Alexander Campbell.

The Millennial Harbinger abridged (Volume 1) online

. (page 65 of 70)
Online LibraryAlexander CampbellThe Millennial Harbinger abridged (Volume 1) → online text (page 65 of 70)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

we may illustrate this subject to the apprehension of all. Yes, the
whole subject of faith, change of heart, regeneration, and character.

All civilized nations and kingdoms have constitutions; and in their
constitutions they have declared who are members of the social com-
pact. Besides those who constitute the community at the time a con-
stitution is adopted, they say who shall compose the community in


all time coming; that is, who shall be admitted into it, and by what
iiieans they shall become members of it. They have always decreed,
that their own posterity shall inherit their political rights and immu-
nities. But they have, also, ordained, that foreigners; that is, meiu-
bers of other communities, may become, by adoption, or naturalization,
citizens, or fellow members, of the same community. But they have,
in their wisdom and benevolence, instituted a rite or form of adoption,
which form has much meaning; and which, when submitted to, changes
the state of the subject of it. Now, as the Saviour consented to be
called a King, and to call the community over which he presides, a
Kingdom, it was because of the analogy between these human institu-
tions and his institution; and for the purpose, not of confounding,
but of aiding the human mind in apprehending and comprehending
the great object of his mission to the world. And it is worthy of tbe
most emphatic attention, that it was when speaking of a kingdotm.
HE SPOKE OF BEING BORN AGAIN. Yes, On that occasiou, and on that
occasion only, when he spoke of enteritig into his Kingdom, he did
speak of the necessity of being born again. And had he not chosen
that figure, he would not have chosen the figure of a new birth.
With these facts and circumstances before us, let us examine politi-
cal regeneration as the best conceivable illustration of religious

A B was bom in the island of Great Britain, a native subject of
George III., King of Great Britain. He was much attached to his
native island, to the people, the manners and customs of his ances-
tors and kinsmen. With all these attachments, still increasing, he
grew up to manhood. Then he heard the report of this good land;
of this large, fertile, and most desirable country. The country, the
people, and the government, were represented to him in the most
favorable light. Sometimes these representations were exaggerated;
but still he could separate the truth from the fable; and was fully
persuaded not only of the existence of these United States, but, also,
of the eligibility of being a citizen thereof. He believed the testi-
mony which he heard, resolved to expatriate himself from the land
of his nativity, to imperil life and property, putting himself aboard
of a ship, and bidding adieu to all the companions of his youth, his
kinsmen and dear friends. So full was his conviction, and so Btrong
his faith, that old Neptune and King Eolus, with all their terrors,
could not appall him. He sailed from his native shores, and landed
on this continent. He was, however, ignorant of many things per-
taining to this new country, and government; and on his arrival
asked for the rights and immunities of a citizen. He was told, that
the civil rights of hospitality to a stranger could be extended to him
as a sojourner; but not one of the rights, or immunities of a citizen.


could be his, unless he were born again. "Born uijain!" Baid be,
in a disappointed tone, to Columbus, with whom he had his first
conversation on the subject. "What do you mean by being born

Columbus — You must be naturalized, or adopted as a citizen; or,
what we call being born again.

A. B. — I do not understand you. How can a man be born wheu
he iP grown?

Col. — That which is born of Great Britain is Briti-sh, and that
which Is born of America is American. If, then, you would be an
American citizen, you must be born of America.

A. B. — "Born of America!" You astonish me! I have come to
America well disposed towards the people and the country. I was
once attached to England, but I became attached to the United States;
and because of my faith, and attachments, I have come hither; an'l
will you not receive me into your kingdom, because I could not help
being born in England?

Col. — Well disposed as I am, and we are, to receive you, most
assuredly, I say to you, unless you are regenerated in a court-house,
and be enfranchised by and before the judges, you can never become
a citizen of these United States.

A. B. — Yours is an arbitrary and despotic government. What airs
of sovereignty you have assumed!

Col. — By no means. Right, reason, wisdom, policy, and benevo-
lence for you; as well as the safety, dignity, and happiness of the
whole community, require that every alien shall be naturalized, or
made a citizen, before he exercise, or enjoy the rights of a citizen.

