Alexander Campbell Fellowship or Sectarianism

Alexander Campbell on Fellowship and Sectarianism: they could not make any compromise with the corrupt systems and practices of the day, and were prevented by their principles from recognizing fraternally any one who had not publicly complied with the requisitions of the gospel.

The largest group of sectarians at the heart of sectarianism are those who would deprive the crows of the right to "flock together" with birds of their feather, or psychologically intimidate you to begin roosting with all of the turkeys.

Right now, Joe Beam gets our attention for misunderstanding "washing of hands" to implicate people as Pharisees. He also identifies the "sectarians" of the church of Christ who will not affirm others as Zealots while those who see the need for a living church are innovators. It might be noted that Pharisee means primarily two things: professionalism and the assumed right to "change the laws" to innovate "contemporary" religion to be more successful.


Among the "scholars" there is a need to see the leaders of the Restoration Movement as totally ecumenical. On the other hand, from the 30s to the 50s, according to Joe Beam, the churches of Christ became exclusive and therefore sectarian, freezing in place faith and practice based solely upon traditionalism.

Of the two main practices of churches of Christ, baptism and the non use of instrumental music, these are ususally said to based on pure tradition. However, that is not a fact.

Clement of Alexandria Pedagogue I, Chapter IV

b. AD 150, Athens
d. between 211 and 215

The same also takes place in our case, whose exemplar Christ became. Being baptized, we are illuminated; illuminated, we become sons; being made sons, we are made perfect; being made perfect, we are made immortal. "I," says He, "have said that ye are gods, and all sons of the Highest." Ps. lxxxii. 6. "

This work is variously called grace, and illumination, and perfection, and washing:

washing, by which we cleanse away our sins;

grace, by which the penalties accruing to transgressions are remitted; and

illumination, by which that holy light of salvation is beheld, that is,

by which we see God clearly.

And since knowledge springs up with illumination, shedding its beams around the mind,

the moment we hear, we who were untaught become disciples.

Does this, I ask, take place on the advent of this instruction? You cannot tell the time.

For instruction leads to faith, and faith with baptism is trained by the Holy Spirit.

For that faith is the one universal salvation of humanity, and that there is the same equality before the righteous and loving God,

and the same fellowship between Him and all, the apostle most clearly showed, speaking to the following effect: "Before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed, so that the law became our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith; but after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster."

Nor is it a fact that Alexander Campbell broke rank with all historical people in assuming the religious freedon--especially in America--to be able to freely assembly with friends and family. Conversely, all have violently repudiated the assumed dictatorial right to force one religious group to assembl with and fellowship another group. It was not sectarianism not to do so.

The urge to use psychological force to create guilt feelings over free association is one of the oldest urges of the ecumenical sectarians.

Richardson notes that:

"Alexander Campbell thought much of some things in the writings of John Walker, from whose "Address to the Methodists in Ireland."

He noted of Walker that:

"4. It is no part of the work of grace to mend the corrupt nature. That nature is as bad, as wholly evil, in a believer as in an unbeliever; as bad in the most established believer as in the wickedest; as bad in Paul the apostle, just finishing his course and ready to receive the crown of righteousness, as in Saul of Tarsus, a blasphemer and a persecutor of the Church of Christ.

This should prove to the antisectarian sect that the name "church of Christ" was not invented in the 20th century to define a new, exclusive group. We have added further proof, beginning in the Bible, that the Bride of Christ wears the name of the church of Christ. It is also a fact that by trying to scuttle the Restoration Movement by organizing an oversight and financially missionary society to regulate preacher assignment and doctrine was not done by the churches of Christ. Nor, did the totally-radical addition of instrumental music to "aid" the worship begin with churches of Christ. Therefore, those who innovate and improvize are the sectarian sect builders.

"For a time, Mr. Walker had sympathized with the Haldanean movement; but, adopting peculiar notions of separatism, and refusing to hold religious fellowship even in appearance with those who differed from him, he established an impassable barrier between the few followers he here and there obtained, and all the surrounding religious bodies.3

3 Of those who adopted Mr. Walker's views, there were a few in the neighborhood of Newry, who, in after years, used to meet occasionally in that place. Mr. Ross of Rosstrevor, successor of General Ross, was one of them, and, being a public man, was accustomed on such occasions to deliver a religious address to the people.

