Monday, December 31, 2012

Profiles in Restoration History: Thomas Campbell by David R. Kenney

Profiles in Restoration History:  Thomas Campbell
by David R. Kenney
Thomas Campbell (1763-1854) is one of the key figures in man’s efforts to leave the fragmented world of denominationalism and seek to return to the New Testament pattern. Born in County Down, Ireland, he was an esteemed educator and instilled the value of Christian education in his son, Alexander. Thomas graduated from University of Glasgow in Scotland and then studied for five years at Whitburn Seceder Seminary which was the Anti-Burgher branch of the Secession Presbyterian Church. The divisive nature of denominationalism of the time is seen in the way Thomas Campbell had to define himself. He was an Old-Light Anti-Burgher Seceder Presbyterian.

Thomas became troubled by the religious division. He studied the New Testament to reconcile these variances. His health deteriorated to the point that all the doctors could recommend was relocating to the New World. Accordingly, he left for America April 1, 1807. When he arrived, he continued studying and preaching from the New Testament favoring its teaching to Presbyterian doctrine which brought him suspension from the area Synod. He resigned from the Presbyterian Church on September 13, 1807.

Once he had made up his mind to follow the New Testament pattern, he came to realize that religious movements tend to attach their doctrines & traditions that, left unchecked, encroach on the New Testament pattern. His followers encouraged him to write a guide for their plea. On September 7, 1809 he completed The Declaration and Address which was printed and sent out to area churches with a plea to join in the effort to following a guiding principle—“Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.” An honest investigation of the intent of silence leaves no doubt that the Campbell Movement viewed silence as restrictive rather than permissive. Thomas Campbell made many contributions to the Restoration Movement. Perhaps among his chief contributions was his rearing of Alexander Campbell.

The journey that Thomas Campbell made to the New World must have been filled with excitement; however, the journey back to Jerusalem to follow the early apostolic church’s doctrine and practice was the one that thrilled his soul. May we have others with such desire! To learn more about the life of Thomas Campbell, see

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