The Rise of "The Current Reformation" - Calvinism - Arminianism - Alexander Campbell - In Pennsylvania - A Presbyterian - Unites with the Baptists - Described by Archbishop Purcell - Debate with John Walker - Barton W. Stone and the Reformation - Campbell and Stone Unite Their Forces - The Ten Articles - The Debate with McCalla - Immense Crowds - Peculiar Views - A Great Sensation - Prominent Ministers - His Great Talent in Debate - His Views Slowly Introduced - Baptism for the Remission of Sins - Call to the Ministry - Paid Ministry - Poorly Prepared Ministers - The Separation - Action of the Associations - The Account of Dr. W. C. Buck - The Increase of the Baptists.
Practically simultaneous with the rise and progress of the Anti-Mission movement, already described, came the tremendous shock to the Baptists occasioned by the Rev. Alexander Campbell, known as "The Current Reformation." The center of this conflict was Kentucky, though it had large following in Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and it affected largely many other states. The Baptists were fortunate in having three commanding men to oppose these doctrines, in the persons of Jeremiah Bell Jeter, of Virginia, Silas M. Noel, of Kentucky, and A. P. Williams, of Missouri.
The advent of Campbell into Kentucky Baptist affairs was under the most favorable conditions possible for the promulgation of his peculiar views. There was no general organization among the Baptists in the states, and consequently no room for counsel and united action. They had but few schools and colleges, and, consequently, few trained ministers. In a technical sense there were none. There were a few struggling Baptist newspapers, but none of commanding influence. The strenuous preaching of hyper-Calvinism had produced, in many quarters, a reaction toward Arminianism and in some sections there was even a favorable consideration of Arianism. The denomination from the first had been divided upon the subject of creeds. Some perhaps had stoutly accentuated their importance, and others had magnified their evil tendencies. The agitations against
missions, Bible societies and theological schools had just begun. Indeed, there was a tendency to looseness of views which was a portend of danger. The Presbyterians were aggressive, and possibly sometimes arrogant, and it was felt that a Baptist champion who could combat them would be welcome. All things worked together for the coming of Mr. Campbell.
Of all of the men of that day none was more conspicuous than Alexander Campbell. Born in Ireland, descended through his mother from the French Huguenots who fled to Scotland on the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, educated in the University of Glasgow and an American from choice, he was in every way a unique character. He had been associated in Scotland with the reform movement of Robert and James Haldane. Educated, fearless in his investigations, encyclopedic in his learning, with great natural ability and a comprehensive command of English, be was a debater of unusual power.
He landed in the United States in September, 1809, and settled in Washington, Pennsylvania. He gave a brief account of himself subsequently as follows:I arrived is this country with credentials is my pocket from a sect of Presbyterians known by the name of Seceders. These credentials certified that I had been, both is Ireland, in the Presbytery of Market Hill, and in Scotland, in the Presbytery of Glasgow, a member of the Secession Church, is good standing. My faith in creeds and confessions of human device was considerably shaken while in Scotland, and I commenced my career, in this country, under the conviction that nothing that was not as old as the New Testament should be made an article of faith, a rule of practice, or a term of communion among Christians (The Christian Baptist, II).He continued to preach among the Presbyterians till June, 1812, when he was baptized by Mathias Luce, in the presence of Elder Henry Spears, and as a result the Brush Run Church was organized. "I had no idea of uniting with the Baptists," says Mr. Campbell, "more than with the Moravians or the mere Independents." He continues:I had unfortunately formed a very unfavorable opinion of the Baptist preachers as then introduced to my acquaintance, as narrow, contracted, illiberal, and uneducated men. This indeed, I am sorry to say, is still my opinion of the ministry of that Association at that day; and whether they are yet much improved, I am without satisfactory evidence.
The people, however, called Baptists, were much more highly appreciated by me than their ministry. Indeed, the ministry of some sects is generally in the aggregate the worst portion of them. It was certainly so in the Redstone Association thirty years ago. They were little men in a big office. The office did not fit them. They had a wrong idea, too, of what was wanting. They seemed to think that a change of apparel - a black coat instead of a drab - broad rim on their hat instead of a narrow one - a prolongation of the face, and a fictitious gravity -- a longer and more emphatic pronunciation of certain words, rather than scriptural knowledge, humility, spirituality, zeal, and Christian affection, with great devotion and great philanthropy were the grand desiderata. . . .In this manner Mr. Campbell was received into a Baptist association. He soon removed to Buffalo, now Bethany, West Virginia, and farmed, taught school and preached.
