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are the developments of the light of life.

Starlight and moonlight ages are no more. The sun of mercy
has arisen. But as in the natural, so in the moral world, there are
clouds and obscurations. There are interceptions of the light of the
sun. There are eclypses partial and total. In a total eclypse there is
the darkness of night. There have been both partial and total eclypses
of the Sun of Mercy since his rising. Not only have there been cloudy
and dark days, but actual darkness like that of night-
Had not a thick vapor arisen from the unfathomable abyss and hid
the Sun of Mercy and of Life from human eyes, neither the beast nor
the false prophet could have been born. Wild beasts go forth in the
night, and in darkness commit their depredations. So the apocalyptic
"loild beast" was the creature of night and of darkness.

Vapors arise from the waters, and from the unfathomable ocean *
the densest fogs arise. When we dream of troubles, we wade through
deep waters. Hence, the commotions and troubled agitations of com-
munities, are symbolized by the waters of the great abyss. From
these commotions, these deep waters arose the symbolic fog, the figu-
rative vapors which overspread the heavens and hid the Sun of Right-

• Called in the King's Translation the bottomless pit; but most improperly. The
sea was usually called the unfathomable abyss.


eousness from the eyes of mortals. The volumes of traditions, the
cabalistic dogmas, the eastern philosophy, the pagan speculations, com-
bined and modified, intercepted entirely, or totally eclypsed the light
of the Moral Sun. Nearly all the earth was overspread in this dark-
ness. The middle of this period has, properly, been called the Dark

Though the eclypse was total in Rome, it was not so everywhere.
But the fairest portions of the Old World shared in it, and it was
partial almost everywhere, where it was not total.

Why teas this sof is one question; but. Was it so? is another.
That it was so needs no proof, because all agree in the belief of the
fact. We know some reasons, which may yet be offered, why it was
60. But now we only appeal to the fact that it was so. This darkness
has been only partially dissipated.

The Bible was brought out of prison, and Luther bid it march. He
made it speak in German, and thus obtained for it a respectful hearing.
It was soon loaded with immense burthens of traditions drawn from
the cloisters and the cells where it had so long been incarcerated. It
soon became unable to travel with its usual speed, and then stopped
the Reformation. They took the points off the arrows of truth, and
blunted the sword of the Spirit, so tliat the enemies of the truth could
not be conquered.

About the commencement of the present century, finding that notes
and comments, that glosses and traditions were making the word of
God of little or no effect — I say, the pious of several of the great
phalanxes of the rival Christian interests did agree to unmanacle and
unfetter the testimony of God, and send it forth without the bolsters
and crutches furnished by the schools; and this, with the spirit of in-
quiry which it created and fostered, has contributed much to break the
yoke of clerical oppression, which so long oppressed the people — I say
clerical oppression; for this has been and yet is, though much cir-
cumscribed, the worst of all sorts of oppression. The understandings,
the consciences, the feelings, the bodies and the estates of men have
been seized by this relentless tyrant. All who have demanded first
fruits and tithes; all who have paralyzed the mind and forced the
assent, or secured the homage of the conscience, have not been tyrants.
Neither have all they who have rejected and reprobated this system,
been humane, courteous, and merciful. There are exceptions even
among priests. If the clergy never could reform the system, the system
always could reform them. To repudiate the system, is to desecrate
the priests, and whosoever has profaned or made common the priests,
has been not only unchurched, but unchristianized. Such have been
the past fates of those who ventured to depart from the consecrated
way. But a new order of things has within the memory of the present


generation begun. Many of the priests have become obedient to the
I'aith, and the natural, political, and religious rights of men have begun
to be much better understood. All these auguries are favorable to the
hopes of the expectants of the restoration of the ancient order of
things. But nothing has so much contributed to the hopes of the in-
telligent, and nothing can more conduce to the regeneration of the
church, than the disentanglement of the Holy Oracles from the intri-
cacies of the variant rules of interpretation which the textuaries have
fashioned into a system the most repugnant to all we call reason, com-
mon sense, and analogy.