But at these meetings there were no public exercises, such as prayer or singing, by uniting in which any of the audience could assume even the appearance of religious fellowship.

It may readily be supposed, that a course of this kind, to which the divided and distracted state of religious society could alone have given origin, had the effect of greatly limiting the progress of Mr. Walker's opinions. [447]

Therefore, the modern church of Christ of the 30s to 50s did not invent the idea of worshiping only with those agreeable to them.

In fact, Alexander and Thomas Campbell detested the sectarianism of other groups which presumed to authorize who could or could not take the Lord's Supper.

C H A P T E R   X V I I.

Religious Speculation and Dictation--Partyism--New Acquaintances--Marriage--Church Organization--First Baptisms--Scripture Themes.

THE concealments of the Bible are as Divine as its revelations. Infinite wisdom was required as much to determine of what man should be ignorant as what man should know.

Indeed, since, in regard to all matters connected with the unseen spiritual world, man is entirely dependent upon Divine revelation, the limits of that revelation must necessarily mark out also the domain of human ignorance, as the shores of a continent become the boundaries of a trackless and unfathomed ocean.

Hence it is, that the silence of the Bible is to be reverenced equally with its teachings, and that to intrude into things not seen and not revealed, evinces the vanity of a fleshly mind as much as to misinterpret and pervert the express statements of the Scriptures.

Unfortunately, both of these errors had prevailed in religious society, which was not content with either the reticence or the teachings of the Bible,

but had presumed to supply the former by speculations upon the eternal decrees of God, the Trinity, the Divine nature, the future destiny of mankind, etc.;

and to substitute for the latter, the commentaries of party leaders and the decisions of councils or other ecclesiastical tribunals.

Against this latter usurpation of Divine authority, where men had assumed to regulate [351] the faith and practice of the Church, eminent reformers had, indeed, from age to age, remonstrated.

Unfortunately, however, while endeavoring to correct this error, and to reinstate the Scripture in its proper position as an infallible and Divine revelation, too little attention was paid to the fact that

this revelation had its appointed limits, and these reformers themselves presumed to transcend these boundaries, and to superadd their own opinions and speculations about questions of which the Scriptures do not treat.

There was, therefore, a necessity for both the specifications in the principle which Thomas Campbell had adopted, "where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent," as it was not merely necessary to take Divine revelation as a guide, but equally so to prohibit the addition and admixture of human opinions.

It was this last point particularly, viz.: that the silence of the Scriptures is to be respected equally with its teachings,

that was almost peculiar to the reformation urged by Mr. Campbell, and continued to be one of its most important and characteristic traits.

Unfortunately, this is a false view but nevertheless one of the principle dogmas of the anti church of Christ sectarians. The law of silence is a clearly-taught Biblical principle and was honored at least theoretically down through the ages. Just as false is the claim that "commands, examples and inferences" was a uniquely but ignorant dogma of thomas Campbell and Alexander Campbell. Click fo evidence.

Clement of Alexandria Pedagogue I, Chapter III

b. AD 150, Athens
d. between 211 and 215

But what is loveable, and is not also loved by Him? And man has been proved to be loveable; consequently man is loved by God. For how shall he not be loved for whose sake the only-begotten Son is sent from the Father's bosom, the Word of faith, the faith which is superabundant; the Lord Himself distinctly confessing and saying, "For the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me; " { John xvi. 27} and again, "And hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me? ( John xvii. 23.)

What, then, the Master desires and declares, and

how He is disposed in deed and word,

how He commands what is to be done, and forbids the opposite, has already been shown.

Plainly, then, the other kind of discourse, the didactic, is powerful and spiritual, observing precision, occupied in the contemplation of mysteries.

But let it stand over for the present.

Now, it is incumbent on us to return His love, who lovingly guides us to that life which is best;

and to live in accordance with the injunctions of His will,

not only fulfilling what is commanded,
or guarding against what is forbidden,

but turning away from some examples, and imitating others as much as we can, and thus to perform the works of the Master according to His similitude,

and so fulfil what Scripture says as to our being made in His image and likeness.

