I ran across this book at a Used Book store and bought it thinking it had to be some sort of western about a Hell and Damnation preacher. Was I surprised when I began reading it and found out it was the story of a young Baptist in early Kentucky who had a lasting effect on the Baptist religion and revealing to them the faults in their take on it. The book is Raccoon John Smith, written by Louis Cochran whose "maternal grandfather was also a preacher and a lifelong advocate of 'Christian unity' after the manner of Raccoon John Smith" it says in the author bio on the back inside flap of the cover.
I continued reading until the end, not that it was a subject that appealed to me much, but since I invested a whole simoleon in it, I would read it no matter how boring it was. Well, it wasn't really boring overall as I followed Raccoon John Smith around the towns and churches in Kentucky in the early 1800's. Although it isn't a traditional shoot-em-up, Kentucky at that time was on the edge of the frontier and there was an episode early on about the killings and unsocial-like behavior of the Harpe gang.
Young John found out early on with urging from his family and others that he was a member of the Elect, having had a revelation and was further urged to set his sights on becoming a preacher. As he learned more about the Bible and the Baptists, he had other revelations that convinced him that the Baptists was not considering the full facts of the Bible. He met several preachers like Barton Stone and David Fall, who thought pretty close to the way he did, and as time goes on, he was booted from several churches as a heretic and Reformist, not being able to change enough people from their deep-seated beliefs and Calvinist ways. The narrative is pretty dull in places to me as John gets married, raises a family and has a couple of the kids die and his house catches fire and wipes out some of them. But John recovers, keeps preaching, gets remarried and has more kids. He was called upon to preach in homes, churches, barns, and oversee weddings by the hundreds, sometimes doing ten in a day.
John meets Alexander Campbell and becomes a "disciple", believing that baptism by immersion and the Bible are all that is necessary for a Christian to be a good Christian. As time struggles on, he attends a meeting of the Disciples of Christ and the Church of Christ believers and they become united in a loose conformance to the same principles of faith and consider themselves "Unified."
From reading the book, I learned again some of the problems of the various religious sects and will continue to see that there will never be a total re-unification into just one Church of Christians. There is just too much politics and power involved for those in power to relinquish even in the Name of God.
For the most part, I thought the book was just fine and written in language easily understood.