« Campanus, Johannes Campbell, Alexander Campbell, Archibald Ean »

Campbell, Alexander

CAMPBELL, ALEXANDER: Founder of the Disciples of Christ; b. near Ballymena (a mile from Shane's Castle on the northern shore of Lough Neagh), County Antrim, Ireland, Sept. 12, 1788; d. at Bethany, W. Va., Mar. 4, 1866. He 371was the son of Thomas Campbell, a Seceder minister, and Jane Carneigle. Educated at Glasgow University, he went to America in 1809, whither his father had preceded him two years earlier, and settled in western Pennsylvania. While at Glasgow he had come in contact with James Alexander and Robert Haldane and was greatly impressed by their teaching. On joining his father, he found Providence had guided him into the same liberal and independent views.

His Father, Thomas Campbell.

Thomas Campbell's fraternity with other Christians, his indifference to ecclesiastical rules, and his pleadings in behalf of Christian liberty and brotherhood had brought upon him the censure of his brethren; consequently he withdrew from them and continued to plead for Christian liberty and union, dwelling upon the evil of divisions in religious society, urging the Sacred word as an infallible standard and all-sufficient and alone-sufficient basis of union, and setting forth one rule to govern himself and his associates: "where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent." On Sept. 7, 1809, he formed The Christian Association of Washington and issued his famous Declaration and Address (see Disciples of Christ). In May, 1811, The First Church of the Christian Association of Washington Co., Pa., was organized at Brush Run with twenty-nine members; here Alexander Campbell was ordained to the ministry Jan. 1, 1812.

Adopts Baptist Views.

Mr. Campbell's marriage in 1812 to Margaret Brown, a Presbyterian, turned his attention to the subject of baptism. After diligent study of the Scriptures and critical examination of the words "baptize" and "baptism," he became satisfied they could mean only "immerse" and "immersion," and that believers only could be the proper subjects of this ordinance. With his father and five others he was immersed by Mathias Luse, June 14, 1812. "I have set out," he said, "to follow the Apostles of Christ and their master, and I will be baptised only into the primitive Christian faith" From this time Thomas Campbell conceded to his son the guidance of the movement he had originated. The Brush Run church joined the Redstone Baptist Association after full statement of their views, using the primitive Confession of faith instead of a religious experience, and breaking bread weekly without restricted communion. A second church on the same basis was organized in Wellsburg, W. Va.

Public Debates.

In 1820 Mr. Campbell held his first public discussion. He was not disputatious, and at first declined a challenge, but it was forced upon him. The debate was with the Rev. John Walker, a Presbyterian, and the chief point debated was the identity of the covenants upon which the Jewish and Christian institutions rested. His later discussions with Rev. N. L. Rice on baptism, the Holy Spirit, and human creeds as bonds of union, a debate which lasted sixteen days and over which Henry Clay presided (1843), with Robert Owen on the claims of Christianity (at Cincinnati, 1829), and with Archbishop Purcell on the claims of Roman Catholicism (also at Cincinnati, 1837) are masterpieces of discussion which created a profound impression in their time and did much to extend the principles advocated by Mr. Campbell.

His Views and Aims.

In 1823 Mr. Campbell began the publication of The Christian Baptist. In the first seven years from his little country printing-office he issued 46,000 volumes of his works. His writings were read far and wide. His views began to influence large numbers of people. He was assailed as a disorganizer, but it was not his aim merely to overthrow the existing order of religious society. He was well aware of the vast benefit resulting to mankind from Christianity even in its most corrupt forms. He desired simply to dethrone the false that he might reestablish the true, to replace the traditions of men by the teachings of Christ and the Apostles; to substitute the New Testament for creeds and human formularies. His work was positive, not negative. In 1825 he published in The Christian Baptist a series of articles entitled A Restoration of the Ancient Order of Things, in which he argued for the abandonment of everything not in use among the early Christians, such as creeds and confessions, unscriptural words and phrases, theological speculations, etc., and for the adoption of everything sanctioned by primitive practise, as the weekly breaking of the loaf, the fellowship, the simple order of worship, and the independence of each church under the care of elders and deacons. His plea was not for a reformation, but for a restoration of the original Church.

In 1826 Mr. Campbell published The Sacred Writings of the Apostles and Evangelists of Jesus Christ, Commonly Styled the New Testament, with notes. In this work he Anglicized the Greek words commonly rendered "baptism," "baptize," etc., being the first to do so in an English version: The principles taught by the Campbells were now wide-spread, especially among the Baptists; but in 1827 Baptist Associations began to declare non-fellowship with the brethren of "the Reformation" and from this time dates the rise of the people known as the Disciples of Christ.

His Most Active Years.

In 1829 Mr. Campbell began to publish the Millennial Harbinger, a magazine which he continued to issue monthly until his death. In October of the same year he sat in the Virginia State Constitutional Convention. Ex-President Madison, one of his fellow delegates, said of him afterward: "I regard him as the ablest and most original expounder of Scripture I ever heard." In 1840 he founded Bethany College with the Bible as a text-book. In 1847 he traveled and preached in Great Britain. This was his busiest period; he traveled thousands of miles, lectured and preached constantly, edited, presided over the College, and held public discussions. In June, 1850, he spoke before both houses of Congress at the Capitol at Washington. He was gifted with a fine presence, with great ease and skill of utterance, 372with fine argumentative powers, and with a great fund of information. He was a man of profound piety and broad philanthropy. "Surely," said George D. Prentice, "the life of a man thus excellent and gifted is a part of the common treasure of society. In this essential character he belongs to no party, but to the world." His publications include sixty volumes.

F. D. Power.

Bibliography: Robert Richardson, Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, Cincinnati, 1888 B. B. Tyler, in American Church History Series, xii. 34–59, New York, 1894.

« Campanus, Johannes Campbell, Alexander Campbell, Archibald Ean »
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