For, wandering in life as in deep darkness, we need a guide that cannot stumble or stray; and our guide is the best, not blind, as the Scripture says, "leading the blind into pits." (Matt. xv. 14)

But the Word is keen-sighted, and scans the recesses of the heart. As, then, that is not light which enlightens not, nor motion that moves not, nor loving which loves not, so neither is that good which profits not, nor guides to salvation.

Let us then aim at the fulfilment of the commandments by the works of the Lord; for the Word Himself also, having openly become flesh, (John i. 14.) exhibited the same virtue, both practical and contemplative.

Wherefore let us regard the Word as law, and His commands and counsels as the short and straight paths to immortality; for His precepts are full of persuasion, not of fear.

As it was the distinguishing error of Romanism to presume to dictate the faith and regulate the ordinances of the Church, irrespective of the teaching of the Scriptures;

so the chief mistake of Protestantism consisted in substituting for the silence of the Bible human opinions and speculative theories.

The great principle urged by Thomas Campbell, which demanded implicit faith in express revelation alone and an acknowledged or explicit ignorance in regard to all untaught questions, brought, therefore, those who adopted it into direct antagonism with the entire religious world.

Accordingly, with perhaps the exception of the churches established by the Haldanes and a few other small [352] independent bodies of reformers, who had, in various parts of Europe and America,

been led to take the Bible alone as a guide,

there was not any religious denomination whatever, known to them, with which the reformers could consistently have established a real and fraternal union.

Whatever confidence they might have in the faith and piety of many of the individuals composing a party,

they could have none in the party itself or in the system upon which it was maintained,

and could not therefore, by uniting, give their sanction to those divisive principles which it was their chief purpose to subvert.

On the other hand, it is obvious that no party desiring to continue such, and comprehending the sweeping character of the great fundamental principle adopted by Thomas Campbell,

could, consistently with its own security, receive the reformers into religious fellowship. [That included rejecting the trinity and the continuing priesthood in protestant churches.]

"Am I asked," said Alexander Campbell about this period (in an address after sermon at the house of Mr. Buchanan), in order to anticipate certain objections, "why I am not a party man? or why I do not join some party?

I ask, in return, Which party would the Apostle Paul join if now on earth? Or, in other words, which party would receive him?

I dare not be a party man for these reasons:

"1. Because Christ has forbidden me. He has commanded us to keep the 'unity of the spirit;' to be 'of one mind and of one judgment;' to 'love each other with a pure heart fervently,' and to 'call no man master' on earth.

"2. Because no party will receive into communion all whom God would receive into heaven.

God loves his children more than our creeds, and man was not made for the Bible, but the Bible for man.

But if I am [353] asked by a partisan, Could you not join us and let these things alone? I answer, no, because--

"3. The man that promotes the interests of a party stands next in guilt to the man that made it.

The man that puts the second stone on a building is as instrumental in its erection as the man that laid the first.

He that supports a party bids the party God speed; and he that bids them God speed is a partaker of their evil deeds.

"4. Because all parties oppose reformation. They all pray for it, but they will not work for it.

None of them dare return to the original standard. I speak not against any denomination in particular, but against all.

I speak not against any system of truth, but against all except the Bible. 'Hold fast the form of sound words' condemns them all.

It is a doleful truth, that the very persons who ought to have advocated reformation, always opposed it. See the History of the Christian Church, and Matthew xxiii.

When I consider what Paul and thousands of others suffered for a good conscience, I would do so too. I desire to fight for 'the faith once delivered to the saints.' I like the bold Christian hero."

Such, at this period, were the noble and decided utterances of Alexander Campbell in relation to partyism and to his own convictions of religious duty; and such were the feelings which he and those associated with him then entertained in reference to these sad defections from primitive precept and example.

Such. too, were the views which they labored to impress upon the religious community as opportunity was afforded.

Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, Volume I. Robert Richardson

C H A P T E R   X X. (1811-1813)

Spirit of Persecution--Sabbath-keeping--Union with Baptists--Home-labors--Discussion on Religious Fellowship.

