[Table of Contents]
[Previous] [Next]
Gary L. Lee
Background of the Christian Baptist (1983)

Chapter II: The Christian Baptist, 1823-1830

Chapter II


"Restoration" Publications

Herald of Gospel Liberty

      Thomas Grafton states in his biography of Alexander Campbell that the Christian Baptist was "a veritable John the Baptist in religious journalism."{1} While the Christian Baptist was a pioneer in the field of religious journalism, it was not the first. The distinction of being "the first religious newspaper in America" is claimed by Elias Smith, editor of the Herald of Gospel Liberty. This paper had a short life, 1808-1817, under the editorship of Smith.

      Elias Smith was born on June 17, 1769, in Lyme, Connecticut. At the age of eleven years, his scanty education was completed in Hebron, Connecticut. As a child, he was concerned about religion and seriously studied the Scriptures. In May of 1779, Smith began to give much thought to the subject of baptism. After studying the matter, he concluded that adults should be baptized by immersion. Consequently, he was immersed and sought fellowship among the Baptists. In the summer of 1789, he was ordained as a Baptist minister.

      When Smith moved to Salisbury, New Hampshire in 1791, he was disenchanted with the Baptist doctrine and began an intensive study concerning it. In May, 1802, he preached a sermon on Acts 11:26, in which he advocated the abandoning of religious party names and taking the name Christian. As Smith began to preach his views, opposition by the Baptist clergy grew.

      Smith's disenchantment with the teachings of Calvinism continued. Although he was considered by many of his fellow Baptists as a Baptist minister in good standing, he had "mental reservations" concerning the message he preached.{2}

      He decided that the doctrine of election was wrong and embraced the doctrine of universalism. His younger brother was a primary influence in Elias' initial fifteen day acceptance of the doctrine of universalism.{3} Throughout his ministerial career, Smith accepted and renounced the doctrine of universalism several times.

      In 1802, he organized a church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, based solely on the teachings of the New Testament. On September 1, 1808, Smith published the first issue of the Herald of Gospel Liberty. It was through the pages of this periodical that he proclaimed such teachings as immersion as the only Scriptural mode of baptism, that creeds should not be made a term of communion, and a return to the Bible as man's sole authority in religion.

      His subscription fist was small, (only 274 subscribers for the first issue), but it swelled to 1,500 subscribers in later years. The first issue carried a reprint of the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery, with an endorsement of the work of Barton W. Stone and other men in the West.{4} The financial situation of the paper caused Smith to change it from a weekly to a monthly paper in 1816. His financial burdens finally forced him in 1817 to suggest discontinuing the paper unless the subscription notes were paid. The last issue of the paper was printed on October 1, 1817, with a notice that Smith had accepted the doctrine of universalism.

      The Herald of Gospel Liberty was succeeded in May of 1818 by the Christian Herald. This paper was not published long. Some seventeen years later, on January 15, 1835, the Christian Herald reported that it had been bought by the Eastern Publishing Association. The Christian Journal became the successor of the Christian Herald.{5}

      Many of the teachings of Elias Smith were echoed again by another young man who came to [9] a similar religious position by his personal study of the Bible. Alexander Campbell would, some six years later, proclaim many of these same sentiments to his Baptist brethren in the East.

Alexander Campbell's Earliest Writings


      Although the publication of the Christian Baptist was the first attempt of Alexander Campbell in the field of religious journalism, it was not his first attempt at writing for publication. As early as 1810, his views were published concerning various social conditions prevalent in the surrounding area of Washington, Pennsylvania.

      His first essay appeared in May 14, 1810, issue of the Reporter, a weekly newspaper published by Mr. William Sample, Washington, Pennsylvania. He wrote under the pen name of "Clarinda." The purpose was to "attempt to reform the general conduct of our and the opposite sex, in what particularly relates to forming of connections for life."{6}

      The occasion for the essays were some of the social customs prevalent at the time. Due to the small population, the harshness of the life and the vast distances between families, social gatherings were not frequent. Various duties would bring the families together for work and social communication. The actions of the young men and women at such occasions as a "husking frolic," or "a quilting party," or an "apple-paring," were a shock to Alexander. To correct these abuses, "Clarinda" was created.

      The issues were discussed in a series of ten essays which were published from May 14 to July 23, 1810. "Clarinda" was praised and criticized in replies from interested parties such as "J. C.," "Eusebia Anxious," and "Observator." The discussion did have a positive effect. The public discussion of such issues resulted in the cessation of the offensive activities.

      Campbell's beginning literary activities were not without significance. It showed that he was not hesitant to speak out on matters which he felt needed correction. As he had been in the United States for only ten months, the newness of the culture and surroundings could have deterred him from speaking out. Campbell not only spoke out against abuses but he strove to provide the means of improving the situations. Thus, early in his writing career, he not only identified the areas of concern but tried to show the way of improving the conditions.

"Bonus Homo"

      His second series of essays for the Reporter appeared under the name of "Bonus Homo." The series ran from October, 1810, to December 3, 1810. These articles were a response to a program sponsored by Washington College in which virtue and morality were mocked. The ethnic backgrounds of the Scotch and Irish immigrants were also made sport of.

