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



C H A P T E R   X V I I.

Religious Speculation and Dictation--Partyism--New Acquaintances--
Marriage--Church Organization--First Baptisms--Scripture Themes.

T HE concealments of the Bible are as Divine as its revelations. Infinite wisdom was required as much to determine of what man should be ignorant as what man should know. Indeed, since, in regard to all matters connected with the unseen spiritual world, man is entirely dependent upon Divine revelation, the limits of that revelation must necessarily mark out also the domain of human ignorance, as the shores of a continent become the boundaries of a trackless and unfathomed ocean. Hence it is, that the silence of the Bible is to be reverenced equally with its teachings, and that to intrude into things not seen and not revealed, evinces the vanity of a fleshly mind as much as to misinterpret and pervert the express statements of the Scriptures. Unfortunately, both of these errors had prevailed in religious society, which was not content with either the reticence or the teachings of the Bible, but had presumed to supply the former by speculations upon the eternal decrees of God, the Trinity, the Divine nature, the future destiny of mankind, etc.; and to substitute for the latter, the commentaries of party leaders and the decisions of councils or other ecclesiastical tribunals. Against this latter usurpation of Divine authority, where men had assumed to regulate [351] the faith and practice of the Church, eminent reformers had, indeed, from age to age, remonstrated. Unfortunately, however, while endeavoring to correct this error, and to reinstate the Scripture in its proper position as an infallible and Divine revelation, too little attention was paid to the fact that this revelation had its appointed limits, and these reformers themselves presumed to transcend these boundaries, and to superadd their own opinions and speculations about questions of which the Scriptures do not treat. There was, therefore, a necessity for both the specifications in the principle which Thomas Campbell had adopted, "where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent," as it was not merely necessary to take Divine revelation as a guide, but equally so to prohibit the addition and admixture of human opinions. It was this last point particularly, viz.: that the silence of the Scriptures is to be respected equally with its teachings, that was almost peculiar to the reformation urged by Mr. Campbell, and continued to be one of its most important and characteristic traits.

      As it was the distinguishing error of Romanism to presume to dictate the faith and regulate the ordinances of the Church, irrespective of the teaching of the Scriptures; so the chief mistake of Protestantism consisted in substituting for the silence of the Bible human opinions and speculative theories. The great principle urged by Thomas Campbell, which demanded implicit faith in express revelation alone and an acknowledged or explicit ignorance in regard to all untaught questions, brought, therefore, those who adopted it into direct antagonism with the entire religious world. Accordingly, with perhaps the exception of the churches established by the Haldanes and a few other small [352] independent bodies of reformers, who had, in various parts of Europe and America, been led to take the Bible alone as a guide, there was not any religious denomination whatever, known to them, with which the reformers could consistently have established a real and fraternal union. Whatever confidence they might have in the faith and piety of many of the individuals composing a party, they could have none in the party itself or in the system upon which it was maintained, and could not therefore, by uniting, give their sanction to those divisive principles which it was their chief purpose to subvert. On the other hand, it is obvious that no party desiring to continue such, and comprehending the sweeping character of the great fundamental principle adopted by Thomas Campbell, could, consistently with its own security, receive the reformers into religious fellowship.

      "Am I asked," said Alexander Campbell about this period (in an address after sermon at the house of Mr. Buchanan), in order to anticipate certain objections, "why I am not a party man? or why I do not join some party? I ask, in return, Which party would the Apostle Paul join if now on earth? Or, in other words, which party would receive him? I dare not be a party man for these reasons:

      "1. Because Christ has forbidden me. He has commanded us to keep the 'unity of the spirit;' to be 'of one mind and of one judgment;' to 'love each other with a pure heart fervently,' and to 'call no man master' on earth.

      "2. Because no party will receive into communion all whom God would receive into heaven. God loves his children more than our creeds, and man was not made for the Bible, but the Bible for man. But if I am [353] asked by a partisan, Could you not join us and let these things alone? I answer, no, because--

      "3. The man that promotes the interests of a party stands next in guilt to the man that made it. The man that puts the second stone on a building is as instrumental in its erection as the man that laid the first. He that supports a party bids the party God speed; and he that bids them God speed is a partaker of their evil deeds.

      "4. Because all parties oppose reformation. They all pray for it, but they will not work for it. None of them dare return to the original standard. I speak not against any denomination in particular, but against all. I speak not against any system of truth, but against all except the Bible. 'Hold fast the form of sound words' condemns them all. It is a doleful truth, that the very persons who ought to have advocated reformation, always opposed it. See the History of the Christian Church, and Matthew xxiii. When I consider what Paul and thousands of others suffered for a good conscience, I would do so too. I desire to fight for 'the faith once delivered to the saints.' I like the bold Christian hero."

