Walter Scott Primitive and Modern Christianity (1824)


C H R I S T I A N   B A P T I S T.


      Style no man on earth your Father; for he alone is your Father who is in heaven: and all ye are brethren. Assume not the title of Rabbi; for ye have only One Teacher; neither assume the title of Leader; for ye have only One Leader--The Messiah.

Primitive and Modern Christianity.

      A SERIES of almost 2000 years has now fled away since the gospel announced light and religious liberty to the enslaved world; since Messiah, emerging from the rocky sepulchre, destroyed Death, and delivered those who, through fear of his merciless domination, were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Strong and implacable were the enemies of Jesus; many were the foes with which the Captain of our salvation had to contend, and for a moment they seemed to prevail. They crucified him, and thought themselves secure; they entombed his murdered body, and vainly imagined the conquest was complete. Unhappy men! how blind to the future! Scarce was the palm of victory lifted to their brows, when it withered; scarce did the dawn of conquest rise upon their marshalled efforts, when it set in the midnight of everlasting dismay. They succeeded in depriving the Champion of Israel of the light of life; but in the awful moment he only groped for those pillars on which the whole temple of Jewish and heathen superstition stood. Then, indeed, he bowed himself. The grave could not retain him who made the world. The Shepherd of Israel descended into the pit, but it was only to destroy the enemy of the flock, and having seized him he slew him. When the son of God rose from the dead, and thereby brought life (eternal life) and immortality to light, ignorance, the cause of all Jewish, heathen, and antichristian superstition fled before him; and seeing that the world were in great bondage through fear of death, and especially through their ignorance of that life which lay beyond death, it was necessary that he who gave his life for the world should deliver his children from the bondage of this fear. Having risen from the dead, and removed the cause of all uncertainty respecting a resurrection and eternal life, nothing remained but to let the children know it. To effect this, to remove all fear, to inform the body of the resurrection of its head, to let all flesh see the salvation of our God--the Lord Jesus called the twelve, and, viva voce, commissioned them to go into all the world and to preach the gospel (i. e. his death and resurrection) to every creature: "He that believes shall be saved--he that believes not shall be damned." This, by the way, is the only constitution of a christian assembly in opposition to all written instruments. Having received this gospel in charge, the apostles went forth every where preaching it, God bearing them also witness in signs and wonders, and diverse miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his will. Having made disciples in Jerusalem and every where among the gentiles, it became necessary to assemble the brethren on that fact which they had believed, in order that they might edify one another, grow in grace and knowledge increase in every good word and work, and finally show forth the death of Jesus in the eating of the supper.

      To manage the business of the church in all ages, it pleased the Head of tile church to appoint point bishops and deacons. The apostles were chiefly employed in ordaining elders "in every church" on their return from their first tour through the Lesser Asia. Titus was left in Crete for the express purpose to "ordain elders in every church," and Timothy had this business in charge in the church at Ephesus. And in all those appointments the bishops and deacons were chosen from among those who believed; and they had previously assembled themselves, like others, to eat the supper. Besides this, they were numerous in every church.

      Of the elders or bishops at Ephesus, it is said that they "all fell upon Paul's neck," &c. but the word "all" is never used of one or two, but of a considerable number of persons. The epistle to the Philippians is addressed to the church there with the bishops and deacons. Two things, then, are remarkable in the choice of the primitive bishops: 1st. They were selected from among the brethren--2dly. they were numerous in every church. Two things are remarkable of modern teachers also: 1st. That they are not chosen from among the brethren--2dly. that there is uniformly but one in every church. The order established by the apostles, was the same in every church, and was very simple; but the world, which perverts all things, soon began to make inroads into the beautiful and simple institution of the Lord Jesus, and from the most instructive and pure society, it has become the nest of every unclean bird. Evil men did not wait until the apostles were dead, but even while they were alive commenced their antichristian labors, which caused the apostle to say that even now, i. e. while the all-authoritative apostles and chief servants of the Lord Jesus were present, the mystery of iniquity was a working; yes, even then there were evil men and seducers, who were to wax worse and worse; and those men were not without, but within the church, like Diotrephes, who loved to have the pre-eminence, who received not even the apostles, but prated against them with malicious words. So says John. Peter tells us that these false teachers were to be remarkable for false doctrine, for covetousness, for their contempt of the magistrates, for their corruption, for loving the wages of unrighteousness, for speaking great swelling words, &c. &c. They even dared, under the name of christians, to call in question the authority of the apostle, which occasioned him to speak as follows to the Corinthians; "Am I not an apostles?" and to say of those pretended servants of Christ, that seeing Satan himself was transformed into an angel of light, it was no wonder therefore if his ministers were transformed into the ministers of righteousness. This is a singular incident, that the sons of God, the disciples of our Lord Jesus, should really be subject to the impositions of the servants of the Devil, transformed in appearance into servants of Christ. What is the christian to do after being told so by the Spirit of his Father? Where is he to look for these transformed ministers? How is he to detect the cloven foot?

