|Campbell and the Design of Baptism - Part Two
C. The Formulation of the Ancient Gospel
1. The Christian Baptist from 1823-1827. a. Christian Union. In the April 5, 1824 issue of the Christian Baptist Alexander Campbell penned an article entitled "The Foundation of Hope and of Christian Union." Here, for the first time in the Christian Baptist, he addresses the issue of baptism. He raises the issue in connection with unity and the assurance of hope. His point is summarized in one sentence: "The belief of this ONE FACT, and submission to ONE INSTITUTION expressive of it, is all that is required of Heaven to admission into the church" (p. 177). The one fact is that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah and the one institution is immersion. "Every such person is a christian in the fullest sense of the word, the moment he has believed this one fact, upon the above evidence, and has submitted to the above mentioned institution" (p. 177). This is sufficient for admittance into the visible church, or the church on earth. This, therefore, ought to be the foundation for unity among the sects. Campbell's point here is not an exposition of the design of baptism. Instead, he is setting forth the essentials of unity among Christians in the visible church. Two things are required: belief of one fact and submission to one institution. Campbell has not, in this article, advanced beyond the understanding of baptism set forth in the Maccalla Debate. In fact, Campbell states that the belief of the one fact "can suffice to the salvation of the soul," but the "overt act of baptism" is "sufficient" for entrance into the church if accompanied with faith (p. 177).
b. Christian Religion. In the October and November 1824 issues of the Christian Baptist Thomas Campbell, under the byline "T.W.", wrote a two-part article entitled "Essay on the Religion of Christianity." Campbell divides the Christian Religion into two aspects: internal and external. The internal principle is faith. The external principle is "certain acts and exercises of divine appointment" (i.e., "what is commonly called worship"; p. 62). "The first instituted act of christian worship is baptism into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (p. 62). Here Campbell focuses on the Greek term eis which is translated "into" in the phrase "into the name of the Father," etc. The eis expresses relationship. "Thus a new and blissful relation to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, is publicly recognized towards the believer, by an ordinance divinely and graciously instituted for this purpose" (p. 63). Baptism, then, is the "very first instituted act of obedience, in and by which the believing worshipper is openly declared to be of the household of faith and of the family of God..." (pp. 62-63).
Campbell is again repeating what has been previously said in the Maccalla Debate and reiterating the sentiments of the Errett tract. However, Campbell now sees an "indispensable necessity" of order between faith, baptism and all other acts of worship, including prayer (p. 73). While prayer is certainly the next immediate act of worship after baptism, baptism is a prerequisite for acceptable prayer (or worship in general). Campbell sees this order in Acts 22:16: first, be baptized and wash away sins, and second, call on the name of the Lord. He summarizes his point in this manner (p. 63):
The heart first sprinkled from an evil conscience by faith in the blood of atonement; and next, the body washed with pure water, declarative of the universal sanctification of the whole man, body, soul, and spirit. Then, and not till then, can the believing subject draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, and worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, first having believed and obeyed the gospel.
Several matters of interest are raised here. First, it is important to note that Campbell still argues that the internal exercise of faith is the point at which the heart is sprinkled with blood. Consequently, one has a purified conscience previous to baptism. Second, baptism is a prerequisite for true and acceptable worship of God. "Now, and not till now, can the believing sinner, first sprinkled at the altar, and then washed in the laver, enter into the holy place without fear, as a qualified and acceptable worshipper" (p. 63). This statement must, again, be set in the context of the visible church, and the Campbell's quest for the unity of the church. The visible church, according to Thomas, can only accept immersed believers as "qualified and acceptable" worshippers.
The importance of this position is seen when it is contrasted with the "mourning bench" scenario so common in the early nineteenth century. Campbell decries the fact that many are "indiscriminately urged to pray, as a means of salvation, that they may escape hell, without any immediate respect either to the altar or the laver" (p. 73). The apostolic order was: believe the gospel, be baptized, and then pray. With this order the one who seeks salvation can be assured that he has received it when he is immersed. Instead, the sects seek at the mourner's bench "inward impressions, exercises, and feelings; predicated upon some peculiar inward work of the Spirit, in order to ascertain the regeneration of the subject" (p. 72). Once the sectarian is satisfied with the "feelings" of the subject, then he baptizes him "merely, as an act of obedience to a positive command, and in imitation of Jesus Christ" (p. 72). Thus, baptism is "sunk to the dead level of a mere moral duty" rather than the formal pledge of God to the believer that his sins have been remitted (p. 72).
The Campbells, therefore, in the context of the Christian Baptist are calling for a reevaluation of the role of baptism in the conversion process. Substitute baptism for the mourning bench. If one has enough faith to come to the mourning bench, he has enough faith to be immersed. If he is immersed upon faith, then he has God's solemn pledge that his sins have been remitted. This is the essence of their distinctive plea to the Baptists. As yet, their position has not placed the point of salvation at the moment of immersion. Rather, the saved believer, already cleansed at the altar, comes to the laver for the formal declaration of his salvation in order that he might be recognized as a true worshipper of God.
c. The Unimmersed. 1825 passed without anything but passing references to baptism. However in 1826 the issue of the unimmersed was raised in the Christian Baptist. "R.B.S." of Virginia wrote Campbell a letter, dated December 6, 1825, in which he decried the lack of "forbearance" among Haldane communities among whom he placed the adherents to the Christian Baptist. Further, he opines that if any congregation would implement all that the Christian Baptist teaches, then he would say that "a new sect had sprung up, radically different from the Baptists, as they now are." After responding to the charge that he was a Haldane, Alexander Campbell addresses the issue of "forbearance." He points out the Haldanes are more forebearing than the Virginia Baptists. He writes:
...but one thing I do know, that several congregations in this connexion are far more "forebearing" than the Baptists in Virginia; for several of them receive unbaptized persons to the Lord's table, on the ground of forbearance. The congregation in Edinburgh in connexion with James Haldane, and that in Tubermore in connexion with Alexander Carson, two the most prominent congregations in the connexion, do actually dispense with baptism on the ground of "forbearance".... They say that when a Paido-Baptist gives evidence that he is a christian, and cannot be convinced that infant baptism is a human tradition, he ought to be received into a christian congregation as a brother, if he desires it, irrespective of this weakness.
