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authority of religion and revelation. But Voltaire had profusely sowed
the seed "of irreligion, anarchy, and libertinism," before either of them
was born. They only watered the seeds which he had sown. And
what an abundant harvest of dwarfed philosophers, reckless declaimers,
and arrogant dogmatists, does the present generation exhibit I

Philosophic Robert Owen, a benevolent and urbane gentleman, of
large fortune and influential friends, well read in the light readings
of early life, and deeply imbued, not merely with a generous senti-
mentality, but with a native and educated benevolence, in quest of a
proper theatre to develop a politico-moral problem, visited this New
World some twenty-five years ago. Unfortunately, he had not discrimi-
nated between the state-religions of Europe and the Christian religion
of the New Testament. He therefore filed them all together on the
same wire, and became the piiiLosoriiEn of circumstaxces. With the
full assurance of knowledge, he assaulted the full assurance of faith,
and gave utterance to principles subversive of every existing social


system, for the purpose of establishing a perfect social system. Chris-
tianity sternly stared him in the face; but with an unblenching eye
he gazed and gazed upon her countenance, and challenged her to deadly
combat or to an instant surrender. In placid temper she refused to
give place to his mandates. He threw down the gauntlet with the air
of a spirited cavalier, and dared her to a deadly combat. The glove
was promptly lifted, and the conditions of the combat amicably settled.
The theatre was erected, the judges elected, the spectators convened,
and the contest began. And here follows, approved by the combatants,
sealed by the reporter, and confirmed by the auditory, an authentic
report of it. It speaks for itself. And after a successful mission
across the continent and across the seas, it is encored, and is now
about to commence a second pilgrimage from the very city where it
occurred, and whence it was borne triumphant over America and
over the British Empire. There is nothing added, there is nothing sub-
tracted, and there is nothing amended. It was, on our side, extem-
poraneous; on his, mainly premeditated, and written out in extenso.
It carries upon its visage the proofs of both. It was not as diversified
as we desire, but it was our part to follow, and his to lead. We
wove into it all that we could legitimately introduce, bearing upon
the issue, and sowed broadcast the seeds and elements of other reasons
and evidences than a stern umpirage would have allowed. This has
its advantages on the principles of suggestion, and its disadvantages
in point of method and concentrated argument. But for popular con-
sumption and for popular effect, it appeared to be the most eligible;
and the result has greatly transcended our most sanguine expecta-
tions. Thousands have been reclaimed from their scepticism, and
thousands, that needed encouragement and corroboration, have been

The forms of scepticism are Proteus like, multifarious; and if any
other form, than those in this volume assailed and repelled, should be
presented, we feel it our duty, and would regard it our privilege, to
meet it calamo vel ore, as any champion of infidelity may choose.

There is much latent scepticism in the present church establish-
ments in our land — indeed all over Christendom. It would be a good
work to circulate the present volume far and wide, through our own
counti-y, as well as abroad. I would esteem it an advantage to the
church, as well as to the world, to have many discussions of this
grandest of all debatable questions, with every grade of mind, intelli-
gence, and character, entitled to public respect.

The subject is itself transcendent, and the evidences of its truth
and grandeur are commensurate with all its claims and pretensions
and with all the wants and necessities of this, alas! too lukewarm and
sectarian generation. See also the Campbell and Owen Debate.






Dr. R. R. Richardson writes in 1839, page 97:

The gospel of Christ, presenting, as It does, eternal life and hap-
piness to the human family, deserves, for its own sake, a full, careful,
and unprejudiced examination. The mere announcement that ever-
lasting joys and undying honors are placed within the grasp of mortals,
challenges at once attention and respect. The lofty hopes which it
Inspires are allied to the dearest earthly aspirations of the human
heart, and the highest aims of worldly ambition; yet they surpass and
include them all, as the "glad waters of the dark blue sea" overwhelm
and drink up the glittering spray upon the mossy rock which is
covered with the flowing tide. And, as to the permanency of their
fruition, contrasted with that of sublunary anticipations, they are like
the star-paved heavens, compared with the fallen domes and decaying
palaces of ruined Tyre; or as the ever-during forests of Lebanon, to
the broken column and mouldering capital which bears, as though in
mockery, the inscription "Roma Etenia."