I confess, however, that I was better pleased with the Baptist people than with any other community. They read the Bible, and seemed to care but little for anything else in religion than "conversion" and "Bible doctrine." . . . They pressed me from every quarter to visit their churches, and, though not a member, to preach for them. I consented through much importunity, and during the year I often spoke to the Baptist congregations for sixty miles around. They all pressed us to join the Redstone Association.
We laid the matter before our church is the fall of 1813. We discussed the propriety of the measure. After much discussion and earnest desire to be directed by the wisdom which cometh from above, we finally concluded to make an overture to that effect, and to write out a full view of our sentiments, wishes, and determination on that subject. We did so. Some eight or ten pages of large dimensions, exhibiting our remonstrance against all human creeds as bonds of union or communion among Christian churches, and expressed a willingness, on certain conditions, to cooperate or unite with that Association; provided only, and always, that we should be allowed to preach and teach whatever we learned from the Holy Scriptures, regardless of any creed or formula in Christendom. A copy of this document, we regret to say, was not preserved; and when solicited from the Clerk of the Association, was refused.
The proposition was discussed at the Association; and, after much debate, was decided by a considerable majority in favor of our being received. Thus was union formed. But the party opposed, though small, began early to work, and continued with a perseverance worthy of a better cause (The Millennial Harbinger, V. No. 1, Third Series; 345-347. Bethany, Va., 1848).
Archbishop Purcell, who afterwards debated with Mr. Campbell, gives an account of his journeys. He says:It was his habit occasionally to pass through the southern portions of Ohio and Indiana and Illinois, and through the fine blue grass region
of Kentucky and the rich farming sections of the Missouri River, where the farmers are and always have been exceedingly intelligent and hospitable. Perhaps there is not a finer set of people on the face of the globe. These interesting pilgrimages began somewhere about 1824, or perhaps a little earlier than 1820 - that era, and lasted perhaps a quarter of a century with some intervals. His discourses attracted vast crowds of people, who came from distant points and who listened to every word that fell from his lips and felt in their heart of hearts all the burning zeal of Peter the Hermit. At that time the religious propensities of the people were very strong, and there were but few churches in the country and no places of amusement. People would ride fifty miles to attend a large baptizing, a camp meeting or a religious debate. Mr. Campbell was regarded as a kind of religious Goliath, and was met at every cross road and every toll gate by well intentioned, half informed preachers of the different denominations and challenged to produce his credentials, to enter into a discussion in defense of his original and peculiar views. Our hero was nothing loath to do so. Such opportunities were precisely what he desired. A vast audience would gather together to hear what to them was vastly more attractive than a great battle to the death between two celebrated gladiators.It was upon one of these excursions that he met John Walker, a Presbyterian minister of the Seceder Church, at Mt. Pleasant, Jefferson county, Ohio. The debate occurred on June 19 and 20, 1820. It was practically a one-sided affair. This gave Campbell much reputation.
These debates were brief and decisive. Campbell floored his opponents in a few moments. Their arguments fell to pieces as if they had no more strength than a potter's vessel. So quickly was all this accomplished that they could hardly realize their discomfiture. The people saw all of this and it made Campbell thousands of proselytes; and their children and their children's children have to this day stuck to his church like grim death, and they will stick for generations to come.
As yet he had preached nothing heretical. Most of his views, as announced later, were not new in Kentucky. As an organized system they dated back to the days of the Great Revival. This system originated, in the most part, with Barton W. Stone, who was the leader of the revival in Upper Kentucky. He broke off from the Presbyterian Church and preached practically all of the doctrines later advocated by Campbell. He and his associates were suspended from the Presbyterian Synod on September 13, 1803, and the next day they informed the Synod that they had organized another Presbytery. "Yet from this period," says Stone, "I date the commencement of that reformation, which
has progressed to this day" (Rogers, The Biography of Barton W. Stone).
