[Table of Contents]
|Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)
|THE MILLENNIAL HARBINGER.|
|NO. 1.||BETHANY, VIRGINIA, MONDAY, JANUARY 4, 1830.||VOL. I.|
|I saw another messenger flying through the midst of heaven, having everlasting good news to proclaim to the inhabitants of the earth, even to every nation, and tribe, and tongue, and people--saying with a loud voice, Fear God and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgments is come: and worship him who made heaven, and earth, and sea, and the fountains of water.--JOHN.|
|Great is the truth and mighty above all things, and will prevail.|
This work shall be devoted to the destruction of Sectarianism, Infidelity, and Antichristian doctrine and practice. It shall have for its object the development and introduction of that political and religious order of society called THE MILLENNIUM, which will be the consummation of that ultimate amelioration of society proposed in the Christian Scriptures.
Subservient to this comprehensive object, the following subjects shall be attended to:
1. The incompatibility of any sectarian establishment, now known on earth, with the genius of the glorious age to come.
2. The inadequacy of all the present systems of education, literary and moral, to develop the powers of the human mind, and to prepare man for rational and social happiness.
3. The disentanglement of the Holy Scriptures from the perplexities of the commentators and system-makers of the dark ages. This will call for the analysis of several books in the New Testament, and many disquisitions upon the appropriated sense of the leading terms and phrases in the Holy Scriptures and in religious systems.
4. The injustice which yet remains in many of the political regulations under the best political governments, when contrasted with the justice which Christianity proposes, and which the millennial order of society promises.
5. Disquisitions upon the treatment of African slaves, as preparatory to their emancipation, and exaltation from their present degraded condition.
6. General religious news, or regular details of the movements of the religious combinations, acting under the influence of the proselyting spirit of the age.
7. Occasional notices of religious publications, including reviews of new works, bearing upon any of the topics within our precincts. [xv]
8. Answers to interesting queries of general utility, and notices of all things of universal interest to all engaged in the proclamation of the Ancient Gospel, and a restoration of the Ancient Order of Things.
9: Miscellanea, or religious, moral, and literary varieties.
Much of the useful learning which has been sanctified to the elucidation of those interesting and sublime topics of Christian expectation, will, we intend be gleaned from the Christian labors of those distinguished men of liberal minds who are ranked among the most renowned Fathers of Christian Literature, and much aid is expected from a few of the more enlightened brethren of our own time.
Time, the great innovator, brings to pass everything. Gradual but unceasing is its march. It never slumbers. It never pauses. It gives maturity to everything.
When we are taught to read the volume of nature, or rather the great library of God, and have made some proficiency in the volume of Revelation, we discover that there is an admirable analogy between the volumes of Creation and Redemption. As is the progress of natural, so has been the progress of supernatural light. First, there are the glimmerings of dawn--then the twilight--then the risen day, and then the radiance of noon. So is not only the faith of the just, which brightens more and more until the perfect day; but also such are the developments of the light of life.
Starlight and moonlight ages are no more. The SUN OF MERCY has arisen. But as in the natural, so in the moral world, there are clouds and obscurations. There are interceptions of the light of the sun. There are eclypses partial and total. In a total eclypse there is the darkness of night. There have been both partial and total eclypses of the Sun of Mercy since his rising. Not only have there been cloudy and dark days, but actual darkness like that of night.
Had not a thick vapor arisen from the unfathomable abyss and hid the Sun of Mercy and of Life from human eyes, neither the beast nor the false prophet could have been born. Wild beasts go forth in the night, and in darkness commit their depredations. So the apocalyptic "wild beast" was the creature of night and of darkness.
Vapors arise from the waters, and from the unfathomable ocean1 the densest fogs arise. When we dream of troubles, we wade through deep waters. Hence, the commotions and troubled agitations of communities, are symbolized by the waters of the great abyss. From these commotions, these deep waters arose the symbolic fog, the figurative vapors which overspread the heavens and hid the Sun of Righteousness [xvi] from the eyes of mortals. The volumes of traditions, the cabalistic dogmas, the eastern philosophy, the pagan speculations, combined and modified, intercepted entirely, or totally eclypsed the light of the Moral Sun. Nearly all the earth was overspread in this darkness. The middle of this period has, properly, been called the Dark Ages.
Though the eclypse was total in Rome, it was not so everywhere. But the fairest portions of the Old World shared in it, and it was partial almost everywhere, where it was not total.
