Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 7, 1968

"Complimentary Prayers

Earl Kimbrough

Alexander Campbell left Northern Ireland for America in the fall of 1808. However, it was almost a year later before his voyage was completed, for the ship on which he sailed was wrecked off the coast of Scotland on the island of Islay. Being detained in the island for some time, due to "adverse winds and the inclemency's of the season," the young Presbyterian had opportunity to observe some things about the clergy of "the Scot's Church" that made lasting impressions upon his mind. On his first Sunday in the island he visited the parish church and "was entertained with a specimen of good old Scotch divinity, pronounced with all the gravity of aspect and solemnity of tone for which the Scotch divines of the Presbyterian establishment... (were) eminently distinguished." Of particular interest to Campbell was the pastor's prayers.

As he recalled it some years later: "The nobleman, who was Laird of the island, a distinguished member of the Duke of Argyle's family, was present with his family; and as his patronage extended over the pulpits as well as the lands of the island, they occupied a very ostensible pew in the kirk, and a very conspicuous place in the prayers of the good parson. His temporal and spiritual welfare and that of every branch of his illustrious family, next to that of King George III, and all the princes and princesses of the royal blood, were the burden of his concluding prayer."

On the following Sunday, Campbell again visited the church and again observed the prayers of Mr. McIntosh, the pastor. This time the noble Laird was absent, being away to take his seat in the British Parliament. "His pew being empty, the good old parson forgot to give him any place in his prayers, and the king's place in his petitions was considerably contracted since the preceding `Sabbath."' A week later Campbell made his third visit to the parish church. Of this visit he observed, "The doctrine was precisely orthodox, according to the standards of that kirk; but as the nobleman's pew was still empty, he had no portion in the prayers of the day."

Young Campbell was disturbed by these prayers. "How a man so devout as the parish parson, could forget to pray for his patron when absent, and be so mindful of him in his addresses to Heaven when he was present, remained deeply impressed upon my mind, and was frequently a subject of curious reflection. I had not, however, travelled very far, nor continued many weeks amongst the pious highlanders, till I found that it was a general practice in all the parish churches, when the patron was present, to give him a large portion of the evening prayer, but always when absent he was forgotten."

These observations caused Campbell to become attentive to the prayers not only of the clergy, but of all others as well. "I observed it to be a general rule, that when two or three ministers of the same party happened to be present in the same pulpit, which ever one prayed, he made particular supplication for his ministering brethren. Thus the person A prayed very ardently for this brothers B and C, when they were present; but when B and C were absent A asked for no blessing for them. I do not recollect that I ever saw it otherwise in any sect or in any country. I noted this fact in my pocketbook of memorandums, and placed it under the same head with those of the prayers of the parish ministers for their patrons. I think I headed this chapter, in my juvenile fancy, with the words, 'COMPLIMENTARY PRAYERS, or PRAYERS ADDRESSED TO HUMAN BEINGS NOT YET DEIFIED. — (Christian Baptist, June 7, 1824.)

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