Alexander Campbell Progress of Reform (1832)


{ Vol. III.
=================================================================       I saw another messenger flying through the midst of heaven, having everlasting good news to proclaim to the inhabitants of the earth, even to every nation and tribe, and tongue, and people-- saying with a loud voice, Fear God and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgments is come: and worship him who made heaven, and earth, and sea, and the fountains of water.--JOHN.
      Great is the truth and mighty above things, and will prevail.

Progress of Reform.

      THE following letters, from brethren Rains and Hayden, communicate information of a very interesting and refreshing character. We always feel more solicitous to learn the progress of the churches, their health in the faith, the perseverance of the saints in their attachment and loyalty to the glorious Chief to whom they have vowed the adoration of their hearts, than for new conversions. To induce persons to enter the kingdom of Messiah only that they may, after a very brief trial, be judged unworthy of the confidence and fellowship of christians, is a very poor service to the cause of truth and good manners. Every thing conducive to the prosperity of the kingdom and the progress of the gospel, is dependent on the behaviour of those who have assumed the high and holy profession. One sinner destroys much good. One backslider exerts a baneful influence on society, and frequently nullifies the exertions of two new converts. The churches who keep the commandments of Jesus, are always growing in numbers as well as in faith, love, and holiness. When the disciples walk in the truth, they are multiplied, as well as edified and comforted.
ED. M. H.      

September 4th, 1832.


      Dear Sir--THE gospel of Jesus still continues to triumph. Not only through the "Harbinger," the "Evangelist," and the "Messenger," am I informed of its advancement; but by personal observation. May the good Lord give energy to all his servants, and, through them, success to the word of his grace!

      I have recently returned from a tour of four weeks through several counties in the state of Ohio; within which time we received the good confession from forty-three persons, and immersed forty-one. Since last winter, about forty persons have been added to the congregation at Red Oak, Brown county, Ohio; and, as you have faithfully reported in the August number of the Harbinger, a large number has been added to many congregations in Kentucky. Without doubt, there will be many more conversions this year, than were last year; and if I do not very much mistake, this work of gospel conversion will go on, in one increasing ratio, until the kingdom of the clergy will be shaken from its foundations, and the whole earth filled with the glory of the Lord. The arguments used by sectarians, (the chief of which is misrepresentation,) are gradually, with a great number of persons, losing their charms; while the advocates for the primitive gospel are daily increasing in argumentative strength! On these principles, can the result of the present struggle be doubtful? No! Great is the truth, and mighty above all things, and will prevail!

      I was much pleased, while on my last tour through Ohio, with the appearance of the disciples. I do not profess to be intimately acquainted with their private deportment; but, if their appearance in their meetings has not greatly [512] deceived me, they possess much of that religion, which, in the sight of the Father of lights, is "pure and undefiled." Never have I witnessed meetings such as were some of those which I attended in my last tour! There was no distraction, no screaming, no falling, no enthusiasm; but much mild, meek, melting joy! Torrents of tears were shed! O how eloquent were these tears, when the eyes of the disciples were turned towards the unregenerate, and it was known that it was their extreme solicitude for the salvation of sinners, that had thus broken up the fountains of their sympathies. To the power of truth, and the ardent desire of the disciples for the conversion of their neighbors and neighbors' children, do I attribute the success with which I met!

      I said that there was no distraction in our congregations. One lady did clap her hands once or twice, and utter the word "glory" with some emphasis, when her mother, a Presbyterian lady, about eighty years of age, came forward to confess the Lord. And would not an angel have done the same? Pray, do not think me enthusiastic! In shunning the icebergs of Calvinism, I hope to be prevented from running into the wild fire of Antinomianism! At several meetings which I attended, I heard several warm expressions of joy, from some disciples, when sinners came to us, and acknowledged Jesus; but nothing that can be called a violation of the rule, which says, "Let all things be done decently and in order."

      Reformation is, I think, a progressive work;--I mean, in the hearts and conduct of the disciples. It is effected by a process similar to that of the silently ferventing leaven,--in a proper time it will leaven the whole mass! No man whose knowledge of the gospel is superficial, can be so deeply and so permanently affected by it, as one who has the word of Jesus dwelling richly in him. Upon this principle, then, do I account for the manifest change for the better in the disciples whom I have mentioned. The gospel has been preached among them with much simplicity for several years; during which, the faithful have been drinking the unadulterated milk of the word, and have consequently grown thereby, and are now exhibiting the blessedness which this glorious gospel has imparted to their souls. May they, through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, abound more and more in love and all good works.

      I was exceedingly well pleased that there have been, as yet, but few apostacies. Although there are some hundreds of disciples in Clinton and Green counties, and have been many for several years, the greater part of whom were immersed specifically for remission, yet I have heard of not more than one or two who can be said to have apostatized! By some means the disciples of the ancient gospel, I think, view with greater abhorrence apostacy, than do the generality of the votarists of modern gospels; yes, and this is as it ought to be: for it does appear to me to be a crime the most appalling, to profess discipleship, by putting on the Lord, and afterwards, willingly and wilfully going into sin, to deny him!! May every disciple tremble whenever he finds himself inclining to act counter to his holy profession.

      Permit me, brother, to conclude this letter by wishing you grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father, and from Jesus our Redeemer!

August 28, 1832.

