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great luminaries of the world — the patriarchs, the prophets, the apos-
tles — the great moral revolutionists of our race — the splendid memo-
rials of their genius, their inspiration, and their devotion to truth and
humanity: I say, shall we place in the one scale the splendid monu-
ments of the inspiration and philanthropy of all the independent
authors of fifteen centuries, whose works are collected in the volumes
called the Bible and Testament, and put in the opposite scale our own
imaginations and fancies about how things might have been otherwise
created or managed, and thus seek to counterpoise mountains with
leathers? No, you reply, sooner will I reject the testimony of my own
senses, that the sun is the fountain of light, because I can not explain
the meaning of those black or dark specks on its surface, than renounce
Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Ezra,
Nehemiah, etc., etc., of the Jewish, school; and Matthew, Mark, Luke,
John, Peter, Paul and James, of the Christian school, as knaves and
impostors, because they have not written upon geology, astronomy,
chemistry, and the modern sciences; — or because they have not antici-
pated and answered every question which in six thousand years might
be propounded by a thousand million of querists, speculating on what
might have been done if the earth had been flat instead of round; or
if man had had the wings of an eagle, and been sixty instead of six feet
high, physically, mentally and morally! — Rather, you will say, let me
stand in the ranks with prophets and apostles; with the saints and
the martyrs; with the pure and holy men and women of all ages —
with the Newtons, the Lockes, the Butlers, the Boyles, the Fergusons,
the Bentleys, the Beatles, the Lardners, the Ushers, the Taylovs, the
Seldons, the Erskines, etc., etc., with those constellations of poets that
have sung, those orators that have defended, those philosophers that
have demonstrated the claims of revelation, and those poor and humble,
but virtuous millions, who have proved its consolations, and triumphed
in its hopes, amidst all the afflictions and trials, the sorrows and
griefs, which have hitherto been the lot of the largest portion of our
race. Yes, with these you will say, let me live and die, rather than
with the Voltaires and the Volneys, the Mirabcaus and Altamonts, the
Humes and the Paines, the Hobbes and the Chesterfields, the Dantons
and the Robespierres, who boasted of reason and common sense, and


showed how little they had of either in renouncing the only light of
the world and the only Saviour of men.

My dear Sir, this question. Shall I or shall I not put myself under
the guidance of Jesus the Messiah, is one of too much importance to
be slighted by any man of good sense, of a sound and discriminating
judgment. His promises and his threatenings are too momentous to
be treated with indifference; his claims and his pretensions are too
well supported, and too magnificent to be trifled with; and therefore,
reason, if unbiassed and unbribed by the passions and the appetites,
decides that this is the immediate duty which every man owes to him-
self and society. 'Tis to you and me, comparatively, of no consequence,
who reigns on earth, if Jesus reigns in heaven; what policy is adopted
by the state, if Jehovah has sworn by himself, that every knee shall
bow, and every tongue confess, to the honor of Jesus who was cruci-
fied. We may be happy under a despotism, and wretched in the best
republic. Our allegiance to Jesus as the great King is our felicity;
our allegiance to his rival, be he on a golden throne, or be he seated
in our passions, is our disgrace and ruin. If on his side all is well;
if opposed to him we are undone forever. But, Sir, his religion has
been greatly corrupted, and many of his professed friends have been
his real enemies. The gospel has been made an engine of power in
the hands of kings and priests, converted into a matter of state policy,
made subservient to the lusts of the fiesh, the lusts of the eye, and the
pride of life. Several attempts at reformation, have within the last
three centuries, introduced many important changes into society, but
only since the beginning of the present century, has there been a vig-
orous effort made to reinstate the apostles and prophets on the seats
assigned them by the author of the Christian religion. The inquiry
now is, what was the primitive gospel — the original order of things in
the kingdom of Jesus? To these questions, more attention has been
paid within the last thirty years, than since the great apostacy. In
divesting the gospel and its institutions of the meretricious attire in
which the mother of harlots had arrayed them, in leaving off the cere-
monies, the doctrines and commandments of men, with which the
pimps and panders of this insatiate adulteress have ministered to her
lewdness, we have found the simplicity, intelligibility and suitableness
of the gospel, and its institutions, to be truly astonishing, and admir-
ably worthy of God. The light of the sun is not more admirably
adapted to our eyes, or the sensible properties of things to our external
senses, than is this message of our heavenly Fatliei-, suited to our
nature, condition and circumstances. Well attested facts — facts of
immense moral power — sustained by testimony which no honest and
rational man, can, after full examination, doubt, constitute the mate-
rials of Christian faith. This faith in testimony so supernatural and


