THE SYSTEM OF ALEXANDER CAMPBELL: AN EXAMINATION OF ITS LEADING POINTS. 

Mr Campbell proposed, as his main enterprise, to remove the evils of “sects,” by gathering a Christian communion without any creed of human construction, with no other bonds save faith on Jesus Christ as Saviour, and obedience to his laws; that is, every one must be admitted, were this basis laid down consistently, not only as a member, but teacher, who says that he believes and obeys the Scriptures. Mr. Campbell, misapplying the words of John 17:20, 21, says that only two conditions are necessary for the conversion of the world— Truth and Union. He deems that the reason why truth has not done its work is to be found in the divisions of professed Christians. Of these he regards human creeds as causes, instead of results. He strictly requires us to show a divine command or authority for their composition, and for the exaction of subscription to them; and he charges that, failing in this, if we exact such subscription, we are guilty of most criminal usurpation and will-worship. He urges that, to add a human creed to God’s word, as a test of correct doctrinal opinion, is virtually to make the impudent assertion that the uninspired creed-makers can be more perspicuous than the Holy Ghost. But on the contrary, since men uninspired are all fallible, their creeds will inevitably differ from each other, in differing from the truth; and in these differences, factiously supported by their several partisans, is the grand source of the divisions which have so weakened Christianity. Moreover, these human compositions being the work of men and parties, are fondled by their authors with the selfish pride of paternity, and they become the shibboleths of religious factions and bones of contention. The simple remedy for this brood of mischiefs, he deems, would be a return to what he supposes was the apostolic basis, union and communion upon the word of God alone, without human creed, and the requirement of nothing but the fundamental points of belief on Christ as Saviour and obedience to his commands. The mission of Campbellism, then, is to absorb all sects into this one apostolic communion, and thus to prepare the way for the millennium. The usual charges are also freely made by him and his followers, that subscription is an infringement of spiritual liberty, a remnant of popery, etc.

The most obvious method will be to define, first, the proper use of human creeds; for thus the most of these views will be obviated, and the objections will fall away of themselves. It is true that the Roman and Greek churches always, and some Protestant churches sometimes, have used creeds in connection with religious tyranny and persecution. To all such uses we are as strongly opposed as Mr.. Campbell. We accept and are responsible for only the following view of their use. As man’s mind is notoriously fallible, and professed Christians who claim to hold the Scriptures, as they understand them, differ from each other notoriously, some platform for union and cooperation must be adopted, by which those who believe they are truly agreed may stand and work together. It is the only possible expedient, in the absence of an inspired living umpire, such as the pope claims falsely to be, by which fidelity to truth can be reconciled with cooperation. A creed, then, is such a means for enabling Christians to understand each other. It is a human exposition of what is supposed to be the exact meaning of the Scriptures; and differs from those usually delivered from the pulpit only in being more carefully and accurately made by the assistance of many minds. Its setting forth is an exercise of the church’s ordinary didactic function. It must advance nothing which its compilers do not honestly suppose to be fully sustained by the Scriptures; and no authority is claimed for it, in any respect, save that which they believe is communicated by the word of God. It is set forth, not as Mr. Campbell rashly asserts, to anathematise dissentients, a thing which our church never does, but to give a rallying point for those who are in accord, without which they could neither efficiently cooperate in spreading the gospel nor enjoy profitable Christian communion. And further, as the apostle has commanded us to receive into the school of Christ “those who are weak in the faith,” for purposes of instruction, even this modest application of the creed is made only to the rulers and teachers of the church, except as to those fundamentals which Mr. Campbell himself would exact.

1. “We argue, then, in the first place, that the Presbyterian Church now offers to the whole world precisely that basis of union which Mr. Campbell professes to desire. We ask of lay members no profession save of faith on Christ and obedience to his laws. That more should be asked of those who aspire to the responsibility of teachers and rulers among us, we shall show, In truth, we carry out Mr. Campbell’s plan more sincerely than he does himself. For it is notorious that, whatever profession one might make of agreement in faith and obedience, if he only asked to receive baptism by affusion, he should be strictly refused. If, after submitting to immersion, he should ask the same sacrament for his infant children, he should be expelled.

Mr. Campbell would reply to the first point, that according to the Scriptures affusion was not baptism, and its performance in that way was not “obedience to Christ.” He would say that one’s baptizing his infant children was not Christianity, because they cannot believe that Christ is the Saviour of the world.

But one may believe that affusion is, according to Scripture, baptism and that the parent’s faith, according to Scripture, entitles the infants to baptism; and he may claim that he has examined the Scriptures as honestly as Mr. Campbell. Now, Mr. Campbell cannot maintain on his own principles that he is entitled to construe the Bible and another man is not. This would be popery Yet his construction of the Bible, which is nothing but a human creed, is applied as a test of church communion to exclude another, notwithstanding his profession that he accepts the terms of salvation required by Mr. Campbell, as he honestly understands them. Here, then, Mr. Campbell does the very thing which he condemns. According to his own confession he does it in the most objectionable form, for he has admitted that an unwritten creed, used for creed purposes, would be worse than a written one. And this is obvious, for the written one is more fair, stable, and intelligible than the unwritten. The latter gives room for endless misunderstandings, wranglings and inequalities.

The application of this simple touchstone, then, shows that the Campbellite is utterly inconsistent; that he as truly has a human creed as we. And this inconsistency is indeed inevitable. Christian union in the same denomination is impossible between men divided by certain differences. Such differences are inevitable while human reason remains fallible. Protestants admit no pope, no infallible human umpire. The only conceivable alternative is the distribution of Christians who are agreed into denominations upon the basis of human creeds. Campbell’s self-contradiction was, then, fated.

2. Mr. Campbell himself remarks in his Christian System, page 103, that if the result of his reform should be only to add another to the number of the sects, it would be every way to be deplored. This was the predestined result, and it has notoriously been accomplished. The body he has formed possesses every sectarian feature in its most exasperated form. The Campbellite is usually known as an ecclesiastical Ishmaelite. Their leader was more divisive, more denunciatory, more exclusive, than any of the ‘sects he reviled. He excluded more Christians from Christ’s church than are excluded by all the avowed creed-holding churches in America,—Christians who, according to their professions, were already upon his platform of faith, baptism and obedience. And the societies founded by him, while independent in church government, hardened at once into a religious denomination of rigid bigotry.

That Mr. Campbell’s is virtually a creed-holding church, is confirmed by several evidences. For instance, he himself, in the very introduction to his Christian System (page 10), says that, “admonished from the extremes into which some of our friends and brethren have carried some points, I undertake this work with a deep sense of its necessity, and with much anticipation of its utility in exhibiting a concentrated view of the whole ground we occupy,” etc. Here we have the very purposes of a creed avowed. He then tells us that his work will be divided into three parts, of which the second is, “ The principles on which all Christians may form one communion.” What is the statement of these but a human creed? For, of course, these “principles” are simply those on which Mr. Campbell supposes “all Christians may form one communion.” It is equally obvious that in putting forth his Christian System he designed and expected it to have more force than an expression of his personal opinion; he hoped it would be a doctrinal basis of agreement to his sect for the heterogeneous complexion of which he felt so much concern. He designed it, in other words, for a creed.

Another incident exhibits the same fact, that his societies are, after all, based upon a creed. A Dr. Thomas, an Englishman, a professed member and preacher of his sect, began to teach materialism, the sleep of believers’ souls until the resurrection, and the annihilation of infants and unbelievers. Mr. Campbell very properly travelled all the way to Amelia county, Virginia, called him to account, exacted of him a written agreement to preach these doctrines no longer; and, on his breaking over this, published to the world his exclusion from Mr. Campbell’s communion. These measures naturally and necessarily resulted in the formation of a separate sect of “Thomasites,” or “Disciples,” who not only hold a distinct communion, but actually re-immerse Campbellites! Now Thomas and his party all the while professed the platform which Mr. Campbell exacts of men, held believers’ immersion with all the strictness he could desire, and declared that they believed just what was in the Bible. Yet Mr. Campbell had some standard of measurement other than that declaration by which he extruded them. What was it? Evidently nothing else than his nuncupative creed:—

A thing which he himself confessed is worse than a “written one. These instances show, in the most conclusive manner, how impossible it is, practically, for a Christian communion to be really formed on the no-creed basis. The inevitable force of necessity has at once driven from it the very “comprehension” which was to make it its chief glory.

3. But let us now resume the facts noted:—

That all nominal Christians are ready to declare, ““We believe what the Bible teaches;” that yet they differ so much that it is preposterous for them to cooperate in the same communion; and that each man, in ascertaining the concord or disagreement of others with himself, resorts to his construction of what the Scriptures mean. This construction is obviously his human creed.

