[Table of Contents]
[Previous] [Next]
Alexander Campbell
The Christian Baptist (1889)


NO. 11.] JUNE 1, 1829.  

Debate on the Evidences of Christianity.

      THE discussion between Mr. Owen and myself on the divine authority of the christian religion, commenced in the city of Cincinnati, agreeably to previous arrangements, on the 13th of April last, and continued, with the intermission of one Lord's day, till the evening of the 21st. Dr. Wilson, in his usual politeness and liberality, having refused the citizens of Cincinnati the use of his meeting-house which they helped to rear, application was made to the Methodist society for the use of their largest meeting-house, which was readily and cheerfully granted. Seven very respectable citizens presided as Moderators over the meeting and the discussion. Three of these, namely, Rev. Timothy Flint, Col. Francis Carr, and Henry Starr, Esq. were chosen by Mr. Owen; and three were chosen by myself, namely, Judge Burnet, Col. Samuel W. Davies, and Major Daniel Gano. These six chose the Rev. Oliver M. Spencer. These, when met, selected from among themselves the Honorable Judge Burnet as Chairman, than whom no man was better qualified to preside. In the preliminary arrangements it was agreed that each of the disputants should speak alternately half an hour, and that Mr. Owen should lead the way as he had pledged himself to prove certain affirmative positions. A very large assemblage of citizens was convened. Some were present from the states of New-York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, and Mississippi. The press at the opening of the discussion was very great, and many were forced to return to their homes in a day or two from the difficulty of getting seats. The discussion was heard by a very large and respectable congregation to its close. For good order, patient attention, and earnest solicitude to understand the subjects discussed, we presume no congregation ever excelled them since the publication of the gospel in Cesarea.

      Mr. Charles H. Simms, a stenographer of good reputation, was employed by Mr. Owen and myself to report the discussion. In copying his abbreviation into long hand he is now employed. It does not become me to say much at this time on the merits of the discussion. The newspapers of Cincinnati have generally taken some notice of it. As far as they have gone they have, we presume, fairly echoed the opinions of the hearers in attendance. The Rev. Editor of the Western Monthly Review, being rather a facetious gentleman, and possessing a very fine romantic imagination, better adapted to writing novels and romances, than history or geography, has given a chivalrous air to the discussion; and, by mingling facts and fable, has, upon the whole, written a burlesque, rather than a sketch of the debate. This is his besetting sin, which he has hitherto combated in vain. It is seldom that a novelist can become a historian; and the author of "Francis Berrian" is as illy qualified to write a true history, as the author of "Waverley" was to do justice to Napoleon. He has his merits, however, and sorry would I be to detract from them. And if it be right to learn from an enemy, it is no less right to learn from a reviewer, even when, in a merry mood, he restrains reason and delivers up the reins to imagination. Upon the whole, I must thank him for the justice he has done me. I object to the manner rather than the matter of his critique.

      I have an objection to saying much about this debate, as it is to be published immediately; yet the inquiries from all parts require me to say something. I prefer giving a sketch from some other pen than my own, and would cheerfully give that from the "Cincinnati Chronicle," because the fullest, and, upon the whole, the most satisfactory which I have seen, were it not that [552] it is to myself too flattering. I have, on this account, hesitated about laying it before my numerous and far distant subscribers; but as I cannot find so full an account of it less exceptionable, and as I am entirely unacquainted with the writer of it, I have, upon the whole, concluded to risque the publication of it, wishing the reader to bear in mind that I think the complimentary part of it more than merited; and would rather the writer had decorated his details less with encomiums upon myself or acquisitions. But with this exception, we shall let it speak for itself:--

Messrs. Campbell and Owen.

      THE debate between these two individuals commenced in this city on Monday, the 13th instant, and continued for eight days successively. Seven Moderators were chosen, any three of whom were authorized to preside over the meetings. There was, each day of the debate, an audience of more than twelve hundred persons, many of whom were strangers, attracted to our city by the novelty and importance of the discussion. The arguments on both sides of the question have been regularly taken down by a stenographer, and will, we understand, be published.

      We were not among those who anticipated any very beneficial results from this meeting, fearing that, as is too often the case in these personal interviews, the equanimity of temper would be disturbed, and the debate sink into acrimonious recrimination. Such, however, has not, we believe, been the case in the present instance--the christian forbearance of the one, and the philosophic complacency of the other, having, throughout the controversy, elicited from each, marked courtesy of deportment. The audience have listened with respectful attention, and we were not apprized of the occurrence of any incident, calculated to inspire a regret that the meeting has taken place. We have, however, reason for thinking, that if Mr. Owen had anticipated the acceptance of his challenge by so able an opponent as the one he has recently met, it never would have been given; and that if Mr. Campbell had been fully apprized of all the "circumstances" by which the philosopher of New Lanark is surrounded, the challenge would not have been accepted.

      It is not, on this occasion, our intention to offer any particular analysis of this controversy, which is rendered the less necessary, by the prospect of an early publication of the entire argument. It will be recollected that Mr. Owen proposed to prove that--all the religions of the world were Founded in the ignorance of mankind--that they are opposed to the never changing laws of our nature--that they are the only source of vice, disunion and misery--and that they are the only bar to the formation of a society of virtue, of intelligence, and of charity in its most extended sense. To sustain these positions, Mr. Owen produced and read the following:

      1. That a man at his birth is ignorant of every thing relative to his own organization, and that he has not been permitted to create the slightest part of any of his natural propensities, faculties, or qualities, physical or mental.

      2. That no two infants at birth have yet been known to possess the same organization, while the physical, mental and moral differences between all infants, are formed without their knowledge or will.

      3. That each individual is placed at his birth, without his knowledge or consent, within circumstances, which, acting upon his peculiar organization, impress the general character of those circumstances upon the infant child and man; yet the influence of those circumstances are to a certain degree modified by the peculiar natural organization of each individual.

      4. That no infant has the power of deciding at what period of time or in what part of the world he shall be born, in what distinct religion he shall be trained or believe, or by what other circumstances he shall be surrounded from birth to death.

      5. That each individual is so created that, when young, he may be made to receive impressions to produce either true or false ideas, and beneficial, or injurious habits; and to retain them with great tenacity.