In the happiest state which we can ever expect on earth, we can
only, as individuals, enjoy as much of the favor of God as the most in-
telligent and devout of the first converts; and, as communities, we
could enjoy no more Christian peace and joy than some of the first
congregations after the first promulgation of the gospel. Greater tem-
poral felicity might be enjoyed, but the spiritual attainments of many
of the congregations can not, in the aggregate mass of religious com-
munities, be much, if at all, surpassed.

Place the whole of any community, or even the great mass of any
community, under influences similar to those which governed them,
and what the most sanguine expect from a Millennium would in social
and religious enjoyments be realized. But there is no fixing bounds
to the maximum of social and refined bliss which would fiow from the
very general or universal prevalence and triumphs of evangelical prin-
ciples. To see a whole nation bowing, with grateful and joyous homage,
to the King Eternal, immortal, and invisible, mingling all their affec-
tions in their admiration and love of him who had obtained immor-
tality for man, would open a new fountain of enjoyments of which
we have not yet tasted. To see even a few scores of intelligent Chris-
tians, in whom we confide as fellow-soldiers and fellow-citizens, and
joint heirs of the heavenly inheritance, meeting around one and the
same Lord's table, and uniting in the praises and adorations of one
and the same common Lord and Saviour, imparts to us a joy which
we are unable to express. What we should feel, or how we should feel,
among myriads of such, is not for us now to conjecture. But of this
in its proper place.

All I wish to remark on this occasion is, that the first step towards
the introduction of this glorious age is to dissipate the darkness which
covers the people and hides from their eyes the Sun, the quickening,
renewing, animating Sun of Mercy. We expect no new Sun, no new
revelation of the Spirit, no other than the same gospel and the same
religion, only that it shall be disinterred from the rubbish of the dark
ages, and made to assume its former simplicity, sublimity, and
majesty. The demons of party must be dispossessed, and the false


spirits cast out. The human mind must be emancipated from the
bondage of error, and information not only augmented, but extended
to all the community.

I^ight is certainly increasing — charity enlarging the circle of its
activities — the mountains of discord diminishing, and the deep valleys
which separated Christians, are filling up. But much is to be done
before all flesh shall enjoy the salvation of God. If all who love the
Lord and the salvation of men, would unite their energies and bury
the tomahawk of party conflicts, no seer could predict how rapid would
be the march and how extensive the triumphs of the gospel.

But the mighty agent, or rather the successful means, of this most
desirable revolution, will be the ancient gospel. There are many
gospels now preached. The gospels of every sect are something dif-
ferent from each other, and something different from the apostolic.
There can be, in truth, but one gospel; but there may be many new
modified and perverted gospels. Some make their own god and wor-
ship him; and all who create a new god invent a gospel to suit his
character. Surely no man of good common sense can imagine that
the god of the Calvinists and the god of the Arminians are the same
god. He that fancies that the god of the Trinitarians and the god of
the Unitarians are one and the same divinity, can easily believe in

The wisdom and the power of God, when combined, will be surely
adequate to accomplish the most extraordinary promises on record.
Now the placing of all na,tions under the dominion of his Son, under
the reign of favor, under the influence of all that is pure, amiable, and
heavenly, is promised; and by what means so likely to be accom-
plished as by that instrument which is emphatically called the wisdom
and power of the Almighty? That instrument is the old gospel
preached by the Apostles. This is almighty, through God, to the
pulling down all the strongholds of infidelity and profanity, to the
subversion of Atheism, Deism, and Sectarianism. It proved its power
upon the nations once, and it begins to prove its power again. The
sword of the Spirit has been muffled with the filthy rags of philosophy
and mysticism until it can not cut through the ranks of the aliens.
But so soon as this gospel is promulged in its old simplicity and in
its native majesty, it will prove itself to be of God, and as adequate as
in days of yore. It will pierce the hearts of the King's enemies; and
while it slays their enmity, it will reconcile them to the authority and
government of the Prince of Peace.

