W. L. Hayden The Christian Church or Disciples of Christ (1882)










B O Y D   C R U M R I N E.

I L L U S T R A T E D.

P H I L A D E L P H I A:
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Nineteen Hundred Seventy Five

      The Christian Church{1} or Disciples of Christ. The materials of this historical sketch have been gathered chiefly from the "Life of A. Campbell," by Dr. R. Richardson, and "The History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve," by A. S. Hayden. The purpose is to give a brief but accurate account of the origin, principles, and progress of a powerful religious movement that took its rise in Washington, Washington Co., Pa., rapidly extended over the greater part of this country, and is now pushing onward into other countries with an accelerating force. This general outline must necessarily be, for the most, a compilation, and the present writer, having acknowledged his indebtedness to the above-named standard works, will use freely the facts and the language in which they are presented without marring this article with quotations.

      Thomas Campbell descended from the Campbells of Argyleshire. He was born in County Down, near Newry, Ireland, Feb. 1, 1763. Early in life he began to exhibit a deep religiousness, which was manifest in all his life to all who knew him. His father was a strict member of the Episcopal Church, but the rigid and frigid formalities of that ritualistic establishment did not satisfy the fervid religious feelings of his sympathetic nature. He fled to the gospels, and found more congenial spiritual aliment among the warm-hearted and zealous Seceders, a branch of the Presbyterian Church, a secession from the Kirk of Scotland. He became deeply anxious for his soul's salvation, and passed through mental struggles of indescribable anguish. At length the coveted peace dawned on his soul, and in the raptures of gratitude for so great a deliverance he resolved to consecrate himself to the public service of the blessed Redeemer, to whom his soul now clung with the ardor of a most devoted love. He completed the usual classical studies in the University of Glasgow, and also a course in medicine and lectures in law. He next completed the theological course in Divinity Hall, under Archibald Bruce, D.D., a master of profound abilities, and was commissioned, under the rigid and thorough examination of the Scotch Seceder Church, with the full credentials of the Christian ministry.

      He cultivated early and ever that deep reverence for the Bible which made him familiar with its meaning and its language, and which, by exalting the word of God into such incomparable pre-eminence above all human compositions, laid the foundations for the attempt to discard all human creeds as bonds of union, and to unite all the true followers of Christ into the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. His faith was equal to any demands upon it from that infallible, divine authority. Simple, trusting reliance on the Lord and child-like obedience to all His known requirements constituted the whole of his religion practically viewed.

      By excessive labor in teaching and pastoral duties his health was impaired, and a sea-voyage was resolved upon as the necessary means of recovery. Accordingly on the 8th of April, 1807, he sailed for Philadelphia, and arrived there after a prosperous voyage of thirty-five days.

      The Anti-Burgher Synod of North America was then assembled in the city. Mr. Campbell presented his testimonials from the Presbytery of Market Hill and the church at Ahorey to the Synod, and was very kindly received. Following the tide of emigration at that time he was, at his request, assigned by the Synod at Philadelphia to the Presbytery of Chartiers, embracing Washington County, in Western Pennsylvania. Upon his arrival at Washington, Pa., he found himself in the midst of old friends and neighbors who knew his worth, and the Seceder congregations were much pleased at having so important an accession to their ministry. He had not, however, been very long engaged in his regular ministrations among the churches before some suspicions began to arise in the minds of some of his ministerial brethren that he was disposed to relax too much the rigidness of their ecclesiastic rules, and to cherish for other denominations feelings of fraternity and respect in which they could not share. They were therefore induced, after a time, to keep a wary eye upon his movements.

      On a sacramental occasion Mr. Campbell felt it his duty, in the preparatory sermon, to lament the existing divisions in the Presbyterian family, and to suggest that all his pious hearers who belonged to other branches of that family in the vicinity, and who felt so disposed and duly prepared, should enjoy the benefits of the communion season then providentially afforded them without regard to party differences.

      At the next meeting of the Presbytery a young minister, Mr. Wilson, who had accompanied him and was present at the communion, laid the case before the Presbytery in the usual form of "libel," containing various formal and specified charges, the chief of which were that Mr. Campbell had failed to inculcate strict adherence to the church standard and usages, and had even expressed his disapproval of some things in said standard and of the uses made of them.

