Our Journey to Jerusalem
By the late
SUCH inquiries as the following have from time to time been received by letter from respected friends:-
'We have heard that you have joined the Disciples, but we do not believe it. Will you please contradict it in Truth in Love?'
''I hear that you have joined the Campbellites. Is the report true?'
'Mr. ------- tells me that you preach baptism for the remission of sins; but I replied that I did not believe it.'
'I presume that you have not yet attained to the position of the Campbellites.'
To such inquiries as the foregoing, I have not yet been able to reply with the fulness which I desire, and which the subject demands; but will now seek, in deference to the wishes of many, and in the interests of truth, to give an outline, as full as space will permit, of the path in which, step by step, I have been led, seeking and contending for the truth as in Jesus. Of the early years of my evangelistic labours it is not
necessary at present to speak, suffice it to say that about the middle of 1878, I found myself, after a careful and earnest study of the oracles of God, convinced that unimmersed persons have no claim to a place at the Lord's table as members of His body; and although this conviction was opposite to what I had formerly
taught and practised, yet I was satisfied that it was far better to own, and forsake, that which was now found to be unscriptural, than to remain longer in it. Before firmly resolving that I would never teach, practise, nor in any way participate in, the mixture of baptised and unbaptised persons as members of the 'one body', I have, however, reflected upon the consequences such a resolution might involve: how that the taking such a position might involve a separation from some whom I had learned to love; and the humiliation of an admission, that in the past, I have, in that particular, been at fault. Nor had I forgotten the possibility and danger of taking a hasty step, which might afterwards have to be retraced, bringing with it shame and sorrow; and so, under a deep consciousness of the danger of hasty resolves, and believing that 'in the multitude of counsellors there is safety,' I did not arrive at this decision until I had spent several months in communication with brethren, much my elders in the ministry of the Word, and whose age and experience warranted me in supposing that if any Scripture could be found to justify 'mixed communion,' they would certainly be able and willing to tell me where to find it. Of the replies which I received, the following is a sample:-
'My dear Bro. - In reply to yours of November 26th, on the subject of baptism, I may say, looking at the Acts of the Apostles, where we get the formation of the Church, there can be no doubt but in those times no one was admitted into the assembly but those who were baptized; even now, there is no question as to the scripturalness of baptism before the privileges at the table of the Lord. But there is a difference as to the subjects for the rite, and mode of administering the same. Now, whilst seeing the above, I would make a difference in cases, because of bad teaching, ignorance of the word of God on the subject, and so many minds are prejudiced against the truth.'
Here I saw, or thought I saw, that the words, 'I would make a difference in cases,' contained an assumption of power which was not only unscriptural but the limits of which it would be impossible to define; while the former part of the letter, regarding the formation of the Church, as given in Acts, just accorded with and confirmed the result of my own close investigations of the New Testament.
Another eminent advocate of 'mixed communion' afterwards wrote:- 'It is certain as words can make it that there was no such thing as an unimmersed Christian in apostolic days. And nothing could be more satisfactory than two incidental remarks, viz:- (1 Cor. i.13) 'Or were ye baptised in the name of Paul?' and (Acts xiv.3) 'Unto what, then, were ye baptized?' Candid admissions, of which the above are fair specimens,
coming as they did from experienced men among the 'Brethren,' by no means tended to show that the scruples and doubts on the question of 'mixed communion,' had been groundless in the first instance, nor that the step afterwards taken in reference to the matter had been unwarranted; rather the reverse. While I had been engaged in these inquiries, which had resulted in the conviction that I must sever myself from 'mixed communion,' as a thing utterly unsanctioned by the Word of God, brethren in other places had been investigating the same subject, and with the same result. Although we had simultaneously reached this point, yet it was not till several months later than we became really separated from those assemblies which advocated and practised what we now had found to be wrong. The many truths held by those brethren, their firm protest against sectism, the simplicity of the form and order of worship, their unflinching opposition to the one-man system, their freedom from clerical bondage, and the remembrance and force of old associations, an aversion to divisions, and other things, weighed very heavily in promoting a desire to be still united, and made us cling to the hope that they would yet consent to yield to the teaching of the New Testament in regard to fellowship and that we should not need, therefore, to be severed.
OTHER ERRORS DISCOVERED LATER.
I may here remark that at that stage we had not perceived that the faith-alone system was fundamentally wrong, and that, not only did they NOT preach the design of baptism, but DENIED it, both in teaching and in practice.
THEY CLAIMED: ALTHOUGH IT IS WRITTEN:
That a man is saved by faith alone (Eph.ii.8-9) 'He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved'
That a man is justified by faith alone. 'Ye see then how that by works a man is justified,
and not by faith only'' (Jas.ii.24).
That a man has 'remission of sins' by faith alone. 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins' (Acts ii.38).
That a man is 'buried with Christ' by faith alone, 'We are buried with him by baptism' (Rom.vi.4)
and that baptism merely symbolizes his burial. 'Buried with him in baptism' (Col.ii.12).
That a man is 'risen with Christ' by faith alone. 'Wherein also (in baptism) ye are risen with him'
That a man is a Christian by faith alone. 'For as many of you have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ' (Gal.iii.27).
That a man is a 'son of God' by believing alone. 'As many as received him, to them gave he power to
become the sons of God' (John i.12; John iii.5).
But, as already said, we had not at that time seen the unsoundness of such a theory, and were therefore willing to have remained in the same position and fellowship, if only there could have been a general understanding arrived at, that no unimmersed persons should be received at the Lord's table.
FURTHER EFFORTS FOR UNITY.
It was in this mind that, early in January, 1879, I attended a conference of believers at Kentishbury, Tasmania, and in the intervals between the general sessions of the conference, on two occasions, brought this subject before the preaching brethren there assembled, notifying the step I had taken, the reasons
therefor, and urging upon my fellow-labourers the importance of unanimity of action in a matter so weighty; for I was persuaded that if the preachers would submit to the teachings of the New Testament, and, in accordance therewith, 'all speak the same thing,' there would be little or no difficulty in the way of a
universal adoption of the same Scriptural principles among all the assemblies where we were wont to labour, with which I strongly desired to be united, if possible. My hopes, however, were doomed todisappointment, for most vigorously did those brethren oppose the adoption of the principles advanced, although
the opposition was from different and contradictory standpoints; one affirming that a Church had no power to receive nor refuse, that that was the Lord's prerogative, while another as firmly maintained that the Church had this power; and yet, after all this combination of self-contradictory opposition, it was
conceded that the New Testament showed only the baptised admitted to the fellowship of the Church, and that I had the letter of the Word (whatever that meant) on my side. Thus, to my sorrow, I saw that the adoption of what was acknowledged to be Scriptural was refused, on the ground of expediency; and we, who had decided to follow the truth at all costs, soon saw that those who opposed the Scriptural teaching on this matter, and taught otherwise, could no more be communed with than those who were actually
GRACIOUS GRADUAL GUIDANCE.
This was not just at the first contem-plated, and there was yet much to learn; and in looking back, I would record with thankfulness to God how graciously He leads all who are willing to be led by Him. When we first raised our voices in protest against 'mixed fellowship,' could we have beheld what would be the logical outcome of the first step, and the conclusions to which Scripture, when it once got us in its grasp, would lead us, the multitude and magnitude of the results might have caused us to shrink back, fearful of taking even the first step; but graciously did He throw light upon the path, as though lifting the curtain before us sufficiently for one step at a time. The result of further knowledge acquired was, that we declared ourselves separate from all assemblies which tolerated mixed fellowship; not merely separated from the individual members thereof who were unimmersed, but separated from the assemblies in their corporate form; for we saw that baptized believers who, having become possessed of light and knowledge sufficient to lead them to obey the Gospel themselves, yet countenanced and endorsed disobedience to the Gospel by fellow-worshipping with those who had not been baptized into the 'one body,' were equally guilty, if not more so, with those who were actually unimmersed, and that an assembly which thus ignored one of the fundamental points in the 'unity of the Spirit,' had no substantial claim to recognition as a Church of Christ. Thus scripturally taught, our convictions were acted out by several assemblies in Victoria and Tasmania simultaneously taking the firm stand alluded to. But all this time what was our relation and attitude towards
the Churches of Christ, miscalled 'Campbellites?' the reader will ask. I will state presently. But first a few words about this term 'Campbellites.' When a body of people consent to be called by the name of a
man, by adopting and owning his name as distinctive of their party, as for example: Wesleyans, Lutherans, etc., then there is no discourtesy or impropriety in our thus speaking of them, or to them. But in the case before us it is different. Campbell was a man who, in his day and generation, fought valiantly in the
battle of truth against error, and was eminently owned of God. Those of the Disciples of Christ who are acquainted with his works justly revere his memory, as that of a man who rendered signal service in the Redeemer's cause; but far from adopting or owning his name as a party designation, they regard it, when thus used, as an opprobrious and offensive epithet, and cling to the name that is above every name - Christ.
I am persuaded that those esteemed friends, from whose letters quotations stand at the commencement of this article, in using the term 'Campbellite,' did so with no bad intention, but rather from a want of knowing better; but there are others who have no such excuse, and to such, should this meet their eye, I would
say, 'Friend, remember in your persistently forcing upon a people a name which you know they reject, you show your vulgarity, your littleness of mind, and the deplorable weakness of your cause, which calls for advocacy of such a character.'
BACK TO OUR STORY.
Now, this digression finished, back to our story. Up to this period, we had regarded the Disciples of Christ with strong dislike. We had heard strange things of them, not from the world, or we should not have heeded, but from brethren highly esteemed: that they denied the personality of the Holy Spirit, that they believed in water instead of the blood cