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Robert Richardson
Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, Volume II. (1869)



C H A P T E R   X V .

Reformation in South-west Virginia--The atonement--Bethany College--
Converting influence--Church organization--Tours.

O N the 13th of June, 1840, Mr. Campbell attended an interesting general meeting held at Charlottesville, Virginia. Fifty-six churches were heard from or represented, and the principal preachers of Virginia were present. The object was to consider the state of the cause and the means of spreading the gospel and promoting education. During the meeting, which lasted seven days, there was much good preaching, great harmony and warm Christian feeling, and much interest and hospitality were shown by the citizens of Charlottesville. The Baptists too were particularly friendly, and several of their preachers, together with the chaplain of the University, came to hear Mr. Campbell. While there, he delivered a written address to the "Charlottesville Lyceum" on the question, "Is moral philosophy an inductive science?" which was published by the "Lyceum." He also, by request, addressed the "Jeffersonian Society" of the University.

      At this meeting he became first personally acquainted with Chester Bullard, who among the mountains of South-west Virginia, had been for some years laboring in the cause of religious reformation, without any particular knowledge of the movement conducted by Mr. Campbell. His parents were Baptists, and his mother [471] a remarkably pious woman. His early childhood wan spent in Montgomery county, near the source of the Roanoke river, three miles from Christiansburg. Remarkable even then for his religious and devotional tendencies, he experienced much mental distress as he grew up in vain endeavors to obtain that assurance of acceptance which he had been taught to look for, and which he supposed himself to receive at length at a Methodist meeting when about seventeen years of age. The Methodists at this time had just begun to make their appearance in the country, which was filled with irreligion, there being then in Christiansburg no meeting-house, and out of a population of four hundred persons but two women and one man who were professors of religion. In the midst of this society it was to constant family prayer and reading of the Scriptures that young Bullard owed the maintenance of his religious life, for preaching was very seldom heard in the vicinity. After his supposed conversion, finding himself unable to subscribe to the doctrines of the Methodist discipline, he remained disconnected from any party. Deeply anxious, however, on the subject of religion, devoted to the Bible and possessing much independence of mind, he learned that true religion consisted in the knowledge and love of God, and that after faith and repentance baptism was required. About this time his eldest brother happened to be traveling in Pennsylvania, and after supper, at a public house, found, upon retiring early to his room from the ungenial company at the inn, a number of the "Christian Baptist" lying on the table. This he read before going to rest, and was so much pleased that he advised his brother-in-law, upon his return to Montgomery county, Virginia, to subscribe for it, telling him that the editor was a half [472] century ahead of the age. This was done, and the last volume of the "Christian Baptist" and first of the "Harbinger" were duly received, but for want of interest in the matters treated, most of the numbers were thrown aside unread.

      In the same year (1831), Mr. Bullard concluded to study medicine with Dr. D. J. Chapman, near the Sulphur Springs, in Giles county. Here, amid some of the most picturesque and romantic scenery of the American continent, near where Sinking Creek, passing four miles under Thomas' Hill, empties itself into New River, and where the latter, more than a hundred feet deep, washes the lofty and magnificent cliffs of "Thomas' Hill," Mr. Bullard pursued his medical studies, whilst religious thoughts still predominated. Earnestly desiring baptism, but unable to obtain it at the hands of the Baptists, as he did not sufficiently approve of their tenets to unite with them, he felt himself quite isolated. That year, Landon Duncan, the assessor of the county, a man of grave and thoughtful aspect, nearly six feet in height, with dark complexion, black hair and eyes, and a firm, decided manner, happened to call in the discharge of his official duties. Falling into a religious conversation with him, Mr. Bullard freely communicated to him his feelings and his wishes, and though he frankly expressed his dissent from some of the views held by Mr. Duncan, the latter agreed to baptize him.

      Landon Duncan had, when young, united with the Baptists, and was ordained August, 1813. After some time, however, he adopted the sentiments of the "Christian Connection," chiefly through the influence of Joseph Thomas.

      This Joseph Thomas was a somewhat remarkable man, born in North Carolina, from whence he removed [473] with his father to the summit of the lofty hill in Giles county, where he became deeply imbued with religious feeling, and began while yet a young man to recommend religion to his neighbors. Associating with O'Kelly and the southern branch of the Association in North Carolina, he desired to be immersed, when O'Kelly persuaded him that pouring was more scriptural, to which he submitted after stipulating that a tubful of water should be poured upon him. Becoming afterward fully satisfied that immersion alone was baptism, he was immersed by Elder Plumer in Philadelphia. This brought him into communication with Abner Jones, Elias Smith and others of the Eastern branch of the Christian Connection. He now devoted himself wholly to preaching and became noted for the extent of his travels through the United States, making from his home, then at Winchester, Virginia, frequent tours through the Northern, all the Middle and most of the Southern and Western States. In person he was tall, straight as an Indian, with fair skin and gray eyes, beautiful nose and mouth, a lofty forehead, long chestnut locks parted over the middle of the head and falling upon his shoulders. He often traveled on foot dressed in a long white robe, from whence he was called the "White Pilgrim," and frequently, in imitation of Christ, retired to lonely places for fasting and prayer. Sanguine and ardent in his temperament, full of enthusiasm and of poetic feeling, he made a strong impression upon the people, few being able to forget the wild beauty and sublimity of his eloquence. He had a daughter married to John O'Kane of Indiana, formerly mentioned, and was not ignorant of the reformatory views urged by Mr. Campbell, but he declined to adopt them, being greatly absorbed in religious frames and feelings, [474] and continued the mourning-bench system, remaining in connection with the Eastern branch of the "Christian Connection," and dying finally of the smallpox amidst his itinerant labors in New Jersey, about the year 1850.

