Christian Unity -- The Voice Of The Reformers (VI.)
Mr. Campbell declares every one who introduces an opinion or preference based on an opinion is by the decisions of the Bible a factionist. Yet our writer says those who oppose the making of these opinions the basis of action, are the factionists. Mr. Campbell was then the prince of factionists. Yet he is quoted to condemn those____ who oppose the introduction of opinions as the basis of actions that affect the whole church.
Campbell proceeds: "Unless this matter is better understood it will fare with us as with Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists and other religious communities. We shall be broken to pieces as well as they. * * * * While it is conceded that on some matters we all have liberty to form opinions, and, if asked for them, to express them, we must regard this as very different from the right to propagate our speculations, instead of practicing the precepts of the gospel." — — — "We must, I repeat it, set our faces against this course, or we will all repent it. The weakest are generally the most dogmatic, and those who know the least, the most positive and overbearing, and therefore there is no convicting them. Nothing is to be hoped for from the strife of opinions; for the chorus will ever be, `My opinion is as good as thine,' and 'Am not I as infallible as thou?' But we sin against the teaching of the apostles if we do not abandon this course. Paul enjoins that we 'give not heed to fables' — `to endless genealogies' — 'that he that consents not to the doctrine which is according to godliness, is proud, self-opinionated, doting or sick about questions, and debates of words, from which come envy, strife, railing, evil surmisings,' etc. — — — — "Hence said the apostle, 'Foolish and untaught questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.' These untaught questions are precisely questions about opinions; and that they do gender strife we have proof."
"I have no doubt but all partyism now in protestant Christianity, and most of the errors too, grew out of the neglect of the Scriptures quoted from Paul, and a misunderstanding of the faith and of untaught questions."
"All the contentions and divisions, all the sects and parties in Christendom are as certainly and indisputably the effects of opinionism in religion as the love of money is the root of all evil."
Mr. Campbell further says:
"There is one very material injury which the advocate of his own or another's opinion, inflicts upon society, even when he fails to make a party; he alienates man's ears from the voice of God, and turns them to himself. This is an exceeding great evil."
All can see this is true, as men begin to advocate their own or the opinions of others, they turn their own attention and that of others who listen to them, from the teachings of God to their opinions — from the obedience and service of God to the practices based on the opinions of men.
Mr. Campbell in 1844 published six lengthy essays headed, "Tyranny of Opinionism," the essence of which is:
"Any one who feels himself conscientiously obliged to utter opinions, must regard them of permanent value — as equal to Divine oracles. It is a grand mistake."
Such are some of the expressions in the first essay. It is followed by two others in the same volume and to the same purport, with a promise to follow it up with others still in the succeeding volume — which is missing from our lot. In the second essay, page 481, he says:
"Zeal for an opinion, then, when brought to the touchstone of truth and the Bible, is mere self-love, operating in the form of pride." "It may be yet made evident that this peculiar pride of opinion or understanding, enters into the essence of all partyism amongst men, nay that itself is the very spirit of discord, the soul of the sectary, and the demon of religious persecution. Its name is legion, the first born of Satan, and its brood are emulation, strife, wrath, sedition, treason, heresy. All the contentions and divisions, all the sects and parties in Christendom, are as certainly and indisputably the effects of opinion-ism as the love of money is the root of all evil."
We might quote much more from him, this must suffice.
Surely no sane man would refer to Mr. Campbell as advocating the toleration of opinions in religious service.
The extracts will show that this introduction into the service, of practices based on opinions, was the great demon of corruption and discord in the churches of God, and the leading and chief aim of those reformers, was to cast everything out of the church based on opinions, and to admit only that into the service which the Scriptures require by positive precept or approved example.
The occasion of the article from which we quoted, is that some brethren at Sand Creek, (Wherever that is) declared non-fellowship with all who introduce and maintain missionary societies, other than the churches of God, the organ in the worship, and fairs, festivals and italics for raising money to carry forward the work of God.
The writer calls these things
"Fads and fancies and preferences about suppers and organs and pastors and missionary societies — — — about such matters as these or opinions concerning them, it is proposed to build up a new denomination on the old creed of opinionism."
This means that brethren who declare non-fellowship with those who introduce such things are building up a denomination on opinionism. That is, those who refuse to fellowship those who introduce opinions and practices based on opinions, into the church of God, are building up a denomination on opinionism. That is clearly the meaning of this sentence. Not one word of opposition to the introduction of these "fads and fancies and preferences based on opinion," "and wholly outside the realm of faith" — not one sentence of condemnation of those who introduce these opinions, or practices based upon them, that gender strife and division in the church, can be found in this or any article of those who claim the right to act on opinions.
But bitter and fierce is the condemnation of those who oppose the introduction. To introduce fads and fancies of opinions into the church of God is all right in their eyes, but to oppose their introduction is a sin of the darkest hue. To oppose the introduction of matters of opinion into the church of God is to build a denomination on opinions, according to this logic.
After what is here presented of the teaching of Alexander Campbell and his coadjutors on the subject of introducing opinions, and practices based on them, into the church, what is thought of this statement:
"What a violent contrast to the simple but comprehensive conditions of fellowship enunciated by Alexander Campbell and his coadjutors and taught in the New Testament, is the Sand Creek efforts based on the same foolish philosophy — — — to forge men together in the bonds of identical opinions — — — in matters of no vital importance."
Is it true that these "Sand Creek" folks proposed an opinion as a ground of action for the church? Is not the height and breadth of their offending, that they exclude those who introduce opinions and practices and institutions based on opinions, into the church of God? How far does their action differ from the teaching of Alexander Campbell when he says:
"There is a growing disposition for opinion-ism in the ranks of the reformation. It must be quashed, or there will be an end to all moral improvement. It has ever been the harbinger of schism, the forerunner of all discord. It has been, indeed, the plague of Christendom."