[Table of Contents]
Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, Volume I. (1868)
C H A P T E R X X I.
Diffusion of Truth--Agricultural Pursuits--Sectarian Jealousies--Redstone
Association--Sermon on the Law--Letter on the Trinity.
N some communities, the diffusion of either truth or error is extremely slow. The local circumstances; the character of the original settlers; the chief occupations; above all, the religious views and habits of thought at first prevailing, and the sympathies which belong to the people of every district mutually associated and allied, often give to it a certain unity of sentiment which resists innovation and is opposed to change. Such was the case, in a marked degree, in regard to the region to which Mr. Campbell and his father had hitherto devoted their reformatory labors, so that these, however earnest and disinterested, seemed as yet to produce comparatively but little visible effect. Individuals, indeed, occasionally, became impressed by the truth, and in defiance of the opposition of relatives and acquaintances, and sometimes under peculiarly touching circumstances, would present themselves for baptism. Most of the accessions, however, for some time, were from among newly-arrived immigrants, who, while the impression of change was yet fresh upon them, and they were yet uncommitted to any religious party in the neighborhood, were more disposed to hear and to consider the plea for primitive Christianity. Among these may be mentioned Joseph and William  Mathews, brothers of Mrs. Hanen, who, arriving about this period, soon became members, and continued ever after active and intelligent advocates of the cause.
During the progress of affairs, there were not wanting some curious cases showing to what measures men will sometimes resort in order to stifle their convictions, or to make a compromise between their wishes or prejudices and their consciences.
Among instances of the latter, there was a certain John Moore, a Seceder, who, in spite of a violent opposition from his wife, had become a member of the Christian Association, but withdrew about the time immersion was adopted, and became a bitter enemy of the Brush Run Church. His secret misgivings, however, would not allow him to rest satisfied with his position. Being, after a time, convinced that infant baptism was invalid, he was ashamed to apply for immersion to those he had forsaken, or even to acknowledge publicly his adoption of views he had so recently decried. Amidst his mental conflict, he was finally brought to the strange conclusion that he could be himself the administrator; so that, repairing one day to a stream of water in a secluded place, where he thought no human eye could see him, he went through the usual forms and immersed himself. This, indeed, is not, even in the United States, the only instance of an individual becoming, both religiously and etymologically, a self-baptist; and though such cases yield a strong, because unwilling, testimony to the force of truth in regard to the action termed baptism, they at the same time betray the sad weakness of the human understanding, that can suppose a thing which is not possible in fact to be nevertheless true in figure, and that, in the expressive symbolism of this ordinance,  one who is dead can bury himself, and raise himself again by his own power, to live in newness of life. This latter result certainly did not follow in the case of Mr. Moore, whose conduct becoming known, as he could not keep his own secret, rendered him, by the public discredit it brought upon him, only the more dissatisfied with himself and the more embittered against the reformation and his former associates.
Not long after the Brush Run Church had united with the Redstone Association, Thomas Campbell, who warmly approved this union, as it took away from the church the odium of forming a new religious body, became convinced that but little more good could be effected by his labors in Western Pennsylvania. As his attachment to places, never very strong, was not permitted to interfere, for a moment, with the higher claims of religious usefulness, he began to think of changing his place of residence. Having formed some acquaintance with the young and rapidly growing State of Ohio,1 and hearing favorable accounts of the region around Cambridge, in Guernsey county, about ninety miles distant, he visited it in the spring of 1813, and finally concluded to sell his little property in Washington county, and to purchase another near Cambridge. As his eldest daughter, Dorothea, had become the wife of Joseph Bryant, January 13, 1813, and, in the following November, his daughter Nancy, next in age, married a young man by the name of Andrew Chapman, it was arranged that his sons-in-law would accompany him, and assist in the management of the  farm and of the seminary he proposed to establish in Cambridge. He removed his family, accordingly, at the close of the year, soon after the church of Brush Run had been received into the Redstone Association, and succeeded in establishing a flourishing school at Cambridge. Alexander, meanwhile, remained at Mr. Brown's, and to him and James Foster the care of Brush Run Church was now committed; James Foster having been ordained elder, with imposition of hands by Thomas Campbell, Alexander Campbell, Mathias Luce, and Charles Wheeler.
