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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)


[From the Religious Herald.]


"Disciple or convert the nations, immersing them," etc.

      The point at issue between Mr. Campbell and myself, in this case, is not whether baptism appertains to the character of a disciple of Christ: this I not only admit, but maintain. And so of the observance of the Lord's supper, and, indeed, of "all those things" which our King left in charge with his Apostles. Nor is the question between us, whether baptism is the act by which persons are formally recognized as disciples: for here again we agree. But the question is this:--Does it follow from the grammatical construction of the commission, when translated, "convert all the nations, immersing them," etc., that baptism is to be considered as really and properly the converting act: is that by which the command to convert was to be obeyed, and the nations converted? Mr. Campbell affirms, and I have undertaken to deny: and here we are at issue.

      In support of his position, Mr. Campbell argues, that "the active participle does always, when connected with the imperative mood, express the manner in which the thing commanded is to be performed:" and thus, that the commission given by our Lord, "convert [529] all the nations, immersing them," etc., must be interpreted, convert them by immersing them: "That was the act [he says] by which the command to convert the nations was to be obeyed." (C. B., vol. 7, p. 164.)

      Strongly persuaded that Mr. Campbell was too sanguine in his conclusion, I ventured to call in question the validity of his criticism; and undertook to show, that the universality of his position could not be maintained. That the active participle does not always express the manner of performing the preceding command; but that sometimes it expresses another thing, distinct from the first; or, in other words, that it has the force of another imperative mood. This point being established, the argument founded on Mr. Campbell's criticism would fall to the ground; and we must then resort to other data to decide the question, "Is baptism really the converting act?" Here still I differed from Mr. Campbell, and endeavored briefly to show that conversion does not consist in baptism. This, I believe, is a fair statement of the case.

      From the manner in which my friend of the Harbinger has replied to my strictures, (waving his palm triumphantly over me,) it would seem that he is quite confident my "Criticism" is blown all to atoms; and possibly some others may think so too. Mr. Campbell can argue not only powerfully, when on the right side, but plausibly, when he happens to be on the wrong side. What will be thought when I now say, with confidence, (though I trust, with becoming modesty, and certainly with perfect friendship,) that I feel myself prepared to sustain my criticism, as well as to defend my theology! The point we have been on has not yet received a proper attention. It is desirable I should not be tedious, and I will enter immediately into the matter.

      My position is this: that the active participle, connected with the imperative mood, does not always express the manner in which the preceding command is to be performed:--that sometimes (and more frequently indeed than I had supposed) it expresses a distinct action--having the force of another imperative, and being convertible into that mood, with the conjunction, and, before it, expressed or understood. Be it observed, that the construction I contend for, takes place in condensed sentences, condensed as to matter and form; there being a close connection between the parts of the sentence, and an affinity in the object.

      I was just about to illustrate my position, by casting another bullet in the same mould; thinking it might be smoother than my other two; I was just about to invent another example. But I forbear; there is no need; and I might not only give my friend some trouble in "converting it into good common English," or in exposing [530] its good-for-nothingness; but bring on myself also some chastisement, for the violence I might happen to commit on the principles of language. Well than; let me exemplify from better authority.

      I am called on to bring one example to my purpose, "only one example, from any standard writer, Grecian, Roman, or English;" and I will do more than that: I will perform, for once, a work of supererogation.

      Col. iii. 16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another, in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs." Now permit me to say, that these two active principles, teaching and admonishing, do not, strictly and properly speaking, express the manner in which the foregoing injunction or exhortation is to be complied with; but that they express kindred exercises, requisite to be added to the first mentioned qualification; that, therefore, they are virtually distinct imperatives, and capable of being converted into imperative moods; the language, in both cases, being pure and classical. If I am correct, it can not be denied that I have here brought an example in point. And that I am correct, I call to witness the common version and Greek Testament, in both of which the active participles are used; and Dr. Macknight--yes, Dr. Macknight, the learned critic and translator, who has actually translated these participles by the imperative mood--rendering them clearly distinct from the first imperative, by introducing the copulative and. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; and with all wisdom teach and admonish each other," etc. Now Mr. Campbell says, "To convert participles into imperative moods is only necessary when there is some unreasonable point to carry." But Macknight has actually done this: (see Mr. Campbell's New Translation) and I do not suppose Mr. Campbell will accuse him of having done this to carry some unreasonable point. Has not my good friend been rather rash and hasty? Most of us are liable to this: may we learn to improve! Here comes another example.

