The New Lisbon Calvinistic Baptist Association

R. Max Gard

(NOTE: This article was published in the local newspaper in Lisbon, Ohio. It will be of special interest to readers of TRUTH MAGAZINE who are interested in restoration history. Mr. Gard is proprietor of the Sandy - Beaver Antique Shop, 5 miles west of Lisbon. He has an interesting display of early Americana for the sightseer and collector.)

Although Lewis Kinney, the founder of New Lisbon (now Lisbon) has moved into the locality in 1802 and was a devout Baptist, it was ten years ere a church of that denomination was organized in the town. In 1812, Elder E. Azariah Hanks, a Baptist preacher organized the New Lisbon Calvinistic Baptist Association.

Joab Gaskill and Obadiah Campbell were named Deacons and the original membership included John Campbell, William Paul, Benjamin Pritchard, Joseph Powell, Lewis Kinney, Henry Beck, Stacey Pettit, Ira Dibble, Susan Whitacre and Eliza Lepper.

Serpent in Sanctuary

In 1815 the congregation erected a frame church on the southeast corner of High and Jefferson streets in New Lisbon, where Mr. and Mrs. Robert Cameron now live. The gallery was not completed when the congregation moved into the new church to hear Elder Hanks preach.

He was proud of the new temple, which his people had erected with their primitive skill. On a hot Sunday in the early summer of 1815 Elder Hanks was delivering an inspiring sermon when he suddenly stopped and dismissed the congregation.

Looking high above the heads of his audience, as many speakers do, his keen eyes saw a big blue Race snake edging along a handhewn beam endeavoring to shed his last winter's skin or slough by catching it onto a rough place on the beam and crawling out of it.

Although the lofty-minded reptile seemed fairly sure of itself, its maneuvers were taking place directly above a group of women, and one slip may have caused several heart attacks. After the church was empty Elder Hanks whispered his secret into the ears of a few of his hearty men and they returned to the church with clubs and poles.

They knocked the big snake down and ended the religious career in the sanctuary on that warm Sabbath in 1815. This fact brings to mind the way another serpent that disrupted things in the Garden of Eden.

"Railroad Man"

Mr. Hanks was succeeded by Thomas Rigdon of Pekin, and John Brown of Waynesburg, who by a record of his accomplishments should rank as one of the ten most versatile Ohioans of his day. He was one of the original directors of the Sandy and Beaver Canal Co., builder of a narrow gauge railroad at Magnolia, proprietor of an addition to the town of Hanover (Hanoverton Post Office3 and surveyor, builder and operator of grist mills, politician, highly skilled mechanic and man for whom Brown Township in Carroll County was named.

Mr. Clark and Mr. Emmons succeeded Brown at the New Lisbon Baptist Church. This Church was affiliated with the Mahoning Baptist Association and the meeting of the leaders of that group was scheduled to take place at the New Lisbon Church in August, 1827.

The Mahoning Baptist Association was experiencing a period of unrest about that time. This group was losing several of its members to other denominations and it was decided to call the leaders together and make plans to improve their situation.

Alexander Campbell, a Pittsburgh school teacher, printer, Baptist minister and thrifty Scotch philosopher was chosen as one of the delegates to the meeting. Campbell's home was at Buffaloe Creek, Virginia (now Bethany, West Virginia).

In Pittsburgh during the season of 182122 he had formed a strong friendship with another Scotch philosopher named Walter Scott, a graduate of the University of Edinburg. Scott was highly respected as one of the best educated men in the west at that time.

In 1827 he was serving as a professor at an academy of higher learning at Steubenville.

Stranger Takes Church

In August, 1826, Scott was present at a meeting of the Mahoning Baptist Association and although he was not a member of that August group he was highly respected by them as a great Bible student, well educated, a sincere Christian and an eloquent speaker.

Campbell decided that it would be a more successful trip for all concerned if he would go through Steubenville on his way to New Lisbon and invite his friend Scott to accompany him on the trip.

Scott accepted reluctantly as he was neither a delegate nor a member of any church in the group. When he arrived, they asked him to occupy a seat in the sessions that followed. He did.

Scott's views on religion differed greatly from those staunch ministers of the Baptist faith who were there but when he spoke, they listened, and they were greatly moved by his oratory.

At the meeting were such men as Alexander Campbell, already mentioned, Sidney Rigdon, who although he was a Baptist minister at the time was soon destined to become Joseph Smith's chief assistant in the founding of the Mormon Church, Adamson Bentley, the foremost Baptist preacher in Northern Ohio at that time, John Secrest and Joseph Gaston, both of whom were eminent evangelists, and several others who were prominent ministers and laymen of the Baptist group.

