Alexander Carson (1776-1844)
The Presbyterian scholar who discovered the essentiality of Baptism by immersion.
Alexander Carson was born in Northern Ireland in 1776. His early years were influenced by his godly Presbyterian mother and grandmother who instilled in him a love and reverence for God and His Word. This, coupled with his exceptional intellect and unquenchable appetite for knowledge, produced one of Great Britain’s greatest scholars. His love of knowledge set him apart from other boys his age. He had little or no interest in sports or games. He was devoted to his books, reading and studying an average of five hours a day, a practice he would continue throughout his life.
Alexander was converted at an early age, and when he was about 18 he entered the University of Glasgow. His intense study habits and disinterest in all secular activities not only amazed but also antagonized many of his classmates who considered him mad. His achievements at the university were astounding. He graduated at the head of his class and everyone expected he would someday return to the university as the head of its Hebrew and Greek departments.
Alexander was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry just short of his 22nd birthday and assigned to the Presbyterian church in Tubbermore, Ireland. It is surprising that one of Great Britain’s greatest scholars would be assigned to a village of only 500 inhabitants, most of whom were poorly educated farmers. Although the church was in a declining state, Carson’s ability as an expositor of the Word soon filled the chapel to overflowing. Over the next six years, Carson enjoyed a fruitful but uneventful ministry.
But there were storm clouds gathering on the horizon, for that year a Baptist missionary came to Tubbermore. He covered the area with Baptist literature and spoke to anyone who would listen. The Baptist teaching about immersion and infant baptism troubled some of Carson’s members. They expressed these concerns to their pastor. Carson assured his parishioners that he would expose the Baptists and their heresy and provide scriptural support for their Presbyterian practices.
He immediately began a detailed and thorough investigation on scriptural baptism. His study lasted several months and produced a large manuscript in support of the Presbyterian system. One evening, as he sat in front of his fireplace studying his notes supporting infant baptism, he suddenly tossed the manuscript into the fireplace.
Alexander Carson had become a Baptist, but this was not a decision without cost. By embracing Baptist views, he was required to surrender his ample salary provided by the church and the state. His future looked bleak. How would he support his wife and small children?
However, this was not his only consideration. His decision would alienate him from family and ministerial friends. But he believed the scriptures supporting the Baptist position were undeniable leaving him no choice but to obey and to place his future in God’s hands. On the day of his resignation, he delivered his usual three-hour exposition explaining what the scriptures taught on the subject of baptism. He concluded his message by informing his church that he could no longer with a clear conscience support the Presbyterian system, and therefore he must withdraw from the Presbyterian society and resign as their pastor.
One of the most influential men in the church rose to his feet and walked to the pulpit and took the pulpit Bible and lifted it over his head and proclaimed, “Let all who are for God and the Bible, follow me.” Two-thirds of the congregation followed him and cast their lot with the Baptists and their pastor. He had not been forsaken, but his people were poor and for the next ten years they had no regular meeting place. The congregation was forced to meet in barns and, weather permitting, in the open air.
Finally, they were able to construct a chapel that would be enlarged several times until it could accommodate 1,000 worshippers. Carson ministered for over 40 years in Tubbermore and would have been relatively unknown if it had not been for his gifted pen, which brought him worldwide fame. He wrote numerous books but his most famous is his exceptional work on baptism. Dr. Alexander Carson’s earthly ministry ended August 24, 1844.
Editor’s note – Dr. Carson’s book, Baptism In Its Mode and Subject, continues to be reprinted and is carried by several online booksellers.
From: http://www.tribune.org/?p=1122 web site. March 2012.
The above article, “Alexander Carson,” is written by Thomas Ray. The article was retrieved from www.tribune.org in March of 2012.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study and research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”