Phillip Slater Fall
Biographical Sketch Of The Life Of P.S. Fall
Philip S. Fall was the eldest of twelve children. He was born at Keloedon, England, in September, 1798. He came with his father's family to the United States in 1817 and located near Russellville, Ky. His father and mother both died the following year and left him, at the age of nineteen, to become the head of the family. The new duties and responsibilities weighed heavily upon him. He had been well educated in England before coming to the United States.
He was possessed with rare mental gifts of the highest order, and supplemented these by a liberal education in the common branches of that day. He is described as being "dignified without presumption and affable without familiarity." He was commanding in person and courtly in address. He was pure in heart and clean in life and loved God and man. He was admirably fitted for the exalted work of his dual calling teacher of the young and a preacher of the gospel. He was refined in manners and unblemished in character, possessing cogent reasoning powers. He was clear in his enunciation and remarkably correct in his use of words.
His career as an educator began in 1818, when he established an academy near Louisville, Ky. He conducted this institution of learning with marked success for some time. In the same year he united with the Baptist Church. He been a member of the Baptist Church in England. In 1819 he was ordained as a preacher in the Baptist Church. He married Miss Annie Bacon in 1821. She was a member of a distinguished Kentucky family. The same year he received a call to preach monthly to a small congregation of Baptists who were meeting and worshiping in the courthouse in Louisville. In 1823 he moved to the city of Louisville and established a school there, and at the same time continued preaching for the Baptist Church.
In 1824 he was led by the writings of A. Campbell to study prayerfully the New Testament Scriptures. He soon became convinced that the New Testament was a sufficient guide in all matters of religion. He led his congregation to adopt the New Testament as the guide and to follow the principles revealed therein, and the entire congregation put away the Baptist creed.
In 1825 he came to Nashville, Tenn., and in 1826 began to preach for the Baptist Church in Nashville. His views in regard to the Baptist Church and the teachings of the teachings of the New Testament were known in Nashville before he was asked to preach for the Baptist Church. He would not accept the work with the Baptist Church, without the privilege and liberty to express fully his views in regard to the New Testament teachings. Soon the congregation in Nashville, with but few exceptions, adopted his views, and from that beginning a church after the New Testament order began and has continued in Nashville until the present time. He continued to labor with this congregation until 1831. During this time he occupied a chair in the Nashville Female Academy, a time-honored institution of learning.
In the winter of 1823 he delivered a discourse to a large audience at Frankfort, Ky., in which he traced out clearly the difference between the law of Moses and the gospel. This discourse displeased a great many of his Baptist friends and Baptist preachers. He gradually came into the full light of the New Testament teaching, and as gradually left the principles of the Baptist Church. He became the first resident Baptist preacher in Kentucky to take his stand openly in favor of the simple New Testament church. He organized the first church according to the New Testament pattern in Louisville. He was a great admirer of Mr. Campbell because of his great learning and the humble respect that he had for the word of God. When Mr. Campbell visited Louisville for the first time, he called at the residence of Mr. Fall. He had already had some correspondence with Mr. Fall, but had never met him. Mr. Fall describes Mr. Campbell's visit as follows: "After a slight repast, he attended our regular Friday night meeting. The services were opened by me, by singing the hymn, 'The Law by Moses Came,' etc., and prayer. Brother Campbell, a total stranger, was then asked to address the audience. My schoolroom was well filled, and five Presbyterian ministers were present. Brother Campbell read a portion of the Epistle to the Hebrews and spoke nearly two hours, every person present giving him the utmost attention. His method of reading the Scriptures, of investigating their truths and of exhibiting their statements, was so entirely new and so perfectly clear as to command the respect, if not the approval, of all that listened."
On account of ill health, Mr. Fall left Nashville in 1831 and returned to Kentucky and unpopular. He did not care for any fee or earthly reward, but preached "the unsearchable riches of Christ" because he loved the truth and the salvation of souls. He did not try to please men, but sought always to follow a course which would give him the approval of his own conscience.
The church which he had planted and trained in Nashville was torn by dissensions and reduced to a feeble remnant of his old congregation, its membership dwindling to twenty-five, and in 1858 he was recalled to Nashville. He came and brought about peace, uniting the different discordant elements. He did a great work for the cause of Christ in Nashville. He remained in Nashville working with the church until 1877, when, through age and infirmity, he resigned his work to others who were younger and stronger. The church at this time had a membership of more than six hundred. To Philip S. Fall much is due for the permanent establishment of the cause of Christ in Nashville. He was a clear, logical speaker, and withal possessed a thorough knowledge of the Bible. He had a great mind and a greater heart. He was eloquent in speech, and still more eloquent in the pure, simple, clean life which he lived. He often declared: "This life is not and should not be regarded as a preparation for death. Let men prepare for life, not for death. But one man was ever born to die, and he was the Son of God, who died that life might triumph over death." He was positive in his convictions and courageous in maintaining them. He was tolerant of differences and encouraged liberty of thought and speech. He was tender, yet brave; gentle, but firm. Such a character impressed for good all with whom he associated. His sincerity, integrity, purity, simplicity, and goodness helped to make him a great man among his fellows. His honesty of purpose commanded the respect of all who opposed him and begat love from all who admired him. One has beautifully said of him: "His footsteps were guided by the light of heaven, the rays of which seemed reflected as if to guide those of others in the shadowy paths of earth."
The history of the churches of Christ in Nashville and Tennessee would not be complete without a history of the labors of Philip S. Fall. He was a pioneer for the New Testament order of things in Nashville. It was through his influence that Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell visited Nashville. He did not take part in the public debates that were frequent in those days, but he was in full sympathy with them and gave all the encouragement to that kind of public work for the church of our Lord. He had no sympathy for error and hated sin in every form. He wrote frequently for the press, and his written efforts were, like his spoken messages, simple and strong; and they will hold a place in the literature of the church as long as elegance of style, purity of thought, and the graces of diction are appreciated.
After giving up the work in Nashville in 1877, he returned to his Kentucky home and spent his declining years in peaceful retirement and meditation. He preached occasionally as his strength would permit and wrote frequently for the papers. Philip Slater Fall passed from labor to rest, December 3, 1890, in the ninety-third year of his age. He lived a long, useful life, and retained his mental vigor unto the end. He was buried at Frankfort, Ky. He left four children, Prof. James S. Fall, Mrs. Taylor, and Miss Carrie Fall, of Frankfort, and William R. Fall, of Mexico.
Biographical Sketches Of Gospel Preachers, H. Leo
Boles, Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, Tennessee, 1932, pages 86-90
Location Of P.S. Fall's Grave
P.S. Fall is buried in one of our nation's most beautiful and prestigious cemeteries, Frankfort Cemetery. It is set on the cliffs above the Kentucky river across from the downtown area of Frankfort. Many dignitaries are buried there, of which the most prominent was none other than Daniel Boone. Fall is buried very close to Boone's grave. After entering the cemetery follow the signs to the grave of Daniel Boone. Continue past until you see the Revolutionary Section on the right. Stop there and Fall's grave is across the drive back to your left. While parked there be sure to visit the Daughters Of The Revolutionary War Section where Rev. John Gano, grandfather of John Allen Gano, is buried. (On the map at the entrance of the cemetery, Fall is shown to be buried in Section M, Number 24 on the tour) For directions to Frankfort and the Cemetery be sure to see the map hyperlink below.