      6. That each individual is so created that he must believe according to the strongest impressions that can be made on his feelings and other faculties, while his belief in no case depends upon his will.

      7. That each individual is so created that he must like that which is pleasant to him, or that which produces agreeable sensations on his individual organization; and he must dislike that which creates in him unpleasant or disagreeable sensations; whilst he cannot discover previous to experience, what those sensations shall be.

      8. That each individual is so created that the sensations made upon his organization although pleasant and delightful at the commencement, and for some duration generally become, when continued beyond a certain period, without change, disagreeable and painful; while on the contrary, when too rapid changes of sensations are made on his organization, they dissipate, weaken, and otherwise injure his physical, intellectual and moral powers and enjoyments.

      9. That the highest health, the greatest progressive improvement, and most permanent happiness of each individual, depends in a great degree upon the proper cultivation of all his physical, intellectual, and moral faculties and powers, from infancy to maturity; and upon all these parts of his natural being duly called into action at the proper period, and temperately exercised according to the strength and capacity of the individual.

      10. That the individual is made to possess and acquire the worst character when his organization at birth has been compounded of the most inferior propensities, faculties, and qualities of our common nature; and when so organized, he has been placed from birth to death amidst the most vicious or worst circumstances.

      11. That the individual is made to possess and acquire a medium character, when his original organization has been superior and when the circumstances which surrounded him from birth to death are of a character to produce superior impressions only, or when there is some mixture of good and bad qualities in the original organization, and when it had also been placed through life, in varied circumstances of good and evil. This last compound has been hitherto the common lot of mankind.

      12. That the individual is made the most superior of his species, when his original organization has been compounded of the best propensities, of the best ingredients of which human nature is formed, and when the circumstances which surround him from birth to death are of a character to produce only superior impressions; or, in other words, when the circumstances in which he is placed, are all in unison with his nature.

      How far these twelve "divine laws," or "gems," as Mr. Owen is pleased to call them, prove that [553] all the religions of the world are founded in the ignorance of mankind, and are the cause of all the existing vice and misery, is for the reader to determine. The author of them seemed to consider their pertinency to the subject matter of debate so great that he read them, as we are informed,' twelve times to the audience. They constituted, indeed the sum and substance of the philosopher's arguments, and interspersed with expressions of the rankest infidelity, and the most dangerous heresies in morals, they were repeated, from day to day, with fatiguing insipidity; and applied, without application, in every stage and condition of the debate. It will be perceived that these twelve "gems," which, until disinterred by the forty years' labor of their discoverer, had lain buried for two thousand years, are little more than the substance of certain lectures on the "Social System" of parallelograms, which have already been pronounced by Mr. Owen, in all the great cities from London to New-Orleans! That he has succeeded in impressing the truth upon a single one of his hearers, it would be hazarding too much to admit; and so far from having established, or even sustained, to any tolerable extent, the several positions in his challenge, we believe we are speaking the opinions of nine-tenths of his audience, when we say that a greater failure has seldom been witnessed on any occasion. All admit that the talent, the skill in debate, and the weight of proof were on the side of Mr. Campbell. Those who believed this philosopher of "circumstances" and "parallelograms" to be a great man, appeared to be sadly disappointed, many of those inclined to his theory of "social compacts" have relapsed into a state of sanity; while the disciples of infidelity have either been shaken in their faith, or provoked that their cause should have been so seriously injured by mismanagement and feebleness. So far as it regards the cause of truth, this discussion has been fortunate; but so far as respects the peculiar views of the challenger, unfortunate. We have already questioned the sincerity of Mr. Owen's expectation that his challenge would be accepted. The reason for giving it is obvious enough. His new system was falling into disrepute--his doctrines were beginning to pall upon the public ear--those who had been enchanted by his theories were disgusted with their practical results--and New Harmony was a striking, we can hardly say living memorial, of the egregious folly of his Utopian schemes. To sustain his character as a moral reformer, and gratify his ambition for notoriety, it became important to keep alive public interest upon the subject. The challenge was therefore given in New Orleans for effect, and was republished and perverted in its meaning, for a similar purpose in London. Mr. Owen's real or assumed enthusiasm on the subject of reforming the world, seems to be in no manner abated by his signal discomfiture at this meeting. We should not, indeed, be surprized to hear that he left our city exclaiming, to quote his own words, "My friends, in the day and hour when I disclaimed all connexion with the errors and prejudices of the old system--a day to be remembered with joy and gladness henceforward, through all ages, the dominion of faith ceased; its reign of terror, of disunion, of separation, and of irrationality, was broken to pieces like a potter's vessel. Now henceforth charity presides over the destinies of the world."

      Mr. Campbell, after making an ineffectual effort for several days to confine his opponent to the points in dispute between them, set out to establish the truth of revelation, and to apply the precepts of christianity to the present condition and future hopes of mankind. In doing this he manifested an intimate acquaintance with the subject. He is undoubtedly a man of fine talents, and equally fine attainments. With an acute, vigorous mind, quick perceptions, and rapid powers of combination, he has sorely puzzled his antagonist, and at the same time both delighted and instructed his audience by his masterly defence of the truth, divine origin, and inestimable importance of christianity. That Mr. Campbell would bring forward any new facts upon this subject was not to be expected; but he has arranged, combined, and enforced those already existing, in a manner well calculated to carry, as we are informed it has in several instances, conviction to the doubting and sceptical mind.

      We think that much the smaller number of his hearers were apprized of the overwhelming mass of evidence which exists in support of the authenticity of the scriptures. By this discussion, a spirit of inquiry has been set afloat, and the sources from whence this testimony has been drawn, and the mode of its application, pointed out. In this it is that we anticipated a result from the controversy more beneficial than was generally expected prior to its commencement. As it regards the reputation for talents, piety, and learning of Mr. Campbell, his friends have no cause to regret his present visit to our city. The same cannot, perhaps, be said of the infidel followers of Mr. Owen.

