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Robert Richardson
Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, Volume I. (1868)



P R E F A C E.

I T is a praiseworthy curiosity that leads men to scan minutely the lives and characters of distinguished persons. Great men are, for the most part, the discoverers and the dispensers of truth, as the mountains which lift themselves aloft in impressive grandeur receive the first rays of light and reflect them upon the plain beneath. Furthermore, as it is the mountains that hold, within their rocky embrace, those veins of precious metal and those fertilizing materials whose particles are swept down by the torrent to enrich the fields, and men hasten, not in vain, to explore those heights from which the shining sands were gathered, so it is by no means an unprofitable labor to trace to their origin those precious truths which have blessed and enriched mankind, and to investigate the hidden motives and qualities of those eminent men from whom the world has derived such important benefits.

      That the subject of the following memoir has been one of the world's benefactors--that his labors have largely contributed to weaken the power of sectarianism, to break the fetters of religious bigotry, and to bring about the present ameliorated condition of religious society, can be denied by no right-minded person who is properly acquainted with the religious movements of the last half century. Although vindictive personal or partisan hostility may withhold its assent, it cannot be truthfully denied that whatever abatement there may be of party spirit, whatever increased respect for the simple and unadulterated truths of the Bible, whatever [1] growing tendency to Christian unity there exists in Protestant society, especially in the United States, may be traced more certainly and immediately to the public labors of Mr. Campbell than to those of any of his contemporaries. His eloquent pleadings have been extensively heard indeed, not only in America but in Europe; his writings have been circulated wherever the English language is spoken, and their effects have been too plainly visible not to be at once recognized by every unprejudiced observer. To inquire into the true character of such a man, and the influences by which it was developed and matured, will not, therefore, it is hoped, prove an unprofitable study. In engaging in it, however, it is to be remembered that, as in order to inspect the veins of precious ore that enrich the granite summit of the mountain, we must ascend from the low and narrow valley at its foot to the elevation at which they can alone be found, so it will be necessary for the reader, in order to estimate aright the individual whose history is here related, to lift himself above the groveling and contracted sphere of educational and sectarian prejudice in which he may heretofore have moved, to those purer regions of Christian freedom and of lofty and untrammeled thought for which Mr. Campbell was himself distinguished.

      The advantage which, from his boyhood, the author had enjoyed of being intimately acquainted with him, as well as with his father and the family, together with the utility of such a work, first suggested the idea of preparing the following memoirs; and it may be stated, perhaps without violating any principle of propriety, that when, more than thirty years ago, he privately intimated to Mr. Campbell, in the confidence and unreserve of friendship, that such was his intention, it was by him most heartily sanctioned and approved. This purpose, however, from the cares of a busy life and various other hindrances, was long postponed; and might, indeed, never have been executed, had not the death of Mr. Campbell furnished a pressing occasion, and the formal request of his surviving family, together with the entreaties of many friends, furnished motives which could not be resisted. Hence, upon receiving the following letter, written by his excellent lady, and signed by all his surviving, children, the author resolved at once to undertake the work: [2]

BETHANY, March 30, 1866.      

            Dear Brother in Christ:

      A number of communications have been addressed to me on the subject of the memoirs of my lamented husband, conveying an earnest desire for their early appearance.

      Desiring, on my own part, as well as that of my family, that this trust should be confided to one held in warm Christian sympathy and high personal esteem, such as I feel assured he ever felt for you during many years of intimate acquaintance and fellowship, the confident hope is entertained that you will comply with our heart-wishes in this respect. Our only consolation, under the weight of this overwhelming sorrow and affliction, is, that our irreparable loss is his eternal gain.

"Farewell, but not for ever, Hope replies;
  Trace but his steps and meet him in the skies;
  There, nothing shall renew the parting pain;
  Thou shalt not wither, nor I weep again!"

