Thomas Campbell’s Resignation from Presbyterian Church

After spending some time reading & researching the lives of father and son–Thomas & Alexander Campbell, I noticed that Alexander Campbell was often displayed as bold, masterful at polemics and willing to take a firm stand. Some portray Thomas Campbell milder, softer or even quieter.  That he would rather demure than take a stand. It would be a mistake to underestimate the strength of Thomas Campbell or his power with the pen.

After attempting to defend himself against the charges of libel made against him to the Chartiers Presbytery, he was suspended.  Recognizing the injustice of the situation, Thomas decided to appeal, but with no satisfaction, to the North American Synod of the Seceder Presbyterian Church.  After tolerating a censure and admonishment from the Synod, he returned to expect preaching assignments forthcoming.  However, after the abuse of two hearings, censure, admonishment and given the “run around”, he could tolerate no more from the circus they were putting him through.  He wrote his resignation letter to the Presbyterian Church never to return. Think Thomas Campbell could not deliver a proverbial punch with the pen? Here is part of what he wrote on September 13, 1808:

“It is with sincere reluctance, and, at the same time, with all due respect and esteem for the brethren of this reverend Synod who have presided in the trial of my case, that I find myself in duty bound to refuse submission to their decision as unjust and partial; and also finally to decline their authority, while they continue thus to overlook the grievous and flagrant mal-administration of the Presbytery of Chartiers. And I hereby do decline all ministerial connection with, or subjection to, the Associate Synod of North America, on account of the aforesaid corruptions and grievances; and do henceforth hold myself altogether unaffected by their decisions. And, that I may be properly understood, I will distinctly state that, while especial reference is had to the corruptions of the Presbytery of Chartiers, which constitute only a part of this Synod, the corruptions of that Presbytery now become also the corruptions of the whole Synod; because when laid open to this Synod, and protested against, the Synod pass them over without due inquiry, and without animadversion.” – Memoirs of Elder Thomas Campbell

Prior to writing this letter to the North American Synod, he had begun perhaps the greatest literary masterpieces of the Restoration Movement.  Drawing from the culmination of disappointments, frustrations and aggravations of his experiences with creeds, religious hierarchies of denominations and combined with his careful study, meditation and desire to please the Lord, he formulated a blueprint to help people find their way out of denominationalism and back to the New Testamentism.

Among many of the powerful statemens in the Declaration & Address is one  at the beginning:

“From the series of events which have taken place in the churches for many years past, especially in this western country, as well as from what we know in general of the present state of things in the Christian world; we are persuaded that it is high time for us not only to think, but also to act for ourselves; to see with our own eyes, and to take all our measures directly and immediately from the Divine Standard; to this alone we feel ourselves divinely bound to be conformed; as by this alone we must be judged.”  Thomas Campbell, Declaration & Address
On September 7, 1809, Thomas Campbell’s Declaration & Address was published and a movement launched on the Wester Reserve.


And was it not by baptism that…

“And was it not by baptism that all the primitive disciples entered into the kingdom? But separate remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit from baptism, or from the profession of Christianity, however it be made, and what is it worth? Or can there be righteousness, peace, and joy in or by the Holy Spirit, where the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit is not enjoyed? We beseech you, brethren, consider these things.”

Thomas Campbell, c. 1828 (from his memoirs, compiled by son, Alexander, pp. 242-243)


You can not conceive what a terrible…

“You can not conceive what a terrible dust our humble name has kicked up.”

Thomas Campbell, in a letter to his wife on 20 August 1830, referencing the criticism heaped on his plea for primitive Christianity. Opponents referred to “Campbellism, Campbellites, and heretics…in almost every sentence, from the one end of Kentucky to the other…and in the papers from Georgia to Maine.”


Our intention is to bring them over…

“Our intention is to bring them over, if we can; but if not, to oppose them openly.”

In a letter of 9 June 1828 from Thomas Campbell, in Ohio, to his wife, Jane, expressing his plan regarding an upcoming meeting of preachers from whom he expected opposition (the church needs more men of his mettle).


Silence (or declining to engage in a par…

Silence (or declining to engage in a particular behavior) is good when we are tempted to speak (or act) in a way that is not authorized by the NT.

Consider this appropriate quote from Bill J. Humble –
“Early in the history of the restoration movement, Thomas Campbell coined the plea, ‘Let us speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent.’ This commitment to the authority of the Bible has been the secret of our strength, our uniqueness, and our growth. And if the time ever comes when we surrender this commitment and become unconcerned about speaking as the oracles of God, from that time onward it will make little difference what we speak, or whether we speak at all.”

#authority, #nudge, #oracles-of-god, #silence, #thomas-campbell