In prosecuting one of the great objects of this paper, and. indeed,
the leading object, this point will not be lost sight of. Our modern
gospels, like the metaphysics of the schools, have been inoperative.
except to alienate men from one another, and to fill some with spiritual


pride, and to abase others under a moro&e humility. Here we see
them exulting in enthusiasm, and there melancholy under a system of
doubts. Between these two classes there is the opinionative, the specu-
lative, the cold and stiff formalist — exact in the ceremonies, and
precise in all the forms of religion, without the power. Some, from
a bolder and more independent mind, and from a happier constitu-
tional temperament, dared to be pious and to aspire after a higher
enjoyment of the spirit of religion. But these do not give character
to the age.

One of the two great Reformers attacked the practices, and the
other the opinions * of the earlier part of the sixteenth century. The
former was by far the most useful and puissant reformer. He gave
the deadliest blow to the Beast. The other, intent on making men
think right, only made converts from among the converted. This
has always been the case. As Luther excelled Calvin, so did Wesley
excel the Erskines. They both began upon communities called Prot-
estants, but degenerating Protestants. Wesley directed his energies
to the works of men, and the Erskines to their heterodox opinions.
Wesley excelled his own more metaphysical brother, Fletcher. Fletcher
was as far superior to Wesley as a reasoner and metaphysician, as
Calvin was to Luther. But, as a reformer, Wesley was as far superior
to Fletcher as Luther was to Calvin. The reason is obvious: the
gospel called for a change of conduct — for obedience on new principles.
It presented great operative principles, but called for immediate sub-
mission to new institutions. Luther's plan was more in unison with
this than Calvin's; and Wesley's more than Fletcher's. Hence more
visible and more useful in their tendencies. Practical men always
have been the most useful; and, therefore, practical principles have
been more beneficial to mankind than the most ingenious and refined
speculations. Symmes might have amusingly lectured a thousand
years upon his visions and his fancies; but Christopher Columbus, in
one voyage, added a new world to the old one.

The ancient gospel spoke by facts, and said little about principles
of action of any sort. The facts, when realized or believed, carried
principles into the heart without naming them; and there was an
object presented which soon called them into action. It was the true
philosophy, without the name, and made all the philosophy of the
world sublimated folly. It was ridiculous to hear Epicureans and
Stoics reasoning against Paul. While they were talking about atoms
of matter and refined principles, about virtue and vice, Paul took
hold of the Resurrection of the Dead, and buried them in their own
dreams. He preached Jesus and the Resurrection; he proclaimed

* Each of them attacked both sentiment and practice; but I mean one of them paid
chief regard to practice— the other, to correct views.


reformation and forgiveness of sins; and before they awolte out of
their reveries, he had Dionysius the Mayor of the City, the Lady
Demaris, and other notable characters, immersed into Jesus.

The ancient gospel left no man in a reasoning mode about any
principle of action. It left him in no doubt about the qualities or
attributes of faith. It called for the obedience of faith; and by giving
every man an opportunity of testing and showing his own faith by his
works, it made no provision for cases of consciences, nor room for
philosophic doubting. Hut I do not here eulogize it, but only intend
to say that it is the only and the all-sufficient means to destroy anti-
christ, to heal divisions, to unite Christians, to convert the world, and
to bless all nations; and viewing it in this light, we shall find much
use for it in all that we shall attempt in this work.

In detecting the false gospels, nothing will aid us so much as an
examination of their tendencies, and a comparison of their effects with
what the Millennium proposes. The gospel of no sect can convert
the world. This is with us a very plain proposition; and if so, the
sectarian gospels are defective, or redundant, or mixed. To one of
these general classes belong most of them.

