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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)



I N   M E M O R I A M -- A L E X A N D E R   C A M P B E L L.


      It is already known to our readers that this eminent servant of God has gone to rest. He died at Bethany, his residence, with family and friends around him, on the 4th of March, 1866, fifteen minutes before midnight, and just at the close of the first Lord's Day of the month. He was born in the county Antrim, Ireland, parish of Broughshane, Sept. 12, 1788, and was consequently nearly eighty years old at the time of his departure. His ancestors, on both sides, migrated to Ireland from Scotland, but on his mother's side they were originally of the French Huguenots. His preparatory education was conducted with great care, under the instruction of his father, Thomas Campbell, who was himself educated at the Glasgow University, and was one of the most accurate and classical scholars, and exact and thorough disciplinarians and teachers, we have ever known. Both from father and son, we have often listened to the recital of this preparatory discipline, in which was formed that habit of laborious and thorough investigation for which Alexander was, in after years, so eminently distinguished, and we speak with assurance when we say, that but few, if any, scholars of the age in which he lived ever enjoyed finer opportunities, or improved them better than he did. From his earliest years his remarkable powers were judiciously taxed to the utmost limit of wholesome and vigorous exertion. Not only were all the resources of classical learning plied with an exhaustive industry and care, but the rich fountains of English and French literature were drawn upon, to a degree but seldom required in the education of modern scholars. The finest passages 'gin Greek, Roman, French, and English literature, both in poetry and prose, were committed to memory, and, in his late years, it was a favorite recreation of his often overtaxed powers to recite such of these as the incident of the occasion might suggest, to the delight and admiration of his companions. Even on his death-bed, rich passages, that he had committed to memory when a boy, would come to him, by some hidden association of ideas, to illustrate with their golden beauty the subject of his discourse.

      Such was the academical discipline of this remarkable man. Meantime his religious and moral training was, if with any difference, even still more thorough and severe. Speaking of his father, he [561] himself says: "His family training and discipline were peculiarly didactic, Biblical and strict. The Bible, with Brown's Catechism, was, during the minority of his family, a daily study and a daily recitation." It has indeed never been our fortune to know one who could recite so much of the Scriptures, or who seemed to have so full and off-hand a grasp of the whole text and context of the inspired writings. Like Timothy, he had known them from his youth.

      From such preparation as this, he passed to the University of Glasgow. Here he enjoyed the finest opportunities to perfect his previous studies, and to enlarge still more his knowledge of literature and science. "Professors Young and Jordan were his special friends and favorites in the university." The "Andersonian Institute" had just been founded, and he heard the first course of lectures in Natural Science, delivered by Professor D'Ure. During his college life he formed "a happy acquaintance also with Dr. Greville Ewing and Dr. Wardlaw, then very prominent actors among the Scotch Independents, as well as with Dr. Moutre, Dr. Mitchell, and others of the Presbyterian faith." These advantages were all improved to the utmost by his eager and industrious mind, and he soon rose to a nigh rank of distinction in the judgment and esteem of both the Faculty and his fellow-students.

      In 1809 he left the University of Glasgow, and migrated to the United States. He landed in New York in October of the same year, and thence came to Washington, Pa., where his father had previously (1807) settled as a minister of the gospel, under the direction of "the Presbytery of Chartiers," then attached to "the Associate Synod of North America." On his arrival at Washington, Pa., however, he found that his father had already withdrawn from said Synod, and, discarding all creeds and confessions of faith, had gathered about him a few friends, who agreed with him in the purpose of "absolute and entire rejection of human authority in matters of religion," and the resolution to stand together upon the proposition that "the Holy Scriptures are all-sufficient, and alone sufficient, as the subject-matter of faith and rule of conduct," and that, therefore, they would require nothing as a matter of faith or rule of conduct, for which they could not give a "Thus saith the Lord," either in expressed terms or approved precedent. This separation took place in 1808, and gave rise to a "Declaration and Address of the Christian Association of Washington, Pa.," written by Thomas Campbell, and in which the nature and design of the movement were set forth and presented to the public. It was passing through the press in Washington, Pa., when Alexander arrived, A. D., 1809, and his attention was first critically concentrated upon it while reading, at his father's request, the proof-sheets. [562]