On the 13th of September of this year (1813), another daughter had been born to Mr. Campbell, and called Eliza Ann. He himself continued occupied as usual in the labors of the farm, and in filling his appointments for preaching in the neighborhood, and occasionally at considerable distances from home. A knowledge of the principles of the reformation became thus more widely extended, especially among the Baptist churches of the Redstone Association and the Stillwater Association in Ohio, and a number of the more intelligent members became favorable to them. Individuals, too, during his labors at home, occasionally presented themselves for baptism. Among these, were his wife's father and mother, who had come forward after considerable investigation and reflection. A few in Charleston, also, chiefly females, had become obedient to the faith, and others here and there through the country. Most of these were too widely scattered to take membership in Brush Run Church, which, owing to removals, scarcely preserved its original number. Seeing the difficulty of making a decided impression upon the community around them, and infected somewhat with the prevailing spirit of migration, many  of the members of the church began to take into serious consideration the question of removing in a body to a more suitable place. On the 13th of April, 1814, a meeting was called for the purpose of considering the matter. The scattered condition of the membership, by which many were prevented from attending meeting regularly; the opposition they encountered on account of their religious views; the difficulty of obtaining schools and suitable teachers for their children; the oppressive labors required in order to obtain support for themselves and families, were all found to be weighty reasons for seeking to better their condition. After due consideration, a removal was deemed desirable, and it was concluded that the most eligible situation would be the neighborhood of some flourishing town, not more than two hundred miles west, so as not to get too near the Indian border. It was thought that such a town would not only afford better opportunities for public usefulness, but furnish employment for such as were artisans, while the remainder, who were farmers, could follow their vocation in the vicinity, while all could have the benefit of a school for their children under their own direction. A committee was accordingly appointed to explore the country in order to find, if possible, a suitable situation. This committee consisted of George Archer, Richard McConnel, Abraham Altars, John Cockens, and Alexander Campbell, who immediately visited a considerable portion of Ohio; and having found Zanesville and its vicinity to be possessed of the greatest advantages, all of which were minutely detailed in the written report presented to the church upon their return, it was unanimously resolved, at a meeting held June 8, 1814, that the report be accepted, and that the removal should take place as soon as  they could individually make the necessary arrangements.
It happened, however, that John Brown, for whose judgment Mr. Campbell had great deference, was not much in favor of the project, and did not like to have his daughter and son-in-law remove to so great a distance. Having also a desire himself to adopt some mode of life less laborious than farming, he determined to make Mr. Campbell a present of the fine farm on which he lived. He therefore frankly gave him a deed, in fee simple, of the entire premises, and removing at once with his wife to Charleston, engaged there in the grocery business, becoming a member in the Baptist church on Cross Creek, three miles above. This generous conduct on the part of Mr. Brown, and respect for his wishes, occasioned, as a matter of course, an entire change in the proposed arrangements so far as respected Mr. Campbell, who was now compelled to remain where he was. The other members of the church then, being unwilling to remove without him, relinquished, for the present, their purpose of going to the West. Meanwhile, Mr. Campbell being thus providentially furnished with the means of carrying out his cherished wishes as to public usefulness, immediately set to work with his accustomed energy, to put the farm into good repair, and to make such changes as would enable him to be more abroad. These necessary duties occupied much of his time during the remainder of 1814 and the greater part of the year 1815, but were never allowed to interfere with his regular appointments for preaching. During this period, he was exceedingly laborious; and on one occasion is said to have put up in one day, with his own hands, one hundred panels of rail-fence. His being thus personally engaged in the  labors of the farm did not fail to commend him very highly to the good feelings of the neighboring farmers, who might otherwise have been disposed to regard with that jealousy which the leveling spirit of republicanism engenders, one who had been brought up to a different vocation, and who, from his abilities and acquirements, occupied necessarily a higher sphere. They were surprised, however, if not gratified, to find themselves surpassed at their own business by the scholar and preacher, whose plainness and simplicity charmed them, while his urbanity and hospitality placed him upon the most familiar and friendly terms with them all. No one could be more observant of the duties of social life, or more careful to maintain the most agreeable relations with all his neighbors, than Mr. Campbell. For this purpose, as well as from his naturally companionable disposition, it was customary for him to make, in company with Mrs. Campbell, frequent friendly visits to them, to take a lively interest in their welfare, and to render to them all the services in his power. Full of the vivacity and wit belonging to the Irish character, and ever cheerful as the morning light, his presence diffused an agreeable charm over the social life of the neighborhood, and seemed to arouse the isolated households, scattered amongst the hills, to an unusual degree of hospitality and friendly intercourse. Even the religious prejudices with which some had been imbued in the surrounding community, consisting chiefly of Presbyterians and Methodists, melted away under the genial influence of personal acquaintance; for, notwithstanding the diversity of their religious sentiments, they were unable to withhold from Mr. Campbell the honor and regard which his piety, his commanding abilities and his agreeable manners inspired in all around him. 