When opposed by the interested, by those whom the corruptions
of Christianity feed with bread and gratify with honor, I will call to
mind the history of all the benefactors of men, and draw both comfort
and strength from the remembrance that no man ever achieved any
great good to mankind who did not wrest it with violence through
ranks of opponents — who did not fight for it with courage and perse-
verance, and who did not, in the conflict, sacrifice either his good
name or his life. John, the harbinger of the Messiah, lost his head.
The Apostles were slaughtered. The Saviour was crucified. The
ancient confessors were slain. The reformers all have been excom-
municated. I know that we shall do little good if we are not perse-
cuted. If I am not traduced, slandered, and misrepresented, I shall
be a most unworthy advocate of that cause which has always provoked
the resentment of those who have fattened upon the ignorance and
superstition of the mass, and have been honored by the stupidity and
sottishness of those who can not think and will not learn. But we
have not a few friends and associates in this cause. There are many
with whom it shall be my honor to live and labor, and my happiness
to suffer and die.

The ancient gospel has many powerful advocates; and the heralds
of a better, of a more blissful order of things, social and religious,
are neither few nor feeble. No seven years of the. last ten centuries,
as the last seven, have been so strongly marked with the criteria of the
dawn of that period which has been the theme of many a discourse,
and the burthen of many a prayer. Editor.


PREFACE.— 1831.

The first thought of the Almighty Maker of this stupendous uni-
versie, in reference to this system, was the ultimate and ineffable glory
and bliss of his rational offspring. When creation is contemplated in
accordance with the character of its Great Architect, this idea sug-
gests itself to the mind. The most august palace ever reared by
human hands was for the residence of him who designed it. His
splendid and happy inhabitation was the first thought in the designer;
and, in subordination to this, was the whole scheme originated and
conducted. That which was first in the design is, however, always last
in the execution. For although the Prince first thought of his mag-
nificent abode in the castle which he erected, it was not till every-
thing pertaining to its perfect completion was accomplished, that he
made it the mansion of his glory. The painter's last touch precedes
the entrance of the illustrious resident. The first thought is the end,
and the first act the beginning of all things.

Before the real temple of Jehovah will be perfected and the city of
the Great King ready for his reception, the scaffolding must be con-
sumed. But the Most High God dwells not in temples made by human
hands. He builds a temple for himself. And that temple will be
the purified and glorified spirits of the saints. They are the materials
of God's own house. "I will dwell among them and walk in them,"
says the Almighty. But all the saints shall be placed as stones in
this heavenly temple before its gates are opened, before the New
Jerusalem descends from the present heaven, and becomes the new
and eternal mansion of Nature's Immortal King. Hence the general
conflagration of the scaffolding of the works of nature and of grace
is, in the visions of future things, to precede the first note of the
eternal song to him who< will inhabit thenceforth the new praises of

The material systems are but the scaffoldings to the different stories
of the heavenly temple of many mansions. As respects our race, it
is nature first, grace second, and glory third and last of all. When
all the lumber of seven thousand years shall have been consumed,
and the dome of glory everlasting perfected, the first thought of the
Great Contriver shall be intelligibly expressed to the universe ot
glorified reason. God, all in all, is the chorus of the eternal song.
The tongues which sing it shall not be eternal mutes. Every opposing
mouth shall be stopped, when the great consummation vindicates the
plan and progress. of the supreme government of all systems. Let
us, then, kiss the Son, be silent, and adore.

Man was made in the image of God. His little creations are imita-
tions of the Great Creator. We form designs and attempt their accom-


plishment. Our first thought is the end of our efforts; and if we live
tc perfect our plans, we do no more than give expression to the first
idea. The volume can not be read till the last word is written; but
the reading of it is always in the intention of the writer. The effect
to be produced is the ultimatum in his intention who writes a book.
He thinks that he may write, and writes that it may be read; but the
reading is solicited for the end proposed to himself.

When our bodies are immersed in water and our souls into the
Holy Spirit, our plans are all religious. If we value intelligence, it
is for its purifying tendencies; if we value purity, it is for its blissful
termination. Bliss is our goal — intelligence and purity is the race-

Human happiness is our end and aim in all our editorial labors.
But as in the scheme of Heaven, wickedness must be punished, and
the wicked afflicted; so in the most benevolent designs those who
oppose the way of righteousness must be chastised, were it only by
the exposure of their schemes.