Mr. Campbell himself seems, during the winter of 1812, to have given some consideration to this question of religious fellowship, and as he was then carrying on the correspondence, already spoken of, with his father upon various topics,

he took occasion to introduce for discussion the position which believers occupy in relation to unbelievers in social or public religious exercises. Under date of February 26, 1812, he submits to his father the following queries:

"1. What is prayer, and how many kinds are there?

2. Is it scriptural and lawful for believers and unbelievers formally to join in prayer and praise as acts of religious worship? The matter to be ascertained is," he remarks,

"The propriety of social acts of religious worship in promiscuous assemblies or in families where some are unbelievers." [447]

After expressing his desire that this matter should be examined impartially, and without paying any respect to such "advantages or disadvantages in a temporal sense as might accrue from this or that practice," he says:

"When I survey the religious world and read the New Testament, the more clearly I am convinced that superstition, enthusiasm, formality and will-worship, prevail to the ruin and disgrace of scriptural and ancient Christianity.

And as truth can never be injured by being examined, to call all doctrines and religious practices, in this generation, in question, appears an immediate and indispensable duty."

After speaking then of the corruptions of Christianity in the perversion of the ordinances of baptism, the Lord's Supper, the Lord's day, preaching, etc.,

he inquires if it is not probable that the ordinances of prayer and praise have likewise been perverted.

"How many disciples of Moses," he exclaims, "are yet to be found in the professed school of Jesus Christ!

and how few among the teachers of the New Testament seem to know that Christ's ministers are not able ministers of the Old Testament, but of the New!

Do they not, like scholars to their teacher, run to Moses to prove forms of worship, ordinances. discipline, and government in the Christian Church, when asked to account for their practice?

On this subject, I think we may rest satisfied, that since the great Prophet has come, whom to refuse or disobey is death, who is a faithful son over his own house, that all worship and forms of worship, ordinances, discipline, and government

belonging to the Christian Church, must be learned exclusively from the New Testament.

And every appeal made to Moses or the prophets to confirm any form of worship, ordinance, or any part of Christian discipline or government

is sending Christ the Son to Moses the servant to be instructed.

It is a perverse impeachment of the wisdom, goodness and care of the Church's head."

Passing, afterward, to the subject of family-worship, he submits to his father the question whether there is [448] scriptural authority for making this observance,

as some had done, a term of communion, and whether it is proper in a family composed in part of unbelievers?

To these inquiries his father replies at considerable length in two letters, dated the 2d and 12th of March, in which he considers particularly this question of religious fellowship:

"That Christianity," he remarks, "in the present profession and practice, is greatly corrupted, is a plain matter of fact.

Whoever will seriously consider the present state of things in the professing world and compare it with the spirit and tenor of the apostolic writings, and with the state of things there exhibited, will plainly perceive, nay, will sensibly feel, a remarkable and striking difference."

Dwelling then upon the gospel as it was first introduced, and as designed to replace all other religions, he continues:

"As the object of this new religion, if I may so call it, which superseded all others, and made them null and void upon its appearance, was the one God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was thus distinguished (see 1 Cor. viii. 5, 6), and only rightly worshiped in and through him

who was indeed one with him and with the Holy Spirit in Divinity,

but distinct from him and Lorded by him as to his relation to humanity, or as the Word made flesh, Acts ii. 36;

so with respect to religious fellowship or relationship, the subjects of this new religion had their respects or religious regards entirely turned to and solely confined to each other,

considering none but themselves as fellow-subjects of the grace of God, or as brethren in religion.

Hence their religious esteem and intercourse in all religious acts and exercises were precisely and necessarily limited to each other,

and of course must of necessity still be the same,

for there is still but one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, and of course but one law of love pervading and uniting all within the manifold limits of this unity and under its manifest influences.

Now every pretence to extend [449] communion in the acts and exercises of religion beyond the limits of this special unity,

as well as every attempt to set it aside, wheresoever manifest by separating or causing to separate those whom God has thus united in himself by his Son Jesus Christ through the Spirit,

in the one baptismal profession of faith and holiness, is no less absurd than anti-scriptural.

These, and these alone, constitute the one visible professing body of our Lord Jesus Christ upon earth, and are the special subjects of all-saving grace and of fellowship in all gospel ordinances, in and by which that grace is manifested, maintained and promoted.