A. B. — You are certainly arbitrary — if not in the thing itself, of
regeneration — in the place and manner in which it shall be done.
Why, for instance, say, that it must be done in a court-house?

Col. — I will tell you: because there are the judges, the records,
and the seal of the government.

A. B. — I understand you. Well, tell me, how is a man born again?
Tell me plainly and without a figure.

Col. — With pleasure. You were born of your mother and of your
father, when you were born in England; but you were born legiti-
mately, according to the institutions of England. Well, then, you
were born of England, as well as born in it; and were, therefore,
wholly English. This was your first birth. But you have expatriated
yourself, as your application here proves — I say, sentimentally you
have expatriated yourself; but we must have a formal, solemn pledge
of your renunciation; and we will give you a formal, solemn
pledge of your adoption. You must, c.r aniwn. in the presence of the
Judges, and the Recorders, renounce all allegiance to every foreign


prince and potentate; and especially His Majesty, tlie King of Great

A. B. — Is that the thing? I can, with all my heart, renounce ail
political allegiance to every foreign prince and government. Is that
all? I have, then, no objection to that.

Col. — There is this also: — You are not only to renounce all politi-
cal allegiance; but you must also, ex animo, from the soul, solemnly
TOW, in the presence of the same Judges and Recorders, that you will
adopt, and submit to, the constitution and government of these United

A. B. — I can do that also. I can renounce, and I can adopt. Nor
do I object to the place where it shall be done. But, pray, what
solemn pledge will you give mef

Col. — So soon as you have vowed renunciation, and adoption, in
the presence of the Judges and the Recorders; we will give you a cer-
tificate, with a red seal, the seal of state, attached to it; stating that
you, having now been naturalized; or born according to our institu-
tions, are born of America; and are now a son, an adopted son, of
America. And that red seal indicates that the blood, the best blood
of this government, will be shed for you, to protect you and defend
you; and that your life will, when called for, be cheerfully given up
for your mother, of whom you have been politically born; as it would
have been for your own natural political mother, of whom you were
first born.

A. B. — To this I must subscribe. In my mother tongue it all
means, that I give myself up politically to this government, and it
gives itself up to me, before witness too. How soon, pray, after this
new birth, may I exercise and enjoy all the rights of a citizen?

Col. — They are yours the first breath you breathe under your new
mother. 'Tis true, we have not, in these United States, any symbol
through which a person is politically regenerated. We only ask a
solemn pledge, and give one. Other nations have symbols. But K\e
understand that the moment the vow is taken, the person is politi-
cally born again. And as every other child has all the rights of a
child which it can exercise, so soon as it inhales the air; so have all
our political children all political rights, so soon as the form of natu-
ralization ia consummated. But, remember, not till then.

A. B. — You say other nations had their symbols. What do you
mean by these?

Col. — I mean that the naturalized had to submit to some emblem-
atic rite, by which they were symbolically detached from every other
people, and introduced among those who adopted them, and whom
they adopted. The Indian nations wash all, whom they adopt, in a
running stream; and impose this task upon their females. The Jews


circumcised aud waslied all whom they admitted to the rights of their
institutions. Other customs and forms have obtained in other
nations; but we regard simply the meaning of the thing, and have
no symbol.

A. B. — In this I feel but little interested.- I wish to become a
citizen of these United States; especially as I am informed I can
have no inheritance among you, nor a voice in the nation, nor any
immunity, unless I am born again.

Col. — You must, then, submit to the institution: and I know, that
so soon as you are politically born again, you will feel more of the
importance and utility of this institution, than you now can; and
will be just as anxious as I am, to see others submit to this wisf.
wholesome, and benevolent institution.

A. B. — As my faith brought me to your shores; and as I approve
your constitution and government, I will not (now that I understand
your institutions) suffer an opportunity to pass. I will direct my
course to tha place where I can be born again.