John A. Gano, in preaching the funeral sermon of Stone, said:The first churches planted and organized since the great apostacy, with the Bible as the only creed or church book, and the name Christian as the only family name, was organized in Kentucky in the year 1804 (Rogers).
After the adoption of his singular ideas Mr. Stone was much pleased at the coming of Campbell to Kentucky. He says:When he came into Kentucky, I heard him often in public and in private. I was pleased with his manner and matter. I saw no distinctive feature between the doctrine he preached and that which we had preached for many years, except on baptism for the remission of sins. Even this I had once received and taught, as before stated, but had strangely let it go from my mind, till Brother Campbell revived it afresh. I thought then he was not sufficiently explicit on the influences of the Spirit, which led many honest Christians to think he denied them. Had he been as explicit then, as since, many honest souls would have been still with us, and would have greatly aided the good cause. In a few things I dissented from him, but was agreed to disagree (Rogers).The ultimate union of the two parties became a foregone conclusion. After the union Stone thus expresses himself:Their aid gave a new impetus to the Reformation which was in progress, especially among the Baptists of Kentucky; and the doctrine spread and greatly increased in the West. The only distinguishing doctrine between us and them was, that they preached baptism for the remission of sins to believing penitents. This doctrine had not generally obtained among us, though some few had received it, and practiced accordingly. They insisted also upon weekly communion, which we had neglected. It was believed by many, and feared by us, that they were not sufficiently explicit on the influences of the Spirit. Many unguarded things were spoken and written by them on this subject, calculated to excite the suspicions and fears of the people, that no other influence was needed than in the written word; therefore to pray to God for help was vain. The same thing had been objected to us long before; for we also had been unguarded in our expressions. In private conversation with these brethren our fears were removed, for our views were one (Rogers).After stating ten articles which were held by Campbell, John Rogers, the biographer of Stone, remarks:Such were the capital positions of A. Campbell and those with him. It is scarcely necessary to say, what is so palpably, from the extracts
[p. 426]already presented, and others that might be made, that father Stone and those with him occupied substantially the same ground.
Of course, therefore, a union might be expected.
Now then, let us call before us the local positions of the parties, as well as their religious relations.
In the year 1828 there were great religious excitements among the various denominations in Kentucky, but especially among the Baptist Churches. Hundreds and thousands were immersed among them, in the north of Kentucky, principally by those preachers who were very much under the influence of A. Campbell. Their converts, of course, were under the same influence. In and about the year '29 or '30, the Baptists, in this part of Kentucky, took a very decided stand against A. Campbell, and those who stood with him. The consequence was, many were separated from them and forced to set up for themselves.
Here, then, were the parties in the field, living is the same neighborhoods and villages, and occupying, religiously, very similar grounds.
We were mutually teaching the same great truths, - telling the world that Christians ought to be one - that human creeds were among the great causes of division - that to believe with all the heart, that Jesus is the Christ, and to put ourselves under his government, were the only requisites to church membership; that subsequently to speak of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, and all other matters of useless controversy, in the language of Scripture, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in the present world, are the only requisites of the continued enjoyment of church fellowship here, and place in the church triumphant hereafter.
We could not then keep asunder but by unsaying all that we had said, and undoing all we had done. Father Stone and John T. Johnson are to be regarded as the prime movers of this good work. Speaking in reference to it, B. W. Stone says: "Among other Baptists who received and advocated the teaching of A. Campbell, was J. T. Johnson, than whom there is not a better man. We lived together in Georgetown, and labored and worshiped together. We plainly saw that we were on the same foundation, in the same spirit, and preached the same gospel. We agreed to unite our energies to effect a union between our different societies. This was easily effected in Kentucky; and in order to confirm this union, we became co-editors of The Messenger. This union, irrespective of reproach, I view as the noblest act of my life" (Rogers).
