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



C H A P T E R   X X I I.

Difficulties and Hinderances--Buffalo Seminary--Slavery--A Suitable

T HERE is no labor which seems at first more barren of results than that of the sower. After many days of toil, the field on which the labor has been lavished exhibits less verdure than at first, and, in a time of drought, may long remain without one single springing blade to give hopeful promise of the future. It is equally so in the moral and religious world. He who endeavors to plant the seeds of truth in human hearts must await with patience their development, and must not fail or be discouraged if the precious germs he has scattered should, under unfavorable conditions, long remain undeveloped and concealed. The spring-time will surely come at last; the living truth will assert its power, and, in its heavenward growth, furnish the cheering prospect of the harvest. Such patience of hope has been required, in no small degree, of all who have undertaken the reformation of mankind, and who have broken up the fallow ground of pernicious error in order to tile production of blessed fruits. Nor was it demanded less of those who, under various discouragements, were now seeking to revive the cause of primitive Christianity.

      Among these discouragements, not the least were those they met with from the people with whom they [484] had formed a fraternal connection; and it was here they learned to verify a fact which has been often noticed, that religious controversies and divisions originate oftener in personal pique and rivalry, in disappointed ambition or selfish interest, than in conscientious conviction. Thus it was, that a Mr. William Brownfield of Uniontown, who had been very conspicuous in the Redstone Association before the admission of Mr. Campbell, taking up the idea, which was probably correct, that he was afterward not as much attended to as formerly, was the very first to institute opposition to Mr. Campbell, and continued to the end to manifest toward him the bitterest hostility. In all his efforts he was indeed successfully opposed, and, though zealously seconded by Elder Pritchard and a few others, never could succeed in gaining his point. Mr. Campbell was a "power" in the Association not to be overcome. His superior abilities and knowledge of the Bible, and, above all, his advocacy of truth, exercised a controlling influence over the minds of so many intelligent and pious members that the poisoned shafts of his enemies were sped in vain, and he was able to maintain his ground in spite of all opposition.

      The bickerings and controversies occasioned by the novel doctrines of the "Sermon on the Law," which increased the prejudices of many, were indeed unpleasant hinderances to the efforts of Mr. Campbell and his father to lead the Baptist churches with which they were connected into the clear light of the primitive gospel. The oldest things of Christianity had now become the newest, and were looked upon with suspicion, even by many conscientious and truth-loving minds, as being yet the conclusions of only a few individuals, and opposed by the logic of overwhelming numbers. [485] At this time, in fact, those who could be reckoned as actual advocates of the Reformation, and who, with the exception of the Brush Run Church, were scattered among the Baptists in Ohio, Western Pennsylvania and Virginia, did not amount to more than one hundred and fifty persons, and among these there were none who were accustomed to take a public and efficient part abroad except Thomas and Alexander Campbell, the labors of James Foster being chiefly confined to the Brush Run Church.

      About this period, indeed, a Mr. George Forrester, a Haldanean preacher and an immersionist, came to Pittsburg from Scotland, and, near the same time, a Mr. Jones, a Baptist from England, of somewhat liberal views. Mr. Forrester opened an academy in Pittsburg and preached occasionally, but he had much of the stern and opinionative disposition of the Scotch Baptists, and failed to make any impression upon the public, while Mr. Jones soon migrated to the West. Not long afterward, a Mr. John Tassey also, who had been educated for the ministry in one of the seminaries established by R. Haldane, emigrated with his family from Ireland, and engaged in the mercantile business in Pittsburg. He succeeded in gathering together a few individuals as an Independent church, meeting for weekly communion, and became their pastor. With this little organization there united a young man already distinguished for his piety and benevolence, named Samuel Church, who had himself been immersed, and was entirely in sympathy with Mr. Campbell's views of reformation, but who, preferring the Independent order of worship to that of the Baptists, chose to remain for some years connected with Mr. Tassey. The latter was not in favor of immersion, and though a man of [486] some ability and of excellent character, was, like Mr. Forrester, somewhat contracted in his views, neither of them possessing that enlarged conception of the gospel plan of salvation to which Mr. Campbell had attained. It was thus, however, that several phases of the Haldanean movement were at this time, on a small scale, represented in Pittsburg, but though they aided in some respects in preparing the ground, none of them were capable of rendering any great assistance to Mr. Campbell.

      About this time, too, Mrs. Bryant's health having failed, and the school in Pittsburg having become too great a burden to Thomas Campbell, he concluded to remove to Kentucky, in hopes of finding among the numerous Baptist churches there, a wider field of usefulness. Accordingly, in the fall of 1817, he took his family to Newport, where he left them for a few months, while he spent the time in visiting the Baptist churches bordering on the Ohio, and in examining into the state of the community. He found the Baptists in Kentucky, who were the most numerous of any religious party, to be a cordial, frank, hospitable people, and of much more liberal views and feelings than prevailed in the religious bodies with which he had heretofore been associated. He regretted, however, to discover that they had become accustomed to a style of preaching which addressed itself almost entirely to the feelings, and failed to impart real scriptural knowledge, and that the study of the Bible and family training were to a great extent neglected. This, indeed, was true of the denomination generally in the United States, though in the more Northern States metaphysical and theological theories often occupied the place of those heart-stirring and rhetorical appeals by which the preachers of the [487] South sought to awaken the torpid sensibilities of their hearers, and renew that emotional excitement which was regarded as the evidence, if not the very essence of religion.