I ought here to offer an apology for a phrase occurring frequently
in this essay and in this dialogue. When we represent the subject of
immersion as active, either in so many words, or impliedly, we so
far depart from that style whix;h comports with the figure of
"being born." For all persons are passive in being born. So in
immersion, the subject buries not himself, raises not himself; but
is buried and raised by another. So that in the act the subject
is always passive. And it is of th.e act alone of which we llius

From all that has been said on regeneration, and from the illus-
tration just now adduced, the following conclusions, must, we think,
be apparent to all: —

1. Begetting and quickening necessarily precede being bom.

2. Being born imparts no new life; but is simply a change of state,
and introduces into a new mode of living.

3. Regeneration, or immersion — the former referring to the import
of the act; and the latter term to the act itself — denote only the act
of being bom.

4. God, or the Spirit of God, being the author of the whole insti-
tution, imparting to it its life and efficiency, is the begetter, in the
fullest sense of that term. Yet, in a subordinate sense, every one,
skilful in the word of God, who converts anothef, may be said to
have begotten him whom he enlightens. So Paul says, "I have begot-
ten Onesimus in my bonds:" — and "I have begotten you, Corinthians,
through the gospel."

5. The gospel is declared to l)e the seed: the power and strength
of the Holy Spirit to impart life.


6. And the great argument, pertinent to our object, in this long
examination of conversion and regeneration, is that which we con-
ceive to be the most apparent of all other conclusions, viz.: — that
remission of sins, or coming" into a state of acceptance, being one Of
the present immunities of the kingdom of heaven, can not be enjoyed
by any person before immersion. As soon can a person be a citizen
before he is born, or have the immunities of an American citizen
while an alien; as one enjoy the privileges of a son of God before he
is born again. For Jesus expressly declares, that he has not given
the privilege of sons to any but to those born of God. (John i. 12.)
If, then, the present forgiveness of sins be a privilege, and a right
of those under the new constitution, in the kingdom of Jesus; and if
being born again, or being born of water and of the Spirit, is neces-
sary to admission; and if being born of water means immersion, as
clearly proved by all witnesses; then, remission of sins can not. In
this life, be received or enjoyed previous to immersion. If there be
any proposition, regarding any item of the Christian institution,
which admits of clearer proof, or fuller illustration than this one, I
have yet to learn where it may be found.

But before we dismiss the fifth evidence, which embraces so many
items, I beg leave to make a remark or two on the propriety of con-
sidering the term "immersion," as equivalent to the term "conver-
sion." And this I do with special reference to the objection of

"Conversion" is, on all sides, understood to be a turning to God.
Not a thinking favorably of God, nor a repenting for former misdeeds,
but an actual turning to God, in word and in deed. It is true, that no
person can be said to turn to God, whose mind is not enlightened,
and whose heart is not well disposed towards God. All human actions,
not resulting from previous thought or determination, are rather the
actions of a machine, than the actions of a rational being. "He that
comes to God," or turns to him, "must believe that God exists, and
that he is a rewarder of every one who diligently seeks him." Then
he will seek and find the Lord. An "external conversion" is no con-
version at all. A turning to God with the lips, while the heart is far
from him, is mere pretense and mockery. But though I never thought
any thing else, since I thought upon religion; I understand the
"turning to God, taught in the New Institution, to be a coming to tha
Lord Jesus — not a thinking about doing it, nor a repenting that we
have not done it; — but an actual coming to him. The question then
is. Where shall we find him? Where shall we meet him? Nowhere
on earth, but in his institutions. "Where he records his name," there
only can he be found; for there only has he promised to be found.
I affirm, then, that the first institution in which we can meet with


God, is, tlie institution lor remission. And here it is worthy of notice,
that the Aiwstles, in all their speeches, and replies to interrogatories,
never commanded an inquirer to pray, read, or sing, as preliminary
to coming; but always commanded and proclaimed immersion as the
first duty, or the first thing to he done, after a belief of the testimony.
Hence, neither praying, singing, reading, repenting, sorrowing, re-
solving, nor waiting to be better, was the converting act. Immersion
alone was that act of turning to God. Hence, in the commission to con-
vert the nations, the only institution mentioned after proclaiming
the gospel, was the immersion of the believers, as the divinity au-
thorized way of carrying out and completing the work. And from the
day of Pentecost, to the final A7nen in the revelation of Jesus Christ, no
person was said to be converted, or to turn to God, until he was bur-
ied in, and raised up out of the water. I call upon them who dissent,
to specify an instance to the contrary.

