[Table of Contents]
[Previous] [Next]
Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)



      In a series of articles on "The Christian Preacher," in the Harbinger for 1832, Mr. Campbell says:

      The Christian preacher must be a philanthropist. But not such a philanthropist as those who are enrolled on the long list of national benefactors. Nor must he be a philanthropist from such considerations as have obtained for the soldier, the statesman, and the patriot this [260] designation. Their philanthropy is of a different genus. Disguise it as their admirers may, it is but an enlarged and somewhat refined selfishness.

[A. C.]      

      This philanthropy is the love of man, irrespective of country, friends, interests, partialities, sects, divisions, casts. Its metes and boundaries are not leagues and commercial treaties, political alliances, the artificial ties of affinity, nor the stronger natural cords of consanguinity. It regards man as the workmanship of God, once erect in his image, yet capable of immortality, and of again reflecting the moral glories of his Maker, of blessing and being blessed in the fruition of a divine nature. It loves man purely for man's sake. It is a transcript of that benevolence expressed in these enrapturing words, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him might not perish, but have eternal life."

      This philanthropy, like the refiner's fire, takes away the dross of selfishness, and endows its subject with the lustre of elevated and disinterested enterprise. It awakens all the sympathies of our nature in argument, remonstrance, and exhortation. It meets indifference, ingratitude, and even opposition, with the expostulations of commiseration, and sheds the crystal tear of sorrow over those whose blindness and obduracy shut it from their hearts. It is patient and persevering in all its efforts; and when it abandons all hope of conferring its blessings upon the objects of its solicitude, in turning away it casts "a longing, lingering look behind." Even when it threatens the vengeance of Heaven against the disdainful contemners of the warning voice, and with an unfaultering tongue pronounces the recorded judgments of God against them who refuse to obey the gospel, it mingles with these awful arguments the undisguised condolence of heartfelt interest, and would fain avert the threatened doom. It dwells not exultingly upon the errors and vices of mankind while it portrays, with the graphic pencil of Apostles and Prophets, the end of this sad delinquency, and the terrors which await the impenitent and irreclaimable.

      Not so the zeal which emanates from the selfishness of a sectarian spirit. The native pride and selfishness of the human heart find ample play in the efforts of a proselyting demagogue. He fights not under the banner of the cross, but under the banners of some favorite dogma. In sustaining his darling shibboleth, he is carried into the confines of every opposing system, and feeds with a voracious appetite upon the faults and errors of others. He is all exaggeration. The excellencies of his own opinions, and the blemishes and frailties of those opposed to them, are all exhibited in hyperbole. Not content with the actual amount of obliquity and dereliction of sound principle in the system he impugns, he seeks to give greater amplitude to its errors; and the chief regret which he exhibits is the want of grounds of [261] impeachment, or of ability to present in stronger colors the deformities which he would wish it to impress upon the imagination of others. The spirit of such a preacher is proud, proscriptive, and denouncing. To the discerning he is more alive to the maintenance of his opinions than to the salvation of sinners.

      Therefore, the philanthropy which we claim for the Christian preacher stands distinguished from any thing under this name ascribed to the patriot, the statesman, the soldier, and even the preacher of any sectarian peculiarities. But what shall we say of the philanthropy claimed by the moral and literary benefactors of men, the founders of the eleemosynary institutions, the abolitionists, and all that class whose objects are to improve the literary, moral, and temporal condition of men? What shall we say of the philanthropy of a Clarkson, a Lancaster, a Wilberforce, an Owen? It is a philanthropy so far as the animal nature and political condition of mankind is regarded. But it rises not to that which we claim for the Christian preacher. This is heaven-born and heaven-descended, and contemplates man in all his relations to matter and mind, to time and eternity.