      Such, at this period, were the noble and decided utterances of Alexander Campbell in relation to partyism and to his own convictions of religious duty; and such were the feelings which he and those associated with him then entertained in reference to these sad defections from primitive precept and example. Such. too, were the views which they labored to impress upon the religious community as opportunity was afforded. Except, however, in the case of the special address delivered at Washington on November 1, in defence of the Christian Association against the aspersions of the [354] Synod of Pittsburg, which was delivered at a regular meeting of the Association, and the object of which had been previously announced by advertisement, Alexander Campbell and his father appear never to have made their views of reformation the particular theme of their regular discourses, which they continued to deliver in the court-house or in the seminary building at Washington; at Brush Run; the cross-roads; Middletown, and occasionally at private houses, as at Thomas McClellan's, Thomas Hodgens', Thomas Sharp's, James McElroy's, etc. These discourses were devoted to the elucidation of portions of Scripture for Christian edification and for the enforcement of the great duties of the Christian life. Both of them had too much reverence for the Lord's day and the solemnities of religious worship, to appropriate those hours to the discussion of inferior themes, or to the ungrateful subject of religious schisms, unless, indeed, this happened to be involved legitimately in the text. Thus, amongst the numerous discourses which Alexander Campbell delivered during the early years of his ministry, and of which he preserved skeletons and notes sufficient to make an interesting volume, none are to be found of a partisan or disputatious character, and none of them are directed against any existing denomination. They are from texts such as these: "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." Ecclesiastes xii. 13. "Search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me." John v. 39. "Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Revelation iii. 20. "For in [355] Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by love." Galatians v. 6. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" Hebrews ii. 3. "To be carnally-minded is death, but to be spiritually-minded is life and peace." Romans viii. 6. They are discourses upon the excellency and glory of Christ and the sufficiency of his finished work; upon the covenants and promises of God; upon the study of the Scriptures as the rule of life; upon faith, righteousness and judgment to come. Confining themselves thus, according to their own principles, to Scripture themes in their public ministrations, neither father nor son had any disposition to speak, unless incidentally and briefly, and in general terms, of existing divisions. These matters they reserved for conference in private with religious persons, and for friendly discussion in the families to which they had access, and especially with ministers and persons of influence amongst the different parties. Thomas Campbell, especially, spent much of his time in visiting the families with which he was acquainted throughout this region of country, not only to promote the interests of religion, but from his affectionate attachment to the numerous friends he had formed while a Seceder minister, and from that eminently social disposition so characteristic of his countrymen, of whom he was in this respect a fair representative.

      Among the various families that he occasionally visited, there was one by the name of Parkinson, living on the upland immediately bordering on the valley of Buffalo, eight miles from Charlestown. Mrs. Parkinson was a member of the Associate Reformed congregation at W. Middletown, then under the care of a Mr. Finley. She had been left a widow with a [356] family of children, and was a woman of intelligence and piety, much respected by Mr. Campbell. While here, he was introduced to a Mr. John Brown, who owned the farm adjoining, which extended down into the valley of the creek, and embraced a large portion of its rich alluvial bottoms. Around these the creek swept with a graceful curve, washing the base of the lofty hill on which the Parkinson farm was situated, and just here, Mr. Brown, who was a carpenter and millwright, had a grist-mill and saw-mill, which were at this time, with some adjoining acres, in the possession of a Mr. Talbot. Beyond these, at a considerable distance, on a more elevated portion of the farm, near the public road, stood Mr. Brown's comfortable and capacious dwelling, two stories high, weather-boarded, painted white, and with green venetian shutters. Mr. Brown was a Presbyterian, but somewhat independent and original in his modes of thinking; fond of investigation, and a great admirer of men of talent. He was a man of great kindness of disposition; of great piety and integrity, and had a remarkable love for simplicity and plainness in dress and mode of living, maintaining, as far as practicable, the habits of the early settlers. Thomas Campbell's acquaintance with him soon grew into a warm friendship, and they did not fail to have many agreeable discussions upon religious topics. Mr. Campbell having on a particular occasion promised Mr. Brown some books, upon his return to Washington sent them down by his son Alexander. This was the first visit Alexander had paid to this part of the country, and the acquaintance which he then formed with Mr. Brown and his family, led to important results.

      Mr. Brown's family consisted at this time of his [357] wife, his daughter Margaret, about eighteen years of age, and his step-daughter, Miss Jane Glass, a few years older. His present wife was the widow of a Mr. Glass, who had lived on the farm immediately above, in the valley of the creek. After the death of her first husband, Mrs. Glass had married Mr. Brown, who was at that time a widower. She was considerably below the medium height, energetic, industrious and intelligent. Her first husband having been one of the early settlers, her life had been full of privations, labor and trial. During the hostilities which for a long time prevailed between the white settlers and the Indians upon their borders, she had met at one time with a very perilous adventure, an account of which is here given from Dr. Joseph Doddridge's "Notes on the Settlement and Indian Wars of West Pennsylvania and Virginia:"