Mr. Campbell makes a weak attempt (Christian System, pages 18,109,) to escape this, by saying that the testimony of the apostles gives us, as fundamentals, only a set of “facts” ( facta, things done). “But all these modes of faith and worship are based upon a mistake of the true character of revelation, which it has long been our effort to correct. “With us, revelation has nothing to do with opinions or abstract reasonings; for it is founded wholly and entirely upon facts. There is not one abstract opinion, not one speculative view, asserted or communicated in Old Testament or New.” Mr. Campbell immediately refutes this preposterous statement himself; for, after making a similar one on page 18, he adds:—

“These facts reveal God and man, and contain within them the reasons of all piety and righteousness.”…”The meaning of the Bible facts is the true biblical doctrine.” Now what are those “reasons of piety and righteousness contained in the facts?” this “ meaning” of them, which is the true biblical doctrine? They are precisely those principles which he had just before stigmatised as “abstract opinions,” or “speculative views.” To pass from the facts to them requires that very work of construction “whose inevitable result is a “human creed,” i. e., human in terms of expression, though still scriptural and divine in substance, if we construe faithfully. So, on page 111, “The power of any fact is the meaning…All moral facts have a moral meaning,” etc. Then, to make men experience the power, we must construe the meaning to them.

So that we are again led to the same despised “speculative” truths. But it is not true that the Scriptures state only “facts.” “What is 1 John 3:4, for instance, but a general abstract definition of sin? “What shall we make of the doctrinal epistles, or of the sermons of Christ and the apostles, with their numerous principles, logical processes, and definitions? We conclude, then, that, were it true the Scriptures contained only facts, Mr. Campbell’s inference against doctrinal systems would, by his own confession and practice, be false; but, secondly, that the assumption is glaringly untrue.

4. To all our pleas for the utility of creeds, for bearing our testimony to truth, as we conscientiously understand it, or for ascertaining our harmony with those with whom we propose to cooperate in the gospel, or for guiding the instruction of gospel pupils in sound doctrine, Mr. Campbell’s cavil is, that these pleas arrogantly assume that our creed-makers are able to be more perspicuous or correct than inspiration; which is profane as well as false. It, argues he, we revered the Scriptures as we should, as the work of the Holy Ghost, we should wish for nothing more; these would be to us the ne plus ultra of correctness, perspicuity and certainty.

One answer to this is, that it proves too much. By the same reason, Mr. Campbell should never have found occasion to draw up his Christian System; he should never have composed any exposition of the sacred Scriptures or a sermon; his “whole testimony and work as a church teacher should have been in citing men to the words of sacred Scripture and simply reading it to them. We might retort the same cavil, with the same bitterness:—

“Mr. Campbell, why do you presume to expound Paul or the Saviour? It implies the arrogant assumption that you can be more perspicuous or correct than they!”

A second answer is this:—

Mr. Campbell says his belief is precisely what the Bible teaches. We declare that our belief is precisely what the Bible teaches. Yet he and we are notoriously disagreeing! “We now present a second statement of our doctrinal beliefs, which is, to us, an equivalent one:—

“We believe just what the Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches.” Thereupon Mr. Campbell parts company with us. He knows so well, and everybody else knows so well, that he does not believe with our catechism, that he does not pretend it. His resort is, on the contrary, to fight it. Our catechism has, therefore, demonstrably some fitness to detect and unmask the doctrinal differences between these two professed Bible believers which the Bible has not. And one reason of this fitness is, that our catechism is human. Did Mr. Campbell recognize it as inspired, he would mask his real disagreement from it, as he does his real disagreements from God’s word, under his expositions; he would say of the catechism, as he does of the Bible:—

“Oh, I believe just what it teaches, provided it be expounded aright;” i. e., expounded as he wishes it to mean.

But now that our catechism claims to be only a human and fallible work, he is bold to reject it; and thus his disagreement with the truth, as we understand it, is disclosed.

This evident fitness of the creed for this work does not at all imply a superior skill or perspicuity of its authors over the sacred writers. Scripture was designed by God for a different end—to be the ground of all creeds, and the rule of faith for all ages. It is no derogation to the supreme excellence of Scripture to say, that something else better answers a particular end for which Scripture was, in its very nature, not designed nor adapted. If it were, then no preacher or teacher could ever consistently give his exposition of Scripture; he should rather read to the people the words of Scripture themselves, as being better adapted than his words. Another illustration may be found in that ascertainment of the construction of statutes which is made by the adjudications of courts. All civilized people value such judicial expositions of the statute, and attach some authority to them. This is not because judges are better masters of law language than legislators, but because in all language general enough for & statute of general application, a possibility of ambiguity is inevitable. But when an issue is raised, in a concrete case, as to the meaning of the statute, and settled by some agreed umpire, that ambiguity is excluded. In a word, erroneous interpretation, or competing interpretations, having actually presented themselves any intelligent person can then select terms and frame a statement which shall settle the point raised. Further; lapse of time and flux of current usage cause a need of new definition for words of older date or of a dead language. This definition contemporary words can give. Thus, “atonement,” in the English of Sir Thomas More and Henry VIII., was at-one-ment. Among modern Calvinists it has come to mean “penal satisfaction for guilt.” This ability to define by more recent terms arises not from their superior intrinsic accuracy, but from the circumstance that their meaning is at the time technically settled. These remarks explain the utility of human expositions and comments, and they equally justify human creeds. Thus, Mr. Campbell believes “immerse” is more unambiguous than “baptize.’” Hence he gives us his human (Latin) word for the inspired one. That is, he gives us here his human creed as a substitute for the word of Scripture. In a word, a creed is a concerted exposition. of Scripture upon its more important points, made for certain purposes of edification. Now, if those purposes are lawful, as we have shown, this species of exposition is also lawful, unless it can be proved that all exposition by man is unlawful.

5. This leads us to notice the plea, on which Mr. Campbell lays so much stress, that Christ has not authorized the rulers of the church, by any revealed precept, to make human creeds and demand subscription of them. But God has expressly enjoined church rulers to guard the doctrinal purity of the church, and especially of its teachers. (Galatians 1:8-9; 1 John 4:1; Revelation 2:2; Titus 1:9-11; 2 Timothy 2:1; 1:13; Hebrews 13:9; 2 John 1:10.) If it be practically found that this cannot be done without drawing up a human declaration of what is the pure doctrine—as was the case with Arius—then the obligation involves the right to employ this expedient. So, the church is commanded to teach. If experience shows that this involves the building of houses to teach in, then the church rulers properly apply a part of the people’s oblation of their substance to brick and mortar. The charge of usurpation of power to the detriment of the spiritual rights of Christ’s people is further completely dissolved, when we observe that the proper use of creeds, for which alone we contend, does not authorize us to persecute any who differ from our creed, however extensively, nor even to un-church any who differ from it in things not fundamental. Of all these latter, Methodists, Lutherans, Immersionists, Episcopalians, etc., we only determine, by the application of our creed, that they are not of our denomination in the church. We cordially recognize their places in Christ’s church catholic; we recognize their ordinances and discipline; we join them in every act of Christian fellowship and love consistent with the testimony which our consciences constrain us to bear. We neither desire nor attempt to estop their liberty in serving God after their preferred way. And against even those who, like Pelagians and Unitarians, deny the vitals of the faith, we hurl no anathema; we aim no persecutions; we only bear our testimony, and leave them to their Master in heaven. Thus, the employment of this human expedient does not assail or infringe any man’s liberty, but only protects our own.

Here, again, Mr. Camp Dell is fated to illustrate the falsehood of his own cavil in the most crushing way.

He will scarcely assume that the Bible, written by the Holy Ghost in Greek, contains any precept to translate the word baptise by the Latin word immerse, and to exact of all Christians an agreement in this definition as the strict term of their admission to the church of Christ. But this is precisely what Mr.

Campbell does, with a ruthless severity and tyranny unknown outside of Rome. For he not only repels the Christian who demurs from this application of his human creed from his Campbellite communion, but excommunicates him from the church of Christ!

6. Mr. Campbell’s chief objection against creeds is that they are divisive. His favourite weapon is an exposition of our Saviour’s prayer, John 17:20:—

“That they also may be one in us; that the world may believe,” etc. He says that we are here taught,

1. That “the testimony of the apostles is the only and all-sufficient means of uniting all Christians;”

and,

2. That “the union of Christians with the apostles’ testimony is all-sufficient and alone sufficient to the conversion of the world.”

