Biographical Sketch of Alexander Campbell

Text from James Challen, (editor), Ladies' Christian Annual, March, 1857 (Volume VI, No. 3), Philadelphia: James Challen, Publisher. Pages 81-90. This online edition © 1998, James L. McMillan.

Born: Antrim County, Ireland, September 12, 1788
Died: Bethany, West Virginia, March 4, 1866

The materials for a biographical sketch of the person whose name is at the head of this article, and whose portrait we have introduced in this number of the Ladies' Christian Annual, are ample, but we aim only to seize upon the more salient points of his character, as the limits prescribed in our periodical will not allow us to amplify or to enter into details; and being still among us, many things which belong to his character we are compelled to omit, and must leave to the future biographer, when death shall have left us all which belongs to his past history, and has given us the privilege of speaking of him without reserve or diffidence.

Alexander Campbell, the son of Thomas and Jane C. Campbell, was born in Ireland, in the county of Antrim, near Shares Castle, September, 1788; and is now in the sixty-ninth year of his age. His ancestry lived to a remarkable old age. His father, Thomas Campbell, died at Bethany, Virginia, a short time since at the age of ninety-two. His grandfather lived to the age of ninety-five. His great grandfather lived to the advanced age of one hundred and five years. His mother died at the age of seventy-two. She was a descendant of one of the last persecuted families of the French Huguenots, who fled from their country on account of their religion, and settled in Ireland. Mr. Campbell's ancestry on his father's side were Scotch; so that there was a happy commingling of the sturdy, plodding, thinking Scotchman, with the vivacious, cheerful, and impressible Frenchman. His mother was a woman of unbounded sympathy and liberality, of great powers of discrimination, and of a nature truly amiable and lovely, and possessed of all womanly grace, with a mind highly cultivated, and possessed of an undoubting faith and ardent piety. His father was a man of powerful intellect and sterling worth, simple in his habits, of elegant and courtly manners, grave, sober, and thoughtful, uniformly cheerful, with a vein of fine humor and wit. He was an original thinker, a bold advocate and defender of what he believed to be true; a reformer in spirit, in principle, and practice, and in all respects, body, Soul, and spirit, a noble specimen of humanity.

So far as the ancestry of Alexander Campbell was concerned, no one could boast a better; and it most be confessed that the finest traits of all these he combines in his own person. None of them seem to have possessed the characteristic marks of greatness which so happily unite in him.

He was raised and strictly educated in the Presbyterian faith, and belonged to that party known as Seceders, and brought to this country credentials, certifying that he had been, both in Ireland, in the Presbytery of Market Hill, and in Scotland, in the Presbytery of Glasgow, a member of the Secession Church, in good standing. He sailed from Londonderry on the 3rd day of October, 1808, destined for the city of Philadelphia; but being shipwrecked on the coast


of the Island of Ila on the 9th of the same month, he was detained until the 3rd day of August, 1809, on which day he sailed from the city of Greenock for New York. After many perils on the deep, he landed safely in New York, the 29th of September, 1809. On the 28th of the next month he arrived in Washington, Pennsylvania, and in that vicinity and in Western Virginia he has remained ever since.