      "On the 27th day of March, 1789, about ten o'clock in the forenoon, as she was spinning in her house, her black woman, who had stepped out to gather sugar water, screamed out, 'Here are Indians.' She jumped up, ran to the window and then to the door, where she was met by one of the Indians presenting his gun. She caught hold of the muzzle and turning it aside, begged him not to kill, but take her prisoner. The other Indian, in the mean time, caught the black woman and her boy, about four years old, and brought them into the house. They then opened a chest, took out a small box and some articles of clothing, and without doing any further damage or setting fire to the house, set off with herself and her son, about two and a half years old, and the black woman ad her two children, the oldest four years and the youngest one year old. Alter going about one and a half miles, they halted and held a consultation, as she supposed. about killing the children. This she understood to be the subject from their gestures and frequently pointing at the [358] children. To one of the Indians who could speak English she held out her little boy and begged him not to kill him, as he would make a fine little Indian after a while. The Indian made a motion to her to walk on with her child. The other Indian then struck the negro boy with the pipe end of his tomahawk, which knocked him down, and then despatched him by a blow with the edge across the back of the neck, and then scalped him.

      "About four o'clock in the evening, they reached the river about a mile above Wellsburg, and carried a canoe, which had been thrown into some driftwood, into the river. They got into this canoe and worked it down to the mouth of Rush Run, a distance of about five miles. They pulled up the canoe into the mouth of the run as far as they could, then went up the run for about a mile and encamped for the night. The Indians gave the prisoners all their own clothes for covering, and added one of their own blankets. A while before daylight, the Indians got up and put another blanket over them.

      "About sunrise they began their march up a very steep hill, and about two o'clock they halted on Short Creek, about twenty miles from the place from whence they had set out in the morning. The place where they halted had been an encampment a short time before, as well as a place of deposit for the plunder which they had recently taken from the house of a Mr. Vanmeter, whose family had been killed. The plunder was deposited in a sycamore tree. They tapped some trees when there before. Here they kindled a fire and put on a brass kettle with a turkey, which they had killed on the way, to boil in sugar water.

      "Mr. Glass, the first husband of Mrs. Brown, was working in a field with a hired man, about a quarter of a mile from the house, when his wife and family were taken, but knew nothing of the event until two o'clock. After searching about the house, and going to several houses in the neighborhood in quest of his family, he went to Mr. Wells' fort, and collected ten men beside himself; and the same [359] night lodged in a cabin on the bottom on which the town now stands.

      "Next morning they discovered the place from which the Indians had taken the canoe from the drift, and their tracks at the place of their embarkation. Mr. Glass could distinguish the track of his wife by the print of the high heel of her shoe. They crossed over the river and went down on the other side until they came near the mouth of Rush Run; but discovering no tracks of the Indians, most of the men concluded they would go to the mouth of Muskingum by water, and therefore wished to turn back. Mr. Glass begged of them to go as far as the mouth of Short Creek, which was only two or three miles farther. To this they agreed. When they got to the mouth of Rush Run, they found the canoe of the Indians. This was identified by a proof which goes to show the presence of mind of Mrs. Brown. While going down the river one of the Indians threw into the water some papers which he had taken from Mr. Glass's trunk; some of these she picked up, and under pretence of giving them to the child, dropped them in the bottom of the boat. These left no doubt. The trail of the Indians and the prisoners up the run to their camp, and then up the river hill, was soon discovered. The trail at that time, owing to the softness of the ground and the height of the weeds, was easily followed. About an hour after the Indians had halted, Mr. Glass and his men came within sight of the smoke of their camp. The object was, then, to save the lives of the prisoners by attacking the Indians so unexpectedly as not to allow them time to kill them. With this view, they crept as slyly as they could till they got within something more than a hundred yards of the camp. Fortunately, Mrs. Brown's little son had gone to a sugar tree to get some water, and not being able to get it out of the rough trough, his mother had stepped out of the camp to get it for him. The negro woman was sitting some distance from the two Indians, who were looking attentively at a scarlet jacket they had taken some time before. On a sudden they dropped the jacket and turned their eyes toward [360] the men, who, supposing they were discovered, immediately discharged several guns, and rushed upon them at full speed with an Indian yell. One of the Indians, it was supposed, was wounded at the first fire, as he fell and dropped his gun and shot-pouch. After running about one hundred yards a second shot was fired after him by Major Maguire, which brought him to his hands and knees, but there was no time for pursuit, as the Indians had informed Mrs. Brown that there was another encampment close by. They therefore returned home with all speed, and reached the Beach Bottom fort that night.

      "The other Indian, at the first fire, ran a little distance beyond Mrs. Brown, so that she was in a line between him and the white men: here he halted for a little to put on his shot-pouch, which Mr. Glass for a moment mistook for an attempt to kill his wife with a tomahawk.

      "This artful manœvre no doubt saved the life of the savage, as his pursuers durst not shoot at him without risking the life of Mrs. Brown."

