This brief anecdote was the shorter, secondary item in J. W. McGarvey’s weekly “Biblical Criticism” column for the issue dated May 11, 1907. It is notable mainly because Restoration Movement pioneer “Raccoon” John Smith plays the pivotal role in the story.
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Biblical Criticism—Conducted by J. W. McGarvey: ‘Lying for the Love of It’
May 11, 1907; p. 9
It was in 1858 or 1859, I think, that G. W. Elley, of Lexington, Ky., served for a year or more the church in Lexington, Mo. A man whom I shall call Wiley was preaching in that section of Missouri, and making quite a stir among certain churches. He also had come from Kentucky. Bro. Elley knew his history, and pronounced him a bad man who ought not to be received as a preacher. Wiley heard of this, and appealed to the elders of the Lexington Church for a hearing and an opportunity to vindicate himself. A day was set for the purpose, and the venerable John (Raccoon) Smith happened to be in the city on a visit. He was invited by the elders to sit with them in the investigation. I also happened to be in the city that day, and was invited to be present as a spectator.
After a formal statement of the charges, Wiley opened his defense by producing a large package of letters and commendations which he held to be proof that the charges could not be true. When he had read them all, he said he was glad that Bro. Smith was present; for Bro. Smith had known him a long time, and he knew that the elders would accept what he might say. I was so impressed by the venerable man’s response that I think I can repeat it word for word. He fixed his eyes on Wiley, and, with a voice as solemn as death, but with a kindly tone, he said: “Well, Bro. Wiley, as you have asked me to tell the truth about you, I will tell it as well as I can. It is true, as you have said, that I have known you a long time, and I have heard the brethren where you have lived talk about you a good deal. I have never heard any of them say anything bad about you, except that you would lie. They didn’t say that you lied for mischief, or to harm anybody; but the idea seemed to be, that you lied just for the fun of it.”
If some one had dropped dead in the room, there would scarcely have been a profounder sensation. Dead silence reigned until Wiley, having stuffed his papers in his saddle-pockets, rose without a word and left the room. This incident shows that with all the witticisms which were almost constantly sparkling from the lips of John Smith, there was another side to his character—that truth, sobriety and unfaltering candor were as strikingly characteristic of him as wit. He was truly a good and great man.