History of the Restoration Movement

John Walker


John Walker, Minister, Debater, Educator, Abolitionist

John Walker was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania in 1786. He studied medicine at Jefferson College, where he earned the DD degree. He studied theology with Dr. John Anderson at Service, Pa. He was licensed to preach among the Presbyterians in the summer of 1809 by the Presbytery of Ohio, and was ordained July 11, 1811, by the same presbytery. He served as pastor of Mercer and and in different places in Pennsylvania until September 14, 1814. Then he was given the position of pastorship over the Secession church at Unity, Mt. Pleasant, and Cadiz, Ohio in the summer of 1815. As his congregations increased, he resigned from Cadiz in 1818, but continued on at Unity for 31 years, until his death.

He was married twice, receiving the blessings of twelve children. His first wife Rachel Scroggs, married John in Newton Township, in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. Rachel was the daughter of Rev. Joseph Scroggs. To them were born nine children. One of their daughters, Margaret, married a minister, Rev. George C. Vincent. Vincent served for a time as president of Franklin College. Their son, William Vincent also was in the ministry serving in Michigan. After Rachel's passing November 10, 1810, he married Elizabeth, who gave birth to three children.

He was not distinguished for scholarship, but possessed an exceedingly enthusiastic temperament, which made him very energetic and active in his labors. He was a pioneer in the temperance cause, even to total abstinence; was very decided in his opposition to Free Masonry; and was intensely bitter in his hostility to slavery. He was always ready, even anxious, to defend his views, and oppose what he regarded as error. Hence, he was engaged in a number of public discussions, the most memorable of which was that with Alexander Campbell, a leader in the Disciple of Christ movement, in the summer of 1820. (See Campbell Excerpt Below).

Mr. Walker desired to establish a classical school in Harrison County, and as none of the villages would take hold of the matter, he, in connection with a neighbor, laid out a town upon the adjacent portions of their farms, which they named New Athens. Here he started a classical school, and rested not until he succeeded in getting from the Legislature the charter of Franklin College.

He studied medicine in his youth, and practiced more or less in an amateur way during his whole ministry. In later years he felt a necessity to open a regular practice. The burning of his house, together with a boundless hospitality, and a general financial mismanagement, made him very poor. Beginning in 1818, and before securing the charter for his college, he conducted an academy in New Athens, under the name of the "Alma Mater," in active rivalry with a similar institution carried on by Rev. Donald McIntosh, in Cadiz, Ohio. Alma College operated until a charter given by the Ohio State Legislature chartered it under the name of Franklin College, January 22, 1825. Franklin College later was incorporated as part of Muskingum College from 1921-1927. Then it became a public school (grades 1-12) from 1927 until 1971. Finally it became a grade school from 1971- until its closing in 1987 when it closed. Today the last remaining building is used as a Franklin Museum, and the building is on the National Register of Historic places. Before its closure, it graduated (under the various college names) 2 Governors, 8 U.S. Senators, 9 U.S. Representatives, 20 State Legislators, 47 Doctors (Including Rev. John Walker & Ohio's first 3 women doctors, Charity Vincent and sisters: Adaline Watson & Anna Watson), over 113 educators & over 440 ministers.These graduates incuded: John Bingham, Congressman (author of due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, and chief deputy prosecutor of President Lincoln's assassins). Another graduate was Titus Basfield, a former slave who was one of the first black graduates of an Ohio College. However, the leading spirit in the early days of the school was that of John Walker.

John Walker died March 8, 1845 from erysipelas, and was buried in the cemetery at Unity, near Mt. Pleasant, Ohio.

Walker's particular place in the discussion of the American Restoration Movement is, as seen above, in defending his infant baptism views in the debate with Alexander Campbell June 19 & 20, 1820. Below is an excerpt from the Memoirs of Alexander Campbell telling of the first of many debates in which Campbell was involved. The debate was printed by Alexander Campbell in 1822 under the title, Debate on Christian Baptism Between Mr. John Walker, A Minister of the Secession, And Alexander Campbell, Held at Mount Pleasant, on the 19th and 20th June, 1820, In The Presence Of the Very Numerous And Respectable Congregation, To Which Is Added A Large Appendix, by Alexander Campbell.

In 1823, John Walker produced a responding volume to Campbell's version of the debate entitled, "A Treatise on Baptism, Being A Reply To A Book entitled A Debate On Christian Baptism, Between Mr. John Walker & Alexander Campbell, Held At Mount Pleasant, on the 19th and 20th June, 1820. To Which is Added a Letter To The Rev. Samuel Ralston, by John Walker, Minister of the Gospel in the Associate Congregations of Mount Pleasant and Unity, Ohio. In this version of the debate, Walker explained what he believed to be a false representation on the part of Mr. Campbell to report the debate correctly. Thus, he produced his own version. After this volume was produced, the involvement between Walker and Restoration Movement was minimal to non-existent.