      God, the universal Father, is the supreme philanthropist. His Son, the well beloved, brought it down to the senses of mankind, and gave it a living form, a habitation and a name amongst men. The heavenly circles of intelligences, who are all of one mind, derive their views and feelings from the sempiternal fountain of love; and as regards this our race they are all philanthropy. So that man, illumined by the day spring from on high, finds himself the focus, the centre of celestial philanthropies. These rays concentrating on his heart, dilate it by the ardor of their intensity with that wide wish and all-comprehending benevolence which regards every human being as a brother, as a fellow-sufferer in one common ruin, and as embraced in the undefined benevolence of all the hosts of supernal light and love Thus finding himself caught in the arms of divine philanthropy, and saved from going down to the pit, to which he was fast precipitating himself in his wanderings from God, the Christian preacher is impelled onwards as a co-worker with God, an adjutant of all the heavenly hosts, in awaking the attention of all his fellows to the voice of God, to the songs of angels, and the rejoicings of all the hierarchies of heaven. "Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good will among men!"

      This is the rationale, and it is the proof, and the only proof we wish to urge in support of this paper, which is, that the Christian preacher must be a philanthropist, and that, too, in Heaven's own definition of the word. Paul himself, that great philanthropist, was stimulated in all his efforts by his views of this divine philanthropy. "After that the philanthropy of God our Saviour shone forth," says he, "he saved us according to his mercy." [262]

      There is no defining nor circumscribing the achievements of a Christian preacher, taught, impelled, and animated by this divine and celestial principle. When he rises in the radiance of this heavenly light, in the strength of Judah's Lion, as the sun goes forth from the chambers of the East, he advances, borne on the wings of the angels of the New Covenant, and transported by the choral symphonies of their triumphant songs, feeling himself uttering the voice of God and the voice's of angels, prophets and apostles, he smites with a rod more potent than that of Moses, the rocky hearts of sinners; and by this heavenly rhetoric, upborne by the Holy Spirit, he opens in their hearts a well of water springing up into eternal life. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are with him in this work. The prayers of all saints, the martyrs of Jesus before the throne, all heavenly tongues bid him God speed. Thus inspired are all they who successfully announce the glad tidings of great joy to all people. Converts, the fruits of such a ministry, are converts to God and to the Lamb.

"These weapons of the holy war,
  Of what almighty force they are,
  To make our stubborn passions bow,
  And lay the proudest rebel low.

  The Greeks and Jews, the learn'd and rude,
  Are by these heavenly arms subdu'd;
  While Satan rages at his loss,
  And hates the preaching of the cross."

[A. C.]      

      The Christian preacher, whatever be his topic, has uniformly but one great object in view. To induce sinners to give themselves up to Jesus as the divine author of an eternal salvation, is the Alpha and the Omega of all his efforts. Whether his text be selected from Jewish or Pagan antiquity--whether from the animal, vegetable, or mineral kingdoms of nature--whether from the law, the prophets, or the psalms--his only lawful and his only successful theme is, that "Jesus the Nazarene is Messiah, the Son of God." To illustrate, prove, and apply this proposition, is his grand aim; and to persuade men to receive Jesus in this character, is the only appropriate burthen of all his exhortations.

      A scribe, well instructed in the Reign of Favor, informs us that Peter's first annunciation of the gospel consisted in testifying and exhorting. "With many other words" (than those recorded,) says Luke, "did Peter testify and exhort." To adduce the testimony is, in our time, equivalent to "testifying," and "to exhort" to obedience is a work the same in all times and places. Paul visited Corinth as he visited other cities, and therefore in all places he declared the testimony of God; for he says, "he came to Corinth declaring the testimony of God." This was his mode, in which he differed nothing from Peter and all his associates. [263]

      Every Christian speaker rises to persuade, and for the most part he has some proposition first to prove, or which he takes for granted as conceded. If he assume nothing, he first states his proposition. His next object will be to illustrate it, or to expound its terms if it happen to be necessary. His third object will be to prove his proposition; and all this is done for the sake of the application or use of it. That Jesus is Messiah, the Son of God, is the proposition stated. The words "Jesus," "Messiah," "Son of God," expressed in their full and biblical import in reference to our conceptions, is the proposition illustrated. The law, the prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostles; the miracles, prophecies, labors, and characters of the first heralds, furnish the arguments in chief which prove his proposition; and when these documents are logically and Scripturally presented, the proposition is proved. When sinners are persuaded to embrace him as the Messiah, and to submit to him as the Son of God, the proposition is applied, or used for the purpose for which it was stated, illustrated, and proved.