If it were not to treat this subject as one of doubtful disputation,
I would say; that, had there not been some act, such as Immersion,
agreed on all hands, to be the medium of remission and the act of con-
version and regeneration; the Apostles could not, with any regard to
truth or consistency, have addressed the disciples as pardoned, justi-
fied, sanctified, reconciled, adopted, and saved persons. If all this had
depended upon some mental change, as faith; they could never have
addressed their congregations in any other w^ay than as the modems
do: and that is always in the language of doubt and uncertainty —
hoping a little, and fearing much. This mode of address and the mod-
ern compared, is proof positive that they viewed the immersed through
one medium, and we through another. They taught all the disciples
to consider not only themselves as saved persons; but all whom they
saw or knew to be immersed into the Lord Jesus. They saluted every
one, on his coming out of the water, as sorer?, and recorded him as
such. Luke writes. (Acts ii.,) "The Lord added the saved daily to
the congregation."

Whenever a child is bom into a family, it is a brother or sister to
all the other children of the family: and its being born of the same
parents, is the act causative and declarative in its fraternity. All is
mental and invisible before coming out of the water: and as immersion
is the first act commanded, and the first constitutional act; so it was in
the commission, the act by which the Apostles were commanded to
turn, or convert those to God, who believed their testimony. In this
sense, then, is the converting act. No man can. Scripturally. be said to
be converted to God until he is immersed. How ecclesiastics Interpret
their own language is no concern of ours. We contend for the pure
speech, and for the apostolic ideas attached to it.*

• I must roqnost 'Rio. Kt'olinp t<i imMisli this, my reply, to Christianas, beginning on
pntfc 10. tliii-il i)iira>;i-ii]>li, ami iiidinj; Iutc.


To resume the direct testimonies declarative of the remission of
sins by immersion, we turn to the Gentiles. Peter was sent to the
house of Cornelius to tell him and his family "words by which they
might be saved." He tells these words. He was interrupted by the
miraculous descent of the Holy Spirit. But it is to be noticed, that the
testimony to which the Holy Spirit there affixed his seal, was the fol-
lowing words: — "To him gave all the prophets witness, that every one,
who believes on him, shall receive remission of sins iy his name.''
While speaking these words, concerning remission of sins by, or
through, his name, the Holy Spirit, in its marvelous gifts of tongnes,
fall upon them.

Many, seeing so much stress laid upon faith or belief, suppose that
all blessings flow from it immediately. This is a great mistake.
Faith, indeed, is the principle, and the distinguishing principle, of
this economy. But it is only the principle of action. Hence, we find
the name, or person of Christ always interposed between faith and the
cure, mental or corporeal. The woman, who touched the tuft of the
mantle of Jesus, had as much faith before as after; but though her
faith was the cause of her putting forth her hand, and accompanied it;
she icas not cured until the touch. That great type of Christ, the
brazen serpent, cured no Israelite simply by faith. The Israelites, as
soon as they were bitten, believed it would cure them. But yet they
were not cured as soon as they were bitten; nor until they looked to
the serpent. It was one thing to believei, that looking at the serpent
would cure them; and another to look at it. It was the faith, remotely;
but, immediately, the look, which cured them. It was not faith in the
waters of Jordan that healed the leprosy of Naaman the Syrian. It
was immersing himself in it, according to the commandment. It was
not faith in the pool of Siloam, that cured the blind man, whose eyes
Jesus anointed with clay; it was his washing his eyes in Siloam'3
water. Hence the imposition of hands, or a word, or a touch, or the
shadow, or something from the persons of those anointed with the
Holy Spirit, was the immediate cause of all the cures recorded in the
New Testament. 'Tis true, also, that without it it is impossible to be
healed; for in some places Jesus could not work many miracles, be-
cause of their unbelief. It is so in all the moral remedies and cures.
It is impossible to receive the remission of sins without faith. In.
this world of means, (however it may be in the world where there are
no means,) it is as impossible to receive any blessing through faith
without the appointed means. Both are indispensable. Hence, thJ
name of the Lord Jesus is interposed between faith and forgiveness,
justification and sanctification, even where immersion into that name
is not detailed. It would have been unprecedented in the annals of
the world, for the historian always to have recorded all the circum-


