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A. S. Hayden
Early History of the Disciples (1875)


C H A P T E R   I.


Debates with Walker and McCalla--The Christian Baptist--The
      Mahoning Association--Creed and Constitution--Memorable
      Sermon by A. Campbell--Biographies of Elder Thomas Campbell,
      and of A. Campbell.

A MONG the causes operating to bring about a scriptural reform among the churches on the Western Reserve, the following chain of events claims a prominent place:

      In the month of June, 1820, a discussion was held in Mt. Pleasant, Ohio, between A. Campbell, founder and principal of the Buffalo Academy, Va., and Rev. John Walker, a minister of acknowledged ability among the Seceders. The discussion, taken down and published, was a marked event of the times. Mr. Campbell had already considerable reputation for scholarship and ability, and for his advocacy of the Christian religion as unfolded in the Bible, as distinguished from its embodiment in the creeds and denominationalism of the day. Some of the more cautious of the Baptist ministers, with whom he then had a standing, were startled by the boldness and novelty of some of his views, especially in respect to the nature and claims of the Law of Moses, as propounded in his famous sermon on that subject before the Redstone Association in 1816. A large [18] majority, however, listened to his views and reasonings with instructed approbation.

      Among the more liberal in sentiment was Adamson Bentley, pastor of the Baptist church in Warren, Ohio. He had read the debate with Walker. Forming a high estimate of Mr. Campbell's powers, and rightly judging that God had raised him up for a great work, he resolved at the earliest opportunity to make his personal acquaintance.

      A providential opportunity soon came for him to fulfill his purpose. Called into Kentucky on a mission for the churches, he returned by Mr. Campbell's residence. Sidney Rigdon was with him. The following is Mr. Campbell's account of their interview:

      "After tea in the evening, we commenced and prolonged our discourse till the next morning. Beginning with the baptism that John preached, we went back to Adam, and forward to the judgment. The dispensations or covenants--Adamic, Abrahamic, Jewish and Christian--passed and repassed before us. Mount Sinai in Arabia, Mount Zion, Mount Calvary, Mount Tabor, the Red Sea and the Jordan, the Passovers and the Pentecosts, the Law and the Gospel--but especially the ancient order of things and the modern--occasionally commanded and engaged our attention.

      "On parting the next day, Sidney Rigdon, with all apparent candor, said, if he had within the last year taught and promulgated from the pulpit one error he had a thousand. At that time he was the great orator of the Mahoning Association--though in authority with the people second always to Adamson Bentley. I found it expedient to caution them not to begin to pull down any thing they had builded, until they had reviewed, again and again, what they had heard; nor even then rashly and without [19] much consideration. Fearing that they might undo their influence with the people, I felt constrained to restrain, rather than urge them forward in the work of reformation.

      "With many an invitation to visit the Western Reserve, and with many an assurance of a full and candid hearing on the part of the uncommitted community, and an immediate access to the ears of the Baptist churches within the sphere of their influence, we took the parting hand. They went on their way rejoicing, and in the course of a single year prepared the whole association to hear us with earnestness and candor."

      Investigations of Bible truth led to liberality of views among the people, and especially in the Baptist churches. The Mahoning Association was founded on the Philadelphia Confession of Faith as its organic law. But this system of doctrine did not receive the cordial consent of all. Discussions were common among the ministry and the members on the law as a rule of life for Christians--whether it was ever binding on Gentiles--the nature of faith--and the necessity for any other rules of faith or church articles besides the Holy Scriptures. As the light came apace, many became convinced that much reformation was needed to bring the churches up to the New Testament models.

      It is probably illogical to refer this movement toward reform, so wide and so active, to any one leading impulse. As in all similar general movements which have become permanent, it is probably more correct to assign the result to several concurrent causes. The peculiar character of the population of the Western Reserve, mostly from New England, with a liberal intermingling of people from [20] other States, resulting in comparisons, often in collisions of views, was a powerful stimulus to investigation. Yet history would not be faithful to omit, as among the most direct evident causes and guides in this increasing demand for a restoration of the divinely established order of the Gospel, the writings and personal labors of Alexander Campbell. His debate with Rev. John Walker, published in 1821, and that with Rev. W. L. McCalla, which appeared in 1824, distinguished by freedom from conventional forms of belief, and by their boldness and clearness of exposition of Scripture, served in some sort as a warrant to others equally inclined but less bold to burst the denominational shell in which they felt themselves confined.

      Added to these the "Christian Baptist," to which the preface was written the 4th of July, 1823, went forth monthly to advocate definitely and distinctively the restoration of the apostolic teaching and practice in all things; in faith, conversion, baptism, the office of the Holy Spirit, church order, and, summarily, every thing authorized by Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of the Christian religion.

      Many were prepared to welcome the "Christian Baptist" when it first appeared. In the winter of 1822-3, Elder Bentley discoursed frequently on such themes as "The Law," "The Scriptures a Sufficient Guide," etc. Jacob Osborne, though young, was active and influential in promoting this search of the word for "things new and old." Sidney Rigdon added the persuasions of a very commanding and popular eloquence. Joseph Freeman, a promising young Baptist minister, who had spent some time in [21] Mr. Campbell's seminary, made a tour of preaching in the winter of 1823-4, helping forward the tide now setting in toward Jerusalem. His worthy father also, the pious Elder Rufus Freeman, though never fully committed to follow the Apostles whithersoever they go, yet took the liberal side in frequent discourses: Nor should the name of Edward Scofield be omitted as one of the same class. Besides these, many of less public note, as Deacon Rudolph, of Garrettsville; Jesse Hall, of Hubbard; Benjamin Ross, of Youngstown; David Hays and William Dean, of Canfield, with many others whose names are in the Lamb's Book of Life, were hoping and laboring for a better day.

      This was especially true of the younger class of preachers, whose intellectual and religious activities were more ready for the coming investigations; such men as Marcus Bosworth, William Hayden, Darwin Atwater, Zeb Rudolph, John Applegate, Nathan Porter, and William Collins.

