[forthright] Alexander Campbell (4)

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Thu, 6 Aug 2009 04:15:22 -0700 (PDT)
Forthright Magazine 
Straight to the Cross

Mike Brooks, Tim Hall, Glover Shipp -- names you know,
writing you trust. http://forthrightpress.com/


Alexander Campbell (4)
 by Michael D. "Mike" Greene

As the first half of the nineteenth century passed,
millions of immigrants followed the Campbells and
others to America's shores. As they came the frontier
was pushed further west.

What were small villages on the frontier just a few
years before grew into large cities. Cincinnati,
Nashville, Pittsburgh and others became centers of
commerce, learning, and transportation.

As the country grew, so did Alexander Campbell's
influence and reputation. Before a third of the century
had passed, his name had been carried into thousands of
households by his two periodicals; The Christian
Baptist, and Millennial Harbinger.

His success in debating had exposed his ideas to many
more. His preaching tours, which often took him away
from home for months at a time, gave him even more
exposure. His success as a gentleman farmer ,in what
was then Virginia, only added to his reputation.

In 1829, Campbell served as a delegate to the Virginia
Constitutional Convention. In 1850, while on a
preaching trip to Baltimore he was invited to speak in
the nation’s capitol in the House of Representatives
chamber. That sermon was heard by statesmen from both
houses of Congress./1 His influence was not limited to
the sphere of religion.

No doubt influenced by his own experience with higher
education, Campbell saw the need for greater
educational opportunities which would advance the cause
of unity and restoration.

In 1818, he opened Buffalo Seminary in his home at
Bethany. This effort continued only four years. While
there were more who wanted to attend the school than
could be accommodated, Campbell did not see it
producing many co-workers in his efforts at reform, so
he closed it.

But many of the students went on to become successful
in such professions as doctors and lawyers./2

Campbell's second educational effort met with greater
success. In 1839, he announced his intention to open a
school aptly named Bethany College. This college would
have as its goal a thorough education in the

He stated his purpose in the announcement in the
Millennial Harbinger:

   "We want no scholastic or traditional
   theology. We desire, however, a much more
   intimate, critical, and thorough knowledge
   of the Bible, the whole Bible, as the Book
   of God - the Book of Life and of human
   destiny, than is usually or indeed can be,
   obtained in what are called theological

Later, he wrote of the school:

   "Bethany College is the only College known
   to us in the civilized world, founded on the
   Bible. It is not a theological school,
   founded upon human theology, nor a school of
   divinity, founded upon the Bible; but a
   literary and scientific institution, founded
   upon the Bible as the basis of all science
   and true learning."/4

Bethany College served a growing brotherhood well,
training many of its finest preachers for much of the
nineteenth century. The school is still in existence

In the 1840's and 50's, Campbell traveled widely
preaching in many places and raising money for his
beloved Bethany College. But the outbreak of the Civil
War brought significant reduction to those travels.

Much of his support came from brethren and churches in
the south as did many students. He now had to limit his
travels to places nearer home. His age was also
becoming a factor.

When the war broke out, Campbell was in his early
seventies and soon the ravages of time took its toll.
He gave over the editorship of the Harbinger, the
pulpit at Bethany church, and the presidency of Bethany
College to others.

He attended his last worship service at his beloved
Bethany church February 11, 1866. He passed from this
life, appropriately enough, on the Lord's Day, March 4,
1866. At his bedside was his faithful wife, Selina,
other family members and a host of friends.

He was buried in "God's little acre" across the road
from the house John Brown had given him many years
before. A grieved brotherhood extended condolences to
the family and mourned his passing.

When his father Thomas, predicted many years before
that Alexander would wear many a ragged coat due to his
commitment to preach the principles contained in the
Declaration and Address and the Bible, neither of them
could have known what lay ahead.

Could they have envisioned the breadth and scope of
Alexander's influence? Could they have foreseen a
powerful debater, writer, preacher, educator? Could
they have foreseen the impact this man from Bethany
would have on the religious life of the multitudes who
joined him in his "search for the ancient order of
things" during his lifetime and the millions who have
done so since?

The man whose influence continues well beyond his
lifetime is the rare man indeed. So was the man known
as the "sage of Bethany," Alexander Campbell.


1/Foster, Douglas, A., Ed., The Encyclopedia of the
Stone-Campbell Movement, 2004, Eerdmans Publishing
Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 113, 14.
2/ Ibid, 120.
3/Campbell, Alexander, “A New Institution,” Millennial
Harbinger, New Series, Vol. 3, No. 10 (October, 1839),
4/ Campbell, Alexander, “Bethany College,” Millennial
Harbinger, Third Series, Vol. 7, No. 5 (May, 1850),

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