      Chester Bullard, after his baptism by Landon Duncan, at once engaged in public labors, delivering his first discourse on the evening of the day on which he was baptized. Avoiding those speculative points with which Landon Duncan and those with him were much occupied, he presented simple views of the gospel and the freeness of Christ's salvation, and showed that faith came by hearing the word of God, and that he that believed and was baptized should be saved. It was a considerable time, however, before he succeeded in making enough converts to form a church, which was finally organized near the source of the Catawba River in 1833. By degrees, most of those in connection with Landon Duncan gave in their adhesion, and James Redpath and others beginning to aid in the public ministry, a number of churches were organized in that part of Virginia. About that time (1839) Dr. Bullard happened to take up and read Mr. Campbell's Extra on Remission, which he met with at the house of his brother-in-law. Surprised and delighted with the new views it gave of the gospel, he immediately sought out all the numbers of the "Christian Baptist" and "Harbinger," and was overjoyed to find how clear and consistent were Mr. Campbell's views, and how different from the slanderous misrepresentations which had been so industriously circulated throughout the country from the press and the pulpit. He immediately began to circulate his writings, preaching with great success the reformatory principles, and happy in finding himself [475] unexpectedly associated with a host of fellow-laborers in the same cause. Hearing that Mr. Campbell was to visit Charlottesville, he determined to meet him, and after his happy interview with him there, kept up with him afterward constant Christian fellowship and communication, pursuing his earnest labors most successfully through South-west Virginia, where he continued to be the chief support of the cause.

      In closing his notice of the meeting at Charlottesville, Mr. Campbell made an allusion to the "Dover Decrees," and a friendly reference to Andrew Broaddus, which elicited from the latter a kind letter, in some sense justifying the action of the Association as seemingly necessary at the time.

      "This, however," he went on to say, "furnishes no reason for an everlasting separation. If we have erroneously construed your views; and in our zeal for the great truths of the gospel have wrongfully put you under the 'ban of the empire,' or if you in your zeal for exploding long-cherished errors have unconsciously struck at important truths, or if there should have been on both sides something erroneous--something of misconstruction on the one hand and rashness on the other--why, for aught I can see, there might yet be hope of reconciliation and union; and a union on a firm scriptural basis none would greet more cordially than myself.

      "Of late I am free to say (I mean for several years past) while I have seen in the 'Harbinger' much to approve, I have met with nothing for which my fellowship in the gospel would be forfeited. I cannot say the same for some things which you have put forth in former times, and a retraction of such things would, I think, be proper and necessary. I regret, my dear sir, that you should be separated from us, and much would I rejoice in seeing your talents enlisted in the one great cause. That the Church needs a progressive reformation I have no doubt, and to all efforts for this object on a scriptural basis I would say, 'God speed.' [476]

      "Before I conclude I have another remark to offer. There must be some truths which are vital and fundamental. Among these you and I both reckon that great truth, atonement or expiation by the blood of Christ. Now, I find in your discussion with a venerable correspondent you have to remind him that he has forgotten to state this among the designs of Christ! How could we recognize members, not to say ministers, who leave out of their building this corner-stone? Verbum sat. Yours in the blessed hope,

      To this Mr. Campbell replied as follows:

      "MY DEAR SIR: I thankfully and cordially reciprocate every good feeling expressed in your letter before me, and shall endeavor with similar frankness, candor and courtesy to respond to it. Charged, as I have sometimes been, with the desire of making a new party, I am glad, on every retrospection of my course and of the opposition offered to it, that neither friend nor foe has yet been able to adduce a single fact indicative of such a wish on my part. On the contrary, when the history of this effort at reformation shall have been faithfully written, it will appear, we think, bright as the sun, that our career has been marked with a spirit of forbearance, moderation and love of union, with an unequivocal desire for preserving the integrity, harmony and co-operation of all who teach one faith, one Lord and one immersion. . . .

      "But our views and objects have been mistaken by many of our Baptist brethren and friends; and among the melancholy monuments of it are the Dover Decrees and similar acts of exclusion from other quarters. That our brethren have been to blame for some indiscretions, as well as some unguarded expressions in giving rise to these acts of exclusion and proscription, I am frank to admit. Indeed, the first of these anathemas, the Beaver Decrees, in 1829, I have always believed were occasioned by some violent movements on the part of our brethren in the Western Reserve, Ohio, in the height of a great excitement. Extremes beget extremes, and when the ball of ultraism is put in motion, there is no [477] foretelling its place of resting. . . . Our views and aims are now fully developed, and the consequence is, that the Baptist people and others wonder at themselves, and say that we have changed and are not so heterodox as formerly. They have heard with more candor, and, like the passengers approaching the shore, they regard us as nearing their prow and fast approximating to their views. Well, this gives us pleasure, as it proves that had they understood us at first as at last, they would not have given us to the enemy."