Source: Find-A-Grave; & Gleanings from Historical Collections of Harrison County, In The State Of Ohio, by Charles Augustus Hanna. pages 133ff;

Excerpt From Memoirs Of Alexander Campbell

         "It had happened, during the fall of 1819, that a Mr. John Birch, a Baptist preacher at Flat Rock, near Mt. [14] Pleasant, Ohio, had baptized an unusual number of converts. This success, awakening the zeal of the minister of the Secession church at Mt. Pleasant, Mr. John Walker, induced him to deliver a series of sermons in praise of infant baptism, and in contravention of the principles entertained by the Baptists. On one of these occasions, Mr. Birch was present, and as Mr. Walker, in the course of his remarks, made some quotations from the works of Dr. Baldwin which seemed unfair, he, after sermon, took the liberty of asking Mr. Walker to what portion of Dr. Baldwin's works he referred. Upon this, a short dispute arose as to the meaning of the passage quoted, and this was followed by several interviews and some correspondence, ending in a challenge by Mr. Walker to Mr. Birch, or any other Baptist preacher of good standing whom Mr. Birch might choose, to come forward publicly and debate with him the question of baptism. Mr. Birch readily accepted the proposition, and from his high opinion of Mr. Campbell's ability, at once wrote to him urging him to undertake the discussion.

"To this appeal, Mr. Campbell, in the circumstances in which he was placed, was unable to give an immediate reply. He kept it, therefore, for some time under advisement. Mr. Birch meanwhile renewed the application, and finally on 27th of March addressed to Mr. Campbell the following note:

"DEAR BROTHER: I once more undertake to address you by letter; as we are commanded not to weary in well-doing, I am disposed to persevere. I am coming this third time unto you. I cannot persuade myself that you will refuse to attend to the dispute with Mr. Walker; therefore I do not feel disposed to complain because you have sent me no answer. True, I have expected an answer, signifying your [15] acceptance of the same. I am as yet disappointed, but am not offended nor discouraged. I can truly say it is the unanimous wish of all the church to which I belong that you should be the disputant. It is Brother Nathaniel Skinner's desire; it is the wish of all the brethren with whom I have conversed that you should be the man. You will, I hope, send me an answer by Brother Jesse Martin, who has promised to bear this unto you. Come, brother; come over into Macedonia and help us. Yours, in the best of bonds, "JOHN BIRCH."

"Being thus called upon by the church, and urged by personal friends, he could no longer refuse to yield to his convictions of public duty. His devotion to the cause of truth, and, as he says, his "unwillingness to appear, much more to feel, afraid or ashamed to defend it," overcame the scruples arising from his aversion to do anything which might be construed into a sanction of modern religious controversy. Having succeeded, accordingly, in convincing his father that, however much the usual unprofitable debates upon human theories and opinions were to be deplored and avoided, no valid objection could lie against a public defence of revealed truth, for which the Scripture afforded abundant precedent, he at length informed Mr. Birch of his willingness to meet Mr. Walker.

"These facts are of some importance, because Mr. Campbell, from the numerous public discussions in which he was subsequently engaged, came to be regarded by many as a person disposed to provoke debate, and as seeking opportunity to assail the religious views of others. The history of the case shows, however, that here, as heretofore, he was acting entirely on the defensive; that he was placed under an imperious necessity to appear in behalf of the interests [16] of truth, and that he had not in any respect provoked or originated controversy with the Pædobaptists.

"As soon as Mr. Walker heard of Mr. Campbell's acceptance, he addressed to him the following note, which, in its style and spirit, shows sufficiently who was the dictating and leading party:


"May 30, 1820.


"Buffalo Seminary:

"I think proper to intimate to you that I have chosen the Rev. Samuel Findley to preside at the time of our public dispute: you have the privilege of choosing another; you will please to make such choice, and let him meet with Mr. Findley prior to the day of public dispute, that we may not be detained. They should determine the manner of dispute, and fix rules by which we should proceed, and preside, not to give judgment, but to keep order. "Yours, with respect,


"Mr. Walker, it thus appeared, had decided that the moderators should refrain from giving judgment upon the merits of the discussion, and had selected on his side Mr. Findley, who had already, as has been seen, signalized on various occasions his intense hostility to Mr. Campbell. The latter chose, on his part, Mr. Jacob Martin, and the following rules for the discussion were adopted:

"1. Each speaker shall have the privilege of speaking forty minutes without interruption, if he thinks proper to use them all. 2. Mr. Walker shall open the debate and Mr. Campbell shall close it. 3. The moderators are merely to keep order, not to pronounce judgment on the merits of the debate. 4. The proper subject of the ordinance of baptism is first to be discussed, then the mode of baptism. 5. The debate must be conducted with decorum, and all improper allusions or passionate language guarded against. 6. The debate shall [17] be continued from day to day till the people are satisfied, or till the moderators think that enough has been said on each topic of debate."

"Monday morning, the 19th of June, having been appointed as the time for the commencement of the discussion, the parties assembled, accordingly, early on that day at the place agreed upon, Mr. Campbell being accompanied by his father and a few friends who felt a particular interest in the result. The place selected was Mt. Pleasant, in Ohio, a village some twenty-three miles distant from Mr. Campbell's residence, and situated in the midst of a very beautiful and fertile country, gently undulating and greatly improved by the careful culture and industry characteristic of the Quaker farmers who constituted a large portion of the surrounding population. Comfortable dwellings, rich fields of clover, substantial fences and thrifty orchards greeted the eye on every side, with here and there luxuriant groves or smaller clumps of stately forest trees. This region was quite thickly settled, and as considerable interest in the subject had been already created, and public polemical discussions were at this time quite a novelty, a large and attentive assembly was in attendance.