      In conclusion, we may be permitted to say, that the signs of the times are greatly deceptive, if the "Twelve Fundamental Laws of Nature," by which Mr. Owen, with the aid of a few parallelograms, is to form an "entire new state of existence," are destined very speedily to supercede the divine laws of the Twelve Apostles.--We have no faith in the overthrow of the established order of society and the great system of christianity; even by the conjoint attacks of the New Lanark Philosopher, and Miss Fanny Wright. If the genius, the wit, the ridicule, and the argument of such men as Hume, and Voltaire, and Condorcet, and Gibbon, and Paine, have failed to arrest the mighty and wide-spreading march of the christian religion, it requires no small degree of credulity, to believe, that Robert Owen can ever be successful. As well might we anticipate, that the sun at his command would stand upon Gibeon, or the fiery comets be staid in their erratic wandering through the regions of infinite space.--Cincinnati Chronicle.

KING AND QUEEN, 12th April, 1829.      

      BROTHER CAMPBELL,--My last epistle was designed rather as a desultory exhibition of sentiments, than a perspicuous exposition of a point or two, as comprised among your writings for farther elucidation. These points however, were therein likewise hinted; and shall now, without unnecessary delay, be proposed. And the topic which engrosses attention, is your very broad assertion contained in the sixth number on the Patriarchal Age; and its most objectionable aspect reads thus: "System-makers, to form a theory in the crucible of their invention, say, "that all were justified by believing the same thing?" But this no man living is able to show. It is true, I contend, that the groundwork of salvation by faith was either prospectively, or retrospectively, the sacrifice of Christ. But not a person on earth believed that the Messiah would die as a sin-offering, or rise [554] from the dead, from Eve to Mary Magdalene.

      "In bringing this extremely important subject before your readers again, I am moved by several considerations; a few of which it may not be improper to premise. Accustomed then as I have been for some years past, to look upon the course of labors pursued by you as being highly calculated to promote the humble and faithful use of the scriptures to the great advantage of its readers and the disciples of Jesus, I conceive it to be the duty of every friend and brother in this good work, as their various circumstances may permit, to remark upon such steps taken by you, as are likely to alienate the affection of friends, or to strengthen the prejudices of enemies. This is my first consideration. Again: our being right upon the subject of faith is on all hands admitted to be of the last importance! Your view possesses, to the mass of your readers, much novelty; and lastly, for myself, I believe it to embrace much truth, but not the whole truth. This last consideration more particularly impels me to solicit your further attention, while I suggest a few difficulties and objections. It would be superfluous to multiply these to a great number, as I conceive that most of them are removed by the essay from which I have extracted the objectionable assertion; nor is it my design to give an elaborate letter upon faith, either saving or dead. But of the objections to your views: and first, as they come from others.--1. The gospel was preached to Abraham; therefore Abraham's faith comprehended the different parts of the New Testament dispensation: and for this conclusion we read the third chapter of Galatians and eighth verse; "And the scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel to Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed." Now we have here only to turn our attention to the import of the term gospel as used in the scriptures, to be convinced that it here signifies no more than the covenant of grace proposed to Abraham--the annunciation of glad tidings, good news to this old pilgrim and stranger as to what should afterwards result to the human family through his instrumentality. It is moreover to be remarked, that the gospel, as a divine institution, comprising a king, mediator, propitiatory sacrifice, laws, and imperious obligatory demands, must, in the nature of things, be a savor either of "life to life," or of "death to death;" in other words must claim the ascendancy over all other institutions, wherever preached. But again, Mark teaches that this system, as a rule of life and faith, was not proclaimed before the days of John the Immerser. See the beginning of Mark's Testimony.

      2. The seed, concerning whom the promise was made to Abraham, is Christ; Abraham believed the promise, therefore he believed in Jesus the Messiah. "Now to Abraham and to his seed were the promises made. He (God) says not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to your seed, which is Christ," Gal. iii. 16. Let us for a moment turn our attention to a disclosure or two, which it pleased God to make to the Father of the faithful, and it is probable we shall arrive at a different deduction from that just now proposed. The first intercourse recorded between God and Abraham, is presented in the twelfth chapter of Genesis, and the three first verses. This covenant and promise are brought again into notice by the Holy Spirit, in the writings of Luke in his seventh chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, and of Paul in the eleventh chapter of his epistle to the Hebrews; both of whom interpret nationally. But it is in reference to the promise made in the 15th. Chap. of Gen. "This shall not be your heir; but he that shall come out of your own bowels shall be your heir And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now towards heaven, and tell the stars, if you be able to number them. And he said to him, So shall your seed be. And he believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness."--And that comprised in the 17th ch. and 19th verse, that the Apostle Paul's interpretation as above quoted, is considered conclusive. That the promise of the fifteenth chapter is national we need only read the connexion to perceive: and that the promise of Isaac, though typical of Christ, fixed the faith of Abraham in the veracity of God, upon the fruit of Sarah's womb, is most apparent. But the limited faith of Abraham, and Paul's interpretation--how are they to be reconciled?

      First, then, as to Abraham: called, as he had been, most signally into the notice and favor of God, and confirmed by signs most awful in the reality of this state of things, he was prepared by grace to enter gradually into the reception of such things as his Maker might see fit to communicate to him. I said that he was prepared for a gradual reception of truth concerning the will of God. He is at first saluted with the promise of being made a great people: no great difficulty seeming to interpose here, he readily obeys God by taking up a strange pilgrimage to a strange land. But when his years had increased, and no uncommon multiplication of his seed taken place, his further exercise of faith is required and exhibited, but in close connexion with associated doubt; for he said, "Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?" Evidence was here, and subsequently afforded him, for his confirmation in faith in the promises of God. Though it be true, that without Christ, no promise would ever have saluted the ear of fallen man, yet it is equally true, that the coming of this only true light into the world has been regularly gradated from the earliest or most obscure prophecy, down to the present day, and will, in all probability continue so till the arrival of millennial glory. And at no period has it been essential for any to exercise faith, beyond what God destined; the point of approbation, being constituted by the reception of God's testimony or declaration, concerning things present or to come, in reference to faith or practice. Abraham attained to the approbation of God upon this very principle, by believing all that God required him to believe, according to his own explanations, and doing all that was required at his hands according to God's direction.