Interestingly, Campbell apparently agrees and disagrees with the Haldanes on this point. In his response to "R.B.S.," Campbell is willing to "allow a brother to exercise his own judgment" in matters of opinion, and Campbell himself is "willing to carry this principle to its greatest possible extent." This includes acknowledging, where possible, unimmersed persons as Christians. He states:
So long as any man, woman, or child, declares his confidence in Jesus of Nazareth as God's own Son, that he was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification; or, in other words, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Saviour of men; and so long as he exhibits a willingness to obey him in all things according to his knowledge, so long will I receive him as a christian brother and treat him as such.
Thus, Campbell will accept the unimmersed as Christians under certain circumstances. However, this does not imply that he will admit them to the Lord's table or recognize them as members of the visible church. In fact, in the next issue of the Christian Baptist (May 1, 1826) Campbell admits that he is rather uncertain about some particulars in this connection. "An Independent Baptist" wrote, letter dated February 11, 1826, that Campbell was inconsistent in being united with the Mahoning Baptist Association (and consequently with the whole Baptist society) when the Baptist Society is founded upon the Philadelphia Confession of Faith. Campbell responded that he was not a Separatist (though he once was one), and admitted that he was struggling with the concept of communion among the sects. While Baptists generally sing and pray with Paedo-baptists, neither one would sit at the Lord's table with each other. In this context Campbell renders his own verdict:
There is something like inconsistency here. It must be confessed, too, that the New Testament presents baptism as prior to social prayer and praise, as indispensably preceding these, as the Lord's supper. I have thought, and thought, and vacillated very much, on the question, Whether Baptists and Paido-Baptists ought, could, would, or should, irrespective of their peculiarities, sit down at the same Lord's table. And one thing I do know, that either they should cease to have communion in prayer, praise, and other religious observances, or they should go the whole length. Of this point I am certain. And I do know that as much can be said and with as much reason and scripture on its side, to prove that immersion is as necessarily prior to social prayer, praise, &c., as it is to eating the Lord's Supper.
It appears that, at this point, Campbell is uncertain what his attitude toward communing with the unimmersed is. He clearly believes that if an unimmersed person is obeying God according to his knowledge, then he is to be regarded as a Christian brother. Yet, he is also certain that immersion is a prerequisite to social worship and the Lord's table. Apparently, Campbell has yet to draw a line, but he is moving ever closer to the exclusion of the unimmersed from the social worship of the church, particularly the Lord's table. As his perception of the design of baptism becomes clearer, he will draw that line, but yet retain a "forebearing" view of the unimmersed who are obeying God to the best of their knowledge.
2. The Historical Background of the "Ancient Gospel" Series. The rest of 1826 and the first half of 1827 passed without any significant reference to baptism in the Christian Baptist. In the fall of 1827 both theology and practice began to develop quickly. In the beginning of 1828 Campbell initiated his monumental series on the "Ancient Gospel". It was the events of the last six months of 1827 that enabled and encouraged Campbell to publish the views which he had only recently come to believe. There seems to have been two events that prompted Campbell to air his views: (1) his relationship with John Secrest; and (2) the success of Walter Scott's preaching and the related success of the Kentucky brethren.
a. Relationship with John Secrest. Elder John Secrest, a minister for churches in Belmont and Monroe Counties in Ohio, was a member of the "Christian Connection" associated with Barton W. Stone. In the early summer of 1827, John Secrest had paid Alexander Campbell a visit at Bethany, Virginia along with William Mitchell. They discussed the issue of baptism, and particularly the design of baptism. After ascertaining that Secrest immersed believers, Campbell asked: "into what do you baptize them?" When Secrest was dumbfounded, Campbell then explained to them to greater significance of the institution.
Over the next three months Secrest baptized "three hundred" persons. The total number of baptized individuals exceeded one thousand when Secrest's co-laborers are also taken into account. When Campbell and Secrest saw each other on August 27th, Secrest reported the fruits of his labor and told Campbell that he "immersed them into the name of Christ for the remission of their sins." Campbell went on to explain the fuller story in the Christian Baptist:
Many of them were the descendants of Quakers, and those who had formerly waited for "the baptism of the Holy Spirit," in the Quaker sense of those words. But Brother Secrest had succeeded in convincing them that the one baptism was not that of Pentecost, nor that repeated in Ceasarea, but an immersion into the faith of Jesus for the remission of sins.... Immense have been the crowds attending, and great the excitement produced by the simple proclamation of the gospel in the good old-fashioned simplicity of unlettered and untaught eloquence.
It is apparent that Campbell was amazed by the response Secrest and his colleagues had on the frontier. Campbell himself did not, at this time, "call upon persons to come forward and be baptized for the remission of sins." While it is not known exactly how Secrest preached "baptism for the remission of sins," it is clear that his success made a deep impression on Campbell. In fact, it may have been the motivating factor for the next step toward implementing the "Ancient Gospel" in the person of Walter Scott.
b. The Preaching of Walter Scott. In 1826 Scott moved to Steubenville, Ohio to teach in a local Academy. That same year Scott attended the annual meeting of the Mahoning Baptist Association at the invitation of Alexander Campbell. In 1827 Scott was again invited to attend the annual meeting which met from August 23-27. Scott was there as a spectator along with several "Christian Connection" preachers (one of whom was John Secrest). At the meeting the Breachville, Ohio church requested that the Association employ an itinerant evangelist to travel among the churches and assist in growth. The need was great since the Association showed only a net growth of 16 for the previous year (and only 18 the year before that). The total membership was only 492. Walter Scott was selected as the evangelist.
In the first several months Scott met with limited success, but November 18, 1827 would be a date that would change Scott's perspective on preaching. William Amend told the story in a letter to Scott:
Now, my brother, I will answer your questions. I was baptized on the 18th of Nov., 1827, and I will relate to you a circumstance which occurred a few days before that date. I had read the 2d of the Acts when I expressed myself to my wife as follows: "Oh, this is the gospel--this is th thing we wish--the remission of our sins! Oh, that I could hear th gospel in these same words--as Peter preached it! I hope I shall some day hear it; and the first man I meet who will preach the gospel thus, with him will I go." So, my brother, on the day you saw me come into the meeting-house, my heart was open to receive the Word of God, and when you cried, "The Scriptures no longer shall be a sealed book. God means what he says. Is there a man present who will take God at his word, and be baptized for remission of sins?"--at that moment my feelings were such that I could have cried out, "Glory to God! I have found the man whom I have long sought for." So I entered the kingdom where I readily laid hold of the hope set before me.
