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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)



      In 1832 Mr. Campbell issued an extra, of which the following on the Bible is a part:

      The following questions and answers are tendered to our readers on a variety of subjects which have been discussed in our periodicals. The answers here given are the only answers which, in accordance with reason, common sense, and the Holy Scriptures, can be given. [182] The proof is not, however, adduced, nor even are the answers fully illustrated; because we presume this has already been done in extenso, in our previous pages. The object here is to give a condensed view of much that has been said and written on these subjects, and in the more striking form of questions and answers. It will also, we hope, be the means of not only reviving the recollections of our constant readers, on all these topics; but will, we anticipate, be the means of giving a proper direction to the minds of those who have not examined these matters with much attention.

      If any person can answer any question in this collection in any terms not in accordance with the meaning of the answers given, we shall thank him for his reasons. But as at present advised, we rather think it to be out of the pale of any communion with experience, observation, and the inspired writings, to furnish other answers than those given. For proof, where it is required, we refer to all our former writings on these subjects.

      Question 1. Is there any natural and common desire discovered in the human constitution, for the gratification of which there is nothing in existence?

      Answer. There can not be; unless we become atheists and say there is no God, or deists, and say there is no divine revelation.

      Q. 2. But are there any common or natural desires in the human constitution?

      A. The animal appetites and propensities are all natural and universal; so is the desire of happiness, or the full gratification of all our capacities.

      Q. 3. Is the knowledge of our origin and destiny necessary to our happiness?

      A. Yes; and, therefore, it is the most common and natural of all rational desires.

      Q. 4. How would you prove that the desire to know our origin and destiny is a natural and universal desire?

      A. There never was found a nation without some traditionary or fabulous account of its origin; without some prophecy, omen, augury, or sign, by which the future was to be known; and to which the individuals of that nation have had recourse. There can not now be found an individual who desires not the knowledge of his origin and destiny. It is, therefore, a natural, a universal, and, we may add, a rational desire. The production of only one individual in the enjoyment of reason, who can say that he does not now, and never did, desire to know his origin and his destiny, would suffice to prove that the desire is neither natural nor universal. But in the absence of such an individual, we affirm it to be universal.

      Q. 5. Is man the author of this desire? [183]

      A. No more than he is the author of himself.

      Q. 6. Can man satisfy this desire?

      A. No: for he must have been before man, who can show him his origin; and he must know the whole future of existence, who can intimate to him his destiny. The Creator or Author of man alone can satisfy this desire.

      Q. 7. Has such a communication ever been made to man?

      A. Yes; else we must affirm that the most natural, universal, and rational desire in our constitution is the only one for which the Creator has made no provision whatever!

      Q. 8. How could God communicate to man this knowledge?

      A. By a revelation in words.

      Q. 9. Why not by his works?

      A. Whatever may be said about the works of creation attesting the existence and perfections of God, nothing plausible can be said in behalf of a discovery of man's origin and destiny from the works of creation: for by words alone can the knowledge of the past and the future be communicated to man.

      Q. 10. But can God speak?

      A. Most certainly, if any of his creatures can speak. To say that God could not speak to man, or that he never did speak to him, is, of all propositions, the most irreconcilable to all the principles from which we reason in reference to our rank and standing in the universe, and the character of the moral Governor of the world.

      Q. 11. Has God spoken to man?

      A. That he has, not only do our reasonings from his perfections, from man's rank in creation, from all analogies, from tradition, from miracles, abundantly attest; but the book, the record itself, the thing communicated, the revelation, irrefragably asserts and vindicates its authorship.

      Q. 12. In what language has God spoken?

      A. In the language of man--not in the language of angels.

      Q. 13. Was it his design to be understood in our language?

      A. Most assuredly it was his design to communicate ideas to man: and as there is no way of teaching things unknown but by things known, and of speaking intelligibly to man but by using his own words; so God, in speaking to, man, has not only clothed his ideas in human speech, but has used our words in the common acceptation of them.

