Thursday, April 4, 2013

Treasure Chest Thursday : A Scholarly Man and His Book

Sermon Notebook of Albert Bell Vaughan, Jr.
Albert Bell Vaughan, Jr., my Great Grandfather, was a prominent Baptist minister from the late 1800s until his death in 1930.  When he died in 1930, The Christian Index, the newspaper of Georgia Baptists, was filled with laudatory comments from ministers and leaders as to the depth of Albert Bell Jr's knowledge of the scriptures.  Looking through one of his personal notebooks recently gave me a glimpse of this for myself.

The son of a farmer and country preacher, my Great Grandfather Albert Bell Vaughan, Jr. was born in rural Pike County, Georgia.  As a young man, A. B., Jr. received the notice of some other ministers who encouraged him to attend college following his ordination into the ministry.  In 1878, A. B., Jr. received an A. B. degree with honors from Mercer University, Macon, Georgia.  Eleven years later, in 1889, this same university would honor him by bestowing on him an honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree.

From his ordination in 1874 through his final church ministry in 1928, A. B., Jr. was known for his scholarship.  A scan of his notebook showed how easily he would reference scriptures from both the Old and the New Testaments as he outlined sermons and debated issues with himself, sometimes referring to the original Greek when discussing nuances of meaning.
Page 1, Sermon Notebook of Albert Bell Vaughan, Jr.
The first entry in this notebook was made in January, 1892 and contains notes made over several years.  On the first page, Albert Bell, Jr, indicated that he would be recording his thoughts about  "the Scriptures and works, theological, philosophical and historical."  Every page is filled with his handwriting, pages of Bible passages, or newspaper articles, with notes seemingly added at various times to previous entries.

In 1894, according to the notebook, the issue of the equality of men and women within the church was becoming a serious issue.  Albert Bell, Jr. started by referring to a newspaper article about this subject then studying the topic for himself.  It was fascinating to read his notebook as he discussed  the matter as a debate topic over the next ten pages.  

First, he stated the question: "Is the public speaking of women before mixed audiences, i.e. Church Assemblies, wrong?"  He then proceeded to present the negative side with Biblical references to women and their role throughout church history .  Next, he stated the affirmative side, again citing numerous scriptures.  Because this was well before the days of scanning or photocopies, A. B. actually cut up pages from a Bible, glued them into the notebook, then added personal commentary beside key passages.  He ended his personal treatise with two conclusions, both supporting the affirmative side of his debate.  It all made for fascinating reading.

The book is over 120 years old, the leather cover and lined pages crumbling to the touch.  But looking at it gives insight into the man, his heart, and his mind.  Recently I passed the notebook on to one of my children who is interested in reading it.  I'm sure A. B., Jr. would be glad to know that another descendant will be reading and pondering "the Scriptures and works, theological, philosophical and historical." 

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