Such Is the character of the exceeding great and precious promises
of the gospel to him who receives It in its original purity and fullness.

In examining a subject of so much Importance, the most particular
attention should be paid to those rules and principles which the expe-
rience of the world has shown to be absolutely necessary to the dis-
covery of truth. The first of these is, that the mixd must be free


Prejudice Is pre-judgment — judgment formed beforehand without
examination. It Is obvious that one whose mind is thus pre-occu-
pied is unable to receive the truth. He who would possess himself ol
truth must have the tablets of his judgment pure and receptive.

A second point of great moment in the pursuit of truth, is, that
the whole of the evidence be heard, and the whole truth received.
The evils which may arise from defective testimony and partial views
of truth are incalculably great — greater often than those resulting
from falsehood itself. It is a partial exhibition of truth, which, liko
the gilding upon counterfeit coinage, gives currency to delusion, and
success to Imposture.

There is no doubt that this error has much to do with the present
disturbed state of the Christian profession. Partyism springs from
partial views of truth. There is not a single denomination which,



along with its peculiar heresies, does not acknowledge some tenets
which are indubitably true. And it can be just as easily shown, that
there is not a sect in Christendom which embraces the whole truth,
In doctrine and practice, as it was received by the first Christian

It is a melancholy reflection that the unity of the church and the
Integrity of truth — the sparkling diamond which once graced the coro-
nal of apostolic faithfulness, should be thus broken up into so many
insignificant fragments. Christianity, indeed, may now be compared
to a ravelled web: each party has run off with a few of its threads,
and interwoven them with the flimsy texture of its own many-colored
robes — not one of them has had the ability, like Sampson, to carry off
the whole of it. Or, it is like an ancient Grecian temple, erected
for a Divinity, and once magniflcent and perfect, but now overthrown
by the rude hand of violence, and the materials carried off to compose
a part of the mean fabric of the peasant — the richly sculptured marble,
as in modern Athens, has become the stepping-stone to the mud-walled
hut of squalid poverty!

But again: It is possible for the whole truth to be received, yet
rendered inoperative by dilution, or injurious by corrupt additions.
We should be careful, therefore, to embrace nothing but the truth, and
to preserve its simplicity unimpaired — to seek only the pure bullion,
and to keep it untarnished and undrossy.

It is related of the followers of the celebrated WickUffe, that the
Papists used to call them, in derision. Gospellers, because they were
wont to speak so often of the original gospel, in place of the legends
and traditions of the Catholic superstition. It were well if modern
reformers would so signalize themselves by their devotion to the gospel
in its simplicity as to deserve so good an appellation.

It is this annunciation which Paul, in the motto which we have
preflxed to these papers, denominates "The gospel;" for in the deflni-
tion which he there supplies, he enumerates in substance the same
facts concerning Christ, of which Peter speaks, to wit — "that Christ
died for our sins according to the scriptures; that he was buried, and
that he ix>se the third day according to the scriptures." It matters
not whether we say with Peter, that "Him they slew and hanged on
a tree — and that to him bear all prophets witness."

And is it then the gospel that Christ died for our sins, was buried
and rose again? Have these few simple facts constituted the hope of
the ancients and the joy of the moderns; the inspiration of the prophet
and the fortitude of the martyr? Are these the theme of seraphic and
cherubic song, and the power of God himself to the salvation of the
world? Can it be that an annunciation so brief, and ap::arently so
simple, has already wrought such important changes in the affairs of


men, and is yet to exert so predominant an influence in the accom-
plishment of human destiny? — that the same truth which is the solace
of the solitary wanderer, is to operate upon the entire mass of the
human family? So Paul aflSrms, and both history and prophecy con-
firm his derlaration.