      He then adds: "That the Baptist society needs a 'progressive reformation,' I must, with you, candidly and cordially avow as my opinion, and that we all ought to be up and doing, I as firmly believe. As to our views of reformation, wherein they are founded in truth your people cannot resist them. They cannot keep them out of their churches. They will pervade all Christendom in this age of reading and discussion. If any of our views of reformation are not founded in truth, we wish to see them exploded, refuted and put down. In no supposable event have we anything to fear from intimacy with your churches or pastors. Our errors we desire to lose, and our truth no man will take from us.

      "Could the friends of truth and union agree to meet on the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible, acknowledge one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one body of Christ and one Spirit--could they leave the conscience free where God has left it free, and not bind their private opinions upon one another, and could they open their pulpits, their ears and their hearts to a free intercommunion of preachers and people, and occasionally celebrate the Christian festival together, and devote themselves more to the study of the Bible and to Christian holiness of life--what a blissful time we should soon have! What a prelude and pledge of a better state of things! They might gladly suffer the world to call them Christians, Disciples, Baptists, Reformers, as they pleased; they would have the peace, the joy, the feast within, and would advance on the bulwarks of Satan, conquering and to conquer." [478]

      He remarks further: "Your reference to vital and fundamental principles I approve. But with regard to that 'venerable correspondent' we must not judge too soon. I view it as an oversight rather than an intentional omission, that he left out the expiatory designs of the Messiah's death. Men long addicted to speculative controversy on Trinitarian and Unitarian hypotheses are sometimes scared past Mount Zion, Mount Calvary and the Mount of Olives. Some good men shudder with such horror at the idea of 'placating an offended Deity,' or 'satisfying dishonored justice,' or 'reconciling an angry God,' that they are afraid to use the words 'expiation,' 'sin-offering,' 'atonement,' lest they should resemble the children of Ashdod. For my part, I am not so timid. I believe that that venerable correspondent will come out with a full declaration of faith that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that 'without the shedding of his blood' God could not, in honor or in truth, have forgiven one transgression. But let him have his own time and his own manner of communicating his conceptions."

      The "venerable correspondent" referred to here was B. W. Stone, with whom Mr. Campbell was then discussing the subject of the atonement. Mr. Campbell had proposed to him to furnish four pages per month for the "Harbinger" in discussing, in a friendly way, the terms "sin," "sin-offering," "atonement," "reconciliation," etc. Anxious to promote sound scriptural knowledge, and fearing that in the minds of some there still lingered speculative and defective conceptions upon these subjects, he thought benefit would result from such an examination scripturally conducted.

      Without entering into the details of this discussion, much of which is devoted to sin-offering under the law and criticisms upon Hebrew terms, it may be remarked that there seemed to be an entire agreement as to the effect of the atonement upon the believing sinner. Elder [479] Stone, after expatiating at length on the designs of the death of Christ, says:

      "It has been proved that his blood purges, cleanses, sanctifies, washes and purifies from sin--that by it sin is put away, borne away--that by it we are justified, pardoned, redeemed, ransomed, bought, purchased from sin--by it we are propitiated or saved from enmity, and at-one-ed to God. By it--I need not repeat all I have written in this and the former numbers--all these effects are the work of God in and for us by the means of the sacrifice of Christ, and obedient believers alone are the subjects of them."

      As it respects, however, the effects of the atonement upon God in relation to his divine justice or government, Elder Stone was not so clear. He seemed to think there was a want of Scripture evidence for much that was affirmed on that subject. "I do not wish to be understood," said he, "to deny that such effects are produced on God, his law and government by sin-offering, but that I cannot believe them for want of divine evidence." "I deny not," said he again, "that something might have been done to produce this effect on God, as just mentioned, yet that something I find not recorded, and I dare not be wise above what is written. There has been and yet is a great deal of conjecture and speculation afloat on this unrevealed something, which I do consider repugnant to the plain Scriptures of divine inspiration. Yet he that believes the declaration of God from his mercy-seat Jesus Christ, that he can be just in justifying the ungodly that believe in Jesus, and acts according to divine direction, that person will not be condemned, though he may not understand how God can be just when he justifies the believer."

      Freely accepting the full revelation of Scripture upon the effects of the death of Christ in respect to man, Mr. Stone was cautious of dogmatizing in reference to its effects upon the divine government; a point in relation to which so little is really said in the Bible, and which is involved in the incomprehensible mysteries of [480] the divine nature. He seemed afraid to make any positive advance in this direction, and Mr. Campbell accordingly labored at considerable length to show that the Scriptures were sufficiently explicit upon that part of the subject also if examined with candor; and after a clear presentation of it in various aspects he thus sums up some of his conclusions:

      "The death of Christ was for the redemption of transgressions, and although he died as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world, yet only that portion of mankind who have faith in his blood do actually derive pardon and life through his death. But it was as much for the redemption of transgression passed under the law as for the redemption of transgressions under the gospel that Christ died; consequently there was no real pardon of any real sins in the Jewish sacrificial system. 'The law made nothing perfect.'

      "The redemption that is through the death and blood of Jesus is necessary--that is, it is of right demanded; for to exact death unless justice demanded it would be to do unjustly. It was necessary that God might be just in forgiving sin. Thus Paul to the Romans and to the Hebrews represents redemption from sin through the blood or death of Christ. This redemption or deliverance is what is usually, though improperly, called 'the merits' or 'worth' of his death. Certainly it is the efficacy of his death; for on this redemption justice rests its plea while consenting with mercy in forgiving sin. God has then set forth the person and blood of his Son as the mercy-seat, that he might be truly just and appear so before the universe, in forgiving sins committed against him as the Lawgiver of all lawful and moral intelligences.