This event, and the lessons Scott learned from it, was like opening the flood-gates of the city. Within ten days he had baptized 30 individuals. Within in three weeks he had baptized 101 (56 in the first nine days of February). In total, Scott and his colleagues baptized 800 persons in six months. The numbers began to grow. Other workers in other fields began to multiply. In six months, Secrest had immersed 530. From November 1, 1827 to May 1, 1828, Jeremiah Vardeman immersed 550; John Smith of Montgomery, Kentucky immersed 339 in the space 3 months. The "Reformation" was exploding with the introduction of a new perception of "baptism for the remission of sins."
Scott summarized the gist of his preaching in an article for the Christian Baptist which appeared in the March 2, 1829 issue. He writes (p. 178):
The gospel proposes three things as the substance of the glad tidings to mankind--the remission of sins, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life.... In the proclamation of the gospel, therefore, these high matters were ordered thus--faith, reformation, baptism for the remission of sins, the Holy Spirit and eternal life; but how this order has been deranged.... Some have substituted sprinkling, some the mourning bench for the baptism of remission.... Others will immerse, but not for the remission of sins...
Scott, in effect, put into practice what the Campbells and he had reason for several years. The mourning bench is not the way to call sinners to repentance, nor is it the place to seek salvation. Scott perceived that this had been the problem with the Mahoning Association's evangelism. Campbell gives this record of Scott's decision to evangelize with a new zeal and a new message:
He had not been long in the field of labor before he felt the need of something to propose to the alarmed and inquisitive sinner, more evangelical, more scriptural, and consoling, than the mourning bench or the anxious seat of modern revialists. He had thought much of the ancient or original state of things in the church, but now his attention was specially and practically called to the ancient order of things in the proclamation of the gospel in practical reference to the conversion of the world. He repudiated the mourning bench and the anxious seat, and for these substituted what? Baptism for the remission of sins! We had, indeed, agreed that we would say to any person or persons inquiring what they should do just what Peter said, --"Repent and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus in order to the remission of sins." Nay, that we would "tell the disciples," those desiring to serve the Lord, "to rise in haste and be baptized, and wash away their sins, calling on the name of the Lord."* [*M'Calla's Debate, p. 144.] But it was to him, now, in the actual field of labor, as a new revelation; and, with great warmth and power, he persuaded the people, and many turned to the Lord.
Scott had, however, introduced a new formula to the equation. He was explicitly baptizing individuals in order to receive the remission of sins, and not simply to show that their sins had already been remitted. Campbell alluded to this novelty when he noted that Scott immersed under a "new formulary," i.e., "For the remission of sins and for the gift of the Holy Spirit, I immerse you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." He then commented that "this bold style awakened the whole community." Campbell would later adopt this new formula with some modifications.
3. Understanding the "Ancient Gospel." In the first issue of 1828, January 7th, Campbell began a series of articles which were entitled "Ancient Gospel." The series ran from January 7, 1828 to November 3, 1828 with a total of 10 articles. Reflecting on why he began this series, Campbell wrote that it was in order "to save the true meaning of baptism given in my debate [with Maccalla, JMH] from all excesses and innovations." Apparently, Campbell feared a misinterpretation of his views, or at least that some well-meaning preacher or individual might advocate something which he did not want associated with his name. Consequently, after the first reports of large numbers of baptisms began to come in, Campbell set out to write an extended essay to fully develop his baptismal theology. In fact, though Campbell never mentions it in his writings, Scott visited Campbell in December, 1827 and encouraged him to write the series. Campbell saw the opportunity to mold the movement's thinking on this point as it was beginning to grow at an accelerated rate. It would also be the time when Campbell would move beyond what he said in the Maccalla Debate, and he could, like Scott, now boldly assert "baptism for [in order to] the remission of sins."
Although Campbell would certainly advance a position in the series that was contrary to the Maccalla Debate, he insisted even at the outset of the series the he was not going to say anything more than what he had said in the Maccalla Debate though he would say it in greater detail. In fact, Campbell would misstate what he actually said in the Maccalla Debate, reinterpreting it to fit his view of the design of baptism which he now held. In the first paragraph of his series he states:
In my debate with Mr. Maccalla in Kentucky, 1823, on this topic, I contended that it was a divine institution designed for putting the legitimate subject of it in actual possession of the remission of his sins--that to every believing subject it did formally, and in fact, convey to him the forgiveness of sins. It was with much hesitation I presented this view of the subject at that time, because of its perfect novelty.
Given the above analysis of the Maccalla Debate, it is clear that Campbell has put a different interpretation upon his words than were readily apparent when they were spoken. Now Campbell can refer to the "actual" reception of the remission of sins at the moment of baptism. Such an expression is absent from the Maccalla Debate. But as if to signal us to a change, Campbell further states that he has recently "been necessarily called to consider it more fully as an essential part of the christian religion" and that he is now "better prepared to develop its import, and to establish its utility and value in the christian religion."
a. The Order of the Ancient Gospel. At the end of his third article, Campbell states what the order of the "ancient gospel is: "first a belief in Jesus; next, immersion; then forgiveness; then, peace with God; then, joy in the Holy Spirit." This is Campbell's conclusion after three articles of argumentation.
He begins the explanation of the design of baptism by noting its relationship in typology, particularly basing his reasoning upon Hebrews 10:22. He asserts, as a thesis, that "christian immersion stands in the same place in the christian temple, or worship, that the laver, or both [bath] of purification stood in the Jewish: viz. BETWEEN THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST AND ACCEPTABLE WORSHIP." Just as the High Priest had to wash on the day of atonement before entering the Holiest of Holies, so the believer, before he can worship acceptably, he must also have his body washed in the rite of baptism. Calling upon John 3:5, Titus 3:5 and Ephesians 5:26, Campbell concludes that Christian immersion is the antitype of the bath of purification for priests in the Old Testament. This is signaled by the use of the term "washing" itself.