"Now all are, in the first instance, manifested and distinguished by the one faith, of which the one baptism or submersion in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is the proper, instituted and expressive symbol,

and also the first formal and comprehensive act of the obedience of faith.

But this faith may be manifested without this baptism, and where it is received must always be manifested (I mean by a scriptural and intelligent profession) before it.

And now that the world has for a long time been misled about this baptism, and in the way of administering it to children, which are utterly incapable and always unqualified subjects--the one faith,

manifested by an intelligent and consistent profession, is the immediate, proper, and formal reason of religious communion in all the instituted ordinances of gospel worship,

beyond which it cannot be lawfully or profitably extended;

and this instituted worship can be nowhere performed upon the Lord's day,

where the Lord's Supper is not administered. Wherever this is neglected, there New Testament Church-worship ceases.   *

"Now as all private and particular meetings of Christians for particular purposes, naturally and properly include only such as are concerned in the proper and specified cause of such meetings,

therefore none but they can have any proper or assignable cause of access to such meetings,

and as the public meetings of the Church for edification are open to all (see 1 Cor. xiv. 23, 24, 25),

there can be, therefore, no [450] prostitution of religious exercises by the accidental presence of unbelievers, [they do not by their presence invalidate the worship]

seeing they are not intentionally as members, or as the proper and qualified subjects of such exercises, although they may happen to be present, and also to be convinced and converted by the appointed means of public edification.

And, as for the Lord's Supper, which only respects disciples, and to which none else have right of access but only such, it belongs so peculiarly to the church and to it alone, that it would appear that none else but disciples had access to the meetings which were held for this particular purpose;

so that there was no need for tokens to distinguish church members from strangers who belong not to the church; and, indeed, it would be hard to conceive under what pretence such could be admitted.   *     *     *     *

"Upon the whole, it appears that the Christians had their public, their special and their private or particular meetings--their public meetings for public edification, their special meetings for special edification, and their more private or particular meetings pro re nata.   *     *     *     *  

But all the while, it is as obvious as the light that shines, that professed believers, acknowledged Christians, and none but they, are the proper, intended and specified subjects of all religious communion and fellowship in all the ordinances of gospel worship,

nor can they scripturally intend, much less extend, that communion beyond themselves or those of their own number. See 2 Cor. vi. 14-18.

Though they may and will consult and intend the conversion and salvation of their perishing fellow-creatures by the means appointed for that purpose in their public meetings. See 1 Cor. xiv. 23-25. Thus far concerns the order, intention and proper subjects of the ordinances of gospel worship, public, special and particular.

"The next question that occurs upon this interesting and important subject, is like that of the Pharisee of old:

'Who is my neighbor, my brother in religion, the qualified object of my regard, my fellow-Christian?'

"In attempting to answer this, I would cautiously avoid the Pharisaic self-preferring disposition, and therefore would reply, [451]

in the first instance, any fellow-sinner of the human race, how vile soever he may have been, who makes an intelligent profession of the truth as it is in Jesus, as comprehensively specified in the eighth proposition of the overture in our Address;

and so long as he continues to manifest the reality of his profession by his temper and conduct, still to consider him in the same light.

Than the above, I know no other distinction between mankind with respect to salvation, and this, while I believe the Scriptures, I must believe to be the only and all-sufficient ground for Christian love, and therefore I must heartily acquiesce in what is declared in the ninth proposition.

This, however, may be thought at first view to be a very generalizing principle;

I could wish with all my heart that it was, that it would embrace the whole Christian--I mean professing--world;

but upon a close inspection and strict application, I fear it will be found to embrace but comparatively few--yea, very few--of the great majority of the religious professors.

Do they, or can they all, indeed, upon a close examination, manifest a conviction by the word and truth of God that they are originally and actually in the awful, woeful, lost and perishing condition in which the word and truth of God declares them to be?

And in connection with this, such a scriptural view of the person and mediation of Jesus Christ as both satisfies God and the convinced conscience, gives rest and peace to the heart from the just apprehension of impending wrath, and disposes the soul to the holy obedience of faith and love?

