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



C H A P T E R   X X.

Spirit of Persecution--Sabbath-keeping--Union with Baptists--
Home-labors--Discussion on Religious Fellowship.

T HE conversion of the church at Brush Run into a society of immersed believers was quite a marvel and an offence to the religious communities of the neighborhood. Displeased as most of them already were by Mr. Campbell's previous opposition to existing usages, this decisive step, which separated him at once from all pædobaptist sympathy, greatly intensified the prejudices which the clergy had succeeded in exciting against him. That a party of individuals who had been nearly all members of orthodox churches should, without extrinsic influence, but simply from their own investigations, take upon themselves to repudiate publicly and finally infant baptism, and to adopt immersion as the primitive institution, and this, too, in the very heart of a pædobaptist community, under the control of a watchful and active ministry, was regarded as a most presumptuous proceeding, and one well calculated to subvert the entire order of religious society. There were no heresies so flagrant which such a party might not embrace. There were no extremes so wild to which they might not run, as they refused to be guided or restrained by those who were the chosen leaders of the people. Hence the "drum ecclesiastic" of each different party was beaten, with more than usual vigor, in [429] vehement efforts to demonstrate to the awestruck auditory the terrible consequences of such departures from the views and practices of "great and good men," and from the standards of the established Churches. Throughout this region of country, the power of the clergy was, at this time, almost supreme, and those: who questioned it were at once put under the ban of religious society, being regarded as disorganizers, and even treated as outlaws in the spiritual kingdom. It may readily be supposed that under these circumstances the members of the Brush Run Church were blessed with no small amount of persecution, and that this was carried as far as the laws and social regulations would permit. As an illustration of the state of feeling which then existed, the following incident may be related. As Alexander Campbell was one evening returning from an appointment, he perceived a violent storm likely to overtake him, and called at the house of a Seceder lady to request shelter. The lady, who came to the door, desired, in the first instance, to know his name, and being informed that it was Alexander Campbell, she at once informed him that she could not admit him into her house. He was, therefore, obliged to pass on homeward, and to brave the fury of the tempest and the dangers from the timber falling across his way, which was chiefly a mere bridle-path through the woods. He did not, however, cherish the slightest unkind feeling toward the lady who had acted thus inhospitably. On the contrary, he used to say in after years, when relating the circumstance, that he had always entertained the highest respect for her, as he was confident she had acted from a sense of religious duty, and that she must have been a pious and very conscientious woman, to have been able thus to repress [430] her natural feelings of kindness, lest she should sin by receiving into her house one whom she was taught to regard as a false religious teacher.

      The bitter prejudice thus excited by clerical influence continued to manifest itself in various ways and for a number of years. Misrepresentations of all kinds were freely circulated amongst the people; friendships were broken off; the ties of family relationship were weakened, and the discord of religious controversy invaded the quietude of the most secluded habitations. Christ had declared in the beginning that he came not to send peace on earth, but a sword--"to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law." The members of the Brush Run Church now fully experienced the truth of this declaration, as they found that obedience to the Divine word raised up foes in a man's own household, and that, in order to be worthy of Christ, each one must take his cross and follow him. The opposition, however, by no means confined itself to private intercourse, or even to the pulpit, but manifested itself in business relations, in the withdrawal of custom from members whose callings were dependent upon public patronage, and in slights at public gatherings whenever it was supposed an indignity might be safely offered to any member present. Such opportunities were sometimes afforded at appointments for preaching, and particularly on baptismal occasions. It happened, more than once, that while Thomas Campbell was baptizing individuals who came forward from time to time to unite with the church, sticks and stones were thrown into the water from amidst the crowd assembled; imprecations also would sometimes be heard, and even threats of personal [431] violence. The administrator, however, always remained perfectly calm, and performed his office with a dignity and a solemnity which secured the respect of, at least, the better portion of the audience. Such demonstrations, however, are not known to have occurred at any of Alexander's appointments. There was something so commanding in his appearance, in the clear emphatic tones of his voice, and something so expressive of power and determined will in the eagle glances of his eye, that he seemed to hold his audience, prejudiced as they were, under a sort of spell, and no one was ever found bold enough to venture upon any annoyances.

      One of the chief things circulated about the reformers at this time was, that they paid no respect to the Sabbath day. This, if believed to be true, could not fail to appear a heinous offence in the eyes of the Presbyterians, who composed almost the entire population of this part of the country, and who regarded it as one of the most important duties to keep, in a very solemn manner, the first day of the week, which they conceived to be a sort of Jewish Sabbath, asserting that the Sabbath day was changed from the seventh day to the first. As the Scripture contained no record of such a change, and gave no authority for it, the reformers, of course, could not admit it; and the simple denial of this fact at once exposed them to the charge of paying no respect to the Sabbath, while, in point of fact, they paid as much respect to the first day of the week as their neighbors. Because, however, they would not call it "the Sabbath," nor regard the Jewish law in relation to the Sabbath, or seventh day, as applicable to the first day of the week, a prodigious clamor was raised against them, as violating one of the most sacred of the [432] commandments. It is true, that they who thus judged, did not themselves keep the first day of the week according to the Jewish law regulating the Sabbath, which declared that whosoever should "do any work on that day should surely be put to death." (Ex. xxxi. 15), in harmony with which precept, when a man was found gathering sticks upon that day, he was taken out of the camp and stoned to death. Num. xv. 36. On the contrary, they assumed the privilege not only of changing the day, but of performing then also whatever they might choose to regard as "works of necessity or mercy." Thus they thought it right to travel more than a "Sabbath-day's journey" to meeting; to grind grain in a very dry time for the community on "Sabbath" after a shower; to take special care of their flocks and their herds on that sacred day, etc., etc.1 [433]

