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Mr. Campbell’s Attack on “The Advocate”


In the fourth volume of the Advocate, Dr. Thomas extracts from the Millennial Harbinger the following remarks by Mr. Campbell on the letter from the Doctor to him, quoted in Chapter 15: -


“The November No. of the Advocate is come to hand. As usual, the Apocalypse, the organization of the brain, and the theory of Dr. Thomas’ newly-invented man, chiefly engross its thirty-six duodecimos. About the one-third of them are addressed to his ‘dear brother Campbell,’ whom he has now converted into a dictator, dogmatist, and persecutor. Every single point worthy of any notice, I believe is found fully anticipated in my late Extra, which he had not then seen. I should, perhaps, except the new titles he has bestowed on me; for, really, I was not prepared to expect that he should convert Bethany into Rome, myself into the Pope, and my declaration to the world, that I had no fellowship with his new doctrines, into a bull of excommunication. I fear nothing from this abuse. If my past and public labours do not shield me from such maliciousness I should not expect to do it by any defence I could offer. Every instance of church discipline will afford the same scope for the same language from such men till the Lord comes.”


“I am happy to learn, from numerous and authentic sources, that the Doctor’s partisans are indeed very, very few, only one or two, here and there, out of his own neighbourhood. It is due to the brethren abroad, that this should be known, because the Doctor has sought to make the impression that his new-vamped theory of human bodies and their earthly destinies, is somewhat popular in Virginia. It is questionable, I learn, whether one dozen of persons in this commonwealth believe them. There may be a very few who regard them as innocent speculations; but if I may believe a great variety of testimony, he has not made perhaps twelve converts as the fruit of his three year’s labour of tongue, pen, and press. But this, with him, may be proof of their truth and excellency. The morality of some of his representations, and of extracts from letters, and colourings, is, to some minds, as questionable as the truth of his new doctrines. For my own part, I now have as little fellowship for the one as for the other. The innuendoes about my letter to Albert Anderson, and some other matters of the same genus, have confirmed my former doubts. My letter to brother Anderson is his property. If he agrees to its publication, I would much rather see it all published in the Advocate than those unjustified and unjustifiable allusions to it. Other persons in Virginia, I learn, wish their whole letters to be published, rather than the extracts which have appeared; for their views are greatly misrepresented by the extracts given to the public. All this, with me, is as immoral as the Advocate’s speculations are schismatical  . . .”


“There is a very pretty little criticism indeed on the Saviour’s exposition of Sadduceeism, from the pen of our brother Walthall, of Virginia, in a late Primitive Christian, copied into the Advocate, which I intend to present to my readers some of these days, with a full dissertation on that memorable refutation of Sadduceeism, the meaning of which, I am fully persuaded, has never yet entered into the mind of some gentlemen. Independent of the argument deduced therefrom against these speculations, it deserves a full investigation for the sake of the reputation of its author, and the good sense of his whole audience in admitting its irresistible conviction. For as the matter now stands in our days, I do not think one in a thousand of the readers of the New testament understands it; and I am morally certain it is as completely hidden from the eyes of all those called Materialists as were the pretensions of the Messiah from those who crucified him.                                A.C.”


Dr. Thomas replied to this in the following letter, not in the pages of the Advocate.


“Greeting: I am constrained thus to address you by a desire not to offend you by the phrase ‘dear brother.’ I would substitute ‘dear sir,’ were it not that I perceive that the monosyllable dear, when written by my obnoxious self, is uncourteously received. I could invoke you by a simple sir; but then I should be visited, perhaps, by the acrimonious reflections of those who are accustomed to make me an offender for a word. Besides, it would be said that your notice of my last had aroused within me a vindictive, or, perhaps, an angry spirit. But far be it from me to return you evil for evil, or railing for railing. If you would give me credit for entertaining towards you no worse a feeling than existed in the breast of Paul when he withstood Peter to his face for his dissimulation, I can assure you that notwithstanding all that has passed between us, I bear you no ill-will. There is no man living who can come forward and truly testify that I have ever spoken a disrespectful word concerning you. The worst I have ever said is before the public. I cannot understand how it is that you so uniformly misinterpret me. I am willing to take you as meaning what you say; why, then, cannot you do me the same justice? You compel me to infer, either that you are blinded by prejudice against me, or that you are unhappily the victim of some disguised enemies unknown to me. If it were otherwise, how is it that all who read the Advocate do not coincide with you in your judgment of me? I could name men in these parts—who are as intelligent, as faithful, as moral, as self-denying, and as influential in society as any in the country—who acquit me of things you lay to my charge, and who consider the course you have taken as exceedingly reprehensible. They are brethren of good standing in the several churches to which they belong. They are not of the number of those who scarcely ever make their appearance at the worship of God ‘unless a preacher comes along,’ on the contrary, they are pillars in the churches, and honourable defenders of the doctrine of Christ in their several vicinities.”


