Campbell, Alexander

Campbell, Alexander, founder of the Campbellites, or Disciples of Christ (q.v.), was born in the, county of Antrim, Ireland, about the year 1788, and was educated, as was hisr father before him, at the University of Glasgow, Scotland — both of them as Presbyterian clergymen. Thomas Campbell, the poet, was a relative and classmate of his father. On the one side his ancestry was of Scotch origin, and on the other Huguenot French. He emigrated to America in 1809, two years after his father, and settled at first in Washington county, Penn., near the spot in West Virginia to which he soon afterward removed, and on which he lived during the remainder of his life. That spot, now the village of Bethany, was then a wild and secluded locality amid the hills. He was at first a minister of the "Secession" branch of Presbyterians, but was early led to the belief that "Christian union can result from nothing short' of the destruction of creeds and confessions of faith, inasmuch as human creeds and confessions have destroyed Christian union;" and "that nothing ought to be received into the faith or worship of the Church, or be made a term of communion among Christians, that is not as old as the New Testament. Nor ought anything to be admitted as of divine obligation in the Church constitution or management save what is enjoined by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles upon the New Testament Church, either in express terms or by approved precedent." The promulgation of these opinions causing disturbance in the Presbyterian Church, he and his father abandoned it in 1810, and formed a new society at Brush Run, Penn. In 1812 he became convinced that immersion is the proper form of baptism, and he and his congregation were immersed. In connection with his father, the Rev. Thomas Campbell, he formed several congregations, which united with the Redstone Baptist Association, but protested against all human creeds as a bond of union, accepting the Bible alone as the rule of faith and practice. Being excluded from the fellowship of the Baptist churches in 1827, his followers began to organize into a separate body, which has since spread in all parts of the United' States, especially in Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky. The number of disciples was estimated in 1864, altogether, at about 350,000 members, of whom only a small number belonged to Great Britain. SEE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST. In 1823 Mr. Campbell began the publication of The Christian Baptist, afterward merged in the Millennial Harbinger, of which he remained editor. during his life. In 1840 he founded Bethany College, and he was its president to the day ,of his death. He was a member of the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1829-30. It was in that body that he gave prophetic notice of what would ultimately be the course of Western Virginia, and of what he lived to see accomplished. In 1847 he visited Europe, receiving marked attentions from many of the political and religious leaders. On the slavery conflict he was conservative." "Mr. Campbell never was the champion of American slavery. He believed, however, that the relation of master and slave had existed in Biblical times under the divine sanction, or, at all events, tolerance; and while he did not desire to be regarded as the apologist of American slavery, he contended that it should not be a test question of communion in the churches. His own slaves he had emancipated many years before." His life was full of labors, well supported by a physical frame of athletic vigor. But in 1865 he began to fail and he died at Bethany, March 4, 1866. He had many of the great qualities of a reformer, and among them were personal energy and pugnacity. His career led him frequently into public "debates," — the most important of which were as follows: "With the Rev. John Walker, a minister of the Secession-Presbyterian church in the State of Ohio, held at Mt, Pleasant in the year 1820. This debate created a great local interest throughout all that section of country, and was attended by a vast concourse of people. Next followed his debate with the Rev. William MeCalla, on 'Christian Baptism,' held in Washington,. Ky., in the year 1823; next his debate with Robert Owen, at Cincinnati, in the year 1828, on the Truth of Christianity; next his debate, in the same city, in the year 1836, with Archbishop Purcell, on the infallibility of the Church of Rome; and finally, in the year 1843, his debate with the Rev. Dr. N. L. Rice, held in the city of Lexington, Ky., the specific points of which were 'the action, subject, design, and administration of Christian baptism;' also, the 'character of spiritual -influence in conversion and sanctification,' and the 'expediency and tendency of ecclesiastical creeds as terms of union and communion." "Dr. Campbell was highly endowed as an orator; a noble presence, and a sonorous and powerful voice, gave effect to his vigorous thought, and fluent, energetic speech. Vast audiences gathered, to hear him in his journeys through the West. He wrote largely, chiefly in his Harbinger; but he published also a summary of theology called the Christian System (often reprinted); a treatise on Remission of Sin (3d ed. 1846); Memoirs of Thomas Campbell (Cincinnati. 1861, 8vo). See also the article DISCIPLES OF CHRIST. — Methodist (N.Y.), No. 328; A mer. Christ. Rec. 42 sq.; Cincinnati Gaz. March, 1866; Landis, Rabbah Taken (N. Y. 1844, 8vo); Richardson, Mem. of A. Campbell (Philippians 1868). SEE CAMPBELL, THOMAS.

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