History of the Restoration Movement

Thomas & Alexander Campbell



A. In the previous lesson discussion was concerning the work and influence of Barton Stone.

B. How church spread throughout the south through his influence.

C. This lesson will discuss the lives and influence of Thomas and Alexander Campbell.

1. The People influenced by them.

2. The far reaching influences relationship to the church of Christ.


I. Thomas Campbell

A. Born February 1, 1763 in Newry, County Down, Ireland.

1. Married Jane Corneigle sometime in June, 1787.

2. Alexander, their oldest was born, September 12, 1788

B. Late 1700’s early 1800’s associated with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland

1. Attended Univ. of Glasgow – 1783 to 1786.

2. Ultimately was a prime leader in Presbyterian movement at one time.

C. Background of Presbyterianism leading up to T. Campbell’s time.

1. John Knox, Haddington, Scotland, studied under John Calvin in Switzerland during the reign of Mary, daughter of Henry, in England. He returned to Scotland in 1559.

2. By 1560 the 1st Book of Discipline was written and the Scots Confession & the Church of Scotland was born.

3. The Irish & Scotish Presbyterians were simply known as the Presbyterian Church.

4. Division took place, became known as Seceder & Non-Seceder church in 1712.

a. Seceder Presbyterians = Selected their own ministers.

b. Anti-Seceder Presbyterians = Ministers selected by high-church counsel.

5. Further digression in the Burgher movement - 1747

a. Over whether the burgesses of the Scottish cities could swear to support the established churches or not.

b. burgess = magistrate or governor of a borough (burgh), city leader, or church father = like a mayor.

c. Thus, a mayor could decide for the city if the city would be a Seceder Church or Anti-Seceder Church.

d. The General Associate Synod was known as Anti-burgher and the Associate Synod was known as Anti-Burgher - 1749

6. Division in the Burgher movement.

a. Over more controversy concerning discerning the laws of the Westminster Confession of Faith & that people should be amenable to “new light” from Scripture.

b. Results: Old-Lights & New-Lights.

7. So, you could be a:

a. Seceder Burgher Presbyterian

b. Seceder Anti-Burgher Presbyterian.

c. Anti-Seceder Burgher Presbyterian

d. Anti-Seceder Anti-Burgher Presbyterian.

e. Add Old-Lights & New-Lights to the equation and “a real mess.”

8. T. Campbell was a minister of the Old-Light Anti-Burgher Seceder Presbyterian Church.

a. He was a Presbyterian that thought they should select their own minister, and the mayor of the city should have nothing to do with it, holding to the original interpretation of the Westminister Confession of Faith concerning the power of civil magistrates in religion.

9. All this shows the frustration and confusion T.C. began to feel with the disunity in Christendom.

D. Before Coming To America.

1. T. Campbell tried to re-unite the divided church in 1805 and failed.

2. Even went to Scotland to beg the leaders of the church to re-unite.

Note: This set the pace for the rest of his life.

3. Got sick in the process of the strain of preacher, teacher and reformer.

4. Encouraged to go to America for a visit or move there by doctors and family.

E. To America

1. Departed April 1, 1807 on the sailing-vessel Brutus.

2. Arrived at Philadelphia May 13, 1807.

3. Came to settle in Washington, Pennsylvania, western part of state, about 20 miles from present day Bethany.

F. Among The North American Presbyterians for two years.

1. Taught & Preached beginning in July, 1807.

2. Not long before troubles with the Presbyterians.

a. Sent on a preaching trip to a small group of Anti-Burgher Presbyterians up the Allegheny River, prob. a two or three day trip.

b. Because different kinds of Presbyterian people were in the area, and there was a preacher, all different kinds of Presbyterians came to the service.

c. He didn’t have the heart to deny any of the people the right to the Lord’s Supper even if they weren’t in full fellowship with the Anti-Burgher Presbyterian Church.

d. Also he had preached for some churches that simply asked him to come preach, WITHOUT PERMISSION!!!!!!!!!!

3. Called before the Chartiers Prebytery for it in October 27, 1807.

4. May 23, 1809 he severed from his relationship with Associate Synod of North America by the Synod. – at age 46.

G. He and a few others established the Christian Association of Washington

1. Not really a new church.

2. An independent effort to unite scattered Presbyterians on the basis of the Bible.

3. Just an association of Christians to study, teach and worship.

4. Very soon thereafter comes the arrival of his family from Scotland.


II. Enter Alexander Campbell.

A. In 1808 an attempt to go to the Americas took place.

1. Winter fastly approaching.

2. Shipwreck in the Irish channel postpones the trip for a year.

B. Young Alexander doesn’t waste time.

1. Enters the University of Glasgow where his father had attended years before.

2. Became a well adapted student.

3. Greville Ewing, his teacher, greatly influenced young Alexander.

a. He was influenced from the Haldane, Sandeman & Glas movements.