      I remain, dear brother, your sister in the blessed hope of eternal life,

      In the above request the undersigned earnestly concur.
  A. CAMPBELL, Junior,

      As a sexagenarian, and afflicted with an amaurosis, which, in a good measure, denies to him the use of his eyes, the writer might well have shrunk from a task of so great magnitude, in despair of ever being able to complete it; but the abundant materials kindly furnished by Mrs. Campbell and numerous friends, to whom this public acknowledgment is due, greatly encouraged and assisted him in his labors; and the aid he has received from his twin-daughter, whose patient services as reader and amanuensis have robbed her girlhood of many sportive hours, has at length enabled him to present to the public these pages, in which he has endeavored, to the best of his ability under the circumstances, to give a faithful narrative of Mr. Campbell's life and labors. These, as is usually the case with those who attempt reforms, have, as it will appear, been greatly [3] misrepresented by his enemies, and very imperfectly appreciated by many of his friends.

      The reader of the following memoirs may rest assured that the utmost pains have been taken to assure the authenticity and the accuracy of the facts detailed, and that nothing has been allowed to form a part of the narrative for which there did not appear to be clear and sufficient evidence. It has been the aim of the author to allow Mr. Campbell, as far as practicable, to speak for himself by his actions and his writings, and to gather from private papers, and the cherished remembrances of personal intimacy, such additional gleams of light as might serve to furnish a view of the inner man, and reveal the struggles of a mighty soul amidst the conflicts of life. Should he be charged with giving, in any case, too much space to natural description, he must plead, as an apology, his desire to place the reader, as much as possible, amidst the very scenes and circumstances by which Mr. Campbell was himself surrounded, so that he may be enabled to form his own estimate as to how far the forms of external nature and the associations of youth exerted their admitted formative power. In regard to the religious influences which surrounded Mr. Campbell in his early life, it has been thought necessary to go into considerable detail, as their effects were marked and permanent.

      It seemed, indeed, impossible to place the views and labors of Mr. Campbell in their true light without giving a pretty full account of the state of religious society around him. In endeavoring to do this, the author has preferred to speak of particular religious movements and parties when, in the course of the narrative, Mr. Campbell comes into contact with them, rather than in the form, usually adopted, of a general historical introduction prefixed to the work--a plan which has, doubtless, its advantages, but which, in the present case, seemed less eligible than the one adopted, for reasons which it is unnecessary to specify. It is hoped, therefore, that the sketches given of the state of religious society at different periods will not only supply the facts necessary to a correct judgment, but, at the same time, afford interesting information. For many of the details connected with the Secession Church the author would acknowledge his indebtedness to McKerrow's valuable history, and for those [4] belonging to the religious movement of the Haldanes, chiefly to the very interesting "Memoirs of Robert and J. A. Haldane, by Alexander Haldane, Esq."

      As there were many who co-operated with Mr. Campbell in the work of Reformation, it has been thought expedient to furnish brief notices, at least of those among them who were especially intimate with him, who themselves contributed important additions to the truths developed during the progress of the Reformation, or were particularly instrumental in aiding and extending it. Many of the facts connected with these fellow-laborers have interesting relations to the principal subject, and the names, at least, of those who were thus honored should be preserved from oblivion. It is on account of the discursiveness hence arising, as well as the author's consciousness of the incompleteness of his work, that it is entitled "Memoirs," rather than a biography. And it is in the use of the liberty which this species of writing concedes that, even at the risk of being prolix, he has not hesitated to present all those details which seemed interesting to his own mind, knowing that while he himself could not feel justified in avoiding the labor of their insertion, the reader could or would exercise at his pleasure the privilege of omitting them.

      In conclusion, he humbly hopes that the Divine blessing may accompany his work, so as to render it useful to the cause of Bible Christianity. He is aware, that in the offering he brings, many defects may appear to the eye of the critic, but he must, in that case, try to find comfort in the persuasion that imperfection is the lot of every human effort--that of the critic himself, of course, included; and that, under more favorable circumstances, and with more time at his disposal, he could have supplied a more finished production. One who has been largely associated with the persons described, and who has been borne along in the same religious movement, can, however, after all, hardly claim to be so exempt from those natural feelings and prepossessions which affect the judgment as to do much more than provide the materials from which some one more competent may hereafter, with calmer research and clearer philosophical analysis, exhibit the life and character of ALEXANDER CAMPBELL.

      BETHPHAGE, WEST VA., DECEMBER 27, 1867. [5]


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Robert Richardson
Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, Volume I. (1868)

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