      Q. 14. Could anything in the language of man be esteemed a revelation from God, if the words chosen by God were not used by their common signification?

      A. No: for if God annexed to our words, or the speech which he had given to man, a secret meaning, a private and peculiar sense, [184] such a communication would rather delude and confound, than illuminate the human understanding.

      Q. 15. If, then, God speaks in human language, must not his communications be submitted to the same rules of interpretation as all other verbal communications?

      A. Yes: for were it otherwise, who could understand them? To what other laws of interpretation could they be submitted?

      Q. 16. If an occult meaning, or a cabalistic sense, is to be sought for in the sacred Scriptures, by what rules, or means, could it be ascertained?

      A. By none; and, therefore, no criminality could be attached to the most palpable ignorance of God, even where his word is most accessible.

      Q. 17. But is it not impossible for a natural man to understand spiritual things, in whatever style they may be expressed?

      A. Yes: if the word is not communicated to him. The child of pure nature, the savage, or the barbarian, without a verbal revelation, can not understand the things supernatural, any more than a man, having eyes, can see natural objects without natural light.

      Q. 18. But if a natural man can not understand spiritual thing„ when communicated to him in plain language, is it not impossible for him ever to become a spiritual man?

      A. Yes: unless we can suppose a man to be spiritual before he has a knowledge of spiritual things. And if a person can be made spiritual without the knowledge of spiritual things, then all the Scriptures are addressed to spiritual men: for how absurd would it be to address natural men on spiritual things, when it is utterly impossible for them to understand them, so long as they are natural men.

      Q. 19. But are the Scriptures all addressed to spiritual men--or rather to converted men?

      A. No: unless "wicked men," "stout hearted men and far from righteousness," "unbelievers, despisers, and all ungodly and profane persons," are amongst spiritual men, for all these are directly addressed.

      Q. 20. Can you instance any addresses in the Old Testament of the New to such characters--to natural men, to unbelievers, which intimate that they can understand them?

      A. Very many, of which the following are only a specimen:

      Old Testament Addresses.--"Look to me all you ends of the earth, and be saved, for I am God, and there is none else. Let the wicked man forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Hearken to me, you stout hearted and far from righteousness; you stiff necked and [185] uncircumcised in heart and ears. I will bring near my righteousness, it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry; and I will place salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory. How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity, and the scorner delight in his scorning, and fools hate knowledge; turn you at my reproof: behold I will pour out my spirit upon you: I will make known my words to you." To this effect a thousand passages in the Old Scriptures.

      New Testament Addresses.--In the Christian Scriptures we have no lack of such addresses. Thus the harbinger of Jesus speaks--"Offspring of vipers--bring forth fruits worthy of reformation--reason not within yourself--Abraham is ours--reform, or you will be immersed in fire--the chaff he will consume in unquenchable flame." The Lord addressed Bethsaida, Chorazin, and Jerusalem, calling upon them to reform. He addressed the reprobates of that generation, telling them that the men of Nineveh, and the queen of Sheba, should arise to confront them in the day of judgment. He commanded them following him for the loaves and fishes, to labor for the bread which endures to everlasting life. Nay, the Apostles preached to pagans, idolaters, natural men of every shade and complexion of unbelief, and commanded all men everywhere to reform. Yes, and more still--John says, the testimonies "were written" that natural men, unconverted, infidel men, that sinners "might believe" that Jesus is the Messiah, and have life through his name. "As though God did beseech you by us, we pray you, irreconciled sinners, to be reconciled to God," etc., etc.

      Much of both Testaments is addressed specially and emphatically to natural men. Now if they can not understand those things which are intended for making them spiritual men, why are they thus addressed? Is it all a farce, a mockery, a delusion! or is it because God can speak to sinners as well as to saints! If God ever spoke to man since the fall, he spoke first to a natural unconverted man--and addressed him as such.

      Q. 21. Might we not, then, say that the portions of God's communications addressed to natural men, are just as intelligible to them, and as well adapted to their conversion, as those parts addressed to Christians or saints, are adapted to their understanding, edification, and sanctification to God?

