Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 2, 1950
NUMBER 26, PAGE 5-9b

A Pertinent Quotation

Bryan VI.Nson, Dallas, Texas

In view of the current discussions involving institutionalism and the dangers it presents to the stability and security of the church; and too, the fact that frequent recourse is made to the writings of men whose pens have been stilled and voices silenced by death, I feel that some additional testimony of expert witnesses of the past is in order. Surely none can be brought forward who was more competent to speak than Alexander Campbell, and though he subsequently sought to defend some things which in the prime of his intellectual vigor he so powerfully assailed, let us hear him.

In the first volume of the Christian Baptist and the first article entitled "The Christian Religion" is found the following extract: "The societies called churches, constituted and set in order by those ministers of the New Testament, were of such as received and acknowledged Jesus as Lord Messiah, the Savior of the World, and had put themselves under his guidance. The only bond of union among them was faith in him and submission to his will. No subscription to abstract propositions framed by synods; no decrees of councils sanctioned by kings; no rules of practice commanded by ecclesiastical courts were imposed upon them as terms of admission into, or of continuance in this holy brotherhood. In the "apostles' doctrine" and in the "apostles' commandments" they stedfastly continued. Their fraternity was a fraternity of love, peace, gratitude, cheerfulness, joy, charity, and universal benevolence. Their religion did not manifest itself in public fasts nor carnivals. They had no festivals—no great and solemn meetings. Their meetings on the first day of the week was at all times alike solemn, joyful and interesting. Their religion was not that elastic and porous kind, which at one time is compressed into some cold formalities, and at another expanded into prodigious zeal and warmth. No—their piety did not at one time rise to paroxysms, and their zeal to effervescence, and, by and by, languish into frigid ceremony and lifeless form. It was the pure, clear, and swelling current of love to God, of love to man, expressed in all the variety of doing good.

The order of their assemblies was uniformly the same. It did not vary with moons and seasons. It did not change as dress nor fluctuate as the manners of the times. Their devotion did not diversify itself into the endless forms of modern times. They had no monthly concerts for prayer; no solemn convocations, no great fasts, nor preparation, nor thanksgiving days. Their churches were not fractured into missionary societies, Bible societies, education societies; nor did they dream of organizing such in the world. The head of a believing household was not in those days a president or manager of a board of foreign missions; his wife, the president of some female education society; his eldest son, the recording secretary of some domestic Bible society; his eldest daughter, the corresponding secretary of a mite society; his servant maid, the vice-president of a rag society; and his little daughter, a tutoress of a Sunday School . They knew nothing of the hobbies of the modern times. IN THEIR CHURCH CAPACITY ALONE THEY MOVED. They neither transformed themselves into any other kind of association, nor did they fracture and sever themselves into divers societies. They viewed the church of Jesus Christ as the scheme of Heaven to ameliorate the world; as members of it, they considered themselves bound to do all they could for the glory of God and the good of men. THEY DARE NOT TRANSFER TO A MISSIONARY SOCIETY, OR BIBLE SOCIETY, OR EDUCATION SOCIETY, A CENT OR A PRAYER, LEST IN SO DOING THEY SHOULD ROB THE CHURCH OF ITS GLORY, AND EXALT THE INVENTIONS OF MEN ABOVE THE WISDOM OF GOD. IN THEIR CHURCH CAPACITY ALONE THEY MOVED. The church they considered "the pillar and ground of the truth"; they viewed it as the temple of the Holy Spirit; as the house of the living God. They considered if they did all they could in this capacity, they had nothing left for any other object of a religious nature. In this capacity, wide as its sphere extended, they exhibited the truth in word and deed. Their good works, which accompanied salvation, were the labors of love, in ministering to the necessities of the saints, to the poor of the brotherhood. They did good to all men, but especially to the household of faith. They practiced that pure and undefiled religion, which, in overt acts, consists in "taking care of orphans and widows in their affliction, and in keeping one's self unspotted by (the vices of) the world."

From the above it is readily discernable that brother Campbell, in his noble desire to promote the restoration of primitive Christianity, in all of it's pristine purity, possessed the basic conception of the competency and sufficiency of the church to promote the glory of God and the good of man here below. In the Christian Baptist he found an avenue through which he could plead for a "restoration of the ancient order."

He taught so fully and forcefully the principles of the restoration plea, that, when he years later, permitted his name to be capitalized—with all the honor and prestige identified therewith—by the promoters and organizers of the missionary society in making him president of it, his former teaching rose up to accusingly confront him. It required great courage on the part of Jacob Creath, Jr. and others to oppose the great and influential men identified with this departure. Creath, in opposing such, acknowledged to Campbell his indebtedness to him (Campbell) for that which he had been taught in opposition to such institutions—and if he had been wrongly instructed, Campbell was responsible. Creath chose the unpopular side of the controversy, but we should be everlastingly grateful that he and some others so did. Where we would be today but for their opposition is worthy of our serious reflection. And those who today are speaking out against the evident trends away from the apostolic pattern are not only rendering a distinguished and valuable service to the church now, but also to the church of tomorrow. The course of human history seldom ever runs smoothly, and the church composed of weak humanity, has frequently been confronted with recurring dangers of departure from the faith. This arises in the tendency to elevate the "inventions of men above the wisdom of God." These inventions are, as a rule, garbed in the pleasing and attractive apparel of expediency. We are to "walk by faith", and faith comes by the word of Christ. Every step, therefore, should be directed by the word of our Lord, rather than inventing a course of procedure and elaborating a program of activity of our own; then, when it is called in question, belatedly and in desperation strive to find scriptural sanction for an unscriptural thing.

It is high time that we cultivate a disposition to be content with the church as the one and only institution in which we can glorify God; and the sufficiency of the, word of God to direct us in performing every duty and discharging every responsibility as members of the Lord's body. Then, and only then, will our appeal for the restoration of the ancient order be invested with consistency and power, and exert a most appealing influence on all who are anxious to please Him from whom all blessings flow.