“From such it is that I have received assurances that the Advocate shall be sustained. It is they who strengthen my hands, and will strengthen them so long as I plead faithfully for what I believe to be true. If you want a character of any man, would you not enquire of those who know him best, who are observers of his every day walk and conduct in society? It is such, then, that have testified to you that I deserve better and more Christianlike treatment than I have received at your hands.”


“Are you not a ‘dictator’? Have you not dictated to the church to which I belong what they were to do with me; and to sister churches what they are to do in case I am not excised by the Paineville brethren? There can be no question as to your dogmatising upon what you are pleased to term my dogmatism; and certainly, the spirit with which you bear down upon me is very like pursuing me to social reprobation.”


“You have not noticed ‘every single point worthy of any notice.’ I have yet seen no notice of that point which relates to the founding of your decree upon the report of an enemy. I have just returned from Lunenburg, where I learned that the writer of that report said, in effect, to one of our brethren, that he did not give it as a report of what I said at the debate, but as his conclusions from what I spoke there and have written in the Advocate. So that you will discover that a deception has been practised upon your too easy faith. Why did you seize upon this so greedily? Was it out of goodwill to me, or from a more kindred feeling for a brother Methodist?


“I have bestowed no ‘new title’ upon you. I merely carried out an idea of your own suggestion. You should not be so free with the use of figures if you are not prepared for their extension. You said, Dr. Thomas has passed the Rubicon. This suggested to me the passage in my last, to which you refer. The Rubicon was the fluvial boundary of Julius Caesar’s province. When he crossed it with his troops, it was to make war upon the liberties of Rome, towards which he marched. If, then, it were said, that I had passed the Rubicon, what more natural than to suppose that I was marching in Caesar’s steps, and upon another Rome? I did not convert you into the Pope; though I confess that, to my mind, your course towards me has been exceedingly arbitrary, and such as no son of liberty would succumb to without a stern defence. If this be to call you the Pope, then be it so.”


“What follows is not a fair statement. You say, ‘that he should convert my (A.C.’s) declaration to the world, that I had no fellowship FOR HIS NEW DOCTRINES, into a bull of excommunication.’ It was not the doctrines only, but myself that you cut off from your communion or fellowship. You said, page 513, ‘I have no further object in these remarks, than to give my reasons why I can no longer regard him’ (this bold speculator, Dr. Thomas, as you term me) ‘as a brother in the Lord.’ Thus, you prejudged my case, and called upon my brethren here to ratify what you had done, in your ‘elevation above all squeamishness.’ Is this not excommunicating me myself, as well as my views, from your communion or fellowship? If it be not, I know not what is.”


“And this carrying out of your own figure, and calling your separation of me from your fellowship by its right name, you term ‘abuse!’ Your temperament, I suspect, is a very nervous one. Its texture must be extremely sensitive, for it seems that you are very easily abused. I once thought, from the roughness with which you handled your opponents, that it would take much rallying and long before you would acknowledge yourself ‘abused.’ I have learned, however, from experience, that it takes much less to abuse a great man than one of small account.”


