HOW, WHEN AND WHERE AND BY WHOM WAS THE
GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM FIRST INTRODUCED INTO THE WESTERN STATES?
As the early pioneers who in those early days so earnestly
contended for the faith which was once delivered to the saints, are now
asleep in Jesus, waiting for the coming of the King.
I thought it might be of interest to many of like precious
faith to learn something of the history of its introduction into the Western
STATES, so long ago.
First, I will go back and show how the truth first
began to illuminate the minds of those who afterwards introduced it.
Now let your minds follow me across the mighty ocean,
to Halifax, England. At that place, about the year 1839 or 40, Certain
ones were enduring a great struggle, in order that they emerge out of the
gross darkness of old Babylon, and bask in the full sunlight of God's saving
Message of Life. Among that number, was my father, Joseph Wilson, and his
brothers, Benjamin, John and James, also Benjamin Boyes, Richard and William
Appleyard. At that time they were all members of the same Baptist Church
Campbellites and Disciples of Christ
About this time Alexander Campbell began preaching
what he called the “Reformation,” Urging the people to get back to the
Primitive Faith and Practice. He started well, but stopped short of ascertaining
the primitive faith.
He introduced baptism for the remission of sins, ignored
all human creeds, and established weekly communion.
A congregation was organized on this partial reformation
called “The Disciples of Christ”, at Halifax, England.
The parties named above left the Baptist church, and
united with this organization. The little light which they had received,
made them more anxious for light. The congregation then formed itself into
an investigating class, with a firm determination to search carefully the
Holy Scriptures. They resolved to begin with the first chapter of Genesis,
and go through the entire Word of God. They had not progressed very far
in the study of Genesis, before they came across the Covenants of Promise,
made unto Abraham, and repeated unto Isaac and to Jacob, An enquiry was
made as to whether those promises had been fulfilled or not? You can imagine
how like a golden cord they discover that those promises permeated and
ran through both the Old and the New Testament Scriptures, and constituted
the base of the gospel of the kingdom. It was at this point, that the true
light began to shine, and as the investigation progressed, the light shone
brighter and brighter, until they were led unto the obedience of the one
true faith and hope of the gospel.
While the investigation was in progress, my Uncle James
and Benjamin Wilson and Benjamin Boyes emigrated to America in 1844, bringing
with them what light they possessed. Later on, in 1849, my father, Joseph
Wilson, his brother John Wilson, William and Richard Appleyard, also sailed
for Geneva, Illinois, where my Uncle Benjamin had previously located, and
engaged in the printing business. Uncle James had bought a farm a few miles
west of Geneva. Later still came Joseph Crockroft, and he became a partner
with Uncle Benjamin in the printing business.
Later still George Westgarth and family located in
Geneva. Meetings for Bible study were still continued in their homes, at
About this time came Dr. John Thomas,
who had been in the Reformation work along with Mr Campbell. He soon passed
Mr. Campbell in his Bible study, and obeyed the gospel of the kingdom,
and then Campbell and Thomas became antagonists. John Thomas became a noted
proclaimer of the gospel of the kingdom and life eternal only through Christ.
If I mistake not, he baptized my father and Uncle Benjamin. Both Campbell
and Thomas then transferred their labors into the State of Virginia. For
a time Virginia became a fierce battleground, where Thomas and Campbell
waged many a conflict.
Finally, John Thomas located in Hoboken, New Jersey.
He planted a church at Brooklyn, NY. From Hoboken he published a magazine,
called “The Herald of the Kingdom.” Hoboken was the center point from which
the gospel of the Kingdom radiated in the Eastern States, and Geneva, Illinois,
for the Western States. I remember as a boy witnessing baptisms at Geneva,
as first one and another, learned the true gospel message. A church of
believers was then formed at that place.
At St. Charles, Illinois, two miles north of Geneva,
lived Mr. and Mrs. Underwood (the father and mother of the present publisher
of the Restitution) and also John Christian and his wife. They united with
the Church at Geneva.
Bro. Underwood engaged in a flour mill, at St. Charles,
and became quite an accomplished student of the prophecies. My Uncle Benjamin,
owning a printing office, commenced the publication of a magazine called
“THE GOSPEL BANNER,” Which became an uncompromising
exponent of the gospel of the Kingdom, and eternal life only through Christ.
Books, tracts, and hymn books were then published, and the light began
to spread in every direction, Geneva, being the center point.
The congregation began to grow, and a church building
became a necessity. Plans were then made and a plain stone church building
was erected. I well remember one moonlight night, how the men, with their
sons, met to dig the foundation, bringing with them lanterns and spades.
I as a boy, was with them, and helped to dig the foundation. Bro. Westgarth,
being a stone mason, built the walls, and plastered the house.
At Aurora, IL, ten miles south of Geneva, quite a number
of the Campbell reformation settled at that place. The true gospel light
from Geneva soon reached them, and a congregation of believers was established
there. The work began to spread to the different points of the compass.
Others who had the natural ability as public speakers, believed and obeyed
the gospel of the kingdom. These were then scattered abroad everywhere,
spreading the glorious light, Geneva was the point from which the literature
was printed. As the gospel spread, and churches were established, Semi-annual
Conference, gatherings were held at Geneva in their church house in July
Benjamin Boyes, William and Richard Appleyard finally
settled at South Northfield, about eighteen miles northwest of Chicago.
After getting settled, they let the gospel light shine. The result was
a congregation formed at that place, and a church building erected. The
gospel light then spread from this point. As the light spread, other able
speakers embraced it, and became heralds of the glad tidings which was
brought to the west by the few who emigrated from Halifax, England.
While I was a boy, my father put me into the “Gospel
Banner” Office to learn the printing business. It was during this time,
that the “EMPHATIC DIAGLOTT”, was translated and printed. I can now in
my mind's eye see my Uncle Benjamin, sitting at his desk, making a literal
word for word translation of the New Testament. I remember seeing the Greek
type arrive from England. Many readers of the Diaglott, may not be aware
that my Uncle not only translated the Diaglott, but took charge of the
mechanical work as well. He electro-typed the entire book himself. The
following was the process he followed.
As each page of the Diaglott was put into type, he
took an impression of the page of type in wax. This wax mold was then black-leaded
with very fine blacklead dust. He had a vat containing acid. In this acid,
he hung a copper plate, and also the wax mold, before he went home at night.
In the morning he would find the wax mold would be covered with a thin
sheet of copper. This acid dissolved the copper, and the black lead attracted
it to the wax mold. He then made metal plates out of melted metal and fastened
the copper sheet upon it. He then printed the first edition of the book,
from these plates, on a hand press. I used to ink the plates, by a soft
roller, while he worked the press.
Thus, from Geneva as the early gospel center, issued
one of the most useful aids for Bible study, that ever issued from the
press, in any section of this country.
Along about this time, Joseph Marsh issued a magazine,
from Rochester, NY, called the “Prophetic Expositor.” This magazine published
much truth, but as he held the gospel of the kingdom in a rather loose
manner, it provoked somewhat the hostility of Dr. John Thomas, of Hoboken,
NJ, who would not tolerate the least infringement of the glorious gospel
of the kingdom. We also need men of back bone today, as its defenders.
The “Prophetic Expositor,” finally came into the hands
of Thomas G. Newman, then it was finally merged with the “Gospel Banner.”
The “Gospel Banner” was in turn merged with “The Herald of the Kingdom”,
published by my oldest brother Thomas Wilson, at Chicago, IL. While in
his hands, he changed the name to The Restitution, and was issued
in the form in which it is now printed.
for the true faith
As time went on the contest for the gospel waxed hot.
The worst foes we had to meet with were the followers of Alexander Campbell,
and William Miller.
Indiana had a hard struggle with the Adventists, under
the leadership of Joshua V. Himes, Dr. Field, and E.C. Andrus. These Advent
leaders put up a strong and bitter fight to capture the present Conference
of the Church of God in Indiana, but they failed. Brethren Corbaley, Wince,
Wagoner, Hatch, Halstead and others, are old veterans in the struggle.
A great deal of interesting history might be given
with regard to the great battle of the age of the supremacy of the gospel
of the kingdom, as against spurious gospels. I have been conversant with
the contest from its early start, in Geneva, and I felt that it might be
of interest to many believers who know nothing about this memorable struggle.
I was a member of the Geneva church, and was baptized
into the sacred name by Bro. Edwin Smith in the waters of the beautiful
Fox River, in 1857. Bro. Smith now rests in the Geneva grave yard, where
many old veterans lie buried.
A few weeks ago, while I was away filling an appointment,
our much esteemed Bro. James Whitehead fell asleep. He was one of those
who had learned the glad tidings at Geneva, and was a member of that church,
Sister Whitehead was also.
In the East, at Elizabeth, NJ, still lives one of the
old veterans, John O. Woodruff. This old veteran in his life time has spent
over thirty thousand dollars in printing literature, in defense of the
ancient faith of the gospel. Faithful believers have straggled hard to
hand down to their descendants the pure gospel of the kingdom, unmixed
with the traditions of men. Will you preserve it; or will you suffer hobbies
and literalists to creep in and compromise it?
Personally I have long been in the fight, and am still
in it, and expect to be in it, as long as God gives me the strength to
use both voice and pen.
As you well know I have no use for anything else than
the straight genuine article, unmixed with human perversions, and doctrines
which tend to undermine the fundamental principles, which we have struggled
so long to protect from error. I have placed these things in book form,
THE PINE WOODS BIBLE CLASS, that it may find a place in your libraries,
and through it I shall still speak to you, when I shall be unable to use
either voice or pen.
Another old veteran, who now nears the close of his
work, is Bro. Maurice Joblin, who has long fought for the purity of the
gospel of the kingdom. Also Bro. Elton, who writes for “The Restution”.
There is also Bro. Wagoner who wrote, “Hew to the Line,” Bro. Wince and
others, who are now near the end of the contest.
We need Bible Schools in every State to instruct the
young, and faithful teachers who will not shun to declare the whole counsel
of God, unmixed with hobbies, traditions, and seductive doctrines. If it
was other wise the Bible school would become a curse.
well to your teachers,
in the Blessed Hope.