Jump Starts Daily

Jump Start #3544

Jump Start # 3544

Proverbs 16:5 “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.”

  I’ve not met Bradley Cobb, but I sure would like to. He has done extensive work in Restoration History, especially in reprinting old publications and periodicals from long ago. Cobb recently wrote a detailed article about Jesse Ferguson, the famed Nashville preacher who crashed into unbelief. The Ferguson story has fascinated me for a long time and I have collected many books and articles about him.

  Ferguson preached in Nashville, TN in the early 1850s, at the largest congregation in the brotherhood, numbering around 800 members. He edited a paper that was second only to Alexander Campbell’s Millennial Harbinger. Ferguson was extremely popular. His preaching style was considered theatrical and shallow, but it drew crowds, large crowds. Future President Andrew Johnson, who historically is known as the “least religious” of all the presidents was a regular admirer of Ferguson.

  Ferguson wrote a series of articles where he believed that those who have died would be given a second chance, which naturally leads to universalism, the idea that all are saved and no one is lost. Swiftly, he moved into deeper waters of spiritualism, even writing a book in which he claimed that he spoke to the spirits of the dead. As Ferguson waded deeper and deeper into false doctrine and error, preachers across the country started speaking out against his teachings. Alexander Campbell, Benjamin Franklin, John T. Johnson, John Rogers and a host of others tried to show Ferguson the errors of his belief and teach brethren the correct way. Campbell offered to debate Ferguson, but the Nashville preacher declined, claiming a ghost told him not to do that. After the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Ferguson traveled to Washington to visit the now president Andrew Johnson. Ferguson declared that he had messages from ghosts to tell the president.

  As expected, Ferguson’s wild views caused a major riff in the Nashville church. A lawsuit was issued over who had the right to the newly built church building. Ferguson lost credibility among brethren and the public. He traveled overseas for a period of time, eventually coming back to Nashville where he was friendless, penniless and faithless. He died in 1870.

  Cobb, in his article on Ferguson, sums up the reasons why this well known and gifted preacher fell:

1. He had a massive ego

2. He like the fame and wanted the popularity

3. He like the spotlight

4. He did not have a love of the truth

  And, the thread running through Cobb’s conclusions about Ferguson is pride. Pride cometh before a fall, the Word of God tells us. Because of pride, a person will not admit wrong. They will blame others. They will look for an escape route. Because of pride, some will change the message of God’s word.

  Johnny Tucker, in his book about Ferguson, titled his work, “Like a Meteor across the Horizon.” Ferguson was a flash but he did not endure. His arrogance closed his ears to what others were telling him. He refused to consider the Biblical arguments others were making.

  And, the same steps that Ferguson took, can be and often is, repeated in every generation. It may not be a deep dive into the well of spiritualism, as Ferguson took, but the desire to be known and remembered and famous, leads many away from the truth and into the arms of the devil.

  Have we forgotten the expression, “hiding ourselves behind the cross?” Just being a quiet, humble servant of God, who does all that one can, ought to be what drives us. Fame is fleeting. Fame can lead one to color the message to please the people, rather than striving to please the Lord.

  Hanging on my office wall is one of Ferguson’s “Christian Magazine” from 1851. Hanging below that is a framed copy of the “Gospel Advocate” from 1869. The Advocate was often referred to as “The Ole’ Reliable.” A contrast in papers and a contrast in directions. That meteor that flashes across the night sky is impressive, but it doesn’t last.  What is truly reliable is the Word of God.

  Lessons from history can remind us, open our eyes and help us with our focus. Don’t let a meteor cause you to take your eyes off of the Lord.