“’Maliciousness!’ I am not actuated by malice. I am on the wrong side to be malicious. You have put me on the defensive. It is the plaintiff, and not the defendant in a cause, against whom such a crime should be insinuated. If you will believe me, I have not a spice of malice in my organization. I could not find it in my heart to treat a wild hog maliciously for rooting up my wheat, much less an intelligent man, who, when on the side of truth, is the noblest object in terrestrial nature. You mistake, I am not a subject of ‘church discipline,’ unless, indeed, the church is embodied in the person of Alexander Campbell.”


“You are happy to learn from authentic sources that my ‘partisans are very, very few.’ I ma glad that, for once, even in this stage of our affairs, I possess the power of augmenting this happiness, so authentically derived. My ‘partisans,’ as you term some of the brethren whom you fellowship, are not only very, ‘very few,’ but, as far as I know, absolutely non-existent. There is not a single brother, within the range of my personal acquaintance, that I could venture to call my ‘partisan.’ The brethren know, and can testify, that I have never made a single effort, or manifested the disposition to make a partisan. Brother A. Anderson, in whom, you say, you have the fullest confidence, once remarked to me, that he did not believe that such was my desire; because, if it were, I did not make the effort necessary to effect it. No, no. To head a party has no charms for me. I know too well the inconstancy of men’s allegiance to their leaders; I am too well acquainted with the fickleness of humanity, to propose to myself any such bubble as an object of ambition.”


“But, there is a party, and a growing one, too, for the truth as it is in Jesus. This party, though not quite ‘150,000,’ acknowledge me as a brother and a fellow-partisan. We labour together for our leader, whose name is neither Campbell nor Thomas, but TRUTH. We do not seek to make the impression that this leader is ‘popular,’ for he unquestionably is not. Yet, he can number in this commonwealth more followers in his train than ‘one dozen persons.’ Upon this point, your informers do not agree in testimony. A one-eyed ‘Spectator,’ who writes to the Southern Religious Telegraph, says, concerning me: ‘Yet he has followers. Who, in this enlightened land of ours, cannot obtain followers?     . . . In one section of this county (Lunenburg) his followers are numerous;’ and he might have added, powerful; for he continues, ‘they have ejected the old Baptists from one of their churches, and instead of the pure Christian morality inculcated by them, they have, under the cloak of religion, planted infidelity.’ So, then, you perceive that your informers testify that they are few; and ‘spectator,’ an Episcopalian brother (!), as it is said, declares that they are numerous in the county in which he lives, and where the debate occurred! But, as I have said, they neither of them testify the truth, for I have no followers at all. For instance, if I were to venture to teach that a man might attain to the resurrection of the just, without becoming a citizen of the kingdom, as it is, in the only appointed way, my influence would take to itself wings and fly away. They would charge me, and very justly, with falsehood, and soon call me to order, as a good many have done you; and it is because they prefer to follow TRUTH, rather than you or me, that you have been subject of so much trouble and vexation of late.”


The next paragraph dealt with Mr. Campbell’s taunt about the number of the “followers” the Doctor had obtained, then the letter continued: -


“But when I reflect that at the end of three years and a half, all the permanent converts of Jesus, upon whom he chiefly relied, did not exceed twelve; and that of these one was a traitor, another renounced him with oaths and curses, and all forsook him and fled, I am not distressed at the fewness of the converts I am alleged to have made. But I would observe that I am not solicitous to make converts. I leave others to convert while I convince. I leave others to build upon the foundation I endeavour to lay. I rejoice to hear of the conversion or baptism into Christ, by other brethren, of the persons in whose minds I have sown the good seed. Paul converted no more than Crispus and Gaius; and the household of Stephanas at Corinth: because he was sent not to convert or baptise, but to preach the gospel, or to convince men of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come. This was a matter of thanksgiving to him, as it is to me; for of all charges, it is not likely that it can be established, that I ‘baptised into my own name’.”