"Immediately upon his arrival, Mr. Campbell was privately informed by several persons that Mr. Walker, under the impression that he was of an irascible temperament, had intimated his intention to throw him off his guard by irritating language, so as to gain the advantage over him. Mr. Walker, however, had been entirely misinformed, as Mr. Campbell, though of an earnest and ardent nature, was remarkably self-possessed and firm; and if he really intended to pursue the course stated, he thought it best to abandon his purpose. [18] An interview of more than an hour which he had with Mr. Campbell before the debate began may perhaps have undeceived him; but, however this may have been, it is certain that he made no such attempt, but acted from the beginning to the end of the discussion in a much more gentlemanly manner than Mr. Campbell anticipated, so that the debate was conducted throughout with a commendable degree of coolness and moderation.

"Mr. Walker's first speech was very short, simply stating the argument upon which throughout he chiefly relied.

"My friends," said he, "I don't intend to speak long at one time, perhaps not more than five or ten minutes, and will therefore come to the point at once: I maintain that baptism came in the room of circumcision; that the covenant on which the Jewish Church was built, and to which circumcision is the seal, is the same with the covenant on which the Christian Church is built, and to which baptism is the seal; that the Jews and the Christians are the same body politic under the same lawgiver and husband; hence the Jews were called the congregation of the Lord; and the Bridegroom of the Church says, 'My love, my undefiled is one'--consequently the infants of believers have a right to baptism."

"Mr. Campbell, upon rising, after a modest exordium which was well calculated to gain the favorable attention of the audience, went on to add some remarks in justification of the practice of public discussion which had been recently with himself and his father a subject of careful inquiry. After then referring to his own change of views in reference to baptism, he entered upon the refutation of the argument stated by Mr. Walker, showing that Pædobaptists acted as if they did not themselves believe it true, since, in point of fact, [19] they did not put baptism in the room of circumcision, as they did not confine it to males only and extend it to servants as well as children; perform it on the eighth day, etc.; and then proceeded to point out various differences between the two institutions which rendered the supposed substitution of the one for the other impossible. Among these, he particularizes the fact that circumcision required only carnal descent from Abraham, or covenant relation to Abraham, but that baptism demanded faith in Christ as its indispensable prerequisite; and that baptism differed from circumcision in the nature of the blessings it conveyed, which were spiritual and not temporal, etc.

"Baptism," said he, "is connected with the promise of the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit." This utterance is worthy of notice as his first definite and public recognition of the peculiar office of baptism. While, however, he thus, in 1820, distinctly perceived and asserted a scriptural connection between baptism and remission of sins, he seems at this time to have viewed it only in the light of an argument, and to have had but a faint appreciation of its great practical importance. A momentary and passing glance only seems as yet to have been directed to the great purpose of baptism, which subsequently assumed so conspicuous a position in the restoration of the primitive gospel.

"As to the differences alleged between baptism and circumcision, Mr. Walker affected to regard them as of little consequence, saying in general that Christ had a right to add or alter as he pleased, and giving as a reason for the selection of the eighth day for circumcision that the Jewish mother was ceremonially unclean seven days, and was not permitted to accompany the child to the sanctuary at an earlier period. Mr. [20] Campbell's superior knowledge of the Bible enabled him at once to confute this assertion and to show from Lev. xii. 2-4, that the mother was not permitted to come into the sanctuary until the end of forty days, and furthermore that the eighth day had been appointed four hundred years before the giving of the law which designated the periods of purification. The chief point debated, however, was the identity of the covenants on which the Jewish and Christian institutions rested, as asserted by Mr. Walker. In refutation of this, Mr. Campbell adduced Paul's account of the "new" covenant, founded upon "better promises," and the subject was discussed at considerable length.

"Such were some of the principal points brought forward during the first day. As Mr. Walker used considerable repetition and often recurred to his argument from the covenants without considering the refutation given by Mr. Campbell, the latter employed a portion of his time in directing the attention of the audience to some of the general principles of the Reformation he was laboring to establish; which, if admitted, must sweep away the entire foundation of Mr. Walker's system. Some of these were: the supreme authority of Scripture, and the necessity of a positive command for every religious institution, which in no case could be based upon mere reasoning or upon human tradition.

"On the following morning, Mr. Walker reiterated his views concerning the covenants, and appealed to the four cases of household baptism mentioned in the New Testament as evidence that infants were baptized in apostolic times. Mr. Campbell, however, showed it to be wholly without proof that there were infants in any of these families. He proved, on the contrary, from incidental circumstances stated in each case, that there [21] could have been none. "All the house of Cornelius," as McLean concisely remarks, "feared God and received the Holy Spirit, Lydia's household were comforted as brethren. The word of the Lord was spoken to all in the jailer's house, and they all rejoiced, believing in God as well as himself. All the house of Crispus believed on the Lord, and the house of Stephanas are said to have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints. Now, if these things which are affirmed of all the baptized will not apply to infants, then it is plain there were no infants baptized in those houses."