4. Three essays were written 1808 & 1809 dealing with leadership in the church.

a. Have been transcribed and preserved in a book by Lester G. McAllister entitled, Alexander Campbell at Glasgow, Scotland – 1808 – 1809.

b. The papers were dedicated to the study of elders.

c. Remember that a Presbyterian believed an elder could rule over many congregations, not just one.

d. This study later helped A.C. understand the Biblical concept of Church leadership and organization.

5. Before he left Scotland he ultimately severed his ties with the Presbyterian church.

a. The elders in the Presbyterian Church would interview people to see if they were worthy to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

b. Based on a disagreement with elders over who can partake of the communion.

    Just a Coincidence?

C. After leaving Scotland they arrived in October 1809 in Philadelphia, PA.

1. Greeted by Thomas.

2. Upon arrival Thomas and Alexander discussed their beliefs, not knowing that each had severed their ties with the Presbyterian Church.

3. As they talked and told what had happened to each other they were overjoyed to see how each had gone to the Bible for authority in all things.

4. This is the seed of the restoration movement.

D. Thomas Campbell’s Declaration And Address – September 7, 1809

1. Just prior to the arrival of the rest of the family.

2. Principles of the restoration movement are set forth.

3. In it are the concepts we know as:

a. We will speak where the Bible speaks, and remain silent where the Bible is silent.

b. Unity of all believers on the basis of Biblical authority.

E. Washington Association evolved into more of a church.

1. Brush Run building erected. May, 1811

a. Between Washington and Bethany.

b. Old foundation is still there.

c. Hard to get to, a nice walk from the road.

2. Regular worship takes place.

F. In March 12, 1811 Alexander married Margaret Brown of Bethany, Virginia, now W.V.

G. Problems over baptism develop.

1. After they had their first daughter, Jane, March 13, 1812, it came time to sprinkle her, as was the tradition in the Presbyterian Church.

2. Big theological questions arose. What to do?

3. Study of the Bible showed baptism to be total immersion by believers.

4. Disqualifying his daughter.

H. Matthias Luce, a Baptist minister, baptized A & T, wives & sisters, June 12, 1812 at Buffalo Creek.

1. Remember, at this time he didn’t understand the purpose of baptism, just that it needed to be done.

2. Immersion, not sprinkling.

3. The Redstone Baptist Association readily accepted the Campbells in.

I. In 1816 A. Campbell spoke at the Redstone Baptist Meeting in his great lesson known as, “The Sermon On The Law.”

1. In it he made a difference between the Old & New Testaments.

2. Until that time authority was taken from all over the Bible. O & N.

3. Campbell made a difference.

a. Moses law was done away with.

b. Still important, but not for doctrine, cf. Rom. 15:4

c. There is a new will and testament to follow.

4. Left the Baptists in turmoil.

a. Causing them to realize that Campbell was different.

5. Finally breaking with the Baptists in 1830.

J. In 1823 – Began “The Christian Baptist” publication. – 7 year success

1. In it he attacked the clergy/High church concepts

2. Re-established New Testament principles

3. He tried to reach and teach the Baptist people.

4. Led many to the restoration concept.

K. By 1830 – Baptists responded with “Anathemas”

1. Tate Creek Anathema

a. 10 point outline on how to recognize a Campbellite.

2. Beaver Creek Anathema

a. 1830 – 8 points on how to recognize a Campbellite.

3. Resolutions in all Baptist associations concerning Campbellism.

a. “Water salvation people are to be avoided at all costs.”

b. Note: By this year both Campbell and Stone movements were teaching baptism for the remission of sins.

4. All this caused Campbell to finally make a break with the Baptist Church.


III. Debates

A. 1820 – Debate with John Walker, a Seceder Presbyterian over the mode of baptism, namely infant baptism vs. believers’ baptism & sprinkling vs. immersion.

1. Said, 4 cases of “household” baptisms in the N.T.

2. Campbell responded with:

a. All the house of Cornelius (Acts 10) that “feared” (v.2) etc.

b. All the house of the jailor (Acts 16:34) “rejoiced” “believed in God.”

c. All the house of Crispus “believed in God.” (Acts 18:8)

d. All the house of Stephanus “addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” (1 Cor. 16:15

e. Conclusion – If all did this, all must have been adults. Infants can’t do them.

B. 1823 – Debate with McCalla

1. Washington, Kentucky

2. Over Immersion vs. Sprinkling

3. It was during this debate that Walter Scott, T.C. & Alexander agreed and taught that baptism was for the remission of sins.

