Ancient Words: Heroes of
Alexander Campbell (September 1788 – March 1866) was a Scots-Irish immigrant who became an ordained minister in the United States and joined his father Thomas Campbell as a leader of a reform effort that is known as the Restoration Movement, and by some as the “Stone-Campbell Movement.” It resulted in the development of non-denominational Christian churches, which stressed a new perception on the scripture concerning baptism and communion. Campbell was influenced by similar efforts in Scotland by James and Robert Haldane. In 1832, the group of reformers led by the Campbells merged with a similar movement that began under the leadership of Barton W. Stone in Kentucky. Their congregations identified as Disciples of Christ or Christian churches.
Several church groups have historical ties with Campbell’s efforts of weekly communion and adult baptism. The three main groups are the Churches of Christ, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the Independent Christian churches. Additionally, there are the International Churches of Christ and the International Christian Churches. Campbell also founded Bethany College in what became eventually Bethany, West Virginia.
Alexander Campbell was born 12 September 1788 near Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland. His parents were Thomas Campbell and Jane Corneigle Campbell, who were of Scots descent. Like his father, he was educated at the University of Glasgow, where he was greatly influenced by Scottish Enlightenment and by the English philosopher John Locke. In 1809 at the age of 21, Alexander emigrated to the United States with his mother and siblings from Ireland, to join his father Thomas, who had emigrated there in 1807. Their first ship, the Hibernia, had to stop for repair in Scotland in late 1808. They eventually sailed from Scotland on the Latonia in August 1809 and landed in New York City on 29 September 1809, then traveled overland to Philadelphia. They continued to western Pennsylvania, where the senior Campbell was serving as a minister for the Brush Run Baptist Church on the frontier (now West Virginia). Alexander was ordained by his father on 1 January 1812.
Alexander learned from and agreed with his father, Thomas, who had evolved in his perception of religion, scripture, and the church. Thomas said to his son—“It’s all summed up in two simple words: obedience and freedom—obedience to God and freedom of practice.” Young Alexander responded, “But there are so many things on which Christians don’t agree, so many different interpretations.” Thomas then elaborated—-“You doubt, my son, because you carry the shadow of the old country with you. But this is a new country, an expanding country. The United States is a pioneer among nations, basing its government upon the liberty and freedom of the individual. That means freedom in religious matters, too. As the separate states retain their rights as sovereign states while acknowledging the authority of the central government, so, too, can our religious parties retain their separate distinctions of opinion while acknowledging the supreme authority of Jesus Christ. Regardless of differences, we are all equal as citizens of the Kingdom of God. If the spirit of unity ever develops among Christians, as it must, that spirit will be born and grow in the United States of America.”
Today, friend, don’t carry “the shadow of the old country”,—“Accept one another, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God (Rom 15:7).” For everyone dead in Christ is free from sin— “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (Joh 8:36).” (Thy Ancient Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path!)
Thank you, Alexander (and Thomas), Heroes of Renown!
(Scott and Jane Johnson minister with ast Faulkner Church of Christ and BRG Bible. Bible questions can be sent to [email protected])
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I am a big baseball fan, so this past week was awesome for me because it was the annual All Star game and festivities! A time where players from different teams and divisions come together to combine their efforts in fellowship and sportsmanship! The Home Run Derby on Monday night was phenomenal and set new records! Then on Tuesday night was the big game! Unfortunately, my beloved National League lost, but it was a great game either way.
I love seeing how players from different teams learn to play together and gel so quickly. Players who are normally battling against each other are now pulling together as one unit.
It got me thinking about the Body of Christ and how we as Christians are a lot like the All Star team. Baseball has many different teams from around the country and Canada. It is broken up into different divisions, two leagues and one Commissioner.
Think about it, we as Christians come from all over and we have our different denominations and we have one Commissioner. I wonder if sometimes we let our denominations dictate who we play for? I wonder how many times we forget that regardless of our “team affiliation” that we are still part of the ultimate All Star team?
In fact our Commissioner gave us The Great Commission in Matthew 28: 18-20, “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Let’s go build the team!
(Captain Jason Perdieu is corps officer of the Salvation Army of El Dorado.)