Dear Brother Campbell,

      OUR general meeting, advertised some time since in the Harbinger, has taken place, and closed yesterday, having continued four days. Without exaggeration, we certainly had a good, or profitable and agreeable a meeting as I ever witnessed. In our Regular Baptist Association we were wont to think and report that we had a good interview and much union, if we had no angry debates, &c. but such love, such union, (not of opinion, but of faith and christian feeling, zeal, and intelligence,) I never saw but among the disciples of the ancient mould--certainly as much as ever at the late meeting. [513]

      We met on Friday, at 1 o'clock P. M.; and though disappointed by not seeing you, nor any other of our talented or learned brethren, not even brother Bentley, (through indisposition,)--we, ordinary, illiterate, practical farmers and mechanics, proceeded to do as well as we could. Brother Bosworth led the way and gave the first discourse, and seven or eight other brethren spoke during the meeting in day light, besides preaching in four or five places each evening.

      On Lord's day, brother Rider gave us a masterly discourse from the 2d chapter of 1st Timothy. His first effort was to show the fallacy of Universalism; 2d. of Calvinism. In the third place, an exhortation to prayer; and, finally, female character and influence as christians--and why? That as the woman was the first in sin, and has ever since been oppressed by the man;--that as the female was by christianity raised and honored with the place, privileges, and influence which naturally and originally belong to her; and that as consequently throughout christendom, and especially where the christianity of the New Testament is most regarded, the female sex is exalted; it by all reasons behooves the sex to honor christianity in turn by showing all contempt for the trifles which charm the eyes of the vain and the irreligious; that they should, contrarywise, delight to honor the gospel with a display of benevolence, rather than of dress.

      He succeeded in every point to the great satisfaction of all the disciples, and especially the sisters. The discourse was followed by appropriate exhortations; and in short, the whole day was filled up with much valuable instruction. Nineteen were immersed during the three days. On Monday our time was devoted to hearing the reports of the itinerants, and making arrangements for future operations. This was the most interesting day of any, and probably more profitable for the interest of truth than all the rest together.

      It appeared from the reports, which, from personal knowledge I know to be correct, that the apostolic gospel and order of things are gradually and regularly gaining influence among us; that although in many things, (and in some places and some individuals more than others,) we are quite in the rear of christian perfection, yet one good sign is, that all unanimously see it, and all unitedly urge an advance. The present reformation is in this different from all the Protestant reformations, whose leaders, when they had taken a few steps from their former ground, halted, and determined the people of God should learn and do no more of the Lord's will than they had already attained to. The teaching brethren understood christianity better, and the churches are not so readily shocked with difficulties as they were some time since; public opinion is turning rapidly in favor of the ancient gospel and order; and though we have to lament apostates, the sects begin to find it weak and vain to reproach us with this, since they have so many of their own, especially since the revivals of 1831; for this year their efforts have not the same success. And for my own part, I think there is a growing liberality among the brethren.

      The subject of itinerancy was spoken of with warmth and an unanimity of judgment and feeling never before equalled among us. The whole community, teachers and taught, were much affected with the great responsibility we are under to present to the world the ancient religion of Christ. It was proposed that the itinerants should go two and two; but when we beat for volunteers, it was found there were but two whose circumstances would permit them at present to make it their sole employ to proclaim the word. These two, (viz. brother Moss and myself,) are to go together wherever a door opens and labor is most needed, and not to neglect the churches. The brethren and sisters most honorably signified their approbation of these laborers, and gave good evidence of their readiness to assist them in all things necessary. Besides these two, brethren Allerton, Williams, Henry, Hartzel, Bosworth, and Applegate, expressed themselves willing and able to devote a share of their time--some of them the greater part, and from their known gifts, were assured by the disciples present of their willingness to sustain them. After these matters were dispensed with, an invitation was tendered to any that wished to obey the Lord, when six or seven came forward. We went to the [514] water, and continued instructing and exhorting until eighteen were immersed, making in all thirty-seven.

      Our next annual meeting will be in Warren, Trumbull county, on Friday before the last Lord's day in August, 1833; and for the accommodation of the brethren further West, a similar meeting will be held in Wadsworth, Medina county, on the Friday following, which I hope you will publish.

      I had forgotten to inform, you that it appeared from the reports that there had been at least four or five hundred immersed since the last annual meeting by the brethren of this section of country.
  Yours, as ever,

[The Millennial Harbinger 3 (October 1832): 512-515.]


      Alexander Campbell's "Progress of Reform" was first published in The Millennial Harbinger, Vol. 3, No. 10, October 1832. The electronic version of the report has been produced from the College Press reprint (1976) of The Millennial Harbinger, ed. Alexander Campbell (Bethany, VA: A. Campbell, 1832), pp. 512-515. An edited version of William Hayden's letter was published in Early History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve, Ohio by A. S. Hayden (Cincinnati, OH: Chase and Hall, 1875), pp. 342-344.

      Pagination in the electronic version has been represented by placing the page number in brackets following the last complete word on the printed page. Inconsistencies in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and typography have been retained; however, corrections have been offered for misspellings and other accidental corruptions. Emendations are as follows:

            Printed Text [ Electronic Text
 p. 514:    behoves [ behooves
            brother Morse [ brother Moss
            brethren Allton, [ brethren Allerton,

      Addenda and corrigenda are earnestly solicited.

Ernie Stefanik
Derry, PA

Created 17 December 2000.
Updated 7 July 2003.

Alexander Campbell Progress of Reform (1832)

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