      Mrs. Glass, at the time of her marriage to Mr. Brown, had an only daughter, who, some time after Alexander's introduction to the family, married a Mr. Stevenson and settled near Pittsburg. Mr. Brown, also, had been left with an only daughter by his first wife, whose maiden name was Grimes, and whose relatives lived in Charlestown and its vicinity, one sister being married to a Major Congleton. Miss Brown was tall and slender, but graceful. She had a sweet, benignant countenance, very dark hair, regular features, full and expressive dark hazel eyes, and was already noted for her piety, industry and engaging manners. Her education had been the best which, in this region, was at that time accorded to females.

      The agreeable acquaintance which Alexander had thus formed with the Brown family, induced him soon [361] to repeat his visit. Mr. Brown had conceived a very warm attachment to the young preacher, whose talents and acquirements he greatly admired, and with whose sprightly and agreeable conversation he was so much delighted, that he sought every opportunity of enjoying his company. On his part, Alexander entertained a very earnest regard for Mr. Brown. He loved his independent turn of thought; his simple manners; the unyielding integrity which characterized his life, and the childlike and unaffected confidence which he reposed in those he esteemed. As an instance of his fondness for investigation, it may be related that, one evening when Alexander was at his house, an eccentric Baptist preacher who occasionally traversed this part of the country, and with whom Mr. Brown was acquainted, happening to call to spend the night, he managed pretty soon to get up a discussion between him and Alexander on the subject of baptism. Greatly to his delight, the debate soon became animated. The various covenants were considered at length. The Christian and Jewish institutions were compared, and the cause of pædobaptism was argued, with more than usual dexterity, by the young disputant. Finding himself baffled, however, by the direct Scripture quotations of his opponent, he insisted that infant baptism should, at least, like circumcision in the early Church, be left as a matter of forbearance. This position was vigorously assailed by the close-communion Baptist, and the discussion became so interesting that it was prolonged until near morning, and the parties finally separated under an agreement to meet in two weeks in order to continue the subject. They met, accordingly, at the time appointed, but Alexander whose love for truth did not permit him to feel entirely satisfied with the [362] arguments he had prepared, begged for a further adjournment, and it so happened that the discussion was not afterward resumed.

      The intimacy thus established in the fall of 1810 with Mr. Brown and his family soon led to a warmer feeling than that of friendship between Alexander and the daughter, and they became finally so much attached to each other as to lead to a proposal of marriage. This being entirely agreeable to the relatives on both sides, the marriage ceremony was performed on the 12th of March, 1811, by Rev. Mr. Hughes, pastor of the Presbyterian church at the town of West Liberty, four miles distant, and of which Mr. Brown and his family were members. On the following day, according to the custom of the time, Alexander went up with his bride to Washington to receive the congratulations of his friends at his father's house. The day having been thus agreeably spent, all the members of the family assembled at the usual hour, according to their invariable custom, for worship. Each one had, as usual, a Scripture recitation to offer, and Alexander's sister Jane, now about eleven years old, who had been greatly troubled in the morning as to what portion of Scripture she should memorize for so important an occasion, and who had at last settled upon the description of the model wife contained in the last twenty-two verses of the concluding chapter of Proverbs, gave her recitation very correctly, as follows:

      "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband cloth safety trust in her, so that she shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good, and not evil, all the days of her life. She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchant ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She [363] riseth while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it; with the fruit of her hand she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good; her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hand to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household; for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. Her husband is known in the gates when he sitteth among the elders of the land. She maketh fine linen and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her mouth is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and she eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruits of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates."

      After worship, the bride, coming to Jane, kissed her affectionately, and thanked her warmly for the beautiful passage of Scripture she had so well recited, expressing the hope that she might herself be enabled, in some measure, to practice its teachings. Her subsequent life truly showed how earnestly she sought to conform to the model she so much admired; for she became a true helpmate to her husband, sympathizing with him in all his labors, managing his domestic affairs with the utmost prudence and economy, and enduring patiently the privations consequent upon his frequent absences [364] from home, in order that he might accomplish the great work to which he had devoted his life.

      On the 10th of March, two days before his marriage, Alexander had preached twice at Brush Run. On the following two Lord's days he preached at Washington; and on the 25th of March he went, with his wife, to live with his father-in-law. On the succeeding Lord's day, the 31st, he spoke at Samuel Guy's, who lived on the creek some miles above; and so continued his labors regularly at different points within convenient reach. He did not, however, occupy his time wholly either in fulfilling these duties and preparing for them, or in reading and study. His delight in active exercise, and the practical knowledge he had acquired of farming in his boyhood, led him at once to engage in assisting Mr. Brown in the management of the farm, in which he appears to have displayed his usual activity and energy, devoting to it all the time he could spare from his ministerial duties.