Why was this so? is one question; but, Was it so? is another. That it was so needs no proof, because all agree in the belief of the fact. We know some reasons, which may yet be offered, why it was so. But now we only appeal to the fact that it was so. This darkness has been only partially dissipated.
The Bible was brought out of prison, and Luther bid it march. He made it speak in German, and thus obtained for it a respectful hearing. It was soon loaded with immense burthens of traditions drawn from the cloisters and the cells where it had so long been incarcerated. It soon became unable to travel with its usual speed, and then stopped the Reformation. They took the points off the arrows of truth, and blunted the sword of the Spirit, so that the enemies of the truth could not be conquered.
About the commencement of the present century, finding that notes and comments, that glosses and traditions were making the word of God of little or no effect--I say, the pious of several of the great phalanxes of the rival Christian interests did agree to unmanacle and unfetter the testimony of God, and send it forth without the bolsters and crutches furnished by the schools; and this, with the spirit of inquiry which it created and fostered, has contributed much to break the yoke of clerical oppression, which so long oppressed the people--I say clerical oppression; for this has been and yet is, though much circumscribed, the worst of all sorts of oppression. The understandings, the consciences, the feelings, the bodies and the estates of men have been seized by this relentless tyrant. All who have demanded first fruits and tithes; all who have paralyzed the mind and forced the assent, or secured the homage of the conscience, have not been tyrants. Neither have all they who have rejected and reprobated this system, been humane, courteous, and merciful. There are exceptions even among priests. If the clergy never could reform the system, the system always could reform them. To repudiate the system, is to desecrate the priests, and whosoever has profaned or made common the priests, has been not only unchurched, but unchristianized. Such have been the past fates of those who ventured to depart from the consecrated way. But a new order of things has within the memory of the present [xvii] generation begun. Many of the priests have become obedient to the faith, and the natural, political, and religious rights of men have begun to be much better understood. All these auguries are favorable to the hopes of the expectants of the restoration of the ancient order of things. But nothing has so much contributed to the hopes of the intelligent, and nothing can more conduce to the regeneration of the church, than disentanglement of the Holy Oracles from the intricacies of the variant rules of interpretation which the textuaries have fashioned into a system the most repugnant to all we call reason, common sense, and analogy.
In the happiest state which we can ever expect on earth, we can only, as individuals, enjoy as much of the favor of God as the most intelligent and devout of the first converts; and, as communities, we could enjoy no more Christian peace and joy than some of the first congregations after the first promulgation of the gospel. Greater temporal felicity might be enjoyed, but the spiritual attainments of many of the congregations can not, in the aggregate mass of religious communities, be much, if at all, surpassed.
Place the whole of any community, or even the great mass of any community, under influences similar to those which governed them, and what the most sanguine expect from a Millennium would in social and religious enjoyments be realized. But there is no fixing bounds to the maximum of social and refined bliss which would flow from the very general or universal prevalence and triumphs of evangelical principles. To see a whole nation bowing, with grateful and joyous homage, to the King Eternal, immortal, and invisible, mingling all their affections in their admiration and love of him who had obtained immortality for man, would open a new fountain of enjoyments of which we have not yet tasted. To see even a few scores of intelligent Christians, in whom we confide as fellow-soldiers and fellow-citizens, and joint heirs of the heavenly inheritance, meeting around one and the same Lord's table, and uniting in the praises and adorations of one and the same common Lord and Saviour, imparts to us a joy which we are unable to express. What we should feel, or how we should feel, among myriads of such, is not for us now to conjecture. But of this in its proper place.
All I wish to remark on this occasion is, that the first step towards the introduction of this glorious age is to dissipate the darkness which covers the people and hides from their eyes the Sun, the quickening, renewing, animating Sun of Mercy. We expect no new Sun, no new revelation of the Spirit, no other than the same gospel and the same religion, only that it shall be disinterred from the rubbish of the dark ages, and made to assume its former simplicity, sublimity, and majesty. The demons of party must be dispossessed, and the false [xviii] spirits cast out. The human mind must be emancipated from the bondage of error, and information not only augmented, but extended to all the community.
Light is certainly increasing--charity enlarging the circle of its activities--the mountains of discord diminishing, and the deep valleys which separated Christians, are filling up. But much is to be done before all flesh shall enjoy the salvation of God. If all who love the Lord and the salvation of men, would unite their energies and bury the tomahawk of party conflicts, no seer could predict how rapid would be the march and how extensive the triumphs of the gospel.
