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Robert Richardson
Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, Volume II. (1869)



C H A P T E R   X V I .

Overtures for a discussion with the Presbyterians--N. L. Rice--Incidents of
the debate--Its character and results--Mr. Campbell's labors.

D URING his visit to Kentucky in the fall of 1842, Mr. Campbell received intimations that the Presbyterians there had become quite favorable to a public discussion of the points of difference between them and the Reformers. While at Richmond, in Madison county, he was assured by the Rev. J. H. Brown that arrangements would be made for such a discussion, and in September, after his return home, he received a letter from Mr. Brown informing him that a committee would be appointed for the purpose at the Synod which was to convene at Maysville during the following month. At this meeting, accordingly, John C. Young, R. J. Breckinridge, N. L. Rice, J. F. Price and J. H. Brown were selected, Messrs. Brown and Rice being a subcommittee of arrangements. Subsequently, Rev. J. K. Burch, who had been Mr. McCalla's moderator twenty years before, was substituted for R. J. Breckinridge. Mr. Campbell chose as his committee President James Shannon, Dr. J. Fishback, A. Raines and John Smith. A long correspondence ensued touching the affair, and it was not till the month of August in the next year (1843) that the matter was finally arranged. Mr. Campbell had hoped to have for his opponent President Young, of Centre College, a gentleman distinguished [501] for his urbanity and amiability, as well as for his literary and theological attainments, and whose position would, he thought, give more weight to the discussion. President Young's health, however, having failed, Mr. Brown informed Mr. Campbell in July that Rev. N. L. Rice, of Paris, in Bourbon county, had been chosen instead of him. This selection was not very agreeable to Mr. Campbell, as in several discussions in which Mr. Rice had already engaged with the Reformers he had manifested a prejudiced and hostile spirit, which Mr. Campbell thought quite unfavorable to a calm, Christian-like and satisfactory investigation of the questions at issue. As he was chosen, however, on the part of the Presbyterians, he was constrained to acquiesce. The propositions to be discussed were the following:

      "I. The immersion in water of a proper subject into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is the one only apostolic or Christian baptism: Mr. C. affirms.--II. The infant of a believing parent is a scriptural subject of baptism: Mr. R. affirms.--III. Christian baptism is for the remission of past sins: Mr. C. affirms.--IV. Baptism is to be administered only by a bishop or ordained presbyter: Mr. R. affirms.--V. In conversion and sanctification the Spirit of God operates on persons only through the Word of truth: Mr. C. affirms.--VI. Human creeds, as bonds of union and communion, are necessarily heretical and schismatical: Mr. C. affirms."

      The debate commenced on Wednesday, the 15th of November (1843), in the Reform church at Lexington. Judge Robertson was selected by Mr. Rice as moderator--Colonel Speed Smith by Mr. Campbell. These selected as president Honorable H. Clay, who kindly consented to act. No question was to be discussed more than three days unless by agreement. Each [502] debater was to furnish a stenographer and to have the privilege of making verbal or grammatical changes in his report. The net available amount resulting from the publication of the debate, it was agreed, should be equally divided between the two Bible societies.

      This public debate, the last in which Mr. Campbell was ever engaged, continued during sixteen days, and excited extraordinary interest. The well-known ability of Mr. Campbell, the reputation which Mr. Rice had already acquired for readiness in debate, and the fact that both disputants seemed to have the endorsement of the religious communities to which they respectively belonged, naturally gave to the discussion a high degree of importance. At first it was contemplated that several on each side should take part in it. Mr. Campbell, however, preferring single combat, it was simply stipulated that the discussion should be conducted in the presence of Dr. Fishback, President Shannon, John Smith and A. Raines on the part of the Reformation; and President Young, J. K. Burch, J. F. Price and J. H. Brown on the part of the Presbyterians.

      It would be out of place to attempt to furnish here even an epitome of the facts and arguments adduced in a debate which, when published with the preliminary correspondence, made a volume of nine hundred and twelve closely-printed octavo pages. Of its general character, it may be safely affirmed that it fully met public expectation, presenting a vast amount of interesting information, and as clear an exposition of the errors as well as of the truths involved as had ever been presented. The difference in the intellectual character, and, consequently, in the method, of the two disputants became quite evident from the very beginning. In the discussion of the very first proposition, Mr. Campbell's [503] tendency to comprehensive views, and his skill in disengaging the grand fundamental principles of things, became manifest in his endeavor to establish the general law that "where words denote specific actions their derivatives through all their various flexions and modifications retain the specific meaning of the root." This law he then applied to the word baptw (bapto), showing that its two thousand flexions and modifications in retaining the radical syllable bap retained also the radical idea dip connected with it.

      "The same," said he, "holds good of its distant neighbor rainw (raino), I sprinkle. It has as many flexions and nearly as many derivatives as bapto." . . . "These all exhibit the radical syllable rain or ran, and with it the radical meaning sprinkle. Now, as it is philologically impossible to find bap in rain or rain in bap, so impossible is it to find dip in sprinkle or sprinkle in dip". Hence the utter impossibility of either of these words representing both actions. It is difficult to conceive how any man of letters and proper reflection can, for a moment, suppose that bapto can ever mean's 'sprinkle' or raino 'dip.'"

      Nor was his ready perception of the resemblance of relations less marked in the illustration he used in order to render the point evident to the apprehension of his hearers. Referring to the custom of the ancient grammarians to represent verbs and their derivatives by a tree with its root, stem and branches, he said,

      "Agriculturists, horticulturists, botanists will fully comprehend me when I say that in all the dominions of vegetable nature, untouched by human art, as the root so is the stem, and so are all the branches. If the root be oak, the stem cannot be ash nor the branches cedar. What would you think, Mr. President, of the sanity or veracity of a backwoodsman who would affirm that he found in the state of nature a tree whose root was oak, whose stem was cherry, whose bought [504] were pear and whose leaves were chestnut? If these grammarians and philologists have been happy in their analogies drawn from the root and branches of trees to illustrate the derivation of words, how singularly fantastic the genius that creates a philological tree whose root is bapto, whose stem is cheo, whose branches are rantizo and whose fruit is katharizo!--or, if not too ludicrous and preposterous for English ears, whose root is dip, whose trunk is pour, whose branches are sprinkle and whose fruit is purification!"