      The disallegiance to creeds and confessions, and confidence in the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures, gained steady advancement. The Baptist church of Nelson, organized in 1808, by Elder Thos. G. Jones, was composed of members scattered over the territory of Nelson, Hiram, and a part of Mantua. So thoroughly satisfied had many of its members become of the detriment of the Confession of Faith to mature Christian manhood, that at a meeting of this church, held August 24, 1824, a resolution was passed, nearly unanimously, "to remove the Philadelphia Confession of Faith and the Church Articles, and to take the Word of God for our Rule of [22] Faith and Practice." The two classes of views on the step thus taken were on the alert to maintain their ground. The brethren leading on this reform were Deacon John Rudolph, his two sons John and Zeb, and Darwin Atwater. The opposition was led by Mrs. Garrett, whose skill in fencing, shrewdness, and determination, united with piety and talent, put her forward without an effort of hers, as the counselor and manager of the cause of the dissidents. She was a lady of culture and intelligence, well skilled in the "doctrines of grace" and the methods of their defense. She was a daughter of Rev. Dr. Jones, a Baptist minister, who held a chaplaincy under General Washington in the Revolutionary War. She lived to a great age. She was a prodigy of memory, displaying to the last the most accurate retention of names, dates, and events.

      The meeting of the association came close after this action of the church in Nelson. The church appointed Elder Rufus Freeman, its pastor; James Rudolph and Darwin Atwater as her messengers to that body. As no counteraction could be taken by the opposing members with any show of authority, Mrs. Garrett wrote a letter warning the association not to receive these messengers. No notice was taken of her letter, and the messengers were received. The next year, 1825, the association convened in Palmyra. Both parts of the church sent messengers, and all were received. For the reforming brethren they were: Jacob Osborne, ordained minister, John Rudolph and John Rudolph, Jr. In behalf of those holding the "Articles," Joshua Maxon, Martin Manly, and Joseph Tinker. [23]

      It will be readily seen in these movements of the churches, the origin of the queries which were sent to the association at Hubbard. They were received, entered on record, but held under advisement a whole year. In the minutes of its meeting in Palmyra, 1825, the answers are given. The questions and answers are put together here. This was Mr. Campbell's first appearance in the Mahoning Association:

      "Answers to the queries from the church at Nelson.

      "Query 1. Will this association hold in its connection a church which acknowledges no other rule of faith and practice than the Scriptures?

      "Ans. Yes. On satisfactory evidence that they walk according to this rule.

      "Query 2. In what manner were members received into the churches that were set in order by the Apostles?

      "Ans. Those who believed and were baptized were added to the church.

      "Query 3. How were members excluded from those churches?

      "Ans. By a vote of the brethren.

      "Answer to the query from New Lisbon.

      "Query. Is it scriptural to license a brother to administer the word, and not the ordinances?

      "Ans. We have no such custom taught in the scriptures.

      "Answer to the query from Randolph, viz.:

      Can associations in their present modifications find their model in the New Testament?

      "Ans. Not exactly."

      The tendency of religious inquiry is here clearly exhibited. The source also of some of the answers [24] is discernible. The answer to the last one at least is authoritatively attributed to Mr. Campbell. The wisdom of it, admitting the need of a scriptural reformation, yet carefully avoiding direct collision with the tenacious elders, was commented on at the time as evidence of his prudence in counsel.


      ASSOCIATIONS among the Baptists are voluntary unions of churches, for mutual encouragement, for counsel in church affairs, and for protection against heresy and impostors. Each church is entitled to three representative messengers, who bring with them a written statement of its creed. If this document is orthodox, or in harmony with its accepted standards of faith, the church is received by a plurality vote, upon which the moderator gives the right hand of fellowship to its messengers, and bids them to a seat.

      The Mahoning Association was formed on Wednesday, the 30th of August, 1820. There is something curious, if not significant, in the fact that in those days the associations took their names from rivers: Thus we had the Beaver Association, the Grand River Association; one bears the name of Huron, another is called Stillwater; and the Mahoning River is equally honored.

      Another circumstance: Baptist churches were in the habit of assuming names having a sentimental or historical import. Thus the church of Warren was called "Concord;" that in Nelson "Bethesda"--probably in allusion to John v: 2, and the [25] healing of the helpless by the compassionate Redeemer. The church in Youngstown took the name "Zoar," significantly reminding its members that when the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven, Lot found safety by fleeing from destruction, and entering into Zoar. Gen. xix: 23, 24. A church on the Sandy was known as the "Valley of Achor," teaching us that admission into it was entrance into a "door of hope." Hosea ii: 15. The church in Hubbard was "Mount Hope." "Bethel" is met with in several associations.

      These and others are found on the records of their history. It is important to know them, not only as showing a habit of that people, but as explanatory of some things in the history.

      The constitution of the "Mahoning Baptist Association" declares:

      "It is our object to glorify God. This we would endeavor to do by urging the importance of the doctrine and precepts of the gospel in their moral and evangelical nature, commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God; not pretending to have authority over any man's [conscience,] nor over the churches, whose representatives form this association. But we act as an advisory counsel only, disclaiming all superiority, jurisdiction, coercive right and infallibility; and acknowledging the independence of every church; which has received authority from Christ to perform all duties enjoined respecting the government of his church in this world."

      If ecclesiastical authority was vested in the association, it will be seen that it existed in a very mild form. It was not constituted as a court of appeal. [26] It assumed no judicial nor executive powers over the churches. It existed as an "advisory council" merely, and for the custodial charge of "the doctrine" and "the precepts" of the gospel. What the association meant by "the doctrine" and "the precepts" of the gospel will be apparent a little further on when we give its "creed," for the conservation of which the framers of its constitution deemed it important to compact the churches into this union. It is safe to say that of all the forms of modern ecclesiasticism, the association was the least liable to complaint, as it contained the greatest liberty with the least "coercive" restraint upon the conscience. It is to be lamented that all bodies are liable to transcend their constitutional limits, and in some States the association has been made an engine of usurpation and tyranny, of which the "Star Chamber" in its healthiest day might have been emulous. The "Beaver Anathema," the "Appomattox and Dover Decrees" of Pennsylvania and of Virginia, are ample confirmations of the truth of this statement, as also the tortuous and vindictive policy of the Redstone Association. But those outbursts of clerical intolerance were spasmodic and unauthorized, resulting in far greater damage to the actors in those scenes of persecution, than to the disciples against whom their fulminations of power were directed.