      Thomas Campbell accordingly engaged, with great zeal, in an effort to remedy the defects he had observed, and to induce strict attention to family duties and the daily study of the Scriptures. Having, in the course of his travels, visited Burlington in Boone county, a town of three hundred inhabitants, he was much pleased with the generous and hospitable character of the citizens, and finding it to be a suitable place for the establishment of a seminary, he concluded, at the earnest solicitation of the principal families, to remove his family thither, and take charge of an academy as soon as the new building, already in progress for this purpose, should be completed. As soon as this was done, there being no house of public worship in the place, he commenced in his school-room a course of lectures upon the Scriptures, to which the public were invited, and which were, in general, well attended.

      His father's departure had thus left to Mr. Campbell the entire public advocacy of the cause of reformation, now struggling in its infancy in West Pennsylvania and Virginia. He did not, however, shrink from the labor thus devolved upon him; but, ever prepared for the conflict, whether with foes within or foes without, he continued to itinerate occasionally among the churches of the Redstone Association and some of those in Ohio, gradually enlightening the minds of the people, and occasionally baptizing individuals who believed the gospel and were willing to confess Christ according to the primitive model. Among these was, in the following year (1818), James Foster's mother, who had [488] shortly before come from Ireland with her brother, John Wilson, and his family, and settled with them upon a farm, near Hickory in Washington county. At the same time, John Wilson and wife also were baptized, and were added to the Brush Run Church, which was as yet the only church in the Reformation, and which, meeting alternately at the cross roads and at Brush Run, gave rise to the impression, on the part of some, that there were two churches. It was, however, but a single organization, and met at the two places mentioned merely for the convenience of some of its members, who were widely scattered.

      The difficulties with which Mr. Campbell had to contend at this time might well have appalled a less intrepid spirit. On one hand, he had to meet the stern opposition of the entire pædobaptist community, while, on the other, he was harassed by the plots and misrepresentations of his enemies in the Redstone Association; and, though he found in the Association a sufficient number of friends to vote down the charges of heresy which the faction, headed by William Brownfield, brought up annually against him, and had still more friends among the people composing the churches, they were destitute of that unity and concert of action which his enemies were careful to preserve. In addition to all this, public opinion was altogether in the hands of the clergy, and was consequently entirely opposed to him. His task was, therefore, extremely difficult. When public opinion is favorable to any enterprise, it is like the oil which is applied to the bearings of a machine, so that the force needed to put the whole in movement is but slight in comparison with what is required if there is no such preparation. With Mr. Campbell, indeed, was the determined will and the [489] necessary force, but when a favorable public sentiment was not only wanting, but was replaced by one decidedly hostile, his task was like the attempt to launch a ship where the ways were inclined in the wrong direction, not from the vessel but toward it. His reformatory labors, nevertheless, could not be suspended, for they were labors of duty and of love, and he must continue to pursue them in hope that time and patience would secure a more favorable adjustment. As an instance of the nature of the opposition waged by the clergy, the conduct of Mr. Finley, minister of the Union Church at Middletown, may here be mentioned. Having accidentally met Mr. Campbell at the house of Mrs. Parkinson, they happened to fall into a little discussion upon baptism and some other subjects. Mr. Finley forthwith took pains to spread the report in the neighborhood that he had confuted Mr. Campbell on the points they had argued--a report which, from their prepossessions, he knew the public would be ready to believe. He trusted, however, too much to public prejudices and too little to truth on this occasion, and quite mistook the person whom he thought thus to injure. Mr. Campbell at once put into the Washington Reporter a brief and pointed note to Mr. Finley, charging him with circulating a false report, and offering to discuss publicly with him at Middletown the subject of baptism and the true observance of the Lord's day, (the points in regard to which he had said he had refuted Mr. Campbell), or any other topic he might desire. This was dated February 16, 1818. In a subsequent brief reply, Mr. Finley declined the challenge, endeavoring to conceal his timidity under an assuming and contemptuous style, which he mistook for clerical dignity. To this Mr. Campbell replied on the 23d of [490] March in a sharp rejoinder, and informed Mr. Finley that he would hold a meeting in Middletown on the second Thursday of April, in order to correct Mr. Finley's misrepresentations and to defend openly the views he advocated. He held the meeting accordingly, and and a very large and attentive audience, from which Mr. Finley took good care to be absent; but his pusillanimous behavior in retiring within the shell of his orthodoxy at the approach of danger, lowered him considerably in the estimation of the people, while Mr. Campbell's fearless defence of his views made, to the same extent, a favorable impression.

