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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)



      In 1838 Mr. Campbell taught on Christian morality:

      The morality of the gospel extends to all the relations in which man stands to man. The perfection of the evangelical system consists in this--that it fully contemplates all these relations, even to the most minute, and graduates all its requirements upon the benevolent principle of practical utility. There is not an arbitrary requisition in all the moral code. The things enjoined are not right simply because enjoined, but they are right in themselves whether enjoined or not. A supernatural knowledge of man in the author of the gospel code is as clearly apparent to him intimately acquainted with the Christian Scriptures, as the eternal power and divinity of the Architect of the universe is to the eye of the rational student of nature. The evidences of intelligent design, however numerous and striking, everywhere imprinted on the face of the heavens and earth, do not more irresistibly arrest the attention and command the reverence of the true philosopher than do the wisdom and benevolence of Christian morality, assert the divine mission and unction of the author and founder of the Christian faith.

[A. C.]      

      None but the Author of human nature could have suggested such a moral code as the Christian Scriptures have promulged to the world. The reason is obvious. A perfect and infallible knowledge of the whole constitution of man, as an animal, intellectual, and moral being--of all his relations to that whole universe of which he is a part, is essentially a prerequisite to the author of a perfect moral system. [72] For, in our estimation, a perfect moral system is one adapted to human nature in all its attitudes and relations to the universe. Now such a knowledge of the human constitution, and of the whole universe, no mere man, however gifted by nature, or cultivated by art, has ever possessed. Therefore, a perfect moral code out of the Bible is not to be expected or found in all the learning and science of the world.

      But we need not to assume the peerless endowments of the Author of the Christian moral code, in proof of the superexcellency of the system: for the impress of Omnipotence is not more clearly stamped upon the miracles, nor the attributes of Omniscience more legibly written upon the doctrine, than are infinite purity, wisdom, and benevolence inscribed upon the morality of the Gospel. The Divine excellence of its moral precepts as loudly proclaim its celestial descent, and as irresistibly command the homage of the heart, as the sublime originality of its communications, and the unparalleled glory of its supernatural and monumental attestations. In one word, its faith, its morality, and its miracles are, to the eye of the most enlightened reason, equally original, heavenly, and divine.

      The moral institutes of the most cultivated and refined lawgivers of the Pagan world were all more or less defective in three respects--they wanted truth, motive, and authority. As it respected truth, the requisitions themselves were sometimes in the nature of things wrong, or were not in harmony with the whole universe; as respected motives, they were not only oftentimes false, but even when true and proper, they were too weak for the strength of human passion; and as respected the lawgivers or authors of those systems, they wanted authority--their jurisdiction was restricted to the outward actions--they took no cognizance of the fountain whence issue all the actions of men, and had not the power to reward and punish in accordance with merit and demerit. These three advantages the Christian system possesses above all others:--The things commanded are in their own nature right and good, because in harmony with the whole universe, as well as with the whole constitution of the individual; in the second place, the motives are addressed to the whole nature of man; and superadd to the present utility and fitness of things, an augmentation of bliss in the enlargement of his capacities for enjoyment, and in the future elevation of his rank, condition, and circumstances; and in the third place, the supereminent dignity of the Author of the system, and his almighty ability to retribute to every man in accordance with all his thoughts, words, and actions. These elevate the Messiah's code of morals incomparably above all the systems of all men, in all the ages of the world. Compared with the wisdom, simplicity, purity, and systematic harmony of the institutes of Jesus, the systems of the moral sages and the most profound theories of the ethical philosophers [73] of the Pagan nations, are weak, puerile, and inefficient. They are like the feeble and remote twinklings of the most distant stars, in contrast with the bright and glowing effulgence of a midsummer noon.

      One might imagine that the genial fruits of such a system in antithesis with those of every other, would commend it to universal acceptance and give it a triumphant power over every rival institution in the world. And so it undoubtedly does, and always will, when clearly understood, cordially embraced, and unreservedly submitted to by those who assume the profession of it.