But the mighty agent, or rather the successful means, of this most desirable revolution, will be the ancient gospel. There are many gospels now preached. The gospels of every sect are something different from each other, and something different from the apostolic. There can be, in truth, but one gospel; but there may be many new modified and perverted gospels. Some make their own god and worship him; and all who create a new god invent a gospel to suit his character. Surely no man of good common sense can imagine that the god of the Calvinists and the god of the Arminians are the same god. He that fancies that the god of the Trinitarians and the god of the Unitarians are one and the same divinity, can easily believe in transubstantiation.
The wisdom and the power of God, when combined, will be surely adequate to accomplish the most extraordinary promises on record. Now the placing of all nations under the dominion of his Son, under the reign of favor, under the influence of all that is pure, amiable, and heavenly, is promised; and by what means so likely to be accomplished as by that instrument which is emphatically called the wisdom and power of the Almighty? That instrument is the old gospel preached by the Apostles. This is almighty, through God, to the pulling down all the strongholds of infidelity and profanity, to the subversion of Atheism, Deism, and Sectarianism. It proved its power upon the nations once, and it begins to prove its power again. The sword of the Spirit has been muffled with the filthy rags of philosophy and mysticism until it can not cut through the ranks of the aliens. But so soon as this gospel is promulged in its old simplicity and in its native majesty, it will prove itself to be of God, and as adequate as in days of yore. It will pierce the hearts of the King's enemies; and while it slays their enmity, it will reconcile them to the authority and government of the Prince of Peace.
In prosecuting one of the great objects of this paper, and, indeed, the leading object, this point will not be lost sight of. Our modern gospels, like the metaphysics of the schools, have been inoperative. except to alienate men from one another, and to fill some with spiritual [xix] pride, and to abase others under a morose humility. Here we see them exulting in enthusiasm, and there melancholy under a system of doubts. Between these two classes there is the opinionative, the speculative, the cold and stiff formalist--exact in the ceremonies, and precise in all the forms of religion, without the power. Some, from a bolder and more independent mind, and from a happier constitutional temperament, dared to be pious and to aspire after a higher enjoyment of the spirit of religion. But these do not give character to the age.
One of the two great Reformers attacked the practices, and the other the opinions2 of the earlier part of the sixteenth century. The former was by far the most useful and puissant reformer. He gave the deadliest blow to the Beast. The other, intent on making men think right, only made converts from among the converted. This has always been the case. As Luther excelled Calvin, so did Wesley excel the Erskines. They both began upon communities called Protestants, but degenerating Protestants. Wesley directed his energies to the works of men, and the Erskines to their heterodox opinions. Wesley excelled his own more metaphysical brother, Fletcher. Fletcher was as far superior to Wesley as a reasoner and metaphysician, as Calvin was to Luther. But, as a reformer, Wesley was as far superior to Fletcher as Luther was to Calvin. The reason is obvious: the gospel called for a change of conduct--for obedience on new principles. It presented great operative principles, but called for immediate submission to new institutions. Luther's plan was more in unison with this than Calvin's; and Wesley's more than Fletcher's. Hence more visible and more useful in their tendencies. Practical men always have been the most useful; and, therefore, practical principles have been more beneficial to mankind than the most ingenious and refined speculations. Symmes might have amusingly lectured a thousand years upon his visions and his fancies; but Christopher Columbus, in one voyage, added a new world to the old one.
The ancient gospel spoke by facts, and said little about principles of action of any sort. The facts, when realized or believed, carried principles into the heart without naming them; and there was an object presented which soon called them into action. It was the true philosophy, without the name, and made all the philosophy of the world sublimated folly. It was ridiculous to hear Epicureans and Stoics reasoning against Paul. While they were talking about atoms of matter and refined principles, about virtue and vice, Paul took hold of the Resurrection of the Dead, and buried them in their own dreams. He preached Jesus and the Resurrection; he proclaimed [xx] reformation and forgiveness of sins; and before they awoke out of their reveries, he had Dionysius the Mayor of the City, the Lady Demaris, and other notable characters, immersed into Jesus.