      Other articles appeared in the paper defending the actions of the students and criticizing "Bonus Homo" for his displeasure concerning the program. Many years later, the aged college principal, Mr. Brown, admitted to Alexander that he was correct in his chastisement of the college for its action in the program.


      Under the pseudonym of "Candidus," in the April 27, 1820, edition of the Washington Reporter, Campbell challenged the Moral Society of Middletown. This was one of the many moral societies appearing at that time in that section of the country. These societies were "organized for the reputable purpose of suppressing vice and immorality."{7} These self-styled moral committees were attentive to every infraction against their private codes of conduct. Campbell [10] picked up the gauntlet and battled the repressive societies. His essays continued until February 25, 1822. His journalistic efforts caused many individuals to realize that such societies for the private regulation of the community were wrong and the societies waned. Later, Campbell used "The Reformed Clergyman" as a pseudonym in his discussion of Mr. McCorkle's essays on the millennium in the Millennial Harbinger.{8}

The Christian Baptist (1823-1830)

      Thomas Campbell in the "Postscript" of the Declaration and Address recommends to the Christian Association of Washington two actions by which the interests of the body could be promoted. He urges the preparation and publication of a "catechetical exhibition of the fulness and precision of the holy scriptures upon the entire subject of christianity," to which would be prefixed a dissertation on the perfection and sufficiency of the Scriptures. He also proposed a "periodical publication, for the express purpose of detecting and exposing the various anti-christian enormities, innovations and corruptions, which infect the christian church."{9}

      The periodical was to be called "The Christian Monitor," and was to appear monthly, beginning in 1810, if five hundred subscribers could be obtained. Unfortunately, a sufficient number of subscribers was not secured, so the periodical was never published. Alexander Campbell does not say that The Christian System and the Christian Baptist are his response to the call for a catechism and monthly periodical as expressed by his father. But there are several similarities between the wishes of the Association and the writings of Alexander Campbell which suggest that this may be so. Alexander implied that the Christian Baptist was the logical expression of the principles set forth in the Declaration and Address, in the "Preface" of The Christian System.{10} Garrison and DeGroot maintain in their book, The Disciples of Christ, A History, that another person had to write in the phrase found in the "Postscript" of the Declaration and Address concerning the anti-christian enormities which "The Christian Monitor" was to expose.{11} They believe that Thomas' temperament would have not allowed him to edit such a periodical with such a narrow religious purpose.

      Garrison and DeGroot maintain also that Thomas' viewpoint toward differences in opinion was more conciliatory than the phrase in the "Postscript" would allow. His emphasis on christian unity and his toleration of differing beliefs on non-biblical tenets would have kept him from writing the phrase or editing the paper. Thus, the phrase would have been added by a person other than Thomas Campbell.

      The writer disagrees with the conclusion that Thomas could not have written the phrase in the "Postscript" for two reasons. The first reason is that as far as the writer knows, there is no evidence to suggest that Thomas Campbell did not write the entire document. Secondly, the writer feels that such a statement would not be out of character for Thomas Campbell. He had experienced such anti-christian behavior and attitudes from the Presbytery of Chartiers and the Associate Synod of North America. Thomas had been disciplined by these two religious courts because of his disagreement with them in non-biblical areas. He had experienced first hand the division which can occur when conformity in non-biblical matters was insisted upon. As this type of attitude would destroy the basis for any biblical union for the divided churches in Christendom, it would most readily be contended. It was such divisions on non-biblical matters which had kept Christian union from being realized. Before union could be accomplished, [11] these divisions would have to be eliminated from church life. In accordance with his dream of Christian union, such drastic measures would be necessary.

      There are two additional similarities in the two papers which are interesting but do not prove conclusively that the Baptist is the response to the Association's desire for a periodical. The frequency of publication and the length of the periodicals are the same. Both papers were monthly publications and were twenty-four pages long.{12} Thus, while there is no conclusive evidence that the Christian Baptist is a response to the proposed, but unpublished, "Christian Monitor," such a conclusion may have some proponents.

Inception of the Baptist

      The inception of the Christian Baptist was largely caused by the acceptance and circulation of the printed form of his debate with John Walker in 1820. The first and second printings of the debate which totaled four thousand volumes were published between 1820 and 1822. In the concluding article of the last volume of the Baptist, Campbell related the circumstances that caused the periodical to begin.

It was not until after I discovered the effects of that discussion, [debate with Walker] that I began to hope that something might be done to rouse this generation from its supineness and spiritual lethargy. About two years afterwards I conceived the plan of this work, and thought I should make the experiment. I did so, and the effects are now before the public.{13}

      Such publishing ventures, unlike the many available five or six decades later, were not common. Grafton calls the Christian Baptist a "veritable John the Baptist in religious journalism."{14} Grafton made this analogy because like John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, preparing the way for the coming of the Messiah by preaching repentance and reformation of life to the Jewish nation, the Baptist gave a clarion call to return to the Christianity and church of the New Testament by the abandonment of all unscriptural teachings and practices. It was the independent nature of the paper that Campbell claimed set it apart from the other contemporary periodicals. Campbell boldly exposed the doctrinal errors and the unscriptural practices of the Baptist communion of which he was a part, rather than support the sectarian causes or spirits he perceived prevalent in the Baptist churches of his day. Thus, in the independent nature of the periodical, seeking to promote truth instead of party causes, the Baptist was a pioneer and model for later papers.