Mr. McCalla, a Presbyterian for some years, had been preaching in Kentucky on baptism and kindred subjects. He repeatedly challenged the Baptists for a debate. The Baptists accepted the challenge and the debate between him and Campbell was duly arranged. It was held in the town of Washington, a few miles back of Maysville, in the old Baptist meeting house. It was the first discussion of any prominence that had ever taken place in Kentucky between a Baptist and a Pedobaptist. Thousands
of interested and excited visitors, from almost every portion of northern Kentucky, witnessed the battle, and were cheered or dismayed by its results. Baptists and Baptist preachers felt profoundly thankful that the advocacy of their cause was committed to the hands of a giant. His victory over McCalla was complete. In grateful pride, the Baptists of Kentucky hailed, with unanimous voice, his triumph (The Christian Repository, January, 1858, p. 36).
In this debate Mr. Campbell said little or nothing which differed from the ordinary views of the Baptists on the design of baptism. Of the Baptism of Paul he said:The blood of Christ, then, really cleanses us who believe from all sin. Behold the goodness of God in giving us a formal proof and token of it, by ordaining a baptism expressly "for the remission of sins." The water of baptism, then, formally washes away our sins. The blood of Christ really washes away our sins. Paul's sins were really pardoned when he believed, yet he had no formal pledge of the fact, no formal acquittal, no formal purgation of his sins, until he washed them away in the waters of baptism (Campbell and McCalla Debate).In little or nothing did this differ from the view of the Baptists. It was very different from the later statement where he said "that sins are actually forgiven in the act of immersion" (The Christian Baptist).
Mr. Campbell was surrounded by a great company of Baptists. Jeremiah Vardeman, the successful, the eloquent, was his moderator, and he was easily the most influential Baptist in the State. A man of warm and enthusiastic temperament, he became the devoted friend and to some extent the follower of Campbell. Jacob Creath was there. He was the associate of Vardeman; and they traveled and preached together, and in their mode of operation and general views were alike. He had an earnest sweeping eloquence and was superior in management, in shrewdness, in tact. He was already at the head of a powerful faction and he became one of the first disciples of the new order of things. Walter Warder, the pastor, was there. He was the most beloved Baptist in the State. He had been the agent under God of winning thousands of souls to Christ in Mason, Fleming, Bracken and Bourbon counties. He had longed for more union, more intelligence, and more piety among the ministers, and more
zeal and liberality in the membership. It seemed to him that God had raised up Alexander Campbell for such a time as this.
The debate being concluded Campbell passed through all of the principal towns of Northern Kentucky preaching everywhere he went to vast multitudes. Never in the history of Kentucky had a religious teacher created such a sensation or attracted such attention. To the city of Lexington came Baptist preachers to hear the new champion. The previous night, as they gathered in the city, they "held a candle light prayer meeting." They met at sunrise for the same object, after which they went early to the meeting house, "to meet and receive the new brother." The ministers sat in the pulpit, awaiting with anxiety his arrival; and when he entered the house, crowded as it was to overflowing, they "invited him to the pulpit, and welcomed him to the services of the day." For full three hours he spoke on the great commission.
Among those who listened to that discourse, and met, after the service, beneath the hospitable roof of Dr. James Fishback, were John Taylor, Silas M. Noel, Jeremiah Vardeman and the elder, Jacob Creath. Here the startling and dogmatic views of Campbell were questioned, modified, or freely discussed. The leading preachers of the State were grouped around the preacher. On his influence over the minds of these strong and fearless men depended the triumph or defeat of his plans and hopes. Enlisted under his standard, battling beneath the guidance of his eye, success was certain. United in their opposition, his Reformation must have perished at its birth (The Christian Repository, February, 1858, p. 86). Out of this company Campbell won outright Jacob Creath; Jeremiah Vardeman apparently acquiesced; and Fishback was neutral. There were two men in the company who were never shaken. They were Silas M. Noel and John Taylor. The former in mental power was the equal of Mr. Campbell; in learning not much his inferior, and in clearness of mental vision and logical acumen his superior. John Taylor was not an educated man, but he did have a thorough knowledge of the Bible, strong common sense and an integrity incorruptible.