      Mr. Campbell's opponent, on the other hand, manifested throughout that he moved in a very different sphere of thought, and was disposed to look at subjects in their details, rather than in their general features. Hence, while Mr. Campbell dealt in comprehensive rules, Mr. Rice occupied himself with exceptions. While the former sought to establish principles, the latter tried to overthrow them by burrowing beneath the basis on which they were erected. While the one enlarged the comprehension of his hearers and illuminated every subject that he touched, the efforts of the other served only to contract their understandings and to involve the subject in darkness and confusion. Thus his reply to the above argument of Mr. Campbell was to deny the general rule asserted, and to adduce the words "prevent" and "conversation" as having changed their original meaning while retaining the radical syllables. Mr. Campbell stated, however, that these were words of generic and not of specific import, and therefore not legitimately within the rule, though even in these the radical syllable still retained its specific meaning. Mr. Rice affected also to rely greatly upon the fact that baptw (bapto) and baptizw (baptidzo) were sometimes translated wash, and labored to make it appear that this was their primary meaning. But Mr. Campbell showed [505] them to be so used by a metonymy of the effect for the cause, according to the well-known general principles applying to all words. Mr. Rice affirming that the most reliable New Testament lexicons gave wash as the primary meaning, this Mr. Campbell refuted, but upon its being again and again reiterated, brought forward the celebrated New Testament lexicon of Stokius, who says of the word: "1. Generally it obtains the sense of dipping or immersing, without respect to water or any liquid whatever. 2. Specially, and in its proper signification, it signifies to dip or immerse in water. This is the New Testament sense. 3. Tropically, and by a metalepsis, it means to wash, to cleanse, because a thing is usually dipped or immersed that it may be washed, that it may be cleansed. Its general sense is to dip. Its proper sense, to dip in water. Its figurative sense, to wash, to cleanse." Mr. Rice's confusion was such upon this exposure that he was quite unable to conceal it from the audience, and he in vain endeavored to escape from the dilemma by some evasive assertions in regard to tropes.

      He also endeavored to place Mr. Campbell in a similar dilemma in reference to an assertion he had made that no translator, ancient or modem, ever rendered baptw (bapto), or any of that family of words, to sprinkle. Mr. Rice, in reply, brought up a passage (Rev. xix. 13) which reads, in the common version, "He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood?" the Greek word for "dipped" in every early manuscript known being in this place bebammenon (bebammenon). Mr. Rice showed that in the ancient Syriac version the passage was rendered so as to read in English, "He was clothed with a vesture sprinkled with blood." He adduced also the Vulgate, which rendered the passage [506] in the same manner. In addition he adduced Origen, who, in quoting the passage almost verbatim, used rantizw (rantizo) instead of baptw (bapto). He further confirmed the correctness of the rendering sprinkle by referring to the sixty-third chapter of Isaiah, to which the passage in question evidently has relation, and where the conqueror says, "Their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments." This, it must be confessed, seemed quite a strong case, but so firmly was Mr. Campbell persuaded that neither bapto nor its derivatives could justly, in any case, be rendered sprinkle, that he ventured to assert, what indeed had been formerly conjectured by Dr. Gale that, in this place, there must have been in the manuscript from which Origen quoted, and from which the Syriac version was made, a different reading (errantismenon, instead of bebammenon), which Jerome, the author of the Vulgate, had adopted. Although no manuscript then known gave this reading, Mr. Campbell inferred that there must have been such a reading from the fact that, in all the three translations adduced, it occurred in the same passage, the last occurrence of the word in the book. The corresponding passage in Isaiah also confirmed him in the opinion that the idea of sprinkling had been derived from the language of the prophet by Origen and the version from which he quoted. He insisted, therefore, that, with so much probability of a different reading, Mr. Rice was logically bound to show that the word bebammenon was actually in the manuscript quoted by Origen, as well as in the one from which the Syriac version was made. This being impossible, Mr. Rice's argument was shown to be logically inconclusive.

      It was not, however, merely to rebut his opponents reasoning that Mr. Campbell took this ground. In all [507] his writings and discussions he failed not to manifest that spirit of truthful investigation which had guided him from the beginning. Mr. Rice, seemingly incapable of appreciating either Mr. Campbell's position on the disputed passage, or of imitating the truth-loving spirit of investigation which it implied, continued for some time to make the most of his supposed discovery of an exception to Mr. Campbell's universal rule, and to bring up the matter again and again.

      "Although Mr. Campbell has said and published," said he, "that no translator, ancient or modern, ever rendered any of this family of words to sprinkle, I have proved that the translators of the venerable Syriac, the old Ethiopic and the Vulgate (all of whom, according to him, were immersionists) did so translate bapto. But he says, 'There must have been a different reading.' Where is the evidence? Is there any one copy of the New Testament found in all the searching for old manuscripts which presents a different reading? There is not one! Why, then, contend for a different reading? Simply because the claims of immersion demand it."