      No one, however, more approved or admired the quietude and becoming solemnity with which this day was generally observed in Presbyterian communities, nor did any one render a more sincere respect to it than Mr. Campbell, for this term, in order to avoid confusion, will be hereafter, in these Memoirs, appropriated to the son, his father being designated as such, or by his name, Thomas Campbell. He made it a rule through life not to travel on the Lord's day, except to an appointment for a religious meeting, and constantly held the day as one to be sacredly appropriated to religious duties. He entirely discountenanced the practice of" Sunday visiting, and urged everywhere the importance of keeping the day in joyful memory of the resurrection of Christ, and with such services as tended to promote Christian edification and enjoyment. About this period, he thus wrote to a person who had been circulating the report that the Brush Run Church did not observe the first day of the week sacred to the Lord. "This," said he, "is a misrepresentation, for there is no sect known to us, and especially amongst our neighbors, that pay a more sacred regard to this important day than we, though we do not convert it into a [434] Jewish Sabbath. The morning of the day we freely consecrate to the Lord in reading, meditation, prayer, with other necessary duties. During the day we assemble to commemorate the death, resurrection and works of Christ--to pray, to praise, to comfort and edify one another, and to converse only on such things as stand connected with our Church relations and relative duties, and if ever anything of a worldly nature is introduced, it is not of choice, but of necessity, as arising out of our circumstances and mutual relations, and all alluding to our existence as a Church. In the evening of the day we conclude as we began. So that there are no professing Christians of any denomination, even those who call the Lord's day a Sabbath, who pay a more rational, scriptural and sacred regard to the Lord's day than we."

      The misrepresentations and petty persecutions, however, to which the members of the church at Brush Run were subjected, only served, as is usually the case, to convince them more fully of the correctness of their course, and to attach them more strongly to one another. They had "obeyed the truth through the Spirit, unto unfeigned brotherly love," and felt that they had been "regenerated by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." The doubts that had previously disturbed their minds on the subject of baptism were now dispelled, and they enjoyed the peculiar gladness which belongs to the bright hours of the earlier period of both the natural and the spiritual life. Having been unable, for want of means, to finish the interior of the meeting-house, they were, nevertheless, accustomed to meet in it regularly, and continued to do so, even without fire, during the inclemency of winter. They visited often at each other's houses, often spending a [435] considerable portion of the night in social prayer, in searching the Scriptures and singing hymns of praise. Their affections seemed to be elevated above the love of the world by the love of Christ, and the deeply implanted prejudices of a sectarian education and training, appeared to have died away beneath the overshadowing influence of Divine truth.

      As was naturally to be expected, the adoption of immersion which had brought the church of Brush Run into so much disfavor with the Pædobaptist community, only served to give to it more acceptance with the Baptists. Of these, indeed, there were but few in the particular region of country between Washington and the Ohio river. East of Washington, however, along the Monongahela river, and throughout the rich valleys at the western base of the Alleghany mountains, they were tolerably numerous, and had formed an association of churches, called "Redstone," from an old Indian fort of that name on the Monongahela, about sixty miles above Pittsburg, where the town of Brownsville is now situated. In addition to his acquaintance with Messrs. Luce and Spears, Mr. Campbell had, from time to time, formed that of other members belonging to the Association, who often urged that the Brush Run Church should connect itself with this religious body. Determined, however, to preserve its Independence as a church, and knowing that, notwithstanding the claim of independency put forth in theory by the Baptist churches, they were very much under the control of the clergy, who constituted the ruling element in the Associations, the proposed measure was regarded for some time as one of doubtful expediency. Another obstacle was, that the churches composing the Association had adopted the Confession of Faith set [436] forth by a Baptist Association at Philadelphia, September 25, 1747, and which contained a fair proportion of the unscriptural theories and speculations usually found in such standards. The practice of immersion indeed, instead of sprinkling, seemed to constitute almost the only important difference between the Baptists and other sects; and although the Brush Run members had adopted immersion, and were hence reputed to be Baptists, they felt that there was a wide difference between them and the Baptist communities in regard to the great principles of religious liberty and progress, as well as to the necessity of returning to the faith and practice of the primitive Churches. In their conformity to these, they had advanced far beyond the Baptist stand-point, even before the adoption of immersion, which, with the simple baptismal confession they had chosen, did not bring them to the position held by the Baptists, but, in reality, had placed them still farther in advance. It was after a long and difficult progress, that the Bible had guided them to the primitive baptism, and they would have been obliged to retrace almost all their steps in order to place themselves on Baptist ground, as it was then measured and staked out by the masters of assemblies. Besides, immersion itself was not to the church of Brush Run precisely what it was to the Baptist Church. To the latter, it was merely a commandment--a sort of front door by which regularity and good order required people to enter the Church. With the former, it was a discovery which had the effect of readjusting all their ideas of the Christian institution. It was to them the primitive confession of Christ, and a gracious token of salvation, and although they did not fully, as yet, comprehend, as afterward, its entire purport, its relations were so far understood [437] as greatly to enlarge and simplify their conceptions of the entire gospel. Upon these points, however, and upon the circumstances which led to a conditional union with the Redstone Association during the fall of 1813, it is proper to hear Mr. Campbell himself, who gives the following account, Harbinger for 1848, p. 344:

      "After my baptism, and the consequent new constitution of our church of Brush Run, it became my duty to set forth the causes of this change in our position to the professing world, and also to justify them by an appeal to the Oracles of God. But this was not all; the position of baptism itself to the other institutions of Christ became a new subject of examination, and a very absorbing one. A change of one's views on any radical matter, in all its practical bearings and effects upon all his views, not only in reference to that simple result, but also in reference to all its connections with the whole system of which it is a part, is not to be computed, a priori, by himself or by any one else. The whole Christian doctrine is exhibited in three symbols--baptism, the Lord's supper, and the Lord's day institution. Some, nay, very many, change their views in regard to some one of these, without ever allowing themselves to trace its connections with the whole institution of which it is either a part or a symbol. My mind, neither by nature nor by education, was one of that order. I must know now two things about everything--its cause and its relations. Hence my mind was, for a time, set loose from all its former moorings. It was not a simple change of views on baptism, which happens a thousand times without anything more, but a new commencement. I was placed on a new eminence--a new peak of the mountain of God, from which the whole landscape of Christianity presented itself to my mind in a new attitude and position.

      "I had no idea of uniting with the Baptists, more than with the Moravians or the mere Independents. I had unfortunately formed a very unfavorable opinion of the Baptist preachers as then introduced to my acquaintance, as narrow, [438] contracted, illiberal and uneducated men. This, indeed, I am sorry to say, is still my opinion of the ministry of that Association at that day; and whether they are yet much improved I am without satisfactory evidence.

      "The people, however, called Baptists, were much more highly appreciated by me than their ministry. Indeed, the ministry of some sects is generally in the aggregate the worse portion of them. It was certainly so in the Redstone Association, thirty years ago. They were little men in a big office. The office did not fit them. They had a wrong idea, too, of what was wanting. They seemed to think that a change of apparel--a black coat instead of a drab--a broad rim on their hat instead of a narrow one--a prolongation of the face and a fictitious gravity--a longer and more emphatic pronunciation of certain words, rather than scriptural knowledge, humility, spirituality, zeal and Christian affection, with great devotion and great philanthropy, were the grand desiderata.

      "Along with these drawbacks, they had as few means of acquiring Christian knowledge as they had either taste or leisure for it. They had but one, two, or, at the most, three sermons, and these were either delivered in one uniform style and order, or minced down into one medley by way of variety. Of course, then, unless they had an exuberant zeal for the truth as they understood it, they were not of the calibre, temper or attainments to relish or seek after mental enlargement or independence. I, therefore, could not esteem them, nor court their favor by offering any incense at their shrine. I resolved to have nothing especially to do with them more than with other preachers and teachers. The clergy of my acquaintance in other parties of that day were, as they believed, educated men, and called the Baptists illiterate and uncouth men, without either learning or academic accomplishments or polish. They trusted to a moderate portion of Latin, Greek and metaphysics, together with a synopsis of divinity, ready made in suits for every man's stature, at a reasonable price. They were as proud of their classic lore [439] and the marrow of modern divinity, as the Baptist was of his 'mode of baptism,'and his 'proper subject' with sovereign grace, total depravity and final perseverance.

      "I confess, however, that I was better pleased with the Baptist people than with any other community. They read the Bible, and seemed to care for little else in religion than 'conversion' and 'Bible doctrine.' They often sent for us and pressed us to preach for them. We visited some of their churches, and, on acquaintance, liked the people more and the preachers less. Still I feared that I might be unreasonable, and by education prejudiced against them, and thought that I must visit their Association at Uniontown, Pennsylvania, in the autumn of 1812. I went there as an auditor and spectator, and returned more disgusted than I went. They invited me 'to preach,' but I declined it altogether, except one evening in a private family, to some dozen preachers and twice as many laymen. I returned home, not intending ever to visit another Association.

      "On my return home, however, I learned that the Baptists themselves did not appreciate the preaching or the preachers of that meeting. They regarded the speakers as worse than usual, and their discourses as not edifying--as too much after the style of John Gill and Tucker's theory of predestination. They pressed me from every quarter to visit their churches. and, though not a member, to preach for them. I often spoke to the Baptist congregations for sixty miles around. They all pressed us to join their Redstone Association. We laid the matter before the Church in the fall of 1813. We discussed the propriety of the measure. After much discussion and earnest desire to be directed by the wisdom which cometh from above, we finally concluded to make an overture to that effect, and to write out a full view of our sentiments, wishes and determinations on that subject. We did so in some eight or ten pages of large dimensions, exhibiting our remonstrance against all human creeds as bonds of communion or union amongst Christian Churches, and expressing a willingness, upon certain conditions, to co-operate or to unite with that [440] Association, provided always that we should be allowed to teach and preach whatever we learned from the Holy Scriptures, regardless of any creed or formula in Christendom. A copy of this document, we regret to say, was not preserved; and, when solicited from the clerk of the Association, was refused.