Such is his formal creed on this point. It is unscriptural and false in both its members. Christ expressly defines the union or oneness which was desired as conducive to the world’s believing as a spiritual oneness. Mr. Campbell blindly degrades it into an ecclesiastical and formal union. Christ does not say that the “apostles’ word” was to be “the only and all-sufficient means of uniting all Christians’’ in any sense; least of all in Mr. Campbell’s sense. He prays for the spiritual oneness of all who were to believe through the apostles’ word, by his very prayer shewing that the oneness would require something else than their “word” to constitute and preserve it. Moreover, when Christ refers to their word as a means of their believing, has he authorized Mr. Campbell to say that it can only be such means when not presented in the form of one species of exposition called by Mr. Campbell “human creed?” “We trow not. Had Christ been speaking of organic union at all, he would never have said that the apostles’ testimony was all-sufficient for it, so long as human creeds were kept away. For the apostles’ testimony did not unite all professed believers in their own day! Nor in the two hundred years following, when Mr. Campbell is very certain Christendom was innocent of creeds. Again, it is false that a universal union, conjoined with the New Testament, is sufficient for the world’s conversion. One proof is, that multitudes have lived in such lands as Scotland, where the population was homogeneous, so that while they had the New Testament teachings they were utterly unconscious of any adverse influences arising from denominational divisions, because they were conversant with none. Yet those people were not converted! Mr. Campbell would exclaim that one of his conditions was lacking:—

The New Testament was not faithfully taught them. Ah, sure enough, it was put into their hands unaccompanied with Mr. Campbell’s “human creed” of “immerse.” Again, there are neighbourhoods in this country, where Mr. Campbell’s teachings are so triumphant that “the sects” are as thoroughly exploded and contemned as though they were annihilated.

Does everybody get converted there? This absurd proposition is Pelagian. It ignores the deadness of sinner’s souls, and the necessity of sovereign grace above all means, however good.

In proceeding with the question whether creeds are divisive and retard the world’s conversion, let us expressly concede that all persecutions and uncharitableness, all unchristian dogmatism and bigotry, all angry abuse, all arrogant exclusiveness and un-churching of those whom God receives, have this tendency. This is not because they imply denominational distinctions, but because they belie the Christian spirit, and so dishonour Christ and grieve the Holy Ghost. And we know of no one man who has done as much of this mischief in our day as A. Campbell. He has displayed more arrogant dogmatism, more uncharitable-ness towards dissentients, more railing and harsh judgments towards sincere followers of Christ; he has divided more congregations, peaceful before his incursions; he has aimed totally to un-church larger multitudes of creditable Christians, only for dissenting from his human shibboleth of immersion, than any one this side of Rome. Here, again, he gives himself the most pungent refutation. He is the “no-creed” reformer; and he has created more division in American Christianity than any man on the continent!

But that the orthodox creeds of Christendom have not produced the divisions is demonstrated by this fact:—

There were divisions before there were creeds. Mr. Campbell says the Nicene was the first.

Epiphanius, in the fourth century, enumerated eighty heresies, the most of them before Anus. Mr. Campbell evidently mistakes an effect for a cause. Human creeds are the results, in some form the inevitable results, of religious differences. The causes of those differences must be sought far deeper in the infirmities and blindness of man’s head and heart. And the remedy for these differences must accordingly be found in a deeper cause than the mere removal of creeds. As long as the carnal mind is enmity against God, his method of redemption will be misunderstood and differently understood. The prompting to formulate these competing views in creeds is the result, not the cause, of the mental disease.

Men differ in a similar manner about anything which concerns their passions and interests. It is, for instance, notoriously thus about politics. Mr. Campbell should hold, that instead of parties making platforms, platforms make parties; and that the only and all-sufficient means of securing civil concord and power is for all political principles to be sunk, and for virtuous citizens to vote promiscuously for any and every candidate of safe or of mischievous opinions, who says that ho reveres the constitution.

Mr. Campbell argues, with some show of plausibility, that creeds stimulate the spirit of dogmatism and faction, in that they give points around which pride of opinion crystallizes itself. The creed-makers are touchy and sensitive about their work, because of the pride of paternity. The adherents acquire a factious spirit by associating their symbol with the selfish feelings of party. “We reply, that the infirmities of human nature have doubtless abused a lawful expedient here, as they abuse more or less everything which man employs. No ordinary mortal can draw up an exposition of sacred Scriptures without feeling the same pride of paternity and jealousy. No man can be a vigorous and successful leader in the church without having his person become such a rallying point of faction, far more than any abstract creed.

Certainly Mr. Campbell has not done so. The substitution of a creed in place of a personal leader is the wisest expedient known to man for attaining the wholesome and righteous position of “principles, not men,” which is the very watchword of enlightened liberty. Since Mr. Campbell’s no-creed party has exhibited the very results of division, dogmatism, faction and strife, in the most deplorable degree, we think that the most feasible way to lessen them is to have a carefully prepared creed, and present that as our view of the Scripture meaning, instead of a personal party leader.

7. “We object, in order to take the aggressive, that a communion of Christians collected on the “no-creed”

principle must be what is popularly known as a “broad church.” This Mr. Campbell both confesses and boasts as to his communion. He deplores in one place that in his connection “almost all kinds of doctrine are preached by all sorts of men.” Not very consistently he often justifies and glories in the fact that his is a “liberal” church in tolerating great diversity of opinion under a union in a few fundamentals. Barton W.

Stone, one of his most powerful coadjutors in Kentucky, was an Arian, if not Socinian, to his end. Others of his preachers were Pelagians. A few were professed Unitarians and Universalists. A few were and are evangelical and orthodox. Thus every legitimate objection against the broad-church theory is applicable here:—

1) It is impossible for a broad or no-creed church to be a faithful “witnessing body for the truth. But this is a prime function of the church. (Psalm 68:5, 6; Isaiah 59:21; 1 Timothy 3:15; Revelation 12:17; and especially John 18:37.) The church is a “candlestick” (Revelation 1:20). If any further evidence is needed, it is found in a very short deduction. “What is the church for? The end of its corporate existence is “the gathering and perfecting of the elect.” This is effected through the instrumentality of the truth. It would seem, then, as clear as any deduction that the church should bear a corporate testimony for the truth. Hence, as the ministry and rulers of the church are her only corporate agency, the official testimony of each minister is a part of that corporate testimony, and each one is officially responsible for the tolerated official testimony of the others.

Now, if the church or an officer thereof performs the witnessing duty merely by saying, “We testify “whatever the Bible means,” it is naught. For notoriously all errorists save infidels, all Papists, Socinians, Universalists, and Campbellites, concur in saying so. It amounts to absolutely nothing. To give any edge to our testimony, we must be provided with an answer to the question, “What do you regard the Bible as meaning?” What can that answer be but a virtual creed? Mr. Campbell might admit the necessity of meeting the question, and attempt still to say, “Let the answer be each minister’s faithful exposition of Scripture.” This will not do. So the broad-churchman says, “Let each minister have liberty, in the same tolerant community, to utter his own full and honest testimony to what he deems the truth. So truth will have as full opportunity to correct error as though they were separated into hostile camps.” We reply, this scheme is impracticable and self-destructive, for, on this plan, where is the corporate testimony of the church as a whole? On this plan one’s official responsibility for the official testimony of the comrade whom he helped to clothe with this office-power, is preposterously and wickedly betrayed. On this plan the collisions of truth and error would assuredly become more bitter, provided there were any sincerity of conviction, when occurring in the bosom of the same communion. The only condition which would make the real application of a broad-church theory possible is a faithless indifferentism. And in fact there is no communion on earth consistently broad. Certainly not Mr. Campbell’s. He could tolerate Arianism, Pelagianism, Universalism, and could thus betray the very foundations of God’s honour; yet he was not “broad” enough to tolerate baptism by affusion. Thus the pretended broad-churchism only results in betraying fundamental truths to stickle for some formalistic error and in expelling for some unimportant point those whom God accepts, while embracing those whom God abhors for their denial of essential truth.

2) It is impossible for a broad church to be “a pillar and ground of the truth,” which is the church’s function, because of the logical interdependence of the Christian system. The enemies of orthodoxy suppose that they are uttering a sneer when they say that it is “remorselessly logical.”

This quality, if taken in its true sense, is its glory. Any system which is true must have its parts interdependent. Hence, when one truth is surrendered, however minor, some risk is incurred of the undermining of all the others. The dropping out of one stone from the abutment may loosen the key-stone of the arch itself. “While we heartily admit the distinction between essential and non-essential truths, we can only concede, as to the non-essential error which impugns the latter, that, though it does not, like fundamental error, subject its victim to the necessity of destruction, it certainly creates some liability to pass on to the fundamental error, and so to perdition. Hence, no sound Christian can be willing to give it ecclesiastical rights, as broad-churchism does.