"The night after preaching," says Taylor, "we sat up very late, and had much conversation, as also next morning. Noel and myself slept together that night - we exchanged thoughts
about the new preacher - we strongly suspected he was deeply tinctured with Unitarianism, in which we became more confirmed by the friendship between him and Stone, and all of Stone's followers. I heard a number of things from Campbell which made me stare; in some of which I withstood him. Elder Chilton was speaking of a good work going on - sinners weeping and crying for mercy. I saw Mr. Campbell raise his hand, and with a loud crack of his finger, and a scornful look at Chilton, say: 'I would not give that for it; if a sinner weeps when I preach, I know that in some way I have deceived him.'"
If Campbell had won Creath he had lost the equally influential Taylor. Noel accompanied Campbell to Shelbyville and Louisville. From the latter appointment Noel returned home sad but determined. Campbell had failed to convince the two most forceful leaders, Taylor and Noel. He carried with him a faction but not the Baptists of Kentucky. He returned to Virginia apparently well satisfied. Stone, J. T. Johnson and Creath had enlisted in his cause; Vardeman, the Warders, Joseph and William, and Silas M. Noel were presumed to be neutral; John Taylor, with George and Edmund Waller, had shown signs of opposition.
There were many things which contributed to the spread of the peculiar views of Mr. Campbell among the Baptists of Kentucky. His personal popularity in the overthrow of the Pedobaptists has been mentioned. In this debate he displayed more talent and learning than had ever been known in this State. The manner in which he performed the part not only pleased the Baptists, but gave them triumphant satisfaction. Many of them considered Campbell as the greatest living man. Thus the McCalla debate opened the way for the dissemination of his religious views among the Baptists. Never did a Reformer commence his work under more flattering auspices. The publication of The Christian Baptist was begun in 1823, and the little "Monthly" soon secured a large circulation. This paper greatly assisted his cause (J. M. Pendleton, "Campbellism Examined," in The Southern Baptist Review, February and March, 1855, p. 85).
Another reason for his success was that his system was slowly developed, and his views gradually expressed. In process of time
he came to the position that the Christian church was buried under rubbish for ages, and that it was his mission to dig it out. He says:If the Christians were, and may be the happiest people that ever lived under the most gracious institution ever bestowed on men. The meaning of this institution has been buried under the rubbish of human traditions for hundreds of years. It was lost in the dark ages, and has never been, till recently, disinterred. Various efforts have been made, and considerable progress attended them; but since the Grand Apostasy was completed, till the present generation, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has not been laid open to mankind in its original plainness, simplicity and majesty. A veil in reading the New Institution has been on the hearts of Christians (Campbell, The Christian System).
A man could hold any opinion he chose but it must be regarded as private property. The belief of one fact - that Jesus Christ was the Messiah - and the submission to one institution - baptism, was all that was required (Ibid). The consequences were, says Mr. Campbell:We have had a very large portion of this unhappy and mischievous influence to contend with. 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 Reformation (The Millennial Harbinger, VI).
He wrote in terms of ridicule of what is designated as a call "to the ministry," and made the impression that it was as much the duty and privilege of one Christian brother as another to preach the gospel. This was peculiarly grateful to the feelings of those who wished to preach and were destitute of the qualifications considered requisite to the gospel ministry. Such men saw that they could not be preachers as long as preachers constituted a small and select class. The only hope for them consisted in enlarging the class by lowering the grade of qualifications in those who might wish to enter it.
He was also understood to advocate the management of church affairs so as to supersede the necessity of pecuniary contributions. The salary of "the clergy" had called forth some of his most satirical effusions. The inference was promptly drawn, that it was wrong to compensate ministerial labor. The idea of a "cheap gospel" was especially palatable to the lovers of money. It was also understood that he was opposed to Bible,
Missionary and Tract Societies, Sunday schools and other institutions of this kind. The conclusion, therefore, was that no applications would be made for money to promote the objects of these organizations. For this reason many of the covetous were favorably disposed to the views of the Reformer. Knowing the blessings of salvation "without money and without price," they tried to persuade themselves that there should be no expenditures for religious purposes.
The Baptists on the other hand were illy prepared to meet error. They had no general body, save the Triennial Convention, which was new and met only every three years, upon which they could consolidate their interests, or even meet for counsel. They had only a few weak and uninfluential newspapers. There were only a few Baptist preachers who had read through the New Testament in Greek or were capable of making a Greek criticism. They were not accustomed to polemical discussions. Their preaching was confined principally to experimental and practical topics while controversy was repudiated.
