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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)



      It is a trite saying, but nevertheless true and full of caution, "that men are prone to extremes." I believe that in zealously opposing one error, few, very few reformers, have been able to defend themselves from the imputation of originating or reviving another. Most reformations, like that of John Wesley, have been, in part, but a new suit of errors in exchange for the schismatic livery of an antiquated system. Time and Experience, those gigantic and irresistible innovators, generally mediate the differences of extreme heresies, and frequently bring the rival spirits of antagonistic errors, not only within the bounds of moderation, but often into the intimacies of close communion. A tertium quid, or a new compound, is often the salutary residuum, after the frothy effervescences of discordant elements have suitably neutralized each other. Thus we have "moderate Calvinism" as the sediment of the old opus operatum of John Wesley, and the absolute fate of John of Geneva. The despotism of the Roman prelacy and the fanaticism of Anabaptist democracy gradually reduced themselves down into the happy medium of classic presbytery. While the metaphysics of classic theology, duly combined with the burning enthusiasm of Whitfield revivalism, have issued in the evangelical experimentalism of Fullerism, immersed in the font of Christian charity. [550]

      This, sir, is the peculiar era of new compounds. I can not but hail it, upon the whole, as auspicious of the approach of an age of superlative benevolence. If, in the high effervescence of Calvinism and Neologism now frothing in the General Assembly; if, in the bubbling of Methodistic episcopacy and radical democracy, now rising towards the general conference; if, in the inward workings of Foxism and Hicksism, there will be found a sediment of reverence for the Bible alone, and a distaste for speculative divinity, we shall not despair of better times before this generation pass away.

      But to approach more intimately your interrogations, permit me to say, that however successful we may have been in the enterprise, we have always been cautious of extremes; and allow me to add, that if at any time, or on any point, we may have seemed to lean a little over, it was only for the moment--as one recovering his balance after the pressure of some extraneous force is wont to throw himself back or forward for the sake of preserving the centre of gravity. Allow me, then, to place before you a few of the extremes between which we have endeavored to stand.

      1. A domestic manufactured preacher.         1. One specially called and sent by God alone.
      2. Theological schools, with speculative, polemic, and pragmatic divinity.         2. No literary nor Bible schools for preachers.
      3. Ecclesiastic synods, councils, conclaves, etc., of the clergy.         3. No consultation or co-operation among the churches of Christ.
      4. Hierarchs, or ecclesiastic potentates, in the form of popes, patriarchs, prelates, or other irresponsible masters.         4. The wild congregational democracy of Cromwell's protectorship.
      5. A fixed salary for those who deliver orations on the Sabbath.         5. No remuneration whatever to those who daily "labor in word and doctrine."
      6. Tithes and offerings to the clergy indispensable to membership in the true church.         6. No use for money whatever in the Christian church.
      7. Clerical lords over God's heritage, and austere dogmatic rabbis in the Christian kingdom.         7. No rule or subordination in the church; no one having any authority whatever amongst the Christian brethren.
      8. A hireling priesthood, and fixed salaries for Sabbath laborers.         8. No preacher of the gospel shall receive any annual, monthly, weekly, or daily stipend. [551]
      9. Subscription to creeds of human contrivance as terms of Christian communion.         9. No disciple shall therefore be enrolled, or write his name in any church record, or put his hand to any covenant in the temporal affairs of the church.
      10. A sanctimonious or pharisaic appearance in prayer, and at the Lord's table in the Christian church.         10. The brethren ought to scatter themselves all over the congregation, appear as at a common meal, and avoid every token of devotion.
      11. Splendid meeting-houses, with rich, gaudy, and superfine seats for the wealthy.         11. No meeting-house at all; but fields, garrets, or cellars: he that speaks let him speak from the midst of the assembly.
      12. Formality, precision, and ceremony in all parts of religious worship.         12. No form nor order in the public worship, but let every one do as seemeth good in his own eyes.
      13. The Spirit alone changes the heart.         13. The Word alone changes the heart.

      These are but a specimen of the extremes into which we have seen men, otherwise sound in mind, not unfrequently push their inquiries after truth and duty, and finally locate themselves in the acute angle of their own triangular theory, beyond reach of argument or persuasion.

      In these and many such questions, I incline to the rational mean, or to some point equidistant from these remote ends of conflicting theories.

[A. C.]      
Vol. 1836, page 243 [sic].      

      Alexander Campbell. Extract from "The Editor's Reply to Brother Garnett." The Millennial Harbinger 7
(June 1836): 242-244.


[MHA2 550-552]

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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)