      This difficulty is greatly increased in the present age. Teachers are so numerous and so contradictory, so learned and yet so ignorant of the scripture, so covetous and yet so lofty in their requirements, that even the well meaning are at a loss sometimes how to act in regard to their claims. Is the disciple to look for these transformed ministers among those who have thrown off not only the power, but the form, of religion? Surely not! The apostle says they assume the color of servants of Christ, and therefore must be looked for among christians. When any truth in the New Testament is contended for by any number of combatants, it is possible for all to be wrong, but they never all can be right. If one man call himself a servant of Christ because he holds a license of the Pope; another, because he holds it of an Episcopalian bishop; a third, of a classical presbytery; a fourth, of an association; and a fifth, of any body that has plenty of influence with the public--surely they cannot all be right when they come to contend with each other about the jus divinum of their respective ordinations. The [87] first of these tells the world he can make his God! and the disciples eat him! The second half denies this, and the rest deny it altogether. This, one would suppose, is a very delicate point to be divided upon--yet so it is; end the Lord pity the poor disciple who has to confide in any of them, for they are very wolves! O! reader! is it not a desideratum then to have a rule by which the disciple may distinguish the ministers of Christ from the ministers of Satan transformed? Surely it is; and the Bible is that rule--the bible, declared to be profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness, and is given by inspiration, that the man of God may be perfect, fully furnished, says the apostle. I shall suppose myself a christian greatly embarrassed by the above saying of the apostle, viz. that the ministers of Satan are transformed into the ministers of righteousness, and feel anxiously desirous to be able to distinguish them from those who are the true shepherds or bishops of Christ's flock.

      I have no guide under heaven but the Bible. This is either allowed, or ought to be, by all. There is no legitimate authority in religion that is not derived immediately from the scriptures; they are God's umpire in all christian questions; and to them, and them alone, in the dernier resort, must we appeal; so that the only question remaining is, Whether the Bible contains descriptions of the real and transformed ministers, particular enough to enable me to distinguish them from each other. I can know this only by opening the Bible and reading it. I proceed, with respect to both, by induction of particulars, thus:--First, all the bishops and deacons in the churches of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, Ephesus, Greece, Crete, &c. &c. were uniformly, without a single exception, selected from among the brethren of the particular churches in which they were to officiate; and this particular I hold to be a sine qua non in electing or ordaining a bishop of Christ. He must be chosen from among the flock. Step aside from this, and the hireling system at once enters with all its train of religious spouting, preaching, &c. If the brethren, therefore, require or desire to have bishops and deacons, it is indispensable that they look out from among themselves holy men, answering to the description of such persons, in Timothy, Titus, and elsewhere. Now in selecting bishops and deacons, a church, or a number of people calling themselves a church, may choose to depart from this uniform practice of the apostolic churches, i. e. they may hire a school or college man, who, allowing the assembly so hiring him, to be what they profess to be, a church of Christ, can never, in any sense, be said to be selected from among the brethren of said church; and for their practice in so doing it is certain that they can plead neither scripture, precedent nor precept. In such a case, then, we have great and manifold reasons to suspect the character of the church, as well as that of the minister. The first may be, and I only say may be a synagogue of Satan, and the preacher his minister transformed into a minister of righteousness. However, it would be premature in me to say that every minister so appointed is a minister of Satan, because this would, even in my own opinion, be deducing the general conclusion for which I am searching, from too limited a number of experiments. I only say then that such a person and such a church are wrong, i. e. astray from scripture authority in the very first step, and therefore I must proceed with the induction. But here I shall turn a leaf, and look through the medium of the scriptures at the hireling or transformed minister. We have seen how any number of individuals in the apostolic churches arrived at the episcopal office, i. e. through a choice from among the members of the church where said bishops were to officiate. We are sure, then, that one so appointed "comes in by the door," i. e. in the only manner authorized by scripture precept and example. But for the hireling--how comes he in? "Verily, verily, I say to you, he that enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, is a thief and a robber." It would appear from this declaration, then, that the step which a man makes at the threshold, may finally determine his character as a minister. The reader may, perhaps, be afraid to look at things in this frightful point of view, seeing he may never have heard or seen of ministers being got by selecting them from the christians in the church where they are to officiate. We grant that this manner of viewing things bears wonderfully on the preachers of the present day, notwithstanding all their pretensions. But to go on: It may be objected that the Saviour used the above language (John x.) in reference to the Pharisees with whom he was speaking. It will be granted; but let us try to discover the meaning of the Saviour's account of the hireling in John x. First, then, he spoke this address to the Pharisees, as appears from the latter end of the preceding chapter; and when he had done so, the Apostle John makes this observation on the matter, (verse 6.) "This parable Jesus spake to them, but they understood not what things they were which he spake to them." A second matter worthy of observation then is, that those same Pharisees, whom he plainly indicated to be thieves and robbers, did not understand what he meant in this speech. In short, it would appear that those ministers were not aware of their own origin--were not aware that they had no right to labour among the flock of God, and had no authority from him. Let us see, then, how these men climbed up to the office of teachers in Israel!--how they came by the name Reverend or Rabbi.