Those who followed the lead of Mr. Campbell became exceedingly aggressive. In northern Kentucky thousands of people were immersed for the forgiveness of sins. In the meantime he had discontinued The Christian Baptist and founded The Millennial Harbinger. The Harbinger Extra on "Remission of Sins" was published July 5, 1830, and this appears to have been the signal for a separation between the Baptists and the Reformers. When the Extra declared unequivocally that "immersion is the converting act" - that "immersion and regeneration are two Bible names for the same act" - the Baptists thought the time had come for them to protest against such teaching. They protested not only verbally but practically.
The method of procedure between the parties was very different. The Baptists, whether in the majority or the minority, were in favor of a separation. The followers of Mr. Campbell, unless in the majority, were generally opposed to separation.
As a specimen of the procedure of other bodies the action of the Dover Association, of Virginia, is here recorded. This was, at the time, the largest association of Baptists in the world. In the autumn of 1832, this body convened at Four Mile Creek meeting house, in Henrico county, Virginia, not far from the city of
Richmond. The Reformation excitement had reached its height. Several of the churches belonging to the body had been split asunder, and others were in a distracted and unhappy condition. All eyes were turned to the Association for advice in this time of trial. The subject was referred to a select committee, consisting of Revs. John Kerr, James B. Taylor, Peter Ainslie, J. B. Jeter, and Philip Montague. The committee in due time made the following report:The select committee appointed to consider and report "what ought to be done in reference to the new doctrines and practices which have disturbed the peace and harmony of some of the churches composing this association," met at the house of Elder Miles Turpin, and having invited and obtained the aid and counsel of Elders Andrew Broaddus, Eli Ball, John Micou, William Hill, Miles Turpin, and brother Erastus T. Montague, after due deliberation, respectfully report the following preamble and resolution for the consideration and adoption of the association.
This association having been from its origin, blessed with uninterrupted harmony, and a high degree of religious prosperity, has seen with unspeakable regret, within a few years past, the spirit of speculation, controversy and strife, growing up among some of the ministers and churches within its bounds. This unhappy state of things has evidently been produced by the preaching, and writings of Alexander Campbell, and his adherents. After having deliberately and prayerfully examined the doctrines held, and propagated by them, and waited long to witness their practical influence on the churches, and upon society in general, we are thoroughly convinced that they are doctrines not according to godliness, but subversive of the true spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ - disorganizing and demoralizing in their tendency; and, therefore, ought to be disavowed and resisted, by all the lovers of truth and sound piety.
It is needless to specify, and refute the errors held and taught by them; this has been often done, and as often have the doctrines, quoted from their writings, been denied, with the declaration that they have been misrepresented or misunderstood. If after more than seven years' investigation, the most pious and intelligent men in the land are unable to understand what they speak and write, it surely is an evidence of some radical defect in the things taught, or in the mode of teaching them. Their views of sin, faith, repentance, regeneration, baptism, the agency of the Holy Spirit, church government, the Christian ministry, and the whole scheme of Christian benevolence, are, we believe, contrary to the plain letter of the New Testament of our Lord and Saviour.
By their practical influence, churches long blessed with peace and prosperity, have been thrown into wrangling and discord - principles long held sacred by the best and most enlightened men that ever lived or died, are vilified and ridiculed as "school divinity," "sectarian dogmas," &c. Ministers, who have counted all things but lose, for the excellency
[p. 433]of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, are reprobated, and denounced as "visionary dreamers," "mystifiers," "blind leaders of the blind," "hireling priests," &c., &c. The church in which many of them live, and from which they call it persecution to be separated, is held up to public scorn as "Babylon the mother of harlots, and abominations of the earth." The most opprobrious epithets are unsparingly applied to principles which we think clearly taught in the Word of God, and which we hold dear to our hearts. While they arrogate to themselves the title of "Reformers," it is lamentably evident, that no sect in Christendom needs reformation more than they do.