Nor need we be surprised that so great effects are to be produced
by means so simple. This only proves the perfection of the instru-
ment, and is perfectly in accordance with the divine procedure in
other cases. To combine simplicity and power is regarded as a maal-
festation of consummate skill. No one is rewarded for making a
machine more complicated. Every improver aims to produce the same
or a greater effect by a more simple mechanism. The very simplicity,
then, of the gospel, is but an additional evidence of its divine origin.
It is also in harmony with other exhibitions of the wisdom and
power of God. In the economy of nature, for instance, there is noth-
ing more common than the accomplisliment of the greatest purposes
by the simplest means; nor is there anything more familiar than the
ready applicability to particular and minor things of principles and
powers which are capable of exercising supreme and universal control.
It is the same pervading influence, the attraction of gravitation, which
brings to the ground a sere and yellow leaf from the oak, or the blaz-
ing meteor from heaven, and sustains in their orbits the immense
planetary bodies, with their satellites. It is the same power, the
attraction of cohesion, which moulds the dew-drop, which, poised upon
a slender blade of grass, and touched by the sun's first rays, appears
bright and beautiful as the diamond or pearl — "a gem of purest ray
serene;" and lifts to the clouds the rocky precipice where the eagle
builds her eyrie, and against whose base the waves of ocean rage in
vain. It is not strange, then, that the same Divine Mechanician should
In the religious and moral world endow the simplest means with power
to accomplish the greatest ends, and to act with the same facility upon
individuals and upon nations — upon one and upon all.

But again: it will be evident that the gospel must be of necessity
something very simple, when it is recollected that it is to be preached
to every creature. The great majority of the human race are ignorant
and debased, slow of apprehension, and feeble in their capacity. The
gospel is designed to open their blinded eyes, to turn them from dark-
ness to light, to inform the understanding and to move the heart.
That it has accomplished this purpose wherever it has been faithfully
exhibited, and that the present civilization and refinement of the
nations is mainly owing to its influence, is admitted by the best
Informed. Being then suited to the comprehension of all — the Euro-
pean, the Indian, the Negro, and the rude Barbarian. It can not be
anything abstruse or remote, but must necessarily be easily perceived,


understood, and felt. Could we indeed suppose for one moment that
this divine and glorious gospel had transformed itself into those pon-
derous and complicated bodies of divinity which life will scarce afford
time to read, or eternity to understand, we might well despair of our
own salvation and the conversion of the world.

How different might now have been the state of the world if the
gospel in its simplicity had been exhibited to mankind since the days
of the Apostles! And to what a speedy termination it would bring
the discords, feuds, and party jealousies of Christendom, if all would
confine themselves to the joyful tidings that Christ has died for our
sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he rose
the third day according to the Scriptures! These are facts, not opin-
ions or speculations. These are easily proved, readily understood, and
quickly felt. "And by these also we are saved," says our Apostle, "if
we keep them in remembrance." R. k.

Among the causes, indeed, which have contributed to- produce the
present confused state of the Christian profession, there has not been
one more efficient than the sentiment that the whole Bible is a doc-
trinal treatise upon Christianity; and that the gospel is so equally
diffused throughout the whole, like the blood in the human system,
which may be made to flow from every part, that it may be found
indifferently anywhere from Genesis to Revelation, and equally in the
prophecies of Balaam, or the song of Solomon, as in the testimony of
Matthew Levi or the Acts of the Apostles. This view of the Scriptures
places the mind at once upon the wide ocean, careless by what gale
or to what country it may be. driven. Where every fact or incident Is
regarded as equally important, all become at the same time alike unin-
teresting; where there is no distinction, there can be no arrangement;
where there is no beginning, there can be no conclusion. As well
might a person suppose that light is universally diffused throughout
nature, and that he could possess himself of it by putting into his
pocket the shining pebbles by which it is reflected. To direct his
attention to the sun as the true source of light, would not sooner
interrupt the labors of such a virtuoso, than would the proper exhi-
bition of the simple facts of the gospel give a new turn to the inves-
tigations of the modern Bible student.