The ancient gospel left no man in a reasoning mode about any principle of action. It left him in no doubt about the qualities or attributes of faith. It called for the obedience of faith; and by giving every man an opportunity of testing and showing his own faith by his works, it made no provision for cases of consciences, nor room for philosophic doubting. But I do not here eulogize it, but only intend to say that it is the only and the all-sufficient means to destroy antichrist, to heal divisions, to unite Christians, to convert the world, and to bless all nations; and viewing it in this light, we shall find much use for it in all that we shall attempt in this work.
In detecting the false gospels, nothing will aid us so much as an examination of their tendencies, and a comparison of their effects with what the Millennium proposes. The gospel of no sect can convert the world. This is with us a very plain proposition; and if so, the sectarian gospels are defective, or redundant, or mixed. To one of these general classes belong most of them.
When opposed by the interested, by those whom the corruptions of Christianity feed with bread and gratify with honor, I will call to mind the history of all the benefactors of men, and draw both comfort and strength from the remembrance that no man ever achieved any great good to mankind who did not wrest it with violence through ranks of opponents--who did not fight for it with courage and perseverance, and who did not, in the conflict, sacrifice either his good name or his life. John, the harbinger of the Messiah, lost his head. The Apostles were slaughtered. The Saviour was crucified. The ancient confessors were slain. The reformers all have been excommunicated. I know that we shall do little good if we are not persecuted. If I am not traduced, slandered, and misrepresented, I shall be a most unworthy advocate of that cause which has always provoked the resentment of those who have fattened upon the ignorance and superstition of the mass, and have been honored by the stupidity and sottishness of those who can not think and will not learn. But we have not a few friends and associates in this cause. There are many with whom it shall be my honor to live and labor, and my happiness to suffer and die. The ancient gospel has many powerful advocates; and the heralds of a better, of a more blissful order of things, social and religious, are neither few nor feeble. No seven years of the last ten centuries. as the last seven, have been so strongly marked with the criteria of the dawn of that period which has been the theme of many a discourse, and the burthen of many a prayer.
The first thought of the Almighty Maker of this stupendous universe, in reference to this system, was the ultimate and ineffable glory and bliss of his rational offspring. When creation is contemplated in accordance with the character of its Great Architect, this idea suggests itself to the mind. The most august palace ever reared by human hands was for the residence of him who designed it. His splendid and happy inhabitation was the first thought in the designer; and, in subordination to this, was the whole scheme originated and conducted. That which was first in the design is, however, always last in the execution. For although the Prince first thought of his magnificent abode in the castle which he erected, it was not till everything pertaining to its perfect completion was accomplished, that he made it the mansion of his glory. The painter's last touch precedes the entrance of the illustrious resident. The first thought is the end, and the first act the beginning of all things.
Before the real temple of Jehovah will be perfected and the city of the Great King ready for his reception, the scaffolding must be consumed. But the Most High God dwells not in temples made by human hands. He builds a temple for himself. And that temple will be the purified and glorified spirits of the saints. They are the materials of God's own house. "I will dwell among them and walk in them," says the Almighty. But all the saints shall be placed as stones in this heavenly temple before its gates are opened, before the New Jerusalem descends from the present heaven, and becomes the new and eternal mansion of Nature's Immortal King. Hence the general conflagration of the scaffolding of the works of nature and of grace is, in the visions of future things, to precede the first note of the eternal song to him who, will inhabit thenceforth the new praises of eternity.
The material systems are but the scaffoldings to the different stories of the heavenly temple of many mansions. As respects our race, it is nature first, grace second, and glory third and last of all. When all the lumber of seven thousand years shall have been consumed, and the dome of glory everlasting perfected, the first thought of the Great Contriver shall be intelligibly expressed to the universe of glorified reason. God, all in all, is the chorus of the eternal song. The tongues which sing it shall not be eternal mutes. Every opposing mouth shall be stopped, when the great consummation vindicates the plan and progress of the supreme government of all systems. Let us, then, kiss the San, be silent, and adore.
Man was made in the image of God. His little creations are imitations of the Great Creator. We form designs and attempt their accomplishment. [xxii] Our first thought is the end of our efforts; and if we live to perfect our plans, we do no more than give expression to the first idea. The volume can not be read till the last word is written; but the reading of it is always in the intention of the writer. The effect to be produced is the ultimatum in his intention who writes a book. He thinks that he may write, and writes that it may be read; but the reading is solicited for the end proposed to himself.
When our bodies are immersed in water and our souls into the Holy Spirit, our plans are all religious. If we value intelligence, it is for its purifying tendencies; if we value purity, it is for its blissful termination. Bliss is our goal--intelligence and purity is the racecourse.