      But Paul says, "He saith not, And to seeds, as of many, but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." We simply, and forcibly learn here from what the Apostle tells us, that God did not tell Abraham the particulars of this promise. That though he led his faithful heart into the reception of that economy without which Jesus could never have come, yet he gives us the assurance of confirmation, "that they without us should not be made perfect." The Apostle has no design to go farther than to remove the prejudices of his Galatian readers against the ancient foundation--true foundation of all the promises, by showing that even in the promises to Abraham, which had for time immemorial been looked upon as national, God meant, and actually promised more than met their eye, or had been ever realized by Israel as a people. And this conclusion seems to be confirmed by the evident addition of the words, "which is Christ;" words not uttered by [555] the Lord God in any of his interviews with Abraham. It would be equally cogent reasoning, to argue that when Satan shall be bound, was to allow the more sublime displays of heavenly favor among men, that all who shall be found ultimately in heavenly felicity, must needs have comprehended the numerous particulars of millennium, or any other untried state. "They that have not the law, shall be a law to themselves." To whom much is given, God will look for corresponding fruits. One dispensation was made to succeed another, prophet succeeded prophet, till Christ came and opened, more clearly, the way of life, which even shines more and more brightly to the perfect day. It seems to me upon this point, that Paul neither means to teach that Abraham distinctly saw Christ by faith, nor yet that he rejected him by unbelief; but shows that in the rich promise of God to this eminent man, like many other parts of revelation, the fact that Jesus of Nazareth with the fullest of his blessings, were veiled from his observation, though certainly designed by the Almighty. To look upon the ark is not necessarily to be familiar with its inhabitants. So of God's promises and word at large.

      3. Abraham is said to have seen the day of Christ and to have rejoiced; consequently he saw him by faith. John viii. 56.

      No allusion can hence be traced, further than I have already gone. Christ here explains the promises before illustrated, as Paul did; and we arrive at the conclusion, to wit--What God, the Father, in the exercise of infinite wisdom, did not see fit to unfold, Christ, his Son, is now authorized to divulge and assert. And all this is not more wonderful than that "God is, in Christ, reconciling the world to himself;" an assertion gladly believed by thousands, while to millions it yet remains entirely hidden.

      Thus I justify your view of the Abrahamic faith, as being, I conceive, entirely scriptural; and would refer the reader, for numerous additional illustrations, to the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, wherein it will particularly appear, that so far as the service of God is involved to faith, its design is, obedience to the Divine Being, who rewards us in proportion to this virtue, whether it has had its illustration in crediting the testimony concerning the creation; sacrifices for sin; the offering up of a child, or any other service required at our hands. Here I am compelled, for the present at least, to stop, and ask your regard to a difficulty still behind.

      At the time when the promises, of which we have said so much, were made, but one other that seemed to refer to a deliverer, had ever been spoken, as we know of; and that leads to a seed. Should Abraham have heard of this, in the midst of that darkness and idolatry which surrounded him, it might readily have been forgotten, and even when darkly spoken to him again, so as not to be comprehended, could have had nothing enlightening to his mind, that he might impart to others; but when we come down to the days of Moses, and hear him saying, "The Lord your God will raise up to you a prophet from the midst of you, of your brethren, like to me; to him you shall hearken"--it seems to convey the impression that more light has come into the world;--and if nothing more, Moses himself must have looked to one who should succeed him in authority, and more abundantly endowed from on high. Whether the institution of the priestly office and the various typical sacrifices did not possess and impart light, pointing to the Great High Priest and sacrifice for sin, I submit to your consideration.

      But the light continues to increase: consider the very striking predictions of Isaiah and others; especially the fifty-third chapter of this highly gifted prophet. Therein we find the character, reception, and sufferings of Messiah opened in the most sublime manner. And when we add to this the farther testimony of David upon the very obscure doctrine of the resurrection, as set forth in the sixteenth psalm--added to all which, the prophecy of Daniel, "and after three score and two weeks, shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself," &c. we are unavoidably induced to believe that many, between the periods in which Eve and Mary Magdalene lived, believed that "Messiah would die as a sin-offering--and some that he would rise from the dead.

      I have been very brief upon this point, as I deemed a hint to be sufficient. Should you think with me, that your latitude has been too wide on this subject, or see fit to sustain your position, I trust that you will be enabled to look upon these productions properly.

      I have for some time had it in contemplation to propose one or two other points, upon which objections have been raised, but have thus far been prevented. But, unless some other should call your attention to them, at some convenient season, I shall probably do it.

      That you may be saved from every error, and richly prosper in accomplishing the great objects of your labors, is the sincere wish of your servant for Christ's sake.


Reply to Amos.

      BROTHER AMOS--THAT the glad tidings were announced to Abraham, that in his seed all the families of the earth should one day be blessed, I rejoice to know. But whether Abraham, or any of the Patriarchs after him, apprehended the character of this seed, or the nature of the blessing in which all nations were to participate, I have much reason to doubt. When Abraham offered up his son Isaac upon the altar, it may be presumed, from what Paul says, that he saw the day of the resurrection: "Abraham rejoiced that he should see my day, and he did see it, and was glad," said the Messiah. He desired to see it; and in receiving his son Isaac from the dead, in a figure, he descried, as afar off, the resurrection of the antitype of Isaac. But all this, and much more to the same effect, found in the Prophets, is not sufficient to refute the assertion on which your remarks are predicated. That the sufferings of the Messiah and the glory to which he was destined, and the sufferings on account of Christ, and the glories to which they led, were literally and symbolically portrayed by many of the Prophets, I am happy to learn. But whether they who uttered these predictions, or they who read them, understood the import of them, is just the question. Peter authorizes me to think they did not understand them; for, says he, "they searched diligently to know what people and what times and things these were, which the spirit which was in them meant." Now if they who uttered the voice of the Spirit did not understand that voice, what reason have we to believe that their hearers understood it? But take, for example, a parallel case. No event was more clearly or frequently foretold, than the calling of the Gentiles into the family of God. David and Isaiah describe it in the plainest language, and in the most striking symbols. Yet, not one of the Apostles, until long after Pentecost, apprehended it. So universal was the mistake, or rather so perfect was the secret, that Paul says, "it was a secret hid from ages and generations," [556] which none of the ancients understood--"that the Gentiles should be fellow-citizens with the saints" or Jewish converts, and members of the family of God. Now the argument is, if an event as clearly and fully predicted as any of the gospel facts was not understood by the Apostles during the lifetime of the Messiah, nor by any of the intelligent converts, highly gifted by the Holy Spirit, until the conversion of Cornelius, what good reason have we to conclude that because the sacrifice of Christ and his resurrection from the dead were clearly predicated, they were more distinctly understood, or more fully comprehended! But the fact that not one of his disciples expected his resurrection, nor knew why he died, is the fullest proof that can be offered in confirmation of the assertion. And have we not reason to think that during the lifetime of the Messiah there was as much knowledge of his mission and its object, as at any former period of the history of the nation. But when I write on the Jewish Age and Religion, it will become my duty to make these matters more plain.