divine, becomes the impulsive principle of action, leading men to
reformation: and this belief in God's philanthropy leads us on to Jesus
the Messiah as "the way, the truth, and the life" — and coming to him aa
our prophet, our only high priest, law-giver, and judge, we receive in the
first act of submission to him, the remission of all past sins — an adop-
tion into his family, and the promise of his Holy Spirit, with the hope
of eternal life, to which we shall certainly attain, provided we hold
fast our allegiance to him, unshaken to the end. Why then, my dear
Sir, should you, or any sensible man, hesitate on the question, whether
it is more worthy of us to serve God than the Devil, or obey the
gospel rather than our corrupt lusts: — Whether we ought to join the
congregation of Apostles, Saints and Martyrs; the pure, and holy, and
renowned fathers of mankind, the excellent of the earth of all ages and
nations, or remain under the dominion of that Spirit, which reigns in
the hearts of the children of disobedience, in open communion with
all the infidelity, scepticism and atheism of the Epicureans and Sad-
ducees of this age. I know, indeed, that some are wont to look around
and flatter themselves in their refusal to honor the Saviour, because
of the respectability of many of their associates in rebellion against
the Lord's anointed. But they forget that while here and there they
can count up a few individuals of political integrity and honor, whose
fraternity may do them some credit, still to the same communion
belong all the irreligionists of every shade of infamy, from Nero and
Caligula and Heliogabulus, down to the veriest sensualist and
debauchee that dishonors human nature. If, then, some sceptics and
non-professors boast of some honorable and distinguished brethren,
they ought to look around at the immense brotherhood of all that's
filthy and abominable in the same great community with themselves,
which constitutes what some call the big church. From this associa-
tion, my dear Sir, I ardently desire to see such men as you divorced.
You countenance and encourage many to adhere to their delusions,
who, by your example, might be rescued from the snare of the Devil.
And will you suffer such diflSculties and embarrassments as would
equally be against everything rational and excellent in the election
of man, to prevent you from honoring yourself, by honoring the Son
of God, who has conferred such honors upon our race. For let me
ask you — is there in the annals of the world, in all records and in
all kingdoms, any system, or law, or tradition, which does such honor
to our race, as does the Bible! Who assigns to man a more illustrious
origin than Moses? Who proposes to him a sublinier destiny than
Jesus? What system so rational, so pure, and so full of benevolence
to man and adoration to God? At the head of what institution is there
found one of such peerless excellency and glory, as he who redeemed
the church, and governs it by the law of love? Who ought to feel


ashamed of Jesus Christ in his earthly race to glory? And who ought
to be ashamed of him, now the head of this Universe? Kings would
do themselves infinite honor, in giving him the allegiance of their
hearts, and in casting their crowns at his feet. To learn that such is
your veneration for him, I assure you, would afford me great satis-

At New York City, in December, 1833, Mr. Campbell delivered three
sermons on Evidences. 1834, page 39.

The first was from Tit. ii. 12-15. After showing that genuine, un-
corrupted religion was greater than any sectarian presentation of it;
and giving some reasons why Paul was not ashamed of the gospel
even at Rome, the then mistress of the world, he took a view of the
state of morals and philosophy in the Grecian and Roman cities before
the gospel was announced; and expatiated on the literature, science,
and political attainments of the age and countries in which Chris-
tianity was first introduced. Mr. Campbell says:

I then showed that the abuses of Christianity was no argument
against its truth and excellency, any more than the abuse of any
bounty or institution, human or divine, argues its falsity or inutility;
drew an argument from the abuses of Christianity from the predictions
of Paul concerning the man of sin, written thirty years after the cru-
cifixion of the Messiah, showing the consummation of the apostacy to
be one of the most unlikely events in the developments of time; and
ascribed the scepticism of my audience to the profligacy, enthusiasm,
and blind superstition of The Apostacy, rather than to the lack of
evidence of the divine mission of Jesus of Nazareth.