      The proposition which occupies the Christian preacher, how grand and comprehensive! That Jesus the Nazarene, Son of Mary the Virgin, by law enrolled the son of Joseph, was the anointed, divinely authorized, and empowered Messenger of Jehovah, the only begotten Son of the Father of Eternity, sent from his bosom, to be first the teacher, then the high priest, and finally the king of all nations of saints in order to their present enjoyment of God and eternal life. In illustration of this proposition it is shown that, as a prophet, he alone revealed the Father, his excellencies, and purposes; first by his own personal teaching, then by the impartation of the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge to his Apostles: that as a great high priest he made one offering for sin, and forever put it away by the sacrifice of himself on earth; and by his appearance in heaven as our advocate, intercedes for all who come by him to God;--that as a king, upon the holy hill of Zion, on the throne of David, translated to the heavens, he now reigns as a prince and saviour, a governor and king over heaven, and earth, and hades--appointed by God to be the judge of the living and the dead.

      This proposition in all its amplitude embraces all the moral sublimities in creation, universal history, life, death, and immortality. It ramifies through all matters--supernal, infernal, terrestrial. It spreads itself over the length and breadth of creation, descending crown into the fathomless abyss, and ascending through all ranks of being up to the throne of God. It illuminates all time and all history, and is illuminated by all the records of nature and society. Its light and glory fill every eye which can contemplate it; yet none can say he has seen all its truth, all its beauty, and excellency. [264]

      But while its amplitude is so vast and unbounded, the most feeble eye can discern it, and behold in it the simplicity and excellency which allure to God and heaven. All who have seen it clearly can show it clearly to them who wish to discern it; but as the sun affords no light to him who shuts his eyes, or walks forth only in the night; so the wilfully ignorant apprehend not its truth, its magnitude, and glory. To such the subject of it while on earth had no form nor comeliness; they saw in him no beauty, no reason why they should desire him.

      The necessity of clearly, fully, and satisfactorily stating, illustrating, and proving, from all Scriptural documents, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, in order to obedience, is suggested and enforced by the nature of things, by the commandments and examples of the Apostles, and by our own experience:--

      1. By the nature of things.--Who ever confided in, feared, loved, honored, or obeyed an unknown person? It is inconceivable. It needs no demonstration to show that no man can, or will come to Jesus Christ, unless he first know who he is, and what he has to bestow. Confidence, fear, love, and honor are the fruits of knowledge. And who that reasons does not feel, that every degree and enlargement of degrees in confidence, or affection, is measured by, and graduated upon, the scale of knowledge?

      2. By the commandments and examples of the Apostles.--They not only commanded the testimony to be adduced, Jesus to be proclaimed, the word to be announced; but in all places they did give to this proposition the supreme attention. Peter in his Pentecostian address directs all his energies to prove that Jesus was Lord and Christ. He turned all incidents, arranged all circumstances, applied all prophecies bearing upon that audience, to illustrate and prove this proposition. When this was proved, the application was easy. In all his discourses his regard to this matter is most apparent. Paul, as soon as he was converted, proclaimed in the synagogue in Damascus that Jesus was the Christ, and most irresistibly convinced the Jews that he was the identical Messiah foretold. In other cities and to other people he did vary his address, so as to meet their apprehensions and have access to their understandings; but whatever might be the beginning of his discourse, this obtained the most conspicuous place, and was that point to which all his testimonies and reasonings were directed. The Evangelists wrote to prove what they preached. John informs us that they wrote to prove that Jesus was the Messiah, and that through him men might obtain eternal life. Their preachings and writings are all in proof of the importance of proclaiming with all authority and evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