4. Campbell may not have realized the ramifications of using this argument in the debate.

5. The debate was printed.

a. A few years later B.F. Hall read the debate. (p.388 – Memoirs)

1. In 1826 he had returned from some meetings in Tennessee. He was amazed at how the “mourners” found no comfort. He happened upon a copy of the McCalla debate. As he read “. . .he sprang to his feet and clapping his hands, cried out, “I have found it! I have found it!” Began preaching and teaching “remission of sins” in baptism.

b. He even went back and convinced Stone of its essentiality.

c. In 1828 he influenced James Matthews in Alabama of this doctrine, resulting in the baptism of Tolbert Fanning in October of that year. (See “Notes On A Tour South” by Tolbert Fanning in Christian Review, January, 1847 for proof of baptism date).


D. April 13, 1829 – Robert Owen Debate –

1. In Cincinnati, Ohio

2. His defeat of Owen was widely acclaimed.

3. Owen, before the debate had written in his journal that after the debate with Campbell no one would believe in God.

4. After the debate, it is no where discussed in his journal.

5. Later a transcriber of his journal added the editorial comment concerning the debate, “The debate was a draw!”

6. Gives us the idea that Owen probably thought he had been defeated.

7. On the last day 1,200 people were present.


E. Bishop Purcell debate on Catholicism – Cincinnati, Ohio

1. January 13, 1837

* Between these two debates Bethany College begins in 1841.


F. In Nov. 1843 – N.L. Rice  on baptism in Lexington, Ky.

1. After McCalla Campbell promised he would never debate anyone not officially recognized as representative of the Presbyterian Church.

2. One of the most organized of all his debates on baptism.

3. Held at the Main Street Christian Church in Lexington, KY.

4. Henry Clay presided as moderator.

5. Both sides had stenographers resulting in a book over 900 pages, over 500 of which was actual debate script.

6. One interesting note, It was reported that two ladies were in attendance at that meeting. Upon observations of Rice one woman said to the other, “Brother Rice must be a smart man. . .look at all those books on the table next to Brother Rice.” In response, the other woman said, “Yes, he is smart, but all those books on that table were written by Brother Campbell.”


G. In 1832 – In Nashville with Obadiah Jennings

1. He was visiting the Nashville area at the time.

2. Tolbert Fanning had just debated this Presbyterian on baptism.

a. Fanning had only been a Christian for four years.

b. Didn’t feel he had done the debate justice.

3. Debaters were like Goliaths of old. – Meeting out challenges for Campbell to debate him.

4. Against his better judgment, without prep. Campbell debated him.

5. Another mistake was giving Jennings publishing rights because when it went to print, Campbell’s propositions and arguments were not entered, only Jenning’s arguments. – Called the Campbell-Jennings Debate.

6. After this Campbell had very little respect for Jennings and vowed never to rush into debates again.


IV. Changes That Affected Campbell’s Life.

A. Trip To Scotland.

1. In May, 1847 Henry Clay sent with him a letter of recommendation.

2. People already knew him in the British Isles.

3. In July, 1847 he went to Scotland from London.

4. Slavery Issue.

a. Slavery already outlawed in the British Isles at this time.

b. Campbell was against it.

c. But, he was not a hard-line-abolitionist-extremist.

d. He was hounded by Rev. James Robertson, president of the Scottish Anti-Slavery Society.

e. Campbell made a statement that he would debate Robertson if he wasn’t the Robertson that was guilty of the fifth commandment. (Note: One James Robertson in that city had been accused of beating his mother.)

f. Robertson had him arrested  & imprisoned for libel.

g. While in prison he got very ill with cold and fever.

h. Finally exhonerated. Robertson was then arrested for false accusation, fined  £2000. Campbell gave it to the Scottish brethren.

4. One meeting in Edinburgh, August, 1847 a gathering of 7000 people to hear Campbell.

a. He preached for three hours.

b. Many anti people there, but before it was over they were all entranced at his preaching.

5. Commented by Thomas Chalmers, wrote “Alexander Campbell’s trip to Scotland” that Campbell was one of the greatest orators to come to speak in the British Isles.


B. Wycliffe Campbell’s death.

1. During his trip to Scotland, word came to him of the tragic death of his young son, Wycliffe.

2. He was Campbell’s pick, for he saw in him the future of the reforming movement.

3. Wycliffe displayed a brilliant mind. Had already memorized much of the N.T. and was working on the book of Proverbs.

4. Out swimming with friends in Buffalo Creek, just below the house – drowned.

5. Friends of A.C. said he never recovered from that.

a. Grieved the rest of his life.

b. Resulted in a change in Campbell people could see.


C. He then began accepting some things he had previously rejected.

1. Societies

a. He had taught that societies outside the church were man-made therefore unscriptural.

b. In October, 1849 he was elected the first president of the American Christian Missionary Society.

2. He never accepted the instrument in worship.

a. His wife Selena was once asked what Alexander thought of the instrument in worship.

b. Said her husband’s saying for that was, “It sounds like a cowbell in a concert.”

c. Meaning it didn’t belong there.