      Many historians and biographers of Alexander Campbell and Walter Scott give credit to the naming of the paper to Walter Scott, a close friend of the Campbell family.{15} The accepted version of the account was that Alexander wanted to call the paper the "Christian" and Walter Scott suggested the title "Christian Baptist." Scott added the name "Baptist" to gain a wider acceptance among the Baptists. Apparently this account was the accepted version in Campbell's day. However, he took exception to it in the 1839 Millennial Harbinger.

When we drew up our Prospectus for our publication, we headed it "The Christian"; and had it not been that we found ourselves anticipated we should have adhered to the title. I hesitated between the title "Baptist Christian" and "Christian Baptist," and on my suggesting my embarrassment to a friend, who had since given himself due credit for the hint, as an original idea; he thought the latter was a better passport into favor than either of the others. We never fully approved, but from expediency adopted it.{16} [12]

      This misunderstanding concerning the name of the paper did not affect Alexander's relationship with Walter Scott. Scott contributed many articles to the Baptist and later to the Millennial Harbinger. Walter Scott signed many of his articles with the pen name of "Phillip." This signature indicated his relationship to Alexander.

All articles were signed 'Phillip' for he was conscious of being on the threshold of a new religious reformation, in which he thought of his friend Alexander Campbell as the Luther and himself the Melanchthon.{17}

      The first issue of the monthly periodical was published on August 3, 1823. It continued for seven years, terminating in July, 1830. As most papers in those early days, the Baptist was quite small. It had a page size measuring 3¼ by 5¾ inches. In order that he would not be dependent upon another publisher, Campbell bought all the necessary equipment and printed the paper himself. This was an accomplishment, as he had no training in the field of printing.

Significant Articles

      Campbell provided many topics in the Baptist for his readers to enjoy. He not only dealt with the religious issues, but also provided interesting comments and reports on a variety of subjects. Some of the major issues discussed in the paper related to the clergy, missionary societies, church associations, baptism, creeds, etc. The titles of some of the articles are listed so as to familiarize the reader with the wide scope of the subjects included in the periodical. Articles on the clergy included "The Christian Religion," "The Third Epistle of Peter to the Preachers and Rulers of Congregations," and "A Familiar Dialogue between the Editor and a Clergyman." Creeds were discussed in such articles as "The Casting Vote, or the Creed Triumphant over the Bible," and "Parable of the Iron Bedstead." Other major topics discussed were the mode and significance of baptism. The essays entitled "The Ancient Gospel," numbered one through ten, explored this subject. Subjects such as creeds, nomenclature, the Lord's Supper, the office of elders and deacons, discipline, and order in the early church were discussed in "A Restoration of the Ancient Order of Things." Socialism and the philosophy of Robert Owen were examined in such articles as "Mr. Robert Owen and the Social System" and "To Mr. D., A Sceptic." Political issues were discussed when their ramifications affected the church or christian society.

      When a religious body sought to control a state supported college, "A Presbyterian University at Danville, Ky.!!! " appeared, in which Campbell spoke out against sectarian authority. "Acts of Incorporation" and "Chartered College & Legalized Priestcraft; or, Notes on an Oration" discussed whether a religious college should be chartered by the state. The controversial bill faced by the Congressional Committee of Post Offices and Post Roads, which debated the proposal of allowing mail to be delivered on Sunday, was addressed in the articles "Sabbath Mail Report," "Sunday Mails," and "What Next?"{18}

      Alexander Campbell solicited articles from others. He did not try to carry the entire editorial load himself, but published articles and essays from other individuals when he felt they would be instructive to his readers. These articles did not have to agree with his teaching or beliefs to be published in the paper. He published these articles so that his readers could get both sides of the question or issue being discussed.

Tone of the Paper

      The spirit of the work was one which did not endear him to his opponents. The attitude of the paper was often strong, caustic, and dogmatic. It was the tone of the paper which caused [13] the majority of the students of theology in the Philomathesean Society of Hamilton Seminary in New York to ask him that they no longer be sent the Baptist. The letter stated that although Campbell personally had been kind and courteous to them, his attitude in the paper was repugnant to them. The students agreed with him in the fact that there were many practices in the church which needed to be changed, but questioned whether the changes would be accomplished by "a confirmed course of ridicule and sarcasm, or by a dignified, argumentative, and candid exposition of error, and a mild and persuasive invitation to amendment?"{19}

      Campbell suggested that the reason the students objected to the Baptist was because he did not patronize their beliefs.{20} A minority of the students in the Society also sent Campbell a letter requesting that the paper be continued. They asked for the paper as individuals and not as members of the society.