      The creed of the association is thus set forth in its constitution:

      "The doctrine of this association is as follows:

      "1. Three persons in the Godhead--the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one. 1 John v: 7. [27]

      "2. Eternal and personal election to holiness, and the adoption of children by Jesus Christ the Redeemer. Eph. i: 4, 5.

      "3. The condemnation of all mankind in consequence of Adam's transgression. Rom. v: 16, 18.

      "4. The depravity of all mankind, in all the faculties of the soul, the understanding, will, and affections. Col. 1:18; Acts xxvi: 18; Eph. iv. 18, 23; John v: 40; Rom. viii. 7.

      "5. Particular redemption by the blood of Jesus Christ. Rom. v: 9; Isa. xxxv. 10; John vi: 37, 39.

      "6. Pardon of all sin through the merits of Christ's blood to all true believers. 1 John i: 7; Col. i: 14; Acts x: 43.

      "7. Free justification by the righteousness of Christ imputed to all true believers. Jer. xxxiii: 6; 1 Cor. 1: 30; Rom. ix: 5, 18, 19.

      "8. The irresistible power of the Holy Ghost in regeneration. Eph. ii: 1; John i: 13.

      "9. The perseverance of the saints in grace, by the power of God unto eternal life. John x: 27, 28, 29; Col. iii: 3, 9; John x: 29.

      "10. Water baptism, by immersion of the whole body of the party, so as to be buried with Christ by baptism; and not by sprinkling or pouring, as the manner of some is. Mark i: 9, 10; John iii: 23; Acts viii: 38, 39; Rom. vi: 4; Col. ii: 12; Heb. x: 22.

      "11. The subjects of baptism: those who repent of their sins and believe in Christ, and openly confess faith in the Son of God. Matt. iii: 8; Acts viii: 37; x: 47.

      "12. The everlasting punishment of the finally impenitent in as unlimited sense as the happiness of the righteous. Matt. xxv: 41-46; Mark iii: 29; Rev. xiv: 11.

      "13. We believe that the first day of the week is the [28] Lord's day, and that it ought to be held sacred to the memory of Christ's glorious resurrection, and devoted in a special manner to the duties of religion.

      "Finally, we believe the Holy Scriptures to be the only certain rule of faith and practice."

      The Mahoning Association was formed from the Beaver, and in this statement of its faith it copied, without change, that of the Beaver Association.

      It is remarkable that while the association declared fully its creed in its constitution, each church was at liberty to form its own creed, only provided its declaration of doctrine agreed in sentiment with that of the association. It seemed to be much trouble to "fix" this business. A creed mania prevailed, and the churches vied with each other in fencing out heresy, and fencing in their orthodoxy with walls broad and high, built of the "soundest" material of Christendom. Their Calvinism was the diamond of "purest ray serene." They sought to eliminate all gaseous and volatile elements from the mixture. They aimed to form a compound of belief so pure, doctrinally, and so translucent, that it should resist the action of the elements and never more be subject to corrosion or decay.

      Alas! for all human hope! Revolution stops not to unbuild. It often sweeps the foundation of many a massive structure, and with it its admired turret, cope, and dome. When it became apparent that these belabored theories of divine grace and of human regeneration were not the gospel delivered over to the Holy Twelve, it mattered little how sound, or firm, or beautiful. They were in the way. They were "stumbling blocks" in the way of the [29] union of the Lord's people. Remove them, saith the prophet. Isa. lvii: 14.

      As a specimen of the orthodox belief which could pass the gate unchallenged, I append two articles of the creed of one of the strong churches of the association. It is the articles of belief of the Church of Youngstown, called "Zoar." This creed was copied by several other churches, evidently because the tone of its ring showed it to be pure metal. The whole creed of this church is elaborated in thirteen articles of great length and precision:

      "8. We believe that the work of regeneration, conversion, sanctification, and belief is not an act of man's free will and power, but of the mighty, efficacious, and irresistible grace of God.

      "9. We believe that all those who are chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sanctified by the Spirit, shall certainly and finally persevere; so that not one of them shall ever perish, but shall have everlasting life."

      Does the reader weary under its length and ponderous terms? What think you, then, of the patience of the saints of those days, who, four times a year, sat uncovered and reverent to hear it all; nay, whose pity is not awakened for the new converts, the lambs, who must hear it over, and profess belief in each and every item of it! When Philip said to the eunuch "If thou believest with all thy heart thou mayest"--as he had never seen and mastered this confession, nor any other of modern orthodoxy--it is certain he simply called for the convert's faith in Jesus Christ as alone sufficient for obedience and all the demands of a new life.

      It is cheering to know that ever since the great [30] Saxon sounded the note of liberty of conscience, every new body is more and more liberal, approaching gradually to the primitive order of the gospel of Christ. The Mahoning Association was no exception. It was far more tolerant than its ecclesiastical ancestors, the Redstone and the Wooster Associations. As proof, in 1824, she admitted the church of Wellsburg, Virginia, with a statement of belief containing not one hint of the "doctrines of grace," commonly known as Calvinism! In that year the church of Wellsburg was formed, the members having been dismissed for that purpose from the church of Brush Run, and it sought admission into the Mahoning Association. It appointed A. Campbell, John Brown, and George Young its messengers to carry the church letter and to ask admission.

      The statement of belief which these messengers bore to the association, was written by Mr. Campbell, who himself did not attend its meeting, wishing to be present at the Redstone Association, where a coalition was forming against him on account of his published views of reformation.

      The statement of belief here follows, copied from the records of the association, which met that year in Hubbard:


      "We have agreed to walk together in obedience to the authority and institution of our Lord and King, as exposed in the form of sound words delivered unto us by the apostles, evangelists, and prophets of the Savior, and recorded in the Holy Scriptures of the volume called the New Testament. Our views of this volume are briefly [31] these:---We believe that the whole Christian religion is fully and explicitly developed in it, and that nothing is ever to be added thereto, either by any new revelations of the Spirit, or by any doctrines or commandments of men; but that it is, as presented to us, perfectly adapted to all the wise and holy ends of its all-wise and benevolent Author.

