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A more essential service, in our judgment, no man can render
the present generation, than to call the attention of the readers of
the Sacred Scriptures to the standard rules of interpretation. We
are daily more deeply convinced that the confusion, ignorance, enthu-
siasm and superstition of this generation are attributable more to
false principles, or, perhaps, to the lack of all principles of inter-
pretation, than to all other causes combined. It is the teachers that
cause the people to err more in this respect than in any other. One
says the Bible means what it says; another says it means not what
it says. One denounces the literal, another the spiritual meaning of
the book. One is all for the spirit, another all for the letter; and
some are always in quest of the recondite and hidden meaning. Thus
the people know not by what star to steer their course, and are in
worse circumstances than if they acknowledged no other guide, over
seer, or ruler, than plain, honest, common sense.


The following excellent rules for Scripture interpretation, are
extracted from "A Discourse on the Nature and Subjects of Chris-
tian Baptism. By Moses Hemmenway, D. D., pastor of a church in
Wells." Published in Philadelphia, in 1788. and written by a Paido-
baptist, in defense of infant spritikling. Had he pursued his own
rules, they must have inevitably brought him to different conclusions


and inferences than those at which he has arrived, and which he has
deduced; but, like too many others who are fine projectors, h3
has laid down excellent rules which in practice he has abandoned.
This was the fault of the great philosopher Bacon. "Lord Bacon
pointed out the method of true philosophizing; yet, in practice, he.
abandoned it, and his own physical investigations may be ranked
among the most effectual specimens of that rash and unfounded
theorism, which his own principles have banished from the schools
of philosophy." For the sake of illustration, I quote the author's text.

Matt, xxviii. 19, 20: Go ye therefore and teach [or disciple]
all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things
whatsoever I have commanded you. And, lo, I am with you always,
even unto the end of the world. Amen.

1. The Scriptures are always to be understood in that sense of the
words, which, taken in their connection, is most natural, plain,
obvious and familiar to us, and those for whose instruction they were
primarily designed. The literal sense is alioays to be preferred to a
figurative one, unless there appear plain and good reasons to the
contrary. For instance, though the word baptize in our text is some-
times taken in a figurative sense, for the giving of the Holy Spirit;
yet as it literally and primarily signifies a washing in water, and
this sense was most obvious and familiar to the Apostles, and is so
to us, and the word commonly bears this sense in the New Testament,
and there appears no incongruity with the context, or inconsistency
with other parts of the Scripture, in understanding it thus in this
place; we therefore conclude, that it is a literal and water baptism,
that is here intended. On the contrary, when Christ tells his Apos-
tles, "I am with you to the end of the world," we can not understand
the words literally of his bodily presence. For, as the Apostles were
to disperse into different and remote parts of the world, it was impos-
sible that Christ should be always with them bodily. And besides,
he was immediately to ascend to, and remain in heaven, till the
end of the world. This must therefore be understood figuratively,
ol those gracious assistances which he would afford to them.

2 The Scripture is the best and sxirest interpreter of Scripture,
and if the meaning of any word or phrase seems doubtful, vje must
compare it with other places, where a like expression is used, or
where the same subject is treated of perhaps in plainer language, and
that interpretation is to be adhered to, which is most consonant to the
general language and doctrine of the Scriptures themselves. Thus
the word baptize, in our text, may be compared with, and explained
by the words of the Apostle, in which he says, "That the church is
sanctified by the washing of water with the word;" whence we are


to conclude that water baptism is a gospel ordinance; and that bap-
tism signifies a washing.

3. The Scriptures are to he u'nderstood as containing not only
those truths which are expressly asserted, but also those which are
plainly implied. For example, it is not expressly asserted in our
text, that baptism is to be a standing ordinance in the church to tha
end of the world. But, then, as Christ has promised to be with his
ministers in the execution of their commission to the end of the
world; and as they were in this their commission instructed to bap-
tize, as well as teach; it is a fair consequence, that the duties, as
well as the encouragements contained in their commission, were to
continue to the end of t'me; and so baptism is a standing ordinance.
And that this is the true meaning, implied, though not expressed.

4. That is the true sense of Scripture which best agrees with the
original text. Though the Scriptures were written in Hebrew and
Greek, by divine inspiration, yet they were not translated by divine
inspiration. Some words are not exactly translated; and are to be
corrected by the original. Our text, I think, is an example. This
clause, "Go teach all nations," ought rather to be understood, "Go
make all nations disciples;" for so the Greek word properly signi-
fies. To teach or indoctrinate is expressed by another word which
we have in the latter verse of our text: "Teaching them to observe
ail things whatsoever I have commanded."

5. That interpretation of Scripture is to be adhered to, which
gives the best, apt est and most instructive sense to the icords: unless
it should appear that a different sense uas intended. Thus, for exam-
ple, I think it makes better sense to read our text according to the
amendment proposed: "Go make all nations disciples; baptizing and
teaching them," etc.; tlian to read it according to our translation,

"Go teach all nations; baptizing them teaching them;" where the

repetition of the word "teach" seems needless and uninstructive.

6. The practice of the primitive church, so far as it is known, is
to be attended to, in case doubts should arise concerning the mean-
ing and proper administration of gospel ordinances. The meaning
of precept, is sometimes cleared and ascertained by authentic pr ••
cedents. And we have no precedents which are so much to be
regarded by us, as the practice of the church in its earliest and
purest state; especially in the apostolic age. For example: in our
text, baptism with water is not expressly mentioned; but we know
that in the apostolic and primitive church, baptism with water was
practiced: which seems to put the matter out of all reasonable doubt,
that It is a water baptism that is here intended. r. ii.

"It IS said, that if the English language be divided into one hun-
dred parts, sixty parts would be Saxon: thirty would he I at in, includ-


ing French; five would be Greek, and the remaining five from the
other languages of the world."

We presume to think and to say, that if the ecclesiastico-heretical
terminology, or nomenclature, of modern Christendom, were evan-
gelically analyzed, or repudiated in wholesale, and the apostolic dic-
tion, suggested by the Holy Spirit and consecrated by the prime
ministers, or apostles of Jesus Christ, were substituted for it, more
would be achieved to the cause of Christianity; to the union, har-
mony and co-operation of Christians, and to the progress of the Reign
of the Lord Messiah throughout the earth, than has been effected
since the Lutheran Reformation, by all the schisms and schismatical
leaders that have figured on the pages of ecclesiastical history during
the last three centuries.

In our feeble attempts to achieve something in this direction, we
have been harassed on every side, by all the inflated partizans of
every school in modern Christendom. Still, we have not labored in
vain. Much has been achieved, despite of all opposition, and despite
of the failures and frailties of those who have espoused and advocated
the principles underlying such an enterprise. The influence of our
views and pleadings has not been conflned to our own brotherhood
that have come out of existing sects, but is more or less felt, mani-
fested, and practically approbated, in some of the Protestant denomi-
nations around us, as has been acknowledged by not a few of those
occupying public and responsible positions on the walls of their
respective Zions. Indeed, the prayers of myriads daily arise to heaven
in behalf of union, harmony, and co-operation amongst all the citi-
zens of Christ's kingdom, and they are being, and will be, fully
answered. Despite of partizan pride and self-ycleped orthodoxy, the
very terminology of the cause we plead is occasionally heard an
approved, even amongst those who are too vain, or too proud, .
acknowledge any progress.

We are, on all the premises, greatly encouraged to hold on our
way, assured that a good harvest will be gathered in at last, as the first-
fruits fully warrant. We would say nothing boastfully on these prem-
ises, but humbly and gratefully acknowledge the Divine favor and
mercy displayed to us; for of ourselves we have nothing to boast -
our sufficiency and our success are alike from God, to whom be all
the glory!

We conclude, on all our premises, that much good might accrue,
and much controversy and ill-feeling be suppressed or prevented, by
a few definitions of terms and phrases, that have occasioned mucli
debate and aberration in the greenest fields of modern partyism. We
fha'l. therefore, attempt something in this way, not in the best order.
but with the best intentions. We hope, in this effort, to correct and


neutralize much slander and defamation, and to afford to candid and
Inquiring minds the means of appreciating and understanding our
views, our aims, and our terminologj*. We shall follow up this sub-
ject in a series of papers, on all the great elements, facts and docu-
ments in the true Christology, and under the true Christocracy of the
Messianic dispensation.

