[forthright] Barton Warren Stone (1) / The Dry Years

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Thu, 3 Jul 2008 08:02:40 -0700 (PDT)
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross

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Barton Warren Stone (1)
 by Michael D. "Mike" Greene

"We will, that this body die, be dissolved, and sink 
into union with the Body of Christ at large; for there
is but one Body, and one Spirit, even as we are called 
in one hope of our calling." So begins The Last Will 
and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery, a document 
printed in Lexington, Kentucky in 1804 and signed by 
six Presbyterians. Who were these men and what were the 
circumstances that gave birth to this watermark document, 
which many say began the American Restoration Movement?

Of the six signers of the Last Will one name captures 
our attention; Barton Warren Stone. Stone, who some 
believe to be the author of the document, became a 
leader in the effort to go back to the Bible in all 
matters of faith and practice now known as the 
Restoration Movement.

Barton Warren Stone was born in Port Tobacco, Maryland 
on December 24, 1772. His father, John Stone died when 
he was very young. His mother, Mary Warren Stone moved 
her large family to Virginia. There, Stone was exposed 
to the talk of liberty and the fight for liberty as he 
witnessed the effects of the Revolutionary War as the 
final battles of the war were fought not far from his 
home. Later in life he recalled the immorality associated 
with the soldiers as they returned from the war. He came 
to see war and conflict as a great evil.

He "drank deeply into the spirit of liberty, and was so 
warmed by the soul-inspiring draughts, that I could not 
hear the name of British or tories, without feeling a 
rush of blood through the whole system. Such prejudices, 
formed in youth, are with 
difficulty ever removed. I confess their magic influence 
to this advanced day of my life, especially when the name 
tory is mentioned - so many injuries, fresh in my 
recollection, attach to that name."/1

These impressions never left him and their influence was 
felt as religious conflict raged about him in his adult 

Stone had four or five years of schooling and from the 
days that he learned to read, he loved books and learning. 
In many schools of the day, a Bible would be found among 
the few textbooks. Stone became familiar with its contents 
as the Bible was constantly read in school. Although 
religion was a big part of frontier life, Stone was not 
reared in a particularly religious home. However, he 
was not disinterested in spiritual matters and gave 
attention to the various traveling preachers who came to 
the back woods of Virginia to preach and make converts.
From these preachers of differing denominational loyalties, 
Stone did not receive the relief he sought, but 
discouragement. "My mind was much agitated … but being 
ignorant of what I ought to do, I became discouraged, 
and quit praying, and engaged in the youthful sports of 
the day."/2 No doubt this early exposure to religious 
division also made lasting impressions on Stone's mind.

When he was fifteen, Stone decided to invest his part of 
his father's estate in more education. In February, 1790, 
he enrolled in David Caldwell's log cabin college in 
Guilford, North Carolina to study law. To his surprise he 
found a place where religion was a constant subject of 
discussion. He determined to leave that school for another 
but was prevented from doing so by a storm. He decided 
to stay and attend to his own business of getting his 

James McGready, a Calvinistic Presbyterian preacher in 
the mold of Jonathan Edwards, came again to the community. 
His hell fire and damnation sermons left Stone "without 
an encouraging word." Stone reasoned he was among the 
damned, but was willing to seek religion. This he did 
without success. His unfruitful pursuit drove him into 
a state of melancholy and despair. In time, another 
Presbyterian preacher, William Hodge came preaching 
God's love for all. This seemed a new doctrine to Stone. 
After a period of personal, intense Bible study, Stone 
came to see "that a poor sinner was as much authorized to 
believe in Jesus at first, as at last - that now was 
the accepted salvation, and day of salvation."/3

Stone, having "got religion," finished his course of 
study and with his spiritual desires renewed, expressed 
his desire to preach. With David Caldwell's encouragement, 
he became a candidate for the ministry. Before he could be 
ordained he became confused with many of the speculations 
and doctrines of Calvinism, which he could not reconcile 
with the Scriptures. He then determined to seek another 
profession and headed to Georgia to teach in a school near 
Washington, Georgia. While there his faith revived and he 
decided again to pursue the ministry. He returned to North 
Carolina where he received license to preach from the 

In May of 1796, at the ripe old age of 24, Stone joined the 
migration west across the mountains to seek his destiny on 
the frontier. He traveled, preaching as he went, through 
Knoxville, Tennessee and then to Nashville, "a poor little 
village hardly worth notice."/4 At the urging of some fellow 
preachers and travel companions, Stone determined to move 
on into Kentucky. He came to Bourbon County, northeast of 
Lexington, and by invitation became the preacher for the 
Concord and Cane Ridge Presbyterian churches in Bourbon 
County near the town of Paris. Here he would spend the 
next 38 years. He had no idea of the controversy and 
struggles that awaited him, nor of the impact he would 
have on millions yet unborn.

1/ Elder John Rogers, The Biography of Eld. Barton 
Warren Stone, (Cincinnati: J. A. & U.P. James, 1847, 
as reprinted in the Cane Ridge Reader, edited by 
Hoke Dickinson, 1972), 3.
2/ Ibid, 5-6.
3/ Ibid, 9.
4/ Ibid, 22. 

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The Dry Years
 by Mike Benson

In their book, "WHY ME?", Pesach Krauss and Morrie 
Goldfisher tell a story about two men who cut down an 
aged hardwood. The woodcutter's observations 
about the inner rings within the old tree are 

"...I sometimes tell patients the parable about the two 
wood choppers who had taken down a tree that was over 
one hundred years old. Looking at the growth rings to 
determine the tree's age, the younger man noticed that 
there were five very narrow rings. He concluded that 
there had been a five-year-drought, during which the 
tree had shown very little growth. However, the other 
lumberman, a wise, old man with a philosophical bent, 
had a different viewpoint. He contended that the dry 
years actually were the most significant in the tree's 
history. His reason: Because of the drought, the tree 
had to force its roots down further to get the water 
and the minerals it needed. With a strengthened root 
system, it was able to grow faster and taller when 
conditions improved"/1


1. All of us inevitably experience "dry years" at some 
juncture in our lives. "For we do not want you to be 
ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in 
Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above 
strength, so that we despaired even of life" 
(2 Corinthians 1:8; cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28). 
Like the apostle Paul, we can identify with those 
occasional periods of trouble and burden; they are an 
inescapable part of the human condition 
(cf. Psalm 90:2; Job 14:1; 2 Corinthians 12:7).

2. "Dry years" tend to be intense, but limited in 
duration. "In this you greatly rejoice, though now 
for a little while, if need be, you have been 
grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of 
your faith, being much more precious than gold 
that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be 
found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation 
of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:6-7). "For our light 
affliction, which is but for a moment, is working 
for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of 
glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17; cf. Romans 8:18). In a 
manner of speaking, a part of what I hear Peter and 
Paul saying is that while a five-year drought is harsh 
and difficult to tolerate, it eventually comes to an 

1/ Pesach Krauss and Morrie Goldfisher, "A Time of 
Trouble Is a Time To Grow," WHY ME? -- Coping with 
Grief, Loss, and Change, 71.

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