      "The proportion was discussed at the Association, and, after much debate, was decided by a considerable majority in favor of our being received. Thus a union was formed. But the party opposed, though small, began early to work, and continued with a perseverance worthy of a better cause. There was an Elder Pritchard of Cross Creek, Virginia; an Elder Brownfield of Uniontown, Pennsylvania; an Elder Stone of Ohio, and his son Elder Stone of the Monongahela region, that seemed to have confederated to oppose our influence. But they, for three years, could do nothing. We boldly argued for the Bible, for the New Testament Christianity, vex, harass, discompose whom it might. We felt the strength of our cause of reform on every indication of opposition, and constantly grew in favor with the people. Things passed along without any very prominent interest for some two or three years."

      A very imperfect idea would be formed of the energy and activity of Mr. Campbell during these years, if his public religious and ministerial labors were alone considered. From the time that he came to reside at Mr. Brown's, he had continued to render much assistance in the labors of the farm. This physical exercise however, which he greatly enjoyed, did not materially interfere with the regular course of study which he was accustomed to prescribe for himself. When his horses, weary with the plough, were resting for a little in the shade, he would take from his pocket the New Testament he always carried, and spend the time in committing a portion of it to memory, or in tracing out the [441] order and method of a discourse upon some important theme. Being always a very early riser, many quiet hours were appropriated to important studies before the household was astir; and when, at meal-times, coming in warm and somewhat fatigued, he would recline carelessly upon the little settee with rockers, which served as a cradle for his children, he was almost certain to have a book in his hand and occupy himself in reading aloud to his wife or others present, or in conversing with them respecting the author and the subject of which he treated.

      His selection was such that the subject was never a trivial one, but always something improving, some elevating theme connected with human duty or human happiness, upon which he would himself at intervals interestingly descant. So particular was he, that in one of his MS. books he entered down a list of the works he read from the time he came to Mr. Brown's, March 25, 1811, up to the 15th of August, 1812. As the reader may wish to know the range of his reading during this time, the list is given below.2 The number [442] of pages in all these volumes thus read, he also noted down as amounting to eight thousand three hundred and fifty-four. Nor is it to be supposed that this reading was cursory or superficial, for he not only read these works with care, as is evinced by various notes and references, but made extensive extracts of such portions as he desired particularly to remember. Thus, from "Owen on the Holy Spirit," there are copied no less than thirty-eight foolscap pages, very closely written in the small but clear handwriting peculiar to him, for he had been well drilled in the art of penmanship by his father, who was an accomplished penman, and who wrote a hand so elegant that at a very short distance the eye could not distinguish it from copper-plate engraving. For Dr. Owen he had the highest admiration, and speaks of him, in introducing the extracts, as "that eminent servant of God. "He entertained the same sentiments in reference to John Newton, and through [443] life could never hear the name of either mentioned without expressing his high appreciation of him. He also thought much of some things in the writings of John Walker, from whose "Address to the Methodists in Ireland" he extracts the following passages as worthy of special attention:

      "1. The writer who takes the sacred Scriptures alone for the standard of his faith, and takes the whole of them, must expect opposition and dislike more or less from all sects and parties.

      "2. The more clearly we maintain and exhibit the simplicity of the real Gospel of Christ, the more we shall be disliked and despised by the world.

      "3. The gospel which proposes a foundation for the sinner's hope altogether out of himself, and calls him to live a life which he is to live not by himself, but 'by the faith of the Son of God,' is on this account peculiarly offensive to the world.

      "4. It is no part of the work of grace to mend the corrupt nature. That nature is as bad, as wholly evil, in a believer as in an unbeliever; as bad in the most established believer as in the wickedest; as bad in Paul the apostle, just finishing his course and ready to receive the crown of righteousness, as in Saul of Tarsus, a blasphemer and a persecutor of the Church of Christ.

      "5. What are we to understand by being sanctified or made holy? I answer in a word--separated unto God, so as to be brought into a particular relation unto him, appropriated to his use and service. This is the literal meaning of qâdôsh. For this reason, persons, places and things have been said to be sanctified, in the Bible. See Lev. xx. 24, 26; Deut. vii. 6; xiv. 2: believers are 'chosen' out of the world, his peculiar people, a holy nation, from the babe in Christ to the Father. 1 Pet. i. 2; ii. 9. Consider 1 Cor. i. 30: 'Of him,' etc. 'Believers are in a new state in Christ Jesus.' Not of themselves but 'of him'--of God. Then Christ is [444] made unto them wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption. Their sanctification and justification equally result from being in Christ.