      Robert Semple, likewise, sent Campbell a letter and asked that he be not so strong and extreme in the paper. Semple accused him of having a Sandemanian or Haldanian attitude because Campbell was so uncompromising in the pages of the Baptist. He stated that Campbell was actually two personalities, one when writing and another in the social circle. Semple stated that like the Haldanians and Sandemanians, Campbell was harsh and sarcastic in his writing. The forbearance which Campbell exhibited towards persons with opposing views was narrow and inadequate. Semple continued to state that when Campbell was not writing for publication, he was a pleasant, kind man, loved by many. Campbell was encouraged to take a milder tone in the paper. Semple felt that such a move would be of more benefit to any reform within the church, in contrast to Campbell's present course. Mr. Semple pointed out that it was this same lack of forbearance and gentleness which marred his book Debate on Baptism. Semple affirmed that the teaching was correct, but the spirit in which the book was written did it much harm.{21}

      Campbell replied to Semple, stating that he had read some of the books written by James and Robert Haldane and Robert Sandeman but had been influenced by them only in a small way. His lack of forbearance was not due to any influence of their writings, but was evident because of the scope of the Baptist and the opposition he had received.

There are many topics which would lead to the exhibition of what would appear in the fullest sense, and in your own sense, of the words, "A New Testament spirit," which I would have gladly introduced into this work; but owing to its circumscribed dimensions and the force of opposition, I have had to withhold, or to cause them to yield to those topics which are the least conducive to what, in the estimation of the majority, is the spirit you would wish to see more strikingly exhibited.{22}

      Some five years later, Campbell once more explained the reason for the severity of the Baptist in the Millennial Harbinger for 1831.

In a word, and without a figure, he regarded the so called christian community as having lost all healthy excitability; and his first volume of the "Christian Baptist," the "most uncharitable," the severe, sarcastic, and ironical he ever wrote, was an experiment to ascertain whether society could be moved by fear or rage--whether it could be made to feel at all the decisive symptoms of the moral malady which was consuming the last spark of moral life and motion. It operated favorably upon the whole, though very unfavorably to the reputation of its author as respected his "christian spirit."{23}

      Although Campbell faced opposition and criticism from the clergy in and out of the Baptist fellowship to which he belonged, he continued undaunted. The Baptist made an unprecedented [19] offer by giving a fair hearing to all who read the paper. His allies and opponents could have their articles and letters printed in the paper without fear of censure, but usually, not without reply. Campbell continued this policy for the duration of the paper, even though he was not accorded the same courtesy by his fellow editors.

Influence of the Paper

      The influence of the Baptist was a major factor in shaping and spreading the views of the Reformers. When one considers the nature of the times, the uncertainty of the postal system, the publication of such a periodical was quite remarkable. As with any venture, there were many people who praised the work and many who condemned it. Thomas Grafton probably overstates the influence of the Baptist when he writes,

The effect of the "Christian Baptist" was almost magical. It, of course, met with the most bitter denunciation from those whose authority it attacked. Pastors forbade their flocks reading it, and it was treated as an incarnation of evil. But it found a wide reading and ready acceptance among another class. Many there were, who, wearied with denominational strife, and restive under ecclesiastical denomination, awaited a prophet whose aim was spiritual emancipation, and whose strong and fearless leadership they could trust. To such the "Christian Baptist" was a welcome visitor.{24}

      The influence of the paper is reflected in the many letters received from his readers. Many thanked him for the instruction given through his periodical. In an unsigned letter from a reader from West Port, Kentucky, the Christian Baptist was credited with bringing the reader to a more perfect understanding of the Scriptures.{25} "J. W. " wrote from the state of Louisiana concerning the Baptist,

that your publication has been the greatest source of information that I ever enjoyed, except the Bible; and to me is worth more than all the commentaries and systems of divinity that I have any knowledge of.{26}
"W." wrote these positive words about the periodical, "this same Christian Baptist has stripped me of my 'call,' my 'ambassadorship,' etc. and has taught me that the treasure which the Apostles had in earthen vessels I have in the Bible."{27}

      The Baptist was not only widely praised for the instruction rendered in teaching the Bible more perfectly, but was credited in being a catalyst in the conversion of several individuals to Christ. "A Friend to the Restoration of the Ancient Order of Things" wrote Campbell of such an instance. He stated that a deist, after reading Campbell's third number addressed to a sceptic, had his former arguments against the Bible defeated. Thus, he began to read the Bible and became a Christian.{28} Colonel J. Mason, of Kentucky, wrote of the influence of the Baptist and Campbell's edition of the New Testament in the counties of Montgomery and Bath, Kentucky.

I am constrained to believe that the few copies of your first edition [of the New Testament] which have been scattered among us, together with the light issuing from the Christian Baptist, have been the instruments, in the hands of God, of doing more good and producing happier times in Montgomery and Bath counties than was ever before witnessed.{29}
He added a personal testimony stating that for twenty years he was a member of the Baptist Church and did not doubt the teachings of the church until he read Campbell's' "Essay on Experimental Religion" in the Baptist.{30} [15]

      The Baptist was influential in the proclamation of the gospel and the teaching of the New Testament to a number of the pioneer preachers in the state of Indiana. John Philips Thompson began to preach the gospel in Kentucky in August, 1819, in several Baptist churches. In the fall of 1819, while traveling to the Friends of Humanity Baptist Association meeting held in Ohio, he first set foot in Indiana. He returned to Indiana in the fall of 1820 to visit relatives who urged him to settle near them. Thompson heeded their invitation and settled in Rush County in 1821.