      But of its warmest admirers, alas! how comparatively few perceive and relish the full extent and elevated character of those requisitions--of that holiness and purity which it proposes and enacts as essential to the formation of that most splendid and lovely of all human creations--a Christian character! The morality of this age, like its doctrinal views of the New Institution, is far below that standard of Christian excellence propounded by the precepts and example of the Divine Founder of the religion of immortality. Jesus intended that all men should know his disciples, not by the singularity of their profession, but by the superior purity of their lives--the heaven-born excellence of their characters. He intended that they should appear worthy of the renovating hope of the resurrection of the just, as well as to cherish it, and boast of it before the world.

      Most unfortunately both for the church and the world, the attention of Christendom has for ages been turned away from the sweet enjoyments of Christianity--its pure, and peaceable, and holy temper--its divine intimacies--its holy communions--its hallowed conversation, and its guileless, spotless innocence of behaviour, to the weak and beggarly elements of speculative, scholastic, and polemic theology.

      True, indeed, a corrupt theory will never yield a correct and pure practice. While men are all their lives seeking or getting religion, or hungering and thirsting after excitements, rather than after righteousness and true holiness, they can not have better morality or religion than such as we daily witness. Nay, indeed, there is in some systems such a conflict between grace and morality, that the latter is constrained to yield to the former; lest, forsooth, there should even be the appearance of merit, or any indication of the righteousness of law. Many talk as though they feared merit more than they hated sin; and would seem rather to eschew righteousness than to have the trouble of renouncing it.

      There is no separating true morality from true religion; they stand in the relation of cause and effect, while they mutually embrace each other as parent and child. There is a species of religion without morality, and a species of morality without religion; but neither of these is the system of Jesus. No tree will produce Christian [74] morality but that tree of heaven which the Lord has planted on earth.

      To take a compendious view of this subject is all that we propose; but we intend a highly practical one. An outline of the whole subject may be drawn from the following miniature:--

      There are three objects, and three things respecting each of these objects, which supremely command the Christian's attention; for these three engross the whole subject of religion and morality. The three objects are, God, his neighbor, and himself. The three things in relation to God, are--his being, perfections, and revealed will; and these comprehend the whole of religion. The three things concerning his neighbor, are--his person, his character, and his property, which include the whole subject of morality; and the three things in himself in reference to each of these three objects, are--his heart, his lips, and his hands. The proper direction and government of these three, in reference to these objects, constitute him both a religious and moral being. And in the ratio of his progress in the direction and government of his heart, his lips, and his hands to God, his neighbor, and himself, are his advances in the practice of religion and morality. The perfect Christian is the man of a pure heart, of hallowed lips, and clean hands.

A. C.      

      Morality without religion is conceivable, but religion without morality is impossible. Bodies there may be without souls; but on this wide earth a soul without a body is no where to be found. Christian morality is the effect of Christian religion; and not only do they stand to each other in the relation of cause and effect, but according to the measure of our piety will ever be the ratios of our morality.

      The being, perfections, and will of God concerning us, are the themes, as we have seen, on which our piety will meditate, and feast, and invigorate itself forever. The declared will of the Self-Existent, all whose excellencies are infinite, immutable, and everlasting, will be the mainspring of all our volitions, efforts, and enterprize during the infinite ages of eternity. His making himself our divine and, natural Father through the incarnation of his only begotten and infinitely beloved Son, whose wonderful name is EMANUEL, has laid a foundation for new classes of feelings which shall spring up eternally in the human breast, and endear us to one another by sympathies and attachments pure, and holy, and lasting as heaven itself. These shall continually enlarge our capacities of enjoyment and multiply our sources of pleasure by the whole number of the innumerable millions of sons and daughters that the Captain of our salvation shall eventually lead into glory.