      In the mean time I could wish that all my readers would keep in mind that where there is, no testimony there can be no belief. And where neither testimony nor the evidence of sense assures us of any fact, event, or existence, there may be opinions, but there can be neither faith nor knowledge. And in all matters of opinion the utmost liberty ought to be conceded.

      That the Messiah was anticipated and expected to be a Prophet, a Priest, and a King, I may believe; but that the nature and design of these offices were understood as we christians understand them, by any of those who lived under the letter or law, evidence to my mind, at least, is wanting.


The Three Kingdoms.

      THE Jewish people were often called "the kingdom of God," because God was in a peculiar sense their King. For certain purposes he selected them, distinguished them, and took them under his own immediate protection. He gave them laws, ordinances, and customs, which had both a specific and general influence, and were preparatory to a new and better order of society. The new order of society which arises out of the belief of the gospel, is often called "the reign or kingdom of Heaven." In this kingdom the subjects enjoy more exalted blessings, and stand in new and heavenly relations unknown before the coming of the Messiah.--There is also the "kingdom of heaven, or glory," properly so called. This is the residence of angels, the abode of the saints, and the mansions of glory. The gates of admission into these three kingdoms are different--Flesh, Faith, and Works. To be born of the flesh, or to be a descendant of Abraham, introduced a child into the first kingdom of God. To be born of water and spirit, through faith in Jesus Christ, brings men and women into the second kingdom. But neither flesh, faith, nor water, without good works, will introduce a man or woman into the third kingdom. The nature of these three kingdoms, the privileges enjoyed by the subjects, and the terms of admission, are very imperfectly understood in the present day. These kingdoms are unhappily confounded in the minds of many. Hence we find that what is affirmed of the nature, subjects, and terms of admission of one, is frequently applied to another. This is one of the roots of popery, and all the hierarchies in christendom have sprung from it.

      The nature of the kingdom of God amongst the Jews is very different from the nature of the kingdom of God amongst the christians, and both are different from the kingdom of glory.--The subjects are just as different. Under the first they were carnal; all the descendants of Jacob, without regard to regeneration, were lawful subjects of the first kingdom. None can be subjects of the second unless born again; and flesh and blood cannot inherit the third and ultimate kingdom.

      I have discovered that the objections offered against the scriptural design and import of christian immersion, are based upon a misapprehension of the nature and privileges of these three kingdoms. Under the first there were various ablutions, purgations, and sin-offerings, which never perfected the conscience; but which, for the time being, served as symbols or types of a real purgation which would be enjoyed under the Reign of Heaven, or second kingdom.--These sacrifices did not cleanse the worshippers, else, as Paul reasons, the worshippers, once cleansed, would have no more consciousness of sins. Under the christian economy a real remission of sins is constantly enjoyed by all the subjects or citizens, and, as Paul argues, where remission of sins is enjoyed no more sacrifice for sin is needed. Now if the Jews by faith foresaw through the symbols the shedding of Christ's blood, the question is, Why could they not by faith in his sacrifice enjoy, as well as we, the remission of sins? The sacrifice of Christ, viewed prospectively, was as efficacious as when viewed retrospectively, to effect the cleansing of the conscience. And could they not, through one sacrifice, have more clearly understood the design of Christ's sacrifice, than by so many sacrifices. But it is a provision in the constitution of the christian kingdom which greatly distinguishes it from the Jewish, "that the sins and iniquities of the citizens shall be remembered no more." No daily, weekly, nor annual remembrances of sins under the reign of favor. This, faith in the sacrifice of Christ discovers, and submission to his institution puts us into the actual possession of that remission which never was enjoyed before.

      Now, as Paul teaches, under the Constitution of the New Kingdom, remission of sins is a natural birthright. Hence every one, so soon as he enters the second or christian kingdom, or is born of water and spirit, is pardoned and accepted. So that those who are born into the kingdom of heaven, or christian kingdom, have peace with God, and sin cannot lord it over them; for they are not under law, but under favor.

      But many say, "What will become of our Paidobaptist brethren, and millions more, if these things be so?" This is a stale objection which has been urged against every reformation in religion from the days of John Huss down to this century. I will, however, answer the interrogatory. They cannot enjoy the blessings of the second kingdom; in other words, they can not have or enjoy that light, peace, liberty, and love, which are the national privileges of all who intelligently enter the kingdom of favor.

      But the objector means, Can they enter into the third kingdom, or kingdom of glory? I am prepared to say that my opinion is, and it is but an opinion, that infants, idiots, and some Jews and Pagans may, without either faith or baptism, be brought into the third kingdom, merely in consequence of the sacrifice of Christ; and I doubt not but many Paidobaptists of all sects will be admitted into the kingdom of glory.-- [557] Indeed all they who obey Jesus Christ, through faith in his blood, according to their knowledge, I am of opinion will be introduced into that kingdom. But when we talk of the forgiveness of sins which comes to christians through immersion, we have no regard to any other than the second kingdom, or the kingdom of favor. I repeat it again--there are three kingdoms: the Kingdom of Law, the Kingdom of Favor, and the Kingdom of Glory; each has a different constitution, different subjects, privileges, and terms of admission. And who is so blind, in the Christian kingdom, as not to see that more is necessary to eternal salvation or to admission into the everlasting kingdom, than either faith, regeneration, or immersion? A man can enter into the second kingdom by being born of water and the spirit; but he cannot enter into the third and ultimate kingdom through faith, immersion, or regeneration. Hence says the Judge, Come you blessed of my Father, and inherit the kingdom of glory. Because you believed? No. Because you were immersed? No. Because you were born again by the Holy Spirit? No--but because I know your good works, your piety, and humanity. I was hungry, and you fed me, &c.

