페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

churches established by the Haldanes, with which Alexander had become familiar during his residence in Scotland. The independence of each congregation, its government by its own rulers, the Scriptures as the only authoritative guide, the practice of lay-preaching, and the toleration of infant baptism, were all points of agreement." "On the other hand the reform urged by the Campbells * * was much more radical and sweeping. Its aim was not so much to repair defects in modern Christianity, as to restore that which was original and pure, ' both in letter and spirit, in principle and practice.'"

In 1811, the society organized itself into a church somewhat in the way in which the English Brownists, or Independents, and the New England planters, had done before them. It is worth noticing that Thomas Campbell proposed that each member should, as a test of his fitness to be received, "give a satisfactory answer to the question, 'what is the meritorious cause of a sinner's acceptance with God.'" Two failed to give satisfaction and were set aside. Of this church Thomas Campbell was chosen Elder; and Alexander was licensed. The new church began with solemnizing the Lord's Supper weekly. Two or three of the society, having never been baptised, declined to participate in the ordinance, and sought bap tism ; but as they preferred to bo immersed, Thomas Campbell, though he had never been himself immersed, immersed these disciples. It is noticed by the biographer in commenting upon a sermon preached at this time by Alexander Campbell, that at this period, "while he had taken a simple and just view of faith as a 'trusting in Christ,' 'a hearty reliance upon Him for salvation,' etc., he still retained the opinion that this 'trusting' was 'from the operation of God, and the effect of Almighty power and regenerating grace.'" This view was subsequently modified. Within a few months his attention was called again to the question of baptism, and he became convinced that the proper rendering of baptism and to baptize, was immersion and to immerse, and that believers only were the proper subjects of this ordinance. He was immersed himself, and so was his father, with all their relatives. It is noticed in this connection, and what is recorded was of the greatest significance in its bearings upon the future development of Campbellism—that "Alexander had stipulated with Elder Luce that the ceremony should be performed precisely according to the pattern given in the New Testament, and that, as there was no account of any of the first converts being called upon to give what is called a 'religions experience,' this custom should be omitted, and that the candidates should be admitted on the simple confession that 'Jesus is the Son of God.'" The development of these views transferred the leadership of this movement from the hands of the father to the son. It is forcibly and truly remarked by the biographer that if the new church had confined itself to a protest against sectarian divisions and extended creeds, it would have made little impression, but when it began to preach what seemed to be a new and simpler way of salvation, by immersion as the profession of personal faith in Jesus as the Son of God, it had a new and distinct message to men.

At this point what has since been called Campbellism took definite shape and consistency. Starting with the desire to reform Christianity after the primitive or New Testament pattern, its organizing leader found, first of all, the duty of faith in Jesus as the Son of God to be prescribed; next, the duty of being baptised in His name; next, the act of observing the Lord's Supper as a memorial of His Son, and the Lord's Day in honor of His resurrection. These, he contended, were prescribed by the command of God, these and no more, as the grounds of acceptance with God and the bond of Christian organization and fellowship. But the simple duty of faith had been greatly complicated in all branches of the Christian church in respect to the determination of its object and the analysis of its nature. Its proper object, Campbell contended, was preeminently a person, not a creed, least of all a complicated system of scholastic propositions, such as had been successively developed by hair-splitting theologians.

It is true when Mr. Campbell was pressed with the question —must not something be known and approved concerning the person in whom we trust, in order that we may believe intelligibly and acceptably ?—he was forced to reply that there must. To the question which would be immediately suggested, if what is known is stated in distinct propositions, is not that a creed, and from a creed do not a catechism and a doctrinal system proceed by logical and actual necessity? he would say yes; but he would immediately seek to recover his position by asserting, " I simply follow the New Testament direction and that prescribes faith in Jesus as the Son of God, not faith in what that belief involves. I plant myself on an express command of God, and do not add what that command implies." His opponent would reply that this is to regard faith, the condition ot salvation, as an intellectual opus operandum, and Mr. Campbell becomes a superstitious literalist in order to save his own consistency.

