Baptist History Homepage

Jeremiah Vardeman and the Campbellism Controversy
in the Miami Baptist Association (OH)

By G. W. Lasher, D. D.

     . . . . Nevertheless, when, in the third decade, Alexander Campbell came with his specious arguments; his ideas of union among all classes of Christians; his peculiar interpretations of Scripture; his views diverging, as it appeared, so little from those ordinarily held by Baptists, he was able to turn some from the truth. Elder Wilson Thompson, in his Autobiography, tells us that while he was pastor in Lebanon he heard of a great revival going on in Cincinnati under the preaching of Rev. Jeremiah Vardeman, of Kentucky. So much was he moved by the report that he came down to the city, accompanied by several members of his family and Church, and spent several days listening and observing. He was not at all pleased with what he heard. A father introduced him to a daughter as one of those who had recently professed conversion, and, in conversation with her, he says he "could get no evidence of anything like a change from death to life." He complied with a request that he preach, and his sermon was indorsed by Rev. Dr. Patterson, of the theological seminary in
[p. 59]
Newport [Covington, KY - jrd], but was treated contemptuously by Vardeman. Thompson describes what he saw and heard in one of Vardeman's meetings, and it reminds us very forcibly of what is frequently witnessed in these days. A Baptist Church, known as the Sycamore Street, grew out of the Vardeman revival, and that was the Church which, a few years later under the ministry of Rev. James Challen, went over to the "Disciples" (Campbellites), and is now known as "the Central Christian Church," of Cincinnati, the strongest of that order in the city. The Wilmington Church, in like manner, went over to "open communionism" and Campbellism, but beyond that and the taking of a few individual members from nearly all the Baptist Churches, especially that at Dayton, which was rent in twain, Campbellism but little affected the Baptist Churches of the Miami Association. Indeed, the Sycamore Street Church was never a member of the Association, and no reference to its departure appears in the minutes of the body.

      Still it must be understood that Campbellism came athwart the pathway of the Baptists here as elsewhere; and there can be no doubt that but for the defection caused by that "current reformation," the Baptists would be much stronger and their views much more prevalent in this section to-day. Campbellism drew to itself many who desired to be "Christians," with a Christian's hope and prospects, but who failed to find in their souls evidence of a passing from death to life, or, what may be properly called, " the witness of the Spirit" to their regeneration, and who were led to believe that such evidence could be procured in the act of baptism, or, rather, that it consisted in a knowledge of the fact of baptism. It was said to them subsequently, "Now you have been baptized, and now you know that you are a Christian." The essence of Campbellism is found in the tenet that when a soul comes to a sense of sin and would fain get rid of it, the process of relief is found in baptism, and when such an one has been baptized he has then the all-sufficient evidence that he is a Christian, regenerated and enrolled among the children of God. Until he is baptized his sins cannot be "remitted," forgiven, but, having been baptized, he is justified in saying that now he "knows" that he is saved - until he commits other sins. . . .


[From "Doctrinal Defections and their Phases," in The 100th Anniversary Edition of the Miami Baptist Association Minutes, 1898, pp. 58-59. This is a portion of G. W. Lasher's essay; the title is changed. This document is from the Miami Baptist Association office, Cincinnati. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

     Alexander Campbell reported in his paper that Jeremiah Vardeman had "arrived in Cincinnati on the Friday before the 4th day in June [1828], and immediately after his arrival he immersed 33 and had it not been for ill health, 10 more would have been immersed the same day." In three weeks 118 persons were immersed. This appeared in the "Religious News" section of the Christian Baptist, September, 1828, p. 47.

Miami Baptist Histories
Ohio Baptist Church Histories
Baptist History Homepage