      The plain state of the case is this:--The blood of Abraham brought a man into the kingdom of law, and gave him an inheritance in Canaan. Being born not of blood, but through water and the Spirit of God, brings a person into the kingdom of favor; which is righteousness, peace, joy, and a holy spirit, with a future inheritance in prospect. But if the justified draw back, or the washed return to the mire, or if faith die and bring forth no fruits--into the kingdom of glory he cannot enter. Hence good works through faith, or springing from faith in Jesus, give a right to enter into the holy city--and this is a right springing from grace or favor.--"Blessed are they who keep his commandments that they may have a right to the tree of life and enter through the gates into the city." This right, as observed, springs from a constitution of favor. And while men are saved by grace, or brought into the second kingdom, (for all in it are said to be saved in the New Testament style) by favor, they cannot enter the heavenly kingdom, but by patient continuance in well doing. So stands the decree of the Lord Almighty as I understand the Oracles.

      Those who desire the enjoyment of remission of sins, peace with God, and abundance of joy, can obtain them through submission to an institution of pure favor, as already defined. But when we speak of admission into the everlasting kingdom, we must have a due respect to those grand and fundamental principles so clearly propounded in the New Institution. We must discriminate between the kingdom of favor, and the kingdom of glory.

      This is in anticipation of my essays on the Jewish and Christian Dispensations, and I am compelled to divulge so much of the views which I have to lay before my readers under more appropriate heads, and as the results of premises not yet developed: I say, I am compelled to cross the Jordan, and to pull a cluster of the grapes to show those who are halting between two opinions, that there is good fruit in the land to which I invite them. The following narrative will shed more light on the three kingdoms:--

The Narrative of Simeon.

      WHILE musing upon the three kingdoms, I fancied myself in the kingdom of glory after the final judgment. Amongst my companions in that happy kingdom, I was introduced to one Simeon, a Jew, who had been converted to christianity eight years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. While in conversation on the wonders of redemption, Simeon gave us the following narrative. "I have been," said he, "a subject of these three kingdoms, and now I discern not only the true nature and design of each, but I am enraptured in contemplating the manifold wisdom developed in their respective constitutions. I was, when born of the flesh, born a citizen of the commonwealth of Israel. I was circumcised and made partaker of all the privileges of the first or prefatory kingdom of God. I distinctly remember all my views and feelings under that economy. When I waited at the altar and worshipped in the sanctuary, my conscience was often troubled, and its momentary pacifications were like the occasional appearances of the sun in a dark and cloudy day. If I felt peace at the altar, so soon as I mingled with my fellow-citizens, I contracted pollution, and my sin was ever before me; my iniquities took such hold upon me, that, at times, I could not lift up my eyes. Hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, alternated in my bosom. The thunders of Sinai and the flashing vengeance that destroyed in a moment thousands of my nation, often occurred to me. I prayed with fear and trembling. I expected a Redeemer, but knew not the nature of his redemption. But finally I believed that Jesus of Nazareth was he. I saw that his institution differed from that of Moses, as the sun excelled a star. I apprehended the reign of favor, and gladly became a citizen of the second kingdom. I was born of water and of the Spirit, and obtained a remission of sins, of which I had never formed an idea under the kingdom of law. The sacrifice of Jesus, and the divine testimony or assurance which I had from God our Father, in the proclamation of mercy, cured my conscience and implanted new life within me. I felt myself in a new kingdom, in a kingdom of favor. Sin did not now lord it over me as before, and my heart beat in unison with the favor which superabounded; so that, in comparison of the former kingdom, my sun always shone in a bright and cloudless sky. If, in one thought, I felt myself seduced from the path of life, with the quickness of a glance of the mind, I remembered that Jesus died, and that I had died and been buried with him in his sacred institution. This always cured my conscience and gladdened my heart. I ran the race and finished my course. I slept in Jesus; and, lo! I awoke at the sound of the trumpet, and all my deeds came into remembrance, not one of them was forgotten by God. I was found worthy through conformity to that favor which brought me into the fold of God, to approach the tree of life. I have tasted its fruit and feel myself immortal. The contrast between the kingdom of law and the kingdom of favor prepared me to relish and to enjoy the contrast between the kingdom of favor and the kingdom of glory. And when I tell the wondrous story of nature and grace to those my companions who have come from the East and the West, from the North and the South, without circumcision or the proclamation of mercy through the gospel, their devotion in hearing and mine in telling, their joy in me, and my joy in them, swell our strains and raise our bliss to degrees ineffable and full of glory. I have been thrice born--once of the flesh, once of water and spirit, and once from the grave. Each birth brought me into a congenial society. My [558] fellow-citizens always resembled my nativity. I was surrounded once with the children of the flesh, then with those born from above, and now with those born from the ashes of the grave." While proceeding to narrate some things I never before heard, my transports aroused me, but could not heard, my transports aroused me, but could not fancy again.


Essays on Man in his Primitive State and under
the Patriarchal, Jewish, and Christian
Dispensations--No. IX.
Jewish Age.--No. I.

      AS THE first religious economy was patriarchal, because adapted to families in an unassociated capacity; so the second was national, because adapted to families in an associated or national capacity. The first required but the existence of a single family for the enjoyment of all its institutions and privileges; the second required many families living together in close neighborhood and under one and the same civil government. Thus we find in the preliminaries to the Sinaitic institution, that it was proposed to constitute a religious nation a kingdom of priests, a holy people, upon a certain basis. To the preliminaries, as proposed by Moses, the people assented, and on their consent was issued the constitution. This was written by the King in his own handwriting upon two tables of stone. This was the supreme law of their social, religious, and moral relations. And all their other laws and institutions were but the developement and application of its principles to religion and politics.

