NASHVILLE AND THE SECOND CHURCH
Dr. R.B.C. Howell was then in the zenith of his power and usefulness. He had recently written and published his great work on Communion, which has already passed through several editions. He was a man of culture and eloquence and of great literary ability, a tremendous worker, and at that time the most influential man among the Baptists of the South. In addition to his pastoral labors in connection with the First Baptist Church, of Nashville, he also was editor of The Baptist. In that paper of November, 1845, he wrote this commendatory word concerning Graves: “He has lately come from Kentucky and, although quite young, is thoroughly educated, exemplary in piety, ardently devoted to his work, and not without ministerial experience.”
A year of indefatigable and successful labor followed, during which time young Graves was brought into conflict with the almost supreme of Methodism in that city. The influence of such a man as Dr. Howell on him must have been very great. Some one has said: “A man is the sum of his antecedents.” As we shall see, young Graves imbibed much of this great man’s spirit and adopted many of his ecclesiastical views. Here, in fact began to operate those influences and reactions which in later years led to his writing The Great Iron Wheel.
BECOMES EDITOR OF THE BAPTIST
And now opened before young Graves a new and untried field of labor, and his real life work began. It came about in this way: In 1835 R.B.C. Howell started a small quarto paper in Nashville called The Baptist. It continued for three years and was then merged in the Banner and Pioneer, which was published in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Howell retained the position of associate editor, or Tennessee editor. Five years later, in 1842, The Baptist, was resuscitated under the ownership of the General Association of Middle Tennessee and Northern Alabama, with Dr. Howell again as editor. The paper did not pay expenses and its circulation ran a little more than one thousand. Young Graves, while pastor of the Second Baptist Church, wrote stirring articles for The Baptist often controversial, which made a most favorable impression. At the General Association of 1846, Dr. Howell resigned the editorship and the executive committee of the Association elected J.R. Graves his successor. He at first declined because, in becoming editor, he would have to assume somewhat heavy responsibilities. It was characteristic of Dr. Graves that he sought to avoid heavy responsibilities, especially in the denominational life, but he at length accepted and his real life work was already begun.