Do they or can they profess such faith, such hope and such love upon the good, assignable scriptural reasons with which a true knowledge and belief of the Divine testimony furnishes every mind that truly understands and believes it? I fear not;

and I would say that, without this clearly and scripturally ascertained in connection with a corresponding practice (in so far as practice can be taken into consideration Under the various circumstances in which the various applicants may be found), there is no just scriptural ground of religious fellowship.   *     *     *

"In order, then, to direct and determine our practice in [452] existing circumstances, when all the world are called Christians, and the great majority seem to persuade themselves that they are so in some sense, and therefore are in a condition with respect to Christ and salvation vastly different from the heathen world, both as to persons and circumstances,

we believe, as we have a right to hope, that there are Christians in all the denominations of professors where the great fundamental truths of the gospel are acknowledged,

although we have no reason to believe that the majority of professors are such.

Therefore, when any number of persons assemble on the Lord's day for the avowed purpose of public worship, there we may reasonably hope that there are some believers, and however this be, the persons thus assembling, in so far avow themselves to be voluntary subjects of the gospel dispensation;

nor is it our place to determine, what in many cases we cannot,

who of them are or are not Christians, or whether or not they may not be all so, seeing that in the point of view in which they present themselves to our considerations, as also in the course of the service,

they manifest themselves to partake with us in the acts of religious worship.

There can be no doubt, then, in such a case, but we are to consider and address them as the professed worshipers of the true God through Jesus Christ.

I do not say as unfeigned and believing worshipers, for, even in the most perfect Church, we would scarcely be justifiable in considering all as such.

This conclusion proceeds upon the supposition that Christ has a people amongst the visible professors of his name, and that these may be expected to be found where the great fundamental truths of the gospel are publicly professed; nay, that wheresoever this is the case, there the professors, if sincere, of course must be his people.

But this, as I said above, is scarcely to be expected in the most perfect Church that ever did or shall exist.

See the seven Epistles to the seven Asiatic Churches. Moreover, every irregularity, error or mistake does not unpeople a professing people.

Therefore I conclude that where we bear an open faithful testimony against the existing evils of a professing people who acknowledge the [453] great fundamental truths of the gospel,

we are warranted to join in all public acts of religious worship with such of them as voluntarily attend upon our ministrations,

and thus countenance our instructions both by their voluntary attendance and manifest concurrence with us in those religious acts."   *     *     *     *

Such were the sentiments of Thomas Campbell upon the subject of religious fellowship in March, 1811, and in these his son Alexander substantially agreed. When, about three months after the above correspondence,

the church at Brush Run became a body of immersed believers,

these views became more clearly and sharply defined,

no one being afterward recognized as duly prepared to partake in religious services,

except those who had professed to put on Christ in baptism.

From his lively sense of the prevalent corruptions of the gospel and its institutions, and his conscientious scruples in regard to yielding to these any countenance or toleration,

Mr. Campbell, even down to his later years, would occasionally, amongst private friends, contend strenuously for principles almost as exclusive and rigid as those of Walker.

His benevolent feelings, however; his Christian courtesy and his sympathy for those whom he regarded as sincere but mistaken, did not permit him to carry out such principles.

Both he and his father had great consideration for the unintentional mistakes and errors in which religious society had become involved, and in this feeling, the members of the church at Brush Run, for the most part, participated.

However clear their convictions had become as to the primitive method of confessing Christ, and the primitive faith and order of the Church, they had too fresh a recollection of their own struggles and difficulties in attaining to the views they held,

and too deep a [454] sympathy with the pious but priest-ridden members of other communities,

to refuse to recognize them as being intentionally at least, followers of Christ.

As they could not, however, make any compromise with the corrupt systems and practices of the day,

and were prevented by their principles from recognizing fraternally any one who had not publicly complied with the requisitions of the gospel,

they were necessarily inhibited from inviting any except the actual members of the church to take a part in religious exercises.

This was specially true with regard to the Lord's Supper, which they continued to celebrate weekly, and of which none but baptized believers were invited to partake.

It was not, however, the custom of the church, nor has it ever been that of any of the Churches of the Reformation, to "fence the tables,"

as sectarians express and practice it;

or to withhold the symbols from any pious person who might be present and feel disposed to unite in commemorating the death of Christ. [455]

When people tell you that Thomas and Alexander Campbell would participate with those who increasingly substitute Moses of David for Christ they are mistaken.

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