We still flatter ourselves that we shall have less occasion for thj
invective, and more room for the development of the renovating truth.
It is always, however, difficult to remove the rubbish without raising
the dust; and the Babel repairers have always obstructed the rebuild-
ing of the Lord's city and his earthly temple.

Kind nature has given, as Anacreon saith, to each animal a defen-
sive weapon, from which it has withholden an offensive one. Timidity
is to the sheep what horns are to the goat; the swiftness of foot of the
haro is its shield against the teeth of the dog; to the lion she has
given teeth and paws; to the ox, horns; to the horse, his hoofs; and
to (he wild cut, its viusk. Each, when attacked, relies for protection
upon its natural armor of defense. Truth has argument; and error,
vituperation and anathema for its defense.

Reason, we repeat, is the strength and dignity of man. He who
has to employ another weapon in his own defense, degrades himself
as well as his cause. Cannons are the last reason of kings, it is said;
but this is an abuse of speech. Brutal force might as justly be called
the eloquence of a highwayman. The anathema of a clerical council
and the denunciations of a mercenary press are the last reasons of
errorists: but these, like cannon balls, are not addressed to the under-
standing, nor the conscience; but to the animal fears of men.

The press is as venal as the pulpit, when error is to be propagated;
and when passion and pride are to be gratified, a falsehood or a male-
diction is more suitable than the Sermon upon the Mount. Satan's
kingdom has been built up by lies, as uniformly as that of the Messiah
by truth. In the controversy about the body of Moses, Michael rea-
soned, but (lid not sland-^r nor revile: whil? Satan reviled and did not


reason. Ever since error was believed among men, it has been sus-
tained by the same means by which it was first introduced.

By some strange fatality the opposers of reform have always
defeated themselves. It is true they formerly succeeded in keeping
a part of their kingdom from an apostasy from error. Those who
succeeded in opposing Luther, succeeded in keeping up the supersti-
tions of popery; and the children of them who opposed him are now
inheriting their father's errors. In this way their gain was the loss
and ruin of their own posterity. What they lost of their kingdom was
little in comparison of what they lost in their own persons and families.
In every war against the New Testament the loss is loss, the gain is
loss, and every victory is a defeat. Thus error always defeats itself.

Men are never more deceived than in their calculations upon success
in opposing reformation principles. Even after their battles are wisely
planned, their preliminary schemes successful, and victory in sight,
the trophies often recede from the eye, and the crown from the touch
of the confident aspirant. No doubt that Herod felt himself secured
in his throne, and obtained a quietus to his fears after the slaughter
of the infants in Bethlehem. But he knew not that the infant whose
death alone he meditated was sleeping securely in Egypt.

When the chief priests, at the head of an exasperated populace,
sustained by a Roman governor, had crucified the Prince of Life, they
rejoiced that victory was won, and their lordship over the people
retained in spite of the wonderful revolutionist. But transient was
their joy, and short-lived their exultations! The dead Jesus is found
instructing his disciples to wage a more successful war against the
rulers of the darkness of this world. The Apostles alarm the Sanhe-
drim by the thousands who heard them gladly, and they began to
machinate anew against these propagators of what they called the
odious heresy. The ringleaders, Peter and John, are thrust into
prison. The heretics secured, the priesthood again exult. Their joy,
however, is soon turned into sorrow. To-morrow morning the prison-
ers are speaking to the people, and the people still hear them gladly.
Every scheme to suppress, and every victory which the enemies of
the ancient gospel imagined they obtained against it, only furthered
its progress and gave it the ascendant over its rival systems. Even
the martyrdom of Stephen, the dispersion of the great congregation
which was in Jerusalem, and the fierce opposition of Saul of Tarsus,
for a time — all conspired to give momentum and celerity to the march
of reformation.

Every effort to reform has been opposed by those whose professions
ought to have placed them in the van of the preachers of righteousness.
But experience has proved that those in power with the people are
always afraid of revolution. There were those at home as well as


those abroad who opposed the American Revolution. Often was the

Online LibraryAlexander CampbellThe Millennial Harbinger abridged (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 70)