      I. Pet. v. 6, 7, "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God that he may exalt you in due time; casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." It is unnecessary to repeat the above remarks which are apposite and applicable here. Macknight considers the participle as enjoining an additional exercise, and accordingly renders it by the imperative mood. "Cast all your anxious care on him," etc. (See New Translation again.)

      Other similar examples might be adduced from the Epistles: other "bullets made in the same moulds," namely, in the Greek Testament, in the common version, and in Macknight's translation. But let us now once more try the commission. And here I might, by way of example, take this passage, as it stands in the common version. [531] "Teach all nations, baptizing them:" for scarcely any person, I presume, would insist on a construction of this sort; "teach them by baptizing them." I might take this example, if it were necessary, to keep me in countenance at least. However, I will not here insist on it. Let us try Dr. Campbell's translation.

      "Go, therefore, convert all the nations, baptizing (or immersing) them," etc. Here it is that we are told, without any hesitation or shadow of doubt, the meaning is, "convert the nations by immersing them:" and that it must be so for this reason, if for no other, namely, that the active participle, connected with the imperative mood, does always express the manner of performing that command. Already, however, the force of this criticism appears to be greatly spent. Macknight has withered its strength. Let us see how it will be treated by the illustrious Dr. George Campbell.

      In his critical note (mark that! a critical note) on this passage, (Matt. xxviii. 19, 20,) he says, "There are manifestly three things which our Lord here distinctly enjoins his Apostles to execute with regard to the nations, to wit, matheteuein, baptizein, didaskein; that is, to convert them to the faith--to initiate the converts into the church by baptism--and to instruct the baptized in all the duties of the Christian life." Mr. Campbell says expressly, "If distinct commands, they ought to be distinct imperatives. So will decree all the colleges in Christendom." But his namesake the Doctor as positively maintains, that here "there are three things distinctly enjoined;" that is, virtually, three imperatives, though two expressed in the participial form. So decrees George Campbell, D. D., F. R. S., Principal of Marischal College, Aberdeen. Behind his ample Telamonian shield I take shelter.

      It is now left to the candid and judicious--or I may say, to the learned, (for I too am willing to appeal, in this case, to the learned,) to all competent persons it is left to judge, whether I have not produced authority--good standard authority to justify my criticism. And I think I might ask my friend of the Harbinger himself whether it still appears that I was so glaringly wrong in supposing that the phraseology of the commission might well be construed according to that criticism? and whether I ought not to be considered, as in some measure redeemed from the charge of an outrage upon the peace and dignity of the commonwealth of letters?

      In the discussion of this point, I have not been led on to oppose the views of my friend Mr. Campbell by an ambitious desire to pluck one laurel bud from the chaplet which decks his brow, though, indeed, if this were done, he might well afford it. He will have enough left to satisfy any reasonable man. We take pleasure in owning him the conqueror of Walker and M'Calla on Baptism; and the Christian [532] public must hail, with gratulation, the complete discomfiture of the atheistic Owen; who, like the Moloch of Milton,

"Down cloven to the waist, with shattered arms,
  And uncouth pain, fled bellowing."

Many admirable things, I own, Mr. Campbell has written; but we know he is not infallible. If my position is now established (as I think it is) "that the active participle, connected with the imperative mood, does sometimes carry the force of an additional injunction," then Mr. Campbell's argument, founded on the grammatical construction of the sentence, must fall of course, and his views must depend on other data for support.

      Let me now take occasion to say, that on the point in question, there would probably be no material difference between us, were it not that Mr. Campbell in his zeal for external conversion, seems to lose sight of internal conversion, or to make it only a thing by the by; or, in other words, that he appears almost to disregard the line of distinction between the visible kingdom of Christ, and the power of that kingdom (or reign) within us. Mark well! I do not wish to separate, but to distinguish between them. "Convert the nations;" turn their hearts to the Lord: "immersing them;" thus preparing them to enter and enjoy the visible kingdom: "teaching them to observe all things," etc., thus accomplishing them as subjects preparing for the approbation of their King. "We come to Christ by baptism." Yes; but this is not the only way. We first come to him spiritually by a living faith; and then externally and visibly by being "baptized into his death." While I am writing, from my heart I am wishing, that I and all of us, could see, satisfactory ground for harmonizing more cordially with one, for whom personally I feel a real friendship; for whose talents and learning I have the highest respect; and to whose labors I own we are indebted for a noble vindication of the truth in some of its branches. Would that there were not some dangerous blows dealt out, against which I think we ought to be guarded.