      Such was Mr. Rice's charitable estimate of his opponent's integrity that he supposed him capable of contending for a different reading not in the interest of truth, but merely "because the claims of immersion demanded it." Providence, however, has already singularly verified the postulate assumed by Mr. Campbell, and exposed the fallacy through which "sprinkle" was sought to be interpolated as a proper or possible rendering of bapto. On the 4th day of February, 1859, the learned Tischendorf, who was engaged in Oriental researches, happened to be sojourning at the monastery of St. Catherine at Mount Sinai. Returning from a walk in company with the steward, the latter, upon reaching his chamber, placed before the traveler, for [508] his examination, a basket of ancient manuscripts. Among these, to his surprise and delight, he found a complete copy of the New Testament on vellum, which proved to be one of the very oldest and most authentic manuscripts in the world, rivaling even the famous Codex Vaticanus. This precious apograph, published in 1865 by Tischendorf, gives in Rev. xix. 13, peribeblhmenoV imation perirermmenon aimati, clothed with a vesture sprinkled over with blood--PERIRERAMMENON being here used instead of bebammenon, the word found in other MSS. Thus, Mr. Campbell's position that there was a different reading was shown to be entirely correct, the word perirerammenon, from raino, to sprinkle, and peri, over, signifying "sprinkled over," being employed, thus proving the accuracy of the Syriac version, and rescuing bebammenon from the hands of those who sought to impose upon it a false rendering to suit their purposes.1 [509]

      It cannot be justly denied that throughout the discussion Mr. Rice manifested acuteness and ingenuity in bringing forward whatever could yield the slightest support to his cause, or that his efforts produced occasionally a marked impression on the audience. Having a musical voice and a pleasant countenance, with brilliant black eyes and hair, a confident and positive manner and an agonistic style of gesticulation, he was well fitted to command attention. Having also a large portion of the audience in favor of his propositions, he received from them numerous manifestations of sympathy and approval, which were supposed by many to have been even preconcerted for the purpose of manufacturing public opinion. If such were the purpose of the actors in the case, there is not the slightest evidence that Mr. Rice instigated such proceedings, though his manner and language during the discussion were plainly calculated to encourage manifestations of applause and merriment, which it was his duty to repress as especially unbecoming in the discussion of serious subjects. His remarkable fluency of speech, superior talent for managing minute details, his consummate art in presenting false issues and evading the true ones, gave him great influence over the minds of those unskilled in the detection of fallacious reasoning. He seldom indeed appeared to rise to the dignity of the subject, and both his arguments and his expressions were often of an ad captandum character. The characteristic and worst features of his speeches were, however, the personal bearing and the hostile spirit which he imparted to them. He had gathered upon his table many volumes [510] of Mr. Campbell's works, and seemed to take an especial pleasure in quoting and referring to his writings, so as to make him appear inconsistent or place him in an unfavorable light before the audience, rather than in discussing the propositions upon their own merits. This course gave to the entire discussion a certain degree of asperity and acrimony, and fostered on the part of the audience those personal and denominational feelings and prejudices which should rather have been allayed.

      These feelings indeed ran very high at times, and gave rise to amusing incidents. Two ladies in the gallery were earnestly engaged in maintaining the merits of their respective disputants. "Ah," said one of them to the other as a closing and convincing argument, "you can easily see that Mr. Rice is by far the most learned man. Just see how many books he has upon his table, while Mr. Campbell has hardly any." "But you don't appear to know?" retorted the other, "that the books on Mr. Rice's table were written by Mr. Campbell." On another occasion, after dismission, a Mr. Irwin of Madison county, a warm friend of Mr. Campbell, was complaining of poor health, and remarked that he had not eaten anything for a number of days. "Ah," said Colonel Speed Smith, jocularly, "you have been feeding on camel" (Campbell). "Not so," said the Presbyterian preacher, Mr. Brown, who was also from Madison, "I believe he has been living on rice (Rice) during these days." "If so," rejoined Colonel Smith, "she has been living on extremely light diet."

      The disputants indeed, throughout, presented quite a contrast as to their weight of metal and modes of warfare. The one was like the light-armed Saracen [511] circling round and round his opponent upon his fleet courser, and stealthily endeavoring to wound him with his arrows. The other was the mailed Crusader upon his powerful charger, calmly receiving the missiles upon his shield or seeking to prostrate his enemy with a blow of his battle-axe. Or, as was pictured at the time in an Episcopal paper, the "Protestant Churchman," "Mr. Campbell was like a heavy Dutch-built man-of-war, carrying many guns of very large calibre; whilst Mr. Rice resembled a daring and active Yankee privateer, who contrived, by the liveliness of his movements and the ease with with which he could take up his position for a raking fire, to leave his more cumbrous adversary in a very crippled condition at the close of the fight." This "crippled condition," however, was merely a slight damage in the sails and rigging, if we may continue a figure which most incorrectly represents Mr. Campbell as deficient in alertness or mobility of mind, a quality in which he excelled. Mr. Rice, who had rummaged. Mr. Campbell's writings, in order to cull from thence whatever could serve his purpose, did not fail to make good use of those philosophical distinctions and disquisitions in relation to "moral, spiritual and physical power," etc., which Mr. Campbell had employed in some of his discussions, and which had opened a door to speculation and misrepresentation in the discussion of the proposition relating to the influence of the Holy Spirit. Mr. Rice therefore adduced these expressions and reasonings for the purpose of involving Mr. Campbell in inconsistency and proving his doctrine to be erroneous. His effort, however, only caused Mr. Campbell to appear to greater advantage, since it elicited from him the following noble acknowledgment: [512]

      "I do not shrink from the discussion of anything I have ever written on this subject. Yet it would be more than human, more than mortal man has yet achieved, if in twenty years' writing, and in issuing one magazine of forty-eight octavo pages every month, written both at home and abroad, in steamboats, hotels and in the houses of my private friends and brethren, I should have so carefully, definitely and congruously expressed myself on every occasion on these much controverted subjects as to furnish no occasion to our adversaries to extract a sentence or a passage which, when put into their crucible and mixed with other ingredients, might not be made to appear somewhat different from itself and myself and my other writings. To seal the lips of caviling sectarians and captious priests is a natural impossibility. The Great Teacher himself could not, at least he did not, do it."2

      Mr. Campbell's opening address of an hour in the debate on the influence of the Holy Spirit, has been greatly and deservedly admired for its beauty of diction, its clearness of statement and its power of argument. It was remarked that Henry Clay, who had been very careful to avoid, previously, the slightest appearance of favoring either disputant, was so captivated by it as, for a time, to forget himself. A gentleman well acquainted with him noticed that, soon after Mr. Campbell began, [513] he became unusually attentive, and that, as the subject became unfolded and successive arguments were presented, he leaned forward and began to bow assent, waving his hand at the same time in that graceful, approving manner peculiar to him. While the gentleman was observing this with some surprise, as he had never before, except upon one occasion, found Mr. Clay to be so carried away by a public speaker, the latter, suddenly recollecting himself, drew himself back and looked around to see if any one had noticed him thus off his guard. The address, as it appears in the printed debate, affords abundant evidence of its power. A high dignitary in the Episcopal Church, writing soon after in the "Protestant Churchman," thus spoke of it and of the disputants:

      "With the exception of a few unguarded expressions, and that he affirms a universal where only a general can be proved, Mr. Campbell's affirmative argument on the point that 'the Holy Spirit in conversion and sanctification operates only through the Word' is one of the most splendid specimens of eloquent reasoning I ever remember to have read. So, also, apply to over-expanded creeds--the Westminster Confession, for instance--what he recklessly charges upon all creeds, and more thrilling or magnificent declamation can hardly anywhere be found than that interwoven in the closing debate." After referring to other specimens of Mr. Campbell's lofty and powerful argumentation, he adds, "Mr. Rice is wholly incapable of this sort of thing. His imagination is as barren as the surface of granite."

      In the affirmative of the proposition that "the infant of believing parents is a scriptural subject for baptism," Mr. Rice assumed the usual position of the identity of the Jewish and Christian institutions or churches, and, forbearing to insist upon the argument that baptism came in room of circumcision, dwelt upon the [514] commission to the apostles as requiring them to disciple the nations by teaching and baptizing, asserting that teaching did not necessarily precede baptism, and that the commission was fulfilled if children were baptized first and taught afterward! With all his arts of sophistry, however, he could not succeed in making even a plausible defence of a proposition which, as Mr. Campbell showed, had not a particle of scriptural evidence to sustain it. Nor was he at all more successful in the attempt to prove the fourth proposition, that "baptism is to be administered only by a bishop or ordained presbyter," for which, indeed, he did not pretend to produce a single scriptural authority. It was in the discussion of the last proposition in reference to "human creeds as bonds of union and communion" that he labored with the greatest assiduity, and, it must be admitted, with the greatest temporary effect. Ingeniously availing himself of the cases in which considerable difference of sentiment had been tolerated amongst the Reformers, and of Mr. Campbell's candor in acknowledging occasionally in his writings the existing deficiencies amongst his brethren, he managed, by exaggerating these and by means of incorrect statements, imaginary cases and feigned issues, to create, for a time, the impression upon some even who had been opposed to creeds that they were by no means so injurious or unnecessary as had been supposed.3 In his attempt to excite religious fears [515] and prejudices upon this subject he was greatly aided by the circumstance that Mr. Campbell's view of the true grounds of Christian union was so far in advance of the age as not to be yet really and fully understood by the community in general. In repelling, therefore, the false imputations and consequences upon which Mr. [516] Rice was pleased to descant, Mr. Campbell took occasion to state again, in various forms, the real principles of the Reformation and to maintain their correctness and their necessity for Christian union.

      "We all see," said he, "that Christendom is at present in an agitated, dislocated condition--cut up or frittered down into sects and parties innumerable, wholly unwarranted by right reason, pure religion, the Bible, the God of the Bible. Before the high and holy and puissant intelligences of the earth and heaven this state of things is most intolerable. I have for some five-and-twenty years regarded creeds as both the cause and effect of partyism and the main perpetuating cause of schism, and have remonstrated and inveighed against them. Not like many who oppose creeds because they first oppose their peculiar tenets, we opposed them on their own demerits, and not because they opposed us. In this particular at least, if on no other account, we differ from the great majority of those who oppose them: because old parties were sustained by them, because they made new parties, and because they were roots of bitterness and apples of discord, we opposed them.

      "In lieu of them all we tendered the book that God gave us. We regard the Lord Jesus Christ as King, Lord, Lawgiver and Prophet of the Church, and well qualified by the power of the Holy Spirit to give us all a perfect volume--one in substance and form exactly adapted as he would have it for just such a family as the great family of man, if we believe the Lord Jesus was wiser and more benevolent than all his followers in their united wisdom and benevolence, and that he could and would give them such a book as they needed. It is both the light of salvation and the bond of union amongst the saved. W; abjure creeds simply as substitutes--directly or indirectly substitutes--for the book of inspiration. In other respects we have no objection whatever to any people publishing their tenets or views or practices to the world. I have no more objection to writing my opinions [517] than to speaking them. But, mark it well, it is the making of such compends of views, in the ecclesiastic sense, creeds (that is, terms of communion or bonds of union)--I say again, as ecclesiastic documents, as terms of exclusion and reception of members, we abjure them. . . . Our sin, in the eyes of all devoted to them, is, that we substitute for them the new covenant as our church covenant, and the apostolic writings as our Christian creed, believing all things in the law and in the prophets.

      "We preach in the words of that book the gospel as promulgated by the apostles in Jerusalem. We use in all important matters the exact words of inspiration. We command all men to believe, repent and bring forth fruits worthy of reformation. We enjoin the same good works commanded by the Lord and by his apostles. We receive men of all denominations under heaven, of all sects and parties, who will make the good confession on which Jesus Christ builded his Church. We propound that confession of the faith in the identical words of inspiration, so that they who avow it express a divine faith and build upon a consecrated foundation--a well-tried corner-stone. On a sincere confession of this faith we immerse all persons, and then present them with God's own book as their book of faith, piety and morality. This is our most obnoxious offence against the partyism of this age.

      "On this ground many of us have stood for many years. We have fully tested this principle. Men, formerly of all persuasions and of all denominations and prejudices, have been baptized on this good confession and have united in one community. Amongst them are found those who have been Romanists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Restorationists, Quakers, Arians, Unitarians, etc., etc. We have one faith, one Lord, one baptism, but various opinions. These, when left to vegetate without annoyance, if erroneous, wither and die. We find much philosophy in one of Paul's precepts, somewhat mistranslated: 'Receive one another without regard to difference of opinion.' We indeed [518] receive in our communion persons of other denominations who will take upon them the responsibility of their participating with us. We do indeed in our affections and in our practice receive all Christians, all who give evidence of their faith in the Messiah, and of their attachment to his person, character and will."--Debate, p. 783.

