[By Alexander Campbell, with emphasis added in bold by Scott Shifferd Jr.]
AMONGST all that has been said in this work on the ancient order of things, we do not at present recollect of having received any objections from any quarter against any one position laid down in any essay under this head. We have received numerous communications presenting objections to some articles in this work, but none that we remember against any one item which we have said belonged to the ancient order of things. To what this is owing, I presume not to say. One thing is obvious from the face of this work, that our correspondents are not backward in exhibiting their objections, nor are we very scrupulous about laying them before the public. This silence, then, on this grand chapter of this work, is to be attributed either to a general conviction, or a patient investigation not yet finished, or to an entire apathy on the subject. We would rather ascribe it to either of the former two causes than to the latter.
Before we proceed to any new items under this general head, we shall offer a few remarks on that spirit and temper of mind which was exhibited while as yet the ancient order of things stood uncorrupted, and which it may be presumed must be possessed, and exhibited in order to the restoration of that order.
One of the most infallible signs of true conversion which I know any thing of–and one which the ancient converts generally exhibited–and one which Saul of Tarsus, at the moment of his conversion so eminently displayed, is couched in these words–“Lord, what will you have me to do?” This unfeigned and vehement desire to know the will of the Lord in order to do it, is, in my humble opinion, the surest and most general and comprehensive sign, proof, and pledge of regeneration. The spirit and temperament of the ancient Christians inclined and drew them, as the laws of gravitation do all bodies to the centre of the system, to a most devout conformity to all the institutes of the Prince of Life. They loved his will supremely. Neither fire nor water, famine nor sword, good fame or bad fame prevented them in their obedience. They took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, and loved not their lives unto death rather than renounce their allegiance in any one point to him who died for them. His laws and institutions were all in all to them. No scribe, no rabbi, no Sanhedrim, no human tribunal, no popularity amongst their own people or foreigners, no reproach, no privation could induce them to treat his will with either coolness, indifference, or neglect. They reasoned thus: If Jesus died for us, we owe our lives to him. We are his, and not our own. His will shall be ours. His statutes shall be our choice. Our only concern shall be, “Lord, what will you have us to do?”
Let the spirit, then, of the ancient Christians be restored, and we shall soon see their order of things clearly and fully exhibited. “If the eye be sound the whole body shall be full of light;” and if the heart be right the practice will bear the test of examination. To have the ancient order of things restored in due form, without the spirit or power of that order, would be mere mimicry, which we would rather, and we are assured the primitive saints themselves would rather, never see. The spirit of the present order of things is too much akin to the spirit of this world. It looks with a countenance beaming too much complacency on the pride and vanity, on the tinsel and show, on the equipage and style, on the avarice and ambition, on the guile and hypocrisy of this world. Its supreme petition is not “Lord, what will you have me to do?” but “O you sons of religious fashion! you leaders of religious taste! you synods and councils! you creeds and systems! you mitred heads and patented divines! and you, O Mammon! tell us plainly, tell us fully, what you would have us to do to gain your admiration, and if possible too, to save our souls.” This is not the spirit of all, of any creed or of any party; but this appears the leading and triumphant spirit of the present order of things.
The spirit of the ancient order always looked up to the throne of Jesus, while that of the modern looks around on the smiles of ecclesiastical rulers. The spirit of the ancient derived its joys from the complacency of the Founder of the Faith; the spirit of the modern, from the approbation of the leaders of devotion. The apostles’ doctrine was the food and support of the former, while creeds and commentaries are the nourishment of the latter. The praise of God animated that–the praise of men enlivens this.
May I tell a little of my religious experience, as this is much the fashion now? I will once at least, comply with the will of the religious populars. Well, then, I once loved the praise of men, and thought it would be a great happiness could I so shape my course as to merit the praise of God and the approbation of men. I saw there was a kind of piety the people of fashion in the religious world admired, and I thought that a few small additions to it might make it pass current in both worlds. I set my heart to find it out. I saw but little difference in many sects as respected true piety, but a good deal as respected show and ceremony. I thought that which was most popular might upon the whole be the safest, as it would make sure of one point at all events, and might gain the other too. For there was a John Newton in the church of King Harry and a George Campbell in that of St. Charles. I vacillated here for a time. If I joined the most fashionable and profitable society, and adopted the most genteel order of things, I did not know but that if I were a pretty honest and faithful member, like some of those good Churchmen or Presbyterians, I might chance heaven as well as they, and at all events I would be sure of good entertainment on the road. As yet I felt not the attractions of the love of God; but soon as I was enabled to calculate the import of one question, viz. “What is a man profited if he should gain the whole world and lose his life?” and soon as I understood that it was “a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus the Messiah came into the world to save sinners,” even the chief of sinners, I reasoned on different premises and came to different conclusions. If bought at so dear a rate, and purchased at such an immense price, I found all my faculties, and powers, and means, and opportunities were claimed on principles at which no generous heart could demur. Had I a thousand tongues as eloquent as Gabriel’s and faculties of the most exalted character, ’twere all too little to tell his praise and to exhibit his excellencies to men.
The only question then was, How shall I do this to the most advantage? In attempting to find an answer to this, I found that there was a way already laid down, which, if I adopted and pursued, must lead soonest and safest to this point. It was all comprised in two sentences–Publish in word what he has done, and as his own institutions will reflect the greatest possible honor upon him in this world, let them be fairly exhibited and the end is gained. This chain of thought just led me to the question, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” Now, in attempting to find an answer from his oracles to this petition, I took it for granted that there was no new communication of his will to be expected, but that it must be sought after in the volume. When any act of devotion or item of religious practice presented itself to my view, of which I could learn nothing from my Master’s Last Will and Testament, I simply gave it up; and if I found any thing there, not exhibited by my fellow-Christians, I went into the practice of it, if it was the practice of an individual; and if it was a social act, I attempted to invite others to unite with me in it. Thus I went on correcting my views, and returning to his institutes until I became so speckled a bird that scarce one of any species would cordially consociate with me: but I gained ample remuneration in the pursuit, and got a use of my wings which I never before experienced. Thus too I was led into a secret, which as I received freely, I communicate freely. It is this: There is an ancient and a modern order of things in the Lord’s house. Now I am sure that if all my brethren had only the half of the religious experience I have had upon this subject, they would be doubly in the spirit of this ancient order, and their progress would be geometrically proportioned to what it now is. My friends will forgive me for so much egotism–and my enemies will find fault with me at any rate; so that it is little matter as respects them, what I say or do. In the mean time, however, I cannot conclude without again remarking, that if the spirit of the ancient Christians and of their individual and social conduct was more inquired after, and more cultivated, we should find but little trouble in understanding and displaying the ancient order of things.