      "In consequence of this union, the Spirit of holiness, the Spirit of life and power, descends and dwells in them, producing in them them the fruits of holiness, even that cluster of heavenly affections, Gal, v. 22, 23. And these fruits are produced because they are kept 'abiding in Christ.' walking in him. Col. ii. 6. And they are kept thus continually in Christ, by the Spirit keeping them under a continual conviction of their need of him as poor sinners, who have in themselves neither righteousness nor strength, and testifying to their hearts that in him they have righteousness and strength in whom alone all the seed of Israel is justified and shall glory, saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation (see Isa. xlv. 17, 24, 25), testifying of his offices and character. They are kept by the 'power of God through faith unto salvation.   *     *     *     *

      "1. The doctrine of a sinner's justification as the free gift of God in Christ Jesus to every one that believeth, is the essential difference between the gospel and all human systems.

      "2. This doctrine, Luther said, is the turning-point of a falling or a standing Church; and it may be truly said to be the turning-point of true religion or false religion.   *     *     *

"4. On Repentance.

      "That repentance which is unto life is not anything preceding faith or unconnected with it, but it is that new mind of which we are made partakers when we are given to believe with the heart in Jesus.

      "There may be a pregnant sorrow for sin, when there is no true repentance."

"On Party Names.

      "1. I observe that the Scriptures positively testify against the practice of Christians calling themselves by their earthly leaders. If I were to choose any man by whose name I would [445] call myself, I would be apt to select Paul and call myself a Paulite. But against this Paul himself would protest; and shall I call myself a Calvinist, or a disciple of Calvin? Nor would I ever wish to descend from the high character of a servant of Jesus Christ, to that of a champion for the opinions of any man."

"Against Arminianism.

      "2. I am persuaded that all that are saved, are saved from a proud rebelliousness of heart, and subdued to a thankful acquiescence in the revealed way of salvation; glad to be saved by mere mercy, and convinced that if it were not mere mercy, they could not be saved at all.

      "3. I would observe that to charge God with cruelty for not extending the same grace and saving mercy to others, is in effect to deny the existence of his mercy altogether. The very idea of mercy is that it is gratuitous--that is not the gift of mercy which may not be justly withheld; and that cannot justly be withheld, which it would be cruelty to withhold.

      "4. Alas! What a different book would the Bible, be if systematic divines, if uninspired men of any sect or party, had the compilation of it!"

      For the learning, sincerity and talents of John Walker, Mr. Campbell entertained a very high respect, but it was a respect somewhat mingled with pity that his labors should have resulted in so little real benefit to religious society. He had heard him preach at Rich-Hill, as related (page 60), and was greatly impressed by his acquirements and his acuteness, and used often, in conversation, to speak of the facts in his history; of the trouble he gave the Episcopalians, while among them, by inveighing against their worldly conformity; of his subsequent union with the Methodists on account of their plainness of dress and manners, and of his speedy abandonment of this connection from his [446] dissatisfaction with their Arminian doctrines, upon which he wrote his celebrated "Letters to Alexander Knox," which many regarded as the finest exposition of the gospel plan of justification which had appeared since Paul's Epistle to the Romans. For a time, Mr. Walker had sympathized with the Haldanean movement; but, adopting peculiar notions of separatism, and refusing to hold religious fellowship even in appearance with those who differed from him, he established an impassable barrier between the few followers he here and there obtained, and all the surrounding religious bodies.3

      Mr. Campbell himself seems, during the winter of 1812, to have given some consideration to this question of religious fellowship, and as he was then carrying on the correspondence, already spoken of, with his father upon various topics, he took occasion to introduce for discussion the position which believers occupy in relation to unbelievers in social or public religious exercises. Under date of February 26, 1812, he submits to his father the following queries:

      "1. What is prayer, and how many kinds are there? 2. Is it scriptural and lawful for believers and unbelievers formally to join in prayer and praise as acts of religious worship? The matter to be ascertained is," he remarks, "The propriety of social acts of religious worship in promiscuous assemblies or in families where some are unbelievers." [447] After expressing his desire that this matter should be examined impartially, and without paying any respect to such "advantages or disadvantages in a temporal sense as might accrue from this or that practice," he says: "When I survey the religious world and read the New Testament, the more clearly I am convinced that superstition, enthusiasm, formality and will-worship, prevail to the ruin and disgrace of scriptural and ancient Christianity. And as truth can never be injured by being examined, to call all doctrines and religious practices, in this generation, in question, appears an immediate and indispensable duty." After speaking then of the corruptions of Christianity in the perversion of the ordinances of baptism, the Lord's Supper, the Lord's day, preaching, etc., he inquires if it is not probable that the ordinances of prayer and praise have likewise been perverted. "How many disciples of Moses," he exclaims, "are yet to be found in the professed school of Jesus Christ! and how few among the teachers of the New Testament seem to know that Christ's ministers are not able ministers of the Old Testament, but of the New! Do they not, like scholars to their teacher, run to Moses to prove forms of worship, ordinances. discipline, and government in the Christian Church, when asked to account for their practice? On this subject, I think we may rest satisfied, that since the great Prophet has come, whom to refuse or disobey is death, who is a faithful son over his own house, that all worship and forms of worship, ordinances, discipline, and government belonging to the Christian Church, must be learned exclusively from the New Testament. And every appeal made to Moses or the prophets to confirm any form of worship, ordinance, or any part of Christian discipline or government is sending Christ the Son to Moses the servant to be instructed. It is a perverse impeachment of the wisdom, goodness and care of the Church's head."

