Alexander Campbell.

The Millennial Harbinger abridged (Volume 1) online

. (page 40 of 70)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

we understand his precept and example — the law of Christ — the law
of love. (See Matt. xxii. 37-40.) Jesus said, "Thou shalt love the
Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with ail
thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second
is like to it: Thou shalt love thy nedghbor as thyself. On these two
commandments hang all the law and the prophets." The third and
last is Christ's own new and special command, peculiarly given to his
disciples, by which they are to be distinguished from all other people.


(John xiii. 34, 35.) "A new commandment I give unto you, That
you love one another, as I have loved you;, that you also love one
another. By this shall all men know, that you are my disciples."
Hence it is evident, that the yoke of Christ is a yoke of love; than
■which nothing can be more pleasant, profitable, or honorable. For
who could be more happy in himself, or conduce more to the happiness
of others, or be more highly and justly esteemed, than the possessor
of this universal love? For this divine love is the natural law of the
universe, and had never been interrupted, had not sin taken place.
Therefore, he that dwells under the influence of this love, must be
one of the happiest persons in the universe; for he that dwells in
love, dwells in God, and God in him; "for God is love."

Now the first of these three all-comprehensive commands is unlim-
ited. For we are commanded to "love the Lord our God with all our
heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our
strength" (Mark xii. 30). And all this most justly; for to him do we
owe all that we are and hava The second, namely, "Thou shalt lovo
thy neighbor as thyself," the Lord explains (Matt. vii. 12), saying,
"All things whatsoever ye would, that men should do to you, do ye
even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets." The third
and last he explains (John xv. 13), "Greater love hath no man than
this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." He also tells us
by the same Apostle, that because he laid down his life for us, we
ought to lay down our life for tlie brethren. (L John iii. 16.) Thus,
this comprehensive compend of the divine law is so well defined, that
no well meaning person can possibly misunderstand it. These things
being so, if we desire to be holy, honorable, and happy, let us walk in
love, as Christ also loved us, and gave himself for us an offering and
a sacrifice to God of a sweet-smelling savor; looking for that blessed
hope of eternal life, at the glorious appearing of the great God and
our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might
redeem us from all iniquity, and so purify to himself a peculiar peo-
ple, zealous of good works. (Eph. v. 2 and Tit. ii. 13, 14.) Who has
also graciously promised to all such, that they shall sit with him on
his throne, even as he also overcame, and sat down with the Father
on his throne. (Rev. iii. 21.) Again — "Blessed are all they, that do
his commandments; that they may have a right to the tree of life,
and may enter in through the gates into the [celestial] city" (Rev. xxii.
14). And, lastly, to complete the destiny of the believing and obedi-
ent, who overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil; he that sit^
upon the throne of the universe, who makes all things new, has most
graciously promised, saying, "He that overcometh shall inherit all
things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son" (Rev. xxii. 14).
Now what can he do more than this? Can the great God, the pro-


prietor of the universe, give more than himself, and all that he has,
to any portion of his adopted creatures!!!

This brief Scriptural view of Christianity duly considered, who
would not be a Christian? Compared with this incomprehensible, all-
comprehending reward, all the enjoyments, sorrows, and sufferings
of a present life, are not worthy to be named. But, do we speak of
sufferings? Why, if we attain not to the enjoyment of those promised
blessings of Christianity, we must endure all the sufferings denounced
in the sacred volume, summed up in the twentieth chapter of the
Revelation of John — the black and dismal reverse of all the prom-
ised glory. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith
to the churches."

It is the earnest desire and hope of the writer, that the reader
of the above essay upon the infinite excellency and importance of the
Christian religion, will not be content with a mere superficial perusal
of it, but that, as it presents the "pearl of greatest price," he will
therefore give the greatest diligence to avail himself of it — without
the possession of it, it were better for him had be never been born.

Thomas Campbelx.


In 1830 and later the Harbinger published certain letters to
Humphrey Marshal, written by Mr. Campbell. From these we make
the following extracts: 1830 — page 513.


I have no doubt, sir, but you have strong objections to the truth
of the Christian religion, much stronger than you have either reason
or argument to sustain. For Free-thinkers are not more free from
prejudice and passion, from enthusiasm and infatuation, than those
whom they denounce as dupes and impostors. With many of them,
a Free-thinker is one who is free to form opinions as despots enact
laws; free to infer without premises; free to conjecture without prob-
ability; free to assert and to decide, not only without, but even against,
reason and well-established testimony. Those who are not so free
in these respects, they rank amongst impostors and dupes. These
they honor with such epithets as you bestow on Paul. In your style
l*aul was a "jack-with-the-lantern;" the Apostles were "cullies," and
the most honorable women were "gossips." The Christian facts are
"abominable falsehoods;" and the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke,
and John are "apostolic romances." In this style, sir, you appear not
to be a novitiate, but a master.

You assert in the following words: — "I say that Mary Magdalene
was the author of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, by making tho


first suggestions of the fact, and by adding to it circumstances of a
marvelous kind."

Indeed, sir, you appear to be as free a reasoner, as thinker, or
believer, touching all matters and things pertaining to the resurrec-
tion of Jesus. The freest piece of reasoning, which I recollect to have
seen from the pen of a senator, is your reasoning about the robbery
of the sepulchre. At the conclusion of your reasoning, you affirm —
"I have now shown how, or by whom, the body of Jesus was removed
from the sepulchre." Now for your showing by testimony and reason.
Nay, indeed, you prove a fact, historic, too, without testimony. For
the only testimony you adduce is your own conjecture. And your
deposition is to the following effect: — "The Apostles were hypocrites."
Joseph and Nicodemus, two of the disciples, stole the body. This is
proved from the fact that Joseph and Nicodemus were not interro-
gated about its absence. The Apostles knew they had stolen it, and
therefore would not have them interrogated; and they, Joseph and
Nicodemus, conscious of having stolen it, did not interrogate the Apos-
tles about it. Had they not had the body in custody, they would
doubtless have called upon the Apostles to account for its absence.
And how is it proved that they did not interrogate the Apostles'
Because it is not recorded! "The fair inference from this silence is
as strong and as plain as the loar-toned trumpet, in affirming that
no inquiry was made. "And that in like manner affirms, that know-
ing how the body was disposed of, they had no inquiry to make; or
rather that they chose not to write it down if they made any. Such,
had it been told, would have been the honest truth." Thank you, Mr.
Marshal, for your deposition. But this is more than your testimony —
it is your reasoning and testimony combined. This you call "show
ing by whom the body of Jesus was removed." I know of no Christian
writer who ever demanded more credulity from his readers than you
demand in this instance. This vies with the popish transubstantia-
tion! Silence has not, as far as I have learned, ever before been
summoned as a witness in any case, and made speak "louder than the
war-toned trumpet." This is a new court, new judges, witnesses, and
jury — one erected by Mr. Marshal for his own use and behoof. Now,
sir, think you that a sane community will consent to such a tribunal,
or that it can regard that man as possessing a sound mind in a sound
body who would attempt — I say, attempt to subvert the faith of the
most intelligent portion of the human race by such chimerical
assumptions, and call it "showing by whom the body of Jesus was
removed"! !

I shall only, in these introductory notices, attend to another of
your proofs that the body was stolen. You inform us that Mary Mag-
dalene was the author of the report of the resurrection, and yet the


same writer who informs you of Mary Magdalene affirms that her
report was not even believed by the disciples. From what history,
then, sir, do you learn that she was the author of the resurrection
story? But your records inform you of a grand "caucus" neld the
night between the first and second days of the report and of the week,
touching this report. The proceedings of said caucus you are also
apprized of. The debates you have read, well attested, and on the
question "whether to suppress or to propagate the idea of their late
Master's resurrection, the latter had the majority." If I do not forget
what I have read in your pamphlet, I think you talk of the inductive
philosophy, and the rules of evidence, testimony, etc. And is this
your application of them? Is it by such reasonings, assumptions, and
conjectures you propose to undermine the faith of Christendom? If
so. indeed, you appear to have as much underrated the intelligence
and the intellect itself of this generation as you have the evidences
of the Christian religion. But the scoffer will rejoice with you in all
the puns, witticisms, and scoffs which you bestow on the Author of
the hope of immortality. They also, whose interest it would be that
there were no God, will say, "Well done, good and faithful servant. '
But as you assume to reason against the evidences of the great fact
on which Christianity rests, and as you make a great ado about the
contradictions of the original witnesses, I will attend to the marrow
and pith of your reasonings, to show that the original witnesses were
wittingly and knowingly a pack of impostors, lying and propagating
lies for the express purpose of carrying some point, which you, how-
ever, can not name. We shall, nevertheless, calmly and dispassion-
ately examine your "reasons," if such they may be called, by which
you would disprove the fact of Christ's resurrection.

You seem to have reasoned yourself into the conviction that you
have attacked the main point of my argument in support of the resur-
rection of Jesus. This, however, is not the fact. You have not even
glanced at it. The testimony of the original witnesses is nowhere
in your pamphlet submitted, presented, nor attacked with any refer-
ence to that which gives validity to the whole of it. You rely upon
the contradictions which you have imagined you have found in the
narratives of the Evangelists. And because they did not tell all the
same incidents, nor those which they relate, in the same words, you
prove them to be incredible witnesses, and the gospel to be a fiction.
How successful you have been in finding contradictions the sequel
will disclose.

The Christian religion has been attacked and defended by all sorts
of intellects and by all sorts of men. It never sustained an injury
from its enemies Its friends — its professed friends, have always
been its worst enemies. Its real friends have nothing to fear from


such attacks as you volunteer in the pamphlet before me. You fail
to concole even the Deists. And I have so much knowledge of human
nature as to authorize me to say, that even those who wield as able
a pen as yourself are unable to deface from their own minds the
fears and apprehensions that Jesus rose from the dead. It is among
the most common phenomena of the human mind to find persons
pleading a cause which they do not believe, and to see others dis-
crediting both facts and pretensions, which, with all their efforts, they
can not cordially disbelieve themselves. How far this may be true
of yourself I have no business to inquire. You have in your old
days, at the close of a pretty long life, thought good to leave behind
you a monument of your hatred against the Author of the Christian
religion, and those who sustained his pretensions at the hazard of
their lives.

It is a consolation which you promise yourself in death, the most
unenviable, that not having found the present world more religious
nor moral than to make it safe to live in, you put forth all your
powers and all your influence, your last and best efforts, to rob the
Christian of his hope in God, and to weaken all that restrains the arm
of violence and the heart of wickedness, by denying the facts on
which that purest and best of all systems of morality and virtue
rests; and by offering in its place not a single ray of light or infor-
mation on all that most interests man to know, viz.: what he is,
whence he came, and whither he goes.


Sir: — No two writers, as far as I have read, attack the Christian
religion in the same manner, nor upon the same principles. The
sceptics are very far from being agreed among themselves as to the
test to which it ought to be subjected, or as respects the tribunal
before which its pretensions ought to be tried. It is true they all
talk about its being "submitted to the test of reason," and some add,
"to the test of experience." But the gentlemen of your fraternity are
as much at odds on the subject of reason, as on the subject of religion.
With some it is reasonable to try Christianity as they try a theorem
in mathematics; with others, it is reasonable to examine its evidences
as though it were a question of metaphysics; a third class say it is
reasonable to decide upon its pretensions on the principles of individ-
ual experience; and a fourth will have it tried as a criminal in a
court of law; and I may add, there are not a few who deem it most
reasonable that it should be tried before all these tribunals in one
general confederation. So long, then, as your brotherhood of philos-
ophers are so variant on what reason decides, as to the court of
inquiry before which Christianity is to be examined, it is not strange


that among sceptics there should be so many sects, so many modes
of attack, and so general an ignorance of what Christianity is.

We may differ as mvich about reason as religion, and about the
manner of conducting the trial as about the thing to be tried. For
my part, I must confess that I esteem it unreasonable in the highest
degree to submit the pretensions of the Scriptures to the same tri-
bunal before which I might submit a poem, a fine painting, a piece of
architecture, a question in algebra, in physics, or in metaphysics.
Neither could I agree to have it tried in a court of common law, nor
in a court of chancery, by such rules as litigated questions of law
and equity are decided. If, however, any question of fact, one or two
thousand years since asserted, can be decided before such canons, 1
object not to join issue with you on the premises, that by all the same
rules, canons, and regulations which you can bring to bear upon any
question of fact on record, will I have the question of the resurrec-
tion tried. In whatever court, before whatever judges, by whatever
laws or trial you would ascertain the truth or falsehood of Cromwell's
protectorate, or the Saxon conquests, of the ascension of the Cesars
to imperial power, the victories of Hannibal, the birth, life and death
of Cyrus, Alexander, Alfred, or Queen Elizabeth — in the same court,
before the same judges, and by the same laws will the resurrection
of Jesus be proved.

This / call reason. You may call it what you please. All mathe-
matical questions I submit to the canons of Euclid — all questions in
natural philosophy, to experiment and analogy — all questions of
common law, to courts of law: but questions of fact, historical fact,
to that tribunal before which all historical facts are decided. The
error on which your objections proceed is, that you will try historical
facts in the same court and before the same laws by which you would
try a question of fact, the witnesses to which are all living. You can
not elude the reasonableness of the distinction which I here lay
down, by telling me that all questions of fact are questions respect-
ing the past, and, consequently, so far historical, and therefore all
belong to one and the same chapter: for the most common mind will
at once perceive that no person would think of proving the truth
of Cataline'g conspiracy as was tried that of Aaron Burr. No person
would have thought of proving the assassination of Col. Sharp, as
he would prove the assassination of Julius Cesar. The evidence
necessary to convict a thief or a murderer in our courts of law, differs
essentially from that which is necessary to prove that Columbus was
the first discoverer of America, or that Cicero wrote his Orations.

Some of our laughing sceptics, of the most fashionable schools,
with an air of superior wisdom, inform us deluded Christians that
we could not recover a shilling in any court of law upon such testi-


mony as we have to offer for our confidence In God and our faith in
Jesus. This is one of Miss Frances Wright's finest thoughts — one of
her most puissant blows at the Christian faith. Some of the Deists,
too, in the neighborhood of Frankfort, Ky.. likewise triumph in their
own estimation by the same argument. No man, say they, could
prove any fact in court upon such testimony as we have to offer for
the resurrection of Jesus. This may all be true, and yet the gospel
true. I would ask them but one question here: Could a person recover
a shilling in any court of law or equity upon such testimony as he
has to offer for any historic fact which happened from the Creation to
the Year of Grace 1700? Could you, sir, recover a shilling in any
court in the United States by such testimony as you have to offer
for your belief in the existence of such persons as Newton, Boyle,
Bacon, Locke, Columbus, or any other person or event of whose exist-
ence you are assured? If, then, you could not, why discredit the
resurrection of Jesus by objections drawn from such reasonings — by
conclusions from such premises! This boast of other sceptics, for
which you manifest so strong an inclination, is just as pertinent to
the points at issue, as though one should say, "All the arguments or
evidences you have to oifer for yo'ur belief in the resurrection would
not prove that a triangle has three sides and three angles, or that
things that are equal to the same are equal to one another!"

But, sir, if there be any historic fact which happened before the
Christian era, contemporaneous with it, or during sixteen hundred
years since, which you believe, name it; and I will undertake to show
that you have better reasons to believe the fact of Christ's resurrec-
tion from the dead than that fact, whatever it may be. The only
question here is, Can we act with certainty upon any testimony, or
is testimony of any character capable of giving us assurance? If
you say No, then you ought not to object to the testimony because of
its character, because all testimony would then be inadequate. If you
say Yes, then it behooves you to show that the apostolic testimony,
with all its concomitants, is inferior to that testimony which you have
to offer for other historic facts of which you are assured. But this we
presume to assert you can not do.

Persons may reject the Christian religion on the ground that it is
the subject of history — that it comes to us through human testimony
— that it is based on facts, which facts are necessarily to us matters
of belief. In one word, they may reject Christianity because it is
first of all a matter of faith — because they suppose it incompatible
with their views of Divinity that the salvation of men should be made
dependent on that which does not always produce absolute centainty.
They argue that it is unsafe, and consequently unworthy of the Author
of the Universe, to make salvation directly or indirectly dependent


on belief. When a sceptic candidly avows this to be the ground of
his objection to the Christian religion, we know how to address him.
We are prepared to show that this power we have of proving testi-
mony to be true, or what is the same thing, this power which we have
of believing testimony, is the most simple, natural, powerful, and
universal principle of action belonging to the human constitution, and
that there is not in human nature a principle of action so suitable, so
well adapted to become the basis of religion as this principle of faith.
We are prepared to show, if we have not already showed, that it is
impossible in the nature of things, as far as known to mortal man,
that it could have been based upon any other principle. Good tes-
timony, or testimony corresponding with the nature of the facts
attested, is capable of producing all that certainty of. assurance neces-
sary to make man pure and happy: and that is enough-, our enemies
themselves being judges. If the facts to be believed are supernatural
facts, the testimony is supernatural also, and supported by all that
nature and reason can contribute to sustain any testimony.

But I have not found in your pamphlet that you make such an
avowal. You, sir, object not to religion because founded upon testi-
mony; but the uurthen of your book is to prove that the testimony
Is incompetent, contradictory, or some way incredible.

As you have chosen your own course in objecting, I shall choose
mine in replying; and as you single out the article of the resurrec-
tion of Jesus, or the testimony on which it is sustained, as, in your
judgment incompetent, I will first turn my attention to that testimony.
Concerning contradictions of Scripture, Mr. Campbell wrote to Mr.
Marshal, Millouiial Harbinger, 1831, page 150, et seq.:

One, sir, would imagine, from the frequency, familiarity, and flu-
ency of your allusions to "'the contradictions" found in those sacred
historians, and from the boldness which you assume and evince, at
one time, in challenging; at another, in ridiculing their preten-
sions to honesty and veracity, that you had amply proved their
testimony to be a collection of palpable fables, a bundle of con-
tradictions; and that all the learned, the wise, and good men of
ancient and modern Christendom were a pack of knaves, or a set
of brainless dolts.

If, sir, you could find only one real contradiction in the whole
volume, we might allow you to presume that there were others. But
it is as intolerable on our part to hear you boast of "plenty of con-
tradictions." as it is weak on yours to appear to triumph in victories
which you have not gained.

Your tongue is your own, and so is your pen, and you may call
harmony, discord; consistency, contradiriiov : or honesty, knavery.
You may call virtues, vices, and give new names to things, or you may


attach meanings to words not only differing from, but in opposition
to, general usage or their universal acceptation.

It would, perhaps, be useful to you and profitable to others, were
we to attempt to define and establish the character of a contradiction,
before we proceed to examine those you have imputed to the four
Evangelists. By the term "contradiction," I mean not merely a verbal
difference, nor even a verbal opposition, but an irreconcilahle con-
trariety of statement. I ought not to presume to inform you, sir, a
judge of law, evidence and fact; for doubtless it is well known to
you, that it is, in most instances, a very difficult matter to establish
a positive contradiction. A seeming, a probable, a possible contradic-
tion is one thing, and a real contradiction another. The former con-