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Errorists, where the Bible is acknowledged, when they set out to establish a favorite theory in religion, invariably claim to be supported by the word of God, and manifest an anxious desire that this claim should be acknowledged by others:—or, at least, that their opinions, however wild and extravagant, should be admitted to be the result of honest conviction on their part. Public sentiment, to an extent that is truly remarkable, sanctions this claim, and regards it as uncourteous and uncivil to doubt whether such an individual honestly believes that his views are sanctioned by inspiration. No matter how hallucinary, or preposterous, or abhorrent to the dictates of Scripture and common sense, the sentiment in question may be, we can express no doubt of the intelligent sincerity of the convictions in the mind of the errorist, without subjecting ourselves at once to the imputation of bigotry or uncharitableness. The same fate, also, pretty generally awaits us, when we venture to pronounce such sentiments repugnant to Scripture and to common sense. To such an extent did the late erratic, though transcendently gifted Irving urge this claim, that he considered himself harshly treated and persecuted by his opponents, because they affirmed that bis views could not be supported by their Confession of Faith,a measure which he even seriously attempted. The Mormon prophets of our own country, and the Christyans, and Campbellites, furnish other and not less remarkable instances.
It is not our intention to speculate upon this topic. But this abuse of public confidence appears to us, to annihilate the distinction between truth and error, at least as respects everything that pertains to its discovery and profession. It makes it equally meritorious for an individual to profess and suffer for error, as for truth. It assumes that man is not culpable for error, and loses sight of the fact that Paul has placed "heresies" along with other works of the flesh," with "lasciviousness, idolatry, hatred, envyings, drunkenness," etc.; and involves the absurd supposition that the Atheist's honesty ought not to have been doubted when he affirmed that he could "prove everything by the Bible, except that there is no God."
It is clearly a doctrine of the Bible, that error in religion is, to say the least, much more the result of depravity of heart, than of honest and conscientious mistake. And though we cannot here pause to ascertain it, yet, there certainly must be some principle which will justify an individual in speaking decidedly, in terms of reprehension, of that which is clearly contrary to the
word of God, without being justly the subject of censure. Surely if there are errorists, and if mankind are furnished with the means of ascertaining truth; if Christians are called upon to contend earnestly for the truth originally revealed; there must be some principle that justifies them in peremptorily refusing all such demands upon their christian fellowship and charity as are thus made by every one who chooses to represent himself as inspired of Heaven.
But errorists themselves practically concede the existence of such a rule or principle as the one referred to. The Mormons, the Christyans, and the Perfectionists, perpetually admonish all the churches in the land, hitherto regarded as Christian, that they are in dangerous error, that they are not Christian, but are corrupt, anti-apostolic, and have nothing to look for at the hand of God but his uncovenanted mercies. The Campbellites assume precisely the same position, as we shall see hereafter. Nor is this all; for, if we except the fact that the Campbellites and Christyans have, within a few years past, professed an agreement on all the essential points of their systems, they, with the utmost bitterness, denounce each other. Of this denunciatory spirit, we shall present here one brief example, from the writings of Mr. Campbell. He is speaking of the Mormons, (whom, we doubt not, it will be admitted, before we are through with this discussion, have quite as valid claims to be regarded as Christians, as Mr. Campbell himself and his followers,) and thus remarks: * "I would say nothing to the disparagement of this deluded people. But 'tis a disgrace to the christian character, to the name, to any man who has ever read a Bible, to believe that absurd book, called the book of Mormon.' It is a matter of astonishment and grief, to think of a man in the exercise of reason, for one moment, to give credit to this wretched bundle of lies. It must have been written by an ATHEIST, who did not believe that God would ever call him to judgment for lying in his name. A Yankee trick to make money. The author must have studied barrenness of sentiment and expression, a poverty of style, without an equal in the English language for the purpose of deception," etc.
Mr. Campbell, therefore, admits the existence of the rule, or principle in question. We also admit it. And without further
* See Mr. Campbell's Millennial Harbinger for April, 1834, Vol. V. p. 148.
preliminary, proceed to remark distinctly that the Campbellite system of theology, in all its essential features, possesses no just claim to be regarded as the religion of the cross. It is essentially "another Gospel." We also venture to affirm that the course which Mr. Campbell has pursued in relation to his pretended translation of the New Testament, has been such as cannot fail to fill every one with the deepest horror, who will favor our remarks with a perusal.
The conduct of that gentleman has been such, at least in the particular last mentioned, as calls loudly upon all who have been deluded by his speculations, and by his dreadfully corrupt version of the New Testament, to consider seriously the consequences that may result from following him any further. We are well aware of the consequences which cannot fail to ensue to ourselves, residing as we do in an enlightened christian community, should these observations prove to be either unfounded or but equivocally supported; and are willing to meet all these consequences if we fail to sustain them by an abundance of stubborn and unambiguous facts. The importance of the subject at the present time, especially in those parts of the country where Campbellism prevails, demands this investigation, and all we ask of the reader is a patient and candid attention to the proofs which follow.