Since baptism corresponds to an Old Testament "abultion", Campbell demonstrates that New Testament "plainly" affirms that "God forgives men's sins in the act of immersion." He argues that disciples were conscious of a particular moment when their sins were remitted, and "a certain act by, or in which their sins were forgiven." That act was the washing which they could remember or forget. Campbell introduces Acts 2:38 to verify this connection between remitted sins and baptism. There Peter "made repentance, or reformation, and immersion, equally necessary to forgiveness," and if no other word were written on the subject, Peter's command here would be "quite sufficient." In consequence of what Peter says here Campbell believes that "in the very instant in which" a person is "put under the water," he receives "the forgiveness of his sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit." Consequently, "christian immersion is the gospel in water." After introducing Acts 22:16, Acts 8:40, 1 Peter 3:21 and Romans 6, Campbell concludes that "christian immersion" has been "designed primarily for the remission of sins."
In the fifth essay Campbell addresses the issue of the "gift of the Holy Spirit." He argues that the Holy Spirit cannot dwell in a heart that has not been purged from guilt. "Before the Holy Spirit can be received", then, "the heart must be purified." Since immersion is required before forgiveness can be bestowed, it follows that immersion is required before the Holy Spirit can be received. If one will not believe and be immersed based upon the promises of God, "there is not one promise in all the Book of God on which they can rely, or to which they can look, as affording ground of expectation for the Spirit of God to dwell in their minds, or to aid them while in unbelief." Campbell's logic is relentless. The gift of the Spirit is the consequent of immersion:
Because forgiveness is through immersion: and, because, in the second place, the Spirit of Holiness cannot reside in any heart where sin is not absolved. This is an invariable law in the moral empire over which the Lord Jesus reigns.
The "ancient order," then, is: faith, immersion, forgiveness, reception of the Holy Spirit, and then the believer may be an acceptable worshipper of God. This order, proceeding from faith to the reception of the Spirit, was revolutionary for the early nineteenth century. The normal order, in the Calvinistic context of the frontier, was: regeneration by the Holy Spirit, faith, forgiveness and then immersion. Against that background, many Baptists were shocked by Campbell's presentation in the "Ancient Gospel" series. Campbell, by using this order, necessarily places regeneration in the context of baptism. A consequence of this understanding is that no unbaptized person can be rightly regarded as acceptable before God in the strictest sense. Consequently, Campbell explicitly states that:
...baptism is the first act of a christian life, or rather the regenerating act itself; in which the person is properly born again--"born of water and spirit"--without which, into the kingdom of Jesus he cannot enter. No prayers, songs of praise, no acts of devotion, in the new economy, are enjoined on the unbaptized. Immersion, next to faith, is a sine qua non, without which nothing can be done acceptably. Let no man say this is a position too bold. I feel myself more impregnable here than ever did a garrison in the castle of Gibraltar. Let him that thinks otherwise try me.
b. The Foundational Principle. The great concern of the revialistic frontier, and, we might say, of theology in general, is: how can I know that I am saved? The struggle on the American frontier was complicated by the presence of the mourning bench in conjunction with Calvinistic theology. The knowledge of salvation in that setting depended upon inward sensations and subjective feelings rather than some objective event. Campbell, and the other Reformers with him, saw baptism as that event which could give the believer objective assurance instead of the subjective assurance he sought at the anxious seat. Thus, baptism gives the believer, what Campbell called, a "sensible pledge." Campbell uses "sensible" in the sense of the external senses of the body, that is, the "five senses." Baptism is an objective event. It is visible to the eye, it is performed by the body. It is "sensible" as opposed to mental. Baptism, then, "gives the convert a sensible pledge that God, through the blood of Christ, has washed away his sins, has adopted him into his family, and made him an heir of all things through Christ."
Since it is a "sensible" event (or an objective event), it is tied to a particular place and time. The believer can look back to a specific point in time as the precise moment he was saved. This is a key point for Campbell. He summarizes in this statement:
There is an instant of time, and a media through which the forgiveness of sins is imparted as well as the other blessings growing out of adoption into the family of God. This point is worthy of much investigation, and capable of the clearest demonstration. That there is a definite instant of time in which all former sins are absolved, is generally admitted; but that there is an sensible means ordained by which this blessing is conveyed, is not so generally apprehended....
Faith, indeed, is the grand medium through which forgiveness is accessible, but something more is necessary to the actual enjoyment of the blessing than a conviction that it is derived through the blood of Jesus. Hence those who had obtained this belief were commanded to be immersed for the remission of their sins, or to arise and be immersed and wash away their sins, invoking the name of the Lord.
The choice here is between a subjective ground of assurance and an objective ground of assurance; between a gradual awareness of forgiveness and an instantaneous awareness of forgiveness. Campbell decries the common attitude among the Regular Baptists that assurance is based upon subjective feelings and is only gradually perceived by the believer. "The ancient christians," he argues, "had not to gather the conviction of the pardon of their sins from internal sensations or feelings." They were "derived from the divine testimony" that God had promised them if they would submit to immersion (an objective event), he would remit their sins. In response to a querist regarding this question of assurance, Campbell summarizes his thoughts:
But our conciousness of forgiveness is not made to proceed from any inward impulses, voices, or operations, either instantaneous or gradual, but from a suer and more certain foundation--the testimony of God addressed to our ears. If operations, impulses, or feelings, were to be the basis of our conviction, it would be founding the most important of all knowledge upon the most uncertain of all foundations. 'The heart of man is deceitful above all things;' and 'He that trusts in his own heart, is a fool.'
For example, I believe the testimony concerning Jesus of Nazareth in the apostolic import of it. I then feel myself commanded to be immersed for the forgiveness of my sins. I arise and obey. I then receive it, and am assured of it, because God cannot deceive. Thus I walk by faith--not by feeling.