      "From this volume, with the Old Testament Scripture, which we also receive as of divine inspiration and authority, we learn every thing necessary to be known of God, his works of creation, providence and redemption; and considering the Old Testament as containing the Jew's religion as fully as the New contains the Christian, we avail ourselves of both as containing every thing profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and instruction in righteousness, to make the man of God perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work. But we adhere to the New, as containing the whole Christian religion. The New teaches us--and we solemnly declare our belief of it--that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, the Savior, which was to come into the world; that died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day from the dead, and ascended to the right hand of the Majesty on high; that after his ascension he sent down the Holy Spirit to convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, by giving testimony of the Savior, and by confirming the word of the apostles by signs, and miracles, and spiritual gifts; that every one that believeth by means of the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and the power of God, is born of God, and overcometh the world, and hath eternal life abiding in him; that such persons; so born of the Spirit, are to receive the washing of water as well as the renewal of the Holy Spirit in order to admission into the Church of the living God.

      "And that such being the natural darkness and enmity [32] of the children of men, and their hearts so alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them and by their wicked works, none can enter into this kingdom of heaven but in consequence of the regeneration or renewal of the Holy Spirit. For it is now, as it ever was, that only to as many as received Him, who are born not of blood, nor the will of the flesh, but of God, does He give power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in His name. For we are born again not of corruptible seed, but by the incorruptible seed of the word of God, which abideth forever.

      "Our views of the Church of God are also derived from the same source, and from it we are taught that it is a society of those who have believed the record that God gave of His Son: that this record is their bond of union; that after a public profession of this faith, and immersion into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, they are to be received and acknowledged as brethren for whom Christ died. That such a society has a right to appoint its own bishops and deacons, and to do all and every thing belonging to a church of Christ, independent of any authority under heaven."

      This document is especially noticeable for--

      Its manly independence;

      Its freedom from technicality and creed verbiage;

      Its comprehension of the whole matter of faith and obedience to Christ;

      Its marked exaltation of the Holy Scriptures; Its assertion of their absolute sufficiency for all Christian purposes;

      Its discrimination between the Jewish and Christian portions of the Bible;

      Its declaration of the necessity of personal regeneration; [33]

      Its recognition of the Holy Spirit as the agent of that change;

      Its affirmation of the power of the gospel as the means of faith and conversion;

      Its repudiation of all human authority over the churches;

      Finally, that it contains the germs of the religious reformation about being initiated, and which has since spread so wonderfully in the world.

      In August, 1826, the Mahoning Baptist Association was held in Canfield, then in Trumbull County. It convened in a barn belonging to David Hays, who was a pillar in the church. Adamson Bentley was the moderator, and Joab Gaskill, clerk.

      Among the ministers in attendance were A. Bentley; Thomas Campbell and Alexander Campbell, of Virginia; Walter Scott, of Pittsburgh; Sidney Rigdon, Thomas Miller, William West, Corbly Martini, and Jacob Osborne.

      It was customary in the association to have preaching for the public while the messengers were transacting business. A. Campbell preached on Saturday. Disapproving of all priestly style, either in language, mien, or garb, he was dressed in a plain suit of drab. He stood up as a man--a Christian man--rather than as a "minister," to teach the Christian religion as he read it in the Scriptures. His manner impressed even youth with his superiority. He was somewhat emaciated, suffering from dyspepsia. His subject was the 7th chapter of Romans: a deep subject, but his exhibition of it was so lucid and instructive that he riveted attention to the close.

      The meeting, Saturday, ended with a baptism. [34] The congregation retired over a lawn of velvet and green to a stream near by, flowing among rocks, and skirted by a grove. They proceeded to the water singing, and returned in the same manner.

      The Congregational meeting-house, at the center of the town, was procured for Sunday. At a very early hour it was filled, and many around it endeavored to hear. Rigdon and Scott preached in the morning. Some having heard the eloquent preacher from Pittsburgh, left the meeting, supposing they had heard Mr. Campbell, whose name had already become famous. Mr. Campbell followed after a brief recess. He founded his discourse on Malachi iv: 2: "Unto you that fear my name, shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings." He announced his theme, "The Progress of revealed Light." His discourse abounded in thoughts so fresh, he made his theme so luminous and instructive, that the most rapt attention followed him throughout the delivery.

      Seizing on the evident analogy between light and knowledge, and using the former, as the Scripture every-where does, as a metaphor for the latter, the eloquent preacher exhibited the gradual and progressive unfolding of divine revelation under four successive periods of development, which he characterized as, 1st, The Starlight Age; 2d, The Moonlight Age; 3d, The Twilight Age; 4th, The Sunlight Age; and employed these respectively to explain, 1st, The Patriarchal; 2d, The Jewish Dispensation; 3d, The ministry of John the Baptist, with the personal ministry of the Lord on the earth; and, 4th, The full glory of the perfect system of [35] salvation under the apostles when the Holy Spirit was poured out on them, after the ascension and coronation of Jesus as Lord of all. Under his remarks, and applications of his theme, the whole Bible became luminous with a light it never before seemed to possess. The scope of the whole book appeared clear and intelligible; its parts were so shown to be in harmony with each other, and with the whole, that the exhibition of the subject seemed little else to many than a new revelation, like a "second sun risen on mid-noon," shedding a flood of light on a book hitherto looked upon as dark and mysterious. The style of the preacher was plain, common sense, manly. His argumentation was sweeping, powerful, and convincing; and above all, and better, his manner of preaching formed so pleasing and instructive a contrast with the customary style of taking a text merely, or of sermonizing, in which mystery prevailed and the "darkness" became "visible," that the assembly listened to the last of a long address scarcely conscious of the lapse of time. At the conclusion of the sermon, after dwelling with earnest and thrilling eloquence on the glory of the gospel dispensation, the consummation of all the revelations of God, the Sun of righteousness "now risen with healing in his wings," putting an end to the moonlight and starlight ages, he proceeded:

      "The day of light, so illustrious in its beginning, became cloudy. The Papacy arose and darkened the heavens for a long period, obscuring the brightness of the risen glory of the Sun of righteousness so that men groped in darkness. By the reformation of the 17th century that dark cloud was broken in fragments; and though the [36] heavens of gospel light are still obscured by many clouds--the sects of various names--the promise is that 'at evening-time it shall be light.' The primitive gospel, in its effulgence and power, is yet to shine out in its original splendor to regenerate the world."