In conclusion, the “no-creed” position of Mr. Campbell prejudices most mischievously the investigation of truth. By stigmatising the orthodox propositions as “human creeds” he has steeled the minds of his followers against the scriptural arguments on which the truth rests. This outcry, with most of his people, has been sufficient to condemn in advance all that is distinctive of Presbyterianism.

II. The Rule of Faith.

Campbellism, like all other types of Anabaptism, betrays its dishonest interest in denying the existence of a gospel and church in the old dispensation. This denial is unavoidable to rid themselves of infant membership in the church. The Campbellite is bolder and more consistent in his error than the evangelical immersionist. The former admits the inspiration of the Old Testament, and yet roundly denies that it is a rule of faith for us. Their authors use such language as this:—

“The former Testament is abrogated.” “The authority of the Old Testament has ceased.” “It is no book of authority to teach us what to do.” “The gospel is not found in it except in type and promise—precisely the forms in which it cannot have authority.”

The purposes of God in inspiring the Old Testament writers are represented as these:—

As the development of the true religion was necessarily gradual, the Old Testament was designed to give a delineation of the imperfect or partial religion given to earlier ages. It contains historical preliminaries which assist us in understanding the completed religion, the gospel, now that it has come. It presents a record of God’s moral government of the race. It contains types and promises of the coming salvation, designed for the instruction of the New Testament age. It reveals permanent and useful moral principles.

The arguments by which this error is sustained are such as these; that the two Testaments contain not two dispensations of the same religion, but two different religions; for thus they understand the two διαθῆκαι, misquoting such passages as Hebrews 8:13; that a new testament supersedes the old; that a “will is not of force until after the death of the testator;” that when the three disciples, on the mount of transfiguration, proposed to set up three tabernacles, one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Jesus, the divine voice answered, “This is my beloved Son, hear him,” meaning thereby to prohibit their attending to the teachings of the law and the prophets, represented in Moses and Elijah, and to recall them exclusively to Christ.

These positions, when coupled with the fact that the ancients were sinful and guilty in the same sense as we, obviously consign them all to perdition, if consistently urged. And here is a sufficient and damning evidence of their falsehood. For we know that there are Old Testament saints redeemed (see, for instance, Hebrews 11.) by divine testimony more certainly than we know New Testament saints are. The motive of these representations is, not only to get rid of infant membership, but of all distinction between the visible and invisible church, of salvation without immersion, of all recognition of Old Testament sacraments, in order to escape those decisive condemnations of the opus operatum in baptism, which are contained in such passages as Romans 2:26-29; 1 Corinthians 10:1-5.

In refutation of this heresy let us present briefly a few plain points. First, The same God would not have two religions for sinners of the same race. The depravity and guilt to be provided for are the same. The obstacles are the same. The divine perfections to be reconciled are the same. Hence we conclude, a priori, that there is but one religion for sinners published to this world. To this agree the Scriptures. (Acts 4:12; Galatians 3:7, 8; Romans 4:5, 6, 11; 3:30.) The faith of the ancients (Hebrews 11.) is the model of our gospel faith, etc. Now, then, whatever is said of the “two covenants,” δύο διαθῆκαι, etc., must be understood of two dispensations of one promise. For the adoption of the phrase, “two covenants,” “new covenant,” and “old covenant,” the Campbellite has no authority above an uninspired version; and it is perfectly manifest that our translators used the word in the sense of two phases of the one covenant.

Secondly, The notable argument from the idea of a “testament” or will is exploded in the same way. It is the same word, diaqh>kh; and there is no good critical authority for translating it, in the places where it is written,” new testament.” The single passage (Galatians 3:17) is by itself abundantly sufficient to explode this notion, -where the apostle argues precisely the contrary, that the diaqh>kh which was first confirmed with Abraham could not be disannulled by a subsequent one. Again, suppose a subsequent testament repeats the larger part of the provisions of the previous one, how then?

Thirdly, The asseveration that the Old Testament contained the gospel only in type and promise is false, and the inference that in those forms it could not have authority is silly. Is the precept, “Kiss the Son,” only a type or a promise? Or this of Isaiah 45:22, “Look unto me, and be ye saved?” And a promise, we assert, is precisely the form in which the gospel does have authority. Abraham’s .faith, the model of the gospel faith by which we are saved, exhibits its virtue precisely in this, that “he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief.” Promises are precisely the things which the New Testament holds forth to our faith now. Types, explained by such promises as we quoted from the Old Testament, are admirably adapted to authorize and confirm faith.

Lastly, Our Saviour and his apostles sufficiently refute this wretched error by commanding us to search the Old Testament for our salvation. (John 5:39; Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 2:6, etc.) They must be hardly bestead, indeed, to shun the hated truths of infant membership, etc., when thus driven to fly into the face of God’s word. Their evasion is to say that the Old Testament is useful for the historical illustration of the gospel, when once that gospel is revealed in the New. Mr. Campbell, who is less rash and candid than his followers, says, “The old was so full of the doctrine of the new institution” that the apostles “apply everything they quote from the law, the prophets, and the Psalms, to the Messiah, etc…Every one, then, who would accurately understand the Christian institution must approach it through the Mosaic,” etc. Now surely, common sense would say that illustrations so full of the gospel as these must teach the gospel! For whom did these Old Testament institutions and promises first illustrate the gospel? The Campbellite would answer, with the Remonstrant of the seventeenth century, only for the readers of the New Testament age. But this is expressly contradicted by God. His word declares that by means of those Old Testament teachings the fathers exercised the same faith and grasped the same salvation as ours.

The New Testament is admitted to be more valuable than the Old, in that it gives a history of the fulfilment of a part of that which the Old had promised, and in that it goes into more perspicuous details.

For this we should be thankful; but we must by no means make it a pretext for throwing away any part of the revealed rule of faith.

III. The Campbellite doctrine of the Trinity.

Mr. Campbell, while illustrating his contempt for the learning and opinions of the church, by the repudiation of the terms “consubstantial,” “eternal generation,” “procession,” and even in one place (Christian System, pages 124-’5) of the word “Trinity,” yet proposes to be orthodox as to the proper divinity of the three persons. He signalises the insincerity of his professions, as to the distrust of human speculation, by making a lame revival of the scholastic rationale of the personal relations, saying that the Word is in God as speech is involved in thought, and that the Holy Ghost is related to God as man’s spirit or soul is to his person. And he seems to speak many honourable things of the Holy Ghost as the “immediate author and agent of the new creation and of the holiness of Christians.” The characteristic of his Trinitarian theory is that, while he admits an eternal personal relation between the Father and the Son, he denies that it is one of eternal generation. The second Person, according to him, is Son only as incarnate. His previous name should be only that of “Word.” “Before the Christian system, before the relation of Father, Son and Holy Ghost began to be, his rank in the divine nature was that of the “Word of God.”

In refutation of this error it is sufficient to refer here to the general argument for the eternal generation of the Son in the simple fact that Scripture should have chosen this pair of words,. the Father and the Son, to express the relation between two persons of the adorable Trinity. There must have been a reason for the choice of these terms—there must be something corresponding to the well known meaning of this pair of names, else eternal truth had not employed them. Of course that meaning must be compatible with God’s immateriality and eternity. It must be stripped of all elements arising out of man’s corporeal finite nature and temporal existence. In the baptismal formula, in the apostolic benediction, and in all such passages as Matthew 11:27; Luke 10:22; John 5:22; 10:33-37; Romans 8:32, the name Son is so used in immediate connection with the name Father as that it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the one is reciprocal to the other. The Son is evidently Son in a sense answerable to that in which the Father is Father. The two first passages enumerate the three Divine Persons as making up the Godhead in its most distinctively divine attitude of receiving the highest acts of our worship. The other passages bring to view acts wherein the Father and the Son mutually share honours which are essentially divine. If the paternity is something characteristic and permanent, so is the filiation. If the Father is. eternally Father, the Son must be eternally Son.

IV. The Campbellite theory of the “Application, of Redemption.”

This is so stated as to disparage the forms and nomenclature of theology as much as possible. This dress of the new theory is due, perhaps, partly to ignorance and partly to the desire of contemning the existing learning of the church. It may be stated, in brief, that the result of all is a combination of Pelagianism with an opus operatum theory of baptismal redemption, It is virtually contained in the following propositions:—

1. All the terms by which other Christians suppose the application of redemption to be denoted, Mr. Campbell declares, mean a “change of state,” or a “change of relation,” and not a change of character or moral quality. This, he holds, is as true of the terms, new ‘birth, regeneration, adoption, sanctification, redemption, as it is of the term justification or remission. And, like other Pelagians, he limits justification to remission. 