To some Baptists this smacked of the believer saving himself by the work of baptism. This contradicted grace. Campbell's response is that the believer no more saves himself by being immersed as the believer does by believing. Rather, Campbell regards it as an act of grace that God has appointed "some act of ours as a medium of remission, that we might have the assurance of forgiveness, and know when we are forgiven." The believer can look at the objective event of his immersion and enjoy the full assurance of his pardon because he believed the testimony of God and obeyed it in a specific act which was designed to be a "sensible pledge." Baptism, then, is more God's work than man's. Baptism is God's pledge that the sins of the believer have been remitted. This was Campbell's position in the Maccalla Debate, but now Campbell is saying more--he is also saying the baptism is the point at which the sins of the believer are remitted.
c. The Moment of Forgiveness. Campbell's readers perceived the novelty of his views almost immediately. One reader posed this question, which is the essence of the issue itself: "Is a believer in Christ not actually in a pardoned stated, before he is baptized?" Of course, in Reformed theology, the answer would be an unequivocal "Yes," since the believer is saved by faith alone. Campbell's response to the question underscores how far he had actually moved away from the position exhibited in the Maccalla Debate:
Is not a man clean before he is washed!! When there is only an imaginary or artificial line between Virginia and Pennsylvania, I cannot often tell with ease whether I am in Virginia or in Pennsylvania; but I can always tell when I am in Ohio, however near the line--for I have crossed the Ohio river. And blessed be God! he has not drawn a mere artificial line between the plantations of nature and of grace. No man has any proof that he is pardoned until he is baptized--And if men are conscious that their sins are forgiven and that they are pardoned before they are immersed, I advise them not to go into the water for they have no need of it.
Another querist asked him whether or not faith only will entitle one to the heavenly reward. In an extended reply, Campbell begins with the adamant answer: "I answer positively: NO." He calls upon his readers to arise from their Calvinistic slumbers to accept the testimony of God, and be immersed for the forgiveness of sins "and get under the reign of favor that your persons and your works may be accepted, and that the Lord may without equivocation or deceit say to you well done. Be assured he will not flatter you with well done, unless you have done well." Forgiveness is not granted on faith alone, but as a consequent of the act of immersion through faith in obedience to the command of God.
Campbell's answer to these two querist illustrate the distinction between the Campbell of 1823 and the Campbell of 1828. Whereas in the Maccalla Debate, Paul was "really pardoned" before immersion, in the "Ancient Gospel," one is not pardoned until he is immersed. Campbell constantly emphasizes that it is the "very instant" and "act" of immersion in which the believer receives the remission his sins. For instance, he states: "I do earnestly contend that God, through the blood of Christ, forgives our sins through immersion--through the very act, and in the very instant."
The remission of sins, according to the Campbell of 1828, is received in baptism both actually and formally. In the Maccalla Debate it was received only formally in the act of baptism, and it had been really received at the point of faith. The clearest illustration of the difference here comes during Campbell's written discussion with the Regular Baptist Andrew Broaddus of Virginia.
On July 5, 1830, Campbell issued his "Extra on the Remission of Sins." It was a supplement to the Millenial Harbinger intended to answer questions and give a full defense to his views on baptism for the remission of sins. Andrew Broaddus, a leading Baptist in Virginia, replied with a tract entitled Extra Examined to which Campbell responded with 48 pages of his own in his "Extra Defended". Campbell's complaint against Broaddus sets the Campbell of 1831 against the Campbell of 1823. He writes:
Our friend Broaddus gives to baptism no instrumentality at all in the work of salvation. It only indicates, he says, 'that the subject, a pardoned sinner, (yes, a pardoned sinner) is openly and formally received into the Lord's service;' and that the pledge is openly and formally given that he devotes himself to Christ by thus visibly, or externally putting on Christ.' p. 39. This is its moral and religious value in the christian institution--a mutual pledge of an open and formal reception into the Lord's service.
Broaddus' position differs little from Campbell's in the Maccalla Debate except that Campbell relates the formal significance of baptism to the remission of sins explicitly. Broaddus thinks of it as a mutual pledge, but Campbell in the Maccalla Debate thought it primarily as God's pledge to the believer. Yet, the difference between the two men is not substantial. But the Campbell of 1831 objects strongly to Broaddus' position, and argues that in baptism one receives, in that act and at that very instant, the remission of his sins, both formally and actually.
d. What of the Unimmersed? Since Campbell argues that one is not forgiven before he is immersed, this naturally raises the question of the state of the unimmersed. This question did not escape the notice of Campbell's readers. One querist posed the question in this fashion: "But do you not expect to sit down in heaven with all the christians of all sects, and why not sit down with them on earth?" Campbell's answer became almost programmatic for him. While he answered in the affirmative, he also added:
But while on earth I must live and behave according to the order of things under which I am placed. If we are now to be governed by the manners and customs in heaven, why was any other than the heavenly order of society instituted on earth? There will be neither bread, wine, nor water in heaven. Why, then, use them on earth? But if those who propose this query would reflect that all the parts of the christian institution are necessary to this present state, and only preparatory to the heavenly, by giving us a taste for the purity and joys of that state, they could not propose such a question.
Campbell consistently makes a distinction between the glory and reign of heaven and the kingdom of God on earth (the visible church). When another objector argued that Campbell, by marking baptism as the point of justification (remission of sins), had unjustified "the larger portion of the Old and New Testament worthies," Campbell replied in this manner: "Many confound the salvation to be revealed at the final consummation, with the enjoyment of the present salvation which primarily consists in a deliverance from the guilt, pollution, and dominion of sin, and which salvation has been, under the Reign of the Messiah, proclaimed through faith and immersion." Campbell does not presume to judge who will be in heaven and who will not. How many God will save "with faith or without it, whether with circumcision, baptism, or the law, or without them," he cannot say though he believes that the intervention of the Mediator can "render their salvation possible." Campbell will only speak with certainty of those who comply with the testimony of God, that is, those who are immersed upon faith in the blood of Jesus.
There are really two questions latent here. The first is: can we expect to see the unimmersed in heaven? The second is: ought we to fellowship, break bread with, the unimmersed on earth? The second question Campbell answers with an emphatic "No". There is no authority to commune with unbaptized persons. Further, the unimmersed person cannot acceptably worship God, and as a consequence, the immersed cannot acceptably worship God with him. This is a direct implication of Campbell's argument in the first three articles of the "Ancient Gospel" series.