      That discourse was never forgotten. It never will be. It formed an era in respect to the gospel on the Western Reserve. The shell of sect-sermons was broken. The Bible was a new book; its meaning could be comprehended; its language could be understood.

      Early in August, 1823, was issued from Buffalo Creek, Va., (now Bethany), the first number of the "Christian Baptist." It was edited by Alex. Campbell. It was a monthly, devoted to the promulgation, exposition and defense of the Christian religion as it is expressly revealed in the New Testament. Its bold exposition of prevailing errors, and uncompromising defense of the "faith once delivered to the saints," will be at once perceived by the Scripture motto which stood at the head of every monthly number for the whole seven years it continued to be published:

      "Style no man on earth your father; for He alone is your father who is in heaven; and all ye are brethren. Assume not the title of Rabbi; for ye have only one teacher: neither assume the title of leader, for ye have only one leader, the Messiah:" instructions of the Lord Messiah, in Matth. xxiii: 8, 9.

      The sentiments and positions of the "Christian Baptist" were so fresh, so free from the shackles of doctrinal form peculiar to any sect, so rational, manifestly so scriptural, and enforced by abilities so varied, and commanding, that the work increased its [37] circulation every year. It paid no deference to reigning customs. Following its motto, it owned no master, no leader, but Christ. Its editor was unsparing in his denunciations of the clergy, who, as he averred, had usurped the thrones of the Holy Twelve. The exclusive right of the inspired apostles to the twelve thrones, of Christendom, was asserted and vindicated with great power. It was the peculiar feature of the "Christian Baptist" that it put forth no doctrinal basis on which to unite the disciples of Christ, except what the apostles proclaimed at the beginning.

      The boldness of its bugle-blast of reform startled the slumbering camps of the half-sleeping Israel. Gideon's cake, which smote the tent and laid it all along in ruins, was not more significant nor decisive in its portent of the issues of the coming contest.

      Mr. Campbell's visits to the Western Reserve, not only at the annual gatherings of the associations, but at the ministers' meetings also, gave great impulse to the views of reform propounded in his periodical, and thus prepared the way for a mighty breaking up in things ecclesiastic, and the revolution soon to follow. These ministers' meetings among the Baptist preachers were much the same as the preachers' associations more recently established among the Disciples. It seems, from best obtainable information, that Elder Adamson Bentley was chiefly instrumental in establishing them. Being himself a gentleman of culture, possessed of more than the average education and reading existing among the Baptist clergymen of that day--having, with other advantages, had the benefits of association with the celebrated Dr. Stoughton of Philadelphia--he felt the need of [38] elevating the standard of ministerial qualification among his Baptist brethren. He accordingly encouraged them to meet statedly for mutual improvement.

      In June, 1821, the ministers' meeting was held in Warren. Mr. Campbell attended, and this was probably his first visit to the Western Reserve. His reputation had preceded him. William Hayden and many others came to the meeting, desiring to hear him and make his acquaintance.

      When Hayden entered the house, Mr. Campbell was speaking. He had never seen him, but was familiar with his name and his history. "Who is that?" he said to himself--"so tall and straight, with such piercing eyes! What a shrill, penetrating voice! That must be Campbell." So he thought and so it was. He was far in advance of the preachers present in learning, ability, and acquaintance with the Christian institution, yet he declined asserting any superiority among them, leaving them the fullest liberty of discourse and investigation.

      Some one propounded the question "Whether the apostolic preaching and mode of establishing churches is an example binding on us?" "Certainly," responded Mr. Campbell in his turn, "in all cases possible." The subject of election, a doctrine held by all the Baptist ministry, came up for remark, as one of the sermons was under review. Mr. Campbell affirmed "that preaching the doctrine of election never converted a single sinner to God." "Astonishing!" retorted Elder Freeman, "Astonishing!" "Where, are they?" inquired Mr. Campbell. Mr. Freeman replied, "all around you!" "I very much [39] doubt it," responded Mr. Campbell; adding, "you have preached election, foreordination, effectual calling and perseverance; and along with it you have held up the love of God to lost sinners, the death of Christ for their salvation, his resurrection for their justification, the final judgment and eternal glory: sinners were converted, and you have attributed it to the Calvinistic 'doctrines of grace.'"

      The right interpretation of the Scriptures; that they were to be understood; that the same rules of interpretation were to be applied to them, as to other writings; that no new rules were to be coined for their benefit; that they were not to be applied to the building up of any sect; that the word of God, rightly interpreted and applied, would put an end to religious controversy, and restore the primitive union of the church; these, and kindred themes, as novel to many as they were convincing, came up in statement and illustration.

      It is necessary in opening this history to present a short biography of some of the men through whose instrumentality God led his people into a clearer knowledge of his "ancient paths." They were men of no mean abilities, and descended from a race not unknown in history. The Campbell clan of Scotland and the North of Ireland was once the most numerous and among the most powerful of the races which in feudal times disputed for the mastery of Scotland. Inheriting the high, ambitious, and cherished traditional honors of such an ancestry, when the heroic Knox rescued that mountain land from the grasp of Romanism, and established there the Genevan reformation, they enlisted in the defense of [40] Presbyterianism with all the enthusiasm which, in former times, distinguished the tournament and the profession of arms; and even when that form of religion was shattered by the shock of religious strife, and riven into fragmentary sects, the world witnessed, on another theater, a display of the characteristic qualities of this race of noble men:


      THOMAS CAMPBELL,1 father of Alexander Campbell, descended from the Campbells of Argyleshire. He was born in County Down, near Newry, Ireland, February 1, 1763. He was the oldest of four sons. His father, Archibald Campbell, who served as a soldier in the British Army under General Wolfe, and who was at the capture of Quebec, gave him and his three brothers, James, Archibald, and Enos, the advantages of culture and an English education in a military academy.