      The Presbytery took up the accusation and formally propounded various questions to Mr. Campbell in order to elicit fully his private views. He was guarded and conciliatory in his replies, but reiterated his convictions, and insisted that in the course he had pursued he had violated no precept of the sacred volume. His pleadings, however, in behalf of Christian liberty and fraternity were in vain, and his appeals to the Bible were disregarded, so that in the end the Presbytery found him deserving of censure for not adhering to the "Secession Testimony." Against this decision Mr. Campbell protested, and the case was then, in due course, submitted to the Synod at its next [416] meeting. Anxious to avoid a position unfavorable to his usefulness, and calculated to produce discord and division, and cherishing still the desire to labor harmoniously with those with whom he had been so long associated, he addressed an earnest appeal to the Synod when his case came up for consideration, in which he defined and defended his position.

      This appeal contains the first formal enunciation of the germinal principle of his reformatory work. He says, "I dare not venture to trust my own understanding so far as to take upon me to teach anything as a matter of faith or duty but what is already expressly taught and enjoined by divine authority." Again, "I, refuse to acknowledge as obligatory upon myself or to impose upon others anything as of divine obligation for which I cannot produce a 'Thus saith the Lord.'"

      After reading the appeal and hearing the case before the Synod, it was decided to set aside the judgment and decision of the Presbytery, on the ground of informalities in the proceedings in the trial of the case, and to release the protester from the censure inflicted by the Presbytery. The charges and all the documents pertaining to the trial were then referred to a committee, which finally reported that "there are sufficient grounds for censure," based on the two first articles of the charge.

      From extreme reluctance to separate from cherished friends and brethren in the ministry, Mr. Campbell submitted to the decision, declaring at the same time that it was only in deference to the judgment of the court, and that he might not give offense to his brethren by manifesting a refractory spirit. But this concession did not conciliate his opponents.

      By bitter and persistent persecution he was forced to the conclusion that bigotry, corruption, and tyranny are qualities inherent in all clerical organizations. Hence he finally concluded to separate himself from all connection with a people who seemed to regard their own particular "testimony" as practically a more important rule of action than the Bible. He accordingly presented to the Synod a formal renunciation of its authority, announcing that he abandoned all ministerial connection with it, and would hold himself thenceforth utterly unaffected by its decisions.

      His withdrawal from the Seceders occasioned no interruption of his ministerial labors. From the great personal influence he had acquired in various portions of the counties of Washington and Allegheny, and the novelty and force of the plea he made for Christian liberality and Christian union upon the basis of the Bible, large numbers continued to attend his ministrations wherever it was in his power to hold meetings. He preached weekly, sometimes in a maple-grove, but generally in the houses of his old Irish neighbors who had settled in Washington County, to all who chose to assemble.

      Finding, after a time, that his hearers (many of whom still held membership in the Seceder or Presbyterian Churches) were in constant attendance, and apparently convinced of the correctness of the principles which he taught, and desirous of the success of his efforts to form a union upon the Bible alone, he proposed to the principal persons among them that a special meeting should be held, in order to confer freely upon the existing state of things, and to give, if possible, more definiteness to the movement, in which they had thus far been co-operating without any formal organization or determinate arrangement. This proposition was at once gladly acceded to, and a convenient time was appointed to meet for the purposes specified at the house of Abraham Altars, who lived between Mount Pleasant and Washington, and who, though not a member of any church, was an earnest friend of the movement.

      At the time appointed there was a very general assembling at the place designated. After earnest prayer, invoking divine guidance, Thomas Campbell set forth the objects of their assembling. He dwelt upon the manifold evils of divisions in religious society, which divisions, he urged, are unnecessary and injurious, since God has provided, in his sacred Word, an infallible standard, which is all-sufficient and alone sufficient as a basis of union and Christian co-operation. He showed that the real occasions of the unhappy controversies and strifes which have so long desolated the religious world are outside of the Bible, and therefore insisted upon a return to the simple teachings of the Scriptures, and upon the entire abandonment of everything in religion for which there cannot be produced a divine warrant. Finally, he announced the great principle or rule upon which they were acting, and would continue to act consistently and perseveringly to the end. "That rule," said he, "is this, that where the Scriptures speak we speak, and where the Scriptures are silent we are silent."

      From the moment these significant words were uttered and accepted the more intelligent dated the formal and actual commencement of the reformation, which has been carried on with wonderful success and has produced important changes in religious society over a large portion of the world.