      About this time, his father removed from Washington to a small farm for which he had bargained with a Mr. Hammond, situated near John McElroy's, and about a mile and a half from the village of Mount Pleasant. Here, he thought, he could live with his family more inexpensively than in town, especially as his kind friends and neighbors were ready to render him every possible assistance in the management of the farm, his own attention being almost exclusively devoted to religious interests. He had, by this time, become fully convinced that, on account of the continued hostility of the different parties, it was necessary that the Christian Association should assume the character of an independent Church, in order to the enjoyment of those privileges and the performance of those duties which belong to the Church [365] relation. It was with great reluctance that he finally concluded to take this step, and to separate himself from those whom he desired to recognize as brethren. Such, nevertheless, is the usual fate of reformers. Religious reformations, however they may be aided or modified by external circumstances, must always originate within the Church itself. Such was the case with the Reformation of Luther, of Calvin, of Knox, of Wesley. Luther was a monk, Calvin a Romish curé; Knox a Catholic priest, Wesley an Episcopal presbyter. The reformation urged by Thomas Campbell was no exception to the general rule. It commenced in a community claiming to be the purest portion of the Church, and, when proposed to its hierarchy, was rejected and denounced. Now, as before, the light shone in darkness, but the darkness comprehended it not. Hence a separation became inevitable, and this separation appeared not less grievous to the human feelings and sympathies of Thomas Campbell, than similar ones had done to those of other reformers, "He would have liked," as D'Aubigné says of Calvin, "to see all the Church transformed, rather than set himself apart and build up a new one." Having found it impossible, however, to effect this transformation, he felt it to be his duty to organize an independent community.

      At the next meeting of the Association, accordingly, the matter was duly considered and agreed to, as the attitude which the religious parties had assumed, seemed to leave no other alternative. Before entering into this sacred relation, Thomas Campbell deemed it proper that each member should give some personal and public evidence of a fitting knowledge of the way of salvation; and he proposed therefore that each should be required to give a satisfactory answer to the question: [366] "What is the meritorious cause of a sinner's acceptance with God?" With most of the answers to this question he was entirely satisfied, and was particularly well pleased with the views expressed on the occasion by Joseph Bryant. The answers of two of the members being unsatisfactory, their admission was postponed. Neither, however, was received, both having subsequently proved themselves unworthy. James Foster happened not to be present at the above meeting, and when, on Saturday, the 4th of May, he, with the other members, assembled at Brush Run for the purpose of organization, the question arose: "Is James Foster a member, not having been present at the time the test question was propounded?" Some seemed to think not, but Alexander, who, it would seem, was not entirely convinced that there was any authority for such a test, immediately arose and said: "Certainly, James Foster is a member, having been with us from the beginning, and his religious sentiments being perfectly well known to all." The test question, accordingly, was not propounded to him, nor to any one else afterward.

      At this meeting, Thomas Campbell was appointed elder, and Alexander was licensed to preach the gospel. Four deacons were also chosen, viz.: John Dawson, George Sharp, William Gilcrist and James Foster; and amidst the prayers and solemn services of the day, they united in singing Psalm cxviii., from the thirteenth to the twenty-ninth verses, in the old metrical version, which, as Seceders, they had been in the habit of using. They felt that the position they had now assumed was one of great responsibility, and one that was destined to lead to most important results. They hoped, however, to have, in their new relation, a happy end to that painful state of suspense in which they had hitherto [367] been kept, in regard to the results of their religious movement. Rejected, misrepresented and contemned by the rulers of religious society, they felt, nevertheless, that they had experienced much of the Divine presence and guidance in their conscientious efforts to promote Christian unity; and they rejoiced that, all uncertainty being now at an end, they could proceed without delay or hinderance in the field of labor to which they had been called. Under these circumstances, these verses of the Psalm they sung had to them a peculiar significance:

"Thou sore hast thrust that I might fall;
    But my Lord helped me--
God my salvation is become,
    My strength and song is he.
The right hand of the mighty Lord
    Exalted is on high;
The right hand of the mighty Lord
    Doth ever valiantly.

"I shall not die, but live, and shall
    The works of God discover.
The Lord bath me chastised sore,
    But not to death given over.
Oh, set ye open unto me
    The gates of righteousness;
Then will I enter into them
    And I the Lord will bless.

"God is the Lord, who unto us
    Hath made light to arise:
Bind ye unto the altar's horns
    With cords the sacrifice.
Thou art my God, I'll thee exalt;
    My God, I will thee praise.
Give thanks to God, for he is good;
    His mercy lasts always."

