Under the hand of God, Rev. Duncan Campbell became a Christian through the ministry of Robert Findlater in Glenlyon. Later Campbell became minister in Kiltearn, Ross-shire, the location in which Findlater had grown up. Campbell also married the daughter of John Macdonald, the Apostle of the North, who preached often for Findlater. The inter-connections give an insight into the providential control of God.
Duncan was born at Glenlyon on the 21st August 1796. Despite living an outwardly moral life, he was taught that he needed new birth by the Spirit and was converted at the age of twenty-one. In particular he was helped by a sermon Findlater preached from Jeremiah 8:22: ‘Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?’ Ephesians 2:4-5 (‘But God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he has loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, by grace ye are saved') also helped him find peace with God.
After studying at Edinburgh University, Campbell was licensed on March 1, 1832, at Moulin by the Presbytery of Dunkeld. Initially he served as an agent of Perth City Mission. On January 23, 1834. he was ordained and inducted to the Mission Church of Lawers. These were days of spiritual revival to which he often referred in later years. Another change in location occurred in 1837 (when he became minister of the parliamentary charge of Innerwick, Glenlyon), and it was followed by a move north on March 17, 1842 (when he became parish minister of Kiltearn).
His younger brother David (1799–1877) became a minister before him. He was also a minister in Glenlyon (1832-36) and in Lawers (1855-77). In between he was minister of the East Church, Inverness (1836-38) and Tarbat in Ross-shire (1838-55). In 1840, Tarbet experienced a spiritual awakening at its July communion at which Dr. Macdonald, Ferintosh was preaching. The revival spread throughout the area into other presbyteries. Daily services were common and were attended by large crowds; at times the cries from the audiences drowned out the voice of the preacher. Several years later, several of the converts in Tarbert died during an outbreak of fever in the community.
David Campbell had a ministry in which he experienced revival. Writing in 1864, he recorded: 'I witnessed three religious revivals – one in Breadalbane and Glenlyon in the year 1816; one in Tarbert and other parishes in Ross-shire in the years 1840 and 1841; a third in Lawers in the year 1861. Let sovereign grace have all the glory' (Annals of the Disruption, 9-10).
In 1835 Duncan married Margaret Macdonald in Edinburgh. She was the daughter of Dr Macdonald, Ferintosh. Her brother John describes Duncan 'as a man of God, esteemed and respected'. Shortly afterwards John wrote her a letter giving her some advice including this counsel: 'May the Lord make you a mother in Israel, even to His own little ones ! Be a fellow-worker in promoting your husband's ministry — by prayer, by character, by the hand, by the lip, work for your Lord in heaven. The pious wife of a gospel minister may be of incalculable benefit in winning and encouraging souls; but she who is not so will incur the fearful responsibility of arresting the Lord's work. Render yourself, then, up unto the Lord as His; walk in the Spirit, and seek constant love, light, and strength.'
In addition to marrying the daughter of the Apostle of the North, Duncan was also related to the preacher who succeeded his father-in-law as minister of Ferintosh Free Church (Malcolm Macgregor' s mother was Duncan's cousin).
Duncan spent thirty-two years in Kiltearn. In 1843, along with his brother, he joined the Free Church of Scotland. In doing so, he 'resigned one of the best livings in the Church at the call of duty, thereby incurring altogether a loss of some thousands of pounds for conscience sake'. He had to move his family to 'an old wreck of a house' on which he had to make 'considerable repairs at my own expense'. Yet when he reviewed these times after more that two decades (in 1865) he wrote: 'My days are now drawing to a close, and I have great cause to praise the Lord for His goodness to me and mine. He has borne with my manifold infirmities and shortcomings.... Having now had the trial of twenty-two years as a Disruption minister, I bless the Lord for honouring me to be one of that band of witnesses to Christ' (Annals of the Disruption, 407). According to a brief mention of his ministry in Religious Life in Ross, 'he was much esteemed as a faithful evangelical minister of the gospel'.
Towards the end of his life, his mind was on his spiritual state. He became strongly aware of his sinfulness: ‘Oh, when I think of sin, that abominable thing which God hates: my own sins, original and actual, the depth of my spiritual pollution; I feel as if my very flesh would consume.’ He referred to Bible verses such as ‘My soul doth melt and drop away, for heaviness and grief’ and ‘Behold I am vile’ – ‘I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.’ Nevertheless he knew himself the remedy that he had preached to others: ‘Oh, the love of Christ! The blood of Christ! I thank God for Jesus Christ my Lord.’ He accepted his situation in a submissive manner: ‘As to my illness I have no will in the matter. I’m wholly resigned to His will. I lie passive in His hands. His will is best. If He will leave me here a little longer, I’m satisfied; if it is His will to take me home, His will be done.’
On the day he died (October 21, 1873), he asked his elders to come and see him in order to bid them farewell. During that visit they heard the final words he spoke in this life: ‘Jesus – Jesus – Christ crucified – Come with me now through the swellings of Jordan.’