“I will relate an incident to you which opened my eyes to the unsoundness of the proselyting system of ‘this reformation.’ On my first tour in Virginia, I addressed a considerable audience in one of the lower counties. My subject was, on the first day, Peter’s discourse on Pentecost; on the next, the Little Kingdom cut out of the Mountains. After I had closed the subject, I exhorted my hearers to enter into that kingdom which exists now in principle; but my exhortations failed. Every countenance was composed; not a head bowed; no handkerchief concealed the face of the penitent; not an eye glistened with the tear of contrition or of joy. My exhortation finished, some hymns, or ‘recruiting songs’ were struck up. They were animating by their exciting sounds. What a change then ensued! The feelings were wrought upon, and what truth could not do of itself, the singing effected. Many sobbed and cried; but for what? I myself could scarcely repress my feelings; I could have cried too, but I struggled successfully to maintain my gravity. It was animal sympathy. These individuals cried copiously; still they hung back, and it was only by personal persuasive efforts that certain ventured up. Others then followed, and before the meeting closed sixteen came forward to be immersed. Were their tears of sorrow or joy? If of sorrow, why did they not cry before the singing began? If of joy, why did they not immediately come forward and demand to be baptised in the name of Christ, without so much ado? If they were tears of sorrow, surely the speediest way of getting quit of their affliction was to demand instant baptism for the remission of sins. But this is not the worst of the matter, for I have since learned that for the most part, these converts have failed to adorn the doctrine of God as becomes saints.”


“On another occasion, nearer the sea shore, I spoke about four hours and a half on the resurrection of Christ and its connection with the doctrine of remission of sins. My audience was deeply interested; I do not remember that one left his seat the whole time. At the conclusion not one came forward. But in two or three weeks after a brother visited them, and immersed thirteen in whose minds I had sown the seed. I could mention similar instances; but these will suffice. I claim no applause; if any real good was done, to the truth of God be all the glory.”


“My conviction is, that if it were not for so much singing, we should hear very little of the great proselytings of the west. We are to judge of things by their fruits. What is the value of such proselytes as those described by brother Tompkins in our last? Do the majorities of these thirties and hundreds live among their neighbours as ‘shining lights?’ Are they marked as a ‘peculiar people, zealous of good works?’ are they careful not to forsake the assembling of them selves together? Do they meditate on the word day and night? Is it their meat and their drink to do the will of their Father who is in heaven? If these things be so, happy are they; and if such be their practice, why do we from time to time read such heavy complaints of their apathy and worldly-mindedness even in the Harbinger?”


“The bane of this age is the old evil by which the church of Christ was desolated in the third century. It flattered the vanity of the bishops, and greatly augmented their influence and consideration among men, to crowd their churches with neophytes. In this way the church was soon confounded with the world: an amalgamation which, unless a halt be sounded, bids fair to alloy and finally extinguish the virtue, purity, and excellence of ‘this reformation.’ This proselyting through thick and thin is but a version, somewhat revised and corrected, of those sectarian efforts which ‘compass sea and land’ to the same end. And we see the working of the system. The fruits of the camp meeting, the revival, the big and protracted meetings, are inundating their communions, and will certainly ultimate in their desolation.”


“In reading the Scriptures, I discover no such manner of proselyting as I have seen in the east and west. In the days of spiritual gifts ‘the Lord added to the church the saved.’ How? By confirming the word by the miracles and signs by which it was accompanied. In that day, those who possessed the oracles of God, ‘searched the Scriptures,’ and therefore they believed. And, again, ‘the congregations walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the admonition of the Holy Spirit, were multiplied.’ There is not a single instance on record in which men were made Christians by singing, or by the mechanism of a big or protracted meeting. I am persuaded that the Lord has little or nothing to do in adding very many to ‘this reformation.’ If he had, we should certainly behold a very different state of things.”