      On the following day, being the Lord's day, the Church held its first communion service. Alexander [368] preached from John vi. 48, "I am that bread of life," and verse 58, last clause: "He that eateth of this bread shall live for ever." In his introduction, he showed: 1. That as sin and death came into the world by eating, so God had ordained that righteousness and life should be imparted by spiritual food. 2. That as Jesus Christ is all in all to the sinner, so he is represented to us in the Scripture under every kind of emblem that might encourage us to trust in him. 3. That the term "bread" in Scripture is not always used in its strict and literal sense, and that in these passages it is employed in its utmost latitude, as representing anything that can be conducive to the life and happiness of the creature. He then proceeded to consider, 1. The propriety and import of the expression; 2. The appropriate duty of the Christian in regard to partaking of this bread; 3. The motives to comply with this duty; and, 4. To make a proper application to the various classes of those present, expressing, to those about to partake, the hope that they were hungering after this bread of life, and remarking that, in assembling there on that occasion, they furnished an emblem of the millennial state of the Church, nay, an emblem of the heavenly state, when men of different nations, and known by different names, should sit down together in the kingdom of God. Afterward, his father delivered a discourse from Rom. viii. 32: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all: how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" Thus there was formally established a distinct religious community, based solely upon the Bible, and destined, in its future history, to exhibit the entire sufficiency of the basis thus chosen. On the 8th of May, Alexander spoke at Christian Hutman's; on the 12th, at the cross-roads; [369] on the 15th, at William Gatwood's. Next day he set out from home on his first preaching tour, of which he preserved the following memoranda:

      "I set out from home Thursday, May 16, 1811, and stopped first evening at Lutham Young's. Conversed upon the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion. Next morning, accompanied to the river by Mr. Young, I crossed opposite Steubenville. Introduced myself to Mr. James Larimore and Dr. Slemmons, and was received with courtesy. Was introduced by Dr. Slemmons to Mr. Buchanan, lodging at the Doctor's. After dining, reasoned with Mr. Buchanan on the general state of religion, and argued the principles with him which we advocate; but he would not see. In our discourse a Mr. Boyd, of Steubenville, interrupted by vociferously taking Mr. Buchanan's side of the argument. Finished in a disorderly manner. Appointed to preach in the court-house, Sabbath day, at 12 o'clock. Proceeded to James McElroy's, where I tarried till Friday morning, hospitably entertained. On Sabbath day, I preached, according to appointment, in Steubenville. Had a crowded house, notwithstanding Messrs. Buchanan, Snodgrass, Lambdin, Powel, etc. I had a mixed audience of Presbyterians, Unionists, Methodists, etc. Mr. Lambdin, the Methodist preacher, was present. I was introduced to a Mr. Hawkins, a most respectable citizen, and a Methodist. Sabbath evening, preached at Mr. McElroy's. Had a smaller audience, among whom was Mr. McMillan, with whom I sojourned that night at Mr. Thompson's. Reasoned with him upon our principles. He granted me three things of magnitude: 1. That independent church government had as good a foundation in Scripture as the Presbyterian. 2. That the office of a ruling elder was not found clearly in the Scriptures, but was a human expediency. 3. That he did not believe that the Confession of Faith was the system, that is, the precise system, the whole system, or the only system of truth contained in the Bible. Preached on Monday, at Mr. McElroy's, to a respectable assembly, from Gal vi. 15, 16--On the Sabbath at Steubenville, my [370] text was Heb. ii. 3. In the evening, Mark xvi. 15. On Wednesday morning, left Mr. McElroy's, and arrived at Cadiz. That evening lodged at Squire McNeeley's. Thursday morning, proceeded to Dr. McFadden's; tarried with him till Sabbath morning. Preached, Sabbath day, two sermons, to a large audience--one from John v. 39, and the other from Acts xi. 26. Sabbath evening, lodged at Samuel. Gilmore's. Monday evening at James Ford's. Preached at James Ford's, Tuesday, two discourses--one from Rom. viii. 32, and the other from 2 Tim. i. 13. Tuesday evening, lodged at a Methodist exhorter's. Wednesday at James Sharpe's. Preached, Thursday, at William Perry's. Stopped all night. Friday, stopped at Samuel Garret's Preached, Saturday, at Samuel Patten's, in Wheeling, from Phil. iii. 8. Lodged with him, and preached. Sabbath day, June 2, at St. Clairsville, from Rom. viii. 32, and secondly, from Isa. lxvii. 14, with lxii. 10, and lodged at Mr. Bell's."

      On returning, he delivered a discourse in Warren, one at the house a John Forsyth, and one in Charleston, reaching home in time to preach, on the 16th, the first sermon delivered in the new meeting-house at Brush Run, which, though unfinished, was used from this time forward, rough seats being provided for the assembly This sermon was based upon Gal. i. 4: "Who gave himself for our sins that he might deliver us from this present evil world," and treated, after some introductory remarks, upon the evils resulting from ignorance of ourselves, of Christ and of the gospel; and then proceeded to dwell upon the glorious character of redemption, and of the deliverance which it brings, closing with an appropriate application.

      It had been remarked by some of the members that Joseph Bryant and one or two others, who had given satisfactory answers to the test question proposed by Thomas Campbell, did not partake with the rest at the [371] Lord's Supper, which, according to the custom of the Independent churches in Scotland, was now celebrated weekly. The reason being asked, Joseph Bryant replied, that he did not consider himself authorized to partake, as he had never been baptized. Such was the case also with two other members--Margaret Fullerton, whose father had been a Baptist, and Abraham Altars, whose father had been a Deist. These cases had brought up, in a new and more practical aspect, the question of baptism, and particularly as regarded what has been called its mode, or, more correctly, the particular action meant by baptism; and the subject had continued to be generally discussed among the members during Alexander's absence.