      "If I am tedious here, Brother Stone," he continues, "it is because I delight to be tedious upon this basis of the basis of the whole remedial system. I pretend not to fathom the ocean, nor do I aim at comprehending the wonderful ways of the infinite Intelligence, but when God speaks I must [481] listen, and when he explains himself it is a sin not to endeavor to understand him. He has spoken often and through various persons on this transcendent theme. If it be orthodoxy or heterodox, I care not; but I believe that man is fallen; that the wages of sin is death; that death has passed through all generations of man because all have sinned; that sacrifice has its origin here; that God sent man out of Eden not clothed with silk or cotton or in the bark of trees, but in the skins of slain beasts; that all the blood of all slain animals never took away the deep stain of the least human sin against God's law; that the Jewish sacrifices and all divinely-ordained sacrifices were but the types of the sin-offering of my Lord and King; that the new covenant has in it a real remission of all sins, because mediated by Emmanuel and sealed by his own blood; that God as King cannot now be just in forgiving sin, having as Lawgiver said, The soul that sinneth shall die, but through the death of his Son. I moreover believe that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin--not our tears and our penitence, but his blood; and that blood must be seen, believed and acquiesced in according to God's own appointed way. Hence the command, 'Believe, repent, and be baptized for the remission of sins.'

      "I admire your scrupulosity about Bible terms and Bible ideas. I venerate the man that venerates the word of God. God himself honors with special tokens of his love the man that trembles at his word. You know I have never been solicitous of reputation at the hands of a downy and stall-fed orthodoxy. I never have courted such popular applause. Well, then, I am not to be suspected of any leaning that way. But after placing myself in every attitude favorable to an impartial consideration of all these great points, I do, while deprecating much of the unauthorized though consecrated jargon on trinity, unity, atonement, sacrifice, etc., etc., and lamenting the fragmentary caricatures, rather than expositions of the true doctrine by weak and conceited expositors of that school; nevertheless, the true and proper divinity or godhead of my Lord Messiah and the real sin-expiating value and [482] efficacy of his death, and of his death alone, based upon his peerless worth and divine majesty, are the rock of my salvation--the basis of all my hopes of immortality--the very anchor of my soul amidst the shaking of the earth, the upheaving of the ocean and all the tumults and debates of the people.

      "A religion not honoring God the Father of all--not relying upon the person, mission and death of the Word incarnate--not inspired, cherished, animated and inflamed by the Holy Spirit dwelling in my soul, is a cheat, a base counterfeit, and not that athletic, strong and invincible thing which armed the martyr's soul against all the terrors that earth and hell could throw around the Redeemer, his cause and people."

      The article to which the above passage is a part of the reply closed the discussion, B. W. Stone deeming it unnecessary to continue it. Mr. Campbell greatly desired to pursue the subject farther, hoping to bring Elder Stone to a more clear and definite statement of views. He acquiesced, however, in Elder Stone's wish to close the discussion, in reference to which he remarks:

      "I am persuaded it will not be without advantage to the cause of Reformation that so much has been written on the subject in the way of discussion--with one, too, who has spent so many years in debates and discussions on that or some kindred branch of the same subject.

      "All admit the excellency of the character of Elder Stone, however they may regard him as muddy and confused on some aspects of that all-important question. For my own part, I much desired that, as he had ceased from all teaching and preaching of his former speculations on this and other subjects, for which the commencement of his career, some forty years ago, was distinguished, he would also in writing have given a permanent and full exposition of those points more in harmony with the developments and objects of the current reformation. Some of our readers have thought he has done so, while others are of a contrary opinion. For my part, I can and do make great allowance for early and [483] long-established habits of thinking and speaking on all religious questions, and therefore regard Brother Stone as confiding in the sacrifice and death of Christ as indispensable to salvation, and though by no means acquiescing in some of his interpretations of the meaning and designs of the Messiah's death, I can bear with a difference of opinion on a subject so vital, which many would regard as an insuperable obstacle to Christian communion.

      "Men may and do hold the Head, Christ, and his death and mediation indispensable to salvation, who, nevertheless, have very inadequate conceptions of some of the aspects of these transcendent subjects. And as we are not saved by the strength and comprehension of our views, but from obeying from the heart the apostolic mould of doctrine, more stress ought to be laid upon moral excellence than upon abstract orthodoxy, especially when all the facts and documents of Christianity are cordially believed and cherished. Our bond of union is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one body, one spirit, one hope, one God and Father of all. And as many as walk by this rule, peace be on them and mercy, and upon the whole Israel of God!"

      This friendly discussion of the atonement with B. W. Stone proved, as Mr. Campbell expected, highly beneficial, and served to clear up the subject in the minds of many who had belonged to the "Christian Connection," some of whom candidly admitted that they had never before so fully understood it. Scarcely had the discussion closed when B. W. Stone was stricken with paralysis. From this, however, he afterward to some degree recovered, and, maintaining still much of his mental vigor, continued to labor on with his usual earnestness for the cause of the Bible.