      Abraham was called at a time when idolatry began to appear in Chaldea, and when families began to have each a family god. When his descendants became numerous, and large enough to become a nation, and the nations had each its own god, it pleased the Ruler of the Universe to exhibit himself as the God of a nation. Hence originated the theocracy. Here it is necessary to suggest a few general principles of much importance in understanding the varieties which have appeared in the divine government. From the Fall of Man the Governor of the World withdrew from all personal intimacies with the race. He no longer conversed with man face to face as he was wont to do in Eden. The recollections of the Divinity became more and more faint as Adam advanced in years; and the traditionary information communicated to his descendants became less vivid and impressive in every generation. All new communications from the Creator were through symbols, by messengers, or rather through things already known. Things entirely unknown can only be communicated to the mind by things already known. This axiom is at the basis of all revelations, and explains many otherwise inexplicable incidents to the divine communications to man. The natural symbols and the artificial names of things became, from a necessity of nature, the only means through which God could make himself known to man. This, too, has been the invariable rule and measure of all the discoveries which God has made of himself, his purposes, and will. Hence the spangled heavens, all the elements of nature, the earth, and the sea, with all their inhabitants; the relations, customs, and usages existing among men, have all been so many types or letters in the great alphabet which constitutes the vocabulary of divine revelation to man. He has even personated himself by his own creatures, and spoken to man through human institutions. Hence he has been called a Sun, Light, Father, Husband, Man of War, General of Hosts, a Lord of Battles, King, Prince, Master, &c. &c. He has been spoken of as having eyes, ears, mouth, hands, feet, &c. &c. He has been represented as sitting, standing, walking, hasting, awaking. He has been compared to a unicorn, lion, rock, mountain, &c. &c. He has made himself known in his character, perfections, purposes, and will, by things already known to man. This is the grand secret, which, when disclosed, removes many difficulties and objections, and sets in a clear light the genius of the Jewish age of the religious world.

      Now when God became the king of one nation, it was only doing what, on a more extensive scale, and with more various and powerful effects, he had done in calling himself a Father. Both were designed to make himself known through human relations and institutions. One type, symbol, or name, is altogether incompetent to develope the wonderful and incomprehensible God. But his wisdom and goodness are most apparent in making himself known in those relations and to those extents which are best adapted to human wants and imperfections. And the perfection of these discoveries consists in their being exactly suited to the different ages of the world and stages of human improvement. At the time when he chose one nation and made himself known to all the earth as its King and God, no other name, type, or symbol, was so well adapted to this benevolent purpose, as those selected. For when Israel was brought out of Egypt all the nations had their gods; and these gods were esteemed and admired according to the strength, skill, prowess, and prosperity of the nation over which they were supposed to preside. Hence that God was the most adorable in human eyes whose people were most conspicuous.

      Wars and battles were the offspring of the spirit of those ages contemporaneous with the first five hundred years of the Jewish history, and with the ages immediately preceding. Hence the idea was, that the nation most powerful in war had the greatest and most adorable God. Now as the Most High (a title borrowed from this very age) always took the world as it was at every period in which he chose to develope himself anew, or his purposes, he chose to appear as the Lord of Hosts, or God of Armies. And to make his name known through all the earth, he took one nation under his auspices, and appeared as their Sovereign and the Commander in Chief of all their Armies. Hence the splendid and easy bought victories of the Israelites. One could chase a hundred, and ten put a thousand to flight. This explains the deliverance out of Egypt, and how the Lord permitted Pharaoh's heart to be hardened--for the purpose of making his name known through all the earth. Pharaoh and his court knew not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and impiously asked, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey him?" But Moses made him know, and tremble, and bow. By the time when the Jews were settled in Canaan, the world was taught to fear the God of Israel, the Lord of Hosts; and so it came to pass that all the true and consistent knowledge of God upon the earth, amongst all nations, was derived directly or indirectly from the Jewish people. But we must not think that only one purpose was gained, or one object was exclusively in view in any of these great movements of the Governor of the World. This is contrary to the general analogy of the material and spiritual [559] systems. By the annual and diurnal revolutions of the earth, although by the former the seasons of the year, and by the latter day and night seem to be the chief objects, there are a thousand ends gained in conjunction with one principal one. So in this grand economy, many, very many illustrious ends were gained besides the capital one just mentioned. For, as in the vegetable kingdom we have a succession of stages in the growth of plants; as in the animal kingdom we have, a succession of stages in the growth of animals; so in the kingdom of God there is a similar progression of light, knowledge, life, and bliss. We have in the vegetable kingdom the period of germinating, the period of blossoming, and the period of ripening the fruit. So we have infancy, childhood, youth, and manhood, in our own species. Each period calls for special influences and a peculiar treatment. So it is in the kingdom of God. It had its infancy, its childhood, and its manhood. In each stage it was diversely exhibited. The Patriarchal, Jewish, and Christian Ages were adapted to these. Again, we are not to consider the special temporal favors bestowed upon the Jews as indicative that the divine benevolence was exclusively confined to one nation to the exclusion of all the earth besides. As well might we say that the husbandman who cultivates his garden despises or neglects his farm, or that he exclusively loved that part of the soil which he encloses with a peculiar fence. Other circumstances and considerations require these specialities. The general good of the human race, and the blessing of all nations in a son of Abraham, were the ultimate and gracious ends in view in all these peculiar arrangements. This promise and guarantee was made to Abraham before the times of these ages or dispensations. So that the calling of the Jews and their erection into a nation under the special government of God, were but means necessary to that reign of favor under which we now live.

      These general and prefatory hints we thought expedient to suggest as preliminary to our essays on the Jewish economy. There is one lesson of more than ordinary importance, which all who have not attended to it ought to learn, not only with reference to our object in these essays, but with reference to many others--and that is, that things unknown can only be taught through things already known.


Religious Controversy.

      THE following remarks on "Religious Controversy," from the Pandect, are rational and worthy of a perusal.--ED. C. B.