      While Thomas Campbell had, as formerly stated. serious scruples about baptizing those who had been already recognized as members of the Church, he had none in the present instance, as none of the candidates had received baptism at all in any of its so-called forms. Neither did he appear to have any doubt or objection in regard to immersion, but he at once acquiesced in Joseph Bryant's view that this alone was baptism. Going over with Thomas Sharp to confer with Joseph Bryant upon the subject, he at once admitted it was evident that in the primitive age they went down into the water and were buried in it. "Water," said he, "is water; and earth is earth. We certainly could not call a person buried in earth if only a little dust were sprinkled on him." He consented, therefore, to perform the ceremony, which took place on the 4th of July in a deep pool of Buffalo Creek, about two miles above the mouth of Brush Run, and on the farm of David Bryant. The pool was narrow, and so deep that the water came up to the shoulders of the [372] candidates when they entered it. Thomas Campbell, then, without going into the water, stood on a root that projected over the edge of the pool, and bent down their heads until they were buried in the liquid grave, repeating at the same time, in each case, the baptismal formula. James Foster, who was present, did not altogether approve the manner of the baptism, neither did he think it congruous that one who had not himself been immersed, should immerse others. It so happened, however, that Thomas Campbell, who had been the first to introduce the reformatory movement, became thus, on this occasion, the first to introduce immersion--a practice which subsequently became a distinguishing feature in the progress of the reformation.

      By this time, many of those who had at first been identified with the Christian Association had gradually become indifferent, and many, who still sympathized with the movement, held back from entering into a church relation, while, from distance and other hinderances, others were unable to attend the meetings. Hence it was, that the church at this time could reckon only about thirty regular members,1 who continued to meet alternately at the cross-roads and at Brush Run as formerly. These religious meetings were sources of great enjoyment. Warmly attached to one another for the truth's sake, and sympathizing with each other in their trials and religious experiences, they seemed to be [373] of one heart and of one soul, and took the utmost delight in assisting one another to acquire a more complete knowledge of Divine things. The Bible was their daily study, and they came to the assembly, like bees to the hive, laden with the sweet lessons of instruction it afforded, and ready to say, in the language of the Psalm they had sung at the organization:

"God is the Lord, who, unto us
    Hath made light to arise."

Thus increasing in scriptural knowledge, the discovery of new truths maintained that fervor of spirit which can never continue long unless the intellectual nature is supplied and cultivated as well as the feelings, but which alone can give true power and efficacy to religious exercises. They had broken the seal by which clerical authority had closed the Sacred Volume, and rejoiced that, by its guidance, they had cast off the fetters of partyism, and were enabled to pass from the dark and narrow caverns of sectarian theology toward the heavenly light, which, though yet dim and distant, finally led them into the open day.

      As it may interest the reader to know the character of the religious teaching received by this little band of reformers, and the views at this time entertained by Alexander Campbell, a few extracts from the minutes of discourses which he delivered about this period are here given. Thus, two days before his marriage, in his discourse at Brush Run from Matt. xi. 27, after speaking in general terms of authority in religions matters, and the necessity of having a command from God for every religious duty, he speaks of the authority of Christ and of the apostles as having been fully and carefully demonstrated, and remarks that they delivered [374] just what they were commanded to deliver; that Paul was careful to discriminate between his own opinions and God's commands, and that he applauded those who searched the Scriptures for the truth; showing, further, that there is a curse denounced against those whose religion is taught by the precepts of men, and that Christ is given as a leader and commander to the people. He then adds:

      "From the above considerations two things are strange: 1. That men should preach whole sermons and scarcely cite one Scripture text, and that hearers should suffer their faith to rest in the wisdom of men rather than in the wisdom of God. 2. That men should be afraid or unwilling to take the Word of God for their rule--afraid that what God has commanded them is not enough. But, stranger still, that they should set aside the Word of God by their traditions. A singular command in Deuteronomy is little attended to (Deut. xii. 32): 'What thing soever I command you, observe to do it. Thou shalt not add thereto nor diminish from it.'"

      He then dwells upon the glory of Christ, and says:

      "All things in heaven and on earth, animate and inanimate, are delivered unto Jesus Christ for the good of his Church on earth and for its glory in heaven.   *     *     *     *   In the economy of grace for the restoration and salvation of fallen, depraved, guilty man, Jesus Christ the Son of God humbled himself, took upon himself the form of a servant and made himself of no reputation, lived on earth and died upon a cross, hated and despised; for this cause, having spoiled principalities and powers, and finished the work which the Father gave him to do, he is now exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high. Eph. i. 20-22. And there he sits, waiting till all his enemies be made his footstool; until the end shall come, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom into the hands of his Father. 1 Cor. xv. 24, 25.   *     *     *     *   Observe, they who deny the divinity or personality of the Son must be ignorant of the whole mystery of the religion of godliness." [375]

      After speaking then at large of the blessings conferred through Christ upon the redeemed in the ministry of angels, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the promises of the future, he closes thus: "From this subject learn, 1. To thank God for the method of communicating grace that he has chosen. 2. Let us honor Christ as the Father bath honored him, in committing our all into his hands. 3. Let us seek that God will reveal his Son in us."

