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Reflections On The Restoration Movement – Robert H.Boll (1875-1956)

by Larry Miles

On April 13, 2016, Bro. Robert H. Boll will have been dead 60 years.  I thought  this  would be the   time to present my article in the  series “Reflections on the Restoration Movement” on him now.

PowerPoint Presentation

Robert H. Boll-A Man Dedicated to The Lord

Robert H. Boll (1875-1956)

Robert H. Boll (1875-1956)

As we draw near to the end of this series on the Restoration Movement, we want now to write some words on an individual who was very dear to the hearts of many of the saints who read the Word and Work. We read about the Bereans in Acts 17 who searched the Scriptures daily to see if the words Paul spoke were truly of God. The subject of our essay was an outstanding man of God who directed all he came in contact with to the Word of God.

Robert Henry Boll was born on June 7, 1875 in Baderweiler Germany. His parents were ardent Roman Catholics. So strong was this faith in Rome that his mother wanted him to become a priest. It must be noted that at that time he also wanted to become a priest. But God works in mysterious ways.

Concerning his early schooling, E. L. Jorgenson wrote these words in Truth and Grace,

“Here (Muhlhausen) Robert went to school. Here the younger of his two sisters died, and in the same year his father’ also. At eleven he entered the Lyceum or Latin School. Though a lover of Books and precocious also, the German school system seemed to him needlessly severe. But perhaps that hard training accounts in part for the strong student habits …”

At the age of fifteen, he sailed with an Aunt to the New World. After a while he settled in Zanesville, Ohio. After a few years we find him doing farm labor in central Tennessee. Concerning his pilgrimage to the Christian faith, we give you Bro. Boll’s own words in The Church I found and How I Found It.,

‘‘When I became a Christian–simply a Christian–it meant to me the surrender of the faith and teaching which was instilled in me from infancy, in which I grew up, and which I still held when I turned my twentieth year. …It was by God’s providence that I met with certain Christians, some of whom took the time and trouble to show me some of the truth. That was another of God’s mercies. …I had become acquainted with the ‘Church Of Christ’; and the idea of being simply and only a Christian of the New Testament sort attracted me. But at that time I looked upon the church of Christ as simply a denomination among other denominations. Its extraordinary claims repelled me rather than otherwise. It seemed to me that it arrogated to itself exclusively a name to which, as I judged, all other denominations had equal right. The dogmatism and arrogance (as: it appeared to me) of their attitude affected me adversely. For a time I felt and spoke cynically of all the religious bodies. Still I was revolving the problem in my mind; and despite my limited understanding, I saw that I had a least the same opportunity of being a simple Christian as had the people of whom I read in the New Testament, and an equal right to belong to the church of Christ in that original and universal sense in which the apostles and all the earliest Christians belonged to it. I Also began to understand that such a simple Christian stood responsible to his Lord alone for all his faith and practice; and that therefore the word of God, all of it, and it only, must be his guidance–no man having the right either to limit him them or to impose on him anything besides; that he was free from all men and from every human yoke. With that conception more or less clearly in mind, and understanding little else, I confessed Christ my Lord and was buried with Him in baptism.”

It was on Sunday April 14, 1895 that he became a Christian. He was baptized in Columbus Britain’s pond near Smyrna, TN.  In 1895, he entered into the Nashville Bible School. Concerning how he arrived at the school, Bro. Boll wrote these words in the Word and Work dated June 1922,

“It was a chilly rainy day in the late fall of the year 1895 that I stood on Brother Harding’s porch at the Old Nashville Bible School on Spruce Street, homeless, friendless, penniless, but not quite hopeless of an opportunity to go through school. When I presented my mission and request. Brother Harding regretted very much, but their really wasn’t any work to speak of by which a boy could earn his way, and such applications were many——’perhaps next year we can find an opening for you,’ he said. I turned and slowly walked away. Probably I looked crestfallen. He stood and looked after me. ‘You look to be wet,’ he said. ‘Yes,’ I answered. ‘How did you get wet?’ ‘Coming in from the country in the rain. ’Didn’t your wagon have a top on it?’ ‘ I didn’t come on a wagon,’ I replied. ‘I walked.’ ‘How far did you walk?’ ‘About twenty five miles.’ ‘You mean to say you walked twenty—five miles through rain to come here to school?’ And he looked over me again. ‘I believe you want to go to school. Go to the dormitory and tell Brother Dodd to show you a room. We’ll get through some way.’ I am sure he did not see how ‘we’ could get through. But he didn’t want to see. His heart was bigger than his pocket-book any day, and he felt he could afford to risk a thing or two, for there was the promise of God. Such was his faith…”

L.C. Sears gives us this account of the words of James A, Harding concerning Bro. Boll in The Eyes of Jehovah,

“I wouldn’t take a million dollars for him, and I nearly missed him. He has developed wonderfully within the last six years. He is one of a large number in whom is manifest what wonders, the daily, diligent, prayerful study of the Bible will do for one in a short time.”

Bro. Boll  also taught at Nashville Bible School in 1900. He taught French and German. He held his first meeting starting June 15, 1896 at a schoolhouse named Accident near Nashville, Tennessee. He spent his summers preaching the everlasting gospel. In 1900, he left the Nashville Bible School but was always studying on his own. In 1901 he became one of the editors of the Gospel Guide.