      The avowed object of this movement, as set forth in this "Declaration and Address," was, "the restoration of pure, primitive, apostolic Christianity, in letter and spirit, in principle and practice." "With this exhibition," adds the venerated father, Thomas Campbell, "son Alexander was so captivated, that, although the proposed reformation was universally opposed by all professing parties, and he and his father's family were as yet unprovided with an adequate portion of worldly property, yet he was so much attached to the good cause, that he promptly declined the propitious offer of a thousand dollars a year, most kindly and urgently made by Lawyer Mountain, of Pittsburg, Pa., for undertaking the tuition of the Academy of said place, of which Mr. Mountain was a principal trustee. His reason assigned for rejecting this kind and generous offer was, that he could not possibly accomplish both, and that he felt conscientiously bound to do everything in his power, through the Divine assistance, to promote the proposed reformation, described in the aforesaid address."

      This is one among many illustrations that might be given, of the remarkable resolution and promptness with which Alexander Campbell ever took his stand on the side of what he deemed to be right, and his duty to defend. As yet, he was simply a private disciple of Christ. His avocation in life had not been chosen. He was fresh from the College of Glasgow, and with a thorough education, splendid natural endowments, and in the midst of a people where such qualifications could command their own terms of honor or emolument, there were certainly many attractions drawing him to a life of ambition and worldly fame; but he chose the true and better part, and determined at once to throw all his powers into the comparatively despised work upon which his father had, against so much discouragement, entered, and to submit the consequences to God. How wisely he chose in this noble self-consecration, let his subsequent career tell!

      At the advice and under the direction of his father, he at once devoted himself to the preparatory studies for the ministry. He abandoned all other cares, and applied his powerful and disciplined mind anew to the methodical study of the Sacred Scriptures. Meantime, his father had gathered together two small congregations, to whom he ministered, and who were agreed with him in the purpose of the proposed reformation. One of these was at Cross Roads, some six miles northwest, and the other at Brush Run, some eight miles southwest of Washington, Pa. Before the latter of these, in May, 1810, Alexander Campbell preached his first sermon, on the text, "Therefore, every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him to a wise man that built his house upon the rock. And the rains descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded [563] on the rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened to a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand; and the rains descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it" (Matt. vii. 24-27).

      The text was evidently chosen as suggestive of the proposed foundation of this new organization, and afforded a fruitful theme for the consideration of all human bases of all ecclesiastical union and fellowship. It was received with the greatest enthusiasm by the entire congregation to whom it was addressed, and resulted in an immediate and unanimous call to the ministry. At this time, his father and James Foster were the only official teachers recognized in the movement, and, the two above named congregations, the only organizations founded upon the principles set forth in the "Declaration and Address." Alexander Campbell now added the weight of his rare powers, and the excitement everywhere to hear him became intense. In the absence of church edifices, meetings were held in the open air, and the groves in valleys and upon the hilltops rang with the powerful voice of this bold and impetuous pleader for the authority of the word of God--above and against tradition, creeds, confessions of faith, and every human substitute invented to put ecclesiastic bonds upon religious freedom and Christian fellowship. Meantime these first movers in reform, were themselves reforming. They had in the beginning only adopted the principle of reformation--that is, in all things, strict conformity to the word of God. They very soon came to the agreement to break bread every first day of the week--and it was not long before they felt themselves challenged to review the whole question of baptism. "The incongruity of weekly communion and infant church membership soon became evident" to the quick and original mind of Alexander Campbell. Indeed, when he first read the third proposition of that address, he saw that the principle therein announced, must lead to the abandonment of infant baptism. It is in these words: "That in order [to church union and communion] nothing ought to be inculcated upon Christians as articles of faith, nor required of them as terms of communion, but what is expressly taught and enjoined upon them in the word of God. Nor ought anything to be admitted, as of divine obligation, in their church constitution and management, but what is expressly enjoined by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles upon the New Testament church; either in express terms, or by approved precedent." "On reading this, I asked my father," said Alexander, "in what passage or portion of the inspired oracles, he could find a precept or an express precedent for the baptism or sprinkling of infants in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. His [564] answer in substance was, 'It is merely inferential, but to the law and to the testimony we make our appeal. If not found therein, we of course must abandon it. But,' continued he, 'we could not unchurch ourselves now, and go out into the world, and then turn back again and enter the church, merely for the sake of form or decorum!' " Thus the obvious difficulty was early seen, but such are the power of education, the force of early convictions, and the great proneness in the human mind to disparage positive institutions, where there is already a consciousness of the substance of religion, that these honest, earnest, and uncompromising men stumbled long at the step which their principles clearly required them to take, and which would at once sever them forever from the great family of Pedobaptists.