The first question, however, is more difficult. Campbell unambiguously answers: "we cannot tell with certainty." But Campbell holds as an opinion that "when a neglect proceeds from a simple mistake or sheer ignorance, and when there is no aversion, but a will to do everything the Lord commands, the Lord will admit into the everlasting Kingdom those who by reason of this mistake never had the testimony of God assuring them of pardon or justification here, and consequently never did fully enjoy the salvation of God on earth." However, Campbell would never teach the unimmersed that they were "safe." Instead, he would encourage them to obey the command of the Lord to receive the full assurance of their pardon.
In summary, then, Campbell holds hope for the unimmersed who are sincere and honest toward God. His hope is that God will pardon them and receive them into eternal glory given their circumstances, ignorance, etc. Campbell compares this hope to the hope of God saving "infants, idiots, pagans, &c" without faith. But just like the pagan who is without faith, so the with the unimmersed, Campbell can offer no earthly assurance of heavenly glory. God's testimony only gives assurance on earth to those who have submitted to the ordinance to which he has appointed the remission of sins, that is, baptism. As Campbell states: "there is but one action ordained or commanded in the New Testament, to which God has promised or testified that he will forgive our sins. This action is christian immersion." Consequently, only the immersed may be recognized as Disciples and Christians in the fullest sense. As a result only the immersed are recognized as members of the visible church on earth.
We have followed Campbell's baptismal theology from his immersion in 1812 to the beginning of the Millenial Harbinger in 1830. By 1830, and the publication of his "Extra on the Remission of Sins," Campbell had arrived at his mature view of baptism. However, his development was a slow one with several major adjustments.
The first adjustment came upon his arrival in America. He had rejected the sectarianism of his Seceeder upbringing, and argued that baptism was not a term of communion at all. In his Presbyterian context, he argued that infant baptism was an uncertain institution.
The second adjustment came when his first daughter was born in 1812. After restudying the issue of immersion and believer's baptism, he concluded that all believers were commanded to be immersed. He judged himself an unbaptized person even though he had been baptized as an infant. Upon a simple confession of faith in Jesus as the Messiah, he was immersed by the Regular Baptist Luce. It is certain, at this point, that Campbell did not regard himself as an unsaved man, just an unimmersed one. The Walker Debate clearly signals us that Campbell did not connect baptism with salvation in any significant sense. There is no evidence that Campbell ever questioned or doubted the salvation of the pious unimmersed prior to the Maccalla Debate in 1823. Consequently, it is certain that when Campbell was baptized in 1812, he was not baptized in order to be saved. Rather, he was simply obeying a command which he had neglected through ignorance. He did not think that "unchristianized" his previous life.
The third adjustment came over a two year period. From the fall of 1821 till the fall of 1823, Campbell was introduced to and contemplated the idea of baptism for the remission of sins. The Errett tract introduced him to the idea. His first impressions were bolstered by discussions with Scott and his father who had also read the tract. However, it was not until he was preparing to debate Maccalla that he devoted his attention to thoroughly studying the matter. In consultation with both his father and Scott, he determined to try his new understanding in the Maccalla Debate.
Indeed, Campbell did have a new understanding of baptism. He himself called it a "novelty." He distinguished his position from that of his Baptist brethren in the debate. Yet, his position was essentially that of Errett with some differences of emphasis. He argued that baptism has a "formal" and "personal" connection with the remission of sins. Baptism is God's pledge that the believer has had his sins previously remitted by faith. He also insisted that it is the mark of the true disciple--the member of the visible church.
The fourth adjustment came in the fall of 1827 and the winter of 1827-28. After Scott threw away the mourning bench and the anxious seat, and began to boldly invite his listeners to the baptismal water for the remission of sins, Campbell began to be more explicit about the connection between baptism and the remission of sins. Now it was no longer considered as a mere symbol, or a sign of something that had already taken place. Instead, baptism was now regarded as the moment, the instant, the very act in which and by which, the remission of sins was bestowed. The baptismal event was the moment of remission. The believer had his sins remitted, not when he believed, but when he was immersed.
This viewpoint called in question some of the most cherished dogmas of the Regular Baptists. It eliminated the mourning bench or the anxious seat (which also disturbed many in the "Christian Connection" and prevented many of them from uniting with Campbell). It eliminated the work of the Spirit in some subjective experience as the ground of assurance. It excluded the gift of the Holy Spirit prior to baptism. It disputed the teaching that one is saved by faith alone without baptism. It was in this context that many Baptist Associations began to withdraw from and censure Alexander Campbell, and all their actions included the issue of "water salvation." The separation from the Baptists in general is directly attributable to Campbell's views on the design of baptism exhibited in the "Ancient Gospel" series.
The Campbell of 1809-1828 was not static in his views of baptism. He moved from Presbyterian (1809), to Baptist (1812), then to modified Baptist (1823), and finally to his mature view of the ancient gospel (1828). It is his mature view, explained as it was at the beginning of the Reformation's explosion in Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia, that dominated the American Restoration Movmement. It has become one its most distinctive features.
CB, 1 (1824), pp. 176-178. Quotations in this paragraph come from this article. Pages numbers of the article are given in the text. For a discussion of the role of baptism in connection with unity, see William D. Carpe, "Baptismal Theology in the Disciples of Christ," Lexington Theological Quarterly 14.4 (1979): pp. 65-78.
CB, 2 (1824), pp. 61-65, 72-75. All citations in this paragraph are from that article, and are noted in the text.
The only reference by the editor, Alexander Campbell, to baptism is found in CB, 2 (1825), p. 225 where he states concerning Colossians 2:12: "But the Spirit of God intended by this phrase to shew that christians in baptism had represented to them their resurrection with Christ to a new life, through a belief of the great power of God, exhibited in raising Christ from the dead." There is nothing here that indicates any change of viewpoint from earlier statements in 1823 and 1824. Theophilus, on the other hand, had more to say in CB 2 (1824), pp. 102, 105.
CB, 3 (1826), pp. 176-179.
Ibid., p. 178.
Ibid., pp. 182-183.
Ibid., p. 183.
Ibid., pp. 197-200.
Ibid., p. 203: "for I was once so strict a Separatist that I would neither pray nor sing praises with any one who as not as perfect as I supposed myself."
Ibid., p. 204.
See chapter 5 of this book for a detailed view of Campbell's mature outlook on the unimmersed.