In his own words he remarks, that his "faith in creeds and confessions of human device was considerably shaken while in Scotland, and I commenced my career in this country (America) under the conviction that nothing that was not as old as the New Testament, should he made an article of faith, a rule of practice, or a term of communion among Christians. In a word, that the whole of the Christian religion, exhibited in prophecy and type in the Old Testament, was presented in the fullest, clearest, and most perfect manner in the New Testament, by the spirit of wisdom and revelation. This," he adds, "has been his pole-star ever since." He further states, that "in conformity to the grand principle which I have called the pole-star of my course of religious inquiry, I was led to question the claims of infant sprinkling to divine authority, and was, after a long, serious, and prayerful examination of all means of information led to solicit immersion, on a profession of my faith, when as yet I scarce knew a Baptist from Washington to the Ohio, in the immediate region of my labors, and when I did not know that any friend or relation on earth would concur with me." He was accordingly immersed by Elder Mathias Luse, on the 12th day of June, 1812. We have been thus minute and particular in the statement of the facts concerning his previous life and history, to account for his future course as the advocate of what he deems to be original and apostolic Christianity. They serve also to show the high appreciation he had in the change he made from the religion of his fathers of what he deemed to be "a more excellent way" of the teachings of Christ and his Apostles. They serve also to show, that no selfish ends or side motives could have operated on his mind in taking the important step he did. Ecclesiastic favors, time and again, were offered him, and no considerations but those of conscience and duty forbade their acceptance. Indeed, it could not have been otherwise, among a people who knew how to appreciate talent and learning of so high a character as the young seceding minister possessed and exhibited. Whatever may be the difference of opinion between others and him, all must admire the sincerity and boldness with which he announced "the faith that was then everywhere spoken against." No consideration of fame or honor, of influence and position, or worldly emoluments, could have had any effect on his mind, in the change thus referred to.

We shall pass over the interim between the day of his baptism and the commencement of his religions life in the character of a Reformer: suffice it to say, that he united with the Baptist Church, and devoted much of his time in public labors; in lecturing, preaching, and teaching, at home and abroad.

In the month of August, 1823, he issued the first number of the "Christian Baptist," a monthly periodical, in (Bethany), Brooke County, Virginia. The first words of this number are strikingly significant and ring like a trumpet-peal upon the listening ear. "Christianity is the perfection of that divine philanthropy, which was gradually developing itself for four thousand years. It is the bright effulgence of every divine attribute, mingling and harmonizing all the different colors in the rainbow, in the bright shining after the rain, into one complete system of perfections,--the perfection of glory to God in the highest heavens, the perfection of peace on earth, and the perfection of good-will among men." The whole essay in the introduction of his work, as well as the entire number, is remarkable for the elevation of its thoughts, to strength and beauty of its language, and the boldness with which he announces his objects. We well remember in our youthful days the excitement it produced, the eagerness with which each number was read and the constant demand among all parties, and men of no party, to look into its pages. No work,


in all our knowledge, made so deep and so abiding an impression on the public mind. Its outer form was uncomely. It was a small, unpromising-looking monthly; but like the earthen pitchers of Gideon, it was full of light. We know not of any better evidence of the power of the periodical press, than that which the seven years of the "Christian Baptist" has furnished; and we cannot but admire the ability and skill, the patience and courage which its editor exhibited, and the progressive and steady development of the grand objects which lay before him--seen first, dimly, by him, but gradually opening to his large and admiring eye, until he could exclaim:

"'Tis HESPERUS--there he stands with glittering crown,
First admonition that the sun is down,
For yet it is broad daylight. Clouds pass by:
A few are near him still--and now the sky--
He hath it to himself--'tis all his own.
O, most ambitious star! thy presence brought
A startling recollection to my mind,
Of the distinguished few among mankind,
Who dare to step beyond their natural race,
As thou seem'st now to do.

The Christian Baptist closed its mission after seven years' labor--each month of which furnished by his pen a large amount of rare and original matter for the public mind. This was followed by a larger monthly called the "Millennial Harbinger," which has continued to this day, and is still edited and published by him. Not a moon has passed, from 1823 until the present one in 1857, in which he has not furnished food for the mind. The time would fail us to speak of his numerous tours at home and in other lands, and his unexampled efforts in propagating the Gospel of Christ by his tongue and pen, "sown beside all waters." His lectures and addresses, his debates with Pedobaptists and Baptists, with Infidels and Papists, with Unitarians and Universalists, both with the pen and the voice, are before the public, and have left their impression. Indeed, we doubt if any mind in the present century has been to so great an extent felt, on the best portions of the English world, as the mind of Alexander Campbell; and we think that the effects will be permanent. He lives and will live, in the great thoughts which he has generated and given permanency to, not only in his numerous writings, but in the universal mind with which they stand incorporated. Should he cease his labors now, and sleep with his parents and his children, in the beautiful cemetery in sight of his homestead, where the lovely and the loved ones slumber, his "works will remain" as long as the hills over which he has roamed, and the treasured dust that has been hidden from his eyes, to await the resurrection of the just. He will find his apotheosis in the garnered thoughts of nearly half a century; and of this we are glad. His influence is but beginning to be felt; and death, when it comes (may it long delay), will leave only to us--the imperishable and the eternal.

