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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)



O U R   M I S S I O N A R Y   O R G A N I Z A T I O N S.

      In 1841 Mr. Campbell began a series of essays on Christian co-operation, which affected the entire brotherhood, and ultimately resulted in the organization of the American Christian Missionary Society. He said (Vol. 1841, page 533):


      From my spiritual observatory, I am so deeply penetrated with the necessity of a more intimate organization, union, and co-operation than at present existing among us, that I feel myself in duty bound again to invite the attention of the brotherhood, especially of those who are in heart and life devoted to the honor, dignity and influence of Christianity in the world, to a more thorough and profound consideration of the subject than they have ever yet given to it.

      Christ's institution is a kingdom--not a mob, not a fierce, lawless democracy, led by every aspirant and demagogue, who has some by-ends and selfish impulses urging him forward in the career of personal honor, fortune, or aggrandizement. Neither is it on one or two families, or a few little coteries of neighborhood association in a county, a state, a province, that fill up the idea of the church and kingdom of Jesus Christ. Nor do all the congregations in all the corners of this continent, either in their present dislocation, or in any new form which they might of their own free accord assume to themselves, constitute Christ's kingdom on earth. Christ's kingdom, were it to assume its true, divine, and ancient character, would throw its arms around every one in every place that calls upon the name of the Lord Jesus out of a pure heart, and it would hold and keep him responsible to the Head, and Monarch, and Theocrat of all.

      There is no debate amongst us on many points--indeed, on any point of vital importance to the full development of the ecclesiastic character of the Christian institution. We have all learned that we have but one King, Lord, and Lawgiver--Jesus the Messiah. "He is the Maker and the Monarch of all." He alone shall reign over us.

      But his government on earth is not in person nor by proxy. He is in heaven. There he is seen wearing a crown. From his radiant throne he looks with sovereign contempt upon that little pontifical mitre on Gregory's head, manufactured out of a superannuated old Cardinal's cap, a la mode Latinus. Our sovereign Lord needs no Vicar; [391] and if he did, he would have chosen a better one than ever sat upon the stool of the first of the Gregories. But he has no need of laws, and officers, and organization, through which he sends forth his sanctifying spirit and power into this world.

      A book is not sufficient to govern the church. No book ever governed any community--not even the Book of the Law, or the Book of the Gospel, else Moses would have resigned when he wrote the Law, and would never have laid his hand upon Joshua; else Jesus would never have sent out Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers of the New Testament, had a book been a king and executive of his will. After the New Testament had been written out, Paul would not have commanded Timothy or Titus to reprove, to rebuke, or to commit to faithful and' competent persons the office of instructing and building up the church. Nor would he have commanded the community to know them that were over them in the Lord, and who admonished them, and to esteem them very highly in love for the sake of their office; and to submit themselves, and to obey them as those who watched for their souls, etc. But on this point there is a growing intelligence in all the churches, so far as my personal observation extends.

      There is, however, little or no general co-operation; no general organization; no mutual understanding; no coming together into one place in cases of emergency, and for the dissemination and support of the gospel, and mutual encouragement of one another in the work of the Lord; and that, forsooth, because some men have abused such meetings, converting them into legislative halls, into spiritual high courts of judicature and inquisitorial tribunes, for proscription and excision.

      Instead of some mutual understanding, concert, and co-operation, every little congregation of one or two scores of men, women, and children, feels itself authorized to send out whom they will as evangelists and public instructors, as regardless of what is fitting as they are incompetent to act advisedly in matters of such high and public concern and importance. And who does not know that frequently those who are most anxious for the conspicuity of public instructors are the least qualified for it? If there be multitudes of men who mistake the admiration of virtue for the practice of it, as doubtless there are, most evident it is that there are scores of preachers who misconstrue the desire for the office of a bishop or evangelist into a qualification for it. Had Paul thought the desire for the office of a bishop, or an evangelist, was the main qualification for the office, he would not have proceeded to enjoin that they be able, intelligent, and exemplary men. [392] Now that there are individual, domestic, and social duties, needs no demonstration. And that the family and the particular congregation have each their special and appropriate duties, obligation, and jurisdiction, is equally evident; but that there is a community beyond the family, beyond the particular congregation, is equally evident and undeniable; and that it is competent only to that community to select and appoint its own public functionaries, as much as it is to the congregation in any given place, is a proposition which I am prepared to demonstrate, if so be there are any skeptical on that subject in this our day and generation. I do not dogmatize on the subject, nor will I now inquire how or by what instrumentality or organization a community of churches will supply themselves with evangelists or such public functionaries as they may need. But this I must say, so long as the present irresponsible agencies are in being, we shall be ever and anon tormented with such inauspicious and unfortunate persons and events as that which I am now under the painful necessity to notice below.

[A. C.]      

      I can not conceive of a kingdom without a constitution, an organization, a joint and common interest, and a constant co-operation in reference to its self-preservation and comfortable existence. If Christ have a kingdom on this earth, it must be a community organized.

      Close attention to the tendencies of things, in the administration of ecclesiastical organizations, will intimate important lessons to those who would test principles by their practical operation. All societies demonstrate in their history not merely the tendency to centralization, but the necessity of a general superintendency of some sort, without which the conservative principle can not operate to the prosperity and furtherance of the public interests of the community.

      But the New Testament teaches both by precept and example the necessity of united and concentrated action in the advancement of the kingdom. It lays down some great principles and applies them to the emergencies that arose in the primitive times:--

      1. It inculcates the necessity of co-operation, and specifies instances.

      2. It inculcates the necessity of two distinct classes of officers in every particular community.

      3. It indicates the necessity of a third class of public functionaries, and gives examples of diverse ministries.

      4. It exemplifies the utility and the need for special deliberations, and of conventions on peculiar emergencies.

      5. It allows not persons to send themselves or to ordain themselves to office; but every where intimates the necessity of choice, selection, mission, and ordination.