While Mr. Campbell was thus actively engaged, his father was closely confined to the duties of his seminary at Cambridge. In the midst of these labors he received, toward the close of 1815, a letter from General Acheson of Washington, informing him that his brother, David Acheson, had been seized with a serious illness, attended with a mental disturbance which rendered the patient difficult to manage; and as it was thought that the presence of an old and valued friend like Thomas Campbell would have a salutary effect, he entreated him to come, if possible, to Washington. In obedience to this summons and to the dictates of his affectionate feelings, he at once left his school in charge of his assistants and came to Washington, where he remained a number of weeks, rendering all the assistance in his power until Mr. Acheson's disease finally proved fatal. While here, he happened to hear of a favorable opening for a school in Pittsburg, and, what was to him of far more importance, of a favorable prospect of greater religious usefulness than he had found at Cambridge, where the prejudices of some, and the worldliness and gayety of the majority of the people, seemed to have completely closed their minds against his overtures for reformation. Having visited Pittsburg, therefore, and made the necessary arrangements, he removed his family to that place, where a flourishing school was soon obtained through the assistance of James Irwin, N. Richardson and other warm personal friends, who were happy to secure for their children the advantage of the strict European method of instruction pursued by Mr. Campbell. Joseph Bryant assisted for some time in the school, while Mr. Chapman opened another in the suburbs, but soon after returned to Washington county, where a farm had fallen to him by inheritance. 
On the 20th of November of this year (1815), Alexander Campbell's family was increased by the addition of another daughter, who was named Maria Louisa. About this time he proposed to the few members of the church residing in Charlestown that a meeting-house should be erected in the town, which was entirely without any public place of worship, all meetings having been heretofore held in the court-house. He, furthermore, volunteered his services for three or four months in soliciting a portion of the necessary means. The matter being agreed to, he left home on Tuesday morning, 12th of December, 1815, and, arriving at Pittsburg on the 14th, spent the evening socially in company with his father, at the house of Mr. Richardson, who gave twenty dollars to the building of the house, being the first contributor. Next morning, he set out in the stage for Philadelphia, where he arrived on the following Saturday.
Passing over nearly the same region of country which he had traversed upon first arriving in the United States, six years before, he now viewed the mountains and valleys of Pennsylvania with less of the ardor of youthful feeling, and with more of the vision of the political economist. The quality of the lands, the character of the farm improvements, the dwelling-houses, barns and fencing, the vast mineral riches of the State, now occupied a prominent place in his journal, although the beauty of the country, the magnificent prospects from the mountains, and the handsome, flourishing villages along the route were not unnoticed. He was especially delighted with the fine farms and farm-buildings, the rich groves of locust and the fertility of the land in Lancaster county, and formed still higher conceptions of the immense resources of the country of his  adoption. Upon first taking up his residence at Mr. Brown's, in 1811, he had at once taken the necessary steps in order to naturalization, and, after the expiration of the two years of residence required by law, had been admitted as a citizen of the United States. No one could be more attached than he to the government and its institutions, though he was not at all a politician in the ordinary sense of the word. During the war with Great Britain, which, after continuing two years and eight months, had been terminated by the treaty of Ghent, on the 18th of the preceding February (1815), party spirit had run very high, and the state of the country at the peace gave rise to various exciting questions of foreign and domestic policy, which occasioned great political agitation. Mr. Campbell, however, always avoided taking any active part in politics, and though, on all proper occasions, he frankly expressed his views on all public measures, he always took care to maintain the reserve and dignity belonging to his ministerial office.
His appreciation of the blessings enjoyed under a republican government may be learned from a letter which he addressed, immediately upon his arrival at Philadelphia, to his uncle Archibald at Newry:
"PHILADELPHIA CITY, December 28, 1815.
"DEAR UNCLE: More than seven years have elapsed since I bade farewell to you and my native country. During this period of years my mind and circumstances have undergone many revolutions. * * * *
"I cannot speak too highly of the advantages that the people in this country enjoy in being delivered from a proud and lordly aristocracy; and here it becomes very easy to trace the common national evils of all European countries to their proper source, and chiefly to that first germ of  oppression, of civil and religious tyranny. I have had my horse shod by a legislator, my horse saddled, my boots cleaned, my stirrup held by a senator. Here is no nobility but virtue; here there is no ascendance save that of genius, virtue and knowledge. The farmer here is lord of the soil, and the most independent man on earth. * * * * No consideration that I can conceive of, would induce me to exchange all that I enjoy in this country, climate, soil and government, for any situation which your country can afford. I would not exchange the honor and privilege of being an American citizen for the position of your king."