      3. By our own experience.--The great teacher first addressed the understandings of men; he sought not to move their passions till [265] proper objects were presented to them. In his admirable parable of the sower, as interpreted by himself, and recorded by Matthew, he says, he that was denoted by the seed which fell by the way side, was the person that understood not; while he that heard to his salvation, was the man that understood what he heard. In our day it is too generally taken for granted that the great mass of hearers believe this proposition, and therefore seldom or never do we hear it stated, illustrated, and proved. The proposition is itself undervalued, its evidence disparaged, and the belief of it represented as wholly unavailing; as mere historic faith, differing nothing from the faith of demons. It is supposed to exert no salutary, no saving influence upon the hearts of men. Once it was represented by the Apostles as of paramount importance; but now it is of little or no account. Once it was said by an Apostle, "Every one that believes that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten of God." Once it was asked, "Who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" but now millions are supposed to believe this who, are not begotten of God, and who do not overcome the world. We, however, rather incline to think that all who do, on the proper evidence, and with full conviction of its meaning, believe this proposition, are begotten of God, and do overcome the world.

      But it will, no doubt, be asked, What have these remarks to do with our experience, as proof of the necessity of preaching and proving that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God? The bearing is not so remote as may at first sight appear. We experience that these sayings are true;--that all who do believe the same propositions, on the same evidence, resemble those who in ancient times, trusted in Jesus as the Messiah:--and our observation, which is in some sense our experience, proves that those who are made religious by human expedients are quite a different race, compared with those who are immersed into this faith.

      By what means are the great revivals got up and perfected; or by what means are so many hundreds enabled "to get religion" in this our day? Are not the influences relied upon diverse from the ordinary or extraordinary influences exhibited in the New Testament? The proclamation of the word and the miraculous aids of the Holy Spirit, in confirmation of the testimony, are all that appear on the page of apostolic history. But now what are the causes of a revival? I know some, of their advocates will reply, "The Holy Spirit." This may satisfy the credulous, the enthusiastic; but those who look at all at the managements, in doors and out of doors, will be apt to ask, Why these "protracted meetings"? To afford the Spirit time to impress the minds of the People,!! Why this noise, this commotion, this vociferation? To induce the Spirit to convert the people!! Why [266] these anxious seats, these mourning benches? To put persons in a proper attitude to receive the operations of the Holy Spirit!! It will not do to push these inquiries very far, else we should be regarded as blaspheming the Holy Spirit: for some are so indiscriminating as to think that a word spoken against a mourning bench, or an anxious seat, or against clamorous appeals to the animal nature of man, are blasphemies against the Holy Spirit!

      But when persons are actuated by any other influence than the knowledge and belief that Jesus is the Son of God, to submit to him; it generally, if not universally, becomes apparent in their demeanor, that they have got a religion different from that which comes through the, influence of that Holy Spirit which sustained the Apostles.

      The Apostles immersed none whom they did not regard as believing and understanding the great proposition, the truth of which was acknowledged before immersion. "If you believe with all your heart that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, you may be immersed," was the substance of their reply to they applicants. It was not kneeling at the footstool of a priest to be prayed for; it was not entering an altar, or changing position in a camp, or a meeting house; it was not the imagination of some inward drawings, of some heaven-descended impulse, affirming in the heart of man that he was regenerated, or justified, which the first preachers recommended as the means of conversion; or sanctioned by their example as useful expedients to bring men into the kingdom of Jesus.

      But our observation proves the necessity of holding forth the capital proposition in all its evidence: for the inaction or spiritual death and coldness which so frequently succeed the fever of a revival, especially in those whose minds are governed more by feeling, by the fervors of imagination, by appeals to their passions, than by reason, the law, or the prophets, (more fatal to the subjects and to society at large than the most perfect apathy or stoicism,) fully and irresistibly prove that there was no root in them; that they did not understand the gospel; that they were not converts to Jesus Christ; but to a party, to a phantom, to their own feelings.