      6. It inculcates a general superintendency of districts and cities by those who preside over the churches in those districts; that is, it [393] makes it the duty of the Christian ministry, by whatever name it may be called, to take care of the common interests of the kingdom in those places and districts in which it is located and resident.

[A. C.]      

      The New Testament makes it the duty of the Christian ministry, by whatever name it may be called, to take care of the common interests of the kingdom in those places and districts in which it is located and resident. To the easy and full admission of this item, a special attention to a few hints on the attitude of the Christian communities in different places, and on the duties of public functionaries spread over the face of the New Testament, is all that is requisite. Be it noted, then,--

      1. That the Saviour always spoke of his kingdom in this world as one great organization--one grand community, having one spirit, one interest, one great aim--as being one fold, one vine, one family, one body, one house.

      2. This appears farther evident from some of his parables; such as that of the nobleman going into a far country; and during his absence delivering the whole management of his estate to public functionaries. The parable of the talents, as well as that of the pounds, intimate the same view.

      3. The Acts of the Apostles, from the establishment of the Jerusalem church, is one continuous scene of co-operation among all the churches, and of the necessity of a general understanding of this sort, as well as of the amenability of all public functionaries to the whole Christian community.

[A. C.]      

      In 1845, Mr. Campbell submits the following propositions:

      1. The human family has, since the days of Cain and Abel, been divided into two parties of opposite views, sentiments, and actions, essentially unlike each other.

      2. These parties have been distinguished from each other by different names, indicative of those views, sentiments, and actions; such as "the righteous and the wicked," "the just and the unjust," "the good and the bad," "the sons of light and of darkness," "the children of God and the children of the wicked one," etc.

      3. Although existing under different administrations of light and mercy, sometimes called dispensations or institutions of religion, these two parties have not been more distinguished in name than in reality; the good having always been men of faith, of piety, and of humanity; the bad, men of unbelief, impiety, and inhumanity.

      4. The three grand points of contrast between these two great parties are flesh and spirit, holiness and unholiness, righteousness and unrighteousness. Of these the first on each side is the parent or the cause of the other two. FLESH is the parent or the cause of impiety [394] or unholiness--of inhumanity, or unrighteousness: and SPIRIT, of piety, or holiness; of humanity, or righteousness.

      5. Faith, then; is the one immutable principle, whose immediate results are piety and humanity, which, under all dispensations--Patriarchal, Jewish or Christian--has distinguished one party; while unbelief or the negative of this principle, whose immediate results are impiety and inhumanity, has always distinguished the other party.

      6. The only changes, then, which dispensations or administrations have made, either affecting the one central principle of each of these parties or its operations, are fully set forth under the terms testimony and law;--testimony being the measure of faith; and law, of obedience.

      7. The difference, then, between the present dispensation and the two antecedent dispensations, is not in the principle of faith, nor in the strength and power of faith; but in the comprehension of faith. Nor is it in the principle or power of piety and humanity; but in the comprehension of piety and humanity. Christians have more testimony, more law, more motive, and therefore have a more comprehensive faith, piety, and humanity, than Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, or David; while those sons of faith may have had a more vigorous faith, piety, and humanity, than any of the present race of Christians. Still the superlative of faith, piety, and humanity, including both vigor and comprehension, have been found under the present or Christian dispensation of righteousness and mercy.

      These things premised, we now proceed to the statement of those propositions indicative of the basis of church organization, edification, and co-operation.

      1. The Christian brotherhood or community is set forth under the figure of a body, a family, a nation, or kingdom. Under all these figures Christ is the head, and his people are his body, his family, his kingdom. They, indeed, are not contemplated without him, nor he without them, under any figure. He is always one of them, as well as over them, under God, as Mediator between them and his Father. The church is, indeed, so identified with Christ as his body, that Paul once calls the church Christ. His words are: "As all the members of one body, though many, are one body; so also is Christ" (I. Cor. xii. 12). He also calls the church his "fulness:" "His body the church the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. i. 23). So that, as he again says, "We, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another" (Rom. xii. 5). "But now are they many members, yet but one body." "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular" (I. Cor. xii. 20 and 27). "In whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord" (Eph. ii. 21). "There is one body and one spirit, even as you [395] are called in one hope of your calling" (Eph. iv. 4), etc. All, then, who are of the one faith, under the one Lord, and subjects of the one baptism, animated by the one spirit and hope, make but one body or church.

      2. This body of Christ, composed of all possessed of the same faith, piety, and humanity, so far as it is found at any one time existing on this earth, is composed of many communities or congregations, each of which is in itself and to the members of which it is composed, a miniature or individual representation of the whole body or church of Christ in the world. Such were the churches of Christ in Judea, the churches of Asia, of Galatia, Macedonia, and indeed all the churches of the Gentiles.

      3. The first community of this sort was that formed in Jerusalem. Christ himself had gathered disciples and separated them from the world. Of these, one hundred and twenty were assembled in Jerusalem, waiting for the Spirit. When it came, thousands believed, were baptized, and added to the original society of devoted followers of the Son of God.

[A. C.]      

      1. Alexander Campbell. Extracts from "The Nature of the Christian Organization.--No. I." The Millennial
Harbinger 12 (November 1841): 533-535.
      2. ----------. Extracts from "The Nature of the Christian Organization.--No. II." The Millennial Harbinger 13
(February 1842): 59, 62.
      3. ----------. Extracts from "The Nature of the Christian Organization.--No. III." The Millennial Harbinger 13
(March 1842): 133.
      4. ----------. Extracts from "Introductory Propositions." The Millennial Harbinger 16 (February 1845): 61-63.


[MHA2 391-396]

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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)