WALTER SCOTT: THE GOLDEN ORACLE

The Restoration Movement's "big four" are Thomas Campbell, Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone and Walter Scott. J.J. Haley wrote:

The last named is fourth in enumeration, but by no means fourth in distinctive importance. In originality of conception, vigor of presentation, enthusiasm, courage, boldness and eloquence, he comes near heading the list.

Haley goes on to write that his contributions stand "first in historical and theological importance."

I. His early backgrounds.

Walter Scott came from Scottish Presbyterian roots. He was born in Moffat, Dumfrieshire, Scotland on October 31, 1796. He was the fourth son and sixth child of John and Mary Innes Scott. The Scotts birthed a total of ten children, five boys and five girls. Evidently the Scotts held to a strict Presbyterianism and were people of considerable sensitivity and culture. John Scott taught music and writers describe Mary Innes Scott as deeply religious.

Although the family was of moderate means, Scott's talent and ability led to his entrance into the University of Edinburgh after preparatory schooling. Scott and his parents were determined that he should enter the Presbyterian ministry when he completed his education.

Scott's uncle, George Innes, invited him to the United States soon after he completed his university studies. Innes operated a government customs house in New York City and earned a comfortable living. As a result, Innes used his income to demonstrate his concern for relatives in Europe. Scott's parents felt he could handle emigration successfully and the family decided Walter should go. Scott sailed on the Glenthorn arriving in New York on July 7, 1818. With his uncle's help he taught Latin in a Long Island classical academy.

Scott found himself attracted to the west. He heard that great opportunity rested across the Allegheny Mountains so he decided to head west. He set out on foot with a friend and very little cash. Walking the entire distance from New York City to Pittsburgh, Scott arrived in Pittsburgh on May 7, 1819.

Soon after his arrival in Pittsburgh, Scott met George Forrester, a fellow Scot. Forrester served as principal of an academy and he engaged Scott as an assistant. Forrester was a Haldanean. Scott's biographer describes their relationship in these terms:

Mr. Forrester's peculiarity consisted in making the Bible his only authority and guide in matters of religion, while his young friend had been brought up to regard the Presbyterian Standards as the true and authoritative exposition and summary of Bible truth. Differing as they did, they were both lovers of truth, and the frequent and close examinations which they made of the Scriptures resulted in convincing Mr. Scott that human standards in religion were, like their authors, imperfect....

On the basis of their Bible study Forrester immersed Scott. Scott then united with a congregation begun by Forrester about 1814.

In 1815, there were three small independent congregations in Pittsburgh. All three had thrown off creeds and taken the Bible alone as their standard of faith and practice. In time, those three bodies united to form a Christian Church in Pittsburgh. Forrester, himself, led two of these three to unite.

By 1820, Forrester's ministerial duties required far more time than he could allow because of the academy. Forrester gave up the academy turning its leadership over to Scott. This division of labor proved beneficial to both but it did not last long. On July 7, 1820, Forrester drowned in the Allegheny River and Scott found himself responsible for the church, the academy, and Forrester's family.

Scott took these responsibilities seriously. During his ministry in Pittsburgh, he found an influential tract emphasizing baptism in 1820. The tract taught that baptism provided remission of sins, escape from God's wrath, the new birth, and salvation. Scott went to New York to search out the group responsible for the tract. When he found them, he came away disappointed for they were not nearly as far into reformation as the tract indicated. Forrester's assembly invited him back and Scott returned to Pittsburgh in 1821. Once back in the pulpit, his popularity as preacher and teacher spread. One evidence of this was the academy's growth from 15 students to 140.

II. Association with the Campbells.

Thomas Campbell met George Forrester in 1816. At the time, Forrester's objectives seemed attractive to Campbell but he also found Forrester's legalism difficult to bear. Campbell also met Walter Scott soon after he arrived on the Western Reserve.

Walter Scott and Alexander Campbell met during the winter of 1821-22. Both were young men, Campbell was but 33 at the time. Scott impressed Campbell and left him convinced that Scott was a most unusual man. Campbell began publishing the Christian Baptist in 1823. Scott suggested its name. Campbell intended to name his paper The Christian, but Scott felt the dual name would attract more Baptist readers. During its early years, the Baptist often featured articles written by Scott under the pseudonym of Philip.

Scott married in 1823; in 1826 Scott and his family moved to Steubenville, Ohio, where he opened an academy. In Steubenville, Scott found three congregations seeking the New Testament order. One Haldanean congregation took the name Church of Christ. A second congregation followed Barton Stone and took the name Christian Church. The third group, a Baptist Church, belonged to the Mahoning Baptist Association and had loose ties to the Campbells. Scott associated himself with the Scotch Baptist, or Haldanean group.

From that point, Scott's life took momentous turns. In 1826, the Mahoning Baptist Association invited him to speak at their annual meeting. Even though he did not belong to the Mahoning Association, they recognized him as a "teacher brother" and asked him to preach. Scott spoke on Matthew 11 impressing all his hearers, particularly Alexander Campbell.

The Mahoning Association held its next annual session on August 23, 1827, at New Lisbon, Ohio. The Wellsburg, Virginia, congregation sent Alexander Campbell as its "messenger." Passing through Steubenville, Campbell invited Scott to attend with him. Scott's biographer says he was "disinclined to do so, as he was not a member of the body, or of any church represented in it." Campbell persuaded him to go anyway and upon arriving the Association invited to him to take a seat and participate fully in the meeting. Many historians now believe Campbell had ulterior motives in taking Scott to this meeting.

The minutes of that meeting show the following action:

7. Voted to take up the request of the Braceville church, which is as follows: "We wish that this Association may take into serious consideration the peculiar situation of the churches of this Association: and if it could be a possible thing for an evangelical preacher to be employed to travel and teach among the churches, we think that a blessing would follow."

The "situation" mentioned in this minute is a total lack of growth experienced in the Mahoning Association during 1826 and 1827. In 1827, Mahoning Baptist Churches in eastern Ohio reported only 17 additions. Records show that in 1827 these congregations reported a total of only 34 baptisms. When compared to exclusions, they found a total of 16 resulting in a net gain, after deaths, of only 13 new members. The 1826 statistics were worse. During this same period the Western Reserve doubled and redoubled in population.

The Association formed a committee to select such an evangelical preacher. When the committee returned -- surprise! -- it noted that "Bro. Walter Scott is a suitable person for the task." When Scott agreed, the selection made history.

During his years in Pittsburgh, Scott concluded that the confession that "Jesus is the Christ" was important. He decided this proposition stood at the very center of the entire Christian faith. Everything else, he believed, flowed from that confession. In time Scott developed a "plan of salvation" which he held to be the "gospel restored." He demonstrated this "plan" using a "five finger" exercise and he used it to great advantage. Scott's exercise is not the usual "five finger" exercise used today. As Scott went throug his fingers he explained it was:

Faith to change the heart.

Repentance to change the life.

Baptism to change the state.

Remission of sins to cleanse the guilt.

The gift of the Holy Spirit to make one a participant in the Divine Nature.

Scott experienced little initial success when he began his efforts. New Lisbon, Ohio, marks the site of his first successful meeting. The New Lisbon Baptist Church extended the invitation to him, and when he arose to preach the people filled every seat and they even occupied all the standing room. He preached on Matthew 16:16, emphasizing Peter's confession. He then moved to Peter's Pentecost sermon leading his hearers to the cry voiced by those addressed, "What must we do?" Scott gave Peter's answer. William Amend, a good solid God-fearing Presbyterian, presented himself for baptism. Amend, who his neighbors regarded as a sincere Christian, felt that "all the churches -- his own among the number -- had departed from the plain teachings of the Word of God." Baxter says that "Mr. Amend was, beyond all question, the first person in modern times who received the ordinance of baptism in perfect accordance with apostolic teaching and usage." After Amend responded things began to happen. Before the next Lord's Day, 15 more responded to the invitation. In the years that followed reports of huge successes came to the Campbells.

The return of Scott on several occasions within a brief period, added to the prevailing interest, and in five months the membership at Warren (Pennsylvania) was doubled, the additions amounting to one hundred and seventeen.

They met again on the following day, and a new congregation was organized, consisting of seventeen or eighteen persons, who had been members of the Baptist Church, and of the new converts baptized by Scott at his first visit -- in all, making nearly thirty. To these, additions were made rapidly, so that in a very short time the new church had a membership of one hundred.

When Scott concluded 35 years of ministry, he had traveled nearly 90,000 miles, preached over 9,000 sermons, and had, himself, immersed 1,207 converts. The churches continued to grow even faster. In 1827-1828 alone, churches reported over 1,000 converts to the churches of the Mahoning Baptist Association.

It is undoubtedly true that the Restoration Movement owes its success to Walter Scott's ingenuity. When Scott died in Mayslick, Kentucky, on April 23, 1861 Alexander Campbell wrote:

Next to my father, he was the most cordial and indefatigable colaborer in the origin and progress of the present Reformation.... I knew him well, I knew him long. I loved him much. By the eye of faith and hope, methinks I see him in Abraham's bosom.

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