METHODISM IN TENNESSEE
Nashville was then and, indeed, is still the center and stronghold of Methodism in the South. They had there their great book concern in which every Methodist preacher was said to have a pecuniary as well as a denominational interest. Their one paper published in the Southwest was there. They had other important and thriving business establishments. They outnumbered the Baptists in Nashville at that time five to one and they really claimed this territory as peculiarly belonging to them, resenting the activities of the Baptists as invading a territory which should have been left alone. Above all, they had as the editor of their paper, The Christian Advocate, a man of varied attainments, one of surpassing ability and fierce prejudices. He was regarded as unscrupulous as he was talented; and he was a cordial hater of all the peculiarities that distinguish Baptists. That this practical polemic should at once turn his guns on the young editor was to be expected, and the manner in which he would do so might have been foreseen by his attacks on the dignified Dr. Howell:
“The inflated bird of Nashville, bigoted, presumptuous enough for anything; lacking only the power to be come a pope; in a state of putridity, i.e., that in morals we understand that Brother Howell is in a state of putridity.”
This reflection was passed upon Dr. Howell just after he had delivered a masterly address at the annual commencement of the Nashville University in which he greatly enhanced his already growing popularity.
“We (McFerrin) understood him (Dr. Howell) to say that he does not consider it a matter of importance always to state the plain truth.”
“To deny that Baptists have asserted that they believe that there are children in hell is more than madness, if lying is worse.”
We here give only one response from Dr. Howell, to show his estimate of the man and also his manner of making reply:
“What we have said is enough to prove beyond question all that we propose, and that is that Mr. McFerrin will and does adopt any expedient, however repugnant to moral principles, if he thinks he can by such means do any injury to the Baptist denomination.”
DR. GRAVES GETTING HIS STRIDE
In the course of his editorial work, Dr. Graves, having become editor of The Baptist, set forth the Baptist view of baptism, insisting upon its meaning in the original Greek. In order to enforce his argument, he quited from namy authors. Among these were John Wesley and Adam Clark.
The editor of The Christian Advocate upbraided him as ignorant and as publishing “lies” in order to mislead his readers concerning “well known and fully accepted teaching.” Then the doughty editor of the Methodist organ challenged the editor of The Baptist to show his authority, and added: “If he failed, he would denounce him as an ignoramus and a liar and prosecute him for libel.”
Many people have been led to believe that Dr. Graves deliberately and wantonly attacked other denominations, thus seeking to draw them into debate, either oral or written. This was far from the truth and the above and the above experience indicates the ordinary course. But a challenge like that, followed by such a threat, was not the sort of dare that Dr. Graves would decline to accept. He replied, giving from Mr. Wesley’s writings and from Dr. Clark’s Commentaries their own language, making the statements which he had credited to them. He gave the volume and page from the authentic works of these great Methodist leaders and copied the quotations accurately. It was thus that the conflict with Methodism began. Dr. Graves was not the aggressor, but responded to the most vicious attacks. The same is practically true concerning Dr. Graves’ decision with respect to all denominational leaders, Baptists and others, who complained so loudly at him.
DR. McFERRIN’S LIEUTENANTS
Then there was in the state the notorious Parson Brownlow, of whom little need to be said here, a desperado in politics as in religion. This turbulent man was a heart foe of Baptists and their principles. He attacked them constantly in his political organ, The Knoxville Whig. Then throughout Tennessee and Mississippi wnt two traveling lecturers and disputers whode manin work was to attack and misrepresent Baptists. One of them was named Chapman, an Irishman, who was the bitterest and most unscrupulous man who at that time wore the ministerial garb. These were the men whom Graves, the newly elected editor, had to meet in the defense of himself and the principles which he intensely loved, and he had to meet them almost alone, as his was the only Baptist paper being published in the Southwest, for John l. Waller, of Kentucky, had retired from the Baptist Banner and Pioneer and its publication was then suspended. The Christian Advocate had been transferred by Dr. Mercer to the Georgia State Convention and was merely a medium of denominational news. The Biblical Recorder, of North Carolina, had been suspended for want of patronage and was struggling to renew its existence. It will help to understand the situation if it is remembered that there was no Baptist paper being published at that time in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, or Texas. The whole Southwet was dependent upon The Baptist as a denominational exponent.