      The roots of Christian morality spread themselves over the whole surface of these religious considerations, and strike deep into the [75] Divinity which has assumed human nature into personal union with itself, and elevated it to a throne which now commands the destinies of a universe. And while they thus bury themselves deep in these invisible and eternal realities, and derive nourishment divine and celestial from so many sources, they clothe with verdure and beauty that splendid vine whose branches embrace men of all nations, and whose rich and delicious clusters refresh and cheer every human being that sits under its fragrant shadow. Christian Morality, being the daughter of Christian Religion, seeks to find in man as many objects to engage its affections as Christian Piety finds in our heavenly Father. These sacred three are the person, the character, and the property of our fellows, wherever they may happen to have been born, or wherever they may happen to live. The cold, calculating principle of that morality which makes utility to the State the standard of all its excellencies, is not of the royal family of heaven, and has impiously assumed to itself a name which it cannot adorn--a name which it desecrates on every occasion. It is mere selfishness arrayed in the costume of benevolence.

      The morality of the gospel sees more in man than the philosopher, the statesman, or the merchant ever saw in him. While the philosopher speculates upon his constitution, and the statesman upon his political rights and his political dues; while the lawyer sees in him only a client--the physician, a patient--the divine, a parishioner--the merchant and the mechanic, a customer; the Christian moralist sees in him a brother made in the image of God, and capable of being again restored to it and of becoming an immortal guest in the mansions of glory.

      True, indeed, he often finds him so laden with sins and degraded with his follies, that there is nothing in him to love, nothing to esteem, everything to make him ashamed of his brotherhood; but even then the reflection that he himself might have stood in his place, and been as wretched, too, but for the kind protection and distinguishing grace of the Father of mercies, awakens in his bosom emotions of pity and compassion, which, when occasion requires, overflows to him in deeds of kindness and benevolence.

      But that we may proceed in order in the consideration of this most important subject, we shall first consider the morality of Christians as respects the persons of our neighbors, of whom there are two distinct classes--those who are our neighbors only, and those who are both our neighbors and our brethren.

      When a neighbor is all immersed into a brother, his person is much nearer to us than it was before; because it is now a member of that mystical body of which the King of heaven is the true and proper head, and calls for that respect, attention, and affection which are due [76] to a relative so high born, so intimately connected with the family of God, and who is bound up with us in the same bundle of life and to be our companion and delight in a world that shall never end. We owe to him honor, because of his pedigree and relatives; we owe to him affection, because of brotherhood; hence our counsel, assistance, protection, and constant good will are always to be actively employed in his behalf when necessity requires our interposition. He is also under all the same responsibilities, because he stands in the same relations to us that we stand to him; and therefore the obligations of Christian morality secure to us all that they demand from us, being altogether social and reciprocal.

      Those who in any way violate or injure the persons of men, or those who, having it in their power, fail to relieve them in sickness or distress, are of course unworthy of the name of neighbor or brother. He that injures the person of his brother, is an evil doer of the first class--a sinner of the highest order, whether that injury be only temporary or perpetual. As most of the positive injuries inflicted on the persons of men, may, by some fatality, terminate in death, to lay one's hand upon man with any evil intent, is, in every case, of the essence of murder; and whatever it may be in effect, it is not in morality distinguishable from it. Hence the Good Book teaches us that he who only "hates his brother is a murderer," though that hatred should never ripen into actual violence against his life. To strike our neighbor or our brother in a passion, in the spirit of retaliation, is them fore one of the highest of moral misdemeanors, and must greatly pollute the conscience and degrade the character who does it.

      Corporal chastisement, in any case, ought to be like cannon, the ultimo ratio regum;--the last argument of those in authority. Parents and masters ought never to resort to it until reason and remonstrance have proved themselves inadequate means of reformation. Those Christian masters who have Christian servants, cannot, in any case, violate their persons, inasmuch as they are brethren. The censures of the church are the only punishments which, on any Christian principle, can be inflicted on them. No man can lay his hand upon t* person of one acknowledged as a Christian brother, although he may stand in the relation of father, or master, or magistrate, or officer of any rank, without insulting his Master in heaven, himself, and the whole community of Christians both in heaven and on earth.