Realizing that they needed an outstanding Evangelist to promote their faith and strengthen the seventeen churches that then made up the Mahoning Baptist Association, it was a bit unusual when the group voted unanimously to ask Walter Scott to do this }ob since his views were so different from their own. His wages would be whatever amount the churches in the association chose to pay him.

After deep deliberation and counsel with God in prayer, Walter Scott accepted the challenge to perform the most important task that had been undertaken by the Mahoning Baptist Association up to that time.

At the time that Walter Scott was designated to be the travelling Evangelist for the Mahoning Baptist Association a great effort was being made by at least three groups to restore what they called Primitive-Christianity. They were zealous to restore the times of the New Testament.

One group called themselves the Churches of Christ. A second group called themselves Christians, or Primitive Christians. The third incubator for this movement were the members of the Baptist Church who subscribed to Alexander Campbell's Monthly Magazine "The Christian Baptist" and preferred Campbell's interpretations to those of Calvin which were then practiced by the Baptist Church.

In short, Alexander Campbell wished to organize a group that would imitate closely the customs of Peter, of whom (to whom CW) Christ said, "Upon this rock I will build my Church."

Church Changes

Campbell felt certain that if the ministers would imitate Peter properly, soon all other churches would eventually come to his way of thinking, and merge with his movement. Scott and Campbell held the same principles to be paramount, and each greatly contributed to the others strength.

Prior to Scott's Evangelistic Campaign, the Baptist Church at Hiram, Ohio, voted to discard its church covenant, constitution and confession of faith, and take to the Holy Bible alone as its standard.

About the middle of November, 1827, Walter Scott came to New Lisbon and started a series of sermons at the old Baptist Meeting House on the southeast corner of High and-Jefferson Streets. His theme was Matthew 16: 16, "Thou art the Christ, the son of the Living God" and Christ's promise to Peter that he would entrust to him the keys to Heaven, or the first opportunity to reveal the Gospel plan of Salvation and Everlasting Life.

If Simon Peter, himself, had been at the old Baptist Meeting House that week, it is doubtful if he would have had a more attentive and interested audience than did Walter Scott. His eloquent delivery and his sincere and convincing manner resulted in the church being filled to capacity as the service drew toward a close.

On Sunday night when the series of Evangelistic Services were to close, the pews were filled, standing room was filled, and several clustered around the doorway in front to hear this great preacher.

Living about five miles from New Lisbon at that time in the direction of East Fairfield was William Amend. A Presbyterian by faith, he became interested in the teachings of the Primitive Christians who had built a log Meeting House in the old section of the East Fairfield Cementery in 1825.

He went to seek his minister, Clement C. Vallandigham, who lived in the old brick house now owned and occupied by the William Lambs on West Lincoln Way in Lisbon. Amend told Mr. Vallandigham that he did not feel as though he had been properly baptized and felt that he should be immersed.

Mr. Vallandigham advised him that immersion was not necessary, but that if he insisted, he was willing to immerse him. He hoped however that he would not insist, because there might be several others who would ask for the same method, once he started it.

Repent and Be Baptized

Amend went home unsatisfied, and told his wife that he would wait for the proper man to baptize him by immersion. Shortly after this, he heard of the wonderful preacher who was holding a week of Evangelistic Meetings at the Baptist Meeting House in New Lisbon, and went to the last service on that Sunday evening in November, 1827.

That night at the Meeting House, Walter Scott painted a vivid word picture of the life of Peter, showing him with empty nets suddenly filled by the Saviour's blessing, Peter's conversion and following Christ through his death and resurrection, then Peter's charge to the multitude that they were guilty in connection with their Saviour's crucifixion.

Then his listeners asked "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"

Then Walter Scott quoted Peter's reply to them "Repent and be baptized everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Scott then closed his service by asking if anyone believed what he had said and was willing to take God at his word by instant obedience.

William Amend walked forward and said, "I do," and asked Walter Scott to baptize him for the remission of his sins.

Walter Scott walked happily down the hill with his first convert and publicly baptized him in the chilly waters of the Little Beaver. Thus occurred the first real conversion, soon to be followed by many others into that great Christian movement now known as The Disciples of Christ.

Disciples of Christ

Almost immediately, the membership of the New Lisbon Calvinistic Baptist association embraced Scott's views, dropped the name of Baptist, and became known as the Disciples of Christ. The Baptist Meeting House passed into the hands of the new congregation.

Truth Magazine VII: 6, pp. 11-13
March 1963