      Thompson's vocation was that of a carpenter, but he also preached as a supply preacher for other neighboring churches. In the fall of 1821, he traveled as a delegate from the Flat Rock church to the White River Association meeting at Franklin, Indiana. At the meeting, he aligned himself with one of the two opposing factions which comprised the body. He sided with and became a primary voice in the so-called Arminian group. He also became a popular member of the White River Association.

      In June, 1826, he became a subscriber of the Christian Baptist. He read the evangelistic reports in the paper by such men as Walter Scott and John Smith with interest. It was not until he had learned that the reformation had reached his old home community in Kentucky and that many of his friends and neighbors had embraced the new teaching, that he decided to go to Kentucky and investigate the situation himself. He found that the reports were true, and listened as his friends told of their new faith. He was not moved in his religious views. It was a remark of elder John Smith which prompted him to begin a private investigation of the new religious movement. The study convinced him of the doctrinal errors in his beliefs and he embraced the cause of New Testament Christianity. He did not pronounce his new faith to the Flat Rock church until a meeting in the home of Elias Stone. The effect of the sermon was such that the congregation began to study the Bible and sought biblical proof for every tenet which had been proclaimed.

      Persons who sought the truth continued to increase as Thompson preached at Flat Rock church and in the community. The number of adherents continued to grow. About sixty members withdrew from the Flat Rock church, with the church's consent, and started a new congregation in Fayette County, Indiana.

      Thompson's preaching met with opposition by the leading Baptist preachers in the area. When the opposing ministers realized that they could not dissuade him from his views, a more stringent measure was taken. Thompson was brought before the Flat Rock church so that the church could decide whether his teachings were heretical. After considering the matter, the church absolved Thompson of any heretical teaching.

      After these proceedings, the Baptists and the Reformers decided to use the church building alternately for one year. Thompson and his followers formed a separate body called the Church of Christ and continued an amicable relationship with the Flat Rock Baptist Church. The Church of Christ continued to grow in members and influence in the community. In 1832, John O'Kane and John Thompson traveled in eastern Indiana and preached the gospel, to which many persons responded. In a meeting in Greensburg, Indiana, the first gospel sermon was preached and the first disciple was made in eastern Indiana. Thus through the pages of the Christian Baptist and the testimony of pious friends and preachers, John Thompson accepted the reformation and became a major influence in evangelizing eastern Indiana.{31}

      Ryland T. Brown was another pioneer preacher in Indiana influenced by the Christian Baptist. He arrived with his parents to Rush County, Indiana, in 1821. In the spring of 1822, he accepted Christ as Savior and, being from a Baptist heritage, united with the "Clifty Church." In 1826, he learned the existence of the Christian Baptist and became a subscriber to the periodical.

      His first overt action as a member of the New Testament church occurred as the Flat Rock Association tried to bind new articles of faith on the Clifty church. A motion was made to rescind the old articles of faith on the Clifty church and to adopt the new rules. Brown recommended that the single motion be divided into two separate ones. The recommendation [16] was accepted and two separate motions were created. The motion to rescind the old articles of faith was carried. At this point, Brown proposed an amendment which stated that only the New Testament would be considered binding upon the church. The motion was carried. From 1826 to the spring of 1829, Brown studied medicine, pursuing his studies at the Ohio Medical College in Cincinnati, Ohio. After he graduated in the spring of 1829, he returned home to Rush County, Indiana. The area was alive with the discussions concerning the preaching of John P. Thompson. After investigating the matter, Brown embraced the message preached by Thompson and became a disciple.

      Brown's actions aroused the ire of the local clergy and he was charged with being a Campbellite and brought before the Clifty church. He was excluded from the church.{32} Brown wrote a letter to the Christian Baptist in which he related the incident. Campbell replied that such a spirit which was manifested by Brown's accusers was not a christian spirit but a divisive one. Such persons who cause divisions by setting up their own ideas as standards must be excluded, not because of their differing opinions, but because their opinions have become an idol to them and that homage was demanded to their opinions.{33} Brown became a member of the Church of Christ at Little Flat Rock, which John P. Thompson organized, and became an active member.{34}

      In 1832, Brown moved to Connersville, Indiana, with wife, Mary, to practice medicine. He soon became respected in the community as a doctor and as a preacher. He was not ashamed of nor afraid to share his new-found faith. As a result of his preaching, he immersed many people in the community. He was prohibited from preaching in the church buildings of the established churches in the town. So he preached in the court house at Milton, Wayne County, Indiana. He was assisted by John O'Kane, and many people accepted Christ as Savior. John O'Kane then went to Connersville and preached. The church of Christ was organized there in 1833.

      From 1833 to 1842, Brown preached extensively throughout the White Water county area and identified with many of the counties. In June, 1842, in Connersville, at the state meeting of the churches, Brown and three other men were appointed to labor with the other churches in Indiana for a year. He had to resign his post because of ill health and spent a year in manual labor. He returned to his practice of medicine and the preaching of the gospel in 1844.