      It is much to be desired that correct views should obtain in the church and in the world relative to controversy on matters of religion. If we rightly scan the signs of the times, there is a special necessity for making this subject prominent at the present day. A fair moral estimate of the true nature and legitimate ends of controversy is we believe of less and less frequent occurrence. Persons of amiable and pacific tempers are apt to be offended with the very term. The argumentative discussion of any topic of religion is unhappily associated in their minds with the encounter of angry passions--with bitterness and evil speaking--with an entire dereliction of the charities and courtesies of both christian and civil intercourse. And candor compels us to admit that too much occasion has been given in all ages for connecting these repulsive attributes with religious debates of every kind. But they are by no means its inseparable adjuncts. And no plea for the necessity of controversy ought to be construed as a plea for its common evils. We know not why the truest spirit of meekness and kindness towards the person of an opponent may not be coupled with the utmost force of reasoning to the defence of opinion. Yet in the minds of many these ideas appear to be wholly incompatible with each other; and to say of a tract, a treatise, a sermon, a book, it is controversial in its object or complexion, is at once to fix an indelible odium upon it. No matter how clear and luminous its exposition of error, or its defence of truth--no matter how engaging or conciliating its spirit--still it is controversy, hated controversy--and wormwood and coals of juniper and firebrands and arrows--all rush into the imagination as through an open door, and forbid it the least favor.

      This surely is not calling things by their right names, nor judging righteous judgment. What is the scope of religious controversy, but the vindication of religious truth? Is not this truth liable to be denied, distorted, corrupted, or frittered away? Is it not often entangled with specious errors, and charged with false consequences? Are its friends required to stand silent by, and see its dearest interests jeopardised, without coming forward to its defence? Is there any alternative left them but to enter the lists, and to endeavor to show truth triumphant? By this we do not intend to advocate the belligerent spirit of controversy: however polemical or warlike may be our terms. But as to the thing itself, we see not but controversy is as inevitable as error, and as harmless as its refutation. If there are fundamental truths in the gospel, and these truths are liable to be assailed, they must be defended; and if they are continually assailed, they must be continually defended.

      For this we unquestionably have the high authority both of scripture precepts and example. Mention is made of some "whose mouths must be stopped;" and "gainsayers are to be put to silence." And it ought to abate very considerably our aversion to every form of controversy when we find several of the Epistles written with the express design of confuting certain errors which had sprung up in the church, and were making head against the Apostles' doctrine. If inspired men stand foremost in the ranks of controvertists, it is a sickly or sinful sighing for peace, that keeps us not in the back ground merely, but off from the ground altogether.

      Now we have yet to learn that the day in which we live is so happily distinguished above former periods as to absolve us from the necessity of controversy. Are errors less rife over the whole length and breadth of our land at this moment than in the times of our fathers? Is there a more general and cordial yielding to the pure principles of religion and morality? Are the advocates of the unadulterate doctrines of the gospel listened to and reported of with more candor? Does the weekly press teem with a more hopeful issue, and send out through its thousand channels a better influence over the bosom of society? Are the prejudices naturally engendered by sectarian divisions, melting away, and the hearts of good men panting to break through party pales and flow together? Are the smaller points of difference more frequently viewed as small than ever before, while all the true holders of the one Head are rallying round the central points of union? If these auspicious omens were indeed visible, we might begin to think of discharging ourselves from this duty. But we do not see them. [560] On the contrary, we see what we are taught in prophecy to expect, growing indications of a more powerful spirit of error. With more real liberality than formerly, we believe there is also more false. There is a disposition to relax the rigor of truth. And here, if we mistake not, bedded in fragrant flower of lovely charity, lies the baneful cankerworm--an aversion to controversy. It is, in many cases, we are persuaded, the product of a spurious Catholicism, which would bid us embrace error as well as truth which would blind our eyes to the everlasting and indestructible distinction between them.

      But we have wandered into a longer dissertation than we intended, though well aware, that much, very much, remains to be said on the subject, in order to present it in all its bearings. At present our aim has been to intimate that a dislike of all controversy, in every form, is exceedingly unreasonable, inasmuch as a wholesale reprobation of it is very apt to be connected with an indifference to truth which has a bad aspect.

Dangerous Attempt.

      SOME persons think that it was a dangerous attempt, on my part, to discuss with the champion of infidelity the evidences of Christianity. They did not know what we could do with a man who denied the bible, and were afraid that his cavils and objections would be unanswerable, and thus the discussion would more likely make sceptics of Christians, than Christians of sceptics. Bad enough, indeed, if we Christians are notable to produce a reason, or many good reasons, for our faith! A handsome compliment, truly, they present to the Christian community, who insinuate that they believe without reason, and cannot tell why! From such christians christianity has more to fear than from infidels. I trust the late debate will show that the reason is all on our side, and the sophistry all on that of our opponents. And I rejoice to know, from various sources, that some infidels were converted to Christianity from the late debate, but no Christians were converted to infidelity. Our great complaint against Mr. Owen was, that he would not reason, and that while sceptics boasted of reason, they had little or none to show.


"The Pedobaptist."

      I HAVE not seen but the first and second numbers of this work. In the second I observe in the first article which I read, and the only one I have leisure at this time to read, that so hard pressed is the editor or some of its writers, on the meaning of the word bapto, that he is forced to affirm that the lexicons or Greek dictionaries are not to be depended on, inasmuch as there is none of them more than five hundred years old. So, then all the scriptures are of doubtful import, as far as dictionaries are concerned, for none of the Greek dictionaries can explain a single word in them, because they are only five hundred years old. How then does Doctor N. arrive at the meaning of them? Never before did I see the Paidoes so hard put to it to keep up the little golden idol. A prop under each arm, and one from the chin and spine, will not keep Dagon on his feet. I advise to prop it all round, and then to tie it and the props together with a golden chain.


Query--for the C. B.

      WHY did Paul thank God that he had immersed none but Crispus and Gaius?

      Answer.--Paul did not do so. He thanked God that he immersed none of the Corinthians but a few individuals. And the reason was, "Lest any one should say he had immersed into his own name," and thus afforded them some pretext for calling themselves after Paul. Paul was inveighing against Christians calling themselves by the names of human leaders, and was thankful in this instance that he had afforded no pretext for any of the schismatics in Corinth to call themselves after his name.



[TCB 552-561]

[Table of Contents]
[Previous] [Next]
Alexander Campbell
The Christian Baptist (1889)