It should be mentioned that one man's influence over him while he sojourned in Kentucky was lasting through life. Ryland T. [Thompson] Dillard, a man of scholarship, of large wealth, of burning zeal and spiritual soul, as grand a man as the writer ever knew, was pastor of this Mount Freedom Church, while J. R. Graves was a member of it, and was the chairman of the examining presbytery at his ordination. He preached the ordination sermon with council and caution and encouragements. Graves never forgot. Who can estimate the influence one wise, genuine, gospel-man can exert over a young minister? Dillard relived in Graves, and Graves still lives in others.
This was especially the result of his connections with Dillard in regard to Alexander Campbell and his "current reformation." Campbell had risen into sudden fame, and acquired controlling influence among the Baptists, first in Kentucky. His debate with McCalla during which Jeremiah Vardeman, the most popular Baptist minister in the State, was one of moderators, made Campbell "a conquering hero." He passed triumphantly through the central and northern portions of Kentucky, preaching his "Ancient Gospel," and led in his train many of the leading Baptist ministers, as Creath, Vardeman, Dr. Noel, Smith, Fall and others. He became emboldened by success, and preached "the Gospel in the water," baptismal remission. A reaction followed. Nearly all those leading Baptists who had followed thus far revolted and antagonized his unscriptural views. None took a more decided stand in this than Dr. Dillard. The issue possessed his whole soul, and none more than he boldly stemmed the sweeping current of Campbellism. He impressed his thoughts and spirit on young Graves and a fearless, persistent opposition to that system marked the ministry of J. R. Graves throughout his life.
[From Ford's Christian Repository, "Life, Times and Teachings of J. R. Graves," Chapter 1, October, 1899.]
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