      Passing, afterward, to the subject of family-worship, he submits to his father the question whether there is [448] scriptural authority for making this observance, as some had done, a term of communion, and whether it is proper in a family composed in part of unbelievers? To these inquiries his father replies at considerable length in two letters, dated the 2d and 12th of March, in which he considers particularly this question of religious fellowship:

      "That Christianity," he remarks, "in the present profession and practice, is greatly corrupted, is a plain matter of fact. Whoever will seriously consider the present state of things in the professing world and compare it with the spirit and tenor of the apostolic writings, and with the state of things there exhibited, will plainly perceive, nay, will sensibly feel, a remarkable and striking difference." Dwelling then upon the gospel as it was first introduced, and as designed to replace all other religions, he continues: "As the object of this new religion, if I may so call it, which superseded all others, and made them null and void upon its appearance, was the one God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was thus distinguished (see 1 Cor. viii. 5, 6), and only rightly worshiped in and through him who was indeed one with him and with the Holy Spirit in Divinity, but distinct from him and Lorded by him as to his relation to humanity, or as the Word made flesh, Acts ii. 36; so with respect to religious fellowship or relationship, the subjects of this new religion had their respects or religious regards entirely turned to and solely confined to each other, considering none but themselves as fellow-subjects of the grace of God, or as brethren in religion. Hence their religious esteem and intercourse in all religious acts and exercises were precisely and necessarily limited to each other, and of course must of necessity still be the same, for there is still but one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, and of course but one law of love pervading and uniting all within the manifold limits of this unity and under its manifest influences. Now every pretence to extend [449] communion in the acts and exercises of religion beyond the limits of this special unity, as well as every attempt to set it aside, wheresoever manifest by separating or causing to separate those whom God has thus united in himself by his Son Jesus Christ through the Spirit, in the one baptismal profession of faith and holiness, is no less absurd than anti-scriptural. These, and these alone, constitute the one visible professing body of our Lord Jesus Christ upon earth, and are the special subjects of all-saving grace and of fellowship in all gospel ordinances, in and by which that grace is manifested, maintained and promoted.

      "Now all are, in the first instance, manifested and distinguished by the one faith, of which the one baptism or submersion in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is the proper, instituted and expressive symbol, and also the first formal and comprehensive act of the obedience of faith. But this faith may be manifested without this baptism, and where it is received must always be manifested (I mean by a scriptural and intelligent profession) before it. And now that the world has for a long time been misled about this baptism, and in the way of administering it to children, which are utterly incapable and always unqualified subjects--the one faith, manifested by an intelligent and consistent profession, is the immediate, proper, and formal reason of religious communion in all the instituted ordinances of gospel worship, beyond which it cannot be lawfully or profitably extended; and this instituted worship can be nowhere performed upon the Lord's day, where the Lord's Supper is not administered. Wherever this is neglected, there New Testament Church-worship ceases.   *     *

      "Now as all private and particular meetings of Christians for particular purposes, naturally and properly include only such as are concerned in the proper and specified cause of such meetings, therefore none but they can have any proper or assignable cause of access to such meetings, and as the public meetings of the Church for edification are open to all (see 1 Cor. xiv. 23, 24, 25), there can be, therefore, no [450] prostitution of religious exercises by the accidental presence of unbelievers, seeing they are not intentionally as members, or as the proper and qualified subjects of such exercises, although they may happen to be present, and also to be convinced and converted by the appointed means of public edification. And, as for the Lord's Supper, which only respects disciples, and to which none else have right of access but only such, it belongs so peculiarly to the church and to it alone, that it would appear that none else but disciples had access to the meetings which were held for this particular purpose; so that there was no need for tokens to distinguish church members from strangers who belong not to the church; and, indeed, it would be hard to conceive under what pretence such could be admitted.   *     *     *     *

      "Upon the whole, it appears that the Christians had their public, their special and their private or particular meetings--their public meetings for public edification, their special meetings for special edification, and their more private or particular meetings pro re nata.   *     *     *     *   But all the while, it is as obvious as the light that shines, that professed believers, acknowledged Christians, and none but they, are the proper, intended and specified subjects of all religious communion and fellowship in all the ordinances of gospel worship, nor can they scripturally intend, much less extend, that communion beyond themselves or those of their own number. See 2 Cor. vi. 14-18. Though they may and will consult and intend the conversion and salvation of their perishing fellow-creatures by the means appointed for that purpose in their public meetings. See 1 Cor. xiv. 23-25. Thus far concerns the order, intention and proper subjects of the ordinances of gospel worship, public, special and particular.

      "The next question that occurs upon this interesting and important subject, is like that of the Pharisee of old: 'Who is my neighbor, my brother in religion, the qualified object of my regard, my fellow-Christian?'

