This is the day that … Alexander Campbell was born in 1788, in Ireland.
His father, Thomas Campbell, was a Presbyterian minister connected to the Secession Church in Ireland and Scotland, concerned about a faith that was Biblical and personally real. Due to health reasons, Thomas sailed for America on 8 April, 1807.
Eleven months later the family followed … shipwrecked on the coast of Scotland … and then re-united in New York on 29 September, 1809.
Leaving the Presbyterian church, father and son launched “the Christian Association of Washington” with its basis – “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.”
A study of the subject of baptism led them to accept immersion as the proper mode.
For a time they united with the Baptists … but such issues as “election” and “the law” led to a parting of the ways. For about seven years he published The Christian Baptist, seeking to correct errors he saw in the church of the day.
Alexander united others who were keen to re-establish New Testament Christianity, free of the religious trappings of denominations. A major contribution came out the Great Western Revival, and especially Cane Ridge, Kentucky, where amazing Pentecostal style experiences came upon the crowds. Barton Warren Stone led this revival and led its followers to declare that they were “Christians” free of sectarian trappings.
Alexander Campbell harnessed this group and others to create and lead a movement known by 1827 as
the “Disciples of Christ” (known in Australia as “Churches of Christ.”)
Alexander married twice, first to Margaret Brown and then, following Margaret’s death, to Selina, who comforted him at his death.
Alexander Campbell was a top student as a child, and an able preacher. He initially shunned debate as contrary to the spirit of Christ. When he did finally engage in debates he proved himself an able debater with any who dared to enter the fray. Among them were Robert Owen, a sceptic, and Bishop Purcell, a Roman Catholic. In this latter debate Alexander Campbell had no hesitation in identifying Romanism with “the Babylon” of John and “the Man of Sin” of Paul (Debates that Made History, by Haley, page 161). Other debates revolved around the issue of baptism – Campbell holding its utter necessity if the soul were to be saved.
One writer tells us that Alexander would preach “from two to two and a half hours without a break”. Even before the Houses of Congress he held forth on John 3:17 for one and a half hours – in May, 1850 (Apostle of Christian Union, page 10).
His desire to restore the unity of the church, however, resulted in yet another denomination.
Alexander Campbell died on 4 March, 1866.
This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.