      The remarks in the above paragraph go, in some measure, towards a defense of my theology. There will not be space for me now to say much in that way. But I can not forbear expressing my surprise and regret, that Mr. Campbell should so vehemently reprobate my account of conversion. In the sincerity of my heart I thought it a good and valid account, and still I think it so. But this, I know, is not enough. Is it Scriptural? Clearly so, I think. "Conversion (I said) is a turning of the heart to holiness:" here Mr. Campbell stops me short, without quoting out the sentence, impatient, it would seem, to cast my definition (as an idol) "to the moles and bats." He stops me here, and talks about "mental converts," and "philosophical converts," [533] and how "Christian converts are persons whose lives are changed." Well! but hear me out (it is but fair) and see whether this essential requisite is not included. "Conversion is a turning of the heart to holiness, by repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ; this repentance bringeth forth "fruits meet," and this faith "working by love." Now I ask, Is not the necessary change of life embraced here? And what possible fault can be found with this account of conversion, by any person who considers a turning of the heart as well as a change of life to be necessary? And is not a turning of the heart to holiness necessary? Or will God, who requires the heart to be given to him, accept of mere external reformation? Or are our hearts naturally turned already to him? I go for conversion from centre to circumference--from the heart to the life. Ah, my good sir, I am aware indeed that the notions of many people about conversion, need correction; but let us take care, that while we are cutting away the unsound flesh, we cut not the heart.

      Caroline, Virginia. CHRISTIANOS.      

      P. S.--Mr. Campbell, it is hoped, will be so obliging as to give this reply a place in the next Harbinger.


      I am pleased to see that Christianos does not defend the examples which he before alleged. This is candid. And had not Dr. Macknight turned the Greek participles into English imperatives, in the two examples here adduced; I am so charitable as to think they would not have been here adduced on this occasion. This is another question involving other canons of criticism. How far a translator may, from the diversity of idioms in any two languages, change the moods and flexions of verbs, to give greater clearness and force of expression, is to be decided before another tribunal, and to be tried in another court, than before that in which we are to try the rights of an English writer to convert imperatives into participles, or participles into imperatives. The remark quoted from my former criticism, and applied with so much zest to this question of translation, is misplaced: "To convert participles into imperative moods is only necessary when there is some unreasonable point to carry!" If I had said to translate participles into imperative moods from one language into another, it would have been apposite; but, surely, the right an English writer has to convert participles into imperatives, is another question! I can not, then, so much admire the candor of my friend Christianos in this instance as in the former; especially as he knew that the Greeks have three voices, five moods, eight tenses, and in each voice they have eight participles, and six imperatives. If all these are translated into a language with fewer moods, tenses, anti participles; changes of moods, tenses, and participles must take place. Supposing these remarks to have no bearing whatever on this question, [534] still they go to show the impropriety of converting a canon of writing English into a canon of translating. This remark applies to "No Theorist," as fully as to "Christianos." His whole criticism is, however, a mistake of the question; and as it seems he wrote his criticism at the request of somebody, not having read my remarks, as he says; it would be preposterous for me to pay any more attention to them than, to inform him, that he must read first, and write afterwards. Then will an apology for attacking, he knows not what, be unnecessary.

      Christianos will yet see, I trust, that I have neither been as rash, nor as hasty as "No Theorist;" nor so rash and hasty as he, supposes me to have been, in alleging the universality of this rule in its legitimate interpretation and application. Dr. Macknight translating the participles by imperatives, and supplying an and may, or may not be defended, and still the rule be true. Indeed his inserting an and shows that he felt that if the participial form was changed, it must either be disconnected from the imperative by and, or cut off from it by placing a full period between them, which is a general rule in such cases. His translating a participle by an imperative, required a supplementary and according to my rule; but none, according to Christianos.