The grounds on which he holds this definition seem to be these:— 



(1) That all these terms are predicated interchangeably of the saved; whence he seems to infer, with evident sophism, that they are synonymous; and as justification and adoption are indicative of a change of relation, so must be the rest;

(2) That the word regeneration (παλιγγενεσία) occurs but twice in the sacred Scriptures—Matthew 19:28; Titus 3:5; in the former place meaning “a change of state,” or dispensation of the church, and in the latter, being defined by baptism;

(3) That personal regeneration is described by “new birth”; but birth does not change the nature of the foetus which existed before as a human embryo (not equine, canine, etc.), and is at birth only introduced into a new state.

Of the second ground, we remark, that this is a mere verbal quibble, grounded in the fact that modern Christians have happened to adopt the English word “regeneration” as the equivalent, not of παλιγγενεσία, but of what sacred Scripture calls γεννᾶσθαι ἄνωθεν. How obvious this is, appears when we remind Mr. Campbell that the Westminster Confession, which he so hates, does not use the English word with this ambiguity, but calls the spiritual change “effectual calling.”

Where, now, is his argument? But in Titus 3:5, the regeneration, or παλιγγενεσία, is the spiritual change. For the “washing of regeneration,” or, as Mr. Campbell will have it, bath (λουτρόν), is explained by the “renewal of the Holy Ghost” (ἀναχαίνω σιν), which is unquestionably a spiritual change. As to the last ground, that also is a wretched quibble; for, unfortunately for Mr. Campbell, the word in the Greek is γεννᾶσθαι, which expresses begetting rather than parturition, the origination of existence, and not a change of state.

Mr. Campbell argues, speculatively, that all these terms must express change of state merely, because a change of character or moral quality must be the result of the motives which the change of state presents. That is, the privileges and blessings of the Christian state are the efficients of the affections of the Christian character. The well-informed student will see at a glance the affinities of this view with Arminianism. It is essentially a Pelagian theory of regeneration by the power of motive primarily.

No well-informed student needs to look far for the proofs of the utter unscripturalness of all this definition. Nothing is more clearly settled by the “Word than that, while justification changes the legal relation, quickening and sanctification revolutionize the character, or introduce and propagate a new moral character. Man’s ruin includes two main parts, depravity and guilt; his remedy in the gospel includes the two corresponding parts, justification and moral renovation. Again, the latter is also described as a quickening of souls dead in sin, an illumination, a “begetting from above,” a “new creation unto good works.” The result in which it everywhere issues is holy character. But we feel that we almost insult the reader by seeming to judge argument needful against this absurdity.

Such texts as these may be advanced against it with peculiar force:—

Ezekiel 36:26; Deuteronomy 30:6; Psalm 51:10; Ephesians 5:26; Matthew 5:8; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10; Romans 6:5, 6; 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

2. All Campbellites teach that this change of state, by which the man is brought into the saved state— call it forgiveness, repentance, conversion, or what you please—must be instituted in order to the reception of the Holy Ghost. Thus Richardson, Principles of the Reformation, pages 74, 75:—

”The notion that the Spirit may be received before faith is vague and unscriptural. It is not until the heart is purified by faith that the Holy Spirit may enter to dwell therein.” “Peter taught, [He-form and be baptized Christian System, page 64] for the remission of sins, and you shall (then) receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.’” Their main reliance is upon the words of John 14:17—“whom the world cannot receive”—which they understand to teach that a man must be converted from the world before he can be subjected to spiritual influence. ‘

Says Richardson, with astonishing effrontery, “It is nowhere stated that the Holy Ghost was given to any one to make him a believer or a child of God.” The reader will be reminded at once of such passages as Ephesians 1:19 (to us-ward who believe); Ephesians 2:8-10; John 6:63, 44-45; 16:8; 1 Corinthians 2:4-5; Romans 8:7, 8, 14, 2; 2 Corinthians 3:17; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Hebrews 10:29; 1 John 5:1; and most expressly, 1 Corinthians 12:3, 9; 2:12.

But, if the Holy Ghost is not the agent who first in-works faith, who or what is? Their answer is, the gospel. Here they misapply all such passages as the parable of the sower; 1 Corinthians 4:15; 1 Peter 1:23. That is, saving faith is, according to them, the effect of gospel inducement alone, operating upon the will; and thus all their seeming concessions that the Holy Spirit is the agent of the new creation are reduced to this miserable evasion, that he inspired the apostles and evangelists, who thus give us an authentic gospel offer, to be the sufficient and sole cause of faith.

But, before we pursue this branch of their error, let us look further into the absurd idea, that the sinner must be converted without the agency of the Holy Ghost, in order that he may be sanctified by that agency. The whole scheme is a crude mass of self-contradictions. The heart must be made pure by conversion, in order, forsooth, that this pure Agent may come to dwell in it. But a little before we were taught that conversion was only a change of state, and not of character or quality! Again, conversion and sanctification are generically the same kind of work, related as are germination and growth. Conversion, in the sense of regeneration, introduces the spiritual life, sanctification nourishes it. Now, if a divine agent is needed to nourish and enlarge it, fortiori is he needed to introduce it. (See, here, Campbell’s follies.) My instrumentalities, e. g., can do a great deal to nurture a plant which has life; they can do nothing at all to originate that life where it was not. Again, these authors recognize the fact that God “purifies the heart by faith.” “Now, if faith is a function of spiritual vitality, how comes it in a dead soul without an adequate external agent? Again, according to this wonderful invention, the agency of the Holy Ghost, which in conversion is only indirect and instrumental, like that of the preacher, should in sanctification become immediate. But they do not, in fact, believe in any immediate agency of the Holy Ghost anywhere; and the only spiritual influence which their system recognises is moral suasion. Common sense will pronounce on the preposterousness of this whole scheme by raising a simple question:—

If a converted man needs the Holy Ghost to grow in grace, how much more must an unconverted man, dead in trespasses and sins, need him to get into grace?

3. The next proposition settles the nature and genesis of faith as the simple and natural result of the moral suasion of the gospel. Here, again, their teachings are a jumble of contradictions; but the practical result is Pelagian. Campbell begins by distinguishing between belief and trust, and teaching very correctly that saving faith includes the latter. But he ends by flouting the distinction between historical and heart-faith, though he himself had illustrated ( Christian System, pages 52, 53) that difference correctly. Richardson says that faith must embrace Christ for salvation, and that in his threefold offices of Prophet, Priest, and King (page 31). He thus teaches a truth utterly destructive of his own scheme. For, to embrace a Saviour from sin to holiness must imply a true appetency of will for holiness and against sin. But in order for this, the native appetency for sin, which is the regular law of the sinful will, must have been revolutionized.

These writers usually claim great credit for teaching that, according to them, “the object of faith is not a doctrine, but a person;” and they falsely charge us with the contrary. But when they come to expound what is involved in this trust on the person of Christ, they necessarily introduce the doctrines concerning him, which characterize him as a saving person, just as far as we do, only not correctly.

Mr. Campbell deems authentic testimony the sole efficient of faith. Let us remark, in passing, his inconsistency in exalting the value of what he calls “fact” over truth, and direct testimony over doctrinal deduction, with his own Pelagian and rationalistic scheme. If testimony is the sole efficient of faith, by virtue of its rational inducement, as he teaches, then why might not doctrinal deduction also produce it?

But it is Mr. Campbell’s delight to flout doctrinal truth as worthless in comparison of testified “fact.” Now deduction may, when logical, establish as firm an intellectual conviction as testimony can. If Mr. Campbell supposes that testimony produces conviction by a non-logical process, he is ignorant of its nature. Thus, Mohammed testifies, as positively as Jesus, that he will give heaven on certain terms. Why does Mr. Campbell believe Jesus and discredit Mohammed? This question is the touchstone. The answer is, in order to give credit to testimony the credibility of the witness has to be weighed. And that is a logical process. The ascertainment of Christ’s credibility is a doctrine, a truth reached by logical process, and it is in order to all influence of the facts testified. Thus, if testimony can generate faith, so can doctrinal dogma; so can logical speculation, if it is correct speculation; for it may present inducement as convincingly as testimony. Now, Mr. Campbell urges very correctly, that doctrine does not prove adequate to generate saving faith. This proves that neither testimony no; doctrinal deduction is the efficient of faith; the cognition of them, a rational process in both cases, is only the condition by which the Holy Ghost generates faith.