As his uncle was still an elder in the Seceder Church at Newry, he devoted a portion of the letter to the subject of the religious changes he had undergone. After speaking of family matters, he says:
"My father still resembles one of our planets in emigrating from place to place. He has lived in Washington and in the country; in Cambridge, ninety miles west, and now in Pittsburg. He is teaching a school in Pittsburg, worth, say, seven hundred dollars, and will be worth much more in a short time. As to our religious state, news, progress and attainments, I expect my father has written or will immediately write you. I shall therefore drop but a few hints on this subject. For my own part, I must say that, after long study and investigation of books, and more especially the Sacred Scriptures, I have, through clear convictions of truth and duty, renounced much of the traditions and errors of my early education. I am now an Independent in church government; * * * * of that faith and view of the gospel exhibited in John Walker's seven letters to Alexander Knox, and a Baptist in so far as respects baptism. * * * * What I am in religion I am from examination, reelection, conviction, not from 'ipse dixit,' tradition or human authority; and having halted, and faltered, and stumbled, I have explored every inch of the way hitherto, and I trust, through grace, 'I am what I am.' Though my father and I accord in  sentiment, neither of us are dictators or imitators. Neither of us lead; neither of us follow. The poor Seceders in this country seem to have lost all power of religion and of truth. * * * * Remember me affectionately to all my old friends and relations. I will name none, as I cannot name all. I remember them, I pray for them, I long for their felicity. * *
"Your affectionate nephew, "ALEXANDER CAMPBELL."
As, in uniting originally with the Baptists, Mr. Campbell had made no secret of his religious principles, but had distinctly avowed them in the written communication of the Brush Run Church to the Redstone Association, so, in his intercourse with them as a people, and in his public discourses, he failed not on all proper occasions to urge upon them his views of reformation. Being invited by one of the Baptist preachers in Philadelphia to occupy his pulpit, he delivered a sermon so totally different in its matter and style from the usual sermons among the Baptists, that the congregation was quite wakened up by its novelty, and the preacher himself hardly knew what to make of it. Meeting Mr. Campbell next day, and the subject coming up, he expressed his dissatisfaction, upon which Mr. Campbell suggested that perhaps he did not fully understand him, and that the time allowed had not been sufficient to enable him to deliver himself fully in regard to the questions treated. At this, the preacher's face cleared up a little, and he requested him to make another appointment, which he did. As the second discourse, however, did not, any more than the first, descant on the favorite theories of Gill and Fuller, but presented, in a still stronger light, the truths of the simple gospel, the effect upon the Baptist preacher was worse than before, so that he could scarcely treat Mr. Campbell afterward  with common civility, and took good care not to afford his congregation another opportunity of hearing the latter, which many of the members were very anxious to enjoy.
After leaving Philadelphia, he visited Trenton and other towns in New Jersey, and went thence to New York, where he called upon a number of influential Baptists. Among others, he visited William Colgate, who was then beginning to establish himself in business. When he called, Mr. Colgate came out in his apron from his work, and during the interview Mr. Campbell was greatly charmed, not only with the interest in religion which Mr. Colgate manifested, but with the peculiarly frank and cordial manner in which he tendered for the house in Wellsburg a donation, which, for his circumstances at the time, was quite a liberal one. Upon leaving the house, Mr. Campbell remarked to a friend who accompanied him, that he had no doubt Mr. Colgate would one day become a wealthy man. "I am convinced," said he, "that the Lord will abundantly bless and prosper one who dispenses his income on the principles that govern Mr. Colgate;" and the event, in after years, fully proved the correctness of his anticipations. On his return, he visited Washington City, and having formed many pleasant acquaintanceships during his tour, and, among others, one with the eminent Dr. Staughton, for whom he always entertained a very high regard, he returned home after an absence of some months, having succeeded in obtaining about one thousand dollars. With this sum, and additional assistance in Charlestown and its vicinity, a lot was obtained at the upper end of the main street of the town, which runs parallel with the river for more than half a mile, and a comfortable brick  meeting-house was soon erected, with the usual high pulpit, whose curtains and cushions were prepared and tastefully arranged by Miss S. H. Bakewell and Miss Amelia Miller, the whole being under the special direction of John Brown, who took great interest and rendered efficient aid in the work.
