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necessary that we should pay a due regard to the confirmation of the
testimony. The testimony is one thing, and the confirmation is
another. It is necessary, in all important occasions in human aifairs,
that the testimony which is received between man and man should be
confirmed by some sanction. Hence an oath for confirmation of tes-
timony is an end of all strife. The highest confirmation which men
require in all questions of fact, is a solemn oath or aflirmatioji that the
things affirmed are true.

But supernatural facts require supernatural confirmations. Hence
when the confirmation of the gospel is spoken of in the apostolic writ-
ings, it is resolved into the doings or works of the Holy Spirit.
"Demonstrations of the Holy Spirit'' are the confirmatory proofs of
the gospel. When Paul delivered the testimony of God, or the testi-
mony concerning Jesus, to the Corinthians, he says, "It was confirmed
among them.'" And if we examine into the confirmation of the
testimony as Paul explained it, we shall find that he makes the
spiritual gifts, or those extraordinary and miraculous powers which
the Apostles themselves displayed, and which so many of their
converts also possessed, an assurance or confirmation of what he

To those desirous to understand this subject, an examination of
this first letter to the Corinthians can not fail to be most instructive;
for it most clearly and unequivocally teaches us that the visible,
audible, sensible demonstration of the Spirit and of power was that
supernatural attestation of the testimony of Christ which made it
credible, so that no man could have acknowledged Jesus of Nazareth
to be the Almighty Lord but by this demonstration of the Holy Spirit
Thus was the testimony confirmed — thus was Jesus demonstrated to
be the only begotten Son of God — and thus, and thus only, are men
enabled to believe in him.

Some mystics in ancient times, and some of the moderns yet affirm
that the infusion of the Holy Spirit into the hearts of disciples as
the spirit of adoption — as the Spirit of Christ — is that demonstration
of the Spirit which enables men to believe. But this is as unreason-
able as it is unscriptural: unreasonable because no such inspiration,
no invisible, inaudible, or insensible operation or effect can be called
a demonstration of the Spirit on which faith rests — none of the terms
used by the Apostle can bear such an exposition. And it is unscrip-
tural, for none of the converts to Christianity in the New Testament


are represented as converted but by what they saw and heard; and the
Spirit of Holiness was a gift promised to them, and to them only
who believe.

A demonstration that can not be seen or heard, is, in our mother
tongue, no demonstration at all; and a faith that rests upon anything
called demonstrations of the Spirit and of power which are only felt
in the heart, is a faith resting upon itself. The testimony and the
confirmation must be alike extrinsic, else it is no confirmation at all.
No feeling in the heart can be called a demonstration. The eye or
the ear, and strictly the former, but figuratively the latter, are the
senses to which demonstrations are submitted. None but mystica
could draw a demonstration in confirmation of a fact or a testimony
from the effect produced in the heart. What would a person of com.
mon sense say to a mother who labored to prove that the tidings she
had heard of the death of her only son were true, because she felt
sorry to hear and believe them? In vain would she call her grief, her
agony, her tears, a demonstration that the testimony was true. These
might be proofs that she believed the tidings, but never can they prove
the tidings to be true. But why labor to tediousness in support of
that which is almost self-evident?

The narrative of the labors and success of the Apostles, which Luke
gives, corroborates, by the examples it adduces, the above statements.
Take Peter's labors for examples. His testimony on Pentecost was
confirmed by a sound from heaven, by tongues of fire; and when they
heard his testimony, and saw the signs accompanying it, thousands
believed the testimony. "When they saw him cure the cripple, and
heard him announce the glad tidings at the Beautiful Gate of the
Temple, multitudes believed. When he cured Eneas, the paralytic of
Lydda, "all the inhabitants of Lydda and Saron sew him and turned
to the Lord." When he raised to life again Tabitha of Joppa, "this
was known throughout all Joppa, and many brlicved in the Lord."
Euch was the order of that day. And thus was the testimony con-
firmed, and men and women enabled to believe.