In regard to his social habits, they are worthy of all praise. Uniformly cheerful and benevolent, he can play with the innocent child, enter into all his little world of enjoyments, laugh at his conceits and strange fantasies, or bow his head meekly at the mention of God and his Son, and in a moment dive into the sublimest depths of the ocean of divine truth, as though his spirit was kindred to the everlasting gems that it contains. Every little incident in the home-circle, every mischance that may occasion a smile or a laugh, a tear or a sigh, he is instantly impressed with. His eye wells up with tears at the sight of an orphan, or remains dry when he commits to the dust "the loved--not the lost." He will spend five hours at a stretch in his study, over the most abstruse and difficult subjects, with his pen in constant motion, and enter into his dining-room with an anecdote that will set the table in a roar. This strange power of concentration--this universality of mind and emotion, he possesses to a remarkable degree; and to this is owing the healthy state both of his mind and body.

He is truly domestic, loving home, and finding his sweetest enjoyments with his family and friends, in Christian, social intercourse around his ample hearth and well-spread table. No one can see him in his humble retreat, and spend a night in his hospitable house, without the highest conception of what constitutes a Christian


family. His morning and evening devotions, so rich and varied, so devout and heavenly, so humble and spiritual, lift the soul to heaven, and lead it thitherward. We have heard from various sources, that no day has been spent with a stranger, so remembered with delight as one with him. His cottage home--for in all respects it is an humble dwelling--is situated in a beautiful valley, near the waters of the Buffalo, surrounded by hills of surpassing loveliness, some of which still have on them the native forests, and others are highly cultivated; and in the spring and summer shining with the approaching harvests, or slumbering in their green carpets of waving grass-- the home of numerous flocks of sheep, of which he is particularly fond. His home is surrounded by trees, some of which are evergreens, and the air of repose and stillness which rests upon the spot, make it one that we would choose, of all others to live and die in.

The simplicity and benignity of his life and manners, dispel, at once, all feelings of awe, which we naturally realize in approaching one possessed of such elements of greatness and power. He is extremely regular in all his habits, and if he violates any of the natural laws, it is in the labor he imposes upon himself, in behalf of others, and the hours he devotes, at the close of the day, to the happiness and pleasure of his family and friends. He rises early in the morning, refreshed and always cheerful; whilst the assiduous care and excellent management of Mrs. Campbell render his abode one of peace and comfort, winning the esteem and gratitude of all who share the hospitalities of his house.

The promotion of his Master's cause is his ruling purpose and object, at home and abroad. Humble and patient under the dealings of Providence and the waywardness of men, humane and sympathizing, generous and forgiving, you have but to confess your faults, and he is ready to forgive, and fails not to receive the erring at once into the affection and confidence of his Christian heart.

Since the time that he landed in America he has not been known to keep his bed for one entire day, from illness, and with a robust constitution and daily toil, he has been enabled to accomplish far more than the most plodding of our race, with uninterrupted labor, have done. The productions of his pen are now as fresh and vigorous as any in the best portions of his early life: having kept his mind in constant motion and in healthy excitement, it retains its singular power of handling the most difficult themes of the divine institution. His pen and his tongue, indeed, are seldom idle, and these never fail to keep the mind free from all stagnant and pestiferous influences, especially if employed on the noble subjects to which he has devoted his life. He still has a "flesh and blood" reality among us, and long may we enjoy the privilege of his presence and his influence. In our midst he possesses a cotemporary freshness and nearness--not an outline, dim, shadowy, and unreal. Long may he fill a place in the land of the living, if this, indeed, may so be called, which contains so many mementoes and memories of the dead.

