SOME GREAT LEADERS OF THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT
In the movement to bring about a restoration of original, apostolic, undenominational Christianity—Christianity as it existed in New Testament times—there are literally hundreds of men who stand out as stalwart leaders. Over the next three weeks (D.V.) we shall provide vignettes of nine of them, three per week.
1. Thomas Campbell (1763-1854).
Born in County Down, Ireland on February 1, 1763 and educated for the Presbyterian ministry, Thomas Campbell migrated to America in 1807. He was received by the Philadelphia Synod of the Presbyterian Church and assigned to preach in Washington County, PA. Becoming dismayed by the divisions within the Presbyterian Church, as well as the many denominations, he withdrew from the Presbyterian Church and began to preach as an independent. In July of 1809, in the home of Abraham Altars in Washington, PA, he declared, “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where they are silent we are silent.” On hearing the statement, Andrew Munro said, “If we adopt that as a practice, then there will be an end to infant baptism.” Thomas Campbell replied, “If infant baptism is not found in the Scriptures, we can have nothing to do with it.” In August of 1809 he wrote the “Declaration and Address,” a 30,000 word document that was, in effect, a statement of purpose of those who agreed with his religious principles. Among other matters emphasized were these: 1. “That the church of Christ on earth is essentially, intentionally, constitutionally one.” 2. That although there must be separate local congregations, yet they should be one, with no schisms and discord. 3. That nothing be required of Christians as articles of faith but what is expressly taught in the Scriptures. 4. “That the New Testament is supreme authority for Christians in all matters of faith and practice.” Thomas Campbell was known for his deep piety. He died in Bethany, VA (now WV) on January 4, 1854.
2. Alexander Campbell (1788-1866).
Born in County Antrim, Ireland on September 12, 1788, Alexander, the son of Thomas Campbell (above), and the rest of Thomas’ family migrated to America in 1809. Alexander Campbell established Bethany College in Bethany, VA (now WV). He was the founder and editor of two religious journals and his prolific writings extended over a period of almost fifty years. Among these was a series of more than thirty articles on “The Restoration of the Ancient Order of Things.” Alexander Campbell had five major religious debates—three with Presbyterians, one with Robert Owen, a Scottish infidel, and one with Bishop John Purcell of the Catholic Church. Besides the landmark debates with Owen and Purcell, his most significant debate was with the Presbyterian Nathan L. Rice in Lexington, KY in 1843 in which Henry Clay the statesman served as chairman of all sessions and in which such subjects as the action of baptism, infant baptism, the purpose of baptism, the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion, and the heretical nature of human creeds were thoroughly discussed. He traveled widely, preached extensively, and wrote prolifically. In 1850 Campbell preached before the United States Congress. He was unreservedly determined to follow “nothing that was not as old as the New Testament.” He once likened instrumental music in the worship of the church to “a cowbell in a concert.” Alexander Campbell died on March 4, 1866 and is buried in the Campbell Cemetery in Bethany, WV which my wife and I have had the privilege of visiting.
3. Walter Scott (1796-1861).
Not to be confused with his distant relative, the Scottish novelist, playwright and poet of the same name, Scott was born near Edinburgh, Scotland on October 31, 1796. Following the death of his parents (who wanted him to be a Presbyterian minister), he migrated to America in 1818, and soon located in Pittsburgh, PA where he taught in an academy conducted by George Forrester. After a study of his Greek New Testament, he requested Forrester to immerse him. Soon he was preaching the principles on which the restoration of New Testament Christianity is possible. With his analytical mind, he was the first of the restorers to properly discern that the gospel consists of facts to be believed, commands to be obeyed, and promises to be enjoyed. He became famous for his “five finger exercise”—faith, repentance, baptism, remission of sins, and gift of the Holy Spirit. Because of his oratorical skills and evangelistic fervor, he became known as the “Golden Oracle of the Western Reserve” and by him the principles of the restoration movement were widely disseminated. Scott died on April 23, 1861 at the age of sixty-five. At his death Alexander Campbell wrote of him: “His whole heart was in his work. I knew him well. I knew him long. I loved him much…. By the eye of faith and the eye of hope, me thinks I see him in Abraham’s bosom.”
(To Be Continued)
October 24, 2017
October 29: Mission Church of Christ, Smyrna, TN (9 a.m. & 10 a.m.)