      Of the philosophy of this basis of union he thus remarks: "We long since learned the lesson that to draw a well-defined boundary between faith and opinion, and, while we earnestly contend for the faith, to allow perfect freedom of opinion and of the expression of opinion, is the true philosophy of church union and the sovereign antidote against heresy. Hence in our communion at this moment we have as strong Calvinists and as strong Arminians as any, I presume, in this house--certainly many that have been such. Yet we go hand in hand in one faith, one hope, and in all Christian union and co-operation in the great cause of personal sanctification and human redemption. It is a pleasure to see such persons holding in abeyance their former opinions--conclusions and opinions the results of an early education and the effects of youthful associations--sacrificing all their predilections and partialities for the sake of the pure and holy principles of a religion that was fully and perfectly taught before the age of Luther, of Calvin or of any of the Reformers of popery or any other superstition, living or dead. They see not those specks while Heaven's bright sun of righteousness and truth shines into their souls in all its glorious effulgence.

      "It is not the object of our efforts to make men think alike on a thousand themes. Let them think as they like on any matters of human opinion and upon 'doctrines of religion,' provided only they hold THE HEAD Christ and keep his commandments. I have learned not only the theory, but the fact, that if you wish opinionism to cease or subside you must not call up and debate everything that men think or say. You may debate anything into consequence, or you may, by a dignified silence, waste it into oblivion."--Debate, p. 797.

      Mr. Rice, wholly unable, from his point of view, to [519] admit such results, continued to complain of the Latitudinarianism of such principles. Mr. Campbell replied:

      "The gentleman complains that our foundation is too broad, too liberal. It is indeed broad, liberal and strong. If it were not so, it would not be a Christian foundation. Christianity is a liberal institution. It was conceived in view of the ruin of the world. God looked upon not the thousand millions of one age, but the untold millions of all ages. And he looked with the inconceivable compassion of a divine Father, rich in mercy and plenteous in redemption. He laid help for us on the shoulders of a divine Man, 'who meted out the heavens with a span, comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance;' the great Philanthropist whose wide charities and tender compassion embrace all ages, all races, all generations of men. He knows no differences of castes, ranks, dignities. Before him kings and their subjects, the nobles of the earth and their slaves, the tyrants and their vassals, lose all differences. Their circumstantial grandeur and their circumstantial meanness are as nothing. He looks upon them all as men--fallen, ruined men. He made one splendid sacrifice for all, and has commanded his gospel to be preached from pole to pole and from Jerusalem to the uttermost parts of the earth. He bids all nations, languages and tribes of men a hearty welcome to the rich provisions of his bounteous table, made large enough and well supplied with the richest provisions of his unwasting fullness. Surely, then, that ought to be a large house on a broad foundation that has in it a table for saved men from every nation under heaven.

      "He has commanded a simple story to be told, leveled to the apprehension of all. It is expressed in plain, clear and forcible terms. The great cardinal principles upon which the kingdom rests are made intelligible to all, and every one who sincerely believes these and is baptized is, without any other instrument, creed, covenant or bond, entitled to the rank and immunities of the city of God, the spiritual Jerusalem, the residence of the great King. This is precisely our foundation. [520] Strong or weak, broad or narrow, it is commensurate with the Christian charter. It embraces all that believe in Jesus as the Christ of all nations, sects and parties, and makes them all one in Christ Jesus."--Debate, p. 808.

      Having thus shown the Bible to be the true and only guide in religion, and vindicated the sufficiency of the simple gospel which it reveals as the basis of Christian union apart from all mere human opinions, he subsequently developed, in a still more comprehensive view, the grand fundamental resting-point of the entire structure:

      "The strength of the whole edifice is in its foundation, and the still more interior secret of the strength of our system is that IT IS DIVINE. It is the foundation which God has laid in Zion. It is not both divine and human. It is wholly divine. Does any one ask me what it is? I wish I had a summer's day and my wonted strength to develop its glorious features to your view. A full revelation of it would disarm our opponents and take from them more than half their arguments. I tell you, my Christian friends, the Christian faith is quite a simple but most comprehensive and potent document. The five books of Moses, together with the prophets, compose the Jews' religion. The Christian believes all these too, and studies them well; but Christianity was born after Christ. There were Jews and Gentiles innumerable before Christ was born. But we speak not of the Jewish nor of the patriarchal ages. The Harbinger has done his work. He prepared a people for the Lord and introduced the sublime and glorious age of Messiah the Prince; but Christianity is more than John preached. The principles of Christianity, like the grand laws of nature, are simple and few, but omnipotent to all the ends of its Author. What sublime and awful wonders are revealed in heaven to the eye of the philosopher by the operations of the centrifugal and centripetal forces! Silently and unobtrusively these laws, for ages, have swayed creation's ample bounds, kept the universe to its place and guided all the mighty [521] masses, in their unmeasured circuit of miles unmeasured, through all the fields of occupied space. That regularity, harmony, beauty and beneficence spread over those empyreal regions where the march of revolving worlds overwhelms the adoring saint and fills his soul with admiration of the divine Author of the universe, all spring from and are the mysterious result of a happy combination of these two stupendous principles.