"Finding that Mr. Walker continued to repeat his argument from the covenants, Mr. Campbell resolved to give it a more thorough sifting, especially as Mr. Walker seemed to labor under the impression that he desired to evade it. Intimating, therefore, that it was his purpose to publish the debate, he propounded certain queries to Mr. Walker, in order that he might have a precise statement of the ground he occupied and forestall any charges of misrepresentation. Mr. Walker, admitting that the positions attributed to him were correctly stated as written down by Mr. Campbell, proposed to him in turn certain questions, which he answered in his next speech, in which he again proposed questions to Mr. Walker. At this juncture he was interrupted by Mr. Findley, who objected to this mode of proceeding. He said that, "as the object of this meeting was the edification of the public, he could not conceive how the asking and answering of questions could promote their edification. He desired that we should proceed in some way more conducive to their edification." To this Mr. Campbell replied: "Mr. Findley, you are doubtless an advocate for the Westminster Creed and Catechism, and, I presume, as such, must [22] agree with your brethren that the catechetical mode of instruction is the best. As we are now proceeding as the Westminster divines direct, I think you cannot without a dereliction of principle object." This effectually silenced Mr. Findley's objections, and Mr. Walker went on, in reply to Mr. Campbell's queries, to assert:

"That temporal and spiritual blessings were enjoyed under both covenants through the righteousness of Christ, and that the covenants were therefore the same in this respect. He added that all the blessings mankind ever enjoyed, even the very least, were enjoyed through Christ's righteousness."

"This thesis," said Mr. Campbell in reply, "the Covenanters of Europe maintained, and the Seceders opposed it. The Seceders in Scotland maintained that it was derogatory to the redemption of Christ to suppose that he died 'to purchase food and raiment for mankind, which the Almighty had given to the brutes that perish.' Moreover, the Seceders affirmed that it was an error of a very pernicious tendency to say that wicked men, dying impenitent, had enjoyed any part of the purchase of Christ, which, upon the Covenanters' hypothesis, they must, if their food and raiment, houses, lands and tenements were a part of his purchase. Mr. W., then, abandons the 'Mother Kirk' of Scotland and joins the Covenanters, in order to maintain that the covenant of circumcision is the same as the covenant of grace. This, with me, however, is a small matter, if he did not also oppose Moses and Paul." He then showed that the claim of privilege under the covenant of circumcision was simply carnal descent from Abraham. "We have Abraham to our father," was the claim urged by the Jews. On the other hand, the spiritual covenant placed the enjoyment of its blessings on a very different basis. "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed and heirs, according to the promise."

"Mr. Walker asserted also,

"That the duties incumbent upon the subjects of both covenants were the same." [23]

"That is," said Mr. Campbell, "'an eye for an eye' and 'a tooth for a tooth' is the same as 'resist not evil'--'hate your enemy' is the same as 'love your enemies.' . . . The paying of tithes to the Levites, the buying and selling slaves of the heathen, etc., are all the same in substance with paying stipends to the clergy, buying and selling slaves in the United States, etc."

"Mr. Walker affirmed further,

"That there were no penalties under either covenant."

"This extraordinary declaration was readily exposed by a reference to the numerous penalties denounced against violations of the Mosaic law (Deut. xxviii.), and to the punishments attached to the New, as in 1 Cor. xi.

"Mr. Walker then finally urged,

"That Abraham was not the father of a twofold seed, but of the faithful alone."

"That," said Mr. Campbell, "is the most flat contradiction of plain Scripture testimony I have heard from the lips of a professed teacher of religion. 'I have made thee (by covenant) the father of many nations,' Rom. iv. 17; and verses 11, 12. 'And he received the sign of circumcision, . . . that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised;' and 'the father of the circumcision,' not only as their natural father, but to such of them 'as walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham.' . . . That he was the natural father of the whole Jewish nation and the spiritual father of all true believers, whether Jews or Gentiles, Mr. Walker himself, I am convinced, has often observed; and it is now owing to the confusion of his mind and the pernicious tendency of a corrupt system that he does not confess it."

"Mr. Walker now abandoned, somewhat hastily, his favorite argument from the covenants, which, under Mr. Campbell's inquisition, had led him to make assertions so unwarrantable; and passing to the argument from antiquity, adduced some of the primitive fathers to prove [24] the existence of the practice of infant baptism in the early Church.

"Admitting that both infant baptism and infant sprinkling were very ancient practices, Mr. Campbell denied that mere antiquity could prove them to be right, since many things were introduced, even in the first and second centuries, which are admitted to be corruptions, and which would have to be received upon the same ground; as, for instance, the divine right of episcopacy, the observance of Easter, the celibacy of the clergy, the doctrine of purgatory, etc. He affirmed, however, that infant baptism was not taught or practiced for many years after the apostolic age, there being no record extant that mentions it for at least one hundred and fifty years after the Christian era, the testimony of the primitive fathers being, up to this time, exclusively in favor of believers' baptism. "The first, indeed, who mentions infant baptism," said he, "is Tertullian, who flourished from A. D. 194 to 216, and is ranked among the writers of the third century. And even he speaks of it to disapprove of it, and says of it, along with other things of a similar nature, 'If you demand a law for these practices taken from the Scriptures, we cannot find one there, but we must answer that it is tradition that has established them, custom that has authorized them and faith that has made them to be observed.'"

"During this part of the discussion, Mr. Findley again interrupted Mr. Campbell, and objected to his reading passages from Robinson, on the ground that the latter had impugned the character of St. Cyprian. After some delay, the question was referred to the assembly, which decided, by a large majority, that the extracts should be read. The testimony of the fathers having been fully examined upon the subject of the origin of [25] infant baptism, the debate was adjourned for half an hour at two o'clock on Tuesday, with the understanding that, on reassembling, the action, or, as it is termed, the mode, of baptism was to be discussed. Mr. Campbell was surprised to find, when the time arrived, that Mr. Findley, at the instance of Mr. Walker, wished to limit the further discussion to one speech on each side. This desire for so abrupt a termination he had not expected from those who in the beginning had proposed to adjourn from day to day until everything was fully discussed, but he consented to close with two speeches on each side, on the ground that if it was sufficient for them it was quite sufficient for him.

