I first posted the following quotes in April of last year. As I read them again this morning I was compelled to publish them again. They represent the heart of good, godly men, and the heart of the foundation of the Restoration Movement. I can only imagine what angst these good men would know if they could see one group of church of Christ folks branding another group “lost” because of how they worship God. And just as dissapointing, the common teaching that only church of Christ folks are saved.
After carefully reading the following quotes, a few things come to mind. First, these men, like you and me, were not infallible. Each of them spoke for themselves, and none of them should be given the level of trust we give God’s word. However, these statements were made by good, proven men, who refelct lives given completely to God and to the good news about Jesus. The point of this post is not an attempt to make a case for a particular doctrine, or for or against a coC distinctive. My purpose is to remind by dear friends and brothers that when we appeal to the history and tradition of the Resotration Movement for some of what divides us we are sorely wrong.
The fathers speak:
THOMAS CAMPBELL wrote: “We speak to all our Christian brethren, however diversified by professional epithets, those accidental distinctions which have happily and unscripturally diversified the professing world. By our Christian brethren, then, we mean . . . ‘All that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, throughout the churches.’ ” (Millennial Harbinger, Series 1, May 1844, p. 199.)
ALEXANDER CAMPBELL wrote: “But who is a Christian? I answer, every one that believes in his heart that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Son of God; repents of his sins, and obeys him in all things according to his measure of knowledge of his will. . . . I cannot make any one duty the standard of Christian state or character, not even immersion into the name of Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and [cannot] in my heart regard all that have been sprinkled in infancy without their own knowledge and consent, as aliens from Christ and the well-grounded hope of heaven. Should I find a Pedobaptist [one baptized as an infant] more intelligent in the Christian Scriptures, more spiritually-minded and more devoted to the Lord than a Baptist, or one immersed on a profession of the ancient faith, I could not hesitate a moment in giving the preference of my heart to him that loveth most. Did I act otherwise, I would be a pure sectarian, a Pharisee among Christians.” (Millennial Harbinger, 1837, p. 411-412.)
Again, ALEXANDER CAMPBELL wrote: “The case is this: When I see a person who would die for Christ: whose brotherly kindness, sympathy, and active benevolence knows no bounds but his circumstances: whose seat in the Christian assembly is never empty; whose inward piety and devotion are attested by punctual obedience to every known duty; whose family is educated in the fear of the Lord; whose constant companion is the Bible; I say, when I see such a one ranked amongst heathen men and publicans, because he never happened to inquire, but always took it for granted that he had been scripturally baptized, and that [ranking] too, by one greatly destitute of all these public and private virtues, whose chief or exclusive recommendation is that he has been immersed, and that he holds a scriptural theory of the gospel, I feel no disposition to flatter such a one, but rather to disabuse him of his error. And while I would not lead the most excellent professor in any sect to disparage the least of all the commandments of Jesus, I would say to my immersed brother as Paul said to his Jewish brother who gloried in a system which he did not adorn: ‘Sir, will not his uncircumcision, or unbaptism, be counted to him for baptism? and will he not condemn you, who, though having the literal and true baptism, yet dost transgress or neglect the statues of your King?’” (Millennial Harbinger, 1837, p. 565.)
BARTON W. STONE wrote: “My opinion is that immersion is the only baptism. But shall I therefore make my opinion a term of Christian fellowship? If in this case I thus act, where shall I cease from making my opinions terms of fellowship? I confess I see no end. . . . Let us still acknowledge all to be brethren, who believe in the Lord Jesus, and humbly and honestly obey him, as far as they know his will, and their duty.” (Christian Messenger, 1831, p. 19, 21.)
WALTER SCOTT wrote: “Christians who have not been baptized for the remission of their sins! Strange! Whoever read of such Christians in God’s Word? But the times are peculiar, and as faith does purify the life of a man, and as the man of pure life and pure heart is accepted of God and may receive the Spirit, therefore we must allow, that there are now a days Christians in heart and life who have not been baptized for the remission of their sins. What evidences, then, have they for themselves and others, that they are possessed of the Spirit? None but the moral graces which have already been quoted, viz: love, joy etc.; they don’t need to depend upon an opinion; they feel within themselves and show to those without them by their fruits, that they have been made partakers of the Spirit of Christ.” (The Evangelist, No. 2, Vol. 2, Feb 4, 1833, p. 49.)
ISAAC ERRETT wrote: “There are myriads of godly people, who are in error on baptism, of whom, nevertheless, we are compelled to say, ‘They are not of the world.’ To urge against these a strict and literal application of passages which are meant to mark the distinction between the church and the world, and thus to attempt to thrust them out from our Christian love, among heathens and reprobates, is, in our view, a grievous wrong. As it is a question growing out of the times — a question not directly known in form in the Scriptures, it must be settled in the light of well-established Christian principles, and not by a severly literal construction of Scripture language, spoken with reference to other classes of persons, and another condition of things.
The saints were carried captive into Babylon and remained there a long time. The church lost her primitive purity and excellency. . . . Yet God had a people in Babylon. . . . Now our good brethren may be able to prove to their own satisfaction that all these people of God in Babylon were immersed believers; and they may point, here and there, to bands of religionists, who kept up a protest against the corruptions of Rome. But it strikes us that a people could not come out of Babylon who were not in Babylon; and immersed believers, walking in the light, would have been hard to find within Babylon’s limits! But there was a people of God in Babylon. We incline to the opinion that most of them were unimmersed. They were in many respects an erring people — in regard to baptism they certainly were in great error; but they ‘feared God and wrought righteousness’ and, — what seems as great a stumbling block to many good men now as it was to Peter, until the trammels of sectarianism were knocked off — ‘in every nation, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted with him.’” (Millennial Harbinger, 1862, p.120.)