      Those, too, who deficiently and meanly clothe their domestics, or who deprive them of proper food and lodging, under whatever pretence it may be done, cannot, without the highest profanation of Christian principle and character, assume to themselves the holy profession of Christ. Humanity, to say nothing of Christianity, is outraged by such conduct. If Jesus said that he would certainly reward every one that [77] gave only a cup of cold water to any of his disciples, what shall be the doom of those professors, who, while they enrich themselves with the toils of Christian brethren, withhold from them necessary and comfortable food and raiment, as well as lodging, medicine, and attendance when they become necessary!! Such Christians are not enrolled in heaven nor recognized in the New Testament.

      Personal rights are paramount rights; hence all violations of them are crimes of the deepest dye. Sins against property, how enormous soever, are venal, compared with sins against one's person. Better take away by violence a man's whole patrimony than one of his eyes; better invade his possession than break his skin or injure his person.

      To neglect a brother in distress is a high misdemeanor: "I was sick and in prison and you visited me not." How much more to injure him by a positive infraction of his rights! But when the Christian, has refrained from all these, he must not imagine that he has attained any excellence. His virtues are yet rather of the negative than of the positive kind. Christian morality not only says, "You must do not evil;" it says also, "You must do good." Its first precept to the penitent is, "Cease to do evil--learn to do well."

      Good manners, or what is sometimes called politeness or courtesy, belong to this chapter of personal rights. Personal respect is due to all men. One of the injunctions of the Apostle Paul, is, "Render to all their dues--honor to whom honor, and reverence [or fear] to whom reverence is due." Peter also commands us to "honor all men," or to treat all men with respect, as well as to "fear God and honor the king." Indeed, the very essence of all politeness is found in the apostolic maxim: "In honor prefer one another;" or, in the Christian precept, "Deny yourself."

      A selfish person is always impolite, ungentlemanly, and unchristian in his manners. This is manifest even in the beggarly elements of indecency, from the tobacco-chewer up to the veriest gormandizer, or from him who smokes in your face up to him who smites you upon the cheek.1 A due, and becoming, and graceful respect for the [78] personal rights of others, taught Abraham to bow down to the sons of Heth; the Patriarchs to make their humble obeisance to the Governor of Egypt; and David to bow himself to the unworthy Paul. It insinuated itself into the Jewish code, and was sanctioned by a divine precept, which said, "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God." It taught Paul not only to address men in authority with the most honorable epithets, but to teach Christians to respect aged men and women; and not to look every man upon his own welfare, but to pay a just regard to that of his neighbor.

      The Christian spirit is the spirit of true politeness, and Christian morality is the very standard of good manners. A perfect Christian, while reason and good taste retain their supremacy on earth, will always be found to be a perfect gentleman in every thing that rightfully enters into the composition of such a personage.

[A. C.]      

      Christians in this age and country appear never to have been generally awakened to this subject. I know many fathers whose sons and daughters receive scarcely one hour's moral or religious training per week, and indeed their literary education elevates them but a very little above the aborigines of our country in what may be called book-learning and science; yet are these parents depriving themselves of many enjoyments in their power, for the sake of what they judge a reasonable outfit in goods and chattels for their children when they leave them. I also have the misfortune to know many other Christian parents who spare no expense on the intellectual and fashionable training of their sons and daughters, who most mysteriously almost wholly neglect their moral and religious improvement. They seem so wholly absorbed in their worldly prospects and glory, as to have lost sight of their eternal welfare.

[A. C.]      