      In his later years, Brown studied at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, and served as Indiana State geologist, and instructor at Northwestern Christian University. He also was a leader in the temperance movement and active in politics. Throughout all these activities, he continued to preach the gospel and remained true to the principles he loved so much.{35}

      The mixed reactions of the Flat Rock and Clifty churches were typical of the responses given by the Baptists to the Reformers. The variety of responses were primarily dependent upon the attitudes of the persons involved in situations in which the reformers became vocal in their views. The different responses are further illustrated in the ministries of reformer Philip S. Fall. While Fall was preaching for the Baptist church in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1825, several members of the church accepted his views. The fellow believers along with Fall left the established church and formed an independent congregation. The separation was a friendly one and the division of the church property was accomplished without any malice by either side. P. S. Fall had a similar experience with the Baptist church in Nashville, Tennessee.{36}

      A negative response was recorded in the Baptist by "S. E. S.---." When this correspondent protested against the Northumberland Particular Baptist Association using creeds as a test of fellowship, the response was hostile. He was pressured to retract his protest by members of [17] the association. In his account of the association's proceedings against him, he stated that some of his fellow Baptists blamed the Christian Baptist and Alexander Campbell for his departure from the faith. Yet, as the proceedings continued and he stood his ground, a member of the Shamokin church took a similar stand against creeds.{37}

      The reaction by the Baptist community involved more than just a few isolated cases or a small number of individuals. John Smith in reviewing the results of his preaching over a certain number of months in 1828, made this statement to his wife, Nancy: "I have baptized seven hundred sinners, and capsized fifteen hundred Baptists. . . ."{38}

      In June, 1828 issue of the Baptist, extracts of letters received from the field evangelists were published. Jeremiah Vardeman reported that from November 1, 1827, to May 1, 1828, he had immersed about 550 persons. John Smith also reported that from the first weeks in February till April, 1828, he had immersed some 339 persons. Evangelists Walter Scott, Sidney Rigdon, and Adamson Bentley reported immersing about eight hundred persons in the first six months of 1828 in Ohio. The report also listed other successful revival statistics.{39} Such large numbers of conversions would have made an impact on any religious body. As Campbell's teachings continued to be preached and taught, the effect upon the Baptist churches continued to be felt.

      In the article "A Good Omen," Campbell reported that in Virginia, the Goshen Baptist Association broke away from the General association over the question of the validity of the associational structure and authority. The Goshen Association, led by Uriah Higgason, determined "that money was the bond of union of that association, and that it was an unlawful amalgamation of the world and the church."{40} But the separation was a peaceful and friendly one.{41}

      "A Subscriber," in the article "Reformed Baptist Churches," related the actions of several dissenting churches in three Baptist associations. The actions of these churches were in opposition to current Baptist missionary programs and methods. It was stated that nine Baptist churches withdrew from the Raleigh Baptist Association, North Carolina, because of the congregations' dissatisfactions over Baptist missions. Fifteen churches were reported to have withdrawn from the Neuse Baptist Association and one church withdrew from the Kehuke Association for the same reason.{42}

      In order to preserve its membership and to maintain their doctrine, Baptist churches and associations which were opposed to the teaching of the Reformers began to take strong counter measures against them. "N. H." told of a man in Louisa county, Virginia, who was rebaptized by Baptist minister Timothy T. Swift because the man had previously been immersed by a minister using the "new way." The initial preacher immersed the man using the words "I immerse thee into the name," etc. instead of saying "I baptize thee in the name," etc. The individual wanted to join the Fork church but was refused until the man could relate his Christian experience before the church once more and be reimmersed. These conditions were met and the man was accepted into the church.{43}

      "Epaphras" stated in his letter to Campbell, that "some have gone so far as to pass resolutions to prohibit those who are advocates for the Ancient Gospel from the privilege of proclaiming the gospel in their meeting houses, to the people, that they might be saved!!"{44} Some Baptist churches, such as the North Elkton and Mount Pleasant churches, in their letter to the Elkhorn Baptist Association in Kentucky, urged the association to oppose any doctrine contrary to the Philadelphia Confession of Faith.{45} [18]

      More drastic measures were taken by the Beaver Baptist Association, of Pennsylvania, in 1829. This association condemned and anathematized Campbell and the Mahoning Baptist Association of Ohio because "the Mahoning Association disbelieve and deny many of the doctrines of the Holy Scriptures."{46} The effect of the Beaver Anathema was recounted in a report by Walter Scott concerning the Youngstown, Palmyra, Achor, and Salem churches in Ohio.{47} These four churches were members of the Mahoning Association and were accused in the Beaver Anathema of "having left their former connexion, because of 'damnable heresy.'"{48} The heresy of which these churches were convicted was their adherence to the teachings of the Reformers. In the years 1828-1829, Scott had preached at the established though declining Baptist church in Youngstown and William Hayden at the Baptist church in Palmyra. The preaching was successful in both of the churches. The new Christians in the Youngstown church determined to adhere to the Scriptures only as their guide in religion, and constituted a separate church. The older members of the established church were invited to join the new church, and many did. The church numbered about one hundred and fifty persons with elders and five deacons.

      The new church was opposed by a group numbering between eleven to sixteen persons who called themselves the Church of Youngstown. This group appealed to the Beaver Association for assistance in excommunicating the new church. The judgment was rendered by the Beaver Association and the new church was stricken from the Baptist Associational lists throughout the nation.{49} The opposition of the new church in Palmyra which numbered about eleven persons took a similar action. They called themselves the Palmyra Church and joined the Beaver Association.{50}

      The Anchor church had been a growing congregation in past years but had declined after a Baptist minister, a Mr. Winters, helped eject some of its best members. When Scott preached at the church in 1828, he was so opposed that he had to quit and go elsewhere.