It is to be hoped that some pen may be found worthy to give a permanent memorial of one who has held and still holds so large and responsible a place among the profound thinkers of the age. We would have wished that some modern Boswell could have been always near him, for the last thirty years, to have dotted down the memorabilia of his lips and life, in the family and in the circle, among friends and foes, in the wayside and pulpit. Those who see him merely on the arena of debate, on the platform or in the pulpit, or presiding in the editorial chair, know but little of him, and would form but a faint and feeble estimate of his character and worth. His inner life can only be known by those who daily have intercourse with him, and this, by far, would be in him, as it is in all, the most interesting portion of biography. The material thus furnished would contribute a rich and inexhaustible fund of knowledge and thought, on all subjects affecting the best interests of humanity.

No one in modern times brings so vividly to our mind the wonderful powers of conversation


possessed by Johnson, as portrayed by his incomparable biographer Boswell, unless it is Coleridge. An hour in his company will impress you with his extraordinary resources at command, and the felicitous manner in which he is ever ready to employ them. He is not only a good talker, but (what is quite rare) a good listener. He never fails to hear what the humblest may say, will weigh candidly their objections, answer their questions, and meet their difficulties. In this, we have never known any one to surpass and none to equal him. It is this that renders his social life so attractive and beautiful, and invests his character with such dignity and grace. No one has a greater reverence for humanity than he, and evinces a profounder love for truth, however humble may be its form, and obscure the messenger which brings it. Never impatient under contradiction--never outraged by "obstinate questionings," from friend or foe. He is as much indebted to his opponents as to his brethren, in eliciting the truth; and the conflict with the world and the church, has led him insensibly into a wider region of thought and a clearer horizon, than he otherwise would have had in a more peaceful life.

No one must suppose that the whole theory of the ancient Gospel and order of things was present to his mind in the commencement of his public career as a Reformer. With certain fixed and unalterable principles to guide him, he has obtained that elevation which he now holds, and it has been only by patient toil and fixedness of purpose, that he has won his way to the "Mount Zion which he loves." We venture to say that he has learned as much since the day when the Christian Baptist was projected, as any of his readers.

Some have thought that the sphere of his influence would have been wider had he chosen one of the large cities as the centre of his operations. This might have been the case, but Providence ordained otherwise. We are reminded of the Monk of Erfurth, the fishermen of Galilee, and the humble abode of the Nazarene. Great cities do not uniformly produce great men; and the prison of Bedford has furnished more enduring specimens of literature, than the princely homes of Tillotson and South, and the more graceful, of Lord Clarendon, the cotemporaries of Bunyan.

In the rural retreat of Bethany, in the depth of its silent valleys and among its green and umbrageous hills, far removed from the haunts of the proud and the ambitious, the scenes ever present to his eye reminded him of the everlasting truth, that God and nature, like revelation, always speak the same things to the thoughtful heart; and they cheered him in his work, and were to him the silent and eloquent preachers, against the fashions of the world; which pass away, and the witnesses for that order of things, which only is divine. "God made the country, man, the town." Enjoying a competency in this life, he needed no aid from abroad, and had no temptation to cater to the prejudices of the age; he sought neither place nor patronage, and occupying a stand-point which enabled him to look from a proper angle on the corruptions of the church, and the wants of the world, and sallying forth as he frequently did and still does, into the midst of the actual world, he brought home with him the fruits of his large experience, and laid it up, in contributions for the benefit of his readers. How far he has succeeded in the development of original Christianity, the future will determine; that he has accomplished much, none can deny. Too soon we pass judgment on the principles and doings of our cotemporaries, and the fewest of men, who have proved benefactors to the race, receive what is due them in the age in which they live. The executors of thought are not like the executors of an estate; they cannot devise or give their treasures to whom they will; they more successfully bequeath their riches to posterity than in bestowing their largesses, with their overt hands, to the living. Death only stamps the seal of immortality upon what, in itself is imperishable.

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever."

Few men are so justly entitled to praise for his labors in behalf of Christianity as Alexander Campbell. The subjects on which he has dwelt, and the principles he has developed--the very animus which they breathe is a signal triumph of native talent and genuine greatness over the dull and even platitudes of a worn-out and common place ecclesiasticism. The path in a dense forest, through mist fog, which he has cut, and on which now streams the light of day, is no ordinary work. The treasures of centuries he has exhumed. The shallow and exhausted surfaces he has entered, like another Elisha, with a yoke of twelve oxen, and torn up with so bold and steady a hand, and over which he has scattered the seed of the ever-living word, for a harvest of apostolic Christianity, is a noble triumph. And the success which has attended his labors, within the last thirty years, is certainly very great. Upwards of three hundred thousand actual converts already have embraced what he claims to be apostolic Christianity, and are united together in a common faith. Many of these hitherto belonged to all the leading parties of the day; indeed, chiefly was it so, embracing many of their prominent preachers and people--some from the less distinguished sects, and numbers from the world, and without any written articles of faith or human creeds. They have found a closer, firmer bond of union, and a greater uniformity of faith and opinion, on all the leading items of Christianity, than any body of people of the same number known. There is much in this that is suggestive to the pious and thoughtful, in view of the divided and distracted condition of Protestant Christianity; and not a little that is cheering and hopeful in regard to the ultimate prospects of the apostolic Gospel.

In this movement he has encountered many difficulties, from the prejudices of those who were thought to be implicated as the supporters of a divided Christianity, and from the use of terms purely scriptural, according to their philological meaning, which, in popular use, were, without any doubt or hesitation, applied to the support of the accredited systems of the day. In every step of his progress he has been, by snob persons, misunderstood, and without the exercise of much candor and becoming patience, we know not how it could have been otherwise. Every writer should be measured by the standard and rules which he himself has adopted, and not by the application of others, which he has not used. If this natural and reasonable law had been applied to his works, it would have silenced a thousand objections, and rendered his writings far more acceptable, and the system he advocated less free from suspicion and distrust. He believes that a new and unknown nomenclature has been introduced into the teachings and creeds of modern Christianity, which have introduced corresponding ideas, unlike those found in the words of the Spirit; and a return to apostolic Christianity demands and implies a return to the words and ideas of the spirit of wisdom and revelation. More is comprehended in this than at first may appear.

Every system of philosophy, natural, mental, and moral, must have a nomenclature adapted to it, and, without this, its principles cannot be known or developed. The teachings of the sages and learned of the different schools in Greece, found, in the copious and flexible language in which they spoke and wrote, a fit and ample medium of communication with their own people, but so soon as it was attempted to introduce their philosophy into Rome, the Latin language was found too barren and rugged to give a full and perfect expression of it. Now, it is evident that Plato and Aristotle, and the teachers of any of the schools among the Greeks, would be utterly at fault, and their most simple teachings misunderstood, by the Romans, through the rude and inexpressive language in which that system should seek for an utterance. The only hope of success would be either to introduce into the language a new vocabulary, sufficiently copious and exact to develope the new philosophy, or to acquire a knowledge of the Greek tongue, and enter into Grecian schools to seek an intimate acquaintance with it. This, indeed, was done; and some process of a similar kind is indispensable to understand fully the teachings of Christ and his apostles; they must be understood either by a thorough acquaintance with the language and idiom in which


they spoke, or else by a translation of what they said and wrote, in words which exactly delineate and express their full and entire meaning.