      All the world knows that there was no foundation in the law of God for the sectarian distinction of Pharisee and Sadducee. These sectaries, therefore, owe their origin to some heresiarch, who lived either at or before the return from Babylon. Well, therefore, might the Saviour style them an offspring of vipers, i. e. the followers of unauthorized, heretical assemblies, who, instead of adhering to the law of God, and that alone, would wickedly frame their own religious course, and even set aside the law of God by their traditions. But if they had no liberty from the law to assume these names, they had far less for assuming to themselves the office of teachers. It was declared by God in Deuteronomy, that the house of Levi should teach Jacob his judgments, and Israel his law; that they should put incense before him and whole-burnt sacrifice upon his altar. And on this account the lands of the house of Levi, which amounted to the one-twelfth of all Canaan, were divided among the other tribes, who returned one-tenth of their annual increase for the service appointed them by God, viz. for teaching his judgments and law, and for waiting on the service of the tabernacle. And here it must be remarked, to the confusion of those who plead for the tenth, that the lands of the tribe of Levi being taken into account, the priests received only one-tenth of the produce for one-twelfth of the soil, which is about one-sixtieth of the whole, besides what in reality was their own; so that Israel paid to the priests, in fact, a very poor stipend, considering the business and important service appointed them by God. The house of [88] Levi, then, were the true teachers in the church of Moses. And now conceive for a moment the fatal effects which the violation of the law would have upon the condition of the Levites; conceive how easily this paltry return might be diminished, and how quickly the ministers of God might be deprived of their due and necessary means of subsistence. If a host of individuals from the other tribes should arrogate to themselves the office of teachers and expounders of the law, the Pharisees, then, who were chief teachers, and compounded of individuals from every tribe, are therefore, by our blessed Saviour, declared to be a plantation which his heavenly Father had not planted, and were to be rooted out. Josephus, as quoted by Whitby, says that many of the priests were starved to death in consequence of the people not bringing in their tithes. It appears to me that the Pharisees had got up an order of things very much resembling our theological institutions, where all comers indiscriminately were instructed in the divinity of the day, without the least respect to the law of God on this point, without the least regard to the rights and dues of the Levitical ministers; and who does not see that the young Pharisee, Paul, who was no Levite, but of the tribe of Benjamin, was one of the young divines at the moment of his conversion? What right had Paul to teach the judgments and law of God to the Jews? He was a Benjamite, concerning which tribe God said nothing about teaching. Yet was this young gentleman sent to college--schooled in the traditions of his sect--distinguished for his zeal, and for his progress in the study of self-deception, as well as for being the student of the famous Gamaliel. Now, then, we can easily perceive, I hope, what the Saviour meant by the Pharisees' climbing up into the sheepfold another way, and being thieves and robbers. First, they had no authority for teaching from God. Secondly, they robbed both the priests and the people; as the Lord Jesus said, "You rob widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers." The priest's lips were to keep knowledge, and the people should seek the law at his mouth: for, says Jehovah, "He is the messenger of the Lord of hosts." The Pharisees and others then had come in between the people and the teachers whom God had appointed, and thus threw the nation into sects, as the schoolmen have done in the christian church; for, whereas our blessed Saviour has ordered us to look out for officers from among ourselves, and has given us examples of it in all primitive churches of his apostles' planting, these learned divines have come in between the holy brethren and the law of Christ, and have not only done away the ancient custom of selecting bishops from among the brethren, but even succeeded almost generally in foisting their own young men on the sons of God for teachers. When I look, therefore, through the medium of scripture at the christian bishops, I see that they are distinguished for being selected from among the disciples; and this I call the door into the sheepfold, because it is the way authorized by Christ. When I look through the scriptures at the transformed minister of Satan, I behold him coming into the fold by another way. i. e. in a way not authorized by Christ, not chosen from among the brethren, but foisted over the heads of the most aged and experienced into an office which is due only to one of themselves. " He that enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber." Now, then, in searching the scriptures, I have discovered one difference between the bishop and transformed minister--they do not come in alike--the manner of their induction is absolutely diverse--the one by the door, the other by the wall--the one by an authorized method, the other by an unauthorized method. But this induction may be pursued to greater length in some future paper.

PHILIP, alias Walter Scott.      

[CB 87-89]


      Walter Scott's "Primitive and Modern Christianity" was first published in The Christian Baptist, Vol. II, No. 2, September 6, 1824. The electronic version of the essay has been transcribed from the College Press (1983) reprint of The Christian Baptist, ed. Alexander Campbell (Cincinnati: D. S. Burnet, 1835), pp. 87-89.

      Pagination has been represented by placing the page number in brackets following the last complete word on the printed page. I have let stand variations and inconsistencies of the author's (or editor's) use of italics, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling in the essay.

      Addenda and corrigenda are earnestly solicited.

Ernie Stefanik
373 Wilson Street
Derry, PA 15627-9770

Created 11 September 1997.

Walter Scott Primitive and Modern Christianity (1824)

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