Chapter 7 of this book discusses Stone's movement and his relationship with the "Christian Connection."
Hayden, pp. 80-81.
CB, 5 (1827), pp. 71-72.
Evangelist, 6 (1838), p. 275 in a letter from Campbell to Walter Scott dated April 19, 1832.
Scott disputes that Secrest actually baptized individuals "for the remission of sins" in the same sense that he would later that year, cf. Evangelist, 6 (1838), pp. 277-278. This smacks of a kind of "who was first" rivalry, but it is indicative of perception that something new happened in 1827.
Campbell even argued that Elder Jeremiah Vardeman had practiced "baptism for the remission of sins" after the Maccalla Debate (MH, 9 , p. 470). Vardeman was Campbell's Moderator for that debate.
The resolution to this conflict appears clear to me. There were many who may have practiced "baptism for the remission of sins" prior to 1827 as a result of the Maccalla Debate. Campbell himself claims to have done so (MH, 9 , p. 469). However, the teaching on baptism present in the Maccalla Debate is not the same as the teaching on baptism in the 1828 CB. In 1827 a subtle shift took place. "Baptism for the remission of sins" was now understood, particularly by Scott, to refer to the moment that the remission of sins is actually received. In consequence, some of those that even Campbell had immersed after 1823 were re-immersed after 1827 due to the change in understanding (see Evangelist, 6 , p. 276).
Consequently, those who practiced "baptism for the remission of sins" within the Reformation after 1823 did so with the understanding of the Maccalla Debate. That understanding had undergone such a change in 1827 that when Scott began immersing on the Western Reserve, it was not only the practice that was different but the theology as well. This Campbell could never fully recognize, and he may have been blinded by a subtle pride on this point. All his life he would claim that he first preached "baptism for the remission of sins" in 1823, but could not recognize that what he wrote in 1828 was substantially different from what he preached in 1823 (see MH, 2 , "Extra Defended," pp. 2ff. and 9 , pp. 467-469). I believe that Jones, Spiritual Plea, was deceived by Campbell's pride on this point since Campbell's perception of never having changed his mind is the foundation of Jones' argument.
Interestingly, when Scott moved to Steubenville there were three "reforming" churches there: (1) a Haldane (called "Church of Christ"); (2) a Stonite ("Christian Church"); and (3) Regular Baptist Church which was as a member of the Mahoning Baptist Association. Scott joined the first one. See Evangelist, 1 (1832), p. 94.
A detailed discussion of the meeting along with the official minutes may be found in Hayden, pp. 54-71. See also Baxter, pp. 83-86. The account given in the text is taken from Hayden unless otherwise noted.
An additional point about this annual meeting of 1827 was the decision to undenominationalize the Association. The Association voted to set aside its denominational character and accept "Christian Connection" preachers into its fellowship. In 1830 it would vote to dissolve itself as an ecclesiastical entity and simply become an annual meeting for fellowship and prayer. For a discussion of how the revival of 1827-1829 affected the unity and communion of the Reformers and the Christians, see Ronald Bever, "The Influence of the 1827-29 Revivals on the Restoration Movement," Restoration Quarterly 10.3 (1967): 134-147.
Baxter, p. 113. Baxter comments: "This event, which forms an era in the religious history of the times, took place on the 18th of November, 1827, and Mr. Amend was, beyond all question, the first person in modern times who received the ordinance of baptism in perfect accordance with apostolic teaching and usage" (p. 108). John Secrest, and surely Alexander Campbell, would dispute Baxter's claim here.
CB, 5 (1828), p. 173, reported in a letter from Scott dated December 4, 1827. Campbell refers to it as "an experiment in preaching the ancient gospel." Campbell became concerned that Scott was abusing the "ancient gospel," or least felt the need for someone responsible to take a firsthand look at the preaching. He sent his father, Thomas, to be with Scott for several days on the Western Reserve. Thomas Campbell came back with a resounding endorsement, calling it a "bold push," cf. Evangelist, 6 (1838), pp. 270ff and Baxter, pp. 158ff.
CB, 5 (1828), p. 200, reported in a letter from Scott dated February 10, 1828.
CB, 5 (1828), pp. 271-272.
CB, 5 (1828), p. 173. In CB, 5 (1828), p. 130 Campbell remarked that Secrest had baptized 490 up to November 23, 1827, and "it is not more than about five months since he began to proclaim the gospel and christian immersion in its primitive simplicity and import." After the Secrest meeting with Campbell in November, 1827, Scott obtained the services of Secrest's companion James G. Mitchell to assist him. Secrest and Mitchell had met Scott when Scott was traveling to see Campbell in Wellsburg. Cf. Hayden, pp. 93-94.
CB, 5 (1828), pp. 271-272. The Mahoning Association on the Western Reserve in Ohio would baptize 3,000 through Scott and his colleagues in the next three years where the whole Association had only baptized under 100 in the previous two, cf. MH, 1 (1830), pp. 415, 449. The Mahoning Association of 1830 was six times the size of the same churches in 1827.
CB, 6 (1829), pp. 177-179. The author signs his name as "Philip," but this is the name which Scott used. Campbell identified him in CB, 4 (1827), p. 240. Scott used in it honor of Philip Melancthon, Luther's right hand man. Baxter, pp. 117-126 gives a full view of Scott's perspective in preaching the "ancient gospel."
MH, 20 (1849), p. 48.
MH, 9 (1838), p. 469. CB, 5 (1828), pp. 128-130; 164-168; 179-182; 221-223; 229-232; 254-257; 276-279 and CB, 6 (1828), pp. 14-17; 72-74; 97-100. In addition, Campbell answered questions about the series in two articles entitled "A Catalogue of Queries--Answered," 6 (1829), pp. 164-168, 192-197. In fact, Campbell intended to start this series on the "Ancient Gospel" in the December issue of the paper (see CB, 5 (1827), p. 123), but there was no room for it. The fact that Campbell had prepared an article for the December issue may indicate that Scott's success was a minor part of his motivation in the beginning. Perhaps more weight is to be given to the success of Secrest. Even if Campbell had heard of Scott's success in December, 1827 (which is probable), the success was meager in comparison with Secrest.
MH, 9 (1838), p. 489.
