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John Kline was born in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania on 17 June 1797, the son of John Kline and Mary Hershey Kline. While still a boy, the family moved to Rockingham County, Virginia. On 18 March 1818, he married Anna Wampler. He then purchased a farm on Linville Creek in what is now Broadway town, about five miles north of Harrisonburg, Virginia. He and Anna had only one child, a daughter, born on 15 March 1819, who died unnamed.
Kline joined the German Baptist Brethren church. In 1827, he was chosen to serve as a deacon by the Linville Creek congregation of the church. He was “called” to the preaching ministry in 1830 and he served without remuneration throughout his life. From the beginning, the Brethren met in members’ homes, barns, or even in open fields, until Kline gave both land and money to build the Linville Creek German Baptist Brethren Church. He frequently traveled to southwest Virginia and to what is now West Virginia, preaching and baptizing and visiting Brethren families. Sometimes he was able to establish new congregations. At the 1861 Annual Meeting of the church, Kline was elected moderator, the highest elected office of the church, and he was re-elected in each of the next three years.
He also studied and practiced the medical procedures of one Dr. Samuel Thompson of Vermont so that he could treat the sick as well as minister to people spiritually.
Kline opposed both slavery and war and when war came between North and South, he lobbied the Virginia legislature and other officials to help make it possible for the Brethren to honor their pacifist beliefs and their objection to participating in the military. He believed that Brethren farmers could be of more assistance to the Confederate cause by supplying the troops with food than they could by fighting. During the Civil War Kline crossed Union–Confederate lines to attend church meetings. He was able to obtain passes from both sides (though both were wary of him since he gave medical and spiritual help to both Union and Confederate troops). At one time, suspected of holding Union sympathies, he was imprisoned for two weeks in Virginia.
On 15 June 1864, while returning from a trip north, he was ambushed and killed near his home by young Confederate sympathizers.
Here is an excerpt from “Choose the Narrow Gate,” a sermon he preached on Lost River, West Virginia this day, March 3, 1839. His text came from Matthew 7:13,14 “Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Kline’s sentiment that people possess the choice of destiny and a measure of free will to make that choice is woven throughout this message…
“The narrow gate and the narrow way are one. I mean by this that entering the narrow gate means making a start in the direction of a good life, and walking in the narrow way is progress in a good life. But where is the gate and where is the way? I answer: “The Gate is before you and so is the Way; The Gate is wide open and no toll to pay.” and this Gate is our Lord Jesus Christ as set in His word. “Where’er we seek Him, He is found, and every place is Holy ground.” (complete sermon click here.)
- Kline, Paul, Cline-Kline Family (Dayton, VA: Shenandoah Press, 1971)
- Anon, “Elder John Kline” (Fellowship of Brethren Genealogists) Version 2.0 http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~thomasliby/fobg/johnkline/johnkline.html Revised on Saturday 01 January 2011 © 2006 – 2011
- Flory, John S., Builders of the Church of the Brethren (Elgin, IL: The Elgin Press, 1925).
- Kline, John; ed. by Benjamin Funk, Life and Labors of Elder John Kline, the Martyr Missionary, Collated from his diary by Benjamin Funk. (Elgin, Ill., Brethren Pub. House, 1900). The Project Gutenberg EBook
- Sappington, Roger Edwin. Courageous prophet, chapters from the life of John Kline. ( Elgin, Ill., Brethren Press )
ALSO ON THIS DAY
1547 – At the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church formally fixed the number of sacraments at seven: baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, holy orders, matrimony, and anointing of the sick. The theology of the Eastern Orthodox churches also fixed the number of sacraments at seven.
1589 – Death at Strasbourg of Lutheran educator Johannes Sturm, whose emphasis on Latin studies will dominate Protestant educational models long after the Reformation.
1933 – The Navigators, an evangelical organization, is founded in California, but was not incorporated for another decade.