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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)


      In 1855 Mr. Campbell was criticised on account of his doctrinal teaching, and one element of the criticism was, that he had changed from what he had formally taught. He replies: "We have never preached nor taught any thing as a portion of our faith, since the day of the first volume of the Christian Baptist, which we have retracted. In evidence of the truthfulness of this, it seems to me expedient and due to myself to give to the readers of the Harbinger, from the Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, an article written by myself for that work, and declarative of our views at that time." The article was written in the year 1834, published in the Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, pp. 462-64, of the year 1835. It was republished in the Harbinger of the year 1855, page 207, and is as follows:


      Disciples of Christ (sometimes called Campbellites, or Reformers). As is usual in similar cases, the brethren who unite under the name of Disciples of Christ, or Christians, are nicknamed after those who have been prominent in gathering them together: they choose, however, to be recognized by the above simple and unassuming name. [360] The rise of this society, if we only look back to the drawing of the lines of demarkation between it and other professors, is of recent origin. About the commencement of the present century, the Bible alone, without any human addition in the form of creeds or confessions of faith, began to be plead and preached by many distinguished ministers of different denominations, both in Europe and America.

      With various success, and with many of the opinions of the various sects imperceptibly carried with them from the denominations to which they once belonged, did the advocates of the Bible cause plead for the union of Christians of every name on the broad basis of the Apostles' teaching. But it was not until the year 1823, that a restoration of the original gospel and order of things began to be plead in a periodical, edited by Alexander Campbell, of Bethany, Va., entitled "The Christian Baptist."

      He and his father, Thomas Campbell, renounced the Presbyterian system, and were immersed in the year 1812. They, and the congregations which they had formed, united with the Redstone Baptist Association; protesting against all human creeds as bonds of union, and professing subjection to the Bible alone. This union took place in the year 1813. But in pressing upon the attention of that society and the public the all-sufficiency of the sacred Scriptures for every thing necessary to the perfection of Christian character, whether in the private or social relations of life, in the church or in the world, they began to be opposed by a strong creed-party in that Association. After some ten years' debating and contending for the Bible alone and the Apostles' doctrine, Alexander Campbell, and the church to which he belonged, united with the Mahoning Association, in the Western Reserve of Ohio, that Association being more favorable to his views of reform.

      In his debate on the subject and action of baptism with Mr. Walker, a seceding minister, in the year 1820, and Mr. McCalla, a Presbyterian minister, of Kentucky, in the year 1823, his views of reformation began to be developed, and were very generally received by the Baptist society, as far as these works were read.

      But in his "Christian Baptist," which began July 4, 1823, his views of the need of reformation were more fully exposed; and as these gained ground by the pleading of various ministers of the Baptist denomination, a party in opposition began to exert itself, and to oppose the spread of what they were pleased to call heterodoxy. But not till after great numbers began to act upon these principles, was there any attempt towards separation. After the Mahoning Association appointed Mr. Walter Scott an evangelist, in the year 1827, and when great numbers began to be immersed into Christ under his labors, and [361] new churches began to be erected by him and other laborers in the held, did the Baptist associations begin to declare non-fellowship with the brethren of the reformation. Thus by constraint, not of choice, they were obliged to form societies out of those communities that split upon the ground of adherence to the Apostles' doctrine. Within the last seven years, they have increased with the most unprecedented rapidity; and during the present year (1833) not much less than ten thousand have joined the standard of the reformation. They probably at this time, in the United States alone, amount to at least one hundred thousand. The distinguishing characteristics of their views and practices are the following:

      They regard all the sects and parties of the Christian world as having, in greater or less degree, departed from the simplicity of faith and manners of the first Christians, and as forming what the Apostle Paul calls "the apostasy." This defection they attribute to the great varieties of speculation and metaphysical dogmatism of the countless creeds, formularies, liturgies, and books of discipline adopted and inculcated as bonds of union and platforms of communion in all the parties which have sprung from the Lutheran reformation. The effect of these synodical covenants, conventional articles of belief, and rules of ecclesiastical polity, has been the introduction of a new nomenclature, a human vocabulary of religious words, phrases and technicalities, which has displaced the style of the Living Oracles, and affixed to the sacred diction ideas wholly unknown to the Apostles of Christ.

      To remedy and obviate these aberrations, they propose to ascertain from the Holy Scriptures, according to the commonly received and well-established rules of interpretation, the ideas attached to the leading terms and sentences found in the Holy Scriptures, and then to use the words of the Holy Spirit in the apostolic acceptation of them.