Mr. Campbell’s philosophy about faith, then, is the following; He believes that in every case of sense-perception the object perceived is the efficient of the affections of soul evoked, instead of the mere occasion. (Christian System, page 114.) The same law, he proceeds to teach (p. 115), “holds universally in all the sensitive, intellectual, and moral powers of man.” “All our pleasures and pains, all our joys and sorrows, are the effects of the objects of sensation, reflection, faith, etc., apprehended or received, and not of the nature of the exercise of any power or capacity with which we are endowed.” This astounding piece of psychology is the comer-stone of his whole theology! He proceeds to illustrate his false principle thus:—

When the eye looks on a pleasing or repulsive scene; when the ear listens to melody or discord; when the nostrils smell a rose or carrion; when the palate tastes the sweet or bitter; when the fingers touch ice or fire; the pleasure or pain of sense is due exclusively to the nature of the object, and not to the manner or nature of the sensational perception, which in each pair of objects was the same. So, says he, when we pass to the inner man, it is not the nature of the recollection, reflection, belief, but the object represented, which is the exclusive efficient of mental action. A father hears (credibly) that a lost sheep is found, that a lost son is restored. The assent to the testimony is of the same kind. Why does the latter news produce more emotion? The cause is solely “in the nature of the facts believed.” He asserts that the same law is universally true of the will—that the objects on which the affections exercise themselves are the sole causes inducing us to action. The consistent conclusion of all is, that objective inducement presented in the gospel is the sole, the sufficient, indeed, the only possible efficient of faith and spiritual affections!

Thus Mr. Campbell, after making it the business and malignant pleasure of his life to libel and revile the church as founding its faith on human speculation instead of God’s testimony, as he charged, returns and founds his whole system of religion upon a miserable, exploded, and stupid speculation of a purely human and anti-Christian psychology! To this wretched philosophy, falsely so called, and which he does not even presume to sustain by a single proof-text, he must then proceed to wrest and force the sacred Scriptures by such license and dishonest violence of exposition as we have seen.

Every scholar sees here, at a glance, the psychology of the sensualistic schools. The occasional cause is mistaken for the efficient. Object and effect so exclusively occupy his attention that the SUBJECT is wholly omitted. It should have given Mr. Campbell some pause, in this absurd analysis, that one result of it is utterly to overthrow, not only that self-determination of will to which he holds, but free-agency itself. The deduction is very short. For, if the objective is the whole efficient of desire and volition, then, supposing the object presented, the volition is mechanically necessitated. Appetency and volition are the physical results of the perception of the object, just as pain is of a blow. Mr. Campbell has shown himself ignorant of the cardinal distinction between subjective motive and inducement. When Mr. Campbell’s instances are inspected, we see that, where contrasted objects are presented to any sense, as the beautiful and ugly, etc., etc., the objects are the occasions of the pleasure or pain; but a subjective sensibility is the true cause or efficient. The beautiful landscape pleases the man of taste, it is viewed with indifference by another.

Why? As Mr. Campbell asserts, there is no difference in the method or perfectness of the visual perception in the two men. Why do not like causes produce like effects here? The perception is not the cause but the occasion of the aesthetic pleasure. The true cause is in a subjective sensibility possessed by the man of taste. So, when the father hears of a restored son and a recovered sheep, the cause of the greater joy at the former is parental affection—the news is the occasion. And, in like manner, when the gospel was preached by inspired men, “and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed,” while others did not, it was because the former had a subjective appetency, inwrought by the Holy Ghost, which caused their wills to embrace Christ. When Mr. Campbell says we trace the effect to “the manner or nature of the faith,” he states the issue falsely. “We trace it to the a priori subjective character of the heart or moral appetency. And as these we know are by nature for sin and against holiness, it is morally certain that the soul unquickened by the Holy Ghost will not believe with the heart. The well-informed reader will scarcely need a demonstration of the falsehood of this whole philosophy. But, we repeat, such a proof is seen in the fact that the scheme is inconsistent with the maxim that “like causes produce like effects.”

“Were the objective the true efficient of the mental state, the same objects should always produce the same states. But note that this is not true, either in the case of senses or aesthetic or moral affections. The same objects educe different effects, or none, from different men, according as their characters vary. This shows that the true efficient is the character, and not the object.

It is obvious that, upon the Campbellite scheme, saving faith can be conceived of as no other than temporary faith. Take notice, it arises, say they, in advance of any work of the Holy Spirit. It is the effect purely of gospel inducement, as acting upon the natural heart. No better description of temporary faith could be given. It is equally obvious that no consistent Campbellite is a believer in the doctrine of total depravity or inability of will in the natural man to spiritual good. For surely faith, by which a man “passes from death unto life,” is a spiritual exercise and a choice of spiritual good. The argument is conclusive, that if faith is an embracing of Christ for salvation as ho is offered to us in the gospel, and if the carnal mind is enmity against God, faith can only be put forth by that heart in which the Holy Spirit has wrought his renewing work. Accordingly, we find Mr. Campbell saying many seemingly scriptural things about the fall and universal sinfulness; but he does not believe that man’s will is totally alienated from God. And many of his comrades preach on this point the most unblushing Pelagianism.

Another result of this view of faith is to make man decide his own religious destiny solely by his own self-determination. Sovereign grace is exploded. Man believes solely from the efficiency of gospel inducement, without any work of the Holy Ghost. So the “obedience of faith,” which is immersion, is the choice of the natural man. To this remission is pledged, and the Christian state with all its privileges is now fully inaugurated. There is no election, save the general purpose to bestow reconciliation and grace on the immersed believer.

4. The fourth and last proposition defines Mr. Campbell’s idea of the nature of the Holy Spirit’s operation in grace. The reader will recall the deceptive and inconsistent statement, that the Holy Ghost is given only after conversion. It will appear that Campbellism really holds to a spiritual work as little after as before.

The statement sometimes made by its exponents is the semi-Pelagian one. Sometimes they speak in terms which might have been used by Claude Pajon and his school; but in other places they speak out more candidly as simple Pelagians. Thus Mr. Campbell (Christianity Restored, pages 350, 351):—

“As the spirit of man puts forth all its moral power in the words which it fills with its ideas, so the Spirit of God puts forth all its converting and sanctifying power in the words which it fills with its ideas.”

Again:—

“When we think of the power of the Spirit of God exerted upon minds or human spirits, it is impossible for us to imagine that that power can consist in anything but words and arguments.” There is no uncertainty here.

That this is the real view of Campbellism, is shown by its thorough consistency with their doctrine of faith and repentance. It is precisely the scheme of Pelagius and Socinus. In technical language it is the theory of conversion by moral suasion alone. Mr. Campbell, in his debate with Dr. Rice, defends it,

1st, By the shallow philosophy already exposed, inferring hence that objective inducement is the only moral power which can operate consistently with man’s rational constitution.

2nd, By the fact that no converting or sanctifying power is ever seen apart from Bible truth.

3rd, By the fact that all the exercises and views of converted people reproduce the conceptions of gospel and spiritual things found in the Scriptures, and no others.

4th, That as every case of spiritual life is generically the same, whatever is essential to one case is essential to all. From this very just premise Mr. Campbell attempts to draw the illogical conclusion that, if God regenerates one case, say an infant, without the understanding of the truth, he must renew all cases without it! He infers hence that on any other scheme than his of mere moral suasion, all ministrations of the word are wholly useless.

5th, By the fact that God, Christ, the Holy Ghost, and the apostles, always ply men’s souls with gospel inducement; and by the numerous passages in which truth is spoken of as the instrument, like this:—

“Sanctify them through thy truth,” etc.

The reader will see at a glance that all this is a very good argument to prove that the truth is the ordinary instrument, and ordinarily an essential instrument of conversion; but as an argument to prove that moral suasion is the only form of spiritual power in the case, the real issue, it is naught. The refutation of the whole is in one word of the Holy Scriptures (Psalm 119:18). To produce actual vision in a blind eye there must be first the curative agency and then the light. So to produce spiritual vision, the soul must be supplied with truth, the intelligible medium; but access must also be made for it to the “blinded soul by direct spiritual power.

It may be profitable also to note the points made by Dr. Rice in his reply. He argued first and fundamentally from total depravity, proving the fact irrefragably, and showing that an almighty operation, other than moral suasion, is needed in such a heart to open it to such suasion. He then shows that this direct operation, though mysterious, is possible, first, By the fact that God at first created man upright; second, That God influences the minds of men in other and secular actions by his secret providence, as in Exodus 34:24; Proverbs 20:1, etc. Dr. Rice’s third argument is that, if conversion is only by moral suasion, then all infants and idiots must be damned. By this point Mr. Camp-bell felt himself much pressed. He at length resorts to the supposition that, as he gloried in asserting the salvation of all infants dying in infancy, while his theory of moral suasion alone compelled him to admit they left this world unrenewed, they must, therefore, be purified by some immediate operation in the next world. This he calls their “physical regeneration after death”; and he says it is effected by divine power, as the “change” will be wrought on those who are alive at the resurrection. Dr. Rice should have pressed Mr. Campbell here with this obvious surrender of his fundamental ground, that any other moral power than suasion is impossible, consistently with the rational constitution of mind. “What difference does it make, in theory, whether this almighty change, over and above moral suasion, is in this world or the next? This is enhanced by remarking that as “grace is glory begun, so glory is but grace perfected.” The system of grace in the militant and triumphant church differs only in degree. Our advocate did press him so that he was driven to assume the ground that infant depravity is only corporeal! and is removed by the bodily resurrection!