      After the adoption of this basal principle there were a few defections of persons belonging to the religious parties and fearing its application to some of their cherished views and practices. Notwithstanding some differences on some points, the members were cordially united in the great object of promoting Christian union and peace in the religious world. At a meeting held on the head-waters of Buffalo, Aug. 17, 1809, it was resolved to form themselves into an association under the name of "The Christian Association of Washington," and twenty-three of their number were appointed with Mr. Campbell to determine the proper means to carry its important ends into effect. [417]

      As it had been found somewhat inconvenient to hold meetings in private houses, it was thought advisable by the members to provide some regular place of meeting. Accordingly the neighbors assembled, and in a short time erected a log building on the Sinclair farm, about three miles from Mount Pleasant, upon the road leading from Washington to that place, at the point it was crossed by the road from Middletown to Canonsburg. Here Mr. Campbell continued to meet his hearers regularly, and spent most of the week at the residence of a Mr. Welsh, a respectable farmer and favorable to the association. In this retired place he wrote the famous "Declaration and Address," designed to set forth, clearly and definitely, the object of the movement in which he and his associates were engaged.

      At a special meeting of the chief members it was unanimously agreed to and ordered to be printed on Sept. 7, 1809. In this remarkable document, which occupies fifty-four closely-printed pages, the occasion and nature of the association are defined, and a preamble and five resolutions are presented that were accepted as its constitution. A standing committee of twenty-one members was appointed to superintend the interests of the society, and its meetings were held semi-annually on the first Thursday of May and November. It did not recognize itself as a church, but simply as a society for the promotion of Christian union and of a pure evangelical reformation by the simple preaching of the gospel and the administration of its ordinances in exact conformity to the divine standard.

      Another principal actor in subsequent events must be introduced at this point.

      Alexander Campbell, oldest son of Thomas Campbell, was born Sept, 12, 1788, in county of Antrim, Ireland. His ancestors on the paternal side were of Scotch origin, but on the maternal side they descended from the Huguenots in France. He inherited a vigorous and well-balanced physical and mental constitution, and was trained from his earliest years by his learned father to habits of severe application. He completed his course of education in the University of Glasgow. Blessed with an exceedingly intellectual and pious parentage, and reared in one of the strictest schools of Presbyterianism, he early formed and cultivated habits of piety and a taste for theological studies which gave shape to his entire life. A profound reverence for the word of God was a marked feature of the character alike of the boy and of the man.

      While at Glasgow he was much interested in the reformatory movement of the Haldanes and others then progressing in Scotland, which wrought an entire revolution in his views and feelings in respect to the existing denominations, and disengaged his sympathies entirely from the Seceders and every other form of Presbyterianism. This movement gave the youthful Campbell his first impulse as a religious reformer, and which may be justly regarded as the first phase of that religious reformation which he afterwards carried out so successfully to its legitimate issues.

      Thus Providence was working on both sides of the Atlantic,--in the wild woods and superb hills of Western Pennsylvania, and in the cultured fields of Scotland's classic city,--preparing father and son for the important work in which they were destined to co-operate. The trials and envious persecutions which the father underwent at the hands of the Seceder clergy on account of his broader sympathies and his exaltation of the Holy Scriptures as the basis of Christian union fully prepared his mind to enter into the liberal and independent views which the son had imbibed in old Scotland. When the son Alexander arrived with the family at Washington, Pa., about Oct. 22, 1809, he was fitted to enter heartily into the work of reformation already inaugurated by his revered father.

      While examining the proof-sheets and discussing the questions involved, the younger Campbell was greatly impressed with the importance of the principles laid down in the Declaration and Address, signed by Thomas Campbell and Thomas Acheson. They expressed clearly his own mature convictions, and he was captivated by the clear and decisive presentations of duty and the noble Christian enterprise to which he was invited. At the sacrifice of brilliant worldly prospects and preferments, and distinctly foreseeing the hostility which would be provoked, he resolved to consecrate his life to the advocacy of these principles. They formed a step in advance of any religious reformation previously attempted. Only a few seed truths, culled from this "Magna Charta" of ecclesiastical reform, can be given in this sketch.

      Commencing with the admitted truth that the gospel was designed to reconcile and unite men to God and to each other, the address portrays the sad divisions that existed and their baleful effects, and declares that Christian union can be accomplished only in one of two ways,--either in and through the truth and upon principle, or by compromise and accommodation. It proposes to "come firmly and fairly to original ground and take up things just as the apostles left them, that thus disentangled from the accruing embarrassments of intervening ages we may stand with evidence upon the same ground on which the church stood at the beginning."