      On January 17th of this year (1818), his family was increased by the birth of a daughter, who was named Lavinia. Aware of the great importance of obtaining the assistance of instructed and cultivated minds in the work to which he was devoted, and feeling very sensibly the want, in his own neighborhood, of better methods of education than those which then prevailed, he determined in the beginning of this year to open a seminary, chiefly for young men, in his own house, and to take the charge of it himself. He hoped to be able thus not only to confer a benefit upon the neighborhood in giving to the youth a better education than they could otherwise obtain, but also to have the opportunity of preparing some young men for the ministry of the Word. By boarding them in his own family, directing their studies and imbuing their minds with a knowledge of the Scriptures, in the daily recitations and lessons of instruction which he carefully kept up at the morning and evening devotions of his household, he thought that the desired object might thus be gradually attained. As his father had been highly appreciated in Pittsburg as an educator, and he himself had [491] now become well known for energy and talent, he had no difficulty in obtaining as many pupils as he desired. A number of leading men in Pittsburg sent their sons. One or two came from a distance in Ohio; a son of Dr. Joseph Doddridge from Charlestown, and the remainder from the neighborhood, consisting of young men who wished to study the languages in order to prepare themselves for professional pursuits, and of others, both male and female, who desired merely to obtain a good English education, and who attended as day-scholars from their homes. Devoting himself to his work with his usual zeal and assiduity, he endeavored to establish the strict method to which he had been accustomed. He soon found, however, that his materials were not the most suitable. Some who were almost grown young men, and who, on account of their insubordination, could hardly find admittance into any of the schools of Pittsburg, attempted at first to create a rebellion against the strict rules which had been announced, but Mr. Campbell, seizing unexpectedly the ringleader with a strong hand, gave him so severe a castigation before the school with a whip he had provided, that he was completely subdued, and from that time the master's authority was perfectly established.

      This academy, called "Buffalo Seminary," continued to flourish for a number of years.1 Mr. Campbell's vivacity, punctuality, decision and activity, banished the dullness which too often prevails in such institutions, and inspired the pupils with such an interest in their studies and such an ambition to excel, that that they made remarkable progress, and the reputation [492] of the school became so great that there was no longer room for all who applied for admission. Although thus successful, even beyond his expectations in some respects, Mr. Campbell did not find the institution to meet entirely his wishes in that particular which was to him the most desirable. From the religious instruction given, he could still hope much for the future of those who had been placed under his charge; but he did not find among them much inclination toward the ministerial office. Some who acquired a good classical education entered afterward into the professions of law and medicine, and ever cherished the highest gratitude to Mr. Campbell for his attention to their improvement. But he had a much higher object in view than merely to prepare young men for secular pursuits, and greatly desired to see some of them disposed to consecrate their lives to the cause of truth. At this time, however, the circumstances were very unfavorable for such a result. The Reformation was as yet but imperfectly developed or established. It was generally regarded as an innovation and a novelty in the settled order of religious society. No youths had as yet grown up under its influence, and there was no preparation of heart and mind for the work which it required. Besides this, to engage in its defence was to incur obloquy, reproach and persecution, without even the prospect of a moderate pecuniary support. It is not surprising, then, that few seemed disposed to turn their attention in this direction. Nevertheless, there were not wanting some among the pupils, who, animated with zeal, and longing for the higher rewards and blessings of a religious life, devoted themselves ardently to the study of the Scriptures and became afterward useful advocates of the Reformation Among these may be particularly [493] mentioned Jacob Osborne of Ohio, who, endeared to all by his piety, intelligence and love of the truth, passed away in early manhood to his eternal reward, though not until he had witnessed with joy, upon the Western Reserve, the first remarkable triumphs of that ancient gospel which he had himself previously contributed to develop and sustain.

      While Mr. Campbell was thus diligently engaged in his seminary, his father had established a flourishing school in Burlington, Kentucky, and had obtained the warm esteem of the entire community, who were never weary in rendering acts of kindness to him and to his family. Pupils from some of the best families in the State were sent to Burlington to enjoy the benefit of his instruction. His daughter Jane, now about eighteen years of age, assisted him in the school, and soon became distinguished for her ability as a teacher, rendering the school quite popular, so that it became highly remunerative. Such was the friendly and social character of the people, and such their appreciation of Thomas Campbell and his excellent family, that the latter had never before been placed in circumstances so agreeable, and there seemed every probability that this would be their permanent home.