Next descanted upon the felicity of the choice of a name which the
sons of infidelity assumed as their designation. Their philosophy lead-
ing them neither to affirm nor deny the existence of God or the truth
of revealed religion, but simply to doubt, they prudently called them-
selves Sceptics. We showed that, as philosophers, they could but doubt.
No living man could say that he kneiv Christianity to be a fraud or to
be false, because he was not in Jerusalem to see whether Jesus rose
from the dead. He had no evidence from any of his senses that Chris-
tianity was false; therefore, never could say that he knew the gospel
to be a lie. Again, no living man could say that he believes the gospel
to be false, because without testimony there can be no faith; and there
is not in the annals of the world one vestige of contemporaneous and
contradictory testimony. No apostate, no Jew, Samaritan, or Gentile,
who lived in those times, has given any testimony contrary to the
Apostles. Now, inasmuch as no man who knows the meaning of words,
can say he knows the gospel to be false, or believes it to be false;
what can philosophers or philologists say of themselves, but that they
doubt, or are simply sceptics?


Spoke 01 the honesty of Sceptics — admitted them to be honest men
and good citizens in numerous instances; but in the enlarged sense
of the word honest, comprehending our dues to God, to man, and to
ourselves, doubted whether there was an honest Sceptic in the human
race — because it would be admitted that the sanctions of eternal life
or eternal death under which the gospel was believed or rejected,
claimed the whole, undivided, and concentrated powers of man upon
the evidence; and that we never yet found a sceptic who had exam-
ined fairly and fully both sides of the question; and, therefore, we
must regard them as not honest to themselves.

Christianity, a religion of facts, and not of opinions, was to be tried
in the proper court, as other questions of fact are to be tried — not
arbitrary in choosing her judges, laws, or witnesses — she submits to
the common judges, laws, and witnesses which are approved in those
courts of inquiry in which, questions of historic certainty are examined.

These preliminaries being submitted, we went into the examination
of the doubts and difficulties of Sceptics: —

1st. The incomprehensibility of some of its principles is a frequent
objection to its divine authenticity. We admitted this incomprehensi-
bility; but demonstrated that if the incomprehensibility of some of
its principles constituted a lawful objection against its truth, then
every science in Christendom must be rejected: for, from the
Newtonian science of the universe down to the science of medicine,
there is nothing called science which has not for its basis, or an essen-
tial part, certain recondite and abstract principles, which no man ever
did, or ever will, comprehend.

Newton's centripetal and centrifugal powers are assumptions which
are proved to be true and incomprehensible. The vital principle itself
— the infinite divisibility of matter, electricity, magnetism, animaliza-
tion, space, time, etc., etc., incomprehensible. A man can not com-
prehend himself, much less anything above himself, or anything out
of himself. Nature and religion alike comprehensible and incompre-

2d. Christianity founded on miracles. No objection; for so is every
system of scepticism. Every sceptic, upon his own definition of mir-
acle, is constrained to adopt miracles. The difference between the
Sceptic and Christian, in this one respect, is, that the former admits
miracles without any testimony; the latter, on the best testimony in
the world. We ask. Did nature exist before man? Then she must
have suspended, changed, or new-modified her operations when she pro-
duced one. She ceased to operate in that way, for she never made
a second. The first man was an adult — never an infant; but now
nature gives infants. Matter has the same power now it ever had. It
can not now produce an oak without an acorn — a man without an


infant. But this is not all: She made vegetables before she made
man or animals. She either prepared them by degrees, as she now
does; or she consummated them at once — for without them, man
or animal could not have lived. All this is miracle. No SceptK!
can commence any system without assuming a miracle. Christians
believe them, and all nature, and philosophy, and ancient history
prove them, etc.

