Footnote 36 – Daniel Sommer Obituary by Frederick D. Kershner

Footnote 36 – Daniel Sommer Obituary by Frederick D. Kershner. Christian-Evangelist, LXXVIII:11 (March 14, 1940), p. 290 (from James Stephen Wolfgang, “A Life of Humble Fear: The Biography of Daniel Sommer” [MA Thesis, Butler University, 1975], pp. 165-167).

Daniel Sommer was the last of the great pioneers of the Restoration Movement. Born in 1850, only twenty years after the dissolution of the Mahoning Association, his life stretched back to the days of the Campbells and spanned almost the entire circle of the growth and development of the movement. As the successor of Benjamin Franklin in the editorship of The American Christian Review, he became a dominant protagonist of the right wing among the Disciples and was usually regarded as the very tip of the wing. Sommer was opposed to all “humanisms,” as he styled them, and believed that the only way to preserve the purity of the church was by forbidding even the slightest compromise with erroneous tendencies. Hence he opposed missionary societies, Sunday schools, Christian Endeavor societies and above all, instrumental music in the worship.
He was roundly denounced by various groups of conservatives who permitted the camel to put his nose under the tent, in one respect or another, but he always held his ground. He was opposed to Bible colleges or special training schools for the ministry because he believed that they undermined the faith of their students and taught them everything except the Bible. In one way or another, he isolated himself from the overwhelming majority of the brotherhood, a fact which caused him much sorrow, but which never shook his own convictions as to the rightness of his course.

Notwithstanding his rather extreme theological views, Daniel Sommer was one of the most tolerant and fair-minded men we have ever known. He had the Christian attitude toward the search for truth and the Christian spirit in his method of dealing with people with whom he disagreed. He had no trace of that ecclesiastical bigotry which refuses to sit on the same platform or speak at the same meeting with another individual suspected of heretical views. Instead of this widely prevalent Pharisaism, the editor of The Apostolic Review would go anywhere he was invited to speak, no matter how much he disagreed with the people who were managing the program or the general point of view prevalent at the meeting. He rightly reasoned that unfavorable circumstances of this kind made it all the more incumbent upon him to deliver his message whenever he had a chance to do it.

Hence he preached the gospel everywhere, to all sorts of people and under the most bizarre and unusual circumstances. Money was no consideration whatever with him and he never received more than a bare living for his untiring labors in behalf of the church. He delighted in real missionary work and only a few days before his death he insisted upon going forth again to take up the task of evangelism. He had a tonic influence upon all who came in contact with him and his obvious sincerity and disinterestedness gave weight to his words far beyond the tricks of the professional orator or elocutionist.

Even in his advanced age, Daniel Sommer was a forceful speaker and his thinking was logical and clear. He was one of the great preachers of the Restoration and his memory will be affectionately cherished by multitudes who possessed only slight personal acquaintance with him. Old as he was when he left this world, his more intimate friends will be conscious of a keen sense of loss in his departure, a feeling which will only partially disappear with the passing of time. He was a great soul, perhaps one should say more correctly, he is a great soul, and many of us feel that we shall not look upon his like again.

— Frederick D. Kershner Christian-Evangelist, LXXVIII:11 (March 14, 1940), p. 290.

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