      In a sermon delivered on the 7th of April of this year (1811), from Romans x. 4, he thus speaks of faith:

      "Great dissertations have been in the world about faith--its nature, kinds, properties, etc. All these descriptions unable to produce it in the mind of a sinner. No arguments whatever can produce it. Truly of this we may say it is the finger of God. Describing the disease and its remedies will not heal the disorder.

      "No description of faith is given in the Bible, but the evidences and effects of it are there clearly delineated. It is there represented to us as 'coming to Christ,' 'receiving Christ,' 'flying for refuge,' 'trusting in Christ,' etc. The simplest definition of it is, a hearty reliance upon the Lord Jesus Christ for that salvation which he came into the world and died upon the cross to procure for lost sinners. The sinner who, from his heart relies upon and trusts in Jesus, is a believer, and he, and none but he, shall be saved.

      "5. This faith we are constantly led to understand is of the operation of God, and an effect of Almighty power and regenerating grace. 1 John v. 1: 'Every one that believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.'

      "Different kinds of faith are spoken of in the Scriptures, and many vague definitions of it among men. It consists in an act of the understanding and the will; but principally of the will. Illustrate, first, in the case of Rebecca's espousals. Secondly, from its being a command which can only be obeyed by the will. [376]

      "All the promises contained in the sacred Scriptures are addressed to the understanding, and through it to the will. They appear to the understanding true, to the will as good."

      It will be apparent from this, that while he had taken a simple and just view of faith as a "trusting in Christ"--"a hearty reliance upon him for salvation," etc., he still retained at this period the opinion that this "trusting" was "from the operation of God and the effect of almighty power and regenerating grace." This view, as will be seen hereafter, was much modified in subsequent years; and though he always retained the idea of a Divine interposition, he came to regard this as a providential agency, rather than as a direct operation of the Spirit, as held by the popular parties.

      His view of what have been called "the externals" of religion may be gathered from a sermon delivered while on his tour in Ohio, on the 20th May, from Gal. vi. 15, 16:

      "God says neither circumcision nor uncircumcision availeth anything. The doctrines here taught seem to be three: I. That all things merely formal and eternal in religion, being alone, will not avail the possessors. II. That a NEW CREATURE is the only thing of value or esteem in the judgment of God, and advantageous to man. III. That this is a rule in our judgment of things spiritual that will always keep us right, and tend to promote peace and harmony in the Church." He then adds, in reference to Doctrine I.: "All things merely formal and external in religion, being alone, shall not avail the possessors. 1. The moral-virtuous life which some lead will not avail them one day, they not being new creatures. 2. The orthodox creeds and formal attendance on religious duties by men, they not being new creatures, will one day prove to he of no importance." In relation to Doctrine II., he then takes the position that "being a [377] new creature is the only thing essentially necessary to our enjoyment of God. The only thing on earth of value and importance in God's eyes, and the only thing that will avail us." He then defines a new creature as "one who is made a partaker of the Divine nature--one who is justified, sanctified, adopted and an heir of glory--one who is crucified to the world, to the flesh, and who denies himself. And this is the way we are to know him, Rom. viii. Such a one is of more value in God's eyes than the whole world. All things are yours, Rom. viii. 32." He then, in illustrating Doctrine III., closes by stating,

      "That judging thus of things we shall never err:

      "1. In our daily practice. 2. In our zeal for orthodoxy. 3. In this way we shall have peace for our souls. 'Peace be on them that walk by this rule.' 4. Let us walk in this way. 'O house of Jacob, come ye and let us walk in the light of the Lord.'"

      It will be seen from these quotations, that the views entertained by Alexander Campbell in regard to the important points of Christian doctrine discussed, did not conflict with those held by the parties denominated "Orthodox," and that the religious movement in which he was engaged had not for its object the propagation of any new opinions, or the establishment of any new party upon some particular theory of religion or of church government; but that, while it rejected no truths received by the good and pious in religious society, it sought to make its appeal always directly to the Divine testimony, and to be guided, in all its advances, by the light which this afforded. [378]

      1 Those who were then members of the Brush Run Church were Thomas and Alexander Campbell; Mrs. Jane Campbell and her daughter Dorothea; James Foster and wife; John Dawson and wife; Thomas Hodgens, Sen. and wife, and his son James Hodgens; James Hanen and wife; William Gilcrist and daughter, with his wife and her mother; George Sharp, Sen. and wife and son John; Thomas Sharp and a Mrs. Sharp, wife of George Sharp, Jun.; George Archer and wife; Abraham Altars, Margaret Fullerton, Joseph Bryant and John Donaldson. [373]


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

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