The Christian religion is purely divine. Its thoughts, its very animus, were utterly unknown to the sages and the learned of all antiquity. Neither patriarchs nor prophets, John the Baptist nor the Apostles, previous to the gift of the Spirit, after the coronation of Christ, understood or could understand it. It was as really hidden from them as the highest and most abstruse problems of mathematics to the most ignorant of our species. It dwelt alone in the sublime depths of the infinite Jehovah. No angel, no cherub, no created mind, knew anything about it. Forever would it have remained hidden, like gems in the deepest depths of the ocean, unless it had been brought up to the surface and exposed to the light of day.

Such was Christianity in its conception, as begotten in the mind of God. Such the incorruptible Word which abides forever, as it lay in the awful abysses of the Eternal Mind. But see and admire the process by which it has been developed! Christ as the WORD--the uncreated Word, which was God, lay in the bosom of the Father, before the world was. The inception of Christianity in the mind of God was to have form and assume a veritable existence, through Christ; and therefore with the greatest propriety is He, in his preexistent nature, called "THE WORD." Not that he is simply--WORD--a symbol of thought--but a divine person, called "THE WORD;" and called so, because, he was to be the medium and the only medium, through which the deep thoughts in the mind of God, in the Christian institution, should find their complete and perfect utterance. He is "the Alpha and the Omega" of the whole alphabet of Christianity--the Being through whom it was to take shape and form as an entity, possessed of a positive existence; therefore does he say, "that all things which the Father hath are mine." He "speaks only what the Father has shown him!" "He lay in the bosom of the Father, before the world was." His exact image and representation--the "true and the faithful witness"--the only revealer, as a medium, of the mind of God. "No one knows the Father but the Son, and he to whom he shall reveal him."

With great significancy and decorum, then, is Christ in his pre-existent state called "THE WORD." But another agent is needed--the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. He it is that searches the deep things of God--the thoughts and purposes of the divine mind, and reveals them to the holy apostles and prophets of the new institution. This he did on the day of Pentecost, and subsequently during the entire mission of the Apostles on the earth, to the AMEN of the Apocalypse. The thoughts and purposes thus revealed by the Spirit to these chosen witnesses and light-bearers, in words taken from men and chosen with the nicest care and caution--sometimes forming a word not hitherto known--again combining two or more, or heaping up one upon another of colossal strength to fully represent his meaning, and by this means, placing in their minds what first dwelt hidden in the mind of God, and was socially and with the utmost freedom communicated to "The WORD" lying in the bosom of the Father, assumes thereby the truest and the most exact form, for expression, and all ready to find a full and complete utterance by the great "Searcher"-- "the Spirit of WISDOM and REVELATION." Thus revealed, not in words, by which man's wisdom teacheth, but in words which the Holy Spirit teacheth, the whole of Christianity was brought to the remembrance of the Apostles, as taught by the Saviour in person, and the entire system, in all of its original fulness, was deposited in the minds of the Apostles, watched over, guarded, and forever held there in due form by his mighty power. And now another process is needed to give Christianity a substantive existence in the world; and without this it would not have been known. This was for the Apostles to speak it, and this they did; "which things also we speak," said Paul. But to give permanency to it, what they spoke with the living voice they finally wrote, and placed on record; and thus it has become in the original records they have furnished us,


the religion--the only divine religion of the world.

To sum up what we have thus said. First, Christianity is of God. It originated in his own eternal mind, and lay in its hidden depths.

Secondly, it was communicated to Him who is, in consequence of his prospective mission, significantly called "THE WORD," and assumed due form in its original conception.

Thirdly, in process of time the Word is made flesh, and dwells among us, and becomes the medium of its development to the Jewish nation--chiefly to the Apostles, his chosen ambassadors.