      "So is it in our most holy faith. There are but two grand principles in Christianity--two laws revealed and developed, whose combination produces similar harmony, beauty and loveliness in the world of mind as in the world of matter. But, leaving the development of these for the present, I must at once declare the simplicity of this divine constitution of remedial mercy. It has but three grand ideas peculiar to itself, and these all concern the King. I am sorry that this sublime and mysterious simplicity does not appear to those who set about making constitutions for Christ's kingdom. This confession of omnipotent moral power, because the offspring of infinite wisdom and benevolence, must be learned from one passage, Matt. xvi.: 'Who am I, do men say?' We must advance one step farther: 'Who am I, do you say?' Peter in one momentous period expressed the whole affair--THOU ART THE MESSIAH, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD. The two ideas expressed concern the person of the Messiah and his office. The one implied concerns his character, for it was through his character, as developed, that Peter recognized his person and his Messiahship. Now let us take the shoes from off our feet, for we stand on holy ground; and let us hear him unfold unto Peter his intentions: 'Blessed art thou, Simon, son of Jonas! Flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. But I say unto thee, Thou art Peter (or stone), and on THIS ROCK I will build MY Church, and the gates of hell (hades) shall not prevail against it.' It will stand for ever. 'I will give unto thee (thyself alone, Peter) the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whose sins soever you remit, [522] they are remitted, and whose sins soever you retain, they shall be retained.' Here, then, is the whole mystery of the Christian institution--the full confession of the Christian faith. All that is peculiar to Christianity is found in these words; not merely in embryo, but in a clearly-expressed outline. A cordial belief and clear conception of these two facts will make any man a Christian. He may carry them out in their vast dimensions and glorious developments to all eternity. He may ponder upon them till his spirit is transformed into the image of God--until he shines in more than angelic brightness in all the purity and beauty of heavenly love. Man glorified in heaven, gifted with immortality and rapt in the ecstasies of infinite and eternal blessedness, is but the mere result of a proper apprehension of and conformity to this confession. I am always overwhelmed in astonishment in observing how this document has been disparaged and set at naught by our builders of churches. It seems still to be 'a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.' Yet Jesus calls it the rock. It is in the figure of a church or a temple, the foundation, a rock. When all societies build on this one foundation, and on it only, then shall there be unity of faith, of affection and of co-operation; but never, never till then. Every other foundation is sand. Hence, they have all wasted away. Innumerable parties have perished from the earth; and so will all the present built on any other foundation than this rock."--Debate, p. 821.

      Amidst the sad divisions of religious society, produced and perpetuated by substituting a doctrinal for a personal faith, and the orthodoxy of the head for that of the heart, when men relied upon nice philosophical distinctions, metaphysical theories and theological or ecclesiastical systems rather than upon gospel facts, there needed a mind like that of Alexander Campbell, of expansive generalizing power and wide reach of thought, capable of seizing upon the grand principles of things and disengaging from the rubbish of partyism [523] the truth on which the Church of Christ was founded. Nor was it surprising that a discovery at once so simple and so grand should fail to be comprehended and appreciated at once by those who were accustomed, like Mr. Rice, to justify sectarianism and find abundant space for all their religious thought within the narrow limits of a party. Time had to be allowed, that men might be schooled to larger views and learn by degrees the important lesson that "God's ways are not as man's ways, nor his thoughts as man's thoughts." Even now, after the lapse of more than half a century, the thoughtful among religious communities are only beginning to perceive and to admit that if Christian union is ever to be established, it must be based upon the simple primitive and personal faith advocated and first publicly acknowledged by Mr. Campbell in 1812.

      Whatever was the judgment of the discerning and impartial with regard to the discussion and the disputants, it is certain that the Presbyterians, as Mr. Rice himself had done throughout the debate, boasted of a complete victory on their side.4 Carried away by Mr. Rice's confident and assuming manner, and the present effect which it seemed to have upon the unthinking and [524] prejudiced, they overlooked the fact that a boastful and supercilious manner was incapable of being transferred to print, like the argumentative speeches which Mr. Campbell had wisely designed for the future readers of the discussion. They seemed also to have failed to notice the ominous fact that when Mr. Campbell preached during the period of the discussion quite a number came forward for baptism, and among them a very intelligent Lutheran preacher.5 The assurance of triumph, however, felt by the Presbyterians cannot justly be attributed entirely to Mr. Rice's confident manner and bold assertions. He certainly acquitted himself much better than his friends expected, and showed a readiness in reply and an ingenuity and a plausibility in the arguments he employed quite beyond public expectation--a circumstance which naturally tended to create an exaggerated notion of his ability. The sincerity of the Presbyterians in their convictions of success was well shown in the eagerness with which the Rev. J. H. Brown purchased for $2000 the copyright of the printed debate, and in the efforts which for a time were made by them to circulate it.

      It was soon found, however, that the effect of the [525] printed discussion upon the public mind was quite different from what the party expected, and they were mortified to perceive that it was making many converts to Mr. Campbell's views, but none to Presbyterianism.6 [526] Upon this, Mr. Brown gladly disposed of his copyright for a small sum to a member of the Christian Church at Jacksonville, Illinois, C. D. Roberts, who immediately printed a large edition of the work, which has been since patronized and circulated by the Reformers. Results have shown that whatever personal distinction or notoriety the debate may have given to Mr. Rice, it certainly added nothing to the cause of Presbyterianism, which in Kentucky continued still to decline, while that of the Reformation steadily prospered. The following just estimate of Mr. Rice's performance, from the "Christian Messenger," published in London, [527] October, 1844, gives a fair illustration of the effect of the printed discussion upon truth-loving minds:

      "It is to be regretted that such a man as Mr. Rice should be the chosen champion of any religious party. From a body so respectable as the Presbyterians are, in talent and learning, an advocate talented and learned was to be expected--one worthy to appear for a great people. Mr. Rice is not this. His qualifications, if he were a lawyer, would fit him well to manage a nisi prius case, but he should not plead in a higher court. Bishop Purcell, Mr. Campbell's quondam opponent, though we thought him an adept in sophistical argumentation, in the manœuvre of evasion and in some other things too little for special notice, has been outdone in these respects by a Presbyterian polemic. The bishop, indeed, was apparently averse to argue in this way when he could do anything else. Not so, Mr. Rice; he prefers the obliquities of argument and the quibbles of the schools to the more agreeable course chosen by the bishop, who, when argument was scarce, entertained the audience with a mixture of philosophy and poetry, and enlivened his speeches with an eloquence rendered earnest by an abundant faith. Mr. Rice will at least escape the reproach of making digressions of this kind; but had he done so--had he been competent to do so--his part of the book would not be altogether so barren as it is for those who care not for gathering the fruit of mere controversial ingenuity. In fine, persons who are acquainted with the whole subject of this controversy will not rise from the perusal of Mr. Rice's speeches with one new idea, while the ignorant are likely to be misled by the strange aberrations from truth in his statements, as well of matters of fact as of matters of criticism."

