Vol.XIV No.VI Pg.6
August 1977

Mutual Edification - 1825

Robert F. Turner

Clergy power, or "pontifical utterance of the preacher," is justly deplored; and the direct relation of the individual to Christ, via individual conscience and the Scriptures, should be constantly affirmed. It is also right that each saint express himself freely, and that we listen to one another with respect. It is right that efforts be made to train teachers, and brethren should he patient with the beginner's efforts. But this is no License for neophyte and crackpots to harangue the church, from pulpit or paper. The following, from file Memoirs of A. Campbell, by Richardson, V.2, p. 124-f., indicates the problem is not peculiar to our generation.


"As most of the active members of the church at Pittsburgh were from Scotland and Ireland, and sympathized largely with the views of church order adopted by some of the Haldaneans, the practice of mutual exhortation and teaching on the Lord's day was here fully carried out, with much the same effect as occurred in Scotland... Debates and dissension —, arose frequently between members, while that watchful surveillance, amounting almost to inquisitorial scrutiny, which each thought it his duty to exercise over others occasioned numerous cases of discipline, by which the public religious meetings were disturbed and the cause discredited.

These things were warmly disapproved by Mr. Campbell and Walter Scott, who, although they fully admitted the perfect equality of all members, and their liberty to speak in the church at proper times and under proper regulations, insisted that a proper direction should be given to the gifts of all and that none should teach publicly except those capable of edifying the church.

The new-born spirit of liberty, however, was for a while not to be repressed; the less competent proved often the most forward, and, converting a mere privilege into a duty, felt it incumbent on them to occupy much of the time allotted to the Lord's day meeting, to little profit.

At the Cross Roads.... Mr. Scott was finally called on to say something ...He at once complied, by boldly taking the ground that it was unscriptural to have so many teachers, that the liberty conceded was carried to license, and that each member should be confined, according to the Scripture analogy of the human body, to the particular function for which he was best fitted. At the close of his remarks he inquired with emphasis, in the broad Scotch he sometimes used, "What, my brethren! Is the Church to be a' mouth?" (all mouth).

Mr. Campbell.... fully concurred in the justness of Mr. Scott's admonitions on this occasion, being exceedingly desirous that everything should be conducted according to the ultimate or higher law given by the apostle; "Let all things be done to edification.".... To discharge this duty properly required, he thought, careful previous study and preparation. In overthrowing clerical power, he sought to check the tendency to an extreme in the direction of individual independency."