The erection of this house, it was afterward discovered, gave great offence to Elder Pritchard, minister of the Cross Creek Baptist Church, three miles above, who had already, in the Redstone Association, signalized his hostility to Mr. Campbell, and who seemed to think that the building of the house in Wellsburg was designed to weaken his influence and to diminish his congregation. This sectarian bigotry and petty personal jealousy became still more manifest at the meeting of the Association, which, according to appointment, convened at Cross Creek, on the 30th August of this year (1816).2 
Mr. Campbell, who well knew the spirit of the Baptist clergy opposed to him, said to his wife on their way to the meeting, "I do not think they will let me preach at this Association at all." Some of the preachers, however, were favorable to Mr. Campbell, and there was so much anxiety on the part of the people to hear him, that on Saturday, when preachers were to be selected for the following day, Mr. Campbell was at once nominated with others. Elder Pritchard now interposed, and observed that he thought they ought to conform to the rule adopted by the Baptists in Maryland, which was, that the church where the Association assembled should have the privilege of selecting the preachers for the Lord's day, and that these should be chosen from amongst those who came from a distance. "This place," said he, "is near Mr. Campbell's home, and the people can hear him at any time." The name of Elder Stone was therefore substituted for that of Mr. Campbell, who returned to Charleston in the evening, with no expectation of hearing anything more of the matter. Next morning, however, David Phillips of Peter's Creek, one of the oldest and best preachers in the Association, came down to see him, and told him that the arrangement made would not do, and that he had been deputed by a large number to insist that Mr. Campbell should preach that day. The latter said he had no objections to preach, but that he would not violate the rule of the Association. Elder Phillips  withdrew greatly disappointed, but soon after returned to say that Elder Stone was taken ill, and again urged Mr. Campbell to preach, who then said he would do so, if Elder Pritchard would himself tender him the invitation. Elder Phillips said this should be done; and, accordingly, when Mr. Campbell rode up to Cross Creek, the first person he met at the bridge was Elder Pritchard, who said, "I have taken the very earliest opportunity to see you in order to say that you must preach to-day." "Have you seen Elder Phillips? " said Mr. Campbell; "Yes," said he. "Then," replied Mr. Campbell, "I will preach." Being called upon thus rather unexpectedly, he asked leave to follow Elder Cox, who delivered the first discourse from Matthew xxiv. 14.
On this occasion, which proved to be quite a memorable one, there was a large concourse present, gathered around the stand, or seated within hearing beneath the shade of the beautiful leafy elms and towering plane trees, which line the borders of the creek, as it winds through the picturesque valley enclosed by lofty hills. When Elder Cox concluded, Mr. Campbell rose, and delivered a discourse founded on Romans viii. 3: "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." This was the famous "Sermon on the Law," which created such excitement subsequently in the Baptist community. Even during its delivery, as soon as Elder Pritchard and some other opposed preachers perceived its drift, they used every means openly to manifest their dissatisfaction. A lady in the congregation having fainted, Elder Pritchard came into the stand, called out some of the preachers, and created great disturbance in the  congregation, as if with a design of preventing the people from hearing. After this commotion subsided, however, Mr. Campbell soon regained the attention of the audience, which he kept to the close. At the intermission, Mr. Pritchard called out Elders Estep, Wheeler and others, and said to them: "This will never do. This is not our doctrine. We cannot let this pass without a public protest from the Association." Elder Estep replied: "That would create too much excitement, and would injure us more than Mr. Campbell. It is better to let it pass and let the people judge for themselves." This prudent counsel prevailed, and it was found a much safer and more congenial mode of opposition, to circulate amongst the churches, after the Association adjourned, vague and calumnious charges of Antinomianism against Mr. Campbell, and, by this means, to excite additional prejudice against him. It was on account of these misrepresentations that he thought it best, soon afterward, to publish his discourse in pamphlet form, as the best means of refutation.
As this "Sermon on the Law" may be found in full in Mr. Campbell's works (Mil. Harb. for 1846, p. 493), it will not be necessary here to do much more than indicate its general purport, which was simply to show that Christians are under law to Christ, and not to Moses. His "METHOD" was--
"1. Ascertain what ideas we are to attach to the phrase 'the law' in this and similar portions of the sacred Scriptures. 2. Point out those things which the law could not accomplish. 3. Demonstrate the reasons why the law failed to accomplish these objects. 4. Illustrate how God has remedied these relative defects of the law. 5. In the last place, deduce such conclusions from these premises as must  obviously and necessarily present themselves to every unbiased and reflecting mind."
Discarding theological and employing scriptural definitions and divisions, he shows that "the law" signifies the whole Mosaic dispensation; and while he condemns the modern distinctions of moral, judicial and ceremonial law, as calculated to perplex the mind, he takes care to guard against the supposition that he has any intention of weakening the force of moral obligation, or dispensing with the great and immutable principles upon which the Mosaic law itself was based, but which that law did not originate; his object being to show that the law of Moses, while it embodied some of the applications of these principles, was a distinct and peculiar institution designed for special ends and for a limited time. Upon the great principles referred to he speaks as follows:
"There are two principles, commandments or laws that are never included in our observations concerning the law of Moses, nor are they ever, in Holy Writ, called the law of Moses:--These are, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind and strength; and thy neighbor as thyself.' These our Great Prophet teaches us are the basis of the law of Moses and of the prophets. 'On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.' Indeed the Sinai law and all Jewish laws are but modifications of them. These are of universal and immutable obligation. Angels and men, good and bad, are for ever under them. God, as our Creator, cannot require less; nor can we, as creatures and fellow-creatures, propose or expect less, as the standard of duty and perfection. These are coeval with angels and men. They are engraven with more or less clearness on every human heart. These are the groundwork or basis of the law, written in the heart of heathens, which constitute their conscience or knowledge of right or wrong.  By these their thoughts mutually accuse or else excuse one another. By these they shall be judged, or, at least, all who have never heard or seen a written law or gospel. Let it then be remembered that in the Scriptures these precepts are considered the basis of all law and prophecy; consequently, when we speak of the law of Moses, we do not include these commandments."