      We must awaken to the cause of domestic education. There is no substitute for it. Public schools, private schools, Sunday-schools, are all good and useful, but none of them, nor all of them, afford a substitute for the family school and parental education. Nor will reading a few chapters per day, singing a few hymns, nor making a few prayers, be a substitute for that study and catechetical analysis of what is read around the family hearth. The daily instruction, religious and moral, of the household, the whole household, must be regarded as the most essential business of the family, else it will never, never, never be what it ought to be. It must not be an unimportant item, a great duty; but it must be the chief concern, the great business of life to have intelligent, moral, religious households.

[A. C.]      

      Among the unwritten traditions of the Arabian Christians it is told that while Paul tarried in the village of Ichabo he found the remains of an ancient synagogue, then reduced to about ten families, to whom [79] he preached Jesus and the Resurrection. At first he was attentively and candidly heard by most of them, and by many of the villagers who occasionally frequented their solemnities. Seven of the Jewish families were converted to Christ, with the households of the two chief proselytes of the gate, which greatly incensed the ruler of the synagogue and one of the deacons. Unable to refute the preaching of the Apostle by the Law or the Prophets, the director of the synagogue sought to defame his character and thus to turn away the ears of the people from his ministrations. This, however, he dared not to attempt openly; but in his private walks he took every occasion to impute licentious and irreligious tenets to the Apostle, and even to impeach his veracity and integrity as a man. He was quite successful in a few instances in preventing his friends from hearing the ambassador of Christ. Esdras, one of his sons-in-law, had been amongst the first who were immersed into Christ before his father had returned from Jerusalem; but neither of the other two would listen to the gospel after they had heard the defamations of Bezaleel their father-in-law. The consequence was, as tradition runs, that all the descendants of Esdras, even to the fourth generation, were Christians; while, during the same period, all the posterity of Hermas and Lucius, his two other sons-in-law, lived and died unbelievers. Now, if the demerit of human actions is to be estimated by the injuries done to others consequential upon them, and if their punishment be in the ratio of the evils following, what must be the doom of such false religionists as the president of Ichabo? But the mischief ended not here: for through his imputations and misrepresentations Paul was beaten with rods and driven from the village.

      A similar story is found amongst the oral traditions of Lucerne, one of the Catholic cantons of Switzerland. In the days of Luther and Calvin almost half of the cantons turned Protestant. The magistrates of Lucerne were about declaring in favor of the reformers, when a cunning and plausible priest, under the guise of a Protestant exile from one of the German states, obtained an interview with the principal magistrates friendly to the Calvinistic views, and under the pretence of defending Protestantism, so caricatured it in its most vulnerable points as to prejudice the magistrates against it and to secure their adhesion to the Pope, with the banishment of all Protestant preachers from its territory. Lucerne, with its one hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants, has continued Roman Catholic for the last three centuries, while many of the neighboring states are wholly Protestant, and enjoy vastly superior privileges, both civil and religious.

      Character is the product of a life, and is therefore the most expensive of all human acquisitions. It is not any definite number or class [80] of actions, but it is the scope and meaning of all the actions of one s whole existence. A fortune is only sometimes made or lost by it, but invariably our influence on all our associates depends exclusively upon it; and the best and richest favors received from mortals are its procurements. It is, then, viewed from every point in the compass of social life, the richest of all human acquisitions--and the most precious deposite which can be placed in the hands of society. A high sense and estimate of its value are essential to the obtainment of a good character, but even then it must be purchased at a higher expense than that of gold or rubies. Every thing but conscience may be lawfully sacrificed for it; and when gained it is not to be parted with at even the cost of life itself.

[A. C.]      

      I am looking at a class of Christians who always reprove their brethren or admonish them by enumerating their frailties in their absence and displaying them to others. These are well-meaning brethren, who in their social circles deliver lectures for the benefit of the present on texts extracted from the delinquencies and defects of the absent. They are generally shrewd and skilful in their efforts; for they select their texts of frailty and obliquity from superiors, and regard it as more acceptable to the present to be admonished of faults of which they are yet innocent, than that they should explicitly address them on the frailties with which they are chargeable. Thus these faithful reprovers in all their circuits of benevolence reserve the faults of the present for the service of the absent, and make the frailties of the absent a feast or a fast for the sanctification of the present. Their philosophy seems to say--

Prevention is the better cure:
So says the proverb, and 'tis sure.