Fourthly, when the whole process was completed, and the Saviour was crowned as the Lord of the new institution--the Holy Spirit was sent by the Son--received from the Father, to call all things accurately to the mind of the Apostles, whatever Jesus had taught them--to tell them things to come; and having searched into the depths of the Divine mind, he deposited in the minds of the Apostles, all the things which made up the sum or substance of Christianity, demonstrated and proved by signs and wonders and powers of the Holy Spirit.

Fifthly, the Apostles having thus become the depository of this "treasure," they have in words given it to man--"which things," says the Apostle, "we speak."

We have been thus particular and minute, in order to show the necessity of receiving Christianity alone from the Apostles, who were competent to give it to the world; and the danger and folly, the guilt and wickedness of corrupting, deforming, changing, altering, modifying, in any respect whatever, an institution of such sublime and awful import--for which the world had waited four thousand years, and which has been communicated to the race by agencies and processes so divine and glorious.

Now, if we mistake not, and we think we are safe in affirming, there were considerations like these which have controlled the mind, and directed the labors, and inspired the courage of the distinguished person whose brief life we have endeavored to sketch; and no one who does not place himself in apposition to him, and sympathizes with the grand and sublime objects to which he has consecrated his life, can either understand or appreciate him.

In this difficult undertaking he has met with all sorts of opposition--encountered objections at every step. In the field of his labors he found thorns and thistles in abundance, and stumps, old and deeply rooted, to be removed; shallows and slashes of putrid waters to be dried up and ditched; huge spots of blasted barrenness to be enriched; forests, dark and tangled, to cut down and clear away. But in the work before him he has been cheered by the sight of a new and beautiful harvesting, of Eden growth, to reward his toil; and found many men, of like mind, to assist him in his task--here and there spots of surpassing richness, like a garden enclosed; fountains, cool and refreshing, opening to the eye, long since sealed; deep valleys of surpassing luxuriance, like the garden of God, and streams like Siloas watering their verdure; and hills, as of Zion and Tabor, covered with flocks, and shining in the light of a better sun than the Orient knows; and here and there cataracts, in unfrequented spots, and awful abysses, tempting the unwary and the incautious. These have cheered him, and they are enough. From the strife of evil tongues, he has found sanctuary in the tabernacles of the Most High; and, in the midst of reproach and persecution, he has been calmed and comforted by the voice of the Prophets and the Apostles, and the example of the heroic men of faith. His noble brow, now covered with whitened locks, has been protected by the helmet of hope; and, with something of a prophet's eye, he has anticipated the triumphs of the cause which lies so near to his heart. With not a little of abatement of that zeal which bore him onwards in the commencement of this contest, he still wields the sword of the Spirit--the word of God--with deadly effect. And with a larger measure of prayer and supplication in the Spirit, he seeks fresh supplies of grace in time of need.

It is truly refreshing, in these times of general apathy on the subject of Christianity, and of worldly contests for fame and


glory, to see a man of his measure and stature, bending the weight of his powerful intellect, and the energies of his life, to one sole object--the disenthralling the Christian religion from the bonds and withes which age and ambition have thrown around it. Talents which might have disturbed nations and changed dynasties, or scattered them to the winds, he has employed in the more peaceful work of liberating the mind from the dogmatism of the past, and of reinstating original Christianity in the faith and hope of myriads of our race.

His life is one of thoughts and deeds; and so completely has he identified his name with our age, that the world will not let it die. Thoughts and deeds are the only permanent memorials that can survive the life of any one. The impressions they leave are like the leaves and fossils of the pre-adamite earth, engraver in stone, still existing after all the changes of untold centuries. Had Alexander Campbell not have been a theologian, he might have gained rank as a philosopher--certainly as a statesman, or the projector and chief of some stirring revolution or adventure. With his clear vision and austere devotion to truth, his oneness of purpose, courage, and persistence, his self-reliance and coolness, his powers of conversation and debate, his readiness to enter into conflict where great issues are at stake, would have made him not only a formidable opponent, but a reliable leader and champion in political life.