Human happiness is our end and aim in all our editorial labors. But as in the scheme of Heaven, wickedness must be punished, and the wicked afflicted; so in the most benevolent designs those who oppose the way of righteousness must be chastised, were it only by the exposure of their schemes.
We still flatter ourselves that we shall have less occasion for the invective, and more room for the development of the renovating truth. It is always, however, difficult to remove the rubbish without raising the dust; and the Babel repairers have always obstructed the rebuilding of the Lord's city and his earthly temple.
Kind nature has given, as Anacreon saith, to each animal a defensive weapon, from which it has withholden an offensive one. Timidity is to the sheep what horns are to the goat; the swiftness of foot of the hare is its shield against the teeth of the dog; to the lion she has given teeth and paws; to the ox, horns; to the horse, his hoofs; and to the wild cat, its musk. Each, when attacked, relies for protection Upon its natural armor of defense. Truth has argument; and error, vituperation and anathema for its defense.
Reason, we repeat, is the strength and dignity of man. He who has to employ another weapon in his own defense, degrades himself as well as his cause. Cannons are the last reason of kings, it is said; but this is an abuse of speech. Brutal force might as justly be called the eloquence of a highwayman. The anathema of a clerical council and the denunciations of a mercenary press are the last reasons of errorists: but these, like cannon balls, are not addressed to the understanding, nor the conscience; but to the animal fears of men.
The press is as venal as the pulpit, when error is to be propagated; and when passion and pride are to be gratified, a falsehood or a malediction is more suitable than the Sermon upon the Mount. Satan's kingdom has been built up by lies, as uniformly as that of the Messiah by truth. In the controversy about the body of Moses, Michael reasoned, but did not slander nor revile: while Satan reviled and did not [xxiii] reason. Ever since error was believed among men, it has been sustained by the same means by which it was first introduced.
By some strange fatality the opposers of reform have always defeated themselves. It is true they formerly succeeded in keeping a part of their kingdom from an apostasy from error. Those who succeeded in opposing Luther, succeeded in keeping up the superstitions of popery; and the children of them who opposed him are now inheriting their father's errors. In this way their gain was the loss and ruin of their own posterity. What they lost of their kingdom was little in comparison of what they lost in their own persons and families. In every war against the New Testament the loss is loss, the gain is, loss, and every victory is a defeat. Thus error always defeats itself.
Men are never more deceived than in their calculations upon success in opposing reformation principles. Even after their battles are wisely planned, their preliminary schemes successful, and victory in sight, the trophies often recede from the eye, and the crown from the touch of the confident aspirant. No doubt that Herod felt himself secure in his throne, and obtained a quietus to his fears after the slaughter of the infants in Bethlehem. But he knew not that the infant whose death alone he meditated was sleeping securely in Egypt.
When the chief priests, at the head of an exasperated populace, sustained by a Roman governor, had crucified the Prince of Life, they rejoiced that victory was won, and their lordship over the people retained in spite of the wonderful revolutionist. But transient was their joy, and short-lived their exultations! The dead Jesus is found instructing his disciples to wage a more successful war against the rulers of the darkness of this world. The Apostles alarm the Sanhedrim by the thousands who heard them gladly, and they began to machinate anew against these propagators of what they called the odious heresy. The ringleaders, Peter and John, are thrust into prison. The heretics secured, the priesthood again exult. Their joy, however, is soon turned into sorrow. Tomorrow morning the prisoners are speaking to the people, and the people still hear them gladly. Every scheme to suppress, and every victory which the enemies of the ancient gospel imagined they obtained against it, only furthered its progress and gave it the ascendant over its rival systems. Even the martyrdom of Stephen, the dispersion of the great congregation which was in Jerusalem, and the fierce opposition of Saul of Tarsus, for a time--all conspired to give momentum and celerity to the march of reformation.
Every effort to reform has been opposed by those whose professions ought to have placed them in the van of the preachers of righteousness. But experience has proved that those in power with the people are always afraid of revolution. There were those at home as well as [xxiv] those abroad who opposed the American Revolution. Often was the contest represented as very doubtful, and sometimes thought to be almost suppressed; but, like a smothered fire, it broke out again with all-conquering power. The enemies of liberty and equal rights in the old country, speaking through their representatives in Parliament, often said, "A few more ships of the line, and a regiment or two more dispatched to the colonies, and the rebels are vanquished." They raised new armaments, and equipped new ships, and sung, "Down with the insurgents!" but all in vain. The rights of man triumphed, and will triumph again!
Luther's Reformation was often represented as expiring in agonies. Still it lived and progressed. The councils of the Pope and his Cardinals were held often and at short intervals. The lesser and the greater excommunications were threatened, and relied upon. But what did they avail? The "bull" of excommunication is issued to gore Luther and his friends; but what of that? The very instant the councils had done all they could, the cause began to triumph.
Even yet the enemies of reform rely upon such measures; and because some of the reformers have suffered the greater excommunication from the hands of the general union councils de propaganda fide, the Luminary of the anti-reformists proclaims the speedy desolations of New Testamentism in Kentucky. A few months are allowed for the funeral obsequies, and the days of mourning for the reformers shall be ended.
But as soon will the Baptist Chronicle and its friends prevent the rising of the sun, as suppress the progress of reform in this commonwealth. There is a redeeming principle in this community which no man nor set of men can impede. Since my last visit to this country the conquests of the spirit of inquiry and research, everywhere apparent, and the progress of many great minds in the knowledge of the Christian institution, far surpass anything I had learned from the most flattering communications. The immense congregations which we meet in every town and village, as well a in the country, which no inclemency of weather nor unpleasantness of the roads prevents, with the crowds of inquirers flocking to the hospitable firesides of the friends of reform, constitute one of the signs of the times here, which no perversity of mind can misinterpret.
The chain of Xerxes did as much fetter the sea, as the Franklin Decrees can restrain the inquisitiveness which is everywhere abroad. The minds of the Kentucky reformers have done as much homage to the Frankfort triumvirate as Mount Athos did to that vain and haughty monarch, who presumed to command it into obeisance. Some men are slow to learn, even in the school of experience, or they would [xxv] ere now have learned that the human mind can not be restrained by prohibitions, nor made to think per orders of those in power.
Time, the material of which life is made, never pauses. In its onward current to the ocean of eternity, it carries with it all the busy tribes of men. Our fathers--where are they? and the Prophets--do they live forever? Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom and understanding!
The year One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty-three has arrived. Almost eighteen full centuries are completed since life and incorruptibility arose from the darkness of the grave, in the person of Messiah, to bless a dying world. The Apostacy is in its dotage, and the Man of Sin tottering on the brink of the grave. The world is, in travail; a new age is soon to be barn; and the great regeneration, is at hand. The parchments, the leagues and covenants that bind the nations in their social and unsocial compacts, are moth-eaten. The foundations of the political mountains and hills are crumbling down to dust; and the imbecilities of all human policies to give to man the knowledge of his rights and the enjoyment of them, are becoming manifest to all. A solemn expectation, an eager longing for some great change, the sure prelude of a mighty system of revolutions, is marked in the pensive countenances of all who think and believe that the Lord Almighty reigns. Expectation is on tiptoe, stretching forward into the mysterious future, ready to hail with acclamation the harbinger of better times. Jew and Gentile now unite in the anxious anticipation of a great deliverer, whose right to rule the nations none dare dispute.
Our little party jealousies and strifes, our ecclesiastical bickerings and feuds, are all arguments of irresistible demonstration that the Christian profession has, in the long, dark night of error, mistook its way, and been jostled off the foundation of God. The voice of reformation has been lifted up, and the banners of the ancient constitution of Messiah's kingdom have been unfurled. The ancient standard has been dug up out of the ruins of the ages of delinquency; but of the immense multitudes who acknowledge its theoretic excellence and practical utility, how few are inspired with that holy spirit of unconditional submission to the authority of the Prime Ministers of Messiah's realm, which distinguished the soldiers of the cross in the days of uncorrupted Christianity.
A remnant has always been found in times of the greatest delinquency; and in the close of the times of the Gentiles we have reason to rejoice, that there is a goodly number of the Gentiles who rally under the testimony of Jesus, and are zealous for his institutions. [xxvi] The theory of reformation is, however, far in advance of the practice, and to this fact special regard will be had in the volume which we have just commenced. It is no common thing to be, in the constitutional import of the word, a practical Christian, or, rather, a Christian in fact. To admire and commend such a one is easy and pleasing to all; but to exhibit and fill up all the outlines of a child of God, a citizen of heaven, and an heir of immortality, is not the result of a wish or a prayer, but of the untiring efforts of an enlightened understanding, and a pure heart, to be conformed to the whole declared will of our Father who is in heaven.