      On the 12th of October, 1840, another addition was made to Mr. Campbell's family, and as this was the tenth daughter he named her Decima. About the same [484] time Bethany College opened, with about one hundred students in attendance. As professors and students of various grades in all the departments were incommdiously crowded together in the boarding-house called the "Steward's Inn," the only building yet erected, a good deal of confusion marked the early period of the session. The circumstances, indeed, were very unpropitious for a fair experiment, especially as the students were strangers to each other and to the faculty, and had not been subjected to the moral training and discipline of the family department which, according to Mr. Campbell's scheme, was an important preparation for college. With his usual activity and energy, however, he addressed himself to the work of moulding the minds of the youths present in conformity with the great principles developed in the Bible. The sacred volume was at once made the text-book for the whole college, and he proceeded to develop every morning to the entire class, as he alone could do it, the great facts which it presented. His wonderful power of presenting these facts in their most extended relations, his simple yet comprehensive generalizations, opening up new fields of thought and enlarging the horizon of knowledge, enchained the attention of even the youngest members of the class, and Sacred History became at once the favorite study. Mr. Campbell taught also the classes in Intellectual Philosophy, Evidences of Christianity, Moral Science and Political Economy, and in the church upon the Lord's day all had the opportunity of hearing those grand developments of the Divine teachings and institutions which he presented and of witnessing the simple forms of primitive order and discipline. His urbanity and kindness and his genial manner gave him great personal influence with the students, and, with [485] the earnest co-operation of the faculty, the affairs of the college prospered, so that in the month of May a very favorable report was made of a growing and decided improvement in all the departments of the institution.

      "A good moral influency," said he, "seems to be now in the ascendant, and a general determination on the part of the students to maintain a high standard of moral excellence and decorum in all the details of social intercourse." . . . "If there be any one point in the science of morals more than any other universally accredited and enforced, it is that the fear and reverence of the Lord, sometimes called piety, constitute the only infallible foundation of morality and good manners."

      In the beginning of the following session an influx of new students, unruly and untrained, led to a renewal of disturbances. The prompt exercise of discipline, however, on the part of the faculty at once restored order, and from this time forward the labors of the institution proceeded most successfully in the new college building erected during the summer.

      It was thought expedient, in April of this year (1841), by some of the disciples in Kentucky to hold a public meeting at Lexington, to which all religious parties were invited in order to discuss the question of Christian union: 1st, As to its desirability; 2d, As to its practicability. The meeting, at which Mr. Campbell was present, was largely attended, though but few of other denominations were there, Dr. Fishback being the only Baptist minister who took an active part in the meeting. The discussion of the important subject was continued for several days, and the following resolution was at last passed unanimously:

      "Resolved, That the Bible, and the Bible alone, is a sufficient foundation on which all Christians may unite and build [486] together, and that we most affectionately invite all the religious parties to an investigation of this truth."

      On the 11th of September of this year, Mr. Campbell was bereaved of another beloved daughter, Maria, the wife of R. Y. Henley, who from childhood had been noted for her seriousness, piety and amiability. Inheriting a delicate constitution, she was snatched away from her affectionate husband and several small children in her twenty-sixth year, but with patient resignation and well-founded trust yielded her meek spirit into the hands of her Saviour.

      About this time Mr. Campbell held a brief correspondence with Elder J. M. Peck on the subject of spiritual influence. At the close of the discussion of this subject with S. W. Lynd, he had expressed his willingness to discuss the question with any Baptist doctor, and publish the controversy in a volume of one hundred and fifty or two hundred pages for general circulation, as an end of the matter. This proposition was accepted by J. M. Peck of the "Baptist Banner," but after a few communications the disputants seemed to come unexpectedly to so close an agreement that the discussion was closed. Mr. Campbell had said:

      "The truth is the instrument, the means, and the Spirit of God is the cause or agent of regeneration. Such are my views on this great subject. And, my dear sir, if you always make the word the instrument of regeneration, you may always expect me to concur with you in saying that it is but the instrument, and not the first cause of a great spiritual change."

      Mr. Peck expressed his high gratification with these distinct statements, regretting that Mr. Campbell had been so long misunderstood on this topic for want of such a declaration. Mr. Campbell then called his [487] attention to the fact that the proposition which he had from the very beginning labored to sustain was precisely what he had now expressed--viz.: that "in conversion the Holy Spirit operated through the truth, and not without it," as the Baptists had taught. As Elder Peck declined to affirm this dogma of the Baptists, and endeavored to show that Mr. Campbell had misunderstood them on this subject, there appeared to be no longer any question in dispute, and Mr. Campbell thus closed his last letter:

      "I believe and teach now, as I did thirty years ago, that the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit are three divine names, indicative of perfect equality in all that is represented by the term God in its highest, holiest and supreme import, and that this same divine nature is severally and personally ascribed to them by all in heaven and all the intelligent on earth, in all the great works of creation, providence and redemption.

      "Without this distinction in the divine nature, without the mystery of divinity exhibited in the personal relations of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the mystery of redemption had been impossible in conception, design and execution. God the Father so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son for its ransom; 'The Son so loved the world as to give himself up to the death for us all;' and the Spirit has so loved us as to make his abode in our hearts as the children of God; and thus the whole 'Godhead' is fully revealed, admired, adored in the mystery of man's redemption.