      While preaching at the Salem church, Scott immersed forty-one persons in ten days. Yet, by the time the monthly meeting occurred when the new Christians would have been admitted into the church, none of the new members were accepted. The opposition to Scott and his preaching had determined that some of the new Christians were really unconverted and sought to keep them from being admitted to the church. Their efforts were successful, and none of those converts thought suspect were admitted to the church. Scott had to leave the church for five weeks absence to preach revivals in other places. When he returned, he found that twenty-one of the new converts were "cajoled" into the church, while the remainder had organized a church outside of town.{51}

      So it can be seen that as the Reformers became more vocal and active concerning their beliefs, confrontation with the opposing Baptists grew. As they continued to move away from the Baptists in the later 1820's, they found that they had more in common with Stone and the group known as "Christians." In the 1830's they eventually merged with the Stone's "Christians" and formed one religious body.

      In keeping with his editorial policy of giving anyone who wished a hearing, Campbell published letters and reports which stated a negative view of the Baptist. Robert B. Semple in a letter to Silas M. Noel, expresses his feelings toward the influence of the paper in these words:

The 'Christian Baptist' has doubtless exhibited many valuable pieces and principles; but, taken as a whole, I am persuaded it has been more mischievous than any publication I have ever known. The ability of the editor, joined to the plausibility of his plans or doctrines, has [19] succeeded in sowing the seeds of discord among brethren to an extent in many places alarming.{52}
It was also labeled "A religious incendiary, and will do a world of mischief," and a "disorganizer" and "dangerous to our children."{53}

      There are several interesting instances reported in the Baptist concerning the methods of the opposing clergy in attacking the paper. It was reported that Rev. Abner Clopton attacked the periodical in his November 19, 1828, sermon in Virginia. "Aristarchus" who heard his sermon reported that

His method of opposing, however, is not by any serious argument or criticism; but by assertions and misrepresentations, insinuations and detractions, imbittering the minds of opposers, and filling with prejudice those who have never read the 'Christian Baptist.'{54}
In a letter to the editor, "A Constant Reader" reported that many clergymen use their opposition to the Baptist as the basis for their sermons.

Many of the 'ministry' (as they call themselves.) are in the habit of abusing you and the Christian Baptist every time they "preach." And yet every one who reads the Christian Baptist may clearly see that they have obtained a great part of what they preach from it. It is, indeed, said of the Elkton clergymen, that 'two thirds' of his sermons are sometimes made up of extracts from the Christian Baptist and that the other third is employed in abusing it.{55}

      So, as with any venture, there were many supporters and detractors. Although the opposition was at times quite vehement, Campbell continued spreading the Gospel through this periodical.

Circulation of the Paper

      The subscription and circulation figures were not given in yearly totals. The agents for the Baptist were not listed in the periodical until December 5, 1825, in the third volume. The only other list of agents in the third volume is found at the end of the July 3, 1826, issue. Thereafter, the list of agents is given at the end of each monthly issue.

      An examination of the lists of agents indicates a large circulation, as shown by this representative survey of states: the New England states, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Maryland; the Southern states, Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee; the Middle western states, Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio. There were agents outside the United States in Canada and Ireland.{56}

      Although no circulation figures are given in the paper, it is credited with a respectable circulation by its editor. Campbell wrote in 1826 of its growing circulation, "The Christian Baptist continues to receive a considerable accession of respectable patrons, most of whom wish to obtain the work from its commencement."{57}

      In 1827, the Baptist Recorder charged the Christian Baptist with losing one hundred per cent of its readers in Kentucky. Campbell defended the circulation of the paper by saying:

The fact is, that the Christian Baptist is more generally read, and has more subscribers this year in Kentucky than it has ever had before. In Virginia, too, where it is represented as declining fast, it has gained in the last two years, more than a hundred per cent, per annum. [20] And for the past three months, since the commencement of the present volume, our regular increase has been about seventy new subscribers per month.{58}

      An examination of the chart in Hall's thesis, listing the source of monthly receipts in the Baptist, volumes six and seven, show a substantial increase each year. Volume six showed a yearly income of $345.00. The receipts for volume seven showed nearly a four-fold increase, ending with a total of $1,200.00.{59} These figures show that, while there was opposition to the paper, it did not hamper the interest in and circulation of the Baptist.