From all that has been said, the following conclusions are appar-
ent, and of much practical importance, at least to all who labor in
the word and teaching: —

1. The testimony which God has given, or the testimony which
the Apostles gave concerning Jesus, as the Messiah, the Son of God,
and the all-sufficient Saviour of the World, is a credible testimony, a
well confirmed testimony; and as confirmed by the demonstrations of
the Spirit and power of God, worthy of all acceptation : and by it
men, otherwise without strength, are made able to believe. Hence
all who wait for the testimony to be specially confirmed to them, wait
for what they have no promise nor right to receive, and which Goi


can not bestow without implying that the testimony is otherwise
unworthy of belief; or, what we commonly call incredible.

2. Every one who says he can not believe, says that the testimony
is incredible; that God has not confirmed it; and in so doing expressly
contradicts the Apostle, who says, "The report is credible, or true,
and worthy of all reception; that Jesus Christ came into the world to
save sinners;" or else he means, that he will not believe, and there-
fore will not hear the testimony lest he should believe it. He that
believeth not, makes God a liar, because he says that his testimony
is not true.

3. The ancients were enabled to call Jesus Lord of All, the King
eternal, immortal, and invisible, from the demonstrations of the Holy
Spirit confirming the testimony, without any other aid than the power
of God exhibited in attestation of the testimony. So are we when the
testimony is fairly and ably laid before us. Hence in producing faith
in the minds of men, all that is necessary is, to do justice to the whole
testimony of God — to do what Paul said he did, without the persuasive
words of human philosophy, declare the testimony of God. Hence all
men who believe and preach Christ, should be able to give a reason of
the hope which they entertain, by adducing the evidences of the gospel
— not by telling their experience, which will never convince anybody
but an enthusiast; any more than Mary's testimony concerning her
grief will be a demonstration that the report of her son's death is true.
Peter never commanded any man to narrate his own feelings as a
reason of the hope which he had in the Messiah, in preference to, or
in competition with, the confirmed testimony. No, the best reason
of faith is a well authenticated testimony, or confirmed evidences.
Our experience may be a consolation to ourselves, as our behavior will
be a corroboration to others; but the demonstrations which the Spirit
has afforded alone can enable any man to say that Jesus is the Lord.

4. As the first Christians were convinced by the Holy Spirit and
enabled to believe by the attestations which he gave; so, after they
believed and obeyed the gospel, they had the Holy Spirit infused into
their hearts; and were then, because they were sons — (for to as many
as received him to them he gave power to become the sons of God,)
enabled by the spirit imparted to them to say. Our Father — so will it
be with them who now believe and obey the same gospel upon the
same evidences and for the same reasons.

5. As Jesus, when on earth, finished the work of redemption, but
in heaven he is our High Priest; so the Holy Spirit on earth, after his
ascension, finished the confirmation of the testimony: but now, in
addition to that work which makes redemption credible, he sheds his
influences in the hearts of them who obey. If any man can make
himself happy, from any supposed change of Leart, before he has


obeyed the gospel, he deludes himself. 'Tis only by obeying the truth
that any man can be sanctified and comforted by it The story told
by some of their happiness before obedience, is to me as wild and
incredible as the story of the Phoenix clapping his wings over dried
sticks until it sets them on fire. If, then, all who undertake to preach
Christ, would, instead of preaching their own dreams, or even their
real experiences, exhibit the evidences; and instead of telling men to
wait or pray for good signs, or for power to believe, persuade them lo
obey the gospel, the gospel would run and be glorified, and sectarian-
ism would wither as the grass. To effect this is the leading object of
this paper; and if it fail to produce this conviction in any attentive
reader, if he will furnish me with his objections, I will do them justice.