      Here is the startling proposition to begin anew, to begin at the beginning, to ascend at once to the pure fountain of truth, and to neglect and disregard the decrees of popes, councils, synods, and assemblies, and all the traditions and corruptions of an apostate church. Here is an effort, not so much for the reformation of the church as was that of Luther and of Calvin, and to some extent even of the Haldanes, but for its complete restoration at once to its pristine purity and perfection, by coming at once to [418] the primitive model and rejecting all human imitations, by submitting implicitly to the divine authority as plainly expressed in the Scriptures, and by disregarding all the assumptions and dictations of fallible men, it was proposed to form a union upon a basis to which no valid objection could possibly be offered. So fully and so kindly was every possible objection considered and refuted, that no attempt was ever made by the opposers of the proposed movement to contradict directly a single position which it contained.

      After the fullest preparation for the prodigious undertaking thus opened before him in a new and unexpected field of action, Alexander Campbell preached his first sermon from Matt. vii. 24-27, on July 15, 1810, in a grove on the farm of Maj. Templeton, some eight miles from Washington. From this time his public services were in continual requisition, and in the course of the first year he preached one hundred and six sermons at the Cross-Roads, at Washington, Buffalo, Middletown, and in Ohio at Steubenville, Cadiz, and St. Clairsville.

      As many members of the Christian Association lived near Buffalo Creek, it was about this time resolved to erect a house of worship there. They selected a piece of ground on the farm of William Gilchrist, in the valley of Brush Run, about two miles above its junction with Buffalo Creek, as an eligible site for the building, which was to be framed. Meantime a temporary stand was erected near the chosen site, and Alexander was requested to preach the first discourse, which he did on Sept. 16, 1810, from the appropriate and prophetic text, Job viii. 7: "Though thy beginning was small, thy latter end should greatly increase."

      About this time the elder Campbell discovered that his overtures met with little response, and the association was assuming a somewhat different character from that originally contemplated, and was gradually taking the position of a distinct religious body. This occasioned great uneasiness. The idea that he should be the means of creating a new party was most abhorrent to him, and he was disposed to adopt any measure consistent with his principles to avoid such a result. Yielding, therefore, to the solicitations of some of his friends, though in opposition to the views of his son Alexander, on Oct. 4, 1810, he, as the representative or the Christian Association, applied to the Synod of Pittsburgh, then in session at Washington, to be taken into Christian and ministerial communion. After hearing Mr. Campbell at length, and his answers to various questions proposed to him, the Synod unanimously resolved not to grant the request, for reasons assigned and "many other important reasons."

      The next day Mr. Campbell appeared in Synod and asked an explanation of what those "important reasons" are. The Synod returned answer: "It was not for any immorality in practice, but, in addition to the reasons before assigned, for expressing his belief that there are some opinions taught in our Confession of Faith which are not founded in the Bible, and avoiding to designate them; for declaring that the administration of baptism to infants is not authorized by scriptural precept or example, and is a matter of indifference, yet administering that ordinance while holding such an opinion; for encouraging or countenancing his son to preach the gospel without any regular authority; for opposing creeds and confessions as injurious to the interests of religion; and also because it is not consistent with the regulations of the Presbyterian Church that Synod should form a connection with any ministers, churches, or associations."

      Thus the application resulted as the younger Campbell anticipated, since it was not proposed to unite with the Synod on Presbyterian principles, but only to obtain its consent to Christian union on Christian principles. The experiment illustrated the charity of the applicants, evinced the sagacity of the youthful champion of Christian freedom, and disclosed the essential character of sectarianism, in confirmation of the declaration "that a book adopted by any party as its standard for all matters of doctrine, worship, discipline, and government must be considered as the Bible of that party."

      Alexander Campbell, though but a youth and as yet a novice in the field of polemics, readily took up the gauntlet thus defiantly thrown down by that dignified body, and resolved to review the proceedings of the Synod, which his father was inhibited from doing by his declaration. The semi-annual meeting of the association at Washington, Nov. 11, 1810, furnished the first favorable opportunity, and his purpose was announced in the Reporter on October 22d and 29th preceding.

