Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 12, 1956
NUMBER 10, PAGE 1,15b

Christian Unity: How Promoted, How Destroyed (VIII.)

David Lipscomb

We have given more attention in these articles, to Mr. Campbell's position on these matters, than in twenty-four years editorial work we have given to them on any subject. We value his teaching only as it accords with the teaching of the New Testament. But as he has been appealed to as favoring the admission of things based on opinion, or at least as condemning opposition to them, and his teaching has been so perverted, we thought it well to give his teaching, especially as it is so complete a reflex of the teachings of the Bible. The underlying thought, in the introduction of practices so specially referred to, is, things based on opinion are to be admitted, to oppose them can only be a matter of opinion and a tyranny of opinion, at that. We have granted, in the preceding chapter, the claim, that to oppose them is opinion, and have shown that even if this were true, the introduction of them is sin, and brings in strife and division.

But now, we ask the question, if opposition to the introduction of opinions — untaught questions, unauthorized practices — into the church of God, is based on opinion merely? Is there not ground in the Scriptures on which faith may rest in opposing the introduction of opinions, and of practices based on opinions, into the church of God? Does God by precept or clear example teach that it is a sin to introduce into his service, things not commanded by him, but based simply on what seems good to man? On what his opinion or judgment, without Divine teaching, approves? If he has taught that it is wrong to introduce these things not required or approved by God, there is sure and solid ground on which faith may stand in opposing their introduction.

An opinion is a judgment that seems to man good, without Divine testimony on which to base his judgment. When a man has Divine testimony on which to base his judgment, it is a matter of faith. Then in the history of God's dealing with the human family, has he so taught and treated them as to give ground for faith to declare that all service to him, based on human opinion, is offensive to him? If so, it is a matter of faith, and it is the duty of his servants to earnestly oppose the introduction of all service based on human opinion or judgment.

We might begin at the beginning. It was a matter of opinion or judgment, without Divine testimony, that to eat of the forbidden fruit would not bring death. This opinion set aside a clear command of God. It was a matter of opinion, or judgment without testimony, on Cain's part that his offering was good; it was rejected and he became a murderer, was cursed from the earth and became a vagabond and a fugitive in the earth. The spirit that led him to do service, based on his own judgment without a command of God, led to all this fearful evil. The virtue of Abel was that he did the will of God — bringing nothing of his own opinion or judgment into the service of God. And "Abel being dead yet speaketh." says the Spirit of God. What does Abel say, when he speaks? Clearly he says, Do the things plainly commanded by God — which are matters of faith — but give no place to opinion or things based on opinion in the service of God. The man that does not hear that declaration, as it resounds down the ages from the days of Abel, does not hear Abel speaking or the voice of God speaking through Abel to all future generations of earth.

This same lesson is taught through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses, Deuteronomy 12:8, says, "Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes," what his own opinion or judgment approves, but in the last verse of the chapter he gives the rule, "What things so ever I command you, observe to do it, thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it." Especially forbidding the bringing into the service of the Lord, anything based on opinion or human judgment. And this is the watchword of God, the burden of the Divine message to man, the refrain of every lesson to the close of revelation. Every example of man's bringing the preference of opinion — and of deeds based on opinion — into the service of God, shows God visited condemnation upon them.

Aroused by the corruptions and crimes of Samuel's sons as judges, the children of Israel were of the opinion that a king like to the nations around them, would be better. They had no thought of rejecting God in this act. They followed their opinion in changing the order of God's government and he testified, "Ye have rejected me that I should not reign over you." This shows that even when God's order is perverted by bad men to bring evil instead of good, it can not be set aside for what appears good to men. In 2 Kings 5, Naaman, the leper, was of the opinion, that the waters of Abana and Pharpar were better than those of Judea, and turned in a rage from the prophet, but his servants persuaded him that it was better to follow implicitly the law of God, than his opinion, so he turned from his opinion, and "dipped himself seven times, according to the saying of the man of God and his flesh became as the flesh of a little child and he was clean." To eschew and ignore our own opinions and follow the word of God, is the only pathway to blessings from God.

Saul was of opinion (1 Samuel 13:8-14), that it was better that he should make an offering to the Lord than that his army should be scattered abroad. "He forced himself and made a burnt offering." Samuel said, "Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel forever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee." Again in the fifteenth chapter, God sent Saul to destroy the Amalekites, the order was, "Utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, or sheep, camel and ass."

But Saul was of the opinion that to bring the fat cattle and sheep back to sacrifice to the Lord God, in Gilgal, would carry out in the end the commandment of the Lord, and yet bring more honor and glory to his name. So he saved them to make the sacrifice. The result was "the Lord rejected him from being king." A too great readiness to bring in his own opinions — and a disposition to make them, rather than the commandments of God, the basis of his service to God, was clearly Saul's besetting sin, that proved his ruin.

The Old Testament is a continued warning, by precepts, prophecies and examples of the fearful danger of turning from the word of God, of being enticed away from his order by the opinions and judgments of ourselves or others. In some of the examples their opinions led them to turn square against the commandment of God. Others only modified the service, introduced a new element, or a way that seemed to them to help the appointments of God, but their introduction of the service based on the opinions of men, even when intended to bring higher honor to God, met with the condemnation and punishment of God. It was disobedience and rejection of God.