Truth he loves for its own sake, and he loves it the more, for his unconquerable hatred of error. It has become to him a passion, an appetite, not only because it is right in itself and infinitely lovely, but because he finds in it the sanction and approval of God and his own conscience.

In our own times the influence of his writings and public addresses is daily widening, and, like the branches of some lofty tree, still spreading and expanding themselves, as the roots of his earthly renown are striking deeper and deeper. His writings are not the metaphysical hash of other men's minds, or his observations taken from the dried collections and withered leaves of the dead past. He has gone to the primeval forests and drawn inspiration from them. He has entered "the garden of the Lord," and has regaled his senses with its living flowers and fruits, with the dew and the bloom upon them.

With a style clear and vigorous, at times lofty and eloquent; with a copious vocabulary, with great powers of generalization and analysis--now cold and as full of irony as Macaulay--then bold and menacing as Luther, and courteous as Melancthon--with the spirit of his ancestry, the Huguenot and the Covenanter, he has written, in thirty-three years past, more original matter, for the public eye, than any of his contemporaries, since the day which inaugurated his first periodical "The Christian Baptist," 1823, a monthly, running through seven consecutive years--a seven years' war--and since followed by "The Millennial Harbinger," just having entered into the fourth series of seven consecutive volumes, in the year 1857; besides numerous essays and tracts, lectures and books; his public debates with Walker in 1820, and McCalla in 1823; his masterly debate on Christian Evidence and the Social System with Owen, followed by his debate with Purcell on the Papacy; and his more recent and still more elaborate and triumphant debate with Rice, all of which have been written and published. In addition to which, Infidelity refuted by Infidels, the Christian System; his numerous editions of the new version from Campbell, McKnight, and Doddridge, with prefaces, emendations, notes critical, &c., &c. The whole constituting an ordinary library of the choicest reading, on subjects of the deepest interest. We venture to say, that in no works extant is there to be found more original and robust thought, larger and more comprehensive views of the Divine government, and of all the Divine institutions, Patriarchal, Jewish, and Christian, than can be found in these works; and we only regret that more efficient methods have not been adopted to place them, or parts of them, within the reach of the popular mind, believing that what they have done for those who already have had access to them, they would accomplish for the million. We have


known of no one apparently less ambitious of public fame; or who has availed himself less of all the channels of public notoriety, with the means and resources at his command, than Alexander Campbell. His works should go free of the world, and should, as they doubtless will, receive their due place among the permanent records of human industry and thought. He is now, and has been for years past, engaged, night and day, in addition to his other labors, on the revision of certain parts of the New Testament, in the employ and under the direction of the American Bible Union, a work which he regards of the first importance, and which, as we already have seen in the version which he has edited and published, he not only is fully competent to accomplish, but would justly consider as a happy finale, if Providence should so order, to his active and eventful life.

He still holds his place, with patriarchal dignity and veneration, as President of Bethany College, Brooke County, Virginia; and delivers a daily lecture to his devoted students, on the great themes of Bible History, the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms of David, and the books of the New Testament. The graduates of this flourishing institution are now quite numerous and influential; and they bear the unmistakable impress of his bold and powerful mind. Many of them have devoted themselves to the ministry of the Word; and others are presiding over academies and colleges, or filling the chairs of Professors in the public institutions of our land, with credit to themselves and benefit to others. And thus will he leave behind him, in the minds of hundreds and thousands, the imperishable thoughts to which he has given birth, and the ability to maintain and propagate them, with more than their original force and efficiency. We are not concerned to know, on what Elisha, by the Jordan, his mantle shall fall. We trust that it may be sufficiently large, like the tent of Prince Ahmed, to cover an army. And we cannot but smile at the simplicity of those who imagine that his death will destroy the monuments of colossal greatness and strength which his genius has raised.

James Challen

Back to Alexander Campbell Page | Back to James Challen Page
Back to Biographies at the Restoration Movement Pages
Back to Main Restoration Movement Page