never-written category we have C.E.W. Dorris desiring to collate David Lipscomb’s comments in the Gospel Advocate, and elsewhere, on the Old Testament into a running commentary.  It was never published that anyone knows of.  I can’t even say that it ever moved beyond the idea stage.

Here we have T. W. Brents, extraordinary theologian of the middle 19th century Stone-Campbell movement, possibly authoring a commentary on the New Testament.  Again, all indications are it never appeared.  But there are a several who would have loved to see it in 1894 (and not a few of us here in 2009 who would as well).

This note appeared in the Gospel Advocate, January 4, 1894, page 9.  W. H. Sheffer is an evangelist and minister who moved some in both the emerging acapella and instrumental circles in Nashville and Middle Tennessee and elsewhere.  He was at one time (details are in my files at the office) minister at Vine Street Christian Church in Nashville.W. H. Sheffer on T. W. Brents, Gospel Advocate 1894

I want to add my name to the list of those who would like to see a Commentary written on the New Testament, or the whole Bible, by Dr. T. W. Brents.  Why should we not have some standard works on the Bible as well as other people?  It is true that we have much valuable literature on the Bible and Bible themes, yet I think there are demands for much more.  And who is more competent to add to the richness of this needed literature than our worthy and respected Brother Brents?  Should he undertake the task , let us pray the Father that he may be spared to complete it.  — [W. H. Sheffer, Tullahoma, Tenn.

Six weeks later a group of Nashville Bible School students made notice in the pages of the Advocate that they “earnestly beseech brother T. W. Brents to undertake the work of writing a Commentary on the New Testament.”  This from the February 22, 1894 Gospel Advocate, page 128:

Nashville Bible School students on T. W. Brents

We, the following Bible students of the Nashville Bible School, earnestly beseech Brother T. W. Brents to undertake the work of writing a Commentary on the New Testament.  We hope he will undertake the work, and we shall pray God to spare his life, give him strength, and bless him in the effort.

J. E. Dunn, Tenn.; P. H. Hooten, Tenn.; W. K. Harding, Ky.; John Soper, Jr., Ky.; L. K. Harding, Ky.; H. C. Wylie, Ala.; Ernest A. Timmons, Tenn.; James T. Harris, Tenn.; David Cook, Tenn.; Wm. Shaub, Tenn.; Madison Wright, Texas; A. Foster, Texas; Liff Sanders, Texas; Campbell Miller, Texas; J. W. Tally, Tenn.; J. D. Barfield, Tenn.; David A. Nunn, Tenn.; G. W. McQuiddy, Tenn.; L. L. Yeagley, O.; R. J. Cooke, Tenn.; R. C. White, Tenn.; J. N. Armstrong, Tenn.; E. V. Mills, Ark.; L. L. Holloway, Ky.; S. M. Jones, Tenn.; A. Rutledge, Tenn.; Wm. J. Bishop, Tenn.; O. T. Craig, Jr., Tenn.; W. W. Phebus, Tenn.; J. D. Gunn, Tenn.; I. B. Bradley, Tenn.; A. E. Lycar, Ill.; Richard Crim, Tenn.

John B. Cowden, in his biography of Brents (Dr. T. W. Brents, Superman and Master Builder of The Christian Church and The Church of Christ, Prophet of God, Nashville: John B. Cowden, 1961), does not mention this proposed commentary. 

Whatever became of Brents’ commentary?

4 thoughts on “Explorations in Stone-Campbell Bibliography, #8: Unpublished Books

  1. Mac, do you know if Victor W. Dorris–who wrote the biography of Brents in the Brown volume on Churches of Christ (1904)–was related at all to C. E. W. Dorris? Just curious.

    John Mark

  2. JMH raises an interesting question, which immediately brings forth another: How deeply estranged are families that are divided when churches divide?

    Victor W Dorris (1860-1925) is born in Sumner County, Tennessee, an older contemporary of CEWD and almost surely a cousin, whose “career path” is quite different from that of CEWD. According to his capsule biography in Brown’s book (568), VWD was educated in Tennessee common schools and then in Green River College at Elkton, Kentucky. He served as “county and district evangelist in south Kentucky,” 1882-89; minister, First Christian Church in Macon, Georgia, 1880-90; minister, Jefferson Street Christian Church, Louisville, 1890-94; minister, Nicholasville, Kentucky, 1894-96; minister, Church of Christ, Georgetown, Kentucky, from 1896.

    VWD is a frequent contributor to the Christian Standard, and a frequent subject in its columns. He writes first from Macon in 1889, indicating that he has been “in the sunny South” five months (i don’t know how to square that with the timeline in Brown) and seeking to encourage “missionary work” in the South. In the years immediately after the publication of Brown’s book, VWD drew some notice as a “meeting preacher.” In the decade or so before his death in 1925, he preached for several congregations in Illinois and one in Indiana. He died in Paris, Illinois, on 21 August 1925. See H H Peters, “Victor W Dorris,” Christian Standard 60 no 54 (10 October 1925): 2208.

    VWD had married T W Brents’s daughter, and he reports that Brents is living with them in Georgetown at the time the biography is written. We may wonder about the dinnertable conversation.

    God’s Peace to you.


    • Thanks, Don. It would make an interesting story to tell if we can rehearse the “1906” division through the eyes of family members. I know there were Hardings (grandchildren of J. W. Harding though not children of James A. Harding) who were with the First Christian Church in Winchester, KY rather than with the Fairfax Church of Christ in the mid-20th century. Those dinner tables must have been something to experience and yet, at least in the case of Brents and Dorris, they did eat together.

      Reminds me of the stories of J. D. Tant in Nashville when he spoke at the Nashville Bible School. Harding, Lipscomb and Tant would go round-and-round over rebaptism in the presence of the students only to go to Harding’s home, eat dinner together and share some enjoyable fellowship late into the evenings during his stay.

      It is a shame that we don’t have more access to diaries or journals of some of these leaders.


      John Mark

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