Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Campbell, John McLeod

CAMPBELL, JOHN McLEOD (1800–1872), Scotch divine, son of the Rev. Donald Campbell, was born at Kilninver, Argyllshire in 1800. Most of his early education was derived from his father, and before he went to Glasgow University at the age of eleven he was a good Latin scholar. He remained at Glasgow from 1811 to 1820, during the last three years being a student at the divinity hall, and gaining the prize for an essay on Hebrew poetry. He completed his divinity course at Edinburgh, and in 1821 was licensed as a preacher in the Scotch church by the presbytery of Lorne. The next four years were spent partly in Edinburgh, where he continued his studies, and partly at Kilninver, where he often preached for his father; and in 1825 he was appointed to the important parish of Row, near Cardross. For some years he worked unostentatiously but zealously. During the second year of his ministry at Row he became impressed with the doctrine of 'assurance of faith,' and this led him to teach the 'universality of the atonement.' This gave great dissatisfaction to some of his parishioners, who in 1829 petitioned the presbytery about it. This petition was, however, withdrawn. The nature of his views may be gathered from his 'Sermons and Lectures,' published at Greenock in 1832. About this time he became a warm friend of Edward Irving. As Campbell did not modify his views, in March 1830 a petition from twelve of his parishioners became the foundation for a presbyterial visitation and ultimately of a 'libel' for heresy. The 'libel' was duly considered and found relevant. The case now went up to the synod, and thence to the general assembly, which, after a hasty examination, found Campbell guilty of teaching heretical doctrines concerning 'assurance' and 'universal atonement and pardon,' and deprived him of his living. The effect of the sentence being to close the pulpits of the national church against him, Campbell spent two years in the highlands as an evangelist. His friend Edward Irving had at this time founded the catholic apostolic church, and some of his followers made considerable efforts to persuade Campbell to join it. His refusal to do so did not break his friendship with their leader, and Irving's last days were soothed by his intercourse with Campbell. From 1833 to 1859 he ministered to a fixed congregation in Glasgow with such success that a large chapel had to be erected for his use in 1843. He was, however, careful to avoid any attempt to found a sect. In 1838 he married Mary, daughter of Mr. John Campbell of Kilninver, and in 1851 he published a small volume on the eucharist, entitled 'Christ the Bread of Life,' and five years later a work called 'The Nature of the Atonement,' a theological treatise of great value which passed through five editions, and has had considerable influence on religious thought in Scotland. In 1859 his health gave way, and he was compelled to give up all ministerial work, many of his congregation by his advice joining the Barony church, of which Dr. Norman McLeod was pastor. From the time Campbell left Row he never received any remuneration for his labours. In 1862 he published 'Thoughts on Revelation.' His health compelled a retired life, varied by occasional intercourse with such friends as Thomas Erskine of Linlathen, Dr. Norman McLeod, Bishop Ewing, the Rev. F. D. Maurice, and Mr. D. J. Vaughan. In 1868 he received unsought the degree of D.D. from the university of Glasgow. In 1870 he removed to Roseneath to live, and in the following year commenced 'Reminiscences and Reflections,' an unfinished work which was published after his death (1873) under the editorship of his son, the Rev. Donald Campbell. In 1871 a testimonial and address were presented to him by representatives of most of the religious bodies in Scotland. Dr. Campbell died on 27 Feb. 1872, and was buried in Roseneath churchyard. Long before his death he had come to be looked up to as one of the intellectual leaders of the time, and in religious questions his opinion carried more weight than that of any other man in Scotland. Besides the works before mentioned, Dr. Campbell published 'The whole Proceedings in the Case of the Rev. John McLeod Campbell,' 1831, and various single sermons.

[J. McL. Campbell's Reminiscences and Reflections; Donald Campbell's Memorials of John McLeod Campbell, D.D.; Oliphant's Life of Edward Irving; Hanna's Letters &c. of T. Erskine; Life of Bishop Ewing; St. Giles' Lectures on Scottish Divines; Story's Life of R. Story of Roseneath; information kindly communicated by the Rev. Donald Campbell, M.A., vicar of Eye. An admirable account of Dr. Campbell's views is given in Scottish Influence upon English Theological Thought, by Dr. J. Vaughan (Contemporary Review, June 1878).]

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