D. W.K. Pendleton’s became editor of the Millennial Harbinger – 1866-1870

1. A son-in-law of Campbell’s twice.

2. Was guilty of revising Thomas Campbell’s “Declaration And Address” counsel to, “Speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where the Bible is silent.”

a. He changed it to: Speak where the Bible speaks, but where the Bible is silent there is liberty.

b. He explained that this was what T.C. actually meant.

c. In other words, if the Bible doesn’t condemn it, it is acceptable.

3. These views were applied to:

a. The Society; b. Instrumental Music; c. Higher Criticism;

4. Of course it opened the doors to apostasy for the movement.


V.  Publications.

A. The Christian Baptist – 1823-1830

B. The Millennial Harbinger to his death in 1866. (1830-1870)

1. W.K. Pendleton was editor after his death to 1870.


VI. Note Other Men Influenced By The Campbells.

A. B.F. Hall – already mentioned.

1. Influential in concreting the teaching of baptism, “for the remission of sin.”

2. Was one who influenced Tolbert Fanning in 1828 to be baptized for the remission of sin.

B. “Raccoon” John Smith.

1. Tennessee Baptist Preacher who learned the faith.

2. Campbell said of him that he was the only man he knew that an education would have spoiled.

3. No Formal Education.

4. “Raccoon” from explaining that he was from so far back in the hollar that there was nothing but him and raccoons in there.

a. He once said, “I am John Smith, from Stockton’s Valley. In more recent years, I have lived in Wayne, among the rocks and hills of Cumberland. Down there, saltpeter cave abound, and raccoons make their homes. On that wild frontier we never had good schools, nor many books; consequently, I stand before you to-day a man without an education. But, my brethren, even in that ill-favored region, the Lord, in good time, found me. He showed me his wondrous grace, and called me to preach the everlasting Gospel of his Son.” Life of Elder John Smith. p.115

b. The “Raccoon” name caught on.

5. A Prominent Figure.

a. In 1827 he baptized 2000 people in Kentucky, nearly that many in 1828.

b. In January, 1832 when the Stone/Campbell movement came together, it was Smith, representing the Disciples, who extended the “right hand of fellowship” with Stone.

c. It was Smith who was selected to ride with John Rogers to go throughout the region to tell of the coming together of the two groups.

6. Note A Couple of Stories Told.

a. He was a Psychologist. – He came into a small town to an empty meetinghouse on the outskirts. He went in and began preaching to the top of his voice (much ranting and raving). A passer-by stopped and peeked in. He hurried back to town to tell everyone a “nut-of-a-preacher” was down at the meeting house preaching with no one there. With that the whole town came out to hear him. He could get a crowd!

b. Once a camp meeting was waiting for John Smith to arrive and be the key-note speaker. He held back until after dark. The people waited. He finally stormed in on horseback, grabbed a low limb on a tree and the horse continued on leaving him hanging. He cried out while swinging, “Take Heed!” “Take Heed!” – over and over again. Finally loosing his grip and falling cried, “LEST YE FALL!” – a good intro to a lesson on 1 Cor. 10:12. - A sermon design to dispel “once saved, always saved.”

7. Only God knows what John Smith contributed to the restoration of N.T. Christianity.


C. John T. Johnson

1. Georgetown, Kentucky

2. Highly educated lawyer and preacher among the Disciples.

3. Gave up law and political aspirations to preach.

4. He preached for the Disciples in Georgetown, and Stone preached for the Christians.

5. He and Stone became friends.

6. Was greatly instrumental in bringing the Christian/Disciples movement together on January 1, 1832.

7. Publications – The Gospel Advocate – the forerunner of Fanning’s paper.

8. Co-edited the Christian Messenger with Stone in Georgetown.


D. Phillip Slater Fall – from Kentucky.

1. In 1826 – a Baptist preacher.

2. Came to Nashville and converted nearly a whole Baptist Church to start the N.T. church in Nashville – Nearly 200 members into the movement. - 1827

a. a small group of this number left to start the 1st Baptist Church of Nashville.

3. Once he studied Campbell’s teaching, he could see the Bible illuminated and he accepted it.

4. Later preached in Louisville, Kentucky doing a great work there.

5. His sister, Charlotte, married Tolbert Fanning – December 22, 1836

a. She and her brother were born in Brighton, England.

b. She was highly educated, teaching her brother Greek & Latin.

c. Greatly aided her husband, Tolbert, in the work in Nashville.


E. Walter Scott – Very Influential In Spreading the Gospel.

F. Tolbert Fanning – Accompanied Campbell on campaigns, was highly influenced by Campbell, but was willing to confront Campbell when he disagreed.

G. Many others.


Conclusion – This is but a brief sketch of the lives of Thomas & Alexander Campbell. This only scratches the surface of the work and influence they had in their short lives here on this earth.