      The reasons which induced Macknight in this case, appear to have been, that the punctuation in some Greek and English copies connected the words "in all wisdom," with the command, "Let the word of God dwell in you richly." This is the common version; but he follows the pointing which Griesbach preferred, and reads it, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, and in all wisdom teach," etc. To give it greater force, and to mark more distinctly the connection between "in all wisdom" and teaching, he chose this course. It would have been equally plain in rendering it as Thompson has done--"Let the word of the Christ dwell richly in you with all wisdom, when you teach and admonish one another, when with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs you sing gratefully to the Lord with your heart." Here it is thrown into another mood. Pierce, as learned a critic as any of them, says the phrase, the word of Christ, is "the discourse concerning the Christ," and not the ordinary conversation of Christians, which is alluded to; and, therefore, it ought to read, "Let the history of Christ dwell richly among you, teaching," etc.

      Having now attended to some of the reasons for the translation, let us hear our friend reason upon this his example. He asserts that teaching and admonishing "do not strictly, and properly speaking, express the manner in which the foregoing injunction is to be complied with;" but not strictly, and improperly speaking, they do! But [535] "they express kindred exercises," German cousins at least; but nothing nearer akin, and "therefore" (this is a logical particle after two assertions! ) they are "virtually" distinct imperatives! This is the reason why they, improperly speaking, express the manner of the action! My friend Christianos relied too much upon Dr. Macknight's helping him out, and thought that this would pass for logic, backed as it would be, by the new version.

      But I have yet to make my most serious objection to this example; and it is, because it is not a pertinent one. There is more than a simple imperative mood; nay, virtually, two or three imperatives in this sentence. "Let the ward of Christ dwell in you," would be a simple imperative. But, "Let it dwell in you richly," is another command: and what if teaching and admonishing belong to the richly, and not to the simple imperative? Then it, strictly and properly speaking, does show the manner in which the word is to dwell in us richly. This assertion, without argument, is certainly as conclusive as Christianos' assertion--that it does not strictly and properly express the manner. But I can do more than assert; for the following words show that the manner of dwelling in us, is the primary object. "In all wisdom, teaching," etc. The second imperative in this sentence is richly; and according to the common version, the third imperative is "in all wisdom." "Let the word of Christ dwell in you," is one command. "Let it dwell in you richly," is the second command. "Let it dwell in you in all wisdom," is a third command; and the participles teaching, admonishing, and praising, show the manner in which these commands are to be obeyed. I now leave it with the discerning public to say what has become of my friend Christianos' triumphant exception to this universal rule.

      Having found that this is not the one example demanded in my former criticism, I will be excused from considering "the work of supererogation," for the second example falls before the same tribunal.

      But it falls before another tribunal also. If separated, as Macknight does in his punctuation of the sentence, then it is not connected with the imperative humble; and so it destroys its being an example at all. And standing before two other imperatives, it may apply to them, or to one of them in sense. Suppose, then, that casting our care upon the Heavenly Father, does not express the manner of humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God, it may show the manner in which the succeeding imperatives are to be obeyed. This, the punctuation must determine. Thompson, into whose version I have just now looked, points it as follows--"Having cast all your care upon him, for he careth for you, be sober, be watchful; because your adversary the devil is walking about," etc. What a [536] pity that my friend Christianos should be so unfortunate in finding examples!

      Other critics have suggested to me as exceptions--"Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, praying always with all prayer and supplication." But the praying always is the adjunct of the following words--"with all prayer and supplication, praying always"--and this is the manner in which every part of the Christian panoply is to be put on.

      "Rising be immersed, and wash you from your sins, calling on the name of the Lord," is also adduced as an exception by two others. Calling here shows the manner in which he is to submit to the commandment. It is in the passive voice, and shows the manner of submitting, not of acting. In this way he is to connect his immersion with invocation of the name of the Lord. Thus, while immersing into the name of the Lord, all the immersed should invoke his name. And thus, in spirit and reality, do all who intelligently go down into the water.

      "Standing, going, and arising," precede many imperatives in the Septuagint idiom. Because these are modes and manners in which a servant first places himself to receive or to execute instructions. Standing forward, be immersed; coming forward, wash your hands; arising, enter the synagogue, etc., are all expressions of the same family, and do not constitute exceptions to this rule. Because, even when most rigidly interpreted, they show the manner in which the person is to obey the command, or the manner in which the command is to be obeyed; and both are included in my definition of it.