Every day's experience develops more fully the profound depths of the philosophy of the Divine Author of the Christian faith. Wisdom, knowledge, and goodness infinite appear in all his aphorisms. Errors of some sort may be found, have been found, and will be found in some of the maxims and sayings of the wisest of the wise men of all times, either ancient or modern; but no man's age, wisdom, knowledge, or experience has yet found one flaw in the reasonings, one error in the conclusions, one mistake in all the recorded sayings of Jesus the Nazarene. Moreover, it is, to me at least, most clearly evident, that if human life were extended for the term of seven thousand years; and if one man's experience were so enlarged as to engross within it the experience of all the men that have lived or shall live in that long period, he would at the close of his life have as much reason as when he first began to think for himself, to exclaim, C the depths both of the wisdom and knowledge of Jesus Christ! How infinite! How unsearchable!
This fact constitutes no weak argument in proof of his celestial and divine descent. We might stake our hope of eternal life upon the inability of man, philosopher or sage, to detect an error or a falsehood in all that is recorded of him. But it was not for this Purpose that we have made this remark; we have been led to it when about to quote a maxim from Jesus as pertinent to the commencement of a new volume. That maxim is, "Sufficient for every day is its own trouble." From which I learn, first, that every day has its own trouble; and, in the second place, that its own trouble is sufficient for every day. This I did not know some twenty-five years ago.
In the bright sketches of a vivid imagination I foresaw, in the glowing visions of the future, many clear and cloudless days, without a sorrow or a sigh. But I was as one that dreamed. Every day, with all its pleasures and its joys, has had its troubles, too.
Though by kind nature happily inclined ever to contemplate the bright side of the picture, the disappointments of every day have at [xxvii] length thrown some dark clouds into all my paintings of the remnant of life. There are no more golden days, free from cares and fears, within the horizon of my future anticipations. But the philosophy of Jesus happily interposes in my behalf, and admonishes me not to increase the troubles of to-day with those of to-morrow; but to regard the troubles of the present as sufficient without the addition of the anticipated evils of the future. While, then, the maxim of the Great Teacher assures us that every day "has its own trouble," it kindly admonishes us to regard its own trouble as sufficient.
From the preface to the volume of 1838 we extract this: The theory and practice of Christianity are as distinct as the theory and practice of medicine. Few persons are eminent in both. The busy theorist has not time to practice; and the busy practitioner has not time to theorize. We teach that right thinking must precede right speaking and right acting; but should we stop at the end of right thinking, and be satisfied with ourselves, we should prove ourselves to be wrong thinkers of no ordinary type.
We have had the Gospel and Christianity restored on paper and in speech; we want to see them living, moving, and acting on the stage of time, on a larger scale and with more brilliant light and power than has hitherto appeared.
To extend the Christian profession, rather than to elevate it, has been too much the spirit of modern enterprise. To extend it is, indeed, most desirable and most consonant to the suggestions of the Christian spirit; but few seem to apprehend that to elevate it is the surer and speedier way to extend it. The boundaries between the church and the world are not sufficiently prominent to strike the attention of the truly inquisitive. The heavenly character of Christ's religion is so deeply veiled under the garb of expedient conformity to worldly maxims and worldly interests, that it is too dimly seen to command the attention of even those who ardently seek for some substantial joys to fill an empty mind.
Our brethren in the cause of reformation are indeed surrounded with some unpropitious circumstances. They began with theory, and their opponents are determined always to keep them in it. The reformer is too often regarded as the assailant, and the objects of his benevolence feel as though they ought to stand upon the defensive. So have we been often regarded. But while we earnestly contend for the faith anciently delivered, we ought to remember that even that faith was delivered for the sake of its living, active, and eternal fruits.
In 1840 he says: "Years roll on: the pulse of time never ceases. the wheels of Nature carry down all the living with a constant and rapid motion. We are born, we live, we die, and are forgotten amidst [xxviii] the bustle of coming years. We are now the actors--the dramatis personae on the stage of time. Each one plays his part, and retires behind the curtains of death. But the sequel is on another theatre, before other spectators and auditors. The plaudits and the hissings are eternal. We play for crowns and kingdoms--for deathless fame and imperishable treasures. A heaven is lost, or a heaven is won at the close of the last act.