      So the matter was kept under discussion, but it could not be indefinitely postponed. Meantime Alexander Campbell had formed the acquaintance of Margaret Brown, daughter of John Brown, of Brooke County, Va., and soon became the accepted applicant for her hand. He was married in March, 1811, and immediately settled at her paternal home on the waters of Buffalo Creek, the present Bethany, where he resided, without interruption, the remainder of his life. Here he continued his labors and his studies, and became more and mote impressed with the duty of being immersed, that he might conform in every particular to the divine requirement with respect to this ordinance. His great respect for his father's judgment and example could restrain him no longer, and he at length decided to be evangelically baptized. He says, speaking of this passage in his life: "I thought it due to my father to inform him of the fact. Therefore when I decided to be evangelically baptized, on my way to invite Elder Matthias Luse, of the Redstone Baptist Association, to attend on the occasion, I informed my father of my purpose and of the time of its accomplishment. Accordingly on June 2d, 1812, my father, mother, my sister Mrs. Bryant, my wife, myself, James and Sarah Henon, in all seven persons, were baptized into the Christian faith."

      An event so extraordinary as this, could not fail to excite much discussion. It gave also great notoriety to the prominent actors in the movement, and roused up the most intense opposition. Despite of all this, however, they steadily persevered, and day by day, under the powerful and shaping intellect of Alexander Campbell, the peculiar points in the organization became more and more sharply defined and prominently set forth for the public examination. In a few years some five or six congregations were organized in Washington County, Pa., and the adjacent part of Virginia, and about 1815 they unitedly applied for admission into the Redstone Baptist Association, and [565] were received with the express understanding that they subscribed to no human creed or confession of faith, but that they should be held responsible alone to the word of God in all things pertaining to faith and practice. To many of the preachers this union was at the first very distasteful, and they accordingly commenced a series of petty measures of opposition that finally resulted in the, withdrawal of these churches from the Redstone Association, and their union with the Mahoning (O.) Association. At the first meeting of the Redstone Association which was held after the union, Alexander Campbell delivered his celebrated discourse on the law. The clear, strong and original views announced in this address were new to most of the preachers, and excited against him the most relentless opposition. The disaffection grew with time, and it was not long till such men as Brownfield, Fry, and others, set themselves resolutely to work to excommunicate them from the fellowship of the Association. Failing in several attempts upon the ground of heresy in doctrine, overcome always in argument upon the Scriptural authority for the proposed measure, and finding that the majority was always against them, these envious and ambitious leaders resorted, at length, to a parliamentary artifice for accomplishing their purpose. A rule was adopted, as to the reception of congregations into the Association, providing all congregations which had been "constitutionally" admitted, should be permitted to continue their connection. The design of this rule was not seen, at the time of its adoption. But it soon leaked out that Mr. Brownfield, who had succeeded in getting himself appointed moderator, intended to apply the rule to the exclusion of the "six congregations that had come in with the Campbells." The artifice was this: the constitution of the Redstone Association required a recognition of the Philadelphia Confession of Faith; but these congregations had been admitted under a special protest against all confessions of faith; therefore, the moderator would rule, they had been "constitutionally" received, and must be excluded from any further connection with the body.