Dr. Rice argues, in the fourth place, that if regeneration were by moral suasion alone, there would be no such thing in gospel lands as intelligent and wilful rejection of the gospel; but all unbelief would be accounted for by ignorance or misconception.

In the fifth place, he refers to that class of passages which teach a gracious operation in order to the saving apprehension of the gospel; such as Jeremiah 32:39; Ezekiel 36:26, 27; Psalm 119:18; Luke 24:45; Acts 16:14. In the next place, he argues from the fact that repentance and faith are God’s gifts (1 John 5:1; 1 Corinthians 3:6; Acts 5:31; 2 Timothy 2:25).

Mr. Rice’s seventh point was that, on the theory of moral suasion, it is unreasonable to pray for new birth, either our own or another’s. God has no power save that deposited in the gospel; and the only rational thing to do is to ply the soul with its inducements. This point is sustained by two facts:—

That it actually presents itself in the teachings and corollaries of some of Mr. Campbell’s followers; and that many of them do, in fact, pretermit all such prayers.

Dr. Rice’s eighth argument is from the phenomena of genuine revivals, where we see the gospel, known before, but inoperative, suddenly assume an unwonted efficiency, as means, to revive Christians and quicken sinners. This new effect implies a new power. He then closes his argument by claiming that at least nine-tenths of the reverent and thoughtful readers of the Bible, in all ages, have believed that it teaches the doctrine of a special divine influence above moral suasion.

V. The Campbellite doctrine touching the effect of baptism.

With Campbell’s theory of the application of redemption is closely connected his doctrine touching the effect of baptism. None need to be told that, as to the mode of baptism, he is an immersionist of the straitest sect; and as to the subjects, he denies infant baptism with violence. But there is nothing in his treatment of these points not already familiar in our controversy with other immersionists. We therefore simply refer now to the usual discussions, except upon one particular. Mr. Campbell pays an unwitting tribute to the force of our argument for infant membership from the Abrahamic covenant. He does this by his endeavour to evade it; which is, by teaching that God n compacts with him—one secular, the other spiritual ( Christian System, p. 134). Mr. Campbell labours to separate these parts of the Abrahamic covenant. To the one he refers temporal political blessings, and to the other religious blessings. He then intimates that circumcision was the badge of the secular covenant only. It is easy to retort this piece of dishonesty to the overthrow of his own cause; for if there were two covenants with Abraham, then circumcision was undoubtedly the sign and seal of the spiritual. See Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Romans 4:11-12; Galatians 3:7. And that it was not a sign expressive of or coincident with God’s secular favour and the possession of the land of Canaan, see Deuteronomy 28:64; Romans 9:6-7.

As to the design and effect of baptism, the Campbellite theory is substantially the opus operatum one. It cannot be said to be “baptismal regeneration,” because with them the new birth is not a change of spiritual character, but only of state; a passing from condemnation to pardon. This is effected, according to them, in baptism. They say that the immersion of an unbeliever would, indeed, procure no remission, but that sins are pardoned through faith and baptism. A favourite formula with them is:—

“Sins are remitted to believers in the act of baptism.”

Errett, page 73:—

“It is the appointed means through which the assurance of pardon is actually bestowed.” Campbell, in his debate with Dr. Rice, was allowed to state his proposition, “Baptism is for the remission of sins,” ambiguously. He uses the preposition “for” in the sense of “in order to.”

His true doctrine may be defined from his Christian Baptist, pages 416, 417:—

“At the very instant our bodies are put under the water, our former old sins are all washed away, provided only that we are true believers.”

Campbellite writers usually illustrate their doctrine thus; a man may be elected or appointed to an office of authority and trust, but he does not exercise its functions or enjoy its emoluments until the oath of inauguration is taken. Up to that moment official acts by him would be illegal. After that moment they are legal Again:—

The sentiments of an immigrant maybe thoroughly attracted to the United States, and his residence fixed there for life; but until he takes the oath of naturalization he does not possess any right of citizenship. Two people may be thoroughly united by affection; but until the marriage ceremony is performed, their cohabitation would be illicit. Thus, says Campbell, this side of baptism, the believer is in one state, that of condemnation; on the other, he is pardoned, adopted and saved. It may be perceived, at a glance that these instances present a false analogy. “Were they only applied to explain why and how the outward or formal privileges of the visible church connection are suspended on baptism they would be relevant; but when the thing in question is our spiritual state, and that before an omniscient God, where all is of grace, and the gospel term is an inward principle, faith, the case is very different. Such loose analogies are worthless against the express promises of God. It should, however, be said, in justice, that like the Romanists, they make baptism only the formal cause of remission, and teach that the meritorious cause is Christ’s sacrifice.

They claim, with much clamour, that the Reformed divines and symbols, and especially the “Westminster and the Thirty-Nine Articles, teach their doctrine; and that we have really forsaken our own standards on these points. Their supposed proof is that the Confessions say baptism is not only a sign, but a seal of the remission of sins, our engrafting into Christ, etc. It seems hard to make them see that they have leaped from one idea to another wholly different, in thus confounding the attestation by a sacrament, of a blessing already conferred on terms entirely non-formal and spiritual, with making the sacrament the essential term for conferring the blessing. To our minds the difference is clearly enough expressed in the words of Paul:—

Circumcision was to Abraham a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised. Every one sees that the sphragistic nature of the sacrament is destroyed by assigning it an opus operatum power. For visibly to effect a work is one thing, to attest its performance by an invisible agent is a different thing. As fruition excludes hope, so the former supersedes the latter.

The Campbellite writers also speak great things of the superiority of their system, as giving to the convert a palpable and express assurance of his forgiveness, conditioned on a definite act, instead of a mystical state of feeling called “supernatural faith.” Thus Errett:—

“The sects, upon this subject, believe neither the Scriptures nor their own creeds. This seems to be owing chiefly to the fact that a particular theory of spiritual operations, which has gradually almost monopolized the minds of the Protestant community, makes the assurance of pardon to rest on certain feelings, or upon what are thought to be supernatural visions, or special spiritual communications. The attempt is thus made to transfer the office of baptism, as the remitting ordinance, to vague emotional or mental impressions; and to effect this purpose the connection of baptism with remission of sins is totally denied.” The reader sees how unscrupulous is this misrepresentation, stigmatising the scriptural faith to which forgiveness is promised by God, the simplest of acts of soul, the most carefully defined in the sacred Scriptures and distinguished in the case of the true believer by definite fruits and the witness of an infallible Spirit, as “vague emotional impressions.” But, further, these men admit fully that the immersion of an unbeliever would not effect the remission of his sins. Faith, then, as well as immersion, is the essential term of pardon. And without the faith the immersion would be naught’ So that they, as much as we, must” make the assurance of pardon rest on certain feelings.” Thus, Simon Magus “believed and was baptised,” yet, according to Peter, he was “in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity.” To settle that matter, everything turned upon the nature of Simon’s pretended faith. So absurd is this pretence in their mouths. “We should like to know whether it is not more comfortable to infer our assurance of pardon from a scriptural faith, wrought by the Spirit and answering in nature and fruits to his revealed marks, than from the shadowy dividing line between a temporary faith “wrought by moral suasion on the natural mind, and the miserable sham called believing with which so many thousands have gone through Campbellite immersion to return immediately like the sow to her mire.

Mr. Campbell argues that his ritual scheme of forgiveness is in strict conformity to the Protestant belief, that no faith justifies save the faith that works. (James 2:22, etc.) The act of submitting to immersion, says he, is that test work in which, when faith culminates, it actually justifies. This act of dipping is that “obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26) made known to all nations by the gospel. Those expositors are most probably correct who make the faith a genitive appositive, so that faith itself is the obedience. But let us adopt the other construction; and the sacred Scriptures everywhere else will teach us that the obedience which proceeds from faith is that whole career of holy living which flows from a “faith working by love.”

When Mr. Campbell would substitute for this life-long fruit, in the meaning of such passages as that of James 2., one easy, cheap, ritual act, he most wretchedly degrades the plan of salvation and the sanctifying energy of true faith.