      "With regard to the operation of the Spirit through the Word on sinners and on saints, while we strongly affirm the fact of his sanctifying, reviving, cheering and saving efficacy through the word of prophets and apostles, we ought to teach no new terms, phrases or dogmata--preach good news to sinners and teach holiness to the converted--teach the Christians to pray for the Spirit in all its holy influences, and to lift up their voices to the Lord for all his promised aids. Thus the love of God will be poured out into their souls by [488] his Holy Spirit that dwelleth in them, and they will learn to love his children and to rejoice in hope of the coming glory. To learn that such are your views, designs and practices will greatly add to the esteem I entertain for you, and will greatly encourage me in pleading for the sincere and perfect union of our Father's dear children in order to the conversion of the world.

      "Sincerely and affectionately yours, A. CAMPBELL."      

      In regard to this vexed subject of "spiritual influence" there had really never been any just cause of controversy. The dogmatic popular affirmation that the Holy Spirit was "poured out" upon unbelievers to work in them regeneration and faith, which in Mr. Campbell's view rendered the word of God of no effect, had led him to assert the claims of the latter as God's power to salvation. He did not deny that "influences" of various kinds might accompany that word, but on these he declined to enlarge, and was careful to distinguish them from converting power, which he conceived to reside exclusively in the word or gospel itself, just as the vegetative power or life resides in the seed sown in the earth, and not in any of the circumstances, such as the sowing, the heat or the moisture, which attend its development. As the healing power of the physician is in his medicine, so Mr. Campbell regarded God's healing power as contained in the gospel, and forbore to confound with it those influences by which sinners are induced to receive it, just as he distinguished the healing power of the physician from any of the influences which might induce the patient to take the medicine he prescribed. He believed in spiritual ministries of various kinds, and, that invisible beings, as he had said in his discussion with Mr. Waterman, "by an acquaintance with our associations of ideas, our modes of [489] reasoning, our passions, our appetites, our propensities and, by approaching us through these avenues, could lead us backward or forward, to the right or to the left, as their designs might require. This is possible and compatible with our views of spiritual influence. It is more than possible--it is probable. I might advance farther and say it is certain; for it has been done." These "accompanying influences," however, of whatever nature they might be, material or spiritual, human or divine, Mr. Campbell regarded as no part of the gospel, and as adding to it no power.

      It was shown by Dr. Richardson about this time, in a series of essays upon "Converting Influence," signed by some one of the letters of the word Luke, that while the agencies which induced men to receive the gospel added no power to it absolutely, they certainly did so in a relative point of view, so that practically the same effect was produced. He argued that there were many different obstacles which prevented the gospel from reaching the heart of the sinner, such as ignorance, love of the world, etc., and that the instrumentality in each case must be adapted to the nature of the obstacle to be removed. Paul said (2 Cor. iv. 3, 4), "If our gospel be hid, it is hid by the perishing things by which the god of this world bath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." Adopting the apostle's figure, it was shown that while opening the shutters and thus permitting the sun to shine upon a person in a dark room certainly added no additional power to the sun's rays, it had practically the same effect as if these had become so increased in power as to penetrate the shutters. There was thus no need of supposing any absolute increase [490] of power to be imparted to the gospel, since all that was required for the proper exercise of its power was, that the obstacles which hindered it should be removed. In order to the accomplishment of this, there was abundant room for both divine and human agency, as well as for prayer and persevering effort in behalf of the unconverted. Ignorant as men necessarily are of the mysteries of spiritual being, there was no occasion to question that spiritual ministries of various kinds might be employed in guiding men's minds to a saving appreciation of the gospel, and that such ministries, though super-human, might not be necessarily supernatural or miraculous, but, on the contrary, perfectly in accordance with the nature of the spiritual agent, as well as with that of the mind itself. As these varied instrumentalities, however, added absolutely no new power to the gospel itself, Mr. Campbell was evidently correct in continuing to affirm, with Paul, that the gospel was "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." It was also evident that he acted wisely and in harmony with the reformatory principles in declining to discuss the nature of the influences which might accompany the word, as this evidently belonged to the class of untaught questions.

      The establishment of the college had greatly increased Mr. Campbell's labors, since, in addition to his former engagements, he had now the regular instruction of classes to attend to, as well as the affairs of many of the students, who were constantly applying for counsel and assistance. His promptitude, however, and wonderfully active temperament, seemed to render everything easy to him, and he never appeared to lose his buoyancy of spirits or to be unable to render his usual hospitable and personal attentions to his numerous friends and visitors. [491] His hope, however, of being released from the pain of protracted absences from home, and of being allowed to devote his remaining years to a constant supervision of the college, was not destined to be realized. The need of means to erect the necessary buildings and to establish the institution permanently, demanded the active services of a soliciting agent, and such was the desire of the churches and the public abroad to see and hear Mr. Campbell that they soon learned to make it a condition of their donations that he would visit them in person.

      During one of these trips in the summer of 1842 he again visited Kentucky and a portion of Ohio. At Lexington he found the church erecting the largest meeting-house in the State, and in a very prosperous condition under the care of Dr. L. L. Pinkerton. He found, also, that Dr. Fishback, who had previously been but partially connected with the cause of the Reformation, had now given himself and his influence wholly to it.