      Having ascertained that such a course was to be taken, Alexander Campbell immediately proposed to the congregation aimed at, that they should peaceably withdraw, and thus avoid all further strife with the Redstone Association. This was agreed to, and before the next annual meeting they had all united with the Mahoning Association in Ohio. This union was one of complete harmony, and in a few years the Association dropped all pretensions to ecclesiastical power, and continued to assemble only as a sort of reunion of sister congregations--annual "big meetings" for co-operation and encouragement in the work of spreading abroad the restored principles of primitive apostolic Christianity. [566]

      During these trials, the extraordinary powers of Alexander Campbell became widely known. The people were with him--only the rulers of the then Baptist Israel were opposed to him. Their opposition, however, was everywhere active. He made frequent excursions--far and near--as Providence opened for him a door, and steadily enlarged his influence and increased the number of the disciples. His renunciation of infant baptism, and bold advocacy of immersion, brought upon him the fiercest opposition of the Presbyterians. The controversy was lifelong and led to those extraordinary discussions, with Walker, McCalla and Rice, which called out at once his great learning, and his marvelous powers of debate. It may be truly said that these discussions have exhausted the subject. Nothing is left to be said. The resources of learning and logic have been drawn upon till nothing remains that is worthy of reproduction. If Alexander Campbell had done nothing else than this single work of restoring the Scriptural authority of immersion and exposing the human origin of infant baptism, his name would deserve to stand among the brightest on the roll of public benefactors.

      In 1819 he established the Buffalo Academy, and for a few years devoted much of his time to the education of young men. His school was crowded to overflowing from the beginning, and through his example and influence a lively impulse was given to the cause of education in the then new and comparatively unlettered community by which he was surrounded. He impressed his powerful nature upon many of his scholars and turned out a number of young men who, in after years, took a high rank in the professional walks of life.

      In 1823 he commenced the Christian Baptist, a monthly periodical devoted to the defence of primitive apostolic Christianity. No religious publication, perhaps, ever excited more controversy than this very bold and original work. The author was in the full freshness and strength of his powers. He had a large and intimate acquaintance with the diversified phases of sectarian Christianity, was a keen and judicious observer of men and things, entirely free from all shackles of ecclesiastical authority and prejudice, and withal intimately acquainted with the divine standard with which his principles led him to compare all things in professing Christianity. He saw many things, which he judged to be not only without warrant in the word of God, but positive corruptions or perversions of both its letter and spirit. Naturally with but little reverence for human authority, he did not feel it sacrilege to challenge anything which he deemed contrary to the divine standard. Against such things he did not scruple to turn every shaft in his well-furnished quiver--argument, humor, wit, satire, ridicule--every power of his diversified and bold genius was employed with an adroitness and energy that [567] carried everything before him. He opened his pages to the freest and widest discussion and inquiry, and allowed a full hearing to both sides of every question which he deemed worthy of examination. For seven years he continued this publication, and to the end maintained, in his style and matter, a vigor and variety that seemed inexhaustible. By this time his reputation as a polemic, and powerful and original expounder of the Scriptures, was widespread, and wherever he went thousands of persons crowded to see and hear him.

      In 1829 he had his debate with the celebrated Robert Owen. This zealous propagandist of infidel sociology had issued a public and defiant challenge to the clergy of the whole country. It was put forth in New Orleans, and no one dared or cared to take it up. Finally it fell upon the eye of Alexander Campbell, and he at once resolved to accept it. Speaking of this challenge, he says: "I have long wondered why none of the public teachers of Christianity has appeared in defense of the last, best hope of mortal man. . . . I have felt indignant at the aspect of things in reference to this libertine and lawless schemer," and "relying on the author, the reasonableness, and the excellency of the Christian religion, I will meet him in debate." This was a new field for the exercise of Mr. Campbell's varied powers, and with what triumphant success he acquitted himself we need not tell to an American public.

      About this time Virginia was calling for a convention to amend the State Constitution, so as to adjust it more fully to the democratic policy of that period:--and the people of the western part of the State naturally looked about them, with much anxiety, for able men to represent their interests in the august body of political sages, that this great old mother of States would be sure to delegate on this most vital business of any government. Alexander Campbell had never taken any public part in politics--but the people knew that he was identified with them in interest, and that he was a man to whom they could safely commit their cause, and they called him to their service with an earnestness he could not refuse. There was opposition, of course, but he was easily elected, and served with distinguished ability--high among the highest--in a body of men, where to stand even in the second rank was no mean honor. This, he deemed, was his duty--but his pleasure and the great burthen of his heart was still to preach the gospel. With an all-consuming passion for this, his high and divine calling, he made every thing tributary to its fulfillment. The distinguished political relations which he sustained, he regarded only as a door divinely opened before him, that he might the more magnify his office as a minister of the Word. In private and in public, by the fireside, in the social circle, in the halls of the capitol, and in the pulpit, he never ceased to [568] disseminate the seeds of the great movement to which he had dedicated his life. Small men give up under such circumstances, and make shipwreck of their faith; it is only the giant intellect and the lion heart, that can bend the spirit of politics to the higher power of religion, and make even the world venerate and praise it.

      We remember well an incident illustrative of the effect of his course during this convention, which occurred in the spring of 1830. Ex-President Madison was returning from the convention, of which he had been a member, and spent the night at my father's house, which was just one day's journey from Richmond. The next morning Mr. Madison rose early, and he and my father were walking on the portico in the early sunlight, when the latter asked Mr. Madison his opinion of Alexander Campbell. After speaking in very high terms of his abilities as displayed in the convention, he said: "But it is as a theologian that Mr. Campbell must be known. It was my pleasure to hear him very often, as a preacher of the gospel, and I regard him as the ablest and most original and most powerful expounder of the Scriptures I have ever heard." We were then just entering our teens, but the aspect of this venerable man as he walked, with elastic and graceful step, in the morning sunlight, we shall never forget. This opinion of Mr. Madison was of course highly gratifying to my father, and was often repeated by him to others in after years.

      Such was the effect of this brief episode in the long life of religious labor for which Alexander Campbell was so pre-eminently distinguished. He returned to his home with increased zeal for the cause of Christ, and a greatly enlarged influence for good. In 1830 he completed the seventh volume of the Christian Baptist, and commenced the publication of the Millennial Harbinger--a work which he continued to edit until the end of 1863, and which is too well known to reed any notice here.

      In 1836 he held the celebrated debate with Archbishop Purcell. This, as well as the discussion with Robert Owen, was a labor which Mr. Campbell felt he owed to Christendom. They were, in no exclusive sense, connected with the special work of reformation, to which he was more particularly devoted. His triumphant defense of the truth of Christianity against the infidel attacks of Owen, and his even greater vindication of Protestantism against Romanism, deserve the gratitude of the Christian world. He stood, in both of these great conflicts, as the champion of evangelical truth, and his overwhelming assaults upon these two dreaded foes of a pure Christianity, will ever be remembered as forming an era in the victories of the true church of God.

      By this time, through his writings, his public debates and his many and extensive tours, through all the States of the Union, aided by many able and devoted co-laborers, Mr. Campbell had attracted to [569] the movement of which he was the great and acknowledged head, many myriads of zealous and earnest sympathizers. Congregations had been organized in almost every State of the Union, and in many localities they constituted the prevailing denomination. He had long seen and felt the growing want for an educated ministry, and earnestly meditated upon the best means for meeting the necessity. Already taxed to the utmost by the innumerable public demands upon his time and energies, he, for some time, shrunk from undertaking what seemed to be the only alternative; but the necessity was urgent, and he resolved to postpone it no longer. In 1840 he commenced the great and crowning work of his life, the founding and endowment of Bethany College. He did not wait to raise the means from others, but with a sublime confidence in the merit of the enterprise, which was his strong characteristic in all that he undertook, he threw some ten or fifteen thousand dollars of his own capital into the business, and at once contracted for the erection of the necessary buildings. All the energies of his great mind and heart were thrown into the enterprise, and by the fall of 1841 the college was organized, with a regular charter, Board of Trustees, faculty and over one hundred students, assembled from ten or twelve different States of the American Union. He took upon himself, not only the duties of president, but also the daily labors of lecturing on the Bible. Indeed, he made the daily and thorough study of the Bible the peculiar characteristic of Bethany College. As he regarded the Bible, and the Bible alone, as the only authority to the church in all matters of faith and practice, and the only infallible source of a perfect morality, so he conceived it should form the basis of all Christian education, and be made a leading textbook in every college. This great thought he ever cherished, as the ruling principle of his college labors. To magnify the value of this book of books--to enforce its claims to authority over the hearts and consciences of men--to expound its great and eternal principles of righteousness and truth--and make men feel that it is the word of the living God, the divine standard of truth in religion, and of virtue in morality--these were ever prominent among the earnest and benevolent aims of his great and devoted life. To raise up men who would sympathize with him in these sublime aims, was the great motive which prompted him to superadd to his already oppressive labors the additional responsibility of Bethany College. Many of his friends thought that he would injure his public influence by confining himself to the college. In a Tatter just received from one of these, the writer said: "I remember visiting Bethany for the first time, when the old college was building. I said to Brother Campbell, 'You will, when engaged in the college, lessen your influence for good; you will not be able to travel and preach for us as you have done heretofore.' [570] Such was my short-sightedness. Said Brother Campbell in reply, "O brother, but I will raise up many young men in the college to preach the gospel in my stead, even when I am gone;' and by the blessing of God, has he not made his word good! Oh, thank the Lord, there are many able preachers of the truth he loved so well, left to call his name blessed." Such was the aim and such the result of this great work.

      We are only sketching some of the more prominent labors of this ever laborious servant of God, because we feel that the public will demand something of the kind at our hands. We pass over many pleasing and illustrative incidents, that could not fail to add interest to this brief memoir, did the limit and the simple purpose of this article justify their introduction.

      It will be evident from what we have recited, that it was never a purpose of Alexander Campbell or his father to build up a new party or sect in religion. Their primary aim was to reform the errors of the existing organizations, without schism. They thought they could persuade them to reform, and to conform to the Scriptures without division; and, so far as the Mahoning Association, to which they attached themselves, was concerned, this was accomplished. This was a recognized Baptist Association at the time the six churches, represented mainly by Thomas and Alexander Campbell, united with it; and it was never subjected to any ecclesiastical excommunication from the Baptist fellowship. It gradually dropped off those features that were found to have no authority in the word of God, and so became reformed; but otherwise it was still recognized as a Baptist Association. Alexander Campbell was recognized as a Baptist every where in his travels for many years after his withdrawal from the Redstone Association; and would, of his own accord, never have broken fellowship with them, if they had allowed him the freedom which he claimed, in preaching what he believed to be the simple truth of the gospel, and at the same time the right of exhorting his brethren to return in all matters of faith and practice, to the express teaching of the word of God. But prejudice, envy and clerical bigotry are hard things to persuade, and still harder to contend against, and so the strife commenced, and for more than forty years went on, with a zeal, and in some cases a passion, that in calmer years both sides must regret. Of one thing we are sure, that during the riper years of his life, Alexander Campbell often thought earnestly and fondly of a restoration of fellowship between the Disciples and the Baptists. But he could not see the way. His proposition for a friendly discussion of mutual differences with Dr. D. R. Campbell, of Kentucky, made in 1858, was conceived in this hope--but the spirit in which it was met, showed that the proposition was made too soon. He ever met any [571] fraternal advances on the part of a Baptist with the most cordial welcome, and cherished with special care every development of returning good feeling which he discovered in the prominent men of the denomination. But further than this he did not see reason to go.