      It happened; however, upon a Lord's day, in the summer of 1819, in the afternoon, that Thomas Campbell noticed a large number of negroes of both sexes amusing themselves in a grove near by, to which they sometimes resorted on Sundays. After observing for some time their proceedings, his sympathy for this servile part of the population, whose peculiar condition he had long regretted, became so much enlisted in their behalf, that he walked out to the grove and invited them all to come into his school-room, in order that he [494] might read the Scriptures to them. Obeying the summons with alacrity, they soon assembled, and, after reading to them various portions of Scripture, he went on to give them such instructions and exhortations as he thought would he useful to them. Afterward, he occupied some time in giving out hymns, and as they sung these with their sweet melodious voices, and seemed greatly to enjoy this exercise and the instructions he had given them, his own heart was filled with inexpressible delight, and he dismissed them with the expectation of repeating the lesson upon the first favorable opportunity. Next day, however, one of his friends called upon him to say that the course he had adopted the day before was quite contrary to the laws of the State, which forbade any address to negroes except in the presence of one or more white witnesses. With regard to what had already occurred, he assured him that no notice would be taken of it, as it was presumable he had not been acquainted with the law; but he advised him, as a friend, not to repeat the act, lest some persons in the community should put him to trouble. At this announcement, Thomas Campbell was thunderstruck. He had been totally ignorant of the existence of such a law, for he had never been accustomed to give any attention to political or civil affairs, "What!" thought he, "is it possible that I live in a land where reading the Scriptures and giving religious instruction to the ignorant is a penal offence? Can the Word of God be thus bound and the proclamation of the gospel be thus fettered in a Christian land? Is it possible for me to remain in a place, where, under any circumstances, I am forbidden to preach a crucified Saviour to my perishing fellow-beings?" His resolution was at once taken. Whatever it might cost, he would [495] leave Kentucky and go where the preaching of the gospel was untrammeled. In this resolution, thus suddenly and decisively taken, he became the more confirmed when he reflected that, by remaining, some of his family would, in all probability, form permanent alliances with the people, and become themselves thus involved in a state of things which was utterly repugnant to his feelings, and for which, as he was quite uninformed in regard to the circumstances which gave origin to that particular law, he could at the time find no justification.

      His family were greatly surprised and grieved when he announced his resolution. They had become so much attached to the place and the people from whom they had received such unwonted kindness, that to abandon their Irish home had not been a greater trial than the one to which they were now to be subjected. Their regrets were fully reciprocated by the entire community, but the most flattering inducements and the most earnest entreaties were employed in vain to induce Thomas Campbell to change his resolution. When he could not be persuaded to remain himself, he was entreated at least to allow his daughter Jane to stay and conduct the seminary; but he remained inflexible, being determined to extricate his family from a set of circumstances for the existence of which he was not disposed to attach blame to any one, but which he felt to be quite incompatible with his own sense of Christian duty. He, therefore, immediately wrote to his son Alexander informing him of his intention, and began to settle up his business in order to a removal. Alexander, in reply, immediately proposed to him to come and assist him in the Buffalo Seminary, and having agreed to this, he removed as soon as his arrangements were completed, [496] and again settled his family in Washington county, Pennsylvania, near the village of West Middletown, so termed, because it was half way between Washington and Charlestown, the name of which latter place was, about this time, changed to Wellsburg. The country about Middletown has the general character of the upland of this region. The village is placed upon a high and narrow ridge, along which passes the public highway to Washington, forming the only street. Upon the left, looking eastward, the ridge rapidly declines into a deep and somewhat narrow valley, which stretches away for several miles with its rich fields and green meadows, through which a bright and gurgling streamlet wends its way. Upon the right, the ridge for a short distance widens, and then gradually sinks into the valley of Brush Run, which, toward the south-west, presents a charming prospect of wooded slopes and cultivated farms, losing itself at length in the distant deeper gorges of the clear and rapid Buffalo. Westward of the town, the ridge, after rising into a lofty and conical hill, spreads itself out into a gently undulating country which reaches to the steep declivities of Cross Creek. It was in the upper part of the Brush Run valley, upon a farm about two miles from the village, that Thomas Campbell now placed his family, who, from this time, continued to reside in this vicinity. He, himself, spent the most of the time at his son Alexander's, about seven miles distant, in assisting to conduct the school; and he resumed the pastoral care of the Brush Run Church which he had planted about ten years before.

      It might be thought that as slavery existed in Virginia as well as in Kentucky, Thomas Campbell, in becoming an assistant in a Virginia seminary, had not altered his circumstances in regard to this institution. [497] It is to be remembered, however, that he had placed his family, in regard to which he felt the chief anxiety, in Pennsylvania, and that the Brush Run Church met in the same State, only a few miles distant from his son's residence. It is to be noted, also, that in this part of Virginia, bordering upon the free States of Pennsylvania and Ohio, slavery had in fact an existence merely nominal. There were very few slaves, and these remained with their masters simply because they were pleased to do so, as escape was easy. The people of these border counties had but little interest in the institution, and though willing to maintain the laws of the State in regard to it, many violations of these were tacitly allowed. The few slaves found in this region were, with scarcely an exception, treated as kindly as the free laborers, and although the law forbade teaching them to read, no one was molested for doing it, and a freedom of speech was allowed in reference to slavery which would not have been tolerated in the interior. The following extracts from a work published soon after (in 1824) at Wellsburg, the county seat of Brooke, in which Mr. Campbell resided, may serve as an illustration of this: and now that the institution has for ever passed away, they must appear to the thoughtful mind singularly prophetic. The author, Dr. Joseph Doddridge, was the Episcopal minister in Wellsburg, a brother of the eminent lawyer, Philip Doddridge, and a warm personal friend of Mr. Campbell, whom he frequently visited. In speaking of the aborigines, and discussing the question of difference of color among men and its results, he says:

      "An African is black, has a woolly head and a flat nose; he is therefore not entitled to the rights of human nature! [498] But he is a docile being, possessed of but little pride of independence, and a subject of the softer passions, who, rather than risk his life in the defence of his liberty, will 'take the pittance and the lash.' He is therefore a proper subject for slavery!

      "The Indian has a copper-colored skin, and therefore the rights of human nature do not belong to him! But be will not work? and his high sense of independence and strong desire of revenge would place in danger the property and life of the oppressor who should attempt to force him to labor. He is therefore to be exterminated, or at least despoiled of his country, and driven to some remote region where he must perish!

      "Such has been, and such still is, to a certain extent, the logic of nations possessed of all the science of the world!--Of Christian nations!--How horrid the features of that slavery to which this logic has given birth! The benevolent heart bleeds at the thought of the cruelties which have always accompanied it. Amongst the Mohammedans, as soon as the Christian slave embraces the religion of his master, he is free; but among the followers of the Messiah, the slave may indeed embrace the religion of his master, but he still remains a slave, although a Christian brother.

      "It is a curious circumstance that while our missionaries are generously traversing the most inhospitable regions, and endeavoring with incessant toil to give the science of Europe and America, together with the Christian revelation, to the benighted pagans, most of the legislatures of our slave-holding States have made it a highly penal offence to teach a slave a single letter. While, at great expense and waste of valuable lives, we are endeavoring to teach the natives of Africa the use of letters, no one durst attempt to do the same thing for the wretched descendants of that ill-fated people, bound in the fetters of slavery in America. Thus our slavery chains the soul as well as the body. Would a Musselman hinder his slave from learning to read the Alcoran? Surely he would not. [499]

      "We are often told by slaveholders that they would willingly give freedom to their slaves if they could do it with safety:--if they could get rid of them when free; but are they more dangerous when free than when in slavery! But admitting the fact that, owing to their ignorance, stupidity and bad habits, they are unfit for freedom, we ourselves have made them so. We debase them to the condition of brutes, and then use that debasement as an argument for perpetuating their slavery.

      "I will conclude this digression with the eloquent language of President Jefferson on the subject: 'Human liberty is the gift of God, and cannot be violated but in his wrath. Indeed I tremble for my country, when I reflect that God is just and that his justice cannot sleep for ever; that, considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation is among the possible events: it may become probable by supernatural interference. The Almighty has no attribute which can take sides with us in such a contest.'"

      Again, in speaking of the cruel scourging of the negroes which he had witnessed while at school in Maryland, he says:

      "The recollections of the tortures which I witnessed so early in life, is still a source of affliction to my mind. Twenty-four hours never pass during which my imagination does not present me with the afflicting view of the slave or servant writhing beneath the lashes of his master, and cringing from the brine with which he salted his stripes.

      "During my stay of three years in the region of slavery, my only consolation was, that the time would come in which the master and slave would exchange situations; that the former would receive the punishment due to his cruelty, while the latter should find rest from his toils and sufferings in the kingdom of heaven. The master I regarded as Dives who after 'being clothed in purple and fine linen and faring sumptuously every day,' must soon 'lift his eyes in hell, [500] being in torment.' The slave was Lazarus, who after closing his suffering in death, was to be 'carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom.'

      "From this afflicting state of society, I returned to the backwoods, a republican, without knowing the meaning of the term, that is, with an utter detestation of the arbitrary power of one man over another.

      "On reading this recital, the historian will naturally reflect, that personal, real or political slavery has, at all times, been the condition of almost the whole human race--that the history of man is the history of oppressors and the victims of oppression. Wars, bastiles, prisons, crosses, gibbets, tortures, scourges and fire, in the hands of despots, have been the instruments of spreading desolation and misery over the earth. The philosopher regards these means of destruction and their extensive use in all ages as indices of the depravity and ferocity of man. From the blood-stained pages of history he turns with disgust and horror, and pronounces an involuntary anathema on the whole of his race.

      "But is the condition of the world still to remain the same? Are the moral impressions of our nature to be for ever sacrificed at the shrine of lawless ambition? Is man, as heretofore, to be born only to destroy or be destroyed. Does the good Samaritan see no rational ground of hope, of better things for future ages? We trust he does, and that ages yet to come with witness the fulfillment of his benevolent wishes and predictions."

