Vol.VI No.VIII Pg.6
October 1969

The Voice Of History

Robert F. Turner


The American Christian Missionary Society was established in October, 1849), in the city of Cincinnati, at a Meeting of various brethren at the old church building, corner of Walnut and English Streets....

Alexander Campbells influence in the movement is not to be underestimated. I know there is a tendency among us today to think of Campbell as a man who was influenced in his dotage to favor the missionary society, when he was actually against it, but the facts do not substantiate the idea. If you were to take the time, you could go back into the files of the Millenial Harbinger and find the very principle of the missionary society is one that Alexander Campbell advocated very thoroughly.

As far back as 1831, for example, Campbell began to plead with the brethren to establish an organization through which all of the churches might concentrate their efforts in getting evangelistic work done. Campbell was interested in it. He presented his missionary ideas through the Harbinger, but met with a great deal of opposition. Brethren objected on every hand, so Campbell was quiet for a while, thinking that later on the time would come when brethren would be more lenient and accept it. He waited for about 10 years, then decided that the time was right to go into the subject again. He wrote a series of articles in the Millenial Harbinger on the subject of church organization. He wasnt writing of the local congregation, but rather of an agency through which all of the churches might concentrate their evangelistic efforts. Now it ought to be remembered that this particular agency that Campbell had in mind was not just a missionary society. Rather, he planned an agency that would regulate and control all the various activities of the brotherhood —. This organization would be one large agency through which all the churches would work, and it would be dedicated to religious education, the distribution of Bibles, mission work, and other religious activities.

Campbell finally got his way, in part, but the brethren did not go all the way with him, because they concentrated upon a society that would attend to missionary activities solely. (pp. 58—59)

Here are some of Campbells arguments for the society. His reasoning began with the conception of the church in the universal aspect. (And unless you follow along that line you cannot begin to understand how he could favor a missionary society.) Campbell said that the Bible refers to the church in a local sense and also in the universal sense. He said the responsibility of doing mission work was committed to the church, but not to the local church. the universal church. Then, he reasoned, it is the duty of the church in its universal aspect to do mission work, but what is to be the method? God has not stipulated. Therefore, Campbell argued, it is a matter of expedience, and a missionary society is expedient. To him, any method that would do the job was all right. (pp. 60)