      As the lightning and thunder of heaven which agitate and rend the atmosphere, are succeeded by a chilling season, proportioned to the extent of the electric explosion, so are these forced revivals, these great excitements, succeeded by a chill, from which many never recover even a natural heat on the subject of religion. It is impossible for a person to be long enamored with he knows not what, or to serve a master of whom he knows but little, and for whom he can have no rational affection. From these premises it cannot be doubted that the first preachers of the gospel acted most philosophically when they labored, first to make all men understand and believe that Jesus was [267] the Messiah, the Son of God, before they besought them to submit to him as the only Mediator, as the only Redeemer who could save them from sin, as the only leader who could guide them home to the enjoyment of God, and assure them of a final and triumphant victory over sin, death, and the grave. The truly Christian preacher will never lose sight of this proposition; for it he will not substitute fancy, feeling, spirit, or water. He will always remember that Jesus himself has decided, "He that receives seed into the good ground, is he that hears the word and understands it; which also bears fruit, and brings forth some an hundred fold, some sixty, some thirty."

[A. C.]      

      In 1837 [sic] Mr. Campbell says:

      There is more profanity in the pulpit than most of us dare imagine. The frequency and irreverent familiarity with which the Divine Name is introduced into an angry controversial sermon, must be exceedingly disgusting to every one of moral sensibility and sound judgment. That holy and "dreadful name," which angels pronounce with awful solemnity, is mouthed a hundred and fifty times in an hour as a common expletive, which the tongue of the orator articulates with as much levity, or passion, or apathy as any monosyllable which connects two members of a sentence. Sometimes a rogueish smile contracts the muscles, or the warmth of passion glows upon the clerk, while from the lips is heard the adorable name of the Self-Existent, as if it meant no more than to grace a period or to complete a sentence.

      Such speakers seem to think, if they think at all upon the subject, that their standing before the people in the attitude of religious teachers, gives them a license to speak of God as familiarly and unceremoniously as they speak of man, or of the most common things. But this is not all: having habituated themselves thus to "take the name of God in vain" in their sermons, by the fireside and in the common intercourse of every day they are sometimes heard to relate anecdotes of a very sportive and ludicrous character, at the expense of introducing the Divine Name in the most unhallowed association of ideas. If this be not foolish and sinful jesting, we cannot, think what should be so denominated; and if this be not to "take the name of God in vain," will any one please expound to us how this can be done! Surely these things ought not to be amongst Christians. A Chinese who cannot reed, if he find a piece of paper on the road with any thing written upon it, will not set his foot upon it lest it should have the name of his divinity inscribed upon it. And shall we pay less homage to that Name which all pure, and holy, and exalted intelligences adore, than a Pagan pays to the name of his idol god!

      We do not think it is comely to speak hastily, or with rapidity of enunciation to utter the name of God, even in prayer; still less in a discourse upon religion or morality; and least of all, in conversation [268] upon the common incidents of life. We cannot reconcile such apparent irreverence in expression with the fear and love of God in the heart.

      Some of our brethren, educated in the popular sects of this day, and habituated to such a style of speaking in and out of the pulpit, have too much assimilated themselves to such models. They have, without reflection, acquired habits which it behooves them to correct, and which they may find it very difficult to reform, unless they exercise a very strict discipline over their thoughts as well as over their expressions.

      There is this difference between familiarity with God and familiarity with men: Our reverence for God will always increase, while our reverence for man will always decrease in the ratio of intimate acquaintance. The man who knows God best will reverence and love him most, and approach his throne and use his name with the most profound homage and respect. One of the most devout and intelligent Christians I have known, seemed always to pause before he pronounced the name of God. What a contrast this, and the random and galloping flippancy of some religious teachers, whose style rather diminishes or destroys, than inspires, reverence for that dreadful Name which fills heaven with adoration, and eternity with praise.

[A. C.] Vol. 1836, pages 43-45.      

      1. Alexander Campbell. Extract from "The Christian Preacher.--No. II." The Millennial Harbinger 3 (March
1832): 114.
      2. ----------. Extract from "The Christian Preacher.--No. II." The Millennial Harbinger 3 (March 1832):
      3. ----------. "The Christian Preacher.--No. III." The Millennial Harbinger 3 (May 1832): 230-235.
      4. ----------. Extract from "Reformation.--No. VIII." The Millennial Harbinger 7 (January 1836): 43-45.


[MHA2 260-269]

[Table of Contents]
[Previous] [Next]
Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)