      Such were the fearless utterances which were at this period heard and approved by many in this portion of Virginia. As to Mr. Campbell's own sentiments on the subject of slavery, knowing that the relation of master and servant was recognized in the New Testament, and the respective duties of the parties distinctly described, he thought it by no means inconsistent with Christian character to assume the legal rights of a master, or to transfer those rights to another, as he [501] accordingly did in one or two instances. As he did not, however, any more than his father, approve of the abuses of power connected with the institution, those under his charge had the opportunity of learning to read and of receiving religious instruction; and, furthermore, perceiving the institution as it existed in the United States to be peculiarly liable to abuses, he was always in favor of emancipation, and gave practical effect to his principles in setting free the two or three slaves he had under his control, as soon as they were sufficiently grown to provide for themselves. As both father and son concurred in these views, and were determined to keep themselves free from all personal responsibility in regard to slavery, they felt themselves perfectly free to pursue their reformatory labors in any part of the country. And as Thomas Campbell had now placed his family where they could never become practically entangled in any of the evils connected with the institution, he felt himself entirely at liberty to aid his son in his labors in Virginia. Thus the two original public advocates of the Reformation were, greatly to their mutual happiness, enabled once more to renew their immediate co-operation with each other, and to lighten each other's burdens. Providence, however, was already preparing for them the assistance for which both had longed. A powerful auxiliary was about to enter the field, whose genius was destined to promote, in an eminent degree, the interests of the cause, and to modify, in some important respects, the practical advocacy of the reformatory movement.

      During the previous year, there had arrived at the port of New York a young Scotch Presbyterian, of good family and an excellent education, named Walter Scott, who had been induced to seek his fortune in the [502] New World. After forming some acquaintances in New York, having a strong desire to go to the West and see the country, he, with a companion of about the same age, set out for Pittsburg. On account of the limited state of their finances, they found it necessary to perform the journey on foot, but they felt emboldened to attempt the task by that youthful buoyancy of spirit which hopes to surmount safely all obstacles, and to which no undertaking seems impracticable. As they journeyed on, their fatigue was often forgotten in their contemplation of the beautiful and varied landscapes along the way, for Mr. Scott possessed a fine taste for the beauties of nature, and was a great admirer of extensive prospects and wild mountain scenery. But what particularly cheered up the weary pedestrians was his lively humor, for, though of a deeply conscientious and reverential spirit, he had nevertheless a keen wit and a quick perception of the ludicrous, and saw so many oddities in the log-cabins and dresses and manners of the people, and so many to him novel and ridiculous objects, that he kept himself and his companion in almost perpetual merriment. For this unwonted levity, however, he took himself seriously to task, after his arrival at Pittsburg, when sober thoughts revived, deeming it quite incompatible with that gravity and solemnity which belonged to the Presbyterian profession.

      At Pittsburg, he soon became acquainted with his countryman, Mr. Forrester, by whom he was very kindly and hospitably received, and in whose school he became for a time an assistant. Mr. Forrester, in conversing with him frequently upon religious subjects, and directing his attention to the Scriptures, soon satisfied him that infant baptism had no place in the Bible; and after a struggle with his educational prejudices, he [503] at length yielded to his convictions and was immersed. Soon after this, Mr. Forrester, going into other business, relinquished the school to him, which, under his strict and skillful management, continued to prosper. At this time, he formed an acquaintance with Mr. Richardson, at whose house he spent occasionally a pleasant, social evening, and who formed quite an attachment to the young Scotchman, who seemed to combine the freshness, simplicity and enthusiasm of a child with the accomplishments of a scholar, and whose polite manners and pleasant conversation rendered him ever a welcome guest. To him Mr. Richardson committed also the education of his oldest son, Robert, then thirteen years of age, who had been some time before a pupil of Thomas Campbell, and who, commencing with Mr. Scott the study of the ancient languages, was, by judicious words of encouragement, inspired, not only with an earnest desire for learning, but with the warmest affection for his teacher.

      The seed of the Word which had been implanted in the heart of Walter Scott had fallen into no ordinary soil. His earnest nature soon became wholly absorbed in the study of Divine things. Every moment that could be spared from necessary duties was devoted to the Bible, which had become to him a new book, opening up to his astonished mind a world of wonders, of which, amidst the misty atmosphere of sectarianism, he had hardly dreamed. Especially was he enraptured with the simplicity of the gospel, so different from the involved and complex theological systems of the day, and with the clear and unambiguous teachings of the Scriptures, as compared with those of modern religious theorists. Possessing an extraordinary power of analysis and classification, he was soon enabled to arrange the [504] Scripture teaching under its appropriate heads or subjects, and to resolve the Divine plan of redemption into its constituent elements. Having, at the same time, an ardent fancy, he saw in the simple facts of the gospel, and in its expressive ordinances, a power which he believed capable of breaking down all the barriers of religious partyism and carrying salvation to the ends of the earth. Becoming more and more occupied with religious thought, and burning with zeal to impart to others the light which had illuminated his own mind, the confinement and drudgery of the school became, after a few months, so irksome that he was constrained to abandon it; and, conceiving that he could be most useful in the city of New York, in connection with the congregation meeting there, and which was composed of individuals holding the sentiments of the Haldanes and of the Scotch Baptists, he, with that precipitation which often characterized his movements, set out once more for that city.