      The Christian Baptist ceased publication with the July 5, 1830, issue of the paper. In the last article entitled "Concluding Remarks," Campbell gave his reasons for ending the periodical:

Hating sects and sectarian names, I resolved to prevent the name of Christian Baptists from being fixed on us, to do which, efforts were making. It is true, men's tongues are their own, and they may use them as they please; but I am resolved to give them no just occasion for nicknaming advocates for the ancient order of things.{60}

      One hundred and fifty years have passed since the cessation of the Baptist. Yet, as one picks up a volume and reads it, he will find the material to be as fresh and relevant as it was in 1830. Many of the problems, attitudes, and situations in the contemporary religious world are similar to those Campbell faced. Alexander Campbell has a great deal to teach us. We may not agree with all that he says, but he deserves a hearing. [21]

      {1} Grafton, Alexander Campbell, p. 109.
      {2} J. Pressley Barrett, The Centennial of Religious Journalism (Dayton: Christian Publishing Association, 1908), p. 306.
      {3} Ibid., p. 306.
      {4} James DeForrest Murch, Christians Only (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing, 1962), p. 90.
      {5} Barrett, The Centennial of Religious Journalism, pp. 50, 53. [9]
      {6} Richardson, Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, 1:285.
      {7} Ibid., 1:516. [10]
      {8} Moore, A Comprehensive History of the Disciples of Christ, p. 304.
      {9} Declaration and Address, pp. 88-89.
      {10} Alexander Campbell, The Christian System (Reprint ed., Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1970), pp. xii-xiv.
      {11} Winfred Ernest Garrison and Alfred T. DeGroot, The Disciples of Christ, A History (St. Louis: The Bethany Press, 1948), p. 152. [11]
      {12} Declaration and Address, p. 89. See also the Christian Baptist, 1:[6].
      {13} Campbell, Christian Baptist, 7:284.
      {14} Grafton, Alexander Campbell, p. 109.
      {15} See Richardson, Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, 2:49-50; Murch, Christians Only, p. 70; Dwight E. Stevenson, Walter Scott, Voice of the Golden Oracle (St. Louis: Christian Board of Publication, 1946), p. 42; William Baxter, Life of Elder Walter Scott (Cincinnati: Bosworth, Chase & Hall, 1874), p. 73; and H. Leo Boles, Biographical Sketches of Gospel Preachers (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1932), pp. 74-75.
      {16} Campbell, Millennial Harbinger, 1839:338. [12]
      {17} Stevenson, Walter Scott, Voice of the Golden Oracle, pp. 42-43.
      {18} This section will be treated more extensively in Part 1, Chapter 3. [13]
      {19} Campbell, Christian Baptist, 4:85.
      {20} Ibid., 4:87.
      {21} Ibid., 3:197-200.
      {22} Ibid., 3:206.
      {23} Campbell, Millennial Harbinger, 1831:19-20. [14]
      {24} Grafton, Alexander Campbell, pp. 115-116.
      {25} Campbell, Christian Baptist, 5:203.
      {26} Ibid., 6:55.
      {27} Ibid., 5:162.
      {28} Ibid., 4:273.
      {29} Ibid., 5:249.
      {30} Ibid., 5:249-250. [15]
      {31} Madison Evans, Biographical Sketches of the Pioneer Preachers of Indiana (Philadelphia: James Challen and Sons, 1862), pp. 126-138. [16]
      {32} The letter Brown wrote to Campbell is found in Evans, Biographical Sketches of Pioneer Preachers in Indiana, pp. 305-307, and the Christian Baptist, 7:[239-240] which are misnumbered 243-244 in the periodical.
      {33} Campbell's reply to Brown's letter is found in the Christian Baptist, 7:242-243.
      {34} See biographical sketch of John P. Thompson in Evan's Biographical Sketches of Pioneer Preachers in Indiana, pp. 126-128.
      {35} Ibid., pp. 300-314.
      {36} McAllister and Tucker, Journey in Faith, A History of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), p. 142. [17]
      {37} Campbell, Christian Baptist, 4:224-225.
      {38} John A. Williams, Life of Elder John Smith (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, 1904), p. 208.
      {39} Christian Baptist, 5:263-264.
      {40} Ibid., 6:119.
      {41} Ibid., 4:117-118.
      {42} Ibid., 6:192.
      {43} Ibid., 7: [79]-80. Page 79 is misnumbered page 84 in the periodical.
      {44} Ibid., 7:158.
      {45} Ibid., 6:83-84. [18]
      {46} Ibid., 7:185.
      {47} Ibid., 7:269-272.
      {48} Ibid., 7:269.
      {49} Ibid., 7:270.
      {50} Ibid., 7:270-271.
      {51} Ibid., 7:271-272. [19]
      {52} Ibid., 5:199.
      {53} Ibid., 1:174.
      {54} Ibid., 6:146.
      {55} Ibid., 6:150.
      {56} 56. See Robert M. Hall, "The Christian Baptist (1823-1830): A Study of the Periodical's Influence as Reflected by Internal Evidences and a Complete Index" (Bachelor of Divinity Thesis, School of Religion, Butler University, 1947), p. 49, for the geographical distribution of new agents for the Christian Baptist, volumes three to seven.
      {57} Campbell, Christian Baptist, 4:168. [20]
      {58} Ibid., 5:111.
      {59} Hall, "The Christian Baptist (1823-1830): A Study of the Periodical's Influence as Reflected by Internal Evidences and a Complete Index," p. 50.
      {60} Campbell, Christian Baptist, 7:285 misnumbered 281 in the periodical. [21]

[BCB 9-21]

Copyright © 1983, 1998 by Gary L. Lee

[Table of Contents]
[Previous] [Next]
Gary L. Lee
Background of the Christian Baptist (1983)

Back to Alexander Campbell Page
Back to Restoration Movement Texts