      Mr. Rice nevertheless received various honors from the Presbyterians, among which was the title of D. D., which had been conferred in turn upon Mr. Campbell's former opponents, Ralston, McCalla and Jennings. As Dr. Priestley used to say when he found his Episcopal [528] opponents immediately raised to the rank of bishops, that "it was HE who made the bishops of England," Mr. Campbell with equal propriety could say that it was HE who made, in his time, the Presbyterian doctors of divinity. "We are always pleased," said he, "and feel ourselves honored by the theological promotion of our opponents. The Rev. McCalla was dubbed D. D. after his debate with me, and even Dr. Purcell is a bishop much nearer the papal throne since than before his victory at Cincinnati."

      The era of the Rice debate was one of the busiest periods of Mr. Campbell's life. In addition to his duties at the college, he continued the "Harbinger," and had likewise to prepare for the press his portion of the debate. During this year he published also his Extra on "Life and Death," as well as an Address which he delivered before the "Union Literary Society" of Miami University, on "The Responsibilities of Men of Genius." Although he was now about fifty-five years of age, his physical and intellectual vigor seemed unabated. He complained often, it is true, during his tours of the fatigue he experienced, but it was surprising to see how quickly a little rest restored him, and how fresh he seemed even after his sixteen days' debate with Mr. Rice, and its attendant labors. Incessant occupation, indeed, seemed to be a necessity of his being, no less than a result of the earnestness with which he sought to benefit society. He had been fitted for his work, as well by the grandeur of his moral and intellectual nature, as by the restless activity of his entire mental and physical constitution, and seemed impelled by an irresistible impulse to employ his energies in behalf of the noble purposes for which alone he seemed to live. [529]

