The Living Pulpit of the Christian Church

Note: The following is an excerpt from an article published in 1868.

Tolbert Fanning was born in Cannon County, Tennessee, on May 10, 1810. When he was eight years of age, his parents moved to Lauderdale County, Alabama, and he remained in that state until he was nineteen. His father was a planter, on a small scale, and young Tolbert was brought up mainly in the cotton field. He was allowed to attend school from three to six months in a year, and it was his good fortune to be placed under the care of excellent teachers. He soon became fond of study, and made considerable progress in acquiring the rudiments of an education. At this time, his father, though highly respected in his county as an honorable gentleman, was not a member of any church, but his mother was an Old Virginia Baptist, and a woman of fine intellect and great purity of life. From her, and from Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian preachers, whom he occasionally heard, he received his early religious instruction. At times his young heart was deeply impressed with the necessity of a religious life, but he was taught that “all men are in a state of total darkness, and must remain so till illuminated by special communications of the Spirit.” From the time he was ten years of age he had read the Bible, but supposed he could not understand a word in it without a special illumination from above. Seven precious years of his life were spent in this gloomy and hopeless condition. When sixteen years of age, he began to pay attention to the preaching of Ephraim D. Moore and James E. Mathews, who called themselves Christian preachers, and were great and good men. From their teaching, he was encouraged to read the New Testament, with the view of really acquiring spiritual light. Soon all was plain, and his gloomy doubts gave place to an intelligent faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. About the first of October, 1827, he attended a meeting in Cypress, seven miles north of Florence, Alabama, and heard James E. Mathews preach a masterly discourse on the Gospel and its Conditions, and, at the conclusion of the discourse, he waled forward, and, with a perfect understanding of the truth, made the confession, and was immediately immersed into Christ.