      "The anxiety to hear," said Mr. Campbell in his notes of the tour, "and the interest taken in the cause of Reformation, never were greater than at present. The crowds that in all places overbilled the most spacious buildings, and the profound attention shown in the city and in the country amongst all ranks and classes of society, show that the cause of Reformation has not been preached or heard in vain amongst this intelligent and magnanimous community. Within forty miles of Lexington, during two months immediately preceding my arrival, not less than one thousand persons had been immersed. In Madison, Lincoln and Garrard, they were obeying the gospel by hundreds. Even in Danville, the metropolis of Presbyterian influence, while I was laboring in Woodford and Fayette a few days, some forty or My persons obeyed the Lord. In the Green River country, too, the march [492] of the gospel is onward. One brother informed me that he has within a few months, in the south-western portion of that district, immersed some three hundred and fifty. The success of Brothers Johnson, Rice and Elley in another portion of that district is, as usual, rapid and irresistible. People of all creeds and no creeds, of all manner of prejudices and antipathies, fraternize and amalgamate under the broad banner of apostolic Christianity."

      Deeply impressed, however, with the importance of a full exhibition of a Christian character, he adds: "But ah! how much is wanting to bring the churches up to the standard of Christian piety and morality! In personal, domestic and congregational piety, in the discharge of all the relative duties in the practice of the moral and social excellences of our religion, how far yet behind the models which the apostolic records deliver to us! "

      The rapid increase of the churches generally, but especially in Kentucky, where the membership was already estimated at forty thousand, impressed Mr. Campbell more and more with the responsibilities of his position, and with the vast importance of a clear understanding on the part of the churches in regard to the whole subject of organization and co-operation. He continued, therefore, his able series of essays on this topic, in which, with his usual freedom of thought and earnest desire for truth, he proposed to determine by a careful induction the true plan of scriptural organization. The spirit in which he ever sought for higher attainments in divine knowledge is well indicated in the following passage from these essays:

      "It is always more or less detrimental to the ascertainment of truth to allow our previous conclusions to assume the position of fixed and fundamental truths, to which nothing is to be at any time added, either in the way of correction or enlargement. On the contrary, we ought rather to act under [493] the conviction that we maybe wiser to-day than yesterday, and that whatever is true can suffer no hazard from a careful and candid consideration. In this view of the subject I am accustomed to examine all questions--literary, moral or religious; because I am, from much reflection and long observation, constrained to regard it as the only safe and prudential course."

      Candidly admitting the many evils connected with a want of proper government on the part of the churches, the irresponsibility of preachers to the Church and of churches to the Christian community at large, he endeavored to show that in the beginning all ministers were called either by the Lord in person, by his people or by his providence, and that it was essential to the dignity and efficiency of the ministerial office that those only should be authorized and sent out by the churches who had given full proof of their qualifications.

      While these essays were in progress of publication, he received a series of short, courteous and extremely well-written articles, reviewing them and insisting upon the importance of a wise, comprehensive and efficient church organization. These articles were signed A C----n, and proposed that the field from which the facts required for a just induction were to be gathered, should embrace not merely the statements of Scripture, but the well-attested practice of the age immediately subsequent to the apostolic. It was urged in them that only the germs of the proper organization could be found in the Scripture, and that this alone did not furnish sufficient data for a complete system of church organization. In his very interesting and able reply Mr. Campbell demands the authentic documents by which the assumed deficiency of Scripture is to be supplied and the question settled, declaring that he had searched antiquity in vain for them. [494]

      "The Bible alone," said he, "must always decide every question involving the nature, the character or the designs of the Christian institution. Outside of the apostolic canon, there is not, as it appears to me, one solid foot of terra firma on which to raise the superstructure ecclesiastic. The foundation of apostles and prophets is that projected and ordained by the Lawgiver of the universe. On this, and on this only, can we safely found the Church of Jesus Christ, whether we contemplate its doctrine, its discipline or its government. Nothing less authoritative and divine can fully satisfy the conscientious of all parties, or withstand the assaults of the adversaries of our most holy faith. Whenever we close the apostolic records and open the volumes of the "primitive Fathers," the converts and successors of the apostles, as they are reverentially designated, we find ourselves on a sea of uncertainties, without a single haven in our horizon or in our chart."

      Mr. Campbell's view, then, was that the "germs" of church organization, as his correspondent termed them, furnished by the Scriptures were entirely sufficient, and that the facts and principles developed in the Scriptures needed only to be applied according to the exigencies of time and circumstances. He thought, therefore, it would be best to stop where and when the Bible stops, and to regard everything beyond its teachings as matters left to human prudence or mere questions of expediency.

      It was doubtless the benevolent intention of Mr. Campbell's correspondent (who was readily recognized as one of the most pious prelates of the Episcopal Church in the West), in laying before the readers of the "Harbinger" the claims of diocesan episcopacy, to win over to his system of church organization this large and rapidly-increasing body of Reformers, who, as they themselves admitted, were suffering from many of the [495] evils connected with a want of proper systematic arrangement and co-operation. Such an overture could not have proceeded more appropriately or with better prospect of success from any other individual than the amiable prelate referred to, for whom Mr. Campbell had himself the highest personal respect, and who commanded largely the sympathy of the Reformers from his having expressed openly his conscientious conviction that immersion alone was baptism, and who was known to cherish moreover an earnest wish for a Christian union of all parties, which he seriously thought could be most happily consummated by combining the immersion of the Baptists, the zeal of the Methodists and the apostolic succession of the Church of England. Mr. Campbell, however, preferring to this fanciful ecclesiastic patchwork, the baptism, the zeal, the truth and love of the primitive disciples and the real and true apostles of Christ, showed clearly that in the nature of the case the latter could have no successors, and that it was long after the apostolic age before one bishop presided over more than one church. The effect of this interesting discussion confirmed the view previously held by the Reformers, that bishops and deacons were the only regular officers of the Christian Church. Mr. Campbell admitted, indeed, that, especially where the elders were numerous, there was formerly, and should still be, one who acted as president of the eldership--not, indeed, as being superior in rank, but merely as primus inter pares.