While they boast of superior light and knowledge, we cannot but lament, in their life and conversation, the absence of that "wisdom that is from above, which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." In fine, the writings of Alexander Campbell, and the spirit and manner of those who profess to admire his writings and sentiments, appear to us remarkably destitute of "the mind that was in Christ Jesus," of that divine love "which suffereth long, and is kind, envieth not, vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil." Whenever these writings sad sentiments have to any extent, been introduced into our churches, the spirit of hypercriticism, "vain janglings and strife about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers," have chilled the spirit of true devotion, and put an end to Christian benevolence sad harmony.
If the opprobrious epithets, and bitter denunciations, so liberally heaped upon us by Mr. Campbell and his followers, are deserved, they, as pious and honorable men, cannot desire to live in communion with us; and if they are undeserved, and designedly slanderous, this of itself would forbid our holding them in Christian fellowship. If, indeed, they have found the long lost key of knowledge, and are the only persons, since the days of the apostles, who have entered and explored the divine arcanum, it is due to themselves - to purblind Christendom - to the world - to truth - to God, that they should, in obedience to the divine command, clothed in the shining garments of truth and righteousness, walk out of "Babylon," and concentrating their light, exhibit a true sample of the "ancient order of things"; and diffuse around them a blaze of "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." Until they do this, grave and thinking men, whose hearts are sickened with the depravity of the times, and who mourn a sad and general departure from truth and holiness, would voluntarily come out from "the present corrupt order of things," and holding sweet communion with one another, and with their God, let their light so shine that others seeing their good works, might be induced to glorify their Father in heaven; but, alas! they appear to be a strange anti-sectarian, dogmatical sect, who live only in the fire of strife and controversy, and seek to remain in connection with
[p. 434]the existing churches, that they may with the greater facility obtain materials for feeding the disastrous flame.The report was adopted by the Association without discussion and with but few dissenting votes.
In every aspect of the case then, a separation is indispensably necessary. The cause of truth and righteousness requires it - the best interests of all the parties concerned demand it.
We, therefore, the assembled ministers, and delegates of the Dover Association, after much prayerful deliberation, do hereby affectionately recommend to the churches in our connection, to separate from their communion all such persons as are promoting controversy and discord, under the specious name of "Reformers." That the line of distinction may be clearly drawn, we feel it our duty to declare, that whereas Peter Ainslie, John Du Val, Matthew W. Webber, Thomas M. Henley, John Richards and Dudley Atkinson, ministers within the bounds of this Association, have voluntarily assumed the name of "Reformers," in party application, by attending a meeting publicly advertised for that party, and by communing with, and otherwise promoting the views of the members of that party, who have been separated from the fellowship and communion of Regular Baptist churches - therefore
Resolved, That this Association cannot consistently, and conscientiously receive them, nor any other ministers maintaining their views, as members of their body; nor can they in future act in concert with any church, or churches that may encourage or countenance their ministrations.
Dr. W. C. Buck, gives the following history of the situation and the reasons for the rise and progress of this schism among the Baptists of Kentucky:In order that we may be able to see things as they now are, let us look back to the state of things as they were in 1832, when the friends of effort began to agitate the plan of a Baptist State Convention, as the only expedient which then appeared practicable, to save the denomination from utter anarchy and ruin; and what do we see? Previous to that tremendous shock which the Campbellistical heresy inflicted upon the denomination in the west, and by which one-half of the churches in this State were rived asunder, and a large proportion of the ministry subverted, the denomination in Kentucky numbered somewhere about 400 churches, contained between 25 and 30,000 members, who were nerved by about 250 to 300 preachers. This we suppose to be about the statistical condition of the denomination, in 1828 and '30, when Campbellism broke out in our churches; and had they been united, properly instructed and disciplined, that schism never would have occurred; but they were deficient in all these respects. They were generally descendants from Virginia Baptists, and had been cradled and schooled in settled aversion to clerical distinction and clerical support, by legal enactment, as it was in the State before the Revolution; but they had suffered these correct opinions to