      At the appointed time the preacher, "without any regular authority," addressed a large assembly, and in a masterly effort he pointed out the way of the Lord, and triumphantly vindicated the principles of the association against the allegations of the Synod. In its characterization of Mr. Campbell's plan to promote Christian union, a controversy was initiated which has continued for nearly three-fourths of a century, and every encounter on a fair field has only strengthened the cause which was then assailed.

      But the Campbells were not controversial, either in the matter or manner of their regular ministrations. The whole spirit of their movement was that of peace and conciliation. Their discourses were devoted to the elucidation of portions of Scripture for Christian edification and for the enforcement of the great duties of the Christian life. Their aim was not so much to repair defects in modern Christianity as to restore that which was original and pure, both in letter and spirit, in principle and practice. Occupying a position that is necessarily antagonistic to all religious parties as such, they were inevitably drawn into [419] occasional conflict with "the sects," and then no man ever met a more valiant opponent than the younger Campbell, and no man--infidel, Roman, or sectarian--ever came out of a tilt with that knightly defender of the faith and practice of primitive Christianity without being worsted in the conflict.

      At the meeting of the, association on May 4, 1811, the question of changing the character of the society, and of assuming that of an independent church, was duly considered, and, though reluctantly, it was finally concluded to take this step, as the attitude which the religious parties had assumed left no other alternative. It was history repeating itself, for such was the case with the Reformation of Luther, of Calvin, of Knox, and of Wesley.

      At this meeting Thomas Campbell was appointed elder, and Alexander was licensed to preach the gospel. Four deacons were also chosen, viz.: John Dawson, George Sharp, William Gilchrist, and James Foster.

      On the following day, May 5, 1811, the church held its first communion service, and A. Campbell preached from the words, "I am that bread of life."

      On June 16, 1811, he delivered the first sermon in the new meeting-house at Brush Run.

      Up to this time the incessant labors of these great restorers of Christian law and ordinances hall so occupied their time and attention that they had not carried their own principles to their practical results. When they began, according to the custom of the independent churches in Scotland, to celebrate the Lord's Supper weekly, the question as to who was authorized to partake of the emblems naturally arose. This involved the question of baptism, particularly its action and subject. A conscientious adherence to their manifestly correct rule held them firmly to the word of God, and compelled them to renounce everything for which they could not produce a "Thus saith the Lord," either in express terms or by approved precedent. As the unity of the church and the overthrow of sectarianism were their leading objects, they regarded the question of baptism as one of small importance, and a matter of indifference as to its mode.

      The first baptisms were administered by Thomas Campbell on July 4, 1811, in a deep pool of Buffalo Creek, about two miles above the mouth of Brush Run, and on the farm of David Bryant. By this time many of those who had at first been identified with the Christian Association had become indifferent, and many sympathizers held back from entering into a church relation. So the church at this period could reckon only about thirty regular members, who continued to meet alternately at the Cross-Roads and at Brush Run, On the first day of the year 1812, Alexander Campbell was regularly ordained as minister of the gospel by Thomas Campbell.

      It was not until after the birth of his first child, March 12, 1812, that infant baptism became to A. Campbell a question of practical interest. Then searching out critically the signification of the words rendered baptism and baptize in the original Greek, he became satisfied that, when used to indicate the Christian ordinance, they could mean only immersion and immerse. From his further investigations he was led finally to the clear conviction that believers, and believers only, are the proper subjects of the ordinance. Hence affusion and in unbelieving subject, whether infant or adult, were abandoned as entirely outside of the Bible.

      He resolved at once to obey what, in the light of the Scriptures, he now found to be a positive divine command. He made application to Matthias Luce, a Baptist preacher, who lived above Washington, to perform the rite, stipulating with him that the ceremony should be performed precisely according to the pattern given in the New Testament, omitting the modern custom of giving so-called "religious experience," and admitting the candidates on the simple confession that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." Elder Luce first objected that these changes were contrary to Baptist usage, but finally consented, remarking that he believed they were right, and he would risk the censure.

      Wednesday, the 12th day of June, 1812, was selected as the time, and the deep pool in Buffalo Creek where the first baptisms were administered was the chosen place. Elder Henry Spears accompanied Elder Luce, and upon their arrival at the place on the day named they found a large concourse of people, including the greater part of the members of Brush Run Church.