Under the second head, in pointing out the things which the law could not accomplish, he says:
"In the first place, it could not give righteousness and life. Righteousness and eternal life are inseparably connected. Where the former is not, the latter cannot be enjoyed. Whatever means puts us in possession of the one, puts us in possession of the other. But this the law could not do. 'For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.' Gal. iii. 21. 'If righteousness came by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.' These testimonies of the apostle, with the whole scope of Divine truth, teach us that no man is justified by the law--that righteousness and eternal life cannot be received through it. * * * *
"2. In the second place, the law could not exhibit the malignity or demerit of sin. It taught those that were under it that certain actions were sinful--to these sinful actions it gives descriptive names: one is called theft, a second murder, a third adultery. It showed that these actions were offensive to God, hurtful to men, and deserved death. But how extensive their malignity and vast their demerit, the law could not exhibit. This remained for later times and other means to develop.
"3. In the third place, the law could not be a suitable rule of life to mankind in this imperfect state. It could not to all mankind, as it was given to and designed only for a part It was given to the Jewish nation and to none else."
Under the fourth head, he shows that God had  remedied all these defects by the gospel, by sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to make "reconciliation for iniquity," so that all the spiritual seed of Abraham might find "righteousness and eternal life, not by legal works or observances, in whole or in part, but through the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness which is by him." * * * *
"Hence it is," he adds, "that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. Nor is he, on this account, the minister of sin--for thus the righteousness, the perfect righteousness, of the law is fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Do we then make void the law or destroy the righteousness of it by faith? God forbid: we establish the law.
"A second thing which we observe the law could not do, was to give a full exhibition of the demerit of sin. It is acknowledged that the demerit of sin was partially developed in the law, and before the law. Sin was condemned in the deluge, in the confusion of human speech, in turning to ashes the cities of the plain, in the thousands that fell in the wilderness. But these and a thousand similar monuments besides, fall vastly short of giving a full exhibition of sin in its malignant nature and destructive consequences. But a full discovery of its nature and demerits is given us in the person of Jesus Christ. God condemned sin in him--God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up. It pleased the Lord to bruise him, to pour out his soul as an offering for sin. When we view the Son of the Eternal suspended on the cursed tree--when we see him in the garden and hear his petitions--when we hear him exclaim, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' in a word, when we see him expiring in blood and laid in the tomb, we have a monument of the demerit of sin, which no law could give, which no temporal calamity could exhibit."
In showing further under this head how the failure  of the law as a rule of life was remedied, he refers to Christ's perfect example and teachings, and to the transfiguration, when Moses the giver and Elias the restorer of the law appeared along with him, and a voice from the Father said, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him." "We find all things," he says, "whatsoever the law could not do, are accomplished in him and by him--that in him all Christians might be perfect and complete--'for the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.'"
From the above premises, he deduces, under the last head, various conclusions, as, 1. The essential difference between law and gospel. 2. That Christians, according to Paul, were "not under the law, but under grace," showing, here, that the apostle met the very charge of Antinomianism or of licentious tendency in this doctrine, in his answer to the question: "Shall we therefore sin because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein."
"Now," adds he, "whether the ancient way of guarding the New Testament or gospel against the charge of Antinomianism or a licentious tendency, or the modern way, is best, methinks is easily decided amongst true disciples. Not so easy, however, amongst learned rabbis and doctors of the law.
* * * "Whatever was excellent in the law," he further remarks, "our Legislator has repromulgated. But shall we say we are under the law as a rule of our Christian life, because some of its sublimest moral and religious precepts have been repromulgated by Him who would not suffer one tittle of it to pass till he fulfilled it? As well might we affirm that the British law which governed these States when colonies is the rule of our political life, because some of the most excellent laws of that code have been re-enacted by our legislators." 
He then, in the third place, presents another conclusion, which was particularly grating to the ears of the Baptist theologians, viz.: that there is no necessity for preaching the law in order to prepare men for receiving the gospel.