"Mr. Walker then went on to adduce the usual arguments to prove that "pouring and sprinkling are scriptural modes of baptism, urging that the expression 'in water' might be rendered with water, and that baptizo did not necessarily signify to dip, but to sprinkle or pour, because in some cases it implies 'to wash.'" In reply, Mr. Campbell quoted the eminent Presbyterian translator and critic, Dr. George Campbell, affirming that baptizo should be rendered immerse or dip, and that in construction with it the preposition en should be translated in, and not with. These concessions he corroborated by the authority of a number of the most eminent scholars and by the standard lexicons of the Greek language. To this Mr. Walker made but a feeble rejoinder, closing with a few remarks to the audience. Mr. Campbell then adduced some additional and overwhelming proofs with regard to the action signified by baptism, and in concluding the debate took occasion to speak thus of the course pursued by Mr. Findley:

"I am sorry I cannot compliment Mr. Findley, Mr. Walker's moderator, for his impartiality on this occasion. [26] His partiality has been so manifest to you all as to require no comment from me. I merely wish to let you know that I am conscious of it, and that my not speaking of it sooner was not from the want of perception, but to preserve that decorum in the course of the debate which I considered comely, and from which I was determined not to be forced, even by treatment still more flagrant. . . . I freely forgive him, however, attributing it to a misguided zeal, and hope you also will forgive him."

"After noticing some other matters, he then thus, in the presence of Mr. Walker and Mr. Findley, fearlessly expressed his opinion of the clergy:

"You have heard," said he to the audience, "and patiently attended to this tedious debate. What are you now to do? I will answer this question for you: Go home and read your Bibles; examine the testimonies of those holy oracles; judge for yourselves, and be not implicit followers of the clergy. Amongst the clergy of different denominations, I charitably think, there are a few good men; but, as a body of men, 'they have taken away the key of knowledge from the people.' And how, do you say? By teaching you to look to them for instruction as children to a father; by preventing you from judging for yourselves, through an impression that you are not competent to judge for yourselves. This is a prevailing opinion with many. Of what use, then, is the Bible to the bulk of mankind, if you are not to presume to examine it for yourselves, or to think yourselves capable of judging of it? This is to make you the dupes of haughty leaders, who will cause you to err. To attempt, directly or indirectly, to dissuade you from thinking and examining for yourselves, by putting creeds already framed into your hands, or the works of men instead of the pure Word, is, in my opinion, so far depriving you of the key of knowledge. I do not say that all the clergy are doing so, but I am sure that a vast majority of them are doing so."

"It must be confessed that Mr. Campbell's knowledge [27] of the existing state of religious society, and his acquaintance with the clergy heretofore, in a good degree justified the conceptions he had formed of them. He had found them, both in Europe and America, opposed to reforms; ever on the alert to repress inquiry; ever seeking to exercise complete control over men's opinions, and ever ready to employ against any who presumed to dispute their authority the unchristian weapons of detraction and persecution. In vain had Luther placed the Bible in the hands of the people, if the clergy alone could comprehend it, and were allowed the exclusive privilege of explaining it. It was, therefore, necessary that men should be exhorted to break the seal thus imposed upon the sacred volume, and to read and examine it for themselves.

"Because I have taken this course," he continued, "which I recommend to you, I have been stigmatized with many opprobrious epithets. Sometimes as being very 'changeable,' although I have to this day undeviatingly pursued the same course which I commenced nearly as soon as I was of age, and have now prosecuted it for almost ten years--viz., to teach, to believe, to practice nothing in religion for which I cannot produce positive precept or approved precedent from the word of God. . . . And because I maintain that the New Testament Scriptures are a perfect, complete and perspicuous rule of faith and practice, as far as respects Christianity, I am called an Antinomian and am impeached with utterly throwing away the Old Testament Scriptures. These, and many other insinuations as malicious and unfounded, have been suggested against me, which are as far from my sentiments as the east is distant from the west. These vile slanders may serve the cause of a party for a little while, but will ultimately fall upon the heads of the fabricators of them. If you, then, should think of judging for yourselves, and of following the dictates of the Divine word and your own consciences [28] enlightened by it, you must not think that any strange thing has happened unto you if you should become the objects of reproach. But remember, 'the triumph of the wicked is short,' and 'if ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye.'"

"During the progress of this discussion he seems to have become more and more favorable to such methods of public disputation--a result partly due, perhaps, to his easy triumph over his opponent, and his growing consciousness of the possession of powers peculiarly adapted to such encounters, but still more to the conviction that they afforded a favorable means of diffusing amongst the people a knowledge of those religious principles to which he was himself devoted. On this occasion he felt, moreover, that as the challenge had come from the Pædobaptist ranks, and Mr. Walker had so signally failed to prove infant baptism a divine ordinance, it was becoming in him to return the compliment, and to invite any other Pædobaptist teacher to try to do what Mr. Walker had attempted in vain. He, therefore, in concluding, gave the following general invitation:

"I this day publish to all present that I feel disposed to meet any Pædobaptist minister of any denomination, of good standing in his party, and I engage to prove in a debate with him, either vivâ voce or with the pen, that infant sprinkling is a human tradition and injurious to the well-being of society, religious and political."