In the Harbinger for 1846, p. 493, the famous sermon on "The Law"
is published. The delivery of this sermon (1816) was the time of the
beginning of the end of organic association with the Baptists, and is
accounted by many as the date of the beginning of the Restoration as
an independent movement. This sermon marks the distinction between
the Law and the Gospel. The sermon is as follows:

Requests have occasionally, during several years, been made for
the publication, in this work, of a discourse on the Law, pronounce-1
by me at a meeting of the Regular Baptist Association, on Cross Creek,
Virginia, 1816. Recently these requests have been renewed with more
earnestness; and, although much, crowded for room, I have concluded
to comply with the wishes of my friends. It was rather a youthful per-
formance, and is in one particular, to my mind, long since exceptionable.
Its views of the atonement are rather commercial than evangelical.
But this was only casually introduced, and does not affect the object
of the discourse on the merits of the great question discussed in it.
I thought it better to let it go to the public again without the change
of a sentiment in it. Although precisely thirty years this month since
I delivered it, and some two or three years after my union with the
Baptist denomination, the intelligent reader will discover in it the
elements of things which have characterized all our writings on the
subject of modern Christianity from that day to the present.

But as this discourse was, because of its alleged heterodoxy by the
Regular Baptist Association, made the ground of my impeachment and
trial for heresy at its next annual meeting, it is as an item of ecclesi-
astic history interesting. It was by a great effort on my part, that this
self-same sermon on the Law had not proved my public excommuni-
cation from the denomination under the foul brand of "damnable
heresy." But by a great stretch of charity on the part of two or three
old men, I was saved by a derided majority.


This unfortunate sermon afterwards involved me in a seven years'
war with, some members of said Association, and became a matter
of much debate. I found at last, however, that there was a principle
at work in the plotters of said crusade, which Stephen assigns as the
cause of the misfortunes of Joseph.

It is, therefore, highly probable to my mind, that but for the perse-
cution begun on the alleged heresy of this sermon, whether the present
reformation had ever been advocated by me. I have a curious history
of many links in this chain of providential events, yet unwritten and
unknown to almost any one living — certainly but to a very few persons
— which, as the waves of time roll on, may yet be interesting to many.
It may be gratifying to some, however, at present to be informed that
but one of the prime movers in this presumptive movement yet lives;
and, alas! he has long since survived his usefulness. I may farther
say at present, that I do not think there is a Baptist Association
on the continent that would now treat me as did the Redstone Asso-
ciation of that day, which is some evidence to my mind that the
Baptists are not so stationary as a few of them would have the world

But the discourse speaks for itself. It was, indeed, rather an extem-
poraneous address: for the same spirit that assaulted the discourse
when pronounced, and when printed, reversed the resolution of the
Association passed on Saturday evening, inviting me to address the
audience on Lord's day, and had another person appointed in my
place. He providentially was suddenly seized with sickness, and I was
unexpectedly called upon in the morning, two hours before the dis-
course was spoken. A motion was made in the interval that same
day, by the same spirit of jealousy or zealousy, that public opinion
should be arrested by having a preacher appointed to inform the con-
gregation on the spot that my "discourse was not Baptist doctrine."
One preacher replied, that it might be "Christian doctrine;" for his
part, it was new to him, and desired time for examination. I was,
therefore, obliged to gather it up from a few notes, and commit it to
writing. It was instantly called for to be printed, and after one year's
deliberation, at next Association, a party was formed to indict me for
heresy on the published discourse. A committee met; resolutions were
passed on Friday night. The next day was fixed for my trial; and
after asking counsel of Heaven, my sermon was called for, and the
suit commenced. I was taken almost by surprise. On my offering
immediately to go into an investigation of the matter, it was partially
discussed; but on the ground of having no jurisdiction in the case,
the Association resolved to dismiss the sermon, without any fuller
mark of reprobation, and leave every one to form his own opinion
of it. We submit it to the candid perusal of our readers. a. c.



Delivered before the Redstone Baptist Associatiori, met on Cross
Creek, Brooke County, Ya., on the \st of September, 1816. By Alex-
ander Campbell, one of the Pastors of the Church of Brush Run,
Washington County, Pa.

"The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus
Christ." — John i. 17.

"The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the king-
dom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it." — Luke
xvi. 16.