“The churches need improvement in faith, hope and practice. The first thing to be attended to is to enlarge their conceptions, to build them up in their most holy faith, and to discipline them, like a well trained and compactly organised regiment, in the practice of their spiritual exercises. This conviction is one cause why you receive such ‘a great variety of testimony’ about the fewness of the baptisms I administer. I am for Christianising men through the congregations of God. If we can succeed in bringing them to ‘walk in the fear of the Lord and the admonition of the Holy Spirit,’ they will be multiplied as a matter of course; but, if not, then they are nothing but stumbling blocks in the way of truth. Besides, I act according to the light; or, as you would say, the darkness that is in me. Well, be it so. According to your light you are aiming at the conversion of the world, which neither you nor any set of men, unaided by miracles and the judgments of God, can effect; but, according to my darkness, I propose the preparation of the church, or Lamb’s wife, for the reception of the Lord at the second coming, which I believe to be near. In the pursuit of your object, the word does not sustain you; but in labouring to accomplish mine, I have ‘the sure word of prophecy more firm,’ which tome is ‘as a light shining in a dark place’ to which I labour to take heed. But convert as many as you can with all my heart, if your talent lie that way: only take care that you turn them to truth, and not to gospel nullification. I am sure in such a work I wish you heartily ‘God speed’.”


“When you have proved the ‘morality’ of some of your own ‘representations, and extracts from letters, and colourings,’ it will be time enough for me to meet your new accusation of immorality. You say that you have now as little fellowship for the morality of my representations, &c., as for the truth of my new doctrines. You would make your readers suppose that this was a new thing. You italicise the word now, as if you had retained me in fellowship till 1838; when, in fact, you forestalled the decision of the church, and cut me off in November: three months before. I refer you to the address of the church in Paineville for my defence.”


“If brother A. Anderson object not, I will publish the whole of your letter to him. Of course you will republish it in the Harbinger. My allusions are neither ‘unjustified’ nor ‘unjustifiable.’ As I have said, I read it myself in the audience of fifteen or twenty brethren, who justified me and reprehended you. Let the persons whose ‘views are greatly misrepresented by the extracts which I am alleged to have given to the public,’ complain to me, and, if I can, I will redress their grievances. I suspect you ‘learn’ a good deal more about me and my affairs than I know myself; if guilty, which I deny, and if ‘love covers a multitude of sins,’ you evidently show that love towards me has no place in your breast. We are exhorted to ‘lay down our lives for the brethren;’ nay, more, to love our enemies. Whether that disposition be in you I leave others to say; I see not an inkling of it when my heretical self happens top cross your path. But I suppose that my being turned out of God’s family or house by you, reduces me to the condition of one unbegotten and unborn, and that therefore you are not bound by such considerations toward me. Very well, if not before, we will settle this matter when the Lord comes . . .”


“You have promised us some new light on Christ’s refutation of Sadduceeism. You have already given us your view, in what you termed your ‘Seventeenth Argument; or, most triumphant refutation of Sadduceanism and Materialism.’ Brother Walthall’s article, which he requested me to insert, is to show that you had mistaken the whole matter; and now you are going to give us a tertium quid which has never yet entered into the mind of one in a thousand! What a pity you should leave us poor ‘materialists’ in the dark upon the matter till ‘some of these days’—a very indefinite period—should arrive. To me, this looks very much like a put off. But we shall see!”


“A word or so about brother A. B. Walthall, and I have done for the present. You term him ‘our brother,’ while me you refuse to fellowship. Now, there is not a shade of difference between him and me, on the points at issue in relation to re-immersion and eternal life. He accompanied me to the debate, and approved my defence. You see his name, as one of the elders, attached to the document which you have called forth. We esteem him highly in these parts, as an intelligent, faithful, and orderly citizen, both of the kingdom of Christ and of the commonwealth of Virginia. Now, how is it, with the evidence of his alleged ‘Sadduceeism and Materialism’ before your eyes, you can call him, so honeydly, ‘our brother Walthall,’ while, for me, the worst epithet appears to be too good? You are evidently partial. If I am no better than a deluded Mormonite, neither is he; for things equal to the same are equal to one another. I perceive that your generalship consists in proscribing me and in flattering all others of the brethren who sustain me. If they are vulnerable to flattery, you may succeed to a certain extent. But they have eyes and know how to use them. They already discern the difference of your bearing toward me and toward others who believe the same things. ‘Divide and conquer’ may do in some cases; but it cannot be practised in relation to those who believe from their hearts, the truth. I cannot help concluding, therefore, from all the premises before me, that your alienation, in reference to me, is not doctrinal but personal.”

“Liberty, Amelia, Virginia, January 27th, 1838.”


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