      "In attempting to answer this, I would cautiously avoid the Pharisaic self-preferring disposition, and therefore would reply, [451] in the first instance, any fellow-sinner of the human race, how vile soever he may have been, who makes an intelligent profession of the truth as it is in Jesus, as comprehensively specified in the eighth proposition of the overture in our Address; and so long as he continues to manifest the reality of his profession by his temper and conduct, still to consider him in the same light. Than the above, I know no other distinction between mankind with respect to salvation, and this, while I believe the Scriptures, I must believe to be the only and all-sufficient ground for Christian love, and therefore I must heartily acquiesce in what is declared in the ninth proposition. This, however, may be thought at first view to be a very generalizing principle; I could wish with all my heart that it was, that it would embrace the whole Christian--I mean professing--world; but upon a close inspection and strict application, I fear it will be found to embrace but comparatively few--yea, very few--of the great majority of the religious professors. Do they, or can they all, indeed, upon a close examination, manifest a conviction by the word and truth of God that they are originally and actually in the awful, woeful, lost and perishing condition in which the word and truth of God declares them to be? And in connection with this, such a scriptural view of the person and mediation of Jesus Christ as both satisfies God and the convinced conscience, gives rest and peace to the heart from the just apprehension of impending wrath, and disposes the soul to the holy obedience of faith and love? Do they or can they profess such faith, such hope and such love upon the good, assignable scriptural reasons with which a true knowledge and belief of the Divine testimony furnishes every mind that truly understands and believes it? I fear not; and I would say that, without this clearly and scripturally ascertained in connection with a corresponding practice (in so far as practice can be taken into consideration Under the various circumstances in which the various applicants may be found), there is no just scriptural ground of religious fellowship.   *     *     *

      "In order, then, to direct and determine our practice in [452] existing circumstances, when all the world are called Christians, and the great majority seem to persuade themselves that they are so in some sense, and therefore are in a condition with respect to Christ and salvation vastly different from the heathen world, both as to persons and circumstances, we believe, as we have a right to hope, that there are Christians in all the denominations of professors where the great fundamental truths of the gospel are acknowledged, although we have no reason to believe that the majority of professors are such. Therefore, when any number of persons assemble on the Lord's day for the avowed purpose of public worship, there we may reasonably hope that there are some believers, and however this be, the persons thus assembling, in so far avow themselves to be voluntary subjects of the gospel dispensation; nor is it our place to determine, what in many cases we cannot, who of them are or are not Christians, or whether or not they may not be all so, seeing that in the point of view in which they present themselves to our considerations, as also in the course of the service, they manifest themselves to partake with us in the acts of religious worship. There can be no doubt, then, in such a case, but we are to consider and address them as the professed worshipers of the true God through Jesus Christ. I do not say as unfeigned and believing worshipers, for, even in the most perfect Church, we would scarcely be justifiable in considering all as such. This conclusion proceeds upon the supposition that Christ has a people amongst the visible professors of his name, and that these may be expected to be found where the great fundamental truths of the gospel are publicly professed; nay, that wheresoever this is the case, there the professors, if sincere, of course must be his people. But this, as I said above, is scarcely to be expected in the most perfect Church that ever did or shall exist. See the seven Epistles to the seven Asiatic Churches. Moreover, every irregularity, error or mistake does not unpeople a professing people. Therefore I conclude that where we bear an open faithful testimony against the existing evils of a professing people who acknowledge the [453] great fundamental truths of the gospel, we are warranted to join in all public acts of religious worship with such of them as voluntarily attend upon our ministrations, and thus countenance our instructions both by their voluntary attendance and manifest concurrence with us in those religious acts."   *     *     *     *

      Such were the sentiments of Thomas Campbell upon the subject of religious fellowship in March, 1811, and in these his son Alexander substantially agreed. When, about three months after the above correspondence, the church at Brush Run became a body of immersed believers, these views became more clearly and sharply defined, no one being afterward recognized as duly prepared to partake in religious services, except those who had professed to put on Christ in baptism. From his lively sense of the prevalent corruptions of the gospel and its institutions, and his conscientious scruples in regard to yielding to these any countenance or toleration, Mr. Campbell, even down to his later years, would occasionally, amongst private friends, contend strenuously for principles almost as exclusive and rigid as those of Walker. His benevolent feelings, however; his Christian courtesy and his sympathy for those whom he regarded as sincere but mistaken, did not permit him to carry out such principles. Both he and his father had great consideration for the unintentional mistakes and errors in which religious society had become involved, and in this feeling, the members of the church at Brush Run, for the most part, participated. However clear their convictions had become as to the primitive method of confessing Christ, and the primitive faith and order of the Church, they had too fresh a recollection of their own struggles and difficulties in attaining to the views they held, and too deep a [454] sympathy with the pious but priest-ridden members of other communities, to refuse to recognize them as being intentionally at least, followers of Christ. As they could not, however, make any compromise with the corrupt systems and practices of the day, and were prevented by their principles from recognizing fraternally any one who had not publicly complied with the requisitions of the gospel, they were necessarily inhibited from inviting any except the actual members of the church to take a part in religious exercises. This was specially true with regard to the Lord's Supper, which they continued to celebrate weekly, and of which none but baptized believers were invited to partake. It was not, however, the custom of the church, nor has it ever been that of any of the Churches of the Reformation, to "fence the tables," as sectarians express and practice it; or to withhold the symbols from any pious person who might be present and feel disposed to unite in commemorating the death of Christ. [455]

