Reformers or Campbellites
Question. Why do
you so denominate this people?
Answer. These are names by which I am sure all readers will understand to whom I refer, and I do not know of any other but what might be mistaken.
Q. By what name do they prefer to be called?
A. I do not know. Alexander Campbell first adopted the names, Christian Association, Current Reformation. Then in a compromise with Barton W. Stone he later, though under protest, adopted the name Christian Church. Some congregations still hold to this name, while many have long since enthusiastically repudiated it. Those repudiating this name, adopted the name, Church of God. Many have abandoned this name and adopted, Church of Christ. And, while these lines are being penned, in this city, in five or six blocks of each other, there are two churches of this people, one holding to the name Christian Church and the other to the Church of Christ. So I have no means of knowing what name would be acceptable to them as a whole.
Q. Why do you call them Campbellites?
A. This is a name by which they have been called ever since they had an existence. It is given after their distinguished founder, Alexander Campbell.
Q. Was Alexander Campbell its founder?
A. He was. It is true he had many allies. Among them we mention his father, Thomas Campbell, Barton W. Stone and others. But in point of intellect, aggressiveness and influence, he so far outstripped all others in the movement as to justly entitle him to the appellation of founder of the movement.
Q. Who was Alexander Campbell?
A. He was a native of Scotland, brought up and educated in that country, and became a member of the Associate Reformed Presbyterians (Seceders), of which he and his father were both ministers.
Q. When was this new movement set on foot?
A. This is a little difficult to answer as to just when it should be dated, as, like all other movements of like character, it developed by degrees, taking a step at a time. It would seem that the spirit of reformation had taken possession of both father and son before they left Scotland. However, it was not until after reaching this country that it took shape. Thomas Campbell came to America in the spring of 1807, and soon thereafter, probably as early as the next fall, trouble grew out of his teaching. As a result of this, he withdrew from the Presbyterians, and, after a time formed The Christian Association. This is the first organic form of the Current Reformation. He did not claim for it the functions of a church. In 1809, Alexander and the remainder of the Campbell family came to America, and on arrival Alexander threw all his mighty powers into the cause of the Reformation. But even then the progress was slow, and hoping thereby to forward their cause, they tried to unite with the Old School Presbyterians, but were rejected. Then they thought of organizing the Christian Association into a separate and independent church. This state of affairs continued until May 4,1811, when the Christian Association met and appointed Thomas Campbell as elder, licensed Alexander Campbell to preach, and appointed John Dawson, George Sharp, William Gilcrist and James Foster as deacons; thus assuming all the functions of a church. To this congregation was given the name Brush Run. Soon after we find them administering the communion and baptism (by immersion). But soon the question arose about the propriety of Thomas Campbell immersing people when he himself had never been immersed. This impression soon bore fruit, and, on June 12, 1812, Thomas and Alexander Campbell, with others of this new movement, applied to Matthias Luce, a Baptist preacher, and were all immersed by him, though it seems without church authority. In a way, they now held relations with the Baptists. Brush Run Church, under strong protest, was finally received into Red Stone Association of Baptists. But Alexander, who was much more daring than his father, now took the lead and continued, even with greater boldness, to preach his heresy. And discontent grew apace in Red Stone Association until about 1827, when Alexander saw that he could no longer maintain himself in this Association. lie, with about thirty others, took letters from Brush Run Church, and constituted a church in the town of Wellsburg. They then attached themselves to Mahoning Association, nearly all of which Campbell had succeeded in proselyting to his views. Thus by a ruse, Alexander Campbell saved himself from excommunication at the hands of the Baptists. Now, being freed from the restraints of Baptist discipline, he, with his followers, plunged headlong into the vagaries of his new-fangled doctrines.
Q. Did Alexander Campbell intend to build a separate church?
A. No. Up to this time he had no thought of a separate body of people.
Q. What was his puropse then?
A. He called it a movement, and his avowed purpose was to reform the sects, and do away with the various denominations and bring them all into one body by getting them to adopt his doctrine, and conform to his methods of worship.
Q. How did he succeed?
A. It was a miserable failure. Before he died he said he had lived to see, Every sort of doctrine has been proclaimed, by almost all sorts of preachers, under the broad banners and with the supposed sanction of the begun Reform ation.
Q. Did he do away with the sects, and bring about Christian Union?
A. No. He only succeeded in adding one more sect to the then long list; and instead of the union of the sects, they are divided among themselves until they now virtually constitute three sects of their own. And, with great boasting words, they claim to be the true church of Christ, notwithstanding there are men still living who saw the thing born.
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