Alexander Campbell Embryo Heresy (1840)






B E T H A N Y, VA. FEBRUARY, 1840. =================================================================


      IN the ancient city of Palmyra, as tradition says, there was a large church with but two bishops. They believed in a simple plurality. The senior bishop in some of his proceedings disaffected a few members of the congregation by his great vigilance over their moral behaviour. They complained not to himself, as the Christian law required; but they rehearsed their grievances to the junior bishop. Till that day, no two bishops had cultivated a more perfect amity, or displayed a more cordial unity of aim, interest, and feeling. But in human nature there are I and YOU; and a class of feelings, sympathies, and desires which rally around these two pronouns; and though often apparently dormant, these special pleaders are easily waked; and when awaked, are the most sleepless and observant lynxes in nature.

      The frequent appeals to the junior bishop to interpose for them and defend them, originated between himself and his co-pastor ungracious suspicions that he was becoming the organ and tool of a party, rather than displaying the character of a bishop of the church. A lack of prudence, indeed, seemed to be all that was wanting on the part of the junior in the first instance; but in a short time, imperceptibly even to himself, he became the special pleader of the disaffected, and opposer of his senior and more experienced brother; till at length, in open day, and before the church and the world, they appeared opposing one another. The congregation finally split into two halves. The senior bishop had his church, and the junior had his church. Then all the churches in the district of Palmyra, to the number of more than half a hundred, became involved in the affair--some siding, with the senior [68] and some with the junior bishop and their parties; till finally two distinct associations were formed--two rival altars and institutions erected, which continued to the great injury of the gospel in those regions for more than one hundred and seventy years. Meanwhile, other partisan views, opinions, and proceedings nurtured and strengthened the ancient enmity, and the original cause was soon forgotten, being concealed behind more plausible offences from the eye of both parties.

      Who, that now surveys with impartial eyes the ruins of the churches of the Palmy City, cannot trace them all to the indiscretion of the first complainant in going to the wrong person, and of that person in not directing him to make his complaints to him against whom they were concerned, and whose duty it was either to justify himself or abandon his measures.

      How many discords, strifes, enmities, and divisions have grown up in the same way! Let us then, brethren, guard against embryo heresy, and destroy the hydra in the egg.

A. C.      

[The Millennial Harbinger (February 1840): 68-69.]


      Alexander Campbell's "Embryo Heresy" was first published in The Millennial Harbinger, New Series, Vol. 4, No. 2, February 1840. The electronic version of the essay has been produced from the College Press reprint (1976) of The Millennial Harbinger, ed. Alexander Campbell (Bethany, VA: A. Campbell, 1840), pp. 68-69.

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

            Printed Text [ Electronic Text
 p. 68:     their grivances [ their grievances
            becoming [ becoming

      Addenda and corrigenda are earnestly solicited.

Ernie Stefanik
Derry, PA

Created 25 June 1998.
Updated 7 July 2003.

Alexander Campbell Embryo Heresy (1840)

Back to Alexander Campbell Page
Back to Restoration Movement Texts