      By thus expressing the ideas communicated by the Holy Spirit in the terms and phrases learned from the Apostles, and by avoiding the artificial and technical language of scholastic theology, they propose to establish a pure speech to the household of faith; and by accustoming the family of God to use the language and dialect of the heavenly Father, they expect to promote the sanctification of one another through the truth, and to terminate those discords and debates which have always originated from the words which man's wisdom teaches, and from a reverential regard and esteem for the style of the great masters of polemic divinity; believing that speaking the same things in the same style is the only certain way to thinking the same things. [362] They make a very marked difference between faith and opinion; between the testimony of God and the reasonings of men; the words of the Spirit and human inferences. Faith in the testimony of God and obedience to the commandments of Jesus, are their bond of union; and not an agreement in any abstract views or opinions upon what is written or spoken by divine authority. Hence all the speculations, questions, debates of words, and abstract reasonings found in human creeds, have no place in their religious fellowship. Regarding Calvinism and Arminianism, Trinitarianism and Unitarianism, and all the opposing theories of religious sectaries, as extremes begotten by each other, they cautiously avoid them, as equidistant from the simplicity and practical tendency of the promises and precepts; of the doctrines and facts, of the exhortations and precedents of the Christian institution.

      They look for unity of spirit and the bonds of peace in the practical acknowledgment of one faith, one Lord, one immersion, one hope, one body, one Spirit, one God and Father of all; not in unity of opinions, nor in unity of forms, ceremonies, or modes of worship.

      The Holy Scriptures of both Testaments they regard as containing revelations from God, and as all necessary to make the man of God perfect, and accomplished for every good word and work; the New Testament, or the Living Oracles of Jesus Christ, they understand as containing the Christian religion; the testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, they view as illustrating and proving the great proposition on which our religion rests, viz.: that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the only begotten and well-beloved Son of God, and the only Saviour of the world; the Acts of the Apostles as a divinely authorized narrative of the beginning and progress of the reign or kingdom of Jesus Christ, recording the full development of the gospel by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, and the procedure of the Apostles in setting up the church of Christ on earth; the Epistles as carrying out and applying the doctrine of the Apostles to the practice of individuals and congregations, and as developing the tendencies; of the gospel in the behavior of its professors; and all as forming a complete standard of Christian faith and morals, adapted to the interval between the ascension of Christ and his return with the kingdom which he has received from God; the Apocalypse, or revelation of Jesus Christ to John in Patmos, as a figurative and prospective view of all the fortunes of Christianity, from its date to the return of the Saviour.

      Every one who sincerely believes the testimony which God gave of Jesus of Nazareth, saying. "This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I delight," or, in other words, believes what the Evangelists and [363] Apostles have testified concerning him, from his conception to his coronation in heaven is Lord of all, and who is willing to obey him in every thing, they regard as a proper subject of immersion, and no one else. They consider immersion into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, after a public, sincere, and intelligent confession of faith in Jesus, as necessary to admission to the privileges of the kingdom of the Messiah, and as a solemn pledge on the part of heaven, of the actual remission of all past sins and of adoption into the family of God.

      The Holy Spirit is promised only to those who believe and obey the Saviour. No one is taught to expect the reception of that heavenly Monitor, Comforter as a resident in the heart till he obeys the gospel.

      Thus, while they proclaim faith and repentance, or faith and a change of heart, as preparatory to immersion, remission, and the Holy Spirit, they say to all penitents, or all those who believe and repent of their sins, as Peter said to the first audience addressed after the Holy Spirit was bestowed after the glorification of Jesus. "Be immersed every one of you, in the name of the Lord Jesus, for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." They teach sinners that God commands all men everywhere to reform or to turn to God, that the Holy Spirit strives with them so to do by the Apostles and Prophets, that God beseeches them to be reconciled through Jesus Christ, and that it is the duty of all men to believe the gospel and to turn to God.

      The immersed believers are congregated into societies according to their propinquity to each other, and taught to meet every first day of the week in honor and commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus, and to break the loaf which commemorates the death of the Son of God, to read and to hear the Living Oracles, to teach and admonish one another, to unite in all prayer and praise, to contribute to the necessities of saints, and to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord.

      Every congregation chooses its own overseers and deacons, who preside over and administer the affairs of the congregation; and every church, either from itself or in co-operation with others, sends out as opportunity offers, one or more evangelists, or proclaimers of the Word, to preach the Word and to immerse those who believe, to gather congregations, and to extend the knowledge of salvation where it i's necessary, as far as their means extend. But every church regards these evangelists as its servants, and, therefore, they have no control over any congregation; each congregation being subject to its own choice of presidents or elders whom they have appointed. Perseverance in all the work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope, is [364] inculcated by all the disciples as essential to the admission into the heavenly kingdom. Such are the prominent outlines of the faith and practice of those who wish to be known as the Disciples of Christ; but no society among them would agree to make the preceding items either a confession of faith or a standard of practice; but, for the information of those who wish an acquaintance with them, are willing to give at any time a reason far their faith, hope, and practice.

[A. C.]      
Vol. 1855, pages 207-211.      

      Alexander Campbell. Extract from "The Disciples of Christ of the 19th Century." The Millennial Harbinger
26 (April 1855): 207-211.
      NOTE: First published as "Disciples of Christ" in The Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, ed. J. Newton Brown (Boston: Shattuck and Company, 1835; Brattleboro', VT: Brattleboro' Typographic Company, 1838), pp. 462-464.


[MHA2 360-365]

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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)