James Edward Scobey
Sketch Of The Life Of James E. Scobey
The educators in the church of Christ
have been important factors in an intelligent study of the Bible. No one would
claim that the spread of Christianity was dependent upon education, and yet it
is a fact that the educators in the churches of Christ have done a wonderful
work in the vineyard of the Lord. The schoolteacher in a quiet way has taught
truths of the gospel to young people who could not be reached from the pulpit.
Again the school-teacher has built up and strengthened the church wherever he
has labored. There has been a long line of educators connected with the
Restoration Movement. This line began with Alexander
Campbell, and has continued
down the line through such men as P. S. Fall, T.
Fanning, W. D. Carnes, D. Lipscomb, J. A.
Harding, W. N. Billingsley, William Lipscomb,
T. B. Larimore,
James E. Scobey, E. A. Elam, and many others. All of these were acceptable
preachers of the gospel as well as teachers.
Edward Scobey was born on January 3, 1834, in Wilson County, Tenn., near
Lebanon. His parents were John Berry and Sarah Sweatt Scobey. His mother died
when he was only one year old. The subject of this sketch was reared on the farm
and attended the common schools of his county. His maternal grandfather, Edward
Sweatt, was a teacher by profession, and encouraged his grandson in getting an
the age of eighteen years, James E. Scobey entered Franklin College to further
his education. Franklin College was under the presidency of Tolbert Fanning. He
was graduated from Franklin College, July 4, 1855, and began at once to teach
school. Ile continued this work for many years without any interruption, except
the years of the Civil War. He entered the war and was a commissioned officer
from the first to the close of the war. He began his career as a teacher in the
year 1855, in his home county. He taught at Union Academy, six miles east of
Lebanon, for five years. In February, 1867, he opened a school on the turnpike
between Lebanon and Nashville, Tenn. He called his school " Oakland
School;" he continued to teach here until 1872. He had a great part in
building the character and educating many of the best citizens of that section
of the country.
1872 he went to Murfreesboro, Tenn., and became president of the Murfreesboro
Female Institute. He remained with this educational institution until 1884.
During his presidency this institution became quite famous as an educational
center, and it was liberally patronized by many of the best families from all
parts of the South. He ranked as one of the best educators of the country at
that time. He stressed the importance of Mathematics, Greek, Latin, English, and
the natural sciences as fundamental to a thorough education.
1884, he was called to become president of South Kentucky College at
Hopkinsville. He remained there six years and resigned the presidency of that
college in June, 1890. While president of that college the question of the use
of instrumental music in worship arose in the church at Hopkinsville. The Board
of Directors were in favor of introducing the organ into the church. Brother
Scobey gave the matter a thorough investigation. He arrived at the conclusion
that the New Testament did not authorize its use, and that to introduce the
instrument into the worship would be corrupting the simple worship of the
church. He at once began vigorously to teach the New Testament and show from the
word of God that to use it was displeasing to God. He had invested all his
earthly possessions in the college. He knew that to follow the course of the New
Testament would cost him his position as president of the college and all that
he had invested in it; he also knew that it would lose the patronage and support
of his friends. Many of his friends talked with him and tried to get him to
remain with the college and cease his opposition to the use of instrumental
music in the worship. He said: "I cannot and will not sacrifice a single
religious principle. I will believe God and worship him according to his last
will and testament." Because he stood firmly, yet kindly, by his
convictions and the New Testament, he was forced to give up his position, lose
his investment in the college, and start life anew elsewhere.
Brother Scobey left South Kentucky College, he moved to Franklin, Tenn., in
1891. He began taking an active part in educational work in Williamson County.
Soon after he moved to the county, he was elected County Superintendent. He was
one of the founders and promoters of educational work in the Monteagle Assembly.
He gave much thought and encouragement to that popular dissemination of
knowledge at that time. His influence was felt throughout the whole Southland as
Scobey became a Christian in 1850 at the age of sixteen. He was baptized by
Sandy E. Jones, another teacher and preacher of the gospel. He began preaching
soon after the Civil War. He taught the Bible in all of his schools. He felt
that he had not done the best that be could for his students if he neglected
giving them religious training. While he gave the most of his time to the
schoolroom, yet, during vacation, be traveled extensively, and did much
evangelistic work. He conducted meetings in Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas,
Texas, and Alabama. His preaching was characterized with simplicity. He
presented his subjects in logical order, and was easily understood by the
masses. He was kind in dealing with error and firm in presenting the truth on
any subject. He was a fluent speaker, and his preaching was marked with that
thoroughness which be bad acquired in the classroom. While his sermons were
Scriptural and logical, yet they were scholarly and effective. He baptized many
people and established many congregations during his long and busy life.
Scobey was a ready writer. He wrote many newspaper articles on educational
subjects. He wrote much for the religious press. He was a deep thinker and had a
very happy way of expressing his thoughts. In the vigor of his manhood once he
wrote as follows: "In the alchemy of that day these worn and weary bodies
of flesh and blood will be changed and be made like unto his glorious body. The
old armor shall be laid aside; for the helmet, we shall have the crown; for the
sword, the palm; for the shield, a harp of triumph. Then shall the shout of the
conquering hosts shake the pillars of the universe, and the glory of God and his
Christ shall light up the magnificent spectacle of humanity redeemed,
immortalized, crowding around the throne of the great I AM, while the angelic
hosts and redeemed men sing the new song of Moses and the Lamb." This
expresses beautifully the rich promises of God and the hope that our brother had
Scobey lived to be nearly ninety years old. He died on July 6, 1923. He was a
member of the church seventy-five years, a preacher of the gospel fifty years,
and a teacher for forty-seven years. He made a rich contribution in service to
his fellowmen and to, the glory of God for many long years. " Well done,
thou good and faithful servant: . . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
Biographical Sketches Of Gospel Preachers, H. Leo
Boles, Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, Tennessee, 1932, pages
E. Scobey is buried in
the Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Nashville Tennessee. The
cemetery is located at 1101 Lebanon Pike, Southeast of downtown Nashville. Click over to
Mt. Olivet for map and location of the grave in the cemetery. Look
for three crosses. Behind Celtic cross go in 7 rows.
His remains rest in Section 13 - N 1/2 Of Lot#261
N36º 08' 50.1" x WO 86º 44' 08.4"
Accuracy To Within 21'