      1 Among those who stood very high in the Presbyterian Church, some curious cases are recorded, which illustrate the diversity of opinion and practice which arises, when every man is allowed to interpret the law according to his own views.
      It is related that James A. Haldane, when a lad, made a tour, along with one of his school-fellows, George Ramsey, through the North of England, accompanied by his teacher, Dr. Adam, rector of the High School of Edinburgh, and author of the "Roman Antiquities" and other valuable works. They traveled on horseback, and were also accompanied by the Rev. Dr. Macknight, the well-known commentator, whose practical disregard of the Lord's day made a deep impression on his fellow-travelers. In speaking of this, the author of the "Memoirs of the Haldanes" says: "Although Dr. Adam was not an enlightened man in spiritual things, and then attended the very moderate teaching of the minister of St. Cuthbert's Chapel-of-Ease, yet he had been accustomed to reverence the outward symbols of religion. But when they had crossed the border and arrived in an Episcopalian country, Dr. Macknight persuaded his learned friend that, being now out of the hounds of Presbytery, and under no obligation to countenance prelatical worship, it would be very absurd to allow their journeying plans to be deranged by the intervention of the Sabbath. This convenient doctrine at first surprised, but at last proved very palatable to the young travelers. For a time, Dr. Adam felt very much ashamed when they entered a town or village when the church-going bells were calling the people to the services of the [433] sanctuary. But these scruples were soon overcome by the doughty commentator." It must not be understood, however, that Presbyterians in general sanctioned Dr. Macknight's views in regard to Jewish observances, or that such cases as those referred to, would at all fairly represent the opinions they held with regard to the first day of the week, or Sabbath, as they made it a point to call it. And such cases were just as far from representing the sentiments or the practice of Alexander Campbell and those associated with him. For, although he regarded the positive and ceremonial institutions of the Jewish law to have been fulfilled in Christ, and that the antitype of the Sabbath was found in the heavenly sabbatism of the New Institution in which men cease from their own works, having found rest and righteousness in Christ, he, on that very account, felt but the more disposed to reverence and honor the day which was commemorative of the fact that Christ rose again for our justification. [434]
      2 Owen on the Holy Spirit. 3 vols. 1218 pp.
      Owen on the Death of Death. 1 vol. 320 pp.
      Walker's Address to the Methodists. 40 pp.
      Walker's Charity Sermon. 1 vol. 112 pp.
      Walker's Letters to Knox. 1st vol. 300 pp.
        do.     do.     do.   2d vol. 300 pp.
      Quolquhun's Address. 1 vol. 124 pp.
      Law on Christian perfection. 472 pp.
      Address on the Christian Name. 30 pp.
      Lany's Philemon to Onesimus. 1 vol. 432 pp.
      Hervey's Meditations. 1 vol. 400 pp.
      Paul Wright's Biography. 1 vol. 200 pp.
      Michaelis' Introductory Lectures to the New Testament. 326 pp.
      Mason on Self-Knowledge. 90 pp.
      Sandeman's Letters on Theron and Aspasio. 2 vols. 300 pp.
      Sandeman on Marriage. 52 pp. [442]
      Booth's Essay on the Kingdom of Christ. 120 pp.
      Bellamy's Dialogues and Essays. 320 pp.
      Cudworth against Sandeman and Bellamy. 300 pp.
      Haldane on Baptism. 100 pp.
      McClean's pamphlets--A reply to Mr. Fuller's Appendix to his book on "The Gospel Worthy of Acceptance." 134 pp.
      Wardlaw's Lectures on the Abrahamic Covenant, revised. 132 pp.
      Belief of the Gospel, Saving Faith. 36 pp.
      Sermons on Public Fasts. 48 pp.
      Defence of Believer's Baptism. 93 pp.
      Haldane's Tour through the Highlands. 100 pp.
      Branagon's Concise View of Religious Sects. 324 pp.
      Booth Against Free Communion. 70 pp.
      Prophetic Conjectures on the French Revolution by various authors, with other events. 96 pp.
      Bechens on the Signs of the Times, or the Overthrow of the Papal Tyranny in France. 40 pp.
      Anonymous Dialogues on Duty. 50 pp.
      The Pioneer. 312 pp.
      Kelly's Sermon on Perseverance. 20 pp.
      Kelly's Defence of his book "Union." 80 pp. [443]
      3 Of those who adopted Mr. Walker's views, there were a few in the neighborhood of Newry, who, in after years, used to meet occasionally in that place. Mr. Ross of Rosstrevor, successor of General Ross, was one of them, and, being a public man, was accustomed on such occasions to deliver a religious address to the people. But at these meetings there were no public exercises, such as prayer or singing, by uniting in which any of the audience could assume even the appearance of religious fellowship. It may readily be supposed, that a course of this kind, to which the divided and distracted state of religious society could alone have given origin, had the effect of greatly limiting the progress of Mr. Walker's opinions. [447]


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

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