stances of the same institution, on every allusion to it; and it would
have been equally so for the Apostles to have mentioned it always
in the same words. Thus, in the passage before us, the name of
the Lord is only mentioned. So in the first letter to the Corinthians,
the disciples are represented as saved, as washed, as justified, sanc-
tified ly the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
The frequent interposition of the name of the Lx>rd between faith
and forgiveness, justification, sanctification, etc., is explained in a
remark in James' speech in Jerusalem. (Acts xv. 17.) It is the
application of an ancient prophecy, concerning the conversion of the
Gentiles. The Gentiles are spolcen of as turning to, or seelcing th3
Lord. But who of them are thus converted? "Even all the Gen-
tiles upon whom my name is called." It is, then, to those upon
whom the name of the Lord is called, that the name of the Lord
communicates remission, justification, etc.

Some captious spirits need to be reminded, that as they some-
times find forgiveness, justification, sanctification, etc., ascribed to
grace, to the blood of Christ, to the name of the Lord, without an
allusion to faith; so we sometimes find faith, and grace, and the
blood of Christ without an allusion to water. Now, if they have
any reason, or right to say, that faith is understood in the one case;
we have the same reason and right to say, that water or immersion
is understood in the other. For their argument is, that in sundry
places this matter is made plain enough. This is, also, our argu-
ment — in, sundry places this matter is made plain enough. This
single remark cuts off all their objections drawn from the fact, that
immersion is not always found in every place where the name bf
the Lord, or faith is found connected with forgiveness. Neither is
grace, the blood of Christ, nor faith, always mentioned with forgive-
ness. When they find a passage where remission of sins is men-
tioned without immersion, it is weak, or unfair, in the extreme, to
argue from that, that forgiveness can be enjoyed without immersion.
Ik their logic be worth anything, it will prove that a man Mav
be forgiven without grace, the blood of jesus, and without faith:
for we can find passages, many passages, where remission, or
justification, sanctification, or some similar term occurs, and no
mention of either (irack, faith, or the hi.ood of jesus.

As this is the pith, the marrow, and fatness of all the logic of our
most ingenious opponents on this subject, I wish I could make it more
emphatic, than by printing it in capitals. I know some editors, soma
of our Doctors of Divinity, some of our most learned declaimers. who
make this argument, which wp unhesitatingly call a genuine sophism,
the Alpha and the Omega of their speeches against the meaning, and
indispensable Importance of immersion, or regeneration.


The New Testament would have been a curious book, if, every
time remission of sins was mentioned, or alluded to, it had been
preceded by grace, faith, the blood of Jesus, immersion, etc., etc. But
now the question comes, which, to the rational, is the emphatic ques-

women, and children, of common sense, this question is submitted.

It is, however, to me admirable, that the remission of sins should
be, not merely unequivocally, but so repeatedly declared through
immersion, as it. is in the apostolic writings. And here I would ask
the whole thinking community, one by one, whether, if the whole race
of men had been assembled on Pentecost, or in Solomon's Portico, and
had asked Peter the same question, which the convicted proposed,
would he, or would he not, have given them the same answer? Would
he not have told the whole race to reform, and be immersed for the

Online LibraryAlexander CampbellThe Millennial Harbinger abridged (Volume 1) → online text (page 65 of 70)