      1 This interesting fact serves to show how consistent truth is ever with itself and it illustrates also the principle so often acted on in scientific and legal investigations, that by means of known facts unknown facts may be discovered. From the fact that various readings of Scripture existed, that the word "sprinkled" was used in the related passage of Isaiah, and especially because it would have been a singular anomaly if bapto could in any case be rendered sprinkle, it was truly inferred that in the original manuscript the word used, Rev. xix. 13, was not bebammenon, but one that really signified to sprinkle. In like manner, Leverrier, from certain disturbances in the movements of the planets, conjectured that there must exist at a certain distance beyond the most distant planet known, another heavenly body of a certain magnitude whose attractions could alone explain these perturbation; and this conclusion was no sooner reached than a German astronomer, directing his telescope to the quarter of the heavens indicated found there the planet NEPTUNE, previously unknown, but precisely answering all the conditions of the problem. It should be remarked also that, in all such cases, while the verification of the conjecture adds to the sum of human knowledge, it possesses also the reflex power of imparting an absolute confirmation to the data from which the fact had previously been deduced. Hence, while the result, in the case of Rev. xix. 13, exposes the falsity of the assumption upon which [509] Mr. Rice insisted that sprinkle was one of the meanings of bapto, it also demonstrates the truth of the premises from which Mr. Campbell argued showing that in no case can bapto or any of its derivatives be so rendered. [510]
      2 Somewhat similar was the language of Luther when, before the emperor and princes, he was called upon to say whether he would recant or defend the doctrine he had taught. After refusing to retract anything he had written on faith and good works and against popery, he added: "In the third and last place, I have written some books against private individuals who have undertaken to defend the tyranny of Rome by destroying the faith. I freely confess I may have attacked such persons with more violence than was consistent with my profession as an ecclesiastic. I do not think of myself as a saint, but neither can I retract those books, because I should by so doing sanction the impieties of my opponents. . . . As I am a mere man and not Cod, I will defend myself after the manner of Jesus Christ, who said, 'If I have spoken evil, bear witness against me.' John xviii. 23. How much more should I, who am but dust and ashes and so prone to error, desire that every one should bring forward what he can against my doctrine!" [513]
      3 Mr. Rice descanted largely upon the case of Dr. Thomas as an evidence of the looseness of belief among the disciples, and of the necessity for a creed in order to the detection of errorists, although the repudiation of Dr. Thomas and his speculations by the Reformers was in reality a clear proof of the sufficiency of the Scriptures for "reproof" and for "correction," as well as for "instruction" in "righteousness." He magnified also certain differences in opinion between Mr. Raines and Dr. Fishback with regard to the degrees of human depravity. He seemed particularly desirous, however, of attaching [515] the stigma of Unitarianism to B. W. Stone and those with him who had engaged in the reformatory movement.
      B. W. Stone, now near the close of his life, having been informed by A. Kendrick that Mr. Rice had publicly charged him with being a "Unitarian who made the Saviour a mere man--a created being," and who "openly denied the divinity of Christ," answered Mr. Kendrick as follows in reference to the matter: "Now I reply for the last time (so I now think) that at no time in my long life did I ever believe these doctrines; I never taught them either publicly or privately, from the pulpit or the press. I am bold to say no man ever heard them from me, or read them in any of the essays I have written and published on the doctrine of Christ. . . . It is well known to all that know me that I differed from the Presbyterians on the speculations in their Confession of Faith on the Trinity when I was a Presbyterian. Yet was I unanimously ordained by the Presbytery and held in communion by them. I was never charged with these things until I withdrew from them."
      After recapitulating briefly his belief in the distinction between the Father and the Son in the words in which the Scripture reveals it, he goes on as follows: "Just before he ascended, the Son prayed to the Father to glorify him with himself with the glory he had with him before the world was. This with many other texts proves that the Son, or Logos, existed in glory with the Father before the world was--before all created things in the universe; without him was not one thing made that is made.
      "This glorious being is the Son of God, the only begotten Son of God, and therefore divine: the children of men are human, because begotten and born of human parents; so is the Son of Cud divine, because begotten of the divine Father. . . . I believe the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world, that whosoever believeth on him might not perish, but have everlasting life. I believe that all power and authority in heaven and earth are given unto him, and that he is able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by him; that in him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; that it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell--the fullness of the Godhead, the fullness of the Spirit, the fullness of grace and salvation. When we see him we see the Father--his image, his character, his glory and perfection. Let me lose life before I wOuld detract from my Lord one ray of his glory. To him that sitteth on the throne and to the Lamb be everlasting praise! Amen!
B. W. STONE." [516]      
      4 A similar course of boasting had been pursued by the Presbyterians in the case of the Jennings' Debate, and gave rise to the following incident: While Nashville was ringing with Presbyterian acclamations, an aged citizen accosted one of the boasters in the following style: "You Presbyterians have gained, you say, a glorious victory. I do not understand how you ascertain a victory. Do tell me how you know when you beat. I will tell you how in old times we judged of victories when I was in the Indian wars. After the battle was over we counted the scalps, and those who could show the largest number of them were said to have conquered Now, then, since Mr. Campbell had been here, he has immersed some thirty, among whom were some of the most intelligent citizens of Nashville. How many have you added to your church by this debate?" "I have not heard of any, said his Presbyterian friend "Pray, then, my dear sir, tell me how you know when you have gained a great victory." [524]
      5 This gentleman, Mr. William McChesney, who possessed undoubted testimonials of his standing with the Lutherans, gave afterward to Mr. Campbell the following account: "I could have sprinkled a child the day before the debate commenced with a good conscience. All my early education and associations were placed on a scale with Pædobaptism during the debate. I went there willing to ascertain the truth. I was a little prejudiced against you, and more than a little against the Reformation. I listened with candor and attention. After the whole ground had been gone over, I was satisfied that nothing but immersion would do, and that infant baptism could not be maintained from the Scriptures. I felt deeply interested in the whole matter. If Mr. Rice could have met all your arguments satisfactorily to my mind and have sustained his own propositions, he would have received my warmest thanks. He failed, however, in my estimation--completely failed in both." [525]
      6 Amongst numerous cases of the kind, the following may be given as illustrating the effect produced by the printed debate: Mrs. Postlethwaite, of Greensburg, Pa., the relict of Dr. Postlethwaite, an elder of high standing in the Presbyterian Church, and who had herself been a sincere and exemplary member of that Church for full fifty-four years, after carefully reading the debate three times, came forward and demanded immersion on her own confession of the faith, and was accordingly immersed. What made this case more striking was, that this venerable lady was spending the time with her son-in-law, a Presbyterian clergyman, during the time she was examining this discussion. After her first reading she thought Mr. Rice had sustained himself pretty well, although she could not see that he had exactly answered Mr. Campbell's arguments. She read again and again, and at last expressed herself thoroughly ashamed of the disingenuousness and the unfairness of Mr. Rice's speeches, and thought she could plainly discover this important difference--that one side was contending for all-important truths, and the other for contracted human institutions and traditions.
      Another case was that of a devoted and influential member in the Methodist Church, who thus wrote to Mr. Campbell from Nashville, in November, 1846: "I commenced to read the debate between you and Rev. N. L Rice some twelve months ago, with prejudices decidedly, for the most part, in favor of the views entertained by the latter; but by the time I had finished I was fully convinced that Mr. Rice had utterly failed to sustain his positions. Yet I was not fully satisfied that the doctrine for which you contended was true. It was a clear case to my mind that your arguments, for the most part, were conclusive--that you had gained a complete triumph over Mr. Rice; but yet I was fearful that your premises might somewhere be defective, and, to be honest, I had a kind of a secret wish that it might be so! I did not, something or other, like, after living in the Methodist Episcopal Church for some fourteen years, sustaining, too, as I did, an official relation to that Church, to give up my long-cherished opinions. Still, I determined, after making a fair test of your views, to fall upon the side of the truth, should it even be what I was pleased, in common with many others, to call 'Campbellism.' I therefore, with earnest inquiry after God's revealed truth fled to the Bible, and read it with greater care and solicitude, if possible, than I had ever done before. The result of this was a confirmation of my already partial conviction of the truth of your position. I found that what I had supposed to be Campbellism was God's own revealed truth. Under this conviction, about the 24th of last May, in Franklin county, Ky., I was immersed after which I became a member of the Christian Church. Is not my case, with many others similar, [526] a demonstration of the (shall I say?) omnipotence of truth? When I commenced reading the debate to which I have alluded my prejudices were unreasonable against yourself and what I then considered exclusively your doctrine; but the truth--the unsophisticated truth, as contended for by yourself and confirmed by the Bible--proved sufficiently strong to conquer that monster Prejudice. Accept, my dear brother, my assurances of high esteem and Christian regard.
P. O. JENKINS."      
      None of these cases, however, gave Mr. Campbell greater pleasure than that of his uncle Archibald, of Newry, Ireland, several of whose children had emigrated to the United States and adopted the reformatory views. Among these may be mentioned Enos Campbell, who has distinguished himself both as a teacher and as an able public advocate of the Reformation The father, Archibald Campbell, continued, nevertheless, to maintain his Presbyterian sentiments and to act as an elder of the Presbyterian Secession church at Newry, an office which he had filled for more than half a century. At length, in May, 1846, he thus wrote to Mr. Campbell: "I read your debate with Mr. Rice, through the medium of your Dungannon friends. I consider him a much more wily antagonist than either McCalla or Walker. I would not be surprised if the popular cry would be in his favor. He seems to have the tact of making the most of everything that might appear in his favor. . . . But, notwithstanding his ingenuity and wiles, I am constrained to give up infant baptism as being apostolical." "This," said Mr. Campbell, commenting on this letter, "coming from such a source--from one who has often, during twenty years, objected to my views on this subject and corresponded with me in defence not only of infant baptism, but of the differential peculiarities of Presbyterianism, and one of the most learned and influential elders of that Church in the North of Ireland--I regard as a very great triumph. Such a man's testimony, with me, weighs more than that of many thousand." [527]


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Robert Richardson
Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, Volume II. (1869)

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