      Mr. Campbell's career in public labor and influence was a long one. For forty years he labored with an assiduity and energy rarely, if ever, equalled. Through long tours of months he would travel and talk and preach, with a strength and endurance of mind and body, almost incredible. His great fame attracted to his public appointments vast concourses of hearers, and he was accustomed to address such almost daily, for several hours at a time--and not unfrequently two or three times a day, with all the power and animation off one fresh from the rest and preparation of his study. Wherever he might sojourn for the night, and during intervals of public speaking, throngs would collect to hear him talk; and between these fireside and public preachings, his tours would be almost an endless monologue. Nobody wished to talk in his presence. His themes were so much out of the range of ordinary conversation, that but few people could sustain a part in their discussion. A question would sometimes set him a going--but very soon his vast learning, especially in the department of Biblical lore, would lead him into wide fields of discourse, all familiar and easy to him, but strange and unknown to his hearers; and it was their pleasure to sit in silence and learn. But he was not pedantic. The great ideas, which were the woof and substance of his discourse, were too grand and sublime for the trivialities of pedantry. No man ever talked with a more manifest absorption of his soul in the transcendent value of the truths which he discussed. His were truly "thoughts that move and words that burn." No one ever suspected him of "talking for effect," in the vain sense of that saying. His whole nature seemed animated with a divine enthusiasm for the knowledge that brings salvation. He could not be induced to talk long on any other subject. No matter where he was, he was the observed of all observers, and he would bend the conversation sooner or later, by the talisman of his peculiar genius and zeal, towards the love and the mercy of God as manifested in the gospel. Not unfrequently have we seen him in the company with reputed conversationalists; and friends have been curious sometimes to see how he would sustain himself in such cases; but while he was ever courteous to listen, his associations of thought were so original, the range of his learning so out of the ordinary track of fashionable and superficial attainments, and the divine elevation of his ideas so lifted up above the commonplaces and platitudes of ordinary conversation, that even the vainest talkers soon grew silent, and listened, if not with delight, at least from necessity. The charm of his discourse [572] was, that it breathed the freshness of a heavenly revelation, and, lifting the soul up into the region of things ineffable, made it, at least for the moment, feel that it was divine. He was not, in the proper sense, a conversationalist at all, he was a discourser. His ideas flowed on in a perpetual stream--majestic for its stately volume, and grand for the width and sweeping magnificence of its current. With a voice that thrilled with the magnetism of great thoughts, and a person imposing and majestic, as his mind was vigorous and commanding, no one could see and hear him, and fail to discover that he was in the presence of one on whom nature had set the stamp and seal of transcendent greatness.

      In his family and domestic relations he was a faithful husband, a kind and considerate father, and a just and respected neighbor. In 1828 he was married a second time, to S. H. Bakewell, who, with four of her children, survives him. These four are all that remain of fourteen that were born to him from his two marriages. His descendants--children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren--in all, number only thirty-one. This is a small number to survive an octogenarian. But a bright family had gone before him across the Jordan, and he did not find his mansion untenanted when he too was called to that heavenly home.

      He was the most persistent man in the religious instruction of his family, that I ever knew. Morning and evening worship were as regular as the daily meals. Never in any family were the Scriptures more copiously recited by the children, or elaborately explained by the parent. No matter what had been the fatigue and labors of the day, he always found strength and time enough for this cardinal feature in his household economy. He had but little confidence in a piety that was not nourished and instructed by the daily study of the word of Gad, and a perpetual habit of prayer. So he taught and thus he practiced. How did it fit him to die?

      We refer our readers to the interesting account from Dr. Richardson, which we give below, of his sickness and final end. His last days were as the effulgence of the sun, when it sinks gloriously through gorgeous drapery of rifted cloud. He went to his rest through fitful gleamings of a sublime intellect, but with a faith that never faltered. He suffered as the strong only can suffer. His iron frame gradually gave way. He seemed conscious that the convulsive grasp of death was upon it--that the long empire of his imperious will was invaded, and he would struggle at times with the energy of an unconquered giant to shake it off. We watched him as we never watched the dying before, and it seemed that the idea of immortality was struggling with the agonies of death. Relaxing from the struggle of physical pain, a placid smile would play over his countenance, and [573] then he would murmur as if in soliloquy; "I will ransom them from the hand of the grave; I will redeem them from death; O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction; repentance shall be hid far from mine eyes." He would frequently exclaim, "What shall I do, what shall I do! whither shall I fly, but to thee!" The soul was struggling with the clay tenement and panting to be free, but refusing to die. The Scriptures proved his unfailing consolation. He quoted them with great point, when he seemed to know or notice but little else. A few days before his death, upon some allusion to the creation, he quoted the first verse of the first chapter of Genesis, in Hebrew, and then the first verse of the first chapter of John in the Greek. His mind delighted to dwell upon the glorious character of Christ. He would look around upon the friends about his bedside and ask, "What think ye of Christ--his divine nature--his glorious mission--his kingly office--the sovereign Ruler of the heavens and of the earth--the fountain of universal being?" Rousing up from apparent reverie, he would say, "God speaking to man, and man speaking in response to God! Praise to his name!" At times the idea of going home would take possession of his mind, and he would give orders for starting. Again he would say, "It seems a great distance but it is very short--but a step from the cradle to the grave, from earth to heaven, from time to eternity! A few days to lie in the earth, and then--the glorious resurrection."

