25 September, 2022

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Refuting an Abusive Speech about ‘Babtism’

by | 19 August, 2021

Hidden in plain sight, in the center of a text-heavy page, with a headline barely larger than the surrounding text, was this first-person story which referenced a derisive nickname for folks who agreed with Thomas and Alexander Campbell. The Campbells and Barton W. Stone had helped start the Restoration Movement, which advocated following the New Testament pattern, independent of denominational restrictions. Many people in denominational churches were unhappy about that. And so, rather than call the people of these nondenominational churches by their preferred names—Disciples or Christians—they referred to them contemptuously as Campbellites and Stoneites.

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STRUGGLE WITH A CAMPBELLITE KILLER FIFTY YEARS AGO

September 22, 1888; p. 10

After a long absence from the scene of this action, I was forcibly reminded of it on my present visit to Wilmington, O. It was here in the summer of 1838 that a very pretentious doctor of Highland county, by extravagant professions of Greek scholarship, had so frightened one of our able debaters of those times, that he obtained and rejoiced in the name of “Campbellite Killer.” Our brethren in those times were not, as a people, averse to discussion. But who would choose to meet a man so thoroughly versed in Hellenistic lore as this giant of Highland county?

In that same summer the Christian Church in Wilmington took on new life, and, under the labors of Dr. L. L. Pinkerton, twelve substantial members had been added to the church. This alarmed our opponents, and they sent for Dr. Quinn to slay “Campbellites” for the amusement of the citizens. The Doctor’s loud pretensions to Greek scholarship would certainly draw a large audience, so it appeared imperatively necessary to our brethren that someone competent in this respect should be called to meet him who had claimed such eminence.

It was on the fourth Lord’s day in August 1838, that the Doctor had made the appointment for this ruthless slaughter. At 10 o’clock a.m. he began his lecture on “Babtism,” as he pronounced it, and continued till 2 p.m., a discourse of four hours’ duration. A more abusive speech I had never heard before, and though fifty years have intervened between then and the present, and in the time intervening I have been compelled to listen to some very unworthy talk, but I have never heard its Billingsgate exceeded. But while listening to his misdirected sarcasms, I firmly resolved to retaliate none of his abusive epithets, but confine myself to facts, documents and arguments.

After one hour’s intermission I reviewed him in a speech of an hour and a half. When I arose I found myself before the largest and most eager audience I had ever met. The house was crowded, and every window was filled with heads determined to hear. A booth in front of the church was seated and filled, and all available standing room on the sidewalk was occupied out to the middle of the street. Standing before such an audience I felt the responsibility of the work before me, so much so that I trembled, although I felt myself fully competent and well prepared to meet every position he had taken. But as soon as I heard my own voice all that tremulous excitement fled, and I spoke with deliberate earnestness. I presented the testimony of eminent lexicographers, also the admission of Pedobaptist commentators. Then gave numerous examples from Greek authors where baptizo could possibly mean nothing less than immersion, or overwhelming.

I then met his impeachment of Mr. Campbell. He intimated that A. Campbell had made a Greek Bible to suit himself. In reply to this, I held in my hand an ancient copy of the Septuagint, assuring the gentleman that it was one hundred and eighty years old—much older than Mr. Campbell. I then informed him that the copy thus exhibited did not contain the quotation he had professed to make from the Septuagint. I then informed the Doctor that I doubted his ability to read a verse in the Greek Scriptures. But I would take no advantage of him. So I would invite him to stand by my side and read verse . . . with me in that venerable copy of the Septuagint. He did not move. I then added, “Doctor Quinn does not know one Greek word from another. I don’t think that he knows the alphabet. His pronunciation of baptizo convinces me of this. He calls it babtisdo, a pronunciation that no scholar would have given it.” On hearing this he fell over into the lap of Father Strickle, who sat beside him, and by whose help he was raised to his former position. After I concluded there was a little quibbling among the Doctor’s friends; but the victory was complete. And this onslaught of his put an end to “Campbellite killing” in that vicinity.

The foregoing is a specimen of the opposition we had to meet fifty years ago. Had the zealous Doctor lived to this day, he would have proceeded with much more caution. But the rarity of Hellenistic learning at that crisis was a strong inducement to practice a ruse of this kind, and was no doubt a source of amusement to the successful pretender until brought to grief.

B. U. Watkins

Christian Standard

Contact us at cs@christianstandardmedia.com

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