      Thomas Campbell began in early life to exhibit the serious and meditative dispositions of heart which in all his life were so manifest to all who knew him. The rigid formalities of the Episcopal Church, of which his father was a strict member, failed to satisfy the deeply religious feelings, which were early awakened in him. He fled to the gospels. He found more congenial, spiritual aliment among the warm-hearted and zealous Seceders. Among this people--a branch of the Presbyterian Church, a secession from the Kirk of Scotland--he became deeply anxious for his soul's salvation. He passed through mental struggles of indescribable anguish. The coveted peace at length dawned on his soul, and in the raptures of [41] gratitude for so great a deliverance, he resolved to consecrate himself to the public service of the blessed Redeemer, to whom his soul now clung with the ardors of a most devoted love. He was soon rapidly on the road to the ministry. Being an excellent English scholar, he engaged for awhile in teaching. In the University of Glasgow he completed the usual classical studies, and also a course in medicine and lectures in law. He next completed the theological course in Divinity Hall, under Archibald Bruce, D.D., a master of profound abilities, and was commissioned, under the rigid and thorough examinations of the Scotch Seceder Church, with the full credentials of the Christian ministry.

      In June, 1787, he was united in marriage to Miss Jane Corneigle, whose ancestors were of the French Huguenots, the Protestant reformers who were driven out of France by the bloody persecutions of the papacy under Louis XIV. She was a lady of equal dignity and gentleness, with mental and moral endowments fitted to be a queen. With this superior Christian woman, the faithful companion of all his cares and toils, Elder Thomas Campbell spent the greater part of his laborious and useful life. She was the mother of eight children, four sons and four daughters--one son dying young--and lived to impress her own virtues upon all.

      Mr. Campbell served for some time as a pastor of a church near the city of Armagh. His habits in that capacity were ordered by the same rules of exactness, thoroughness, and affectionate kindness which marked all his course in life. He visited, conversed, taught the people privately the duties of social life, prayed with them, relieved them, in which benefaction his wife was ever his cheerful assistant, and in many ways labored for the increase of the piety and the personal improvement of the people under his charge.

      He cultivated early and ever that deep reverence for [42] the Bible which made him so familiar with its meaning and its language, and, which, by exalting the word of God into such incomparable pre-eminence above all human compositions, laid the foundations for the attempt to discard all human creeds as bonds of union, and to unite all the true followers of Christ into the 'unity of the spirit and the bond of peace.' His faith was equal to any demands upon it from that infallible, divine authority. Simple trusting reliance on the Lord, and childlike obedience to all his known requirements constituted the whole of his religion practically viewed.

      An anecdote related of him by Professor Richardson, so strikingly illustrates this admirable trait of his religious life, and displays so well his calm self-possession, that I do not withhold it.

      During the political agitations, embittered by the heated antipathies of Catholics and Protestants, by which society was rent and life made insecure, "Mr. Campbell was one day preaching to a congregation, when the house was suddenly surrounded by a troop of Welsh Horse, notorious for their severities and outrages on those they conceived to be rebels. The captain, conceiving that in this remote place he had come upon a meeting of the rebels, dismounted, and in a threatening manner marched into the church. It was a moment of awful suspense. The audience were panic-stricken, expecting every moment to be subjected to the fury of the soldiers. Just at this moment, as the captain stalked up the aisle, casting fierce glances on all sides, a venerable elder sitting near Mr. Campbell called to him solemnly: 'Pray, sir!' Whereupon, in response to the call, and in a deep, unfaltering voice, he began in the language of the forty-sixth Psalm: 'Thou, O God, art our refuge and strength: a very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the depths of the sea.' No sooner was the [43] first verse uttered, then the captain paused, and, apparently impressed, bent his head, listened to the close, then bowed, and retracing his steps, mounted his horse and dashed away with his entire troop."

      Under the united duties of the care of the church, and the work of teaching, his health was impaired. A sea voyage was resolved upon as the necessary means of recovery. Accordingly on the 8th of April, 1807, after bidding an affectionate farewell to his congregation, and leaving his school in the hands of his oldest son, Alexander, he commended his family tenderly to God, and sailed out of harbor in a vessel bound for Philadelphia, into which port he entered after a prosperous voyage of thirty-five days.

      In the emigration then flowing from the old world to the shores of the United States, many of Mr. Campbell's intimate friends had preceded him to this country, and some of them, as the Hodgens and the Fosters, came soon after. Among these, Mr. Campbell found the most hospitable welcome. He began at once to urge the claims of the gospel--the undivided gospel of God upon the people. His charitable spirit, with his able expositions of Scripture, drew around him the pious of different church communions. As no reason appeared for their separation, but rather many for their union in worship and work on Bible principles, they agreed to form an association of Christians, to meet statedly for personal advancement in knowledge and duty. They soon felt the importance of diffusing for the good of others those principles which they found so congenial to the word of God, and such an enlargement of their own hearts. Thus come into being the "Christian Association," of Washington, Pa., which issued the very first document of this reformation, which now girdles the globe, and holds a membership of five or six hundred thousand souls! That document written by Elder Thomas Campbell, is a pamphlet of 56 pages, titled [44] "Declaration and Address of the Christian Association of Washington, Pa." It is a remarkable production--for its catholicity, its supreme exaltation of the word of God, its clear, unequivocal statement of the true and only practical ground of union, and its enunciation of all the principles of this rising religious movement. It came from the press in the autumn of 1809.

      In the same fall he was joined by his family. For more than forty years he plead for the religion of Christ among men. He traveled extensively, and was every-where listened to with marked attention for his distinguished abilities, and for the dignity and urbanity of his manners. He died at the age of ninety-one, honored of all.


      "ALEXANDER CAMPBELL was born September 12th, 1788, in the County of Antrim, Ireland. But though born in reland, his ancestors were, on one side, of Scotch origin, and on the other, descended from the Huguenots, in France. Inheriting a vigorous and well-balanced physical and mental constitution, and trained from his earliest years, by his learned and accomplished father, to habits of severe application, he grew up to manhood a constant and laborious student--completing his course of education in the University of Glasgow. Blessed with an exceedingly intellectual and pious parentage, and reared in one of the strictest schools of Presbyterianism, he early formed and cultivated habits of piety and a taste for theological studies, which gave shape to his entire life. A profound reverence for the Word of God, was a marked feature of the character alike of the boy and of the man.