That all Scripture given by inspiration is profitable for the various
purposes for which its different parts are designed, and that it is all
necessary to the perfection of the godly man, is cheerfully admitted.
But what we would insist upon is this: that it isi with the gospel facts
we have first and chiefly to do; that it is by these we are first met
on the part of Heaven; and that these not only comprise all that is
necessary, so far as the Christian faith, and the salvation of the sinner
is concerned, but involve necessarily and immediately the consider-


ation of all preceding and succeeding revelations. Like the rich clus-
ters of the vine in which the new wine is found, there is a blessing
In them; and like these same clusters also, which are both the first
in design and the last in production, the gospel facts (Christ and him
1 rucified) are the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega of rev-
elation. In short, there is not a principle of action, or an exhortation
to duty; a hope or a privilege; an institution or a doctrine in Chris-
tianity, which is not deducible from these simple facts, as the oak
is evolved from the acorn, or the leaf unfolded from the bud. We
would not be understood to say. however, that human reason could have
made these deductions, any more than that human power could bring
an oak OTit of an acorn. Christianity is as much beyond the reason
of man, as the works of nature are beyond his power. The eyes of
Reason could not even perceive its existence, unless it were revealed
by the light of faith, and unfolded in its maturity by the efficient influ-
ences of a divine agency. Yet it is no sooner thus presented, than
reason at once perceives the absolute and necessary connection which
subsists between its different parts; the relations of principles and
laws; of facts and results; of means and ends; and is enabled to trace
the steps of that inductive process by which the whole has been elab-
orated from a single germ.

We have spoken of the simplicity of the gospel as a means of sal-
vation, and endeavored to show that this simplicity is not only evi-
dence of its divine origin and perfection, ajid in accordance with the
economy of nature; but that the gospel is by this means adapted to
the capacity and understanding of those to whom it is addressed —
human beings indiscriminately, rich and poor; high and low.

He, then, who believes the gospel, believes the Bible; believes
everything necessary to salvation; everything which can or ever did
rejoice, redeem, or exalt one of Adam's race. What can be added to
the gospel? What more can be desired by man, sinful and mortal,
than to be delivered from sin and to be blessed with immortality'
And how perfectly suited, then, the gospel of Christ to the wants and
circumstances of the human family!


All revealed religion is based upon facts. Testimony has respect
to facts only; that the testimony be credible, it must be confirmed.
These points are of so much importance as to deserve some illustra-
tion, and much consideration. By facts we always mean something:
said or done. The works of God and the words of God, or the things
done and spoken by God, are those facts which are laid down ami
exhibited in the Bible as the foundation of all faith, hope, love, piety,
and humanity. All true and useful knowledge is an acquaintance with


facts. And all true science is acquired from the observation and com-
parison of facts. But he that made the heart of man and gave him
an intelligent spirit knows that facts alone can move the affections,
and command the passions of man. Hence the scheme of mercy which
he has discovered to the world, is all contained in, and developed by,
the works of mercy which he has wrought.

Facts have a meaning which the understanding apprehends and the
heart feels. According to the meaning or nature of the fact, is its
effect upon us. If a friend have risked his life, or sacrificed his repu-
tation or fortune to relieve us, we can not but confide in him and love
him. If an enemy have attempted our life, invaded our property, or
attacked our reputation, we can not, naturally, but hate him. Nothing
but the command of a benefactor, or the will of some dear friend who
has laid us under obligation to himself, can prevent us from hating
our enemies. If a beloved relative have sustained some great misfor-
tune, we must feel sorry; or if he have been rescued from some impend-
ing calamity, we must feel glad. Our joy in the latter case, and our
sorrow in the former, arise from the meaning or nature of the fact.
The feelings corresponding with the nature of the fact, are excited or
called into existence the moment the fact is known or believed. It is
known when we have witnessed it ourselves, and it is believed when
reported to us by credible persons who have witnessed it. This is the
chief difference between faith and knowledge.