[p. 435]degenerate into an entire, practical neglect of the ministry, and with a large proportion this degeneracy had become sentimental; so that they did not only deny the right of earthly potentates and national hierarchies to control their consciences, and gather tax by law to the support of the Episcopal clergy, whom they did not acknowledge as the ministers of Christ; but they proceeded farther to deny the authority of Christ, to demand a support for those whom they acknowledged to be chosen and sent by him, as his ambassadors. They averred that they were under no obligation to support the gospel, and regarded their contributions to the ministry (if they ever made any), as mere acts of charity. And so prevalent was this sentiment, that it was selected as a popular topic for the pulpit by the ministry, and many have rode into popular favor upon this hobby. No preacher, therefore, who wished to keep his credentials, dared to oppose the popular current and tell the churches their duty. The consequence was, the preachers had to engage in secular employments, for support, deprive themselves of study, and preach when they could; so that there was not, even five years ago, one settled pastor in Kentucky, nor one minister supported, and not one that performed pastoral labor, except in the Louisville church. A very few churches had preaching twice a month; once a month was thought to be the rule of perfection, and beyond this few aspired, while a large proportion were entirely destitute; and yet if you would attend one of those monthly Sabbath meetings, you would see from one to half a dozen ordained and licensed preachers, assembled to avail themselves of the stated preacher's popularity, in calling out an assembly, in order to show their talent in preaching; and often have the most patient assemblies imaginable, been drilled half to death by this system of ministerial polygamy, when all the country for miles around was left in perfect destitution. We will venture to assert that not more than a third of the ministry were employed, taking one Sabbath with another, the year around. And yet, if this miserable state of things had been all, the trouble would not have been half so great; but, alas! the fever of faction raged in all the violence of embittered personal strife. The controversy between Elkhorn and Licking Associations, had been insinuating its poison into the vitals of society for years, and when the cause of personal pique was worn threadbare, the original pugilists forced it into a doctrinal difference, and the whole denomination was kept in agitation and turmoil upon the subject. Nothing was heard from the pulpit but the extremes of these opposite sentiments; nothing was Gospel to the different parties, but what favored their side of the question in the most ultra forms; and nothing error but what opposed it; so, that one wide and deep line divided the denomination and every church in it; giving all on one aide to Calvinism, and all on the other aide to Arminianism; neither party as such deserved the appellation bestowed upon it by the other, but still as perfectly separated upon these lines, as are the antipodes; and the spirit of war was rife among them, as when their fathers and the red man battled on the Bloody Ground. All the ties of Christian fellowship were sundered, the order of society broken
[p. 436]up, and little else was talked about in social or religious circles but these matters of party strife and feud; and thus were the materials prepared for the convulsion which ensued. A volcanic fire burned to the very center of the denomination; which finally burst out in one widespread and ruinous disruption, by which the extremes of those parties were thrown off at opposite poles; the ultras on one side to Campbellism, and those on the other to antinomian-particularism. Few churches in the State escaped unscathed by this avalanche of error, and not one wholly untainted with the spirit of jealousy, captiousness, and discord which it engendered, and from which the denomination has not yet recovered; and hence the suspiciousness and jealousy manifested toward those who are engaged in efforts to do good.This schism together with that of the Anti-Mission separation brought untold disaster to the Baptists. "This was by far the greatest schism," says Allen, "that ever occurred in the church; but still the Baptists retained their usual ratio to the population of the State, which was about one to twenty of the inhabitants. In 1832 when the storm of the schism had spent its fury, they had thirty-three associations in Kentucky, four hundred and eighty-four churches, two hundred and thirty-six ordained ministers, and thirty-four thousand one hundred and twenty-four members. The increase since then has been unprecedented; in the succeeding ten years they had doubled their numbers" (Allen, A History of Kentucky, 179, Louisville, 1872).
The spirit of antinomian-particularism, has not yet fairly worked off, and is still throwing up its murky fires, and threatening some of our churches with anarchy and disunion. Not so with Campbellism; it rode upon the passion of its votaries with the speed of a dromedary, and did its work of destruction in a hurry, by which the denomination in Kentucky was reduced to something like 20,000, with perhaps near 200 preachers, while the number of churches remained undiminished. We appeal to the candor of every one, whether friend or foe, who has any personal acquaintance of those times, for the truth of the statements here made, and also for the gentleness which we have evinced in coloring the drapery (The Baptist Banner and Western Pioneer, April 30, 1840).
[From John T. Christian, A History of the Baptists, 1926, pp. 421-436. - Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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