      But my friend Christianos returns to the commission, and after a mere hint of what might be achieved, if the common version could be sustained, ("teach all nations," instead of "convert") generously, however, giving this up, he throws himself behind the shield of Dr. George Campbell, which places me in as awkward a position as was William Tell, who had to split an apple on the head of his son; either at the hazard of his own life if he shot too high, or at the hazard of his son's if he shot too low. What in such a crisis is to be done? Try to escape, or to die like a soldier? We shall hear what are the conditions proposed. Dr. George Campbell says there are three distinct acts in the commission, and yet but one imperative; and I have said that if distinct commands, they ought to be distinct imperatives. Am I not stranded here!! I dare not say that Dr. George Campbell is in an error. I dare not retract my position, that if distinct commands they ought to be distinct imperatives. To save myself and the Doctor, is now a consummation most devoutly to be wished. Let us see if any way of escape remains. A says to B, Saddle my horse. This is one imperative. But, in obeying this command, B has to [537] perform three acts--to catch the horse, to bridle the horse, and to saddle him. D says to E, Make a fire in the study. One imperative again. But how many acts--go after the fuel, carry it into the study, build it upon the hearth, go after a spark, apply it, and fan it into a flame. One imperative and six acts. Well, now, I agree with Dr. George Campbell, that there are three distinct acts. There is first proclaiming the gospel; then immersing the believers; and then teaching the immersed how to behave themselves. But in each of these acts there are diverse acts. In immersing, for instance, there is walking to the bath or river; there is a call for the good confession; there is walking down into the water, taking hold of the candidate, pronouncing the words of the institution; putting the person under the water, and raising him up again. Here are seven acts. But who will say, that there ought to be seven commands? You say so, replies Christianos. I request him to read what I have written again: "If distinct acts, they ought to be distinct imperatives." No: that is not what I have written. If distinct commands, I say they ought to be distinct imperatives. And so one horn of the dilemma is broken!

      In the most perfect good will and esteem for my very intelligent friend and brother Broaddus, I have written the preceding remarks. And I must add, that I feel obliged to him for the unsparing critical severity with which he has examined this rule. I feel, if possible, more confidence in it than before; seeing it pass the ordeal of one who has a hundred eyes for one of some of my opponents, and whose attainments, as a writer, are so conspicuous, and so generally acknowledged and admired as to need neither notice nor encomium.

      I think my friend Christianos is quite alarmed at the idea if making baptism the converting act. This is the reason why he sought out exceptions to a rule which he has admitted is general, and with what success he has sought for exceptions I leave others to say. As I have given all the exceptions to it which I have heard from all quarters, I will now add the opinion of a plain good-sense English scholar, who never harangued a congregation. He is from a county bordering on the cure of bishop Broaddus.

      "Christianos seems to be very tenacious of his views on Rom. viii. and also of his criticisms. But, not being able to produce one example similar to his own, he has given two examples quite foreign from the point. He might have given many such examples; but they are no exceptions to the RULE. Because in these examples the participles are used mentally, and do not relate to the same word which is governed by the imperative mood as in the commission. In this, and in all similar examples, the participles are used physically; that is, to denote an act of the body. To prevent all mistake, I would add to [538] your rule, provided the participle is used physically, to denote any act of the body."

      I have heard the views of sundry learned persons, who are unanimous in their opinion of its perfect accuracy. But so long as the general accuracy of it is admitted by all, with the commission in all its circumstances, with the practice of the Apostles under it, declarative of the fact, that unless the nations were immersed they were not converted, I see no good reason for contesting, nor need for defending its absolute truth universally. I pray the teachers of the Scriptures to consider, that no person in the Scripture style, (and for that we contend) is said to be converted to God until he is immersed. I think I can reconcile, even Christianos to the idea, that the act of immersion is an act of conversion; and what may be called the new birth or regeneration, spoken of in the Holy Scriptures. Christianos will agree with me, that many terms have a Bible sense, different from the ecclesiastic sense, and that it is our safety, as it is our province, and our happiness, to understand the Bible language in the Bible sense, or to attach the apostolic ideas to the apostolic words.

[A. C.]      

      1. Christianos (Andrew Broaddus). "Criticism Again" (From Religious Herald). The Millennial Harbinger
Extra 1 (July 1830): 18-22.
      2. Alexander Campbell. Reply to "Criticism Again." The Millennial Harbinger Extra 1 (July 1830): 22-27.


[MHA1 529-539]

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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)