I. The fundamental principles of Campbellism pointed out and examined.
It is to be lamented that the propagators of erroneous sentiments in religion, are in general so very reserved in their communications, that not unfrequently a considerable length of time is suffered to elapse before their most constant auditors become fully acquainted with the distinctive fundamental principles of their system. While it is a fact that such persons uniformly agree to misrepresent and vilify other denominations, it is rarely indeed that they venture immediately and unreservedly to make known their own sentiments, or even to give a tangible statement of the points whereon they differ from those whom they decry. They are satisfied with making the general statement that other denominations are corrupt, anti-apostolic and the like; leaving it to be inferred that of course they are the very reverse. In those, however, who declare themselves conscious of advocating truth, such conduct can admit of no justification. It is the very op
posite of that of our blessed Lord, of Paul, of Peter, and of his other apostles.
We are led to these remarks by having observed the silence, respecting their distinguishing tenets, which is observed by the advocates of Campbellism. This silence is indeed surprising, if we consider the numerous declarations made by them to the effect that "the gospel as promulgated by Mr. Campbell is the same as was propagated by Christ and his apostles ;"*—that "all other protestant churches are daughters of the mother of harlots ;" and that "altogether they constitute the Babylon of Revelation, out of which all true Christians are commanded to flee." Such declarations as these are teeming in their writings and discourses. Yet they keep their own sentiments concealed, either by not declaring them openly, or by the employment of a phraseology so ambiguous that few can be found, aside from their own denomination, who can give a rational account of even a few of the distinctive features of the system. Hence the frequent inquiry, "What are the sentiments of this people?" Distinctive indeed must be their sentiments, if they alone entertain in its purity the true gospel of Christ, while all other denominations lie exposed to the wrath of God.
Of later years, however, Mr. Campbell himself has become somewhat more emboldened in the advancement of his views. Backed as he is by a numerous host of followers, he no longer feels that restraint which formerly held him in check, and prevented his coming fearlessly before the public with his system in a tangible form. Though it is still true that his doctrines. are, to a great extent crude and undigested, and wrapped in a tedious verbosity, yet any one who has the requisite patience to wade through his tomes may reasonably entertain the prospect of ultimately detecting his sentiments.
That we may avoid misrepresenting this denomination, (a conduct of which they constantly complain, and often without the shadow of a reason) we shall, as far as possible, employ their own language in the expression of their views.
1. On Faith.
In Mr. Campbell's narrative of the debate between himself * "I do most unhesitatingly avow my conviction that not one single truth or fact of the gospel, as taught by him (Mr. Campbell) can be disproved." See Mill. Harbinger, Vol. V. p. 174.
and the late Dr. Obadiah Jennings of Nashville, he asserts that “Faith ranked amongst the fruits of the Spirit, is fidelity, associated with temperance and meekness." Mill. Har. extra, No. 1.
His fundamental position in relation to the faith which the gospel requires, or that belief which is to the saving of the soul, is, that it is "in its nature purely historical, consisting in the belief of a few simple facts, and not doctrines; that there neither was, nor could there possibly be any difference between that belief of the gospel which is requisite to the salvation of the soul, and that credence, which we usually with readiness yield to any other well authenticated history." Vide Debate, p. 32, 33, etc. ut supra.
He also furnishes the following illustration of his views, which cannot be misunderstood. When he was a young man he read, "three histories"- -one of Asia, one of Africa, and one of the United States. He believed them all. His faith, he tells us, in the History of the United States, was fully equal to that faith which the gospel requires, and which is connected with salvation; for he was thereby led to leave his own country and come to this. "And what better, or higher faith," he asks, "could the gospel require than this, which exerted such a powerful influence upon the mind?" It is not probable, however, that the reader will be very forcibly impressed with the parallel between this case and that of the patriarch Abraham.
The following passage will present the view in a yet stronger light, especially as regards the object of saving faith. In his Christian Baptist, Vol. III. No. 7, he replies to an "anxious inquirer" who desires to know what he must do to be saved. In this reply, after attempting to prove that the religious experience of every Christian corresponds with the religious education he has received, Mr. Campbell thus remarks: "If by your own efforts you can believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, by your own efforts you can believe on him to the saving of the soul. That is saving faith (for there is but one faith) which purifies the heart and works by love." It is not possible to misunderstand this. Mr. Campbell asserts, that to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, is to believe on him to the saving of the soul.
Another of the popular writers of this sect, in a work entitled "A Mirror of Ismatic Religions," p. 11, 12, which Mr. Camp