"Such a challenge as this was well calculated to arrest forcibly the attention of society. This was what Mr. Campbell chiefly designed by it, though he was himself fond of bold and strongly-stated propositions. This was in harmony with the character of his mind, which was disposed to take a wide and exhaustive view of [29] every subject and seize at once upon principles and results. He could not be content with the simple and common theme, that "infant sprinkling is a human tradition." He could not confine his thoughts merely to the validity or invalidity of that ordinance, as was customary. He must take a wider view, and believing that this "human tradition carnalized and secularized the Church," "introduced an ungodly priesthood into it" and "prevented the union of Christians," he could well affirm it to be "injurious" to religious "society." And not only so, but knowing that the confounding of the Jewish and Christian institutions which it required led to national religious establishments, and filled the clergy with an eager thirst for political power, and that persecutions had generally proceeded from Pædobaptist parties, he would assert still further that it was "injurious" to political "society" and inimical to public liberty.

"In the frankness and fearlessness of his independent spirit, he, from this time forward, held himself in readiness, accordingly, to meet within the lists of public discussion any worthy champion who might appear in opposition to the truths he taught, or in defence of popular religious error. Such was his love for truth that to it he was ever ready to sacrifice ease and reputation, fortune, and even life.

"We ardently wish for," said he--"we court discussion. Great is the truth and mighty above all things, and shall prevail. We constantly pray for its progress and desire to be valiant for it. Truth is our riches. Blessed are they that possess it in their hearts, who know its value, who feel its power, who live under its influence. They shall lie down in the dust in peace, they shall rest from their labors in hope, and in the morning of the resurrection they shall rise in glory and be recompensed for all their trials and sufferings in its support." [30]

"As soon as Mr. Campbell had taken his seat, Mr. Findley took it upon himself to give his opinion of the discussion, and when Judge Martin, the other moderator, attempted to express his disapprobation of this violation of the rules agreed upon, Mr. Findley prevented him by telling the audience that the debate was over and that they might now retire. He then took his hat and passed out through the crowd amidst some hisses and other marks of disapprobation. The people, however, with the exception of some two or three persons, kept their places until Thomas Campbell, being called upon to close the meeting, rose and dismissed them in the usual form.

"Such were the circumstances and general features of Mr. Campbell's first oral debate, which greatly increased his reputation, and made, at the time, a profound impression on the community around Mount Pleasant. Even the Pædobaptists felt that he had gained the victory, and being greatly chafed at this result, they made various efforts to palliate or remedy the defeat. Mr. Findley was understood to excuse Mr. Walker on the ground of "insufficient preparation." Many, however, were disposed, rather ungenerously, to impute the failure of their cause in his hands to incompetency, and in consequence of the impressions made, Mr. Walker suddenly lost the reputation he had previously enjoyed as a man of superior abilities. The effects of the discussion were much more widely extended by its publication soon afterward from notes of the speeches taken down at the time by Salathiel Curtis, who acted as clerk, and who belonged to neither party. Mr. Campbell added also a variety of curious and interesting matter in the form of an appendix, in which, with his accustomed liberality, he invited Mr. Walker [31] by letter to take part, in order that he might have an opportunity of supplying any deficiencies in his portion of the debate. To this, however, Mr. Walker made no response.

"It was while awaiting a reply from Mr. Walker, during the month of August (1820), that Mr. Campbell was called to suffer the loss of his youngest child, Amanda Corneigle, who had been born on the 16th of the preceding February. This was the first death in his family, and was deeply felt, for Mr. Campbell was possessed of warm sympathies and strong natural attachments. He found consolation, however, not in dependence upon any religious rite of human invention, but in his firm conviction that the redemption of Christ extended to all dying in infancy and childhood, who were alike incapable of faith and of transgression, but were related to Christ through that humanity which he bore in triumph from the grave, and who were by him even proposed as models to those who sought to enter the kingdom of heaven. Nothing indeed was more striking in Mr. Campbell than his perfect trust in the wisdom, power and goodness of God, so that in all the numerous bereavements he experienced he could say with resignation, "Thy will be done"--a petition which, when uttered in humility and faith, renders all ordinary means of consolation quite unnecessary. Fond as he was of life, and of those around him in the family circle, no one could be more deeply impressed with the uncertainty and transitory nature of earthly ties. Upon this theme he often dwelt with much feeling, both in social converse and in his prayers, as well as in his public addresses, quoting those touching passages of Scripture which describe man's earthly destiny, with a peculiar emphasis and intonation, which showed how fully he [32] realized their import, and how familiar such reflections were to his own heart.

"It was in harmony with these convictions, and with the event which had just occurred, that he at this time selected a piece of ground upon the farm for a family burial-place. Immediately from the public road in front of the house there rose a sloping hill covered in front by the trees of the orchard and passing at its summit into a broad tract of level table-land. A little to the south of the orchard, where the winding Buffalo swept along the base of a precipitous part of the hill, a slightly-isolated eminence, flanked upon the west by a beautiful clump of native oaks and maples, presented itself as well adapted to the purpose, commanding a charming landscape, and by its elevation and distance being sufficiently retired from the public road below. Upon the side of the orchard, however, it could be readily reached by a pleasant pathway, or farther to the right by vehicles, by means of the winding farm-road which ascended gradually to the cultivated table-land. This spot, being accordingly selected and enclosed, became a favorite place of resort for meditation in the evening hour, and the favorite place of interment for all the branches of the family.