      He, at this period, in common with many other intelligent Reformers, was fearful of a tendency in the Church to extreme views of independency, and was much alive to the great need of proper co-operation.

      "The New Testament," says he, "teaches itself, both by [496] precept and example, the necessity of connected and concentrated action in the advancement of the kingdom. It lays down some great principles and applies them to the emergencies that arose in the primitive times:

      "1st. It inculcates the necessity of co-operation, and specifies instances. 2d. It inculcates the necessity of two distinct classes of officers in every particular community. 3d. It indicates the necessity of a third class of public functionaries and gives examples of diverse ministries. 4th. It exemplifies the utility and the need for special deliberations and of conventions in peculiar emergencies. 5th. It allows not persons to send themselves or to ordain themselves to office, but everywhere intimates the necessity of choice, selection, mission and ordination. 6th. It inculcates a general superintendency of districts and cities by those who preside over the churches in those districts; that is, it makes it the duty of a Christian ministry, by whatever name it maybe called, to take care of the common interests of the kingdom in those places and districts in which it is located and resident. 7th, It claims for every functionary the concurrence of those portions of the community in which he labors, and holds him responsible to those who send, appoint, or ordain him to office."

      In harmony with his views of duty, as there was no organization among the Reformers for the circulation of the Bible, Mr. Campbell had contributed to both of the American Bible societies, in each of which he was a member and life-director, and he urged the churches to send liberal contributions to William Colgate of New York, treasurer of the American and Foreign Bible Society, which had now undertaken to provide pure versions of the Scriptures for the world.

      In the fall of 1842, Mr. Campbell visited the cities of Richmond, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York in the interests of the college, and obtained important additions to its philosophical and chemical apparatus, [497] bought a thousand volumes for its library and received donations and subscriptions to the amount of $5000. Upon this tour he attended the annual meeting of the churches in Lower Virginia at Richmond in the latter part of October, and that of the upper portion at Charlottesville in the first week of November. He found the cause of the Reformation making much better progress than formerly, owing to the faithful labors of the evangelists and elders of the churches and the good influence of the "Christian Publisher," conducted at a considerable sacrifice by R. L. Coleman, aided by the eloquent but retiring J. W. Goss. A number of additions were made at these meetings, at the close of which Mr. Campbell traveled eastward with R. L. Coleman, who agreed to accompany him as far as Philadelphia. Sojourning with the intelligent G. Austin and his amiable family at Baltimore, he delivered several addresses there, and was much pleased with the earnestness, gravity and Christian affection which were manifested by the Church in the worship on the Lord's day. Mr. Coleman remaining for a few days at the request of the brethren to continue the meetings, Mr. Campbell proceeded to his appointment at Philadelphia, where he was rejoined by Mr. Coleman on the following Monday. Here he greatly embarrassed the latter by announcing, at the close of his discourse in the evening, that Mr. Coleman had arrived and would speak alternately with him during the evenings of the week. Mr. Coleman, accordingly, spoke the next evening, but having a very modest estimate of his own ability, and feeling that the people would desire to hear Mr. Campbell, he took the cars for home, and left Mr. Campbell, as he said, "to alternate with himself."

      In Philadelphia the church, now numbering about [498] one hundred and fifty, was meeting in a comfortable house at the corner of Fifth and Gaskill streets. Another church of some seventy or eighty members had also been organized on Race street, where Mr. Campbell delivered one discourse.

      At New York he spoke twice in Washington Hall, Broadway, to the citizens, and once to the brethren. He spent also a pleasant evening with Mr. Buchanan, the British Consul, and his excellent family. Mr. Buchanan was noted for his general benevolence and his faithful discharge of his office, which he was about to resign, in order to remove to Canada, near the Falls of Niagara. He was much attached also to the ancient order of things, and, though somewhat precise in some of his views, remained through life a steadfast friend of religious reformation. While in New York, Mr. Campbell called at the Bible-rooms to visit Elder Babcock, and took great delight in examining the various versions of the Old and New Testaments, and especially the celebrated version of the whole Bible into the Burmese, made by the eminent missionary, Elder Judson. Of this he says:

      "What a mercy, thought I, on glancing over its picturesque pages, God has vouchsafed to these fifteen or twenty millions of benighted souls in whose vernacular the WORD OF LIFE is sent abroad! The gospel is thus preached, being read, to that ancient people. How many, through that infinite future yet before us, may have reason to bless God that Judson was sent to their shores and permitted to learn their language, that he might make known to them the ways of salvation!"

      On his return from New York he spent several days at Baltimore and Philadelphia, and then, taking the cars to Cumberland, and the stage from thence to Wheeling, reached home in safety, and continued [499] punctually to fulfill his college duties during the remainder of the session. Near its close (May 11, 1843) his family was increased by the birth of another son, named William, who was the last of his own immediate family of fourteen children, of whom only seven were at this time living. [500]


[MAC2 471-500]

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Robert Richardson
Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, Volume II. (1869)

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