The analysis of faith as a subjective act or state necessarily conducted to a similar result. The theologians answer the question, what is faith? says Campbell, by a metaphysical analysis of its nature and its relations to repentance, conversion, regeneration, etc.; whereas I find in the New Testament that it is trust. "But is it simply trust, or confidence in the fact that Jesus was the Messias?1' 'Not at all,'he replies, "but it implies the willingness to be guided by his will and to yield the life to his control." "Then if the faith is not followed by these fruits, the believer cannot be acknowledged as a Christian?" "Certainly." ll But what are the indications of real discipleship?" "Are not love, repentance, purity, justice, and truth, such indications?' "Certainly." "Is it then faith or trust which is accepted, or is it the new character of which faith is the sign?" Pushed by these questions, which had been asked again and again, long before they vexed Mr. Campbell, the apostle of the Reformation could only betake himself to the letter of the word, and say trust is all that is required and trust it shall be, and if a man says he trusts in Christ and is willing to obey Him, I am forbidden by the commands and precedent of the New Testament to subject his faith to any further question or analysis; thus repeating a second time an act of superstitions literalism. The same is conspicuous in his view of Baptism. It is literally the being immersed, he contends, which the New Testament requires. "It is the being plunged beneath the water that is demanded, and to that requirement I submit. I find, moreover, that this immersion is coupled with faith—made coordinate

with it as a joint condition of the remission of sins and receiving the Holy Ghost, s0 that without baptism there is no promise, and baptism itself must be accepted as the requisite for forgiveness and eternal life." The literalism is here manifest, which fails to see that it is not the rite as such, but the rite as a symbol of the confession of Christ before men which gives it any moral worth. Moreover, it also fails to observe that the confession of Christ as an act is of no moral significance except as it is a token of the reality and energy of love, or of the new moral life.

We do not wonder that Air. Campbell was led by a sense of consistency to go a step further; so far that, through his anxiety not to complicate either faith, or the confession of it, with any renewal of character, he made Baptism to be the regeneration of the New Testament, and a pre-condition of the renewal by the Holy Ghost. The observance of the Lord's Day and the Lord's Supper were in like manner insisted on with a certain protesting freedom from Jewish notions, but with a literal formalism, that observed what was required simply because it was required.

In the same way, the protest against the sectarian churches became itself sectarian in insisting that no one could be regarded as a New Testament believer, who had not submitted to immersion, in what was regarded as the New Testament mode and with the New Testament significance.

More generally conceived and described, the system of Campbellism is the result of an attempt to go back to primitive Christianity on the simple basis of the New Testament when interpreted without ''the historic sense." The letter is adhered to, but the import of the letter, when it is explained in the light of the circumstances under which it was uttered and written, is overlooked, or rather there is manifest a blind and superstitious dread of using these circumstances in order to gain the needed illumination and explanation. To believe that Jesus was the Son of God, and to be baptised in nis name, signified, in apostolic times, a definite knowledge of some spiritual truth, and a practical subjection to that truth of the feelings, the principles, and the character. Ihe Campbells were altogether right, as many reformers and thinkers, before and since, have been in being scandalized at the metaphysical creeds which were presented as a condition of fellowship in the Christian church. They were reasonably disgusted at the narrow spirit with which the several Christian sects prosecute their separate interests and contend against their rivals, whom they ought to cherish as fellow workers in the Kingdom of the Master. Their aims were catholic and noble, but the expedient to which they resorted, of making a historic faith and immersion the sole conditions of Christian fellowship, was unsound and narrow in its conception. That it in fact proved inconvenient in its working should not be surprising. That it should be difficult to draw the line between what the Scriptures expressly declare and what may fairly be inferred from their teachings, would surprise no one who has known anything of the history of religions discussions and interpretations. The memoir of Campbell's life contains not a few revelations of the inconvenient workings of his system. It not unfrequently occurred that a teacher in this connection was charged with rejecting the divinity of our Lord, or was reported to be unsound on some other point deemed essential to the Christian faith. In such cases it became the duty of Mr. Campbell to call the offender to an explanation, or to use his personal influence for the correction of his error. In a similar way occasional breaches of morality, either real or imagined, would occur, and the application of discipline in some form became necessary. In other words there was an unwritten creed that was actually taught and received in this rapidly increasing and widely spread communion, and which was made a test in some sort of fellowship and brotherhood. Thus grew up an unwritten code of ethical and religious rules, that were tests of the Christian life, and applied in the way of discipline.

It would be interesting to many of our readers should we describe minutely the career of this remarkable preacher to its termination. His conviction of the necessity of a new translation of the New Testament, and the courage with which he ventured upon introducing one into popular acceptance in his churches; his energy in sustaining for so many years a vigorous periodical; the courage, versatility, and ability which he ex

« 이전계속 »