His scriptural argument for his water justification consists in part in an attempt to identify immersion and conversion, and the “new birth, as different terms for the same thing in the New Testament. This absurd license of interpretation he supposes will enable him to press into service all the texts where conversion and regeneration are connected with remission. Its refutation is easily effected by showing that the ideas of conversion and new birth are as well known in the Old Testament, where, according to Mr. Campbell, there is no Christian baptism, as in the New Testament; that in both they are notoriously spiritual works (Matthew 13:15) as opposed to ritual; that Christ rebukes Nicodemus because, being an Old Testament scribe, he was not familiar with the idea of the new birth; but he could not be expected to know anything of water baptism as a gospel sacrament, that in Acts 3:19, conversion is the sequel and fruit of μετανοίας and that according to the Apostle John (1 John 5:1), all who believe are already born of God, while Mr. Campbell himself makes believing the necessary prerequisite of baptism; whence it follows that the new birth precedes baptism—is not identical with it.

Mr. Campbell has, of course, his proof-texts. They are such as John 3:5; Acts 2:38.; 22:16; Mark 16:16.

Galatians 3:27; 1 Peter 3:20; Titus 3:5; Luke 3:7; Acts 10:14; Ephesians 5:25, 26. These are the texts which he regards as strongest. He uses them precisely after the same perverse fashion in which Romanists and ritualists employ them to prove the opus operatum. The solution is easy. The sacramental union between the element and the grace naturally leads to the employment of the name of the symbol to describe the grace symbolized. Take, for instance, John 3:5-6; the context proves that Christ was not intending the sacrament of baptism by the words, “born of water and the Spirit,” because that sacrament was not yet appointed, and Nicodemus could not have been rebuked for not understanding it. The force of the words is, “Born of that which the water of purification represents, the Holy Spirit.” So, when Peter speaks of “repenting and being baptized in the name, etc., for the remission of sins,” he cannot mean to make baptism as important as repentance, for he mentions it no more in any subsequent address. But had it been so essential, he could not have honestly omitted it. Mr. Campbell tacitly assumes that “for” means here “in order to,” whereas this preposition of most extensive use (ei<v) may mean “for commemoration of.” “When Paul’ says, ““We are saved by the washing,” or, if you please, “bath,” as Mr. Campbell says, λουτρόν, of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, he does not mean that water baptism is that regeneration, but on the contrary, in strict accordance with the sacramental language of the Bible, we are saved by that spiritual cleansing which washing with water represents. “When the Apostle Peter says “baptism saves us,” he immediately guards himself against Mr. Campbell’s idea by disclaiming it:—

“Not the putting off of the filth of the flesh, but the εἴπερ ὦ τημα of a good conscience towards God.” But it is unnecessary for us to go farther in detail.

The correct statement of the Scripture view of baptism is of itself a reply to much of the above pretended argument. It is a positive ordinance enjoined by God for his glory in the church’s edification. One of those edifying uses is to be a badge of profession, separating the visible church from the world of the ungodly. Here the illustrations of the marriage ceremony and naturalization oath are germane. To the outward, formal privileges of the visible church baptism does immediately introduce us. Secondly, it is a didactic ordinance, teaching several central truths of the gospel by admirably expressive symbol, in the most pungent and impressive manner, as our separation from the world and engagement to be the “Lord’s, the cleansing of our guilt by Christ’s blood and of our corruption by his Spirit. Thirdly, it is a sphragistic ordinance, not only sealing our vow to God, but, if our hearts are faithful, sealing his gracious promises to us; and thus, through the Holy Ghost, greatly strengthening both our devotion and our faith and assurance. In this “way baptism is very useful and necessary to the church and edifying to the person. It is a plainly enjoined and important duty. Therefore its wilful neglect must be a sin. This sin, if unrepented, will be, just like any other wilful sin, a sure index and occasion of the soul’s ruin. But we deny that water baptism is the essential term of salvation in any such sense as is faith. In the words of Turretin, “ Non privatio, sed contemptus damnat.”

As the Campbellite doctrine is not identical with the Romish opus operatum theory, but has its own phase, we submit an outline of an argument, partly new, in refutation of it.

1. Mr. Campbell is inconsistent in not extending the opus operatum dogma to both sacraments. He makes the supper merely a commemoration. But his own principles of exposition, applied to the sixth chapter of John, for instance, would prove sacramental grace far more clearly of the supper than of baptism.

2. That God should have made saving grace essentially dependent on a “ positive” form, or indeed on any act for which the soul is dependent on a fellow-creature, in the case of those who are already spiritually docile, believing and penitent, is incredibly contrary to the tone and spirit of both Testaments. Mr. Campbell endeavours to evade this by saying:—

“Why are not Pagan souls dependent on either preachers or Bibles for salvation? And in the latter case dependent, in a true sense, on the use of paper or parchment (of rags or skins) and colouring matter? What means more thoroughly external or formal?” The answers are two:—

1) These materials are simply ministerial to a didactic use. Is Mr. Campbell willing to make baptism such?

2) These souls are contumacious, unbelieving, and corrupt as to the truth; and God’s providence merely ordains that their privation of these material means shall be the occasion of their condemnation already deserved. The soul who desires to embrace Christ and duty, never, under either Testament, depends for redemption essentially upon any act where another creature must intervene between him and his God. He who cometh unto God through Christ shall in no wise be cast out. Again, a place in the favour of God always depends instrumentally on the spiritual state, and on nothing else. See, for example, 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 24:4; Matthew 12:7; Psalm 66:18.

This leads—

3) To the irrefragable argument that the Scriptures everywhere say, he that believes is justified. See Romans 4:11; John 3:16; 1:12; 3:36; 5:24; Romans 5:1, et passim. Now if remission is given only in baptism, during any interval of time between the believing and the baptism the believing soul is still in an unjustified, state. This is contrary to the sacred Scriptures. Mr. Campbell makes an impotent endeavour to evade by distinguishing between title and possession, between an inheritance in prospect and in actual enjoyment. Thus saith he:—

The father of the prodigal says to his home-staying son, “Son, all that I Have is thine.’’ Yet that son had not a kid to make merry with his friends. Christ during his humiliation could say, “All that the Father hath is mine,” yet he was in the other sense so poor that “he had not where to lay his head.” Does Mr. Campbell mean to say that true faith, before baptism, only secures a title in prospect, like that of the expectant heir? Why, that the elect sinner has, in God’s apprehension, even before he repents! How can this idea square with the declaration, “he that believeth hath,” “is passed from death unto life?” See also Romans 5:1.

4) Many souls have obtained remission without baptism or any corresponding sacrament. As Abraham; Cornelius, Acts 10:4, 34, 35, 44; 11:17; the dying thief, etc. Mr. Campbell endeavours vainly to escape the proof that Cornelius was a reconciled sinner before he was baptized, by pointing to Acts 11:14; “Shall tell thee words whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved. “ It is perfectly evident that the word “saved” here must mean, not the application, but the consummation of redemption, as in Matthew 10:22.

5) The harshness and uncharitableness of this doctrine, if carried out consistently, must condemn it in every fair mind. It would at least throw the destiny of the sincere penitent who died after his regeneration and before baptism into great doubt. But what of the myriads of intelligent, consistent Pædobaptists who live and die without immersion? They present every mark and every fruit of true piety except immersion, and yet are damned? Incredulus odi. Mr. Campbell has great difficulty in meeting this charge, and vacillates much. Sometimes he seems to suggest that such unimmersed persons maybe accepted on the ground of their misconception of their duty. Sometimes he is more exclusive; but he can never be made exactly to meet that issue.

6) A scriptural argument may be framed from the numerous passages which teach that every believer is born (γεννηθεὶς) of God, as 1 John 5:1. But obviously the begotten of God are the children of God. See the clear implication of this in the same place, 1 John 5:2. But the children are heirs. How preposterous does it sound to represent the soul which is begotten of God, adopted, and co-heir with Christ, as still under condemnation for his sins? To avoid this, Mr. Campbell weakly attempts to reduce the new birth to a change of state, instead of change of moral character, and to identify it with immersion. How unscriptural this is has been already shown. See in addition such passages as 1 Corinthians 4:15; James 1:18.

In conclusion of this point, we may say of this doctrine as of all forms of sacramental grace, it is the prompting of that tendency to formalism and to a sensuous religion which exhibits itself in popery and paganism. To secure a grace pertaining to salvation by human manipulation, instead of embracing it by a sanctifying faith—this suits at once the pride and the obtuseness of the carnal mind. But it is “another gospel.” It is a conception utterly heterogeneous with the nature of the Bible system. It converts the work of God’s Spirit through the truth into a system of religious jugglery.

The other striking peculiarities of Campbellism are the permission of lay-baptism and lay-administration of the supper; the thorough independent church government; and the weekly repetition of the supper.

They insist much on these. But they are not the germinant points of the system, and we pass them over.

Our church has committed itself definitely to a policy of non-recognition as to the Campbellite societies.

Our grounds may be found stated in the Minutes of the General Assembly, 1871.
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