3d. Christianity addresses itself to faith rather than to reason.
Faith shown to be a better guide than reason. But as this was more
fully developed in our second discourse to the Sceptics, we shall pause
for the present." Euixou.

Mr. Campbell reports, 1834, page 76:

At 3 o'clock in the afternoon, according to appointment, we
addressed a large assembly of gentlemen (though it rained) at Concert
Hall, on the evidences of the gospel.

After a brief recapitulation of the preceding discourse in Tammany
Hall, we reasoned with them for about an hour and a half on reason
and faith.

1st. We attempted to demonstrate that reason without faith is.
wholly inadequate to guide man, in reference either to the present or
the future.

2d. Justified the wisdom and philanthropy of the Author of Revela-
tion in addressing it to faith, or to the capacity by which we receive
almost all our useful knowledge.

The design of this discourse, like the preceding, was to disabuse the
audience of their prejudices against the testimony of God, occasioned
by the abuses of their own reason, and the abuses of the Bible by
many teachers and professors of Christianity; and to prepare them
for the candid examination of the direct evidences and arguments
to be offered that evening in Tammany Hall in proof of the resur-
rection of Jesus.

Among the various arguments adduced under the first item of our
discourse, was, the impotency and perfect inadequacy of reason to
originate or decide anything regarding religion confessed by the Scep-
tics themselves. Before me, I observed, was a number of gentlemen,
who had the greatest advantages which the improved state of the
science of this world afforded; whose minds were fully matured by
many years' reflection, and by all that philosophy could bestow; who
confessed that to the present moment they could not theoretically or
practically decide whether or not there was a God — an intelligent
Creator, or whether nature was or was not eternal and unoriginated.
Their own experience — indeed, their own consciousness, than which
there is no higher evidence to them, might be most successfully
appealed to in proof that reason, however enlightened and cultivated by


natural science, was altogethej- incompetent to guide man to any cer-
tain knowledge of his origin or destiny.

Faith, on the contrary, was that capacity or power in man, to which
this knowledge was addressed, and by which alone it could be acquired.
Indeed, all our knowledge of the past, and of the present, except only
the narrow horizon which comes under the cognizance of our senses, is
derived through this channel.

Faith was then shown to be the most natural, universal, and power-
ful principle of action implanted in the human breast. To it the
docility and tractability of our species was to be ascribed. It was
shown to be as necessarily a condition of temporal life as of eternal
life. The infant that believes not its parents, must be destroyed; for
fire, or flood, or poison, or the wild beast must destroy every child that
believes not its nurse or guardian. Why, then, object to the gospel
because it makes faith and obedience a condition of eternal life, which
in the constitution of nature and society is an essential condition of
our animal life!

Testimony it was alleged is submitted to reason, and over it reason
exercises the same jurisdiction which it exercises over the objects of
sense. The attributes of testimony, like the attributes of any object
of reason, may be ascertained with as much precision as the properties
of things. We can discriminate the true from the false, in some mat-
ters, with difl!iculty; but, in other matters, with perfect certainty.
Reason deciding that the testimony is true, is believing; reason decid-
ing that the testimony is false, is disbelieving; reason unable to decide,
is scepticism.

Testimony is only another name for the experience of others. Their
experience, reported and believed, is our faith. Mr. Hume said he
could not admit the testimony of a few in proof of a miracle, because
it was contrary to universal experience. But how did he know what
universal experience testified? By believing the testimony of a few!!
The philosopher seems not to have been aware that universal experi-
ence was to be ascertained only by the belief of the experience of a
few. Silence is not contradictory testimony. The testimony of two
men can prove in a court of law^ an affirmative proposition — the testi-
mony of ten thousand can not prove a negative; still less can their
silence prove anything, borne sceptics, amongst whom Frances Wright
was one, exclaim "that Christians can not offer as much evidence in
favor of their faith as would be necestary to gain a plea in court of the
value of ten dollars;" meaning that they had no witnesses of th,3
resurrection of Jesus that could be admitted in a court of law — no liv-
ing witnesses, the only witnesses that can bo heard by a jury. Then
is the property of the owners of the soil of this state and of much of
this city not worth ten dollars, because the letters of most of the orig-


inal purchasers, and indeed the original charter itself, can not be
proved by living witnesses, but as we prove the records of Christianity!
Perhaps, after all the boasts of scepticism to the contrary, it is more
dogmatical than even bigotry itself.