      A. Most rationally and Scripturally we may say so--else Paul had no reason nor prudence in becoming all things to all men, that he might gain some--in addressing the Jew as a Jew, the Gentile as a Gentile; in rightly dividing the word of truth, and in answering every man according to his standing with God and men.

      Q. 22. Can you mention any Scripture which commends the revelation to all men as intelligible, and able to make them wise to salvation? [186]

      A. I can. Paul says to Timothy, 'From a child you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise to salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ; for all Scripture give by inspiration of God, is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly fitted for every good work."

      Q. 23. Who of the New Testament authors writes the most upon the mysteries, or secrets of the Christian religion?

      A. Paul.

      Q. 24. Is there any declaration of his which would lead any of his readers to think that he could understand the knowledge which Paul communicates on these secrets of Christ?

      A. Yes: Paul says to the Ephesians concerning the greatest secrets communicated to him, "By revelation God made known to me the mystery, as I wrote to you in few words; whereby, when you read, YOU MAY UNDERSTAND my knowledge in the mystery of Christ."

      Q. 25. Might it not be said that the natural man savors not spiritual things, while the spiritual man savors all things?

      A. Yes; in Paul's sense of these words. The natural man can understand the things addressed to him, and these are all the things that should be addressed to him, so long as he continues out of the kingdom of Jesus--until he believes and obeys the gospel. But when he is naturalized or born again, then may be communicated to him the secrets of the reign: for he can then discover the things of the Spirit. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him." The things of the kingdom are veiled from those at a distance from it. They are too far off to discern them. Therefore they should be addressed as unbelievers, exhorted and commanded to do the things enjoined upon such; but after turning to the Lord, a new song is put into their mouth; and a new lesson put into their hands; and thus the book of God adapts itself to all classes and conditions of men.

      Q. 26. How comes it to pass that a book from such an author, on such a subject, and addressed to all mankind, should be so difficult to understand?

      A. There are in religion, as in nature, deep and unfathomable things, which overwhelm, in religious awe, all the powers of the human mind. These are the "things hard to be understood," while the language which suggests them is as plain, and intelligible as any other language In the book.

      Q. 27. But is not the gospel one of the plainest things in all the divine communications, and are not all the Christian institutions as plain as language can make them?

      A. Most unhesitatingly we must answer yes. To the poor and the ignorant the gospel is announced. Therefore it must be plain. [187]

      Q. 28. What then are the deep and unfathomable things?

      A. Some of the principles of the divine government; the original and ultimate designs of creation, providence and redemption; to which department belong all the pages of prophecy yet unfulfilled, and all the prophecies of past times. In reference to these one may say, with the arch-treasurer of Ethiopia, "How can I understand these annunciations, unless some one guide me?" But while prophecy always required an expositor, and while there are developments of that incomprehensible mind, which, in religion, as in nature, avouch the grandeur and majesty of Him who modeled the temple of the universe after the counsels of his own will; the word of life, the gospel of salvation, with all its sanctifying institutions, is so perspicuously and familiarly expressed that no honest mind can possibly mistake the path of life.

      Q. 29. To what, then, are we to attribute the numerous and discordant theories of faith and salvation which have fractured Christendom into so many sects?

      A. These are not to be charged to the obscurities of the revelation, but to the pride of the human mind. Men will not submit to the righteousness of God. Mysticism, and philosophy falsely so called, have created an aristocracy in the commonwealth of religion, and from the times of the Platonic conversions till now, men have prided themselves in belonging to this aristocracy, in taking rank according to the precedence of mysticism and speculative science, and have thus become the prey of an empty and a deceitful philosophy. Not one in ten thousand of the men of renown in the kingdom of the clergy, have ever stooped to the simplicity that there is in Christ. They have been soaring to the skies in their speculations, and by their own recondite abstractions, have sought for elevation in a kingdom which regards not humility as the high road to honor. They have been interred in the piles of rubbish which they have reared. To them one might apply:

"O sons of earth ! attempt you still to rise,
  By mountains piled on mountains, to the skies!
  Heaven still with laughter the vain toil surveys,
  And buries madmen in the heaps they raise."