      "Coming to this country in 1809, and settling in Western Pennsylvania--whither his father had preceded him-- [45] he closely scanned the condition of religious society. Both father and son became deeply impressed with a conviction of the evils and inherent sinfulness of sectarianism. Their first movement, as reformers, was the repudiation of human creeds as tests of fellowship, and a proposal to unite all the disciples of Jesus in one church, with the Bible as the only authoritative standard of faith and practice. Pursuing the study of the Scriptures, as free as possible from party bias, they, and those in association with them, were soon convinced that infant membership in the church, and sprinkling, were unauthorized of God. They were accordingly immersed, on a confession of faith in the Son of God, and united with the regular Baptists--stipulating, however, that they should not be required to subscribe to any creed or articles of faith other than the Bible. The prejudice and passion of some excitable and intolerant men who then held a leading influence in the Redstone Association, rendered it prudent for Mr. Campbell to withdraw, after a few years, from that connection. Against his own wishes, he was compelled by the force of ecclesiastical opposition, to act separately from the Baptists, seeking fellowship only with those who were willing to be governed by the Bible alone. Thus cut loose from his former connections, and with a fierce opposition stirred up against him, he gave himself supremely to the advocacy and defense of his plea for a return to primitive Christianity. For half a century he gave his strength to this work, making tributary to it all his treasures of learning and eloquence. For forty years--from 1823 to 1863--he never failed to publish, monthly, a religious magazine, laden with varied information, rich thought, keen argument, and pious sentiment. This was published, the first seven years, under the name of The Christian Baptist. In 1830, it appeared in enlarged form, under the title of The Millennial Harbinger. These publications, although enriched with contributions from many gifted pens, were principally occupied with [46] editorial essays; and on this mainly depended their popularity and power. The earlier years of his editorial career were distinguished by lively and earnest controversy--the arguments and criticisms of his opponents being given in full on his pages, and the replies exhibiting a completeness of information on the topics discussed, ripeness of judgment, strength of argument, keenness of retort, and withering exposures of sophistry, that render them admirable models of polemical theology. Seldom is such playfulness of wit and keenness of satire joined with such gentlemanly dignity and logical power. We have always regarded the correspondence with Bishop Semple as one of the finest specimens of the epistolary style of discussion, anywhere to be found.

      "Afterwards, when the heat of controversy had somewhat abated, there is traceable, in his journalism, a gentleness and mellowness which, while admitting of no compromise with error, dealt more forbearingly with opposition, and delighted more in the sweetness of piety, and in the practical aspects of Bible doctrine. Seldom, however, even in the hottest of the strife, were sentences written unworthy of the dignity and benevolence of the religion of Jesus. We doubt, in going over these forty volumes, and noting the wide range of subjects--doctrinal, critical, ethical, historical, and literary--whether the same amount and variety of writing can be found in any controversial author with less, which when dying, he would wish to erase.

      "In addition to these forty volumes, Mr. Campbell published several other works: A Translation of the New Testament, by G. Campbell, Doddridge and Macknight, with Prefaces, Emendations and Critical Notes of his own; the Christian System; Infidelity refuted by Infidels; Baptism, its Antecedents and Consequents; a volume of Literary Addresses; a life of his father, Thomas Campbell, etc. He also held several public discussions, which were [47] reported and published: A debate on baptism in 1820, with Rev. John Walker; one on the same subject in 1823, with Rev. W. L. McCalla; one on the Evidences of Christianity in 1829, with Robert Owen; one on Roman Catholicism in 1837, with Bishop (now Archbishop) Purcell; and one on the points in dispute between Presbyterians and Reformers, in 1843, with Rev. N. L. Rice. This last discussion occupied eighteen days. He had also a written discussion with Dr. Skinner, on Universalism. In all these he maintained a high reputation for learning, dignity, and logical and critical acumen.

      "He was not less laborious as a speaker than as a writer. During all these years, he traveled extensively, traversing most of the States of the Union, and visiting Great Britain and Ireland; discoursing every-where to crowded audiences, on the great themes that occupied his heart, and coming into contact with many of the best minds of the age, from whom whatever their difference of sentiment, he constantly challenged respect and admiration. His discourses were extemporaneous, often exceeding two hours in length, but were so clear in statement, cogent in argument, rich in diction, and forcible in illustration, as to hold his auditors in rapt attention to the close. His was not the highest style of oratory. Indeed he rather despised oratory as an art, relying on the inherent attractiveness of the truths he uttered. We have known him, in his prime, stand for two hours leaning on a cane, and talk in true conversational style, with scarce a gesture in the entire discourse. But to a fine personal appearance and dignity of manner, he added a clearness of statement, a force of reasoning, a parity and sometimes a pomp of diction, a wealth of learning, a splendor of imagination, and an earnestness often rising into impassioned utterance, which clothed his pulpit efforts with a high degree of oratorical excellence. His habit of extemporaneous speaking never caused him to degenerate into [48] slovenliness of style, but sometimes led to endue diffusiveness and discursiveness.

      "In conversation, he expended, perhaps more time and strength than in pulpit discourse. Possessed of a strong social nature, and gifted with rare conversational powers, his delighted visitors hung for hours on the wisdom and eloquence of his lips. We do not compare him with Johnson or Coleridge, who, as conversationists won so great a fame. Mr. Campbell conversed on different themes, and to a widely different circle of hearers. But we doubt if any of his age excelled him in capacity to charm and instruct in the social circle. Perhaps more prejudice was dissipated, and more adherents were gained, in these daily conversations, than in his best pulpit efforts.

      "It is not designed to enter here on a consideration of the peculiar features of Mr. Campbell's teaching. Briefly, they may be sketched thus:

      "Christ, the only Master: involving a rejection of all human names and leaderships in religion. The Bible, the only authoritative book: necessitating a denial of the authority of all human creeds. The Church of Christ, as founded by him, and built by the apostles, for a habitation of the Spirit, the only divine institution for spiritual ends: logically leading to the repudiation of all sects in religion as unscriptural and dishonoring to the head of the church. Faith in Jesus, as the Christ, the Son of God, and repentance toward God, the only scriptural prerequisites to baptism and consequent church-membership; thus dismissing all doctrinal speculation and all theological dogmata, whether true or false, as unworthy to be urged as tests of fitness for membership in the church of Christ. Obedience to the divine commandments, and not correctness of opinion, the test of Christian standing. The gospel the essential channel of spiritual influence in conversion; thus ignoring all reliance on abstract and immediate influence of the Holy Spirit, and calling the attention [49] of inquirers away from dreams, visions, and impressions, which are so liable to deceive, to the living and powerful truths of the gospel, which are reliable, immutable, and eternal. The truth of the gospel, to enlighten; the love of God in the gospel, to persuade; the ordinances of the gospel, as tests of submission to the divine will: the promises of the gospel, as the evidence of pardon and acceptance; and the Holy Spirit, in and through all these, accomplishing his work of enlightening, convincing of sin, guiding the penitent soul to pardon, and bearing witness to the obedient believer, of his adoption into the family of God.