As existences or beings must precede knowledge, so facts must
precede either knowledge or belief. An event must happen before
it can be known by man — it must be known by some before it can
be reported to others — it must be reported before it can be believed,
and the testimony must be confirmed, or made credible, before it
can be relied on.

Something must be done before it can be known, reported, or
believed. Hence, in the order of nature, there is first the fact, then
the testimony, and then the belief. A was drowned before B reported
it — B reported it before C believed it, and C believed it before he
was grieved at it. This is the unchangeable and universal order of
things as respects belief. In this example when we reason from effect
to cause, it is grief, belief, testimony, fact — and from cause to effect
it is fact, testimony, belief, grief. We ascend from grief to belief —
from belief to testimony — from testimony to fact. We descend from
fact to testimony — from testimony to belief, and from belief to grief.
To this there is no exception, more than against the universality of
the laws of gravity. If, then, there was nothing said or done, there
could be no testimony, and so no faith. Religious affections spring
from faith; and, therefore, it is of importance that this subject should
be disintricated from the mysticism of the schools.


Laws call for obedience, and testimony for belief. Where there is
no law, there can be no obedience; and where there is no testimony,
there can be no faith. As obedience can not transcend law, so faith
can not transcend testimony. John's testimony went to so many facts.
On his testimony we can believe only as far as he has testified. And
so of all the other witnesses. The certainty of faith depends upon
the certainty or credibility of the witnesses. But not so its effects.
The effects depend upon the facts believed— the certainty upon the
evidence. I may be equally certain that John was beheaded— that
Jesus was crucified. Nay. I may be as certain of the birth of Jesua
in Bethlehem, as I am of his death on Calvary. The testimony may
be equally credible, and the faith equally strong; but the effects pro-
duced are not the same. The facts believed have not the same mean-
ing, are not of the same nature, and do not produce the same feelings
or effects. I may be as certain of the assassination of Cesar in the
Senate House, as I am of the crucifixion of Jesus on Calvary: but as
the facts believed are as diverse in the nature, meaning, an I bearings
upon me as the East and the West; so the effects or fruits of my faith
are as different as Julius Cesar and Jesus Christ.

The more ordinary the fact, the more ordinary the testimony neces-
sary to establish it. That A B, aged 90, and confined for some time
■with sickness, died last night, requires only the most ordinary testi-
mony to render it credible. But that C D lived to 140, enjoying una-
bated vigor of mind and body, requires stronger testimony. But still
all facts happening in accordance with the ordinary and natural laws
of things, require but good human testimony to make them worthy
of credence. 'Tis only extraordinary and supernatural facts which
require supernatural testimony, or testimony supernaturally con-
firmed. This is the point to which we have been looking in this essay.
And now that we have arrived at it, I would ask. How lias the testi-
mony of the Apostles and Evangelists l)een confirmed?

To confirm a testimony is neither more nor less than to make it
crodible to those to whom it is tendered; or, to express the same idea
in other words, it is to give men power to believe it. Now it will
not require the same amount of evidence to persuade an astronomer
that the earth's shadow struck the moon last eclypse, as it would to
convince an Indian; or it would not require the same amount of evi-
dence to convince a chemist that combustion was effected bv pouring
water on a certain composition of mineral substances, as it would an
unlettered swain. To make any testimony credible to any order of
beings, regard must therefore be had to the capacity, attainments, and
habits of those beings. To confirm the testimony of the Apostles con-
corning the Messiah's death, resurrection, ascension into heaven, and
coronation as the Lord and King of the Universe, imports no more nor


less than that it should be rendered every way credible to such beings
as we are, or that we should be made able to believe it. A testimony
confirmed, and yet incredible to those to whom it is tendered, is a
contradiction in terms. But why emphasize on the word confirmed?
Because the holy Apostles have emphasized upon it. It is therefore

Online LibraryAlexander CampbellThe Millennial Harbinger abridged (Volume 1) → online text (page 48 of 70)