To those who have requested the publication of the following dis-
course, an apology is necessary. Though the substance of the dis-
course, as delivered, is contained in the following pages, yet it is not
verbatim the same. Indeed, this could not be the case, as the preacher
makes but a very sparing use of notes, and on this occasion, had but
a few. In speaking extempore, or in a great measure so, and to a
people who may have but one hearing of a discussion such as the fol-
lowing, many expressions that would be superfluous, in a written
discourse, are in a certain sense necessary. When words are merely
pronounced, repetitions are often needful to impress the subject on
the mind of the most attentive hearer: but when written, the reader
may pause, read again, and thus arrive at the meaning. Some addi-
tions, illustrative of the ideas that were presented in speaking, have
been made; but as few as could be supposed necessary. Indeed, the
chief difficulty in enforcing the doctrine contained in the following
sheets, either in one spoken or written sermon, consists in the most
judicious selection of the copious facts and documents contained in
the IJivine Word on this subject.

We have to regret that so much appears necessary to be said, in
an argumentative way, to the professed Christians of this age, on
such a topic. But this is easily accountcKi for on certain principles.
For, in truth, the present popular exhibition of Christianity is a com-
pound of Judaism, Heathen Philosophy, and Christianity; which, lik-j
the materials in Nebuchadnezzar's image, does not well cement

The only correct and safe course, in this perilous age, is, to take
nothing upon trust, but to examine for ourselves, and "to bring all
things to the test." "But if any man will be ignorant, let him be

As to the style adopted in this discourse. It is such as we supposed
would be adapted to the capacity of those who are chiefly benefited by
such discussions. "For their sakes we endeavor to use great plainness


of speech." As the doctrines of the gospel are commonly hid from the
wise and prudent, and revealed only to babes, the weak and fool-
ish; for their sakes, the vail, of what is falsely called eloquence,
should be laid aside, and the testimony of God plainly presented to

The great question with every man's conscience is, or should be,
"What is truth?" Not, Have any of the scribes or rulers of the people
believed it? Every man's eternal all, as well as his present comfort,
depends upon what answer he is able to give to the question Pilate
of old (John xviii. 38) proposed to Christ, without waiting for a reply.
Such a question can only be satisfactorily answered by an impartial
appeal to the oracles of truth — the alone standard of divine truth. To
these we appeal. Whatever in this discourse is contrary to them, let
it be expunged; what corresponds with them, may the God of truth
bless, to those to whom he has given an ear to discern, and a heart
to receive it.

"For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the
flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for
sin, condemned sin in the flesh." — Rom. viii. 3.

Words are signs of ideas or thoughts. Unless words are understood,
ideas or sentiments can neither be communicated nor received. Words,
that in themselves are quite intelligible, may become difficult to under-
stand in different connections and circumstances. One of the most
important words in our text is of easy signification, and yet, in con-
sequence of its diverse usages and epithets, it is sometimes difficult
precisely to ascertain what ideas should be attached to it. It is the
term law. By a close investigation of the context, and a general
knowledge of the Scriptures, every difficulty of this kind may be easily

In order to elucidate and enforce the doctrine contained in this
verse, we shall scrupulously observe the following


1. We shall endeavor to ascertain what ideas we are to attach to
the phrase "the law,'" in this, and similar portions of the sacred

2. Point out those things which the laiv could not accomplish.

3. Demonstrate the reason why the law failed to accomplish those

4. Illustrate how God has remedied those relative defects of the

5. In the last place, deduce such conclusions from these premises,
as must obvioiis4y and necessarily present themselves to every unbi-
assed and reflecting mind.


In discussing the doctrine contained in our text, we are then, In
the first place, to endeavor to ascertain what ideas we are to attach
to the terms "the law," in this, and similar portions of the sacred

The term "laic" denotes in common usage, "a rule of action." It
was used by the Jews, until the time of our Saviour, to distinguish
the whole revelation made to the Patriarchs and Prophets, from the
traditions and commandments of the Rabbies or Doctors of the law.
Thus the Jews called the Psalms of David laiv. (John xii. 34.) Refer-
ring to the 110th Psalm, they say, "We have heard out of the law
that Christ abideth forever." And again, our Saviour calls the Psalms
of David, laic. (John x. 34.) Referring to Ps. Ixxxii. C, he says, "Is it
not written in your law, I said ye are gods." Thus when we hear
David extolling God's law, we are to understand him as referring to
all divine revelation extant in his time. But when the Old Testament
Scriptures were finished, and divided according to their contents for
the use of synagogues, the Jews styled them the law, the prophets
and the psalms. Luke xxiv. 44, Christ says, "All things written in the
law of Moses, in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me, must
be fulfilled."