      Some might even infer, without doing much violence to text or context, that Paul regarded those who speak of the alleged errors of the absent, as blasphemers, whisperers, a species of newsmongers called tattlers and busy-bodies, envious slanderers or detractors, false accusers or makebates, rather than as kind reprovers or Christian friends. I own that in all these terms there is too much latitude to suit the character in our eye. They are not mere makebates or breeders of quarrels, nor are they true and trusty tattlers and newsmongers. The terms "blasphemers" and "slanderers," though descriptive of those who simply speak to the injury of others, are too strong and general for their color.

[A. C.]      

      Hence the charge, "Speak not evil one of another, brethren," and all things whatsoever you would that men should say of you, say you of them--so far, of course, as truth will warrant. But, above all things, take not up an evil report hastily against any man; for he that would dwell for ever in the tabernacle of the Most High, must [81] not, "take up an evil report against his neighbor," if King David rightly judged in answering the question, Who should enter the abodes of the blessed?

      Every individual Christian must then regard himself as the keeper of his brother's reputation, and he must feel that he is under the most solemn obligations to do it faithfully; that he is not at liberty to equivocate, suppress, or exaggerate, but to speak the truth, if he speak at all, upon the most delicate subject. It has been said by them of old time, "If you can say no good, say no evil of any man." This, as a worldly and general maxim, is a safe one, unless it be understood to extend to those cases where we are called to testify or to warn others. In such cases it is as much our duty to censure as to commend, and to tell the whole truth, whether it may be favorably or unfavorable. This, indeed, benevolence would dictate; for the good of society requires it. To warn others of a deep ditch is as much our duty as it is to relieve those who have fallen into it.

[A. C.]      

      1 I received the other day a very interesting letter from a sensible lady in Philadelphia, on the grievances to which herself and others had been subjected, by tobacco-chewers in the church. Not only was the floor of the synagogue polluted by their amber pools, so that kneeling was rendered impossible, but even the cup of blessings bore upon it the indignity of the narcotic perfume of some tobacco-breathing brother, whose juicy lips had either defiled the cup or impregnated the symbolic wine. This is really intolerable. Last year the General Assembly, that supreme and august court of the Presbyterian Church, was prohibited the use of the best meeting-houses in "the city of brotherly kindness," because of the pollutions of its priesthood at the shrine of the idol TOBACCO. They were, as we learn, almost literally turned out of doors, because no decent synagogue would throw open its doors to be inundated and strewed with the libations of these devotees to the stupefying herb.
      As I have been reclaimed from this vice, I can lift up my voice against it, and testify that in my judgment it is deservedly obnoxious to the reprobation of the philosopher, the physician, the moralist, the gentleman, and the Christian.

      1. Alexander Campbell. Extract from "Reformation.--No. 5." The Millennial Harbinger 6 (April 1835): 182.
      2. ----------. "Morality of Christians.--No. I." The Millennial Harbinger 9 (January 1838): 5-8.
      3. ----------. "Morality of Christians.--No. II." The Millennial Harbinger 9 (February 1838): 49-53.
      4. ----------. Extract from "Morality of Christians.--No. III." The Millennial Harbinger 9 (March 1838): 98.
      5. ----------. Extract from "Morality of Christians.--No. IV." The Millennial Harbinger 9 (April 1838): 147.
      6. ----------. Extract from "Morality of Christians.--No. VI." The Millennial Harbinger 9 (June 1838): 241-242.
      7. ----------. Extract from "Morality of Christians.--No. VII." The Millennial Harbinger 9 (July 1838): 325.
      8. ----------. Extract from "Morality of Christians.--No. VI." The Millennial Harbinger 9 (June 1838): 243.


[MHA2 72-82]

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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)