      "He was intensely Protestant, steadily cherishing through his life the cardinal principles of what is called evangelical faith and piety--the divinity of Christ, his sacrificial death, as a sin-offering, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers. A Trinitarian in sentiment, he repudiated the unscriptural technicalities of Trinitarian theology, as involving a mischievous strife of words. A devout believer in the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb of God, he would not teach, as gospel, any theory of atonement. A stout advocate of spiritual influence and special providence, he was the enemy of all theories of abstract spiritual power, as tending to ignore the word of God, and leading to a deceptive trust in psychological peculiarities as the voice of the Spirit of God. Sternly opposed to baptismal regeneration, he still insisted on the baptism of the believing penitent "for the remission of sins." Educated in Calvinism and always inclining to that school, he was so fearful of the tendency of all speculative theology, that it is difficult to trace his own proclivities on these questions anywhere in his voluminous writings. Deeply sympathizing with evangelical Protestantism, in its grand ideas and principles, he nevertheless looked on its present divided and distracted state as evidence that Protestants are only partially rescued from the great [50] apostasy; regarded the enforcement of speculative doctrines and creed authority as the tap-root of sectarianism; and insisted, through half a century, on the abandonment of party names, leaders, and symbols, to prepare the way for the union of all believers in one body; arguing that thus only leave we a right to expect the conversion of the world. He suffered much unjust reproach for a plea which, just as he was passing away, he saw rising into exceeding interest among all evangelical parties.

      "As an educator, he is entitled to the honor of successfully instituting a college course, with the Bible as a textbook, and as the basis of the entire curriculum of study. He gave the ripest years of his life to the erection and endowment of Bethany College, from which hundreds of young men have gone forth, bearing the impress of his spirit, and the molding influence of his noble Christian life.

      "In estimating the character of this illustrious man, it ought not to be forgotten that he possessed eminently practical talents. He was no recluse, shut out from sympathy with the activities of life. He was diligent in business as well as fervent in spirit, seeking to serve the Lord in the former as religiously as in the latter. He had splendid business capacity, and employed it to great advantage; so that, while traveling and preaching at his own expense, entertaining generously the throngs that gathered at Bethany, and meeting the constant demands on his purse which every public man of generous nature is plied with, he was still enabled to accumulate considerable wealth. He once told us of his standing at an early day on the site of the present city of Cleveland, when engaged with his father-in-law in locating lands. His quick perceptions took in at a glance the advantages of this site, and he urged the propriety of purchasing in a locality which it was evident would one day be a great commercial [51] center. His father-in-law did not readily accept the prophecy, and their lands were selected in Holmes County.

      "Once only did he venture on the stormy sea of politics. In 1829, at the earnest solicitation of the people of West Virginia, and with a special pledge from his friends that he should not be required to take the stump, he consented to be a candidate for a seat in the Virginia Constitutional Convention. He was elected. He bore a prominent part in the proceedings of that convention, acting on the judiciary Committee with Chief Justice Marshall, on intimate terms with ex-President Madison, and coming into conflict with John Randolph and other leading minds of Eastern Virginia, in his advocacy of the interests of the western portion of the State. In all this, he never for a moment forfeited the dignity of his character as a Christian minister.

      "His reputation was without spot. His bitterest enemies failed to find a flaw in his character for truth, integrity, and goodness. But to those who knew him well, he was most cheerful, gentle, genial, just, and devout; and as dearly beloved for his goodness as he was venerated for his greatness. It will ever be remembered to his honor, that with an almost unbounded personal influence over a religious community numbering hundreds of thousands, he never sought the least ecclesiastical control. Although the telegram from Wheeling announcing his death spoke of him as "Bishop Campbell," it will surprise many to learn that he was merely one of the bishops of the congregation meeting in Bethany, and that outside of this, he never sought and never exercised, the least ecclesiastical authority.

      "For many years he was possessed of the conviction that the year 1866 would exhaust many prophetic dates, and witness great changes in ecclesiastical and spiritual affairs. It is not unpleasant to think that this has become to him the year of years, and to his ransomed spirit will [52] unseal many of the mysteries of apocalyptic visions which, here, even his piercing intellect failed to penetrate.

      "He passed away on the Lord's day--the day in which he so much delighted, to the peace and bliss of an eternal Sabbath. In his later years, the personal dignity and official relations of the Son of God, was his constant theme of discourse. Who can imagine the reverence and rapture that shall fill his spirit when beholding the glory of Immanuel, whom, unseen, he loved so well, and at whose feet he laid, adoringly, the gifts of his nature, and the toils of his life!

      "He fell asleep in Jesus, on the 4th of March, 1866, near midnight, at his home in Bethany, West Virginia.

      "It was an event not unexpected. Coming 'in a good old age,' when his work was done, and his tired faculties craved rest from the incessant anxiety and toil of half a century; coming slowly, attended with but little suffering, allowing his last years to be spent pleasantly in the scenes he loved best, and his last hours to be cheered and soothed by the fondest ministrations of conjugal and filial affection, death appeared in a milder form, and granted a gentler descent to the tomb, than is often permitted." [53]

      1 For the materials of this sketch of this excellent man, I am chiefly indebted to Prof. Richardson's learned and admirable work, "Memoirs of A. Campbell;" to which the reader is referred for fuller information. [41]
      2 This biography of Bro. Campbell was published in the first issue of the "Christian Standard," for which it was written, by the editor, Isaac Errett. [45]


[EHD 18-53]

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Early History of the Disciples (1875)

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