"There are many subordinate parts in the great drama of human existence. There are also very conspicuous and high places--great responsibilities--immense prizes--while every one has his own destiny at stake, and all are to be rewarded according to their works.
"Such reflections crowd upon us on the commencement of a new volume in the progress of a great revolution--a reformation--a change for the better in the ecclesiastic and moral relations and positions of society. We feel our obligations and responsibilities to be very great. The cause on hand is above all causes now before the bar of public opinion. It demands all our powers--it calls for all our resources. The question is variously propounded; but the substance is, Who shall rule in Zion?--Jesus or the Pope?--Christ or Antichrist?--the twelve Apostles or twelve hundred Synods and Councils?--the New Testament or a human creed?--the Word of the Lord or the Opinions of men?--Union or Schism?--Catholicity or Sectarianism?--one Lord, one faith, one baptism, or three Lords, three faiths, and three baptisms?"
Preface, 1841: "In the present volume some points claim our special attention: such as, the necessity of a more conciliatory spirit towards the more evangelical professors--the necessity and practicability of the enjoyment of larger measures of spiritual influence--education in all its branches, domestic, scholastic, and ecclesiastic."
In 1843 we find: "There is yet, however, much wanting in very many of our churches to bring them up to their own acknowledgments. We want a thorough church organization, a more efficient ministry, in and out of the church; Elders, Deacons, and Evangelists; and, above all, more spirituality and moral excellence; much less conformity to the world--and a more cordial, devout, and unreserved submission to the Lord, are points in which we are very generally yet wanting; to all of which, especially to the subject of church organization and family education, shall we devote, the Lord being our helper, the pages of the present volume."
In 1844 he says: "Had I the means of accomplishing my desires, I would have a Quarterly Christian Review, of solid and substantial reading, composed of sacred literature, various Biblical criticism, reviews of new publications on Theology, notices of persons and things ecclesiastical." [xxix]
In 1848 Mr. Campbell says: "Still we would not have our readers nor the public conclude that we do not think that, in several instances and in some points, certain matters have had an exaggerated importance given to them by over-zealous and less informed brethren--that there has been much mismanagement, also some unchristian developments and speculations promulged amongst us, as well as a too dogmatical spirit displayed on the part of certain writers, editors, and preachers. We have, indeed, had as little of these as could have been rationally expected amongst so many disconnected and unassociated editors, writers, preachers, and teachers, coming from parties and schools as numerous and as various as all the parties and schools of Protestant Christendom. Had we not had cohorts of other minds well read and better balanced, zealous, indefatigable, and influential, we must have been greatly disappointed or signally defeated. It is all, indeed, the Lord's doing and marvellous in our eyes."
In 1849 [sic] he says: "It was well for the cause that no one presumed to print anything for many years, till its main principles were well matured by a few. During the first ten years, while matters were under investigation and oral discussion, but one single pamphlet appeared on the legal and evangelical dispensations. We did not then grow so rapidly into scribes and editors as we have since done. Some amongst us, converted in their minority, very soon after their majority deem themselves competent to enter upon the responsible duties and calling of editors and teachers of old men and fathers." [xxx]
|1. Alexander Campbell. "Prospectus." The Millennial Harbinger 1 (January 1830): 1-3.|
|2. ----------. "Prefatory Remarks." The Millennial Harbinger 1 (January 1830): 3-8.|
|3. ----------. "Preface." The Millennial Harbinger 2 (January 1831): 1-5.|
|4. ----------. "Preface." The Millennial Harbinger 4 (January 1833): 3-4.|
|5. ----------. "Preface." The Millennial Harbinger 6 (January 1835): 3-4.|
|6. ----------. "Preface." The Millennial Harbinger 9 (January 1838): 3-4.|
|7. ----------. "Preface." The Millennial Harbinger 11 (January 1840): 3.|
|8. ----------. "Prefatory Remarks." The Millennial Harbinger 12 (January 1841): 4.|
|9. ----------. "Preface." The Millennial Harbinger 14 (January 1843): 6-7.|
|10. ----------. "Introduction." The Millennial Harbinger 15 (January 1844): 3.|
|11. ----------. "Preface." The Millennial Harbinger 19 (January 1848): 5.|
|12. ----------. "Prefatory Remarks." The Millennial Harbinger 21 (January 1850): 5.|
[Table of Contents]
|Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)