But while God resists the proud, he gives grace to the humble. Every one who will sit at the feet of Jesus, will know that the knowledge of salvation is easily acquired; and that the simpleton, or he that becomes a fool that he may be wise, will attain to the full assurance of understanding in the mystery of Christ.

      Q. 30. What! are there mysteries in Christianity?

      A. Secrets there were until developed, and until developed to every man, there are mysteries still. But the greatest of all secrets, to this age, is, that Christianity consists in simply believing what God has said, and in doing what he has commanded. [188]

      Q. 31. Are there not many honest men on the opposite sides of all theological questions?

      A. Honest to a theory and to the prejudices of education, they are; honest, also, to what they conscientiously apprehend to be the will of heaven; honest, as was Saul of Tarsus, while he anathematized the Messiah--but honest to the Bible they can not be, who mistake the way of salvation.

      Q. 32. But how can a man be honest to himself and not honest to the Bible?

      A. In the same manner that many persons are honest to the rules of commerce and to the approved course of trade, honest according to civil law and the principles of mercantile education, while the commerce itself, and the principles of traffic approved by the world, are reprobated at the bar of right reason and the Scriptures of truth.

      Q. 33. How can a man be honest to the Bible?

      A. By coming to it without a single inclination to any opinion, theory, or system, whatever; submitting his mind to it, as the sealing wax is submitted to the signet, prepared to receive from it, its own impression. The mind of such a person, like a mirror, reflects the image of the book.

      Q. 34. Will all who approach it thus, receive from it the same impression?

      A. Yes: the same impression, differing only as the substances which are impressed by the same seal, according to their respective qualities. Thus the characters engraved by the same type, will be the same in all the grand outlines; although on paper of different qualities, and on materials of a different fabrication, there may be a considerable variety as respects distinctness and beauty.

      Q. 35. Are there not many who approach the Bible without any bias, who, nevertheless, arrive at very different conclusions, or receive very different impressions?

      A. Not on the matters which are connected with salvation. But it is to be suspected that the number who thus approach the Bible are fewer than any sectary can think. The minds of almost the whole community are polluted with human inventions, from the first dawnings of reason, even before reflection has dared to compare, examine, or decide. From the constitution of the human family, the mind, as well as the body, of one generation is dependent on that which preceded it; and this greatly contributes to the difficulty of reading the book without any prejudice.

      Q. 36. Why are many good people so much divided in their general views of the Scripture?

      A. Because they belong to different sects, and have different systems, and they rather make the Bible bow to their own system, [189] received by tradition from their fathers, than make their system bow to the Bible; or, in other words, each man, too generally, views the Bible through the medium of his system, and of course it will appear to him to favor it. Just as if A, B and C should each put on different colored glasses; A puts on green spectacles, B yellow, and C blue: each one of them looks through his oven glasses at a piece of white paper, and each concludes he is right, not remembering that he has his spectacles on. Thus to A it appears green, to B yellow, and to C blue. They begin to argue on the subject, and it is impossible for any one of them to convince another that he is wrong--each one feels a conviction next to absolute certainty that his opinion is right. But D, who has no spectacles on, and who is standing looking on during the contest, very well knows that they are all wrong; he sees the spectacles on each man's nose and so accounts for the difference. Thus one professor reads the Bible with John Calvin on his nose; another with John Wesley on his nose; a third with John Gill, or some of the good old lights of Scotland. Thrice happy is the man who lifts the Bible as if it had dropped from heaven into his hands alone and whose eyes are anointed that he may see.

[A. C.]      

      1. Alexander Campbell. Introductory Note to the Extra. The Millennial Harbinger Extra 3 (August 1832):
      2. ----------. "The Bible" The Millennial Harbinger Extra 3 (August 1832): 337-343.


[MHA1 182-190]

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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)