      The Campbells, in the order of age, gave lengthy addresses, in which they reviewed the whole ground, related their struggles with reference to this important change, presented the teachings of the Scriptures upon the subject, and dwelt at length upon the gracious promises of God to all who should obey him. When the youngest Campbell concluded seven persons were immersed, viz.: Alexander Campbell and his wife, Thomas Campbell and his wife, Dorothea Campbell, James Haven and his wife. The meeting continued seven hours. Just before it commenced Joseph Bryant had to leave to attend a muster of volunteers at Taylorstown for the war against Great Britain, and after attending the muster he returned in time to hear an hour's preaching and witness the baptisms.

      From the moment Thomas Campbell followed the example of his son in relation to baptism he conceded to him in effect the guidance of the whole religious movement. The father, having accomplished his special mission in propounding and developing the true basis of Christian union, gracefully surrendered his position to the son, as the master-spirit in holding up the word of God alone as the guiding light to the pilgrim on his way to eternal life.

      At the next meeting of the church of Brush Run, on Lord's Day, June 16th, thirteen other members, [420] and among them James Foster, requested immersion, which was administered by Thomas Campbell, each one making the simple confession of Christ as the Son of God. Soon others followed in like manner, until a great majority of the church consisted of immersed believers, while other individuals who had been in the association, and among them Gen. Acheson, abandoned the cause which at first they so warmly espoused. Thenceforth the Jordan flows between those enlisted in the restoration movement and every phase and form of pedobaptism, and the spirit of persecution was aroused against these humble learners in the school of Christ.

      The adoption of immersion naturally served to give the church of Brush Run more acceptance with the Baptists. Of these there were but few in the region of country between Washington and the Ohio River. East of Washington, along the Monongahela River, they were quite numerous and had formed an association of churches called "Redstone," from an old Indian fort of that name on the Monongahela, about sixty miles above Pittsburgh, where Brownsville is now situated.

      Elders Luce and Spears belonged to that association, and they with others often urged that the Brush Run Church should connect itself with this body. To this there were three obstacles in the way. First, notwithstanding the claim of independency put forth in theory by the Baptist Churches, they were very much under the control of the clergy, who constituted the ruling element in the Associations.

      Second, The churches composing the Association had adopted the Philadelphia Confession of Faith of Sept. 25, 1747, which contains a fair proportion of the unscriptural theories and speculations usually found in such standards.

      Third. Immersion itself was not to the church of Brush Run precisely what it was to the Baptist Church. To the latter it was merely a commandment, a sort of front door by which regularity and good order required people to enter the church. With the former it was the primitive confession of and putting on Christ, and hence a gracious token of salvation.

      However, A. Campbell was often sent for, and pressed to preach for the Baptist people, and upon acquaintance he liked the people more and the preachers less. He visited their association at Uniontown, Fayette Co., Pa., in the autumn of 1812, and returned with his previous unfavorable opinion of the Baptist preachers confirmed. Nevertheless he often spoke for the Baptist congregations for sixty miles around. They all pressed him and his brethren to join their Redstone Association. The matter was laid before the church in the fall of 1813, and it was finally concluded, after much discussion and prayer for the wisdom which comes from above, to make an overture to that effect, and accompany it with their sentiments, wishes, and determinations fully written out, which was done in a document of ten pages of large dimensions. The proposition was discussed at the Association, and after much debate it was decided by a considerable majority to receive the Brush Run Church, notwithstanding their remonstrances against human creeds as bonds of union or communion among Christian Churches, but with their expressed willingness, upon the conditions specified, to co-operate or to unite with the Association. Among the minority opposed to this union thus formed there was Elder Pritchard, of Cross Creek, Va., Elder Brownfield, of Uniontown, Pa., and Elder Stone, of Ohio, and his son, Elder Stone, of the Monongahela region, who seem to have confederated to oppose the influence of A. Campbell, but for three years they could do nothing.

      In November, 1815, Mr. Campbell proposed to a few members of the church residing in Wellsburg, Va., that a meeting-house should be erected in the town, which was then entirely without any place for public worship, and volunteered his services for three or four months in soliciting necessary means. The proposition was agreed to, and Dec. 12, 1815, he left home for an eastern tour to Philadelphia and New York, and returned after an absence of some months, having obtained about one thousand dollars. With additional assistance afterwards secured in the vicinity a lot was purchased, and a comfortable brick house was soon erected.