The Impossibility of originating the idea of spiritual existence, and
the notion of propitiation, altars, temples, priests, etc., without other
aids than sensation, reflection, and imagination — without the Bible,
finished this address.

At Tammany Hall, at 7 o'clock, the same evening, we delivered a
discourse of more than two hours, to the largest assembly (according
to common report) that ever convened there.

To prove that Jesus rose from the dead, was the burthen of this
discourse. After reading some portions of the prophets as introduc-
tory, our exordium consisted of a refutation of the allegation that we
Christians were chiefly indebted to our friends for our faith — that our
testimony was ex parte. This was attacked by showing that the con-
trary was the fact — that the documents on which we chiefly relied
were in the possession of our worst and most deadly enemies. The
Jews, who crucified the Messiah and persecuted the first promulgers
of our faith, had been the keepers of those records which ascei'tained
the pretensions of Jesus for 1,500 years before he waa born, and still
possess them. The writings of Moses, of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and indeed
all the Prophets, were in their keeping, and translated into the Greek
language; therefore, in the Keeping of Jews and Pagans centuries
before the Christ appeared.

Prophecy in its accomplishment was shown to be a standing miracle.
Prophecy, when uttered, no evidence; but when accomplished, is as
strong as demonstration itself.

Two specimens were given, in which it was impossible to prevari-
cate — in which there was no refuge from figure, vision, or symbol —
because all was as literal and obvious as narrative itself.

One from Jeremiah, concerning the present state of the Jews,
chap. xxix. 18; xxx. 11; xxxi. 35-37, pronounced 600 years before
the Messiah; translated into Greek 280 years before the Christian
era. Every one can now see the event in the present fortunes of
the Jews.

The second was, the fate of all the nations which abused the Jews
before the Christian era, from Dan. ii. and Jer. xxx. 11.

From these we proceeded to the capital fact on which Christianity
rests — the resurrection of Jesus. Jew, Gentile, and Christian alike
admit his death and burial; but Christians only believe in his resur-

The fact that the body was missing on the third day, admitted.
His friends had it not in keeping: for they did not expect his rising.


as the lour testimonies declare; and if they ha>d, they could not have
gut it, lor their enemies guarded the sepulchre. His enemiee had it
not, hecause they would have satisfied the populace ot the fraud of
his disciples in asserting his resurrection, and have confronted them
with the dead body.

The body was, then, not to be found amongst friends or foes; and
at this time there were no neutrals in Jerusalem. What came of it?
It was reanimated —

1st. Because his disciples saw him repeatedly; heard him speak,
and for forty days had such infallible proofs of his identity, as to
sacrifice their lives in asserting his resurrection. All history affords
no example of one or more individuals sacrificing their lives for
asseting a fact, an event which promised them no earthly honor or

2d. The descent of Uie Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost in pres-
ence of the nation assembled in Jerusalem, in attestation of his recep-
tion in heaven, and the consequent progress of the gospel over the

3d. The commemorative institution of a figurative burial and
resurrection into the name of the Messiah, and the consecration of one
day in every week to commemorate his resurrection, furnishes an
argument of the highest moral certainty, for no commemorative or
monumental institution set up at the time of any alleged fact and
afterwards perpetuated, has in the history of all time proved falla-
cious. Indeed, it can not be done. We could not do it now is an irref-
ragable argument that they could not do it then.

4th. The myriads of opponents, Jews, Samaritans, Pagans, who were
overcome and vanquished into the belief of the resurrection, are equiv-
alent to the testimony of myriads of adversaries; for it was a question
of fact which was to be decided by evidence. Hence every vanquished

Online LibraryAlexander CampbellThe Millennial Harbinger abridged (Volume 1) → online text (page 43 of 70)