Between 1900 and 1903 Bro. Boll was a traveling evangelist, primarily in the Sherman, TX area and in the  area around Gallatin, TN. Between 1903-04 he was  the co-editor of “The Gospel Review,” published  out of Dallas, TX. The editor was Jesse P. Sewell and the other co-editor was Joe Warlick. He  also wrote for James A. Harding’s parer “The Way.”

In 1903, he made his first visit to the congregation that meets at twenty fifth and Portland Avenues in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1904 he took up the located ministry at Portland Avenue. He continued in the pulpit at Portland excepting about 10 months in 1910-1911 until his death fifty two years later.

During the summer of 1903, he preached in tent meeting lasting six weeks. This meeting helped establish the church in Los Angeles. Bro. Boll was considered an outstanding evangelist. He was dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ. He considered it his privilege to go anywhere he could to preach to the lost. During his long ministry he proclaimed the good news all over the country.

He was also a prolific writer. In 1909, he became front-page editor of the Gospel Advocate, post he held until 1915. As we said he was willing to go anywhere to preach. In September of 1909 he E.L. Jorgenson preached the gospel in message and sor1~in Cincinnati, Ohio. In June of 1911, he and Jorgenson spent four weeks in Maine preaching the primitive gospel. In 1910 we find him teaching the Bible at  Bro.  Stribling’s school in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. It was while he was teaching in Lawrenceburg that his first child, a girl of less than two years old, became sick and died. She is buried in the Stribling plot. Bro. and  Sis. Boll returned to Louisville and he resumed preaching at Portland Avenue.

As we said he was front page editor of the Advocate from 1909-1915. In 1915 Bro. Boll began a series of articles on prophecy.  This was not the first time he had written on prophetic themes. There were some who held pre-millennial views such as James A. Harding and T. W. Brents.  Up to this time in the Restoration Movement, prophetic views were not held as fellowship issue. Barton W. Stone held to the pre-millennial view while Alexander Campbell the post-millennial viewpoint.

There were some on the Advocate staff who did not agree with the conclusions that Bro. Boll was presenting. Rather than allow him the freedom to interpret the scriptures as the Lord has revealed to him, these brethren sought to make it a test of fellowship.It would take a few years to materialize but the rift would come . Today there is virtually no fellowship between the a-millennial and the pre-millennial brethren. The pre-mil brethren have always sought fellowship and have offered fellowship. One must not make opinions tests of fellowship.

In 1916, the Word and Work, which had been started by Dr. David Lipscomb Watson, and ably assisted by Stanford Chambers in New Orleans, Louisiana since 1908 was brought to Louisville. Bro. Chambers became the editor in 1913. It was at a meeting that Bro. Chambers held at the Portland Avenue congregation in late 1915, that it was decided to sell the Word and Work to Bro. Boll and move it to Louisville.  Bro. Boll continued as editor until his death in 1956. Concerning him as a preacher, Jorgenson wrote these words in Truth and Grace.

“R.H. Boll excelled as preacher, teacher, and writer of religious truth. In which capacity of the three he was the strongest would not be easy to say. In his preaching he denounced sin terrifically, but brought hope and ‘strong encouragement’ to- all who heard. He was logical, his outlines being well arranged and easily remembered; but he was not logical in the sense of being dry or merely intellectual in appeal.”

During his sixty year ministry, he held meeting all over the country. Also for over fifty years he held his annual tent meeting, many time held behind the Portland Avenue Church of Christ

As we relayed earlier, he was a great teacher of the Word. For Over fifty years he held daily Bible classes in Louisville every winter. Many  ministers and leaders sat under Bro. Boll and received teachings from the Book of Books. In 1924, the Portland Avenue Church established Portland Christian School. It is still around striving to uphold the will of God.

In 1927, Bro. Boll conducted a written debate on unfulfilled prophecy with H. Leo Boles. Bro. Boles was President of David Lipscomb College. For the next thirty or so years he continued to be used of the Lord… In 1954 he celebrated his Fiftieth Year in the pulpit at Portland Avenue. He retained all his mental faculties till the end. On the Sunday before his death he preached an outstanding message. Death came to Robert Henry Boll on Friday April 13, 1956. He had been a Christian one day shy of sixty one years. His was a full life of service to the Lord of Glory.




2 Responses to “Reflections On The Restoration Movement – Robert H.Boll (1875-1956)”

  1. Don McGee says:

    Larry,

    Once again, I have thoroughly enjoyed your article. Keep up the good work, as your writing has been a blessing to many.

    I had a copy of Bro. Boll’s “The Church I Found and How I Found It”, but I can’t put my hands on it presently. Should you have a couple of extra copies I would appreciate your sending them to me, and I would be pleased to reimburse you the postage cost.

    In the Blessed Hope,

    Don

  2. Ray Hall says:

    Enjoyed the article Larry.
    Bro. Boll spoke at many Gospel Meetings at Tom Bean, Tx. My uncle was baptized by bro. Boll at one of those meetings- probably in the early 30’s.
    My Mother (now deceased) recalled bro Boll preached at Tom Bean in the hot summer time (no a/c). He would hold a hand-held fan in one hand and preach for, at times, almost an hour. Always had responses.



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