      And then he would break out with sublime quotations descriptive of future life. "'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things that God hath prepared for them that love him.'

"'When I've been there ten thousand years,
      Bright shining as the sun,
  I've no less days to sing his praise
      Than when I first begun.'"

      The sublime words of the Psalms were constantly in his mind--and he quoted with remarkable accuracy and propriety from the old metrical version of the Scotch Psalmody, which he memorized in his youth--such as spoke the comfort he needed or the praise he felt.

      Through all his weakness and suffering his politeness and gratitude were among the most conspicuous expressions of his heart. He was thankful for the courtesies of his friends--anxious lest they would not be properly attended to and cared for--and grateful for the slightest office of kindness. Sometimes the room would be nearly filled with visitors, and he would think they had assembled to hear him preach, and ask if it was not time to begin the services--and when reminded that they were only friends called to see him, he [574] would request some one to thank them for him--and then turning to those nearest, he would quote:

"Society, friendship and love,
      Divinely bestowed upon man;
  Oh, had I the wings of a dove,
      How soon would I join ye again.
  My sorrows--"

and his voice would fail him--and with a graceful wave of his hand he would close his eyes and lapse into silence.

      One of the remarkable qualities of his mind was its great power of relative suggestion. It was quick to the last. Sometimes playing upon words, but always with a deep meaning in his thought. We were urging him to take some nourishment. He drank a draught of it, and paused for breath. We asked him if it was not palatable. He replied, "Yes--and I presume wholesome. But," said he, turning his face with its familiar smile of humor full upon us, "the whole need not a physician." Four days before his death the weather was sunny and pleasant. I called his attention to the fact, and remarked that it was the first day of March. "Yes," said he, "comes in like a lamb, goes out like a lion." A day or two before the sun was pouring its setting beams in through the window opposite the foot of his bed. His eye rested inquiringly upon the quiet glory--and he was told that it was the setting sun. "Yes," he repeated, "the setting sun! It will soon go down. But unto them that fear his name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings."

      But time would fail us to cite the many memorable death-bed sayings of this great and noble man of God. His thoughts were all of God, of Christ and of heaven. Literally did he

"Speak the honors of his name,
      With his last laboring breath,
  And, dying, triumphed in the Cross,
      The antidote of death."

      When his voice had almost entirely left him, and he was struggling for breath, his wife said to him, "The blessed Saviour will go with you through the valley of the shadow of death." He looked earnestly into her face for a moment, and then with a great effort said emphatically, "That he will! that he will!" And this was about the last intelligent and pointed expression of his deathless confidence that we can now recall.

      Sunday, the 4th of March, we had been with him nearly all the day. Night came on, and it became evident that with it was also coming for him the night of death. It drew towards midnight--we stood beside him, his hand in ours; noting the beating of his pulse. We felt it going, and said to a patient female watcher, "If it revive not, he must soon be gone." She glided away to wake the doctor. [575] The pulse quivered and stopped--a sudden and convulsive drawing back of the breath startled us--and in a few moments the voice of lamentation rose over the lifeless form of him whom distant generations will rank among the greatest of the God-given that have blessed our earth.

W. K. P.      

      W. K. Pendleton. "Death of Alexander Campbell." The Millennial Harbinger 37 (March 1866): 122-138.


[MHA2 561-576]

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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)