      The erection of this house gave great offense to Elder Pritchard, minister of the Cross Creek Baptist Church, three miles above, who had already signalized his hostility to Mr. Campbell, and who seemed to think his influence would be weakened and his congregations would be diminished by the building of the house in Wellsburg.

      The Redstone Association convened at Cross Creek on the 30th of August of this year, 1816. On Saturday Elder Pritchard asserted the right of the church where the Association was assembled, in conformity to a rule adopted by the Baptists in Maryland, to select the preachers for the Lord's Day, and, regardless of the great anxiety of the people and some of the preachers to hear Mr. Campbell, had Elder Stone substituted for the former in the arrangement for that day.

      Next morning David Philips, of Peters Creek, one of the oldest and best preachers in the Association, was deputed by a large number to see Mr. Campbell and to insist that he should preach, as be was first nominated. He said he had no objections to preach, but that he would not violate the rule of the Association. Providentially, Elder Stone was taken ill, and upon the personal invitation of Elder Pritchard, Mr. Campbell preached, having asked leave to follow Elder Cox, as he was called upon unexpectedly.

      On this occasion he delivered the famous Sermon on the Law, which created such excitement in the Baptist community. Mr. Pritchard could not suppress his dissatisfaction during its delivery, and at [421] the intermission that followed he proposed a public protest, but more prudent counsel prevailed.

      At this same meeting of the Association, on Saturday, August 31st, a letter was presented by T. Campbell from a number of baptized persons in the city of Pittsburgh, requesting union as a church to this Association.

      It was voted that as this letter is not presented according to the constitution of this Association, the request cannot be granted. However, Mr. T. Campbell was invited to a seat, and a committee was appointed to investigate the subject of the letter, viz., D. Philips, M. Luce, and Mr. Pritchard.

      Though the sermon, which created an extraordinary sensation, contained nothing but plain Scripture teaching in reference to the law and the gospel, the opponents of Mr. Campbell succeeded in bringing it up for trial and condemnation at the next Association at Peters Creek in 1817. It was founded on Rom. viii. 3, and its general purport was simply to show that Christians are under law to Christ and not to Moses. The speaker, in the first place, showed that the phrase "the law" in the text signifies the whole Mosaic dispensation, though it does not include the two principles which our Great Prophet teaches is the basis of the law of Moses and of the prophets. He then pointed out what the law could not do, and why. It could not give righteousness and life, nor exhibit the malignity of sin, nor furnish a suitable rule of life to mankind in this imperfect state. He next illustrated how God remedied these defects by the gospel, by sending his Son to make reconciliation for sin, and by his perfect example and teachings.

      From these premises he deduced various conclusions, viz.: 1. There is an essential difference between the law and the gospel;--between the Mosaic and Christian dispensations. 2. Christians are not under law, but under grace. 3. There is no necessity for preaching the law in order to prepare men for receiving the gospel. 4. All arguments and motives drawn from the law or Old Testament to incite the disciples of Christ to a compliance with or imitation of Jewish customs are repugnant to Christianity, not being enjoined by the authority of Jesus Christ. 5. The Lord Jesus Christ should be venerated in the highest degree, and the most punctilious regard should be paid to all his precepts and ordinances.

      In the fall of this year Thomas Campbell removed his family to Newport, Ky., and left to Alexander the entire public advocacy of the cause of restoration, now struggling in its infancy in Western Pennsylvania and Virginia, excepting the labors of James Foster, which were chiefly confined to the Brush Run Church. As yet this was the only church in the reformation, though it met alternately at Cross-Roads and Brush Run.

      Early in the year 1818, A. Campbell opened a school for young men, called "Buffalo Seminary," which flourished nearly five years. Some of his pupils devoted themselves ardently to the study of the Scriptures, and became able advocates of what was termed the ancient gospel. Thus while the reformation was but imperfectly developed or established, and did not number more than one hundred and fifty persons scattered among the Baptists in this region, Mr. Campbell was training skilled workmen to scatter the good seed in other States, and to protect it from the devouring fowls of partisan prejudice, bigotry, and wickedness. He was laying the foundations deep and broad for years to come by building up in institution of learning. In 1840 he founded Bethany College, which has sent, and still sends, out its well-trained advocates to maintain the glorious work since he has finished his course and received his crown.

