1897 Graduation Program for the Nashville Bible School

The Nashville Bible School, founded on October 9, 1891 with nine students, steadily grew throughout the first years of its existence. At the end of October 1891, it would have nineteen students, and twenty-six by Feburary and conclude the year with thirty-two students In succeeding years it would have forty-two, fifty-three, eighty-eight, and then one hundred and ten.

The Nashville papers were impressed. “The Nashville Bible School, which has grown up so quietly in this city during the last five years, is becoming one of the mighty powers of this section” (The Nashville American, May 29, 1896, p. 2). The “verdict of a critical audience” at the 1895 graduation exercises “was that the institution has not only attained results which give to it eminent character in the community, but that the great good worked by it recommends it to the support and well wishes of the city and State” (The Nashville American, May 31, 1895, p. 8).

In addition–and more important to Lipscomb and Harding–was the fact that over that five years its graduates and students had baptized more than 3,400 people and planted over twenty-eight congregations (as reported by James A. Harding at the 1896 graduation exercises; The Nashville American, May 29, 1896, p. 2).

Given both the public assessment of the Nashville Bible School and the productive work of its students, the institution was regarded as a great success. It had fulfilled its two major purposes: (1) to provide a cultured education that equips young people as useful and successful citizens, and (2) to nurture them in the Christian faith that they might serve as Bible teachers, evangelists, elders, and deacons in their communities. (See Harding, Gospel Advocate, 21 October, 1891, p. 661 and Gospel Advocate, 7 June 1894, p. 362).

It was an education, however, that was designed for the poor and working classes (though not excluding the wealthy) since they had no other opportunity in the city. “We differ from many other schools,” Harding wrote, “in that we freely admit all who are not able to pay free of charge. Our Master preached the gospel to the poor; we are trying to imitate him” (Gospel Advocate, 3 June 1897, p. 338).

In 1897, the school graduated four (they had graduated five in the previous year). The Nashville American provided the details of the exercise (4 June 1897, p. 8).

Opening Song: “Somewhere”

Prayer: Elder J. W. Grant.

Reading: Miss Clara M. Benedict read her essay, “Unselfishness.”

Oration: “Lessons from the Past,” by A. B. Lipscomb.

Song: “Oh, Be Joyful in the Lord,” sung by Misses Clara Sullivan, Tennie McAlister and Woodson Harding, and Messrs. W. H. Sewell, J. M. Murphy, J. B. Bostick and T. H. Hales.

Address: “What is the Destiny of Man?,” David Lipscomb. “He said self-denial was the only way to be happy. The mission of all preachers should be to go among the sick and lowly.”

Diplomas, awarded by Superintendent J. A. Harding to Miss Clara Benedic, of Nashville; Miss Cynthia Gill, of Allensville, KY; J. B. Bostick, of Fresno, CA, and A. B. Lipscomb, of Nashville.

Song: “Gliding Away”

Benediction: Elder C. A. Moore.



5 Responses to “1897 Graduation Program for the Nashville Bible School”

  1.   Frank Bellizzi Says:

    So interesting. It appears that 2 of the 4 graduates in 1897 were women. This is the context in which, a decade earlier, Meta Chestnutt taught Bible class at the South Nashville Church of Christ. At the end of her teaching there, her students gave her a new Bible, and all of them signed it. I wish I knew whose names are in that Bible. But it lies buried with her in Chickasha, Oklahoma, where she died in 1948.

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      Interesting, Frank. Thanks for the additional information. I imagine students in that Bible include mean as well as women and children as Lipscomb, whose influence was strong at the South Nashville Church, encouraged women to teach such Bible classes.

  2.   Frank Bellizzi Says:

    So, then, here’s my next question: Since Lipscomb approved of and encouraged women to teach the Bible in mixed groups, why did he respond so strongly against women speaking at the General Christian Missionary Convention when it came to Nashville in 1892? (S-C Global History, p. 81. I started not to give the citation since you probably wrote it) 🙂 Did this have to do, as I suspect, with distinctions between “teaching” versus “preaching”? Meta seems to have been careful to never refer to her “Bible teaching” as “preaching.” Apparently, as far as Meta was concerned, preaching was for men. At the same time, she seems to have done a lot that could have been called “preaching.” By the time R. W. Officer made it to her part of Indian Territory, she had converted many in the community. They were just waiting to be baptized by a man.

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      For Lipscomb, Frank, the distinction was not so much teaching vs. preaching, but public vs. private. Public speaking by women, any kind of public speaking (even Temperance addresses), was forbidden by her nature as a woman. But Lipscomb encourage women to speak privately, and thus Bible classes–which were not the whole assembly of the people–were places where women could teach and lead the class. See my series of articles on women in churches of Christ (1897-1907)–the article in Discipliana is on my website as well as the blog posts that preceded the article.

  3.   Frank Bellizzi Says:

    Will do. Thanks.

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