"This conclusion," says be, "perfectly corresponds with the commission given by our Lord to the apostles, and with their practice under their commission. 'Go,' said he, 'into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.' 'Teach the disciples to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you.' Thus, they were constituted ministers of the New Testament, not of the Old. Now the sacred history, called the Acts of the Apostles, affords us the most satisfactory information on the method in which the apostles preached, under their commission, which, with the epistolary part of the New Testament, affords us the only successful, warrantable and acceptable method of preaching and teaching. In the Acts of the Apostles we see the apostles and first preachers paid the most scrupulous regard to the instructions they received from the Great Prophet. They go forth unto all nations, proclaiming the gospel to every creature; but not one word of law-preaching in the whole of it. We have the substance of eight or ten sermons delivered by Paul and Peter to the Jews and Gentiles, in the Acts of the Apostles, and not one precedent of preaching the law to prepare their hearers, whether Jews or Gentiles, for the reception of the gospel.
"This conclusion corresponds, in the next place, with the nature of the kingdom of heaven or Christian Church, and with the means by which it is to be built and preserved in the world. The Christian dispensation is called the ministration of the Spirit, and, accordingly, everything in the salvation of the Church is accomplished by the immediate energy of the Spirit. Jesus Christ taught his disciples that the testimony concerning himself was that only which the Spirit would use, in converting such of the human family as should  be saved. He would not speak of himself, but what he knew of Christ. Now he was to convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; not by applying the law of Moses, but the facts concerning Christ, to the consciences of the people. The Spirit accompanying the words which the apostles preached, would convince the world of sin; not by the ten precepts, but because they believed not in him--of righteousness because he went to the Father--and of judgment because the prince of the world was judged by him. So that Christ, and not law, was the Alpha and Omega of their sermons; and this the Spirit made effectual to the salvation of thousands. Three thousand were convinced of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, in this precise way of hearing of Christ, on the day of Pentecost; and we read of many afterward. Indeed, we repeat it again, in the whole history of primitive preaching we have not one example of preaching the law as preparatory to the preaching or reception of the gospel."
After answering various questions, and considering certain texts of Scripture misapplied by the law-preachers, he adds the two following conclusions:
"A fourth conclusion which is deducible from the above premises is, that all arguments and motives drawn from the law or Old Testament, to urge the disciples of Christ to baptize their infants; to pay tithes to their teachers; to observe holy days or religious fasts, as preparatory to the observance of the Lord's Supper; to sanctify the seventh day; to enter into national covenants; to establish any form of religion by civil law--and all reasons or motives borrowed from the Jewish law, to excite the disciples of Christ to a compliance with or an imitation of Jewish customs, are inconclusive, repugnant to Christianity, and fall ineffectual to the ground; not being enjoined or countenanced by the authority of Jesus Christ.
"In the last place, we are taught from all that has been said, to venerate in the highest degree the Lord Jesus Christ;  to receive him as the great prophet, of whom 'Moses in the law, and all the prophets did write: 'to receive him as 'the Lord our righteousness,' and to pay the most punctilious regard to all his precepts and ordinances. 'If we continue in his word, then are we his disciples indeed, and we shall know the truth, and the truth shall make us free: and if the Son shall make us free, we shall be free indeed.'"
After a few practical reflections, the discourse closes with the petition:
"May he that hath the key of David, who opened and no man shutteth, and shutteth that none can open, open your hearts to receive the truth in the love of it, and incline you to walk in the light of it, and then you shall know that the ways thereof are pleasantness, and all the paths thereof are peace! Amen."
This sermon, though containing in reality nothing but plain Scripture teaching in reference to the law and the gospel, was so bold an assault upon the theology and style of preaching current at that time amongst the Baptists, that it created an extraordinary sensation; and those unfriendly to Mr. Campbell succeeded, as he says, "in bringing it up for trial and condemnation at the next Association at Peter's Creek, in 1817." Upon this unexpected movement, he proposed to go at once into an investigation of the subject, and it was then partially discussed, but finally, by the efforts of his friends and a considerable stretch of charity on the part of two or three old members, the question was dismissed, on the ground that the Association had no jurisdiction in the case. Nevertheless, subsequently, through the cry of heresy and various modes of detraction and misrepresentation diligently employed, his opponents managed to close, to a large extent, the ears  of the Baptists in this region against Mr. Campbell's views, and to hinder his efforts to introduce among them a more accurate and scriptural presentation of the gospel.
Recurring to the meeting of the Association on Cross Creek, when this "Sermon on the Law" was delivered, there were some other occurrences worthy of mention. In the minutes of the meeting for Saturday, August 31, it is stated as follows:
"Met agreeably to adjournment.