      The granite rock of this remarkable religious movement is the acceptance of all that is divine in religion, and the rejection of all that is human. Hence the Alpha and the Omega of its faith is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. His will, revealed in the New Testament through the inspired apostles, is its only directory of worship and law of discipline. It proclaims the largest liberty consistent with loyalty to Christ, and repudiates all domination over individuals or churches, whether by synods, presbyteries, conferences, associations, or local church officiaries. It advocates the unity of the church in opposition alike to religious sects and to the destructive heresy of church independency, and adjusts difficulties in or between churches on the principle of fraternal reference to wise men among brethren chosen on occasion. It proposes "to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace" by unity in faith, diversity in opinion, and charity in all things.

      By such manifestation of the truth, commending themselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God, these great leaders strove to overcome sectism in all its forms, that the prayer of Jesus in the darkening shadows of Calvary might be realized in the actual oneness of them that believe on him through the word of his chosen apostles, and that the world may believe that he was sent of God. The rock on which they built stands like Gibraltar, against which the waves of rationalism and sectarian intolerance have beaten only to be turned back in harmless spray. Men of narrow minds and worldly policies may fail to grasp a scheme so comprehensive, and to perceive aims so high and heavenly, and so fail to give effect to this matchless plea, but, in principle and exalted position, this effort for the restoration of primitive Christianity can never be surpassed.

      The following tabulated statement was carefully prepared in the year 1880. It is believed that the aggregates are below rather than above the truth as to the extent of this movement in this country. But besides this it has extended into Canada, Jamaica, Great Britain, Australia, and other foreign lands. Missionaries are now pushing on this work in several [422] cities in England, in France, in Norway, and in Constantinople. A church has been planted in Japan, and missionaries are about to go to India.

  No. Churches. Preachers. Members.
Alabama 35 28 3,525
Arkansas 112 108 5,928
California 62 43 5,988
Colorado 16 12 1,750
Connecticut 2 2 575
Dakota 4 3 675
District of Columbia 1 2 350
Florida 14 11 925
Georgia 95 57 10,800
Illinois 675 525 75,275
Indiana 715 595 89,685
Iowa 215 115 18,860
Kansas 135 101 15,500
Kentucky 615 495 80,525
Louisiana 15 9 1,275
Maine 4 3 485
Massachusetts 7 5 1,240
Maryland 9 5 1,500
Michigan 125 75 7,875
Minnesota 40 15 1,725
Mississippi 15 12 2,370
Missouri 585 428 65,950
Montana 3 2 429
Nebraska 98 56 15,580
New York 49 39 5,950
North Carolina 105 85 14,700
Ohio 425 219 45,500
Oregon 55 35 5,981
Pennsylvania 115 97 15,600
Rhode Island 1 1 80
South Carolina 25 18 2,925
Tennessee 325 225 45,850
Texas 225 175 19,500
Vermont 2 2 375
Virginia 150 115 16,250
Washington Territory 1 1 75
West Virginia 75 55 8,750
Wisconsin 24 13 2,575
Wyoming Territory 1 1 95
  _____ _____ _______
Total 5,175 3,788 592,036

      The list of periodical published by the Disciples includes thirteen weeklies, twelve monthlies, three semi-monthlies, and one quarterly review, also Sunday-school papers, four monthlies and eight weeklies.

      There are more than thirty colleges under the influence and patronage of the Christian Church. Truly though thy beginning was small, thy latter end has greatly increased.

      {1} By Rev. W. L. Hayden.

[History of Washington County, Pennsylvania, pp. 416-423.]


      W. L. Hayden's "Christian Church or Disciples of Christ" was first published in History of Washington County, Pennsylvania, ed. Boyd Crumrine (Philadelphia, PA: L. H. Everts and Company, 1882, pp. 416-423). The electronic version has been produced from a copy of the reprinted book (1975) held by St. Vincent College Library. Thanks to Adams Memorial Library for arranging the interlibrary loan.

      Pagination in the electronic version has been represented by placing the page number in brackets following the last complete word on the printed page. I have let stand variations and inconsistencies in the author's (or editor's) use of italics, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling in the essay. Emendations are as follows:

            Printed Text [ Electronic Text
 p. 416:    Alrovey [ Ahorey
 p. 422:    wordly [ worldly
            beside [ besides

      Addenda and corrigenda are earnestly solicited.

Ernie Stefanik
373 Wilson Street
Derry, PA 15627-9770

Created 18 June 1998.

W. L. Hayden The Christian Church or Disciples of Christ (1822)

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