Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 14, 1956
NUMBER 7, PAGE 12-13b

Christian Unity -- The Voice Of The Reformers (V)

David Lipscomb

We now make some extracts from Alexander Campbell, the meaning of which cannot be mistaken. Remember, the point is, actions or institutions based on human opinions, without Divine authority, are to be tolerated in the church, and those who oppose practices based on mere opinions are factionists and heretics.

Christian Baptist, p. 128: "To bring Christianity and the church of the present day up to the New Testament. This is in substance what we contend for. To bring the societies of Christianity to the New Testament, is just to bring the disciples individually and collectively, to walk in the faith, and in the commands of the Lord and Savior, as presented in that blessed volume: and this is to restore the ancient order of things."

Of the necessity of doing things according to God's order, p. 138:

"The conversion of the world is an object of the dearest magnitude in the estimation of the heavens. All the attributes of Deity require that this grand object be achieved in a certain way or not at all. The way or plan the Savior has unfolded in his address from earth to heaven.... Israel failed in his own way. In God's way he was successful. We have failed in our own way, to convince the world, but in God's way we would be victorious. Wisdom and benevolence combined constitute his plan, and although his ways may appear weak and incomprehensible, they are in their moral grandeur of wisdom and benevolence, as much higher than ours, as the heavens are higher than the earth."

On page 140. "The constitution of the kingdom of the Savior is the New Testament, and this alone is adapted to the existence of his kingdom in the world. To restore the ancient order of things, this must be recognized as the only constitution of his kingdom. And in receiving citizens they must be received into the kingdom just as they were received by the apostles into it, when they were setting it up."

So rigidly is everything else to be excluded but that commanded, he insists, page 159, that we must confine ourselves to the very terms in the scriptures to express the things to be believed and done.

"To disparage these items by adopting others in preference is presumptuous and insolent on the part of man ... From this source spring most of our doctrinal controversies. Men's opinions expressed in their own terms, are often called Bible truths. In order, then, to full restoration of the ancient order of things, a pure speech must be restored."

On page 165 he ridicules the idea of no established order of worship; so every one is allowed to act on his opinions, thus:

"One society of disciples meets on the first day morning, and dances till evening, under the pretext (opinion) that this is the happiest way of expressing their joy, and when they have danced themselves down they go home. Now in this, there is no disorder, error, innovation or transgression, for there is no divinely authorized order of Christian worship.... As none but the Lord can prescribe or regulate the worship due to himself and profitable to us, so, if he has done it, human regulations are as vain and useless as attempts to prevent the ebbing of the seas, or the waxing and waning of the moon. But to proceed. Another society meets for worship, and they sing all day; another shouts all day; another runs in a race all day; another lies prostrate on the ground all day; another reads all day; another hears one man speak all day; another cries in the forenoon and listens to the organ in the afternoon, and all is equally right, lawful, orderly and acceptable; for there is no divinely authorized order of Christian worship."

He reduces it to this absurdity if there is no Divine order, but every one be left free to follow his own opinion.

"It follows then there is a divinely authorized order of worship in Christian assemblies, and that this worship is uniformly the same."

On page 295 he gives the rule he adopted to arrive at this truth:

"When any act of devotion or item of religious practice presented itself to my view, of which I could learn nothing from my Master's last will and testament, I simply gave it up, and if I found anything there not exhibited by my fellow Christians, I went into the practice of it, if it was the practice of an individual; and if it was a social act, I attempted to invite others to unite with me on it. Thus I went on correcting my views, and returning to his institutes until I became so speckled a bird that scarce one of my species would cordially consociate with me."

There was no acting on his opinions here, nor tolerating acts of service based on the opinions of others.

On page 314, speaking of divisions in opinions about God and the God-head, he says:

"Suppose all would abandon every word and sentence not found in the Bible on the subject, and quote with equal readiness every word and sentence found in the volume, how long would divisions on this subject exist? It would be impossible to perpetuate them on this plan...

And as to any injury a private opinion may do the possessor, it could on this principle do none to society."

It is not to be given to or imposed on the public. It is private property.

In 1837, the fifteenth year of his editorial work, he published three essays on "Opinionism." From the first essay, page 433, we extract the following:

"There is a growing taste for opinionism in the ranks of the reformation. This must be quashed out or there is an end to all moral and religious improvement. It has ever been the harbinger of schism, the forerunner of all discord, and vain wrangling. It has indeed been the plague of Christendom.... What is an opinion? Persuasion without proof, say some of our lexicographers. It is a speculation built on probable evidence. It is neither knowledge nor faith; but in the absence of these, it is an inference, a conclusion to which the mind assents according to its information or mode of reasoning.

"An opinionist is one fond of opinions, especially of his own. Opinionism then is fondness of opinions. But that I may meet the exigency of the crisis and give a proper latitude to this term, I hereby define opinionism to be the liberty of propagating one's own opinions.

"Some of our correspondents suppose opinionism, as thus defined, to be an essential part of Christian liberty, then if any restrictions should be imposed on their benevolent efforts to propagate their opinions, they complain of an infringement of their rights.

"We do not admit the right; for if this be the right of a Christian, then every man, woman and child in Christ's church has a right to propagate his or her opinions, and to complain if that right be not respected by all the Christian community. And as there is no restriction as to the number or magnitude of subject on which opinions may be formed, there can be no limitation of the number of opinions that may be offered, adopted or propagated; and thus the whole earthly pilgrimage of the church may be occupied in the discussion of opinions.

We are therefore rationally and religiously compelled to deny any such right. It is not the right of one citizen of Christ's kingdom to propagate any opinion whatever, either in public assembly or private; consequently it is not the duty of all nor of any one, to listen to an opinionist in his efforts to establish his opinions. This is an important point, and we state it boldly and confidently.... To walk by opinions rather than by faith, is effectually to make the book of God of no authority. Moreover, in the decisions of that volume, he that propagates an opinion or seeks to attach persons to it, or to himself on account of it, is a factionist in embryo, in infancy or in manhood."

(To be continued)