      From the remarkable success which had attended his labors in the school, its patrons were much grieved at his departure. Mr. Richardson, especially, who most highly appreciated the value of such a teacher, and whose son, in the warmth of his affection, ardently hoped for his return, determined to make at least an effort for the purpose, and accordingly proposed to a few of his intimate friends to unite with him in making up a good salary, and in endeavoring to persuade Mr. Scott to return and become a private tutor for their families. This having been readily arranged, he at once wrote to Mr. Scott and urged the matter upon him. To this letter he soon received a reply, full of kind expressions and affectionate remembrances, and intimations of disappointed hopes and cloudy prospects [505] in New York, from which it could, upon the whole, be gathered that he would accept the position offered him; and, accordingly, about two weeks afterward, Mr. Scott himself appeared at Mr. Richardson's, dusty and travel-worn, having again walked the whole distance on foot, coming this time, by way of variety, through Washington City. Being welcomed with all the warmth of Irish hospitality, he at once became an inmate of Mr. Richardson's family, and an apartment was assigned him in his spacious house, where he could daily assemble his pupils, amounting in all to about fifteen--a number which was not to be increased, his patrons believing that by confining his attention to a few, the rapidity of their progress and the thoroughness of their instruction would more than compensate for the increased expense. In this respect their anticipations were more than realized, and, under this arrangement, results were attained which had never before been reached by any school in the city. Mr. Scott possessed a peculiar tact as a teacher, having a quick perception of character, and knowing well how to excite the diligent, rouse the slothful and punish the disobedient. Though kind in his feelings, he pursued the strict system of discipline to which he had been accustomed in Europe, and which required perfect order and accurate recitations, or, as an alternative, the "argumentum bacculinum." The exuberance of his youthful hopes having been pruned by his late experience, he now pursued his educational labors with great satisfaction, and renewed with unabated interest his religious association with Mr. Forrester and his little congregation, to which body a sudden calamity soon after obliged him to assume a more important relation.

      Late on a pleasant summer evening, a hasty [506] messenger arrived to tell him that Mr. Forrester had been drowned. He had gone, it appeared, to the Alleghany, at the upper part of the town, to bathe, and ignorant of the fact that in that place there was an old wharf, now concealed beneath the water, he, unfortunately, in wading out into the stream, unexpectedly stepped off this structure and found himself suddenly in deep water. Being unable to swim, and no efficient help being at hand, he was speedily drowned, and it was so long before the body could be recovered that all attempts at reanimation were fruitless. This sad event was a great affliction to one of Mr. Scott's affectionate and sympathetic nature, and upon him now devolved the task of comforting and assisting the bereaved widow and orphans, as well as of watching over and instructing the church which Mr. Forrester had formed. This to him, however, was a labor of love, and he devoted himself more ardently than ever to the study of the Bible. He was accustomed daily to commit portions of it to memory, and long after midnight would often be found still deeply engaged in his earnest inquiries. Above all things, he seemed to be impressed with the Divine glory of the Redeemer in all his personal and official relations. In the exercise of his analytical power, he soon discovered that the testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written for one great specific object, and that this was to prove the proposition that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God," and that this constituted the central truth and the great essential element of Christianity. He had thus, by a different process, reached the same stand-point which Mr. Campbell had attained in eliminating from the Christian faith everything that was foreign to its nature Upon this theme, Mr. Scott delighted to dwell. For a [507] considerable time he delivered, as his first efforts at public speaking, interesting lectures upon it to the little church, which was accustomed to assemble in the court-house. The beauty of the character of Christ seemed to be the subject of his continual meditation and the model for his daily life. As, from the confinement and labor attendant upon his arduous duties, he grew thin and pale, Mr. Richardson's son, Robert, who was now friend and companion, as much as pupil, would sometimes invite him to walk out of an evening to his father's garden in the vicinity of the city; but his mind could not be divorced, even amidst such recreations, from the high theme which occupied it. Nature, in all its forms, seemed to speak to him only of its Creator; and although, gentle and affectionate as he was, he sought ever to interest himself in the things that interested others, his mind would constantly revert to its ruling thought, and some little incident in their ramble, some casual remark in their conversation, would at once open up the fountain of religious thought which seemed to be ever seeking for an outlet. Thus, for instance, if his pupil would present him with a rose, while he admired its tints and inhaled its fragrance, he would ask in a tone of deep feeling: "Do you know, my dear, why in the Scriptures Christ is called the Rose of Sharon?" If the answer was not ready, he would reply himself: "It is because the rose of Sharon has no thorns," and would then go on to make a few touching remarks on the beautiful traits in the character of the Saviour. Then, in the exercise of his powers of accurate perception, and his love of analysis and object-teaching, descanting on the special characteristics of the flower, and calling attention to the various elements which by their assemblage, produced such a charming [508] result--the graceful curving lines that bounded the petals and the foliage, so much more beautiful than the straight and parallel edges of the blades of grass or maize; the winding veinlets, the delicate shadings of carmine and their contrast with the green foliage, the graceful attitude assumed by the flower, as, poising itself upon its stem armed with thorns, it shone resplendent in queenly beauty, he would pass, by a natural and easy transition, to dwell yet again upon the infinite power and glorious perfections of the Creator--the Word that "was God," that "was in the beginning with God," and "without whom nothing was made that was made." Nor did he neglect even amidst the daily duties of the school-room to lead the minds of his pupils to similar contemplations, so that they might be induced to "look through nature up to nature's God." The revelations of God in the Bible, however, formed his chief delight, and in accordance with his feelings, he took especial pains to familiarize the students of the ancient tongues with the Greek of the New Testament, for which purpose he caused them to commit it largely to memory, so that some of them could repeat, chapter by chapter, the whole of the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the Greek language. It was also his invariable practice to require memorized recitations of portions of the ancient classic authors, as well as written translations of them. These tasks, irksome to those of feeble memory, and exacted perhaps, in some cases, with too much rigor, tended nevertheless to improve the pupils in taste and accuracy, and to store their minds with charming passages for use in future life.