The addition of the definite article in this instance as well as all
others, alters the signification or at least determines it. During the
life of Moses, the words "the law" without some explicative addition,
were never used. Joshua, Moses' successor, denominates the writings
of Moses, "the book of the law;" but never uses the phrase by itself.
Nor indeed have we any authentic account of this phrase being used,
without some restrictive definition, until the reign of Abijah (II. Chron.
xiv. 4), at which time it is used to denote the whole legal dispensation
by Moses. In this w^ay it is used alK)ut thirty times in the Old Testa-
ment, and as often with such epithets as show that the whole law of
Moses is intended.

When the doctrines of the reign of Heaven began to be preached,
and to be contrasted in the New Testament with the Mosaic economy,
the phrase "the law" became very common, and wheji used without
any distinguishing epithet, or restrictive definition, invariably denoted
the whole legal or Mosaic dispensation. In this acceptation it occurs
al)out 150 times in the New Testament. To make myself more intelli-
gible, I would observe that when the terms "the laic." have such dis-
tinguishing properties or restrictive definitions as "the royal law," "the
law of faith," "the law of liberty," "the law of Christ," "the law of the
spirit of life," etc., it is most obvious the whole Mosaic law or dispen-
sation is not intended. But when we find the phraw "the law," without
any such limitations or epithets as "the law was given by Moses," "the
law and the prophets were until John." "if ye be led by the Spirit,


ye are not under the law," "ye are not under the law, but under grace,"
etc., we must perceive the whole law of Moses, or legal dispensation,
is intended.

I say the tohole law, or dispensation by Moses; for in modem times
the law of Moses is divided and classified under three heads, denomi-
nated, the moral, ceremonial, and judicial law. This division of the
law being unknown in the apostolic age, and of course never used by
the Apostles, can serve no valuable purpose, in obtaining a correct
knowledge of the doctrine delivered by the Apostles respecting the law.
You might as well inquire of the Apostles, or consult their writings,
to know who the Supralapsarians or Sublapsarians are, as to inquire
of them, what is the moral, ceremonial, or judicial law. But like many
distinctions, handed down to us from mystical Babylon, they bear the
mark on their forehead that certifies to us, their origin is not divine.
If this distinction were harmless, if it did not perplex, bias, and con-
found, rather than assist the judgment, in determining the sense of
the apostolic writings, we should let it pass unnoticed; but justice to
the truth requires us to make a remark or two on this division of
the law.

The phrase, the moral law, includes that part of the law of Moses,
"written and engraved on two tables of stone," called the ten com-
mandments. Now the word moral, according to the most approved
lexicographers, is defined "relating to the practice of men toward each
other, as it may be virtuous or criminal, good or bad." The French,
from whom we have the term moral, immediately, and the Romans,
from whom we originally received it, used it agreeably to the above
definition. Of course, then, a moral law, is a law which regulates the
conduct of men towards each other. But will the ten commandments
answer this definition? No. For Doctors in Divinity tell us, the first
table of the Decalogue respects our duty to God; the second our duty
to man. Why then call the ten commandments "the moral laiv," seeing
but six of them are moral; that is, relating to our conduct towards
men? In modern times, we sometimes distinguish between religion and
morality; but while we affirm that r^igion is one thing, and morality
another; and then affirm that the ten commandments are the moral law
— do we not, in so saying, contradict ourselves? Assuredly the legs

Online LibraryAlexander CampbellThe Millennial Harbinger abridged (Volume 1) → online text (page 49 of 70)