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conquerors in the appalling conflict between reason and passion; or
rather, as in this case, between the love of glory and the love of

In the proper sense of the term, the world, however, as indicative
of all those artificial creations, the root and offspring of human passion
and appetite; or, as defined by an inspired writer, the compound of
"the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life, which
is not of the Father, but of the world;" I say the world, in its Biblical
import, never was vanquished by any person destitute of the faith of
God's elect. On the contrary, all unbelieving men are overcome by it.
In some of its ten thousand forms it lays in wait for them; and, adapted
as it is, to all the corrupt and selfish workings of the human heart, it
finds in every human being a sympathy with it, or a taste for it, in
some of those respects in which it opposes God, and Christ, and heaven;
and thus by its allurements and fascinations all are captivated who
are not of the faith, or amongst the expectants of another and a better
world, suited to beings of a more elevated character — of a purer and
holier order.

All, indeed, are not subdued by the same arguments or adaptations.
All are not the victims of ambition, the devotees of avarice, the sons
and daughters of gaiety and pleasure. Nor are the immense groups
that worship in any of these temples of one general or catholic com-
munion. Amongst the ambitious there are perhaps a thousand sects.
There are those ambitious of ecclesiastic as well as political honors,
and of ecclesiastic hoflors of every description; ambitious of the honors
of a Churchman or a Dissenter; of a Calvinist or an Arminian; of a
Baptist or a Pedobaptist — an Episcopalian or a Presbyterian — an Eras-
tian or an Independent


Of political honors there are as many castes as there are kinds of
human government, and officers and grades in those governments.
Here the proud autocrat disdains the limited monarch, and there the
supercilious aristocrat is contemned by the more humble democrat
The ambition of every aspirant after political, literary, or ecclesiastis
honors is not placed on the same object, nor gratified with the same
eminence. Here a Curate's charge, and there a Bishop's diocess; here
a Cardinal's cap and there a Pope's mitre, fill the horizon of certain
individuals, as fully as the magistracy of a county, or the presidency
of a state, as the regalia of a nation, or the imperial honors of a con-
tinent sate the aspirations of the various incumbents of these particu-
lar stations.

Society seems to have cast itself into an endless variety of moulds
for the sake of baiting the hook by which to gull the thoughtless mul-
titude of worshippers in the temple of Ambition. The names of places
and of offices in the literary, political, and religious world — in the
peace and war establishments — the sea and land armies — the occupa-
tions, callings, and pursuits honorable, more honorable, most honorable,
would fill a dictionary larger than the Bible; and then of the three
just mentioned — the ambitious, the avaricious, the voluptuous, but tho
first would stand in full array before us.

I can not speak of the slaves of avarice, the sects of philosophy, nor
of the mighty hosts whose god is their appetites — whose only end and
aim are sensual gratifications of one or more of a thousand varieties.
But all these, of each and every class, may be as fully sold to the
world, and enslaved by it, as was Alexander, or Csesar, or Hannibal, or
Napoleon. Every Mammonite becomes not a Croesus, a Girard, or a
Rothschild; every rhymester becomes not a Pope, a Goldsmith, or a
Byron; every orator becomes not a Demosthenes, a Cicero, or a Sheri-
dan; every student becomes not a Bacon, a Locke, or a Newton; nor
every voluptuary a Boniface, or a Belshazzar: yet they may be as
sincere, ardent, and devoted to this worship as the most successful
laborers in their respective avocations; for success is not the fruit of
sincerity, else amongst the worshippers of Mammon what multitudes
would have been rich who are yet poorl !

But one thing is certain, that "his servants we are whom we obey,"
and that every one is conquered by that icMch controls 7iim; and,
therefore, from the prince to the beggar all may be, and, in many
nations and tribes, all are overcome by the world in some way or
other — he only excepted who believes that Jesus is the Christ

And here the question arises, Hotv does faith conquer the world f
or. What in the belief that Jesus is the Christ is more powerful than
the world? To understand this we must first understand the phrase
"course of the world." This apostolic phrase denotes that current of


earthly affection, lusts, passions, or cares, which carry the soul down-
wards from the knowledge, love, and admiration of God, which material
nature and the daily providences of God would, in subordination to
Revelation, but for that current, greatly promote. For I would
emphatically say, that universal being, or, as some would express it,
universal nature, were it not for this "course of the world," would
furnish innumerable arguments and motives to admire, to adore, and
delight in the Author of this stupendous and beautiful frame of nature,
which seems to us to have no end but the existence and happiness
of man.

Such, however, is the power of present objects over the human con-
stitution, for which we have both a natural and acquired taste and
appetite, that reason, philosophy, and moral suasion assail it in vain.
Under the idolatries and philosophy of the Pagan world, in its best
forms, this power was supreme and irresistible. The brightest names
of Grecian and Roman fame were subject to the supremacy of this
influence; and, therefore, not one of them could stem the current or
course of this world, or make a successful effort to overcome it. The
secret, then, in pursuit of which we have instituted this inquiry, is.
that all systems of human philosophy or wisdom furnished not suitable
or competent motives to oppose this current, and to excite and enable
men to wage war against so powerful an alliance as the world, the
flesh, and Satan.

The strength of every moral system will always be found to con-
sist in the strength of the motives which it offers: for rational beings
can not act without motives; and they must always act in accordance
with the strength or force of the motives presented. If, then, there
are two classes of motives offered, human nature will always be con-
trolled by the most powerful, according to its own apprehension of
them. Men may not, indeed, always perceive the most valuable con-
sideration, and, therefore, they can not appreciate the weightier mo-
tive: for it is not enough that the object be a superior one, but that
the mind perceive it to be such. In the science of motives the per-
ception of the value of an object is essential to its becoming an argu-
ment or motive to action: for every thing must act as it is when all
circumstances are considered, and therefore if different objects stand
before the mind, no matter which of them be intrinsically greatest
or best, that which under all circumstances appears to be such, will
become a motive to action, and control the percipient to the dispar-
agement of that which may be, in truth, the most valuable, though
not so in his estimation.

Our conclusion, then, is, that human nature is so constituted that
it must act in unison with that class of objects or motives which
appear to be the best and most desirable under all circumstances of


the case. Now as the world, without the knowledge of the gospel,
could offer no objects or motives beyond itself, but such as were a
part of itself, or of its own nature, it followed that all mankind so
placed must be ruled, or led by it, in some one or more of its ten
thousand motives suited to the ten thousand varieties of human organ-
ization and circumstance. Hence all mankind, without the gospel, are
inevitably the slaves of the world and are conquered by it.

But still, although, a new world is revealed and a future life dis-
covered by the gospel; if that gospel be not believed, that future world
and all its excellencies and charms will be as though it were not; and
hence the possibility of still being governed by the world and of being
enslaved to it, although life and immortality are brought to light, so
long as that gospel is not understood and believed. Hence the necessity
of faith. It is in the philosophy of man and of his condition necessary,
not as a quid pro quo, a valuable condition, but as a means, or rather
as the only possible medium, of acquaintance with another class of
objects, celestial and divine. And this is the true reason why faith
conquers the world; because by it, as through a telescope, a person
sees another world so incomparably superior, that, from the moment
of its discovery, he lets go his hold on the present, and supremely
devotes himself to the future. The new objects are so lovely, excel-
lent, and overwhelming as to control all the objects of time an*!
sense, and to set the mind adrift from the moorings of temporal and
perishing things. The Christian then, indeed, acts the philosopher,
or, in other words, acts most rationally in "counting all things but
loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus the Messiah," and
of "treating them as refuse that he may win Christ," and be found
in his party in the day of rewards. This explains the conquests of
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, I\Ioses, and all that class in every
age who endured all pains and privations — "as seeing him n-ho is
invisible" — "having respect to the recompense of the reward" — "look-
ing not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not
seen" — "placing their affections on things above, and not on things
on the earth" — "walking by faith, and not by sight" — "an.riously
desiring the coming of the day of the Lord;" and "striving to be found
in him without spot, unrebukable at his appearing and his glory."

We can now explain the whole mystery of these words, "Who is
he that overcomes the world but he that believeth that Jesus is the
Messiah?" because he is the only person who has the distinct vision
of another world, so transcendant and so glorious, as to eclipse all
the pleasures, honors, and glories of earthly things — of "sceptres,
monuments, and crowns;" and which so fully adapts itself to the
vastness and grandeur of human aspirations, promising with infalli-
ble certainty the full enjoyment of all that human nature in Its


most cultivated and improved condition can either conceive or desire.
The class of objects which the gospel presents to one "led hy the
Spirit of God," affords motives so much stronger than all earthly
objects, that the reason of this victory is as obvious as the reason
of any of the effects, physical or moral, of which human science treats.

How great the power of religion, then, when faith alone — the sim-
ple belief of the gospel facts, as they are set before us by the demon-
strations of the Spirit of God and of almighty power, is more than
a match for "all the kingdoms of this world and the glory of them"!
Superadded to this faith, the love of God shed abroad in the heart,
and the living hope of being raised incorruptible, and being forever
with the Lord, render exceedingly efficacious the gospel in elevating
and adorning human character, and in imparting zeal, courage, forti-
tude, and devotion to all who clearly understand and cordially embrace
it. It is, indeed, "the power of God unto salvation" to all those that
believe it.

Christian heroes are, then, the brightest and most illustrious
victors in the annals of the world. Through faith in the promises
of God, they have "smbdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained
promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the strength of fire,
escaped the edge of the sword, became valiant in battle, overturned
the camps of aliens — women have been tortured not accepting prof-
fered deliverance in the hope of a better resurrection; and others
overcame the trials of mocking, scourging, bonds, and imprisonment
— of being stoned, sawn asunder, slain by the sword — of going about
in sheep-skins and goat-skins — being destitute, afflicted, tormented —
wandering about in deserts and mountains, hiding themselves in
caverns and caves of the earth."

As this picture is by no means an exaggeration, let us compare
ourselves, and ask. What lack I yet? How few Christians, does any
one ask, if such must always be the power of religion? We dare
not place its power below what the ancient saints achieved in the
faith of the better promises which we enjoy. Its power is certainly
greater than all the powers of the present world; for if any one has
realized "the powers of the world to come," he is certainly more
than a match for all earthly powers that can be arrayed against him.

What then shall we say of those Christian ministers who have
left off preaching the gospel for the sake of a more lucrative employ-
ment!! This is a question reserved for future and farther discus-
sion; and as the times require, we shall pay this class of victorious
Captains of the Christian Army a more respectful attention.

But, nearly akin to it, is another question, which also demands,
at the hand of impartial justice, an equally grave consideration. It
is simply this: Under what head of the power of religion in over-


coming the world, shall we place those Christians, who, while amass-
ing for themselves treasures ou earth, are preaching to preachers
the necessity of denying themselves, and of making, or of keeping
themselves poor, for the kingdom of heaven's sake; that they may
cut off occasion of mercenary imputations on the part of worldly
Christians who would rejoice to see all the world converted by a
miracle without costing them a penny. I will acknowledge before
the world my want of logical discrimination, when any person proves
to me that he would lay down his life for Christ or heaven, or that
he possesses the faith which conquers the world, who can not, while
he has it in his power, lay down some of the good things of
time and sense, either for the sake of the orphan, the widow,
or the preacher of the gospel whom the Lord has specially fore-
ordained to live by the gospel, temporally, as well as spiritually
and eternally.

The man of sense and the man of faith derive their controlling
and supreme principles of action from two different worlds. The
man of sense has within his horizon only such objects as excite his
appetites and passions, those strong Impellant forces of animal effort
and enterprise; whereas the man of faith has within his mental vision
objects of such superlative excellence and value as incomparably
transcend all earth-born objects of pursuit, and throw into the shade,
in forms the most diminutive, the largest and most splendid achieve-
ments of human genius, the richest and the noblest trophies of mortal
ambition. Hence, as was shown in a former essay, the power of
religion in overcoming the world.

But yet it is asked, Who is he among the Christian community
that overcomes the world? Does not the present life, with all its
pleasures and its pains, its cares and fears, its joys and sorrows, its
honors and rewards, so far engage the hearts, and lips, and hands
of professors, as to make the line that separates them from the mere
man of sense so indistinct, that it is impossible to distinguish the
Christian from the worldling in the common routine of earthly trans-
actions or of temporal affairs, unless we follow him to church on one
day in the week or month, or attend with him some of the more
solemn convocations of the people? Are the few religious services
during the year, or the poor pittance of worldly property which flows
into the Lord's treasury, (so reluctantly given too, if one might judg"
from actions.) — I say, are these the irrefragable evidences of heavenly
mindedness, the all-convincing proofs that the Christian overcomes
the world, and is a man of faith, rather than a slave of sense — th^^
expectant of a l>etter world, rather than the contented and firmly
attached tenant of the present? If there be other and superior argu-
ments in proof of this power of religion than those which we ordi-


narily see in the lives of our acquaintance, do let us see them — not
on paper, or in verbal description; but let us see the Christian living,
moving, acting on the great theatre of life, as one who plainly con-
fesses himself in pursuit of a "better and a more enduring substance. '
"I admit," continues the Christian sceptic, "that from the accounts
given and read in the New Testament — from the lives, sufferings,
and heroic achievements of the Christians of other times, there if
no lack of evidence that the sons of faith could overcome — nay,
did overcome the world. But on whom have their mantles fallen?
or who inherit their spirit and walk in their bold and heavenward

It ought to be candidly and feelingly acknowledged, that amongst
the multitudes who profess the faith of things unseen and eternal,
there are but comparatively few who appear to be so wholly or so
supremely devoted to religion — so "diligent to make their calling and
election sure," as to make it manifest to all men that they supremel'/
seek the heavenly inheritance. And that, out of the immense multi-
tudes who in all the great revivals are said to be converted, but few
continue in the faith and "hold fast their begun confidence unshaken
to the end," is a matter so notorious that it would be impossible to
conceal it, did we most ardently desire it. That there are many erro-
neous views and theories of religion extant, is a very small matter,
in our judgment, compared with the fact that there are numerous
delinquencies, apostacies, and a very general carnality, selfishness,
and covetousness manifest amongst the most Scriptural and intelli-
gent professors of the gospel. This is the most alarming character-
istic of the age.

A form of godliness without the power, is the most helpless and
the most hopeless case which anj^ one can describe. While th:^
cholera subdued only the intemperate and the vicious, or the extremely
feeble and aged members of community, the young, the vigorous, and
the temperate had little to fear for themselves from the announce-
ment of its rapid progress in its peregrinations round the globe; but
when it was ascertained that the young, the healthy, and the tem-
perate frequently became victims of this appalling scourge — that it
seized in its fatal grasp all ages, classes and conditions of lifer then
it was that its approach spread a deep and melancholy gloom over
the whole visage of society, and struck a dismaying consternation into
the hearts of all. Thus while lukewarmness and indifference, or a
carnal, selfish, covetous, worldly temper followed in the wake of error
in theory, or accompanied the promulgation of heretical and demoral-
izing tenets, those who were zealous for sound doctrine and devoted
to the faith and sentiments of the golden age of Christianity, felt but
little alarm; but when a similar temper and demeanor begin to


appear amongst those who build upon a better foundation, and place
their acceptance upon the consecrated ground of apostolic principles
and practice — then, indeed, have all professors not only reasons for
self-examination and serious inquiry into the causes of this fatal
delinquency, but of alarm for their own personal safety, lest in the
epidemical character of this contagion they might inhale the pesti-
lential air and perish from the way of life.

An age of persecution for righteousness' sake, or of public calam-
ities, is always a prosperous time for Christians and the cause of
spiritual and eternal things; but times of great worldly prosperity are
always perilous. "When Christianity or the cause of religion is in
high reputation, flattered and complimented by all; when those who
are the most religious are most popular and sit in the highest places,
then indeed it behooves Christians "with fear and trembling to work
out their own salvation;" and to fear lest having a promise of the
future and eternal rest, any of them should even appear to fall short
of it.

This is, in our country and in our day, the present condition of
the church; and such the circumstances by which the Christian pro-
fession is environed. May I not, then, affirm that in such a crisis
the advantage in every conflict is a hundred fold more in favor of the
world than of the church? That the Christian now enters the ranks
having the most fearful odds against him, and that to overcome in
such a struggle is the most glorious victory that can be achieved.
To see a person voluntarily forsaking a throne, and esteeming the
reproach for Christ greater treasures than all the riches of Egj'pt, is
a more illustrious proof of the power of faith, than to see one in the
humbler ranks of life, in times of persecution, giving himself up to
the flames, or the dungeons of the Inquisition, for the sake of Christ
and heaven. The times, then, at present, call for all the power of
religion to sustain the church against the sweeping spring-tide of
prosperity which now inundates this highly favored country. Those
of weak faith can not possibly stem this tide. The current of worldly
favor and prosperity will surely bear them down, and a hundred
chances to one that their faith will fail, and they will sink, not like
a stone, but like a saturated iceberg, in the mighty waters.

Still we feel a good degree of assurance that there are more than
seventy times seven thousand persons who have not bowed themselves
at the shrine of the gods of this world — that have not had their ears
bored on the door-posts of the temple of Mammon, and that are sup-
plicating day and night af the footstool of Divine Mercy in behalf of
the waste and desert places of God's professed Zion. In all this class
faith triumphs, and the power of religion overcomes the power of
the world.



Christianity, like man, has its object and its subject. God himself.
in all his adorable excellencies, is its object. It attracts and allures
the human soul to its own origin and fountain. And these are Jehovah

The universe is his temple. He fills it all, he animates it all, he
beautifies and adorns it all. There is absolute nothing above him,
beneath him, beyond him. The visible heaven and the heaven of
heavens are but his pavilion — the tent or tabernacle in which he mani-
fests his eternal majesty and godhead. "Ascend I heaven! Lo! Thou
art there. There if amongst the dead I lie." "I can not go where
universal love smiles not all around." Take I the wings of the morn-
ing, and on "the swift-winged arrows of light" flee to the utmost star
I see, I there find myself yet but in the vestibule of the pavilion of
the great King, for I see as many suns and systems before me as i
left behind me. And could I continue my flight for ages of ages, I
would, at the remotest orb, still see as many wonders of creative
power, wisdom, and goodness, above me as under me. Hence, eternity
is the only field of vision and of bliss that meets the wants and the
wishes of an immortal mind. But who can distinguish between "the
Eternities of Israel," and the absolute eternity of eternities?

Yet nothing short of absolute space, absolute being, absolute bless-
edness, and absolute duration, can fill the vacuum which God has
himself created in man, in angel, and in spirit.

The mysteries of creation, providence, moral government and
redemption, all launch out into the ocean of eternity — into an infinite
past behind us, and an infinite future before us. The moral pulsations
of our moral nature, expand or contract in harmony with our intellec-
tual and spiritual garniture, and with our conceptions of him whose
most sublime position is comprehended in the oracle — I ah.

But who can comprehend the ineffable sublimity of the adorable
I AM? And yet it is the only one self-existent impersonation that
gives form to thought, or thought to form. Annihilate it, and yon
have annihilated yourself. You are a mere idea, an impression, an

Online LibraryAlexander CampbellThe Millennial Harbinger abridged (Volume 1) → online text (page 37 of 70)