      Mr. Campbell's confinement at home, on account of his duties in the seminary, had, for a long time, prevented him from visiting Pittsburg, and now that his [509] father's presence enabled him to do this, it can easily be imagined with what pleasure he formed the acquaintance of Mr. Scott, and found in him a congenial spirit, coinciding with him in regard to the distinguishing features of the reformatory movement, and prepared by education, natural abilities and piety to become such a fellow-laborer as he had long desired. They conceived for each other, therefore, at once, the warmest personal esteem--an esteem which was based perhaps less upon those points in their respective characters in which they agreed, than upon those in which they differed. For although their mutual reverence for Divine things, their earnest desire for religious reformation, their zeal and piety, their devotion, their Christian faith and love, certainly united them strongly to each other, these were qualities possessed also by others, and constituting with them all in common the bond of fellowship and union. But the different hues in the characters of these two eminent men were such as to be, so to speak, complementary to each other, and to form, by their harmonious blending, a completeness and a brilliancy which rendered their society peculiarly delightful to each other. Thus, while Mr. Campbell was fearless, self-reliant and firm, Mr. Scott was naturally timid, diffident and yielding; and, while the former was calm, steady and prudent, the latter was excitable, variable and precipitate. The one like the north star was ever in position, unaffected by terrestrial influences; the other, like the magnetic needle, was often disturbed and trembling on its centre, yet ever returning or seeking to return to its true direction. Both were nobly endowed with the powers of higher reason--a delicate self-consciousness, a decided will and a clear perception of truth. But, as it regards the other departments of the inner nature, in [510] Mr. Campbell the understanding predominated, in Mr. Scott the feelings; and, if the former excelled in imagination, the latter was superior in brilliancy of fancy. If the tendency of one was to generalize, to take wide and extended views and to group a multitude of particulars under a single head or principle, that of the other was to analyze, to divide subjects into their particulars and consider their details. If the one was disposed to trace analogies and evolve the remotest correspondences of relations, the other delighted in comparisons and sought for the resemblances of things. If the one possessed the inductive power of the philosopher, the other had, in a more delicate musical faculty and more active ideality, a larger share of the attributes of the poet. In a word, in almost all those qualities of mind and character, which might be regarded differential or distinctive, they were singularly fitted to supply each other's wants and to form a rare and delightful companionship. Nor were their differences in personal appearance and physical constitution less striking or less susceptible of agreeable contrast. For while Mr. Campbell was tall, vigorous and athletic, Mr. Scott was not above the average height, slender and rather spare in person, and possessed of little muscular strength. While the aspect of the one was ever lively and cheerful, even in repose, that of the other was abstracted, meditative, and sometimes had even an air of sadness. Their features, too, were very different. Mr. Campbell's face had no straight lines in it. Even his nose, already arched, was turned slightly to the right, and his eyes and hair were comparatively light. Mr. Scott's nose was straight, his lips rather full but delicately chiseled, his eyes dark and lustrous, full of intelligence and softness, and without the peculiar [511] eagle-glance so striking in Mr. Campbell, while his hair, clustering above his fine ample forehead, was black as the raven's wing.

      Such were some of the prominent contrasts of these two eminent advocates of reformation, who were henceforth destined to share each other's labors and trials, to promote each other's discoveries of truth, and to emulate each other in their efforts to restore the pure primitive apostolic gospel to the world. [512]

      1 The charges at the Seminary were, for board and lodging $1.50 per week, and for tuition $5.00 per quarter, for any or all the branches usually taught in academies including Hebrew and French. [492]


[MAC1 484-512]

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

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