"5. The meeting was opened by singing and prayer, by brother John Patton.
"6. Appointed brother Luce, moderator, and brother Wheeler, clerk.
"7. A letter was presented by brother T. Campbell, from a number of baptized professors in the city of Pittsburg, requesting union as a church to this Association.
"8. Voted, that as this letter is not presented according to the constitution of this Association, the request cannot be granted.
"9. Voted, that brother T. Campbell be invited to take a seat in this Association.
"10. Voted, that a committee be appointed to wait on the persons mentioned in the seventh article, to investigate the subject of their letter. Brethren D. Philips, Luce and Pritchard are the committee to attend in Pittsburg, on the Saturday preceding the first Lord's day in November.
"11. The circular letter prepared by brother T. Campbell was read and accepted without amendment."
Thus it appears that the few members who had been gathered together in Pittsburg by Thomas Campbell, and who were accustomed to meet regularly for worship in his school-room on Liberty street, were denied admission as a church because their letter was "not presented according to the constitution of the  Association," which required a creed or statement of articles of belief from every church, and could not accept in place of it a simple declaration of adherence to the Scriptures. Nevertheless, a committee was appointed to investigate the subject of their letter, or, as was doubtless intended, to bring these simple disciples into regular Baptist "order." From the table of names of churches, etc., composing the Association, it seems that besides those associated with Thomas Campbell in Pittsburg, there was at this time a little society of eight members there, represented by B. B. Newton, as messenger, who, having furnished the required written statement of belief, had been received without difficulty.
It appears, further, that Thomas Campbell presented, on this occasion, the circular letter which he had been appointed to prepare at the meeting the year before. The subject given to him was the "TRINITY," upon which the Baptist preachers were very anxious to elicit the views entertained by the reformers. This circular letter, it seems, was so entirely satisfactory that even the keen vision of the most orthodox enemies in the Association could find no ground of objection, and it was accordingly accepted, we are told, "without amendment," and printed at the close of the minutes as the letter of the Association. In it, this profound subject is treated in a highly interesting manner, and mainly in the simple and express terms of Scripture. In condescension, however; probably to the modes of thought and speech current amongst the party with which he was now associated, the author employs some of the terms of scholastic divinity, such as essence, triune and person, but the word "Trinity" does not once occur in the document. The use of such terms was not in harmony with the principle of the Reformation, which  required that Bible things should be spoken of in Bible words--not in "the words that man's wisdom teacheth," but in those which the Holy Spirit has employed. Under the circumstances, however, it gives evidence of a remarkable advance toward soundness of speech on the part of one long accustomed to the language of the schools, and who now addressed a people to whom its terms would have been much more familiar, and doubtless much more acceptable, than those employed in Holy Writ.
This letter, also, in its general style and tone, furnishes a marked contrast with the spirit of the "Sermon on the Law"--a contrast indicative of that which existed in the characters of their respective authors. The father, full of affectionate sympathy and over-sensitive in regard to the feelings of others, could not bear to inflict the slightest pain, and would rather withhold than confer a benefit which could be imparted only by wounding the recipient. The son, with more mastery of his emotional nature, could calmly contemplate the entire case, and, for the accomplishment of higher good, could resolutely inflict a temporary suffering. The former was cautious, forbearing, apologetic; the latter, decided, prompt and critical. The one displayed the gentle spirit of Melancthon, the other the adventurous boldness of Farel and the uncompromising spirit of Knox. Both were alike anxious to promote the great interests of humanity; but while the father relied perhaps too much upon emollients to remedy the spreading cancer of sectarianism, the son, with less reverence for consecrated errors, but equal love for men and greater sagacity and skill, preferred the knife of the surgeon. Both were equally desirous of winning men away from the idols of religious bigotry, but while the one sought  to persuade with gentle words, the other would seize with powerful grasp the image at the shrine, and break it in pieces before the eyes of its worshipers. The different methods which each thus employed had doubtless their advantages, and their union tended to effect greater good than could have been produced by either singly. It is certain, however, as formerly intimated, that had it not been for the bold assaults, the incisive logic and the determined spirit of the son, the reformatory movement initiated by the father would speedily have disappeared from view, as the wave created in the river by the passing steamer quickly subsides into the general current.
As the circular letter above referred to presents the views of both upon the most profound subject in the Bible, as it forms a part of the history of the times and of the persons described, and illustrates how entirely sufficient the Scriptures themselves are for the elucidation of the most difficult questions, so far as these can be at all comprehended by the human mind, it deserves to be rescued from the oblivion which would soon engulf the few remaining copies. It will therefore be found in the Appendix to the present volume.3 
[Table of Contents]
Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, Volume I. (1868)
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