The doctrine of the "Trinity," as it is called, though really of
Grecian or Roman origin, is regarded as number one of the true ortho-
doxy of polemic theology. On this account alone we give it prece-
dence. It is neither historically nor philosophically, neither philo-
logically nor Christologically, the first in order. But polemically
and ecclesiastically it is of primordial conspicuity, and has been so
for ages.

The Hebrew Cabolists. or Tradilionists of the Jews, with their
cabala, or traditions, of which they were veritable doctors or teachers,
laid the foundation for the most ancient heresies. The Essenes alle-
gorized the Mosaic law and institutions into a species of spiritualism,
resembling not a little the Shaking Quakers of modern date. They
v.cre still more harmless than the more orthodox Pharisees, or the
more latitudinarian Sadducees.

By reprobating this speculative theology, we save the labor of many
volumes, and, in the meantime, the careful reading of the Holy and
Divine Oracles furnishes us with a full and satisfactory statement of
Jkhovaii — a compound, according to Rabbinical literature, of Jaii, the
essence, and Havaii. existing — "The Always Existing." This name
is older than all human literature. Josephus calls it the Tetragram-
maton — the four-lettered name. Sanchoniathon, the oldest Pagan
writer known to the literary world, names it, or writes it. Jkiu;. or

Diodorus, of Sicily, .Jerome. Origen, of the 2d century, and Clemens
Alexandrinus, exhibit it in three letters, JAO. Hence the Jusjiater
of the Greeks, in tlie genitive, is Jovis, Jovk. an abbreviation of
Ji-.iiovAii. It antedates all written language. It is the one only
incomviunicablc name in all the dialects of earth. Hence, Joshua,
the hero man. son of Nun, is Hosea. or Oshea, and with the prefix
Jk. indicates a Divine Saviour. Joshua preceded his antitype, Jesus,
the son of David, 1.4.51 years. Salvation temporal, spiritual and eternal,
is all of God, or of Jehovah.

We have five adjuncts or epithets added to Jehovah in the Law
and the Prophets. Each of these enhance his glory. JehovaJi Jinh
— the Lord tvill appear, or the Lord tcill provide. (Gen. xxii. 8.)
Jehovah yissi — Jehovah nn/ banner. (Exod. xvii. 15.) Jehovah Shal-
low, or Jehovah of Peace. (Judg. vi. 4.) Jehovah Shammah — "Jeho-
hovah is there." he resides there. (Ezek. xlviii. 3,5.) Jehovah


Tzidekenu — Jehovah our righteousness. (Jer. xxiii. 16, and xxxiii.
16.) These are approbated and recognized by Calmet.

Now, in the Christian development of the long promised, foretold,
and typified salvation, Jehovah is manifested in three distinct person-
alities in reference to human redemption. In creation, providence,
or moral government, there was no need for any other development
of God than those given in these declarations or manifestations.

But in the emergency of man's redemption, there was a necessity
for a new revelation of Jehovah, Elohim, as our Jehovah in distinct
personalities. Of these there are three now named — The Father, the
Word, the Spirit. The Word became flesh, and dwelt in our human-
ity. The Spirit became the Holy Guest, or Ghost, and ever dwells
in the true church — the mystical body of the Lord Jesus Christ.

"God so loved the world as to send his Son," possessing the Holy
Spirit without measure or limit. He became Incarnate, and dwelt on
earth. He formed and educated a school of apostles. On the eve of
his ascension, he promised, on his return to his native heaven, to
send to them his Holy Spirit, to be their Guest, their teacher, and
their help, in erecting his kingdom or church.

During his personal ministry he occasionally gave them the Spirit
in some of his gifts. But he reserved his full dispensation till after
he had vanquished death and the grave, and ascended to his native
heaven. He went to receive a kingdom, and to be constituted, in our
humanity, both Lord and Sovereign of the entire realms of the uni-
verse. He was formally inaugurated as Lord of all, in the capacity
of the Son of man and the Son 'of God. He received the empire or
creation. He then sent, as his ambassador, the Holy Spirit, and com-
menced his kingdom in the city in which he, fifty days before, had
been crucified.

These were the facts to be announced by the apostles; and that all
who died to sin, on confession of their guilt, were to be "born of
water and of the Spirit," and thus become citizens of his kingdom,
as now dispensed.

Such was the Divine and Christian economy, or dispensation of
Divine grace, under the immediate influence and direction of his Holy
Spirit. The church then became "the temple of God," with Jesus
Christ for its head and the Holy Spirit for its heart.

The commission given to the apostles, directed them first to the
city in which he had been crucified, and there they were to commence
a spiritual temple, to be animated and adorned with the graces, the
beauty, and the grandeur of the HolV Spirit — to be "the light of the
world," and "for salvation to the ends of the earth."

What, then, was their mission? They were to announce or pro-
claim Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world,


tho Sovereign Lord of heaven and of earth. This was the sum and
the substante of their Divine commission.

They prorlaimed Jesus as the Messiah; and faith, repentance and
baptism, "for the remission," or "the tcashing away of their sins. '
These were never to be separated. Their commission was not to
preach faith alone, nor repentance alone, nor baptism alone; bur.
each of them in its own proper place, or significance. To as many
as received their testimony, they commanded submission to Jesus the
Messiah in all things, as the Sovereign Lord of all. So it came t.i
pass, that when any one believed their testimony, confessed his sins,
and was immersed in the name, or by the authority of the Lord, into
the name of the Father, the Sun, and the Holy Sijirit, in this act there
was, to him, a Divine declaration of the remission of all his antece-
dent sins, and the possession, in his heart, of that Holy Spirit as his
guest : by whose testimony, or demonstrations of the claims of the
Lord Jesus, he had already submitted to the new dispensation, or the
reign in him of that same Spirit that had already attested Jesus; and
had clothed his apostles with plenary power to give testimony and
proof of his Divine personality and official fullness.

For this paragraph we, as a people, have been doomed to some
thirty years' persecution or defamation. We thank the Lord for it;
but we can not remit the sin of those who have perverted and misrep-
sented it and those who proclaim it.

Contextual interpretation, claimed by all denominations, was denied
to us. Hence, by every form of ingenious verbal torture, we have
been published, from Dan to Beersheba. as teaching "water salva-
tion," "baptismal regeneration," denying "Spiritual influence," "the
person and work of the Holy Spirit," and I know not what other
forms of "neology" and of "heresy."

But still more to be reprobated: Those guilty of these most false
and fabulous tales, are self-convicted of this disingenuous and unchris-
tian attitude and course. This we learn from every point of the
compass, and, not infrequently, even in our person and experience.
Men are heard In every quarter of our country, where the cause we
plead has obtained a footing, and sometimes even when railing
against a fictitious "Campbellism." (as they are pleased to term it)
they give full evidence, to evor>' discriminating ear, of their own pro-
ficiency in that which they so fabulously and impiously call "Camp-

They preach it in part, and disclaim it in tnfo. We thank God
a-^d take courage, that many, while hypocritically denouncing "Camp-
belli.'sm," preach it in very prominent item. The true clergy of this
generation have nothing to learn. They are warranted and endorsed
orthodox "divines." And they can preach any theology or Chrlstol-


ogy, without suspicion and without shame. But, before many moons,
they will have to become still more tinctured with this horrific heresy.
They will have to immerse men into Christ, and not in Christ; or in
other words, they will have to immerse men into the name, and not
in the name, of Jesus the Christ; or "i^ito the name of the Father, the
Son, and the Holy Spirit." Instead of the Papal Roman formula —
"In the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." And they will have
to immerse men into, or for remission of sins. And everybody knows
that for thirty years' past we have been doomed — 1 was about to say
damned — for this unholy innovation.

"Remissfon of sins," or "the washing away of sins," as some way
connected with baptism, will have to be assented to by the persons,
or their sons, who have been honoring us, for years, with their rep-
robation, for quoting or using the words of Peter and of Paul, speak-
ing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, when preaching or teaching
the Christian institutions.

They will yet have courage to say to a believing querist, when
asking what he should do, as a poor, self-condemned sinner, to have
a full remission of his sins, what Peter said to the Jews on the first
Pentecost — "Repent," or "Reform," and be immersed every one of
you, in the name of the Lord Jesus, for the remission of your sins,
and you shall receive the comforts of the Holy Guest in your hearts:
or as Christ's messenger, Ananias, said to Saul, they will say to a
self-condemned sinner, awakened to know his condition — "Arise and
be immersed, and wash away your sins, invoking the name of the
Lord." This will some of them do, that have accused us of error
and heresy of the first degree. They can not prevent the fulfillment
of this — prediction, shall I call it? Nor will they then see any dif-
ficulty in defending this practice from the charge of heterodoxy or
heresy. They will argue the questions raised against this practice,
as we have been doing for many years, demonstrating that there is
no incompatibility in such a practice with the grace of God, and the
merits of Christ's blood, and faith, antecedent to baptism. Thousands,
tens of thousands, that once withstood these views as incompatible
with their former theories of faith, repentance, and the blood of the
Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, in type and prophecy,
will see no incongruity, no contradiction, no difficulty whatever, in
reconciling and in justifying this apostolic practice, than did Luther
in maintaining his doctrine of justification by faith, against all the
assumptions and presumptions of his orthodox opponents.

They will then see no irreconcilable difficulty between being bom
both of the Spirit and of water simultaneously. They will then see
that a man may be begotten and born when he is old — that he may be
first quickened by the Spirit, or begotten through the belief of the


truth, and then washed; or that "the washing of regeneration" does
not necessarily precede, in the Divine economy, regeneration itself,
or the renewal of the Holy Spirit in its full acceptation.

They will then discover that the Holy Spirit works in faith, in
repentance, and in baptism, in renewing, cleansing, and sanctifying
the awakened sinner. This will be read and weighed when 1 shall
have passed the bourne of time, and when my contemporaries, too,
shall have crossed the Jordan and entered into the realities of the
spirit world. Assured that we stand on the foundation of prophets
and apostles, we have nothing to fear, but every good thing to hope.
"The word of the Lord endureth forever. " And this is the word of
the Lord on which we build, and not on the doctrines and traditions
of men. "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved, and he
that believes not," though immersd a thousand times, is now, and
shall hereafter be, condemned.

We can fully sympathize with Luther in maintaining the doctrin.^
of faith as the grand element of justification. And as he fully recon-
ciled Paul and James on the question of justification by faith, without
the deeds of the law, and justification by works, too, in the examples
given by James, so can we, and do we, reconcile the grace of God
with faith, repentance, baptism and justification by faith.

Every Christian institution of which we participate is but a mean
and not an end. a. c, 1856, page 123.


Nothing is more talked about, amongst professors, and less prac-
ticed or less understood, in proportion to its acknowledged importance
than the reading of the Scriptures. It is indeed statedly read in many
churches and families, but it is not read rationally nor religiously
and therefore for the most part fails in being relished and conse-
quently in reaching the heart, and in being practically believed and

To be read advantageously, the Bible must be read in the order of
its books, at regular intervals, and with a solemn and religious refer-
ence to the most exact and full conformity in heart, in word, in
action, to all its pure, and hbly. and heavenly lessons and precepts.
But even this is too vague and indefinite for the exigencies of the
times. Permit me, then, to explain: It was not the design of the
Author of the Bible that men should have a synopsis or summary
of its doctrine, either before their eyes in writing, or committed to
memory. Had such been his design, he would have given us, by the
hand of some inspired person, just such a summary as would have
been complete and infallible. But he has not done it: and. therefore
such a document would be, to say the least, inoxpoiliont and unprofit-


able. It would have been a substitute for the constant reading and
studying of the Book. Now this is the very thing that the Author
of the Bible does not desire. His will is that we be constant readers;

Online LibraryAlexander CampbellThe Millennial Harbinger abridged (Volume 1) → online text (page 22 of 70)