"During this year various individuals continued to present themselves for baptism, and were subsequently recognized as members of the church at Brush Run, though some lived at too great a distance to attend regularly. Among these may be mentioned Mrs. Bakewell, an English lady at Wellsburg, who was baptized in the fall of 1820. On the 21st of May following, her daughter, Selina Huntingdon Bakewell, came forward and was baptized by Mr. Campbell at the mouth of Buffalo Creek, the Ohio being very high at [33] the time. This young lady had, some years before, become acquainted with John Brown, from seeing him at Mr. Campbell's meetings in Wellsburg. On one occasion he had invited her to accompany him home to see his family, and a warm mutual attachment had grown up between her and Mrs. Campbell, which, a few years later, led to events not less interesting than unexpected.

"The first edition of the Debate with Mr. Walker, consisting of one thousand copies, printed at Steubenville, being after some months exhausted, a second one of three thousand copies was published at Pittsburg, to which were appended some severe strictures upon three letters published in the Presbyterian Magazine at Philadelphia, and written by the Rev. Samuel Ralston. These letters professed to review the debate at Mount Pleasant, and labored to defend and maintain the cause of Pædobaptism, but were shown by Mr. Campbell to contain many misrepresentations of his views, and to abound in false criticisms and assertions without proof. To these strictures, Mr. Ralston subsequently replied in a second series of letters, which, together with the first, were published afterward in pamphlet form, and circulated diligently throughout the region of country in which the debate was held. It was soon after this performance that Mr. Ralston received from Washington College the title of Doctor of Divinity.

"Mr. Campbell's earnestness to establish correct views of baptism did not proceed from any over-estimate of its importance, but simply from his love of truth and his desire that this institution should be allowed to occupy its proper place in the economy of the gospel. Nor did his pointed exposures of error, or keen retorts in his public discussions of the subject, arise from any [34] want of kindly feeling for his opponents, but from his native vivacity and his sincere conviction that the errors he was combating had the most injurious influence upon the interests of religion and of society itself. Upon this point he himself remarked in his printed debate with Mr. Walker:

"With regard to the spirit and temper of mind in which this work was written, I can conscientiously say it was that of benevolence and candor. If any things ironical or acrimonious have been said, it has been owing more to a genius naturally inclined to irony, which I have often to deny, than to a spirit of rancor or bitterness, which I am not conscious of possessing toward any party in Christendom. I sincerely pity and cordially deplore the errors of my Pædobaptist brethren in this important ordinance; not only on account of the perversion of the ordinance, but also on account of its obscuring influence and beclouding effect upon their views of the Church of Christ, its government, its discipline, and, I might add, some of its doctrines."

"Among the errors involved in Pædobaptist views, which he discusses in the appendix to the debate, he calls attention particularly to that extravagant conception of baptism which makes it the seal of the covenant of grace. This had been repeatedly asserted by Mr. Walker, as well as by Mr. Ralston in his letters, and, indeed, was the main position of the Pædobaptist system. Adopting the definition of a seal as "a confirmative mark or attestation of some covenant agreement," he shows that baptism could not possibly fulfill this office, and, aware that the best method of confuting error is to present truth, he goes on to exhibit the true seal of the Christian covenant:

"Under the New Testament," says he (Appendix to [35] Debate, p. 169-171), "the only seal is that mark or impression which the spirit of God makes upon the heart of the believer; because the subjects of this covenant are personally and not nationally considered. The object of this seal is the personal satisfaction of the individual, and not an external mark set upon him for the confirmation of others, as circumcision was designed more for the satisfaction of others than for the subject of it--to convince the world that God had actually fulfilled his covenant in raising up a Saviour in the family of Abraham. Hence the seal which is stamped under the New Testament is altogether confirmative of the faith of the subject, and is beautifully described in these words: 'To him that overcometh will I give of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and on the stone a name written which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.'

"The only seal spoken of in the New Testament as the guarantee and property of all Christians is 'this seal of the Holy Spirit.' Neither baptism nor the Lord's Supper is ever so called, nor can it be so called in conformity to the meaning of words; yet we admit that both are confirmative of the faith and hope of the Christian. These ordinances have, for a long time, been called ‘ seals of the covenant of grace;' with what propriety, I confess, I never yet could see. One thing is certain: there is no authority from the Scriptures for so calling them. Nor can I understand how any human being could use them as seals, or as 'sealing ordinances.' I should be glad to see a scriptural and rational explanation of them as such. I do not wish to derogate, nor do I, in my opinion, derogate, anything from either their solemnity or importance by saying that I do not conceive how they can be called 'sealing ordinances.' Baptism is an ordinance by which we formally profess Christianity. It is the first constitutional act in the profession of Christianity. It confirms nothing in the covenant of Christ that was not confirmed before. It is no stamp nor confirmative mark of that covenant, for it was ratified by the blood of Christ. The baptized person carries no mark, no seal of confirmation, that [36] is visible to himself or to others, in consequence of his obedience to this rite. The Lord's Supper is commemorative of the death of Christ, and an expression of our faith in his atoning sacrifice, by which he has made peace, and by which we enjoy the peace of God in our hearts. It confirms our faith, it promotes our love, it cherishes our hope, and produces benevolence and brotherly kindness. But our participation of it confirms nothing in the covenant of Christ that was not confirmed before. We might, with as much propriety, call all the ordinances of the gospel seals of the covenant of grace as these. The whole blessings of this covenant have been as much enjoyed by many who are now in heaven, who could not, who did not receive these ordinances, as by any other saints in heaven or on earth. The thief upon the cross had as full an enjoyment of them as any other in ancient or modern times. And many, both under the patriarchal and Christian age, have had all the blessings of redemption as fully bestowed upon them as any who have been baptized and have participated of the Lord's Supper. Now, if baptism and the Lord's Supper were the seals of this covenant, it would follow that those who never had received them were deprived of the security for the enjoyment of this covenant; and, of course, had no confirmation of it to them. How much more rationally does the apostle speak of that seal which all true Christians enjoy (Eph. i. 13)!--'In whom also after that ye believed ye were SEALED with that holy spirit of promise which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession unto the praise of his glory.' On these words let it be observed:

"1. That all believers, after believing the gospel, are sealed by the Holy Spirit.

"2. That this seal or impression of the Spirit is their sole earnest or pledge until they enter into the enjoyment of the inheritance of the saints.

"3. That this seal is a sufficient guarantee and earnest, and requires not any external ordinance to perfect it.

"This testimony is further confirmed by the same apostle and [37] in the same epistle (Eph. iv. 30): 'Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, 'whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.'

"So full, so uniform in his testimony, and so explicit is the apostle upon this topic, that in his First Epistle to the Corinthians (i. 22) he expresses it very clearly in these words: 'God who hath also sealed us and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.' This inward mark or seal is explained to be an impressing of the image of Him who hath created us anew. 2 Cor. iii. 18.

"Such is the seal of which the New Testament speaks. This is sufficient without our factitious seals, which at best are a prostitution of language unwarrantable in the highest degree, and tending to perplex and confuse, rather than to compose and enlighten the mind of the Christian.

* * * * * * *

"I expect to hear it said that I have denied the 'seals of the covenant of grace' to maintain my cause. Yet the truth is, I have merely volunteered these remarks. My views are established long since in respect to the subject under discussion; and I deny not, but contend for the true seal of the covenant of Christ, which I maintain in a few words to have ever been the same in substance, it never having had any other seal than that of the Spirit."

"It was thus that Mr. Campbell ever sought for truth alone, and ever preferred to be "taught of God" in the infallible revelations of the inspired Word, rather than to adopt the assumptions and dogmas of sectarian theology. Had he sought, indeed, merely to expose the existing errors of religious society, his work would have been defective, and might have tended to promote infidelity rather than religion, since it is in these errors that unbelief seeks its chief apology. But from the first his work was positive. The process of demolition was not with him an ultimate end, for if he sought to remove the awkward and rickety structures of partyism, [38] or the broken and accumulated rubbish of human tradition, it was that he might build again upon their ancient sites the bulwarks and towers of Zion. He endeavored, therefore, to replace human creeds and confessions by the Divine Testimony; sectarian division by brotherly union; clerical tyranny by Christian liberty; and the pretended "seal" of infant sprinkling by the reception of that "Holy Spirit of promise" which is, to every true believer, the abiding earnest of a heavenly inheritance. [39]

-Memoirs Of Alexander Campbell, Volume 2, page 13-39

Directions To The Grave of John Walker

In east Ohio, take I-70 toward West Virginia. Take Exit 216, Hwy. 9 at St. Clairsville. Head north 8.2 miles on Hwy. 9 and turn left on County Road 64. The cemetery will be up the hill on the left.

GPS Location

View Larger Map

Note the faint outline of the old meetinghouse on the ground
The caretaker's shed is in the middle

Site of
United Presbyterian Church
Organized 1813
John Walker 1815-1845
William Wishart 1847-1868
William C. Waddle 1869-1909
Ministerial Sons of Unity
William H. Walker / William H. Ferguson
Titus Basfield / G. Edgar Henderson
Jas. A. McKee / William A. Mintier
Samuel Patton / Walter J. Hogue
James W. McFarland / Robert F. McCracken
William H. McFarland / J. Walter Watson
John P. Robb / P. Douglas Henderson
Henderson Dysart / Robert A. Pollock
Beveridge Walker
Missionaries And Teachers
Rebecca Smith Gordon
Olive Patton Ely
F. Douglas Henderson
Chauncey L. Pollock

Rachel Walker
Consort of the
Rev. John Walker
departed this life November 10, 1810
In the 35th year of her age
"For me, I thine own face
in righteousness will see;
And with thy likeness, when I wake,
I satisfied shall be."
Psalm 17:15
Erected by her friends associates of
Unity Congregation, in token of their
love & to her memory.

Tom L. Childers at the grave of John Walker

Scott Harp at the grave of John Walker

Rev John Walker
March 8, 1845
In the 60th years of his age
& 36th year of his ministry
having been Pastor of the
Associate congregation of
Unity, 31 years.
Remember how that when I was with you that
I told you these things
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course

Photos Taken May 24, 2012
Site Built October 6, 2012
Courtesy of Scott Harp

I visited the grave of John Walker on the fourth day of a week's restoration research trip. Traveling with me was Tom L. Childers. We met a group of students from East Tennessee School of Preaching on Wednesday at the Alkire Road Church of Christ in Columbus. The following day we made our way toward Bethany, West Virginia when we stopped at the grave of John Walker. Thanks to Tom L. Childers for traveling with me and taking photos.

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