See Scott, Evangelist, 6 (1838), pp. 278-281. In fact, Scott encouraged Campbell to begin his series by discussing faith rather than immersion. Campbell, however, chose to get straight to the point.
CB, 5 (1828), p. 128.
CB, 5 (1828), p. 182. Campbell's more refined order appears in the ninth essay in the series where he sees six points: faith, reformation (repentance), immersion, remission of sins, Holy Spirit, eternal life. He writes that they are not related "as cause and effect; but that they are all naturally connected, and all, in this order, embraced in the glad tidings of salvation" (cf. CB, 6 , p. 72). Scott, for the sake of simplicity in preaching (so as to use five fingers), reduced the order to: faith, repentance, immersion, remission of sins, Holy Spirit (cf. MH, 3 , p. 298).
CB 5 (1828), pp. 128-129.
Ibid. Also, CB, 5 (1828), p. 166: "We all admit that there is no public outward, or symbolic washing in the name of the Lord Jesus, save christian immersion. To refer to it as a washing, indicates that it was an ablution." Ibid., p. 165.
Ibid., p. 166.
Ibid., p. 167. As he introduces the discussion of Acts 2:38, he makes it clear that eis ("for") means "in order to obtain the remission of sins" (p. 167).
Ibid., p. 168. Earlier in the essay, Campbell had stated that baptism is the "gospel in water," just as the Lord's supper is the gospel in bread and wine" since both are external ordinances which exhibit the gospel facts, cf. CB, 5 (1828), p. 164. (Scott was not particularly appreciative of this phraseology, see Evangelist, 6 (1838), p. 281.) Further, Campbell is insistent upon the fact that it is at the "very instant" of the act of immersion, "in, and by, the act", that one receives the remission his sins (cf. CB, 5 , p. 167). Ibid., p. 180.
Ibid., p. 231.
Ibid., p. 232.
Campbell calls attention to this on numerous occasions. In fact, he set up a chart to illustrate the differences between a Presbyterian, Regular Baptist, Quaker, and others on this very point of order (cf. CB, 6 (1828), pp. 72-73).
The first visible instance of this kind of reaction in the Christian Baptist is a letter from J. in CB, 6 (1828), pp. 23-24. For a more extended response, see the letter from "C. F. of Baltimore, MD" in CB, 7 (1830), pp. 173-176.
CB, 5 (1828), p. 231.
Ibid., p. 279.
Ibid., pp. 254-255.
CB, 6 (1829), p. 166.
Ibid., pp. 165-166.
CB, 7 (1830), pp. 173-176. Campbell's response is found on pages 176-181.
Ibid., p. 181.
CB, 6 (1829), p. 197.
Ibid., p. 194. In CB, 7 (1830), pp. 176-177, he responses to another objector: "Not an instance do I know of the pardon of sin by faith only...But under the former economy blood was necessary to forgiveness; and under the new economy water is necessary--Faith is the principle of action in both--and they are the means, not "agents," through which God imparted remission."
CB, 6 (1829), p. 195.
See CB, 5 (1828), pp. 222, 256.
Ibid., p. 277.
MH, 1 (1830), "Extra."
MH, 2 (1831), "Extra Defended" appended to the back of the second volume. Andrew Broaddus (1770-1848) was Campbell's arch-rival among the Baptists in Virginia. According to his son and biographer, "Of all the opponents which Mr. C[ampbell] encountered in the early stage of his Reformation, Elder Broaddus was decidedly the most formidable.... in A[ndrew] B[roaddus], Mr. C[ampbell] met 'a foeman worthy of his steel'" (Andrew Broaddus, ed. The Sermons and Other Writings of the Rev. Andrew Broaddus, with a Memoir of His Life by J. B. Jeter, D.D. [New York: Lewis Colby, 1852], p. 29). Broaddus and Campbell first met in the late Autumn of 1825 (Broaddus, p. 24), and while there was congeniality between them for several years, Broaddus ultimately broke off fellowship with Campbell. His son comments that it was the "Extra on Remission of Sins" that was the final straw: "Mr. Broaddus was one of the last to relinquish the hope of reclaiming Mr. C[ampbell] from what he deemed the path of error...but the appearance of the MH Extra, in which is peculiar and objectionable views were more fully disclosed, put an end to all his hopes" (p. 28).
MH, 2 (1831), "Extra Defended," p. 1. Broaddus and Campbell squared off again in the MH of 1842 (pp. 145-150). Again Broaddus admits a "sense in which remission of sins is connected with baptism" yet denies that "the actual remission of sins" is "suspended on the performance of a subsequent act," i.e., baptism. He will grant that baptism is a "visible certificate," "the sensible pledge of remission--the formal washing away of sins." Campbell, however, argues that the actual and the formal are simultaneous in the act of baptism.
CB, 6 (1829), pp. 193-194.
CB, 7 (1830), p. 174.
CB, 7 (1830), p. 176.
Ibid., p. 176.
MH, 1 (1830), p. 474.
MH, 2 (1831), "Extra Defended," pp. 44-45.
MH, 1 (1830), p. 474.
MH, 2 (1831), "Extra Defended," p. 44; see also CB, 7 (1830), p. 176.
CB, 6 (1829), p. 165.
Although there may have been further development after 1830, as some have argued [see Joseph Belcastro, The Relationship of Baptism to Church Membership [St. Louis, Missouri: The Bethany Press, 1963], pp. 24-27), that is not the concern of this essay.
See Dean Mills, Union on the King's Highway (Joplin, Missouri: College Press Publishing Company, 1987), pp. 67-68; 146-147.
This was a definite change on the part of the Baptists. While there had been some hostility to Campbell before the "Ancient Gospel" series, he was tolerated. In fact, when they did remonstrate against him in the early 1820s, it was not the issue of baptism which motivated them. It was his view of the Spirit, or church order, etc. It was not until after the "Ancient Gospel" series that baptism became the central issue between the Reformers and the Baptists. This indicates that late 1827 and 1828 did actually see a substantive change in baptismal theology and practice on the part of Campbell. The example of Broaddus in note 96 serves to illustrate this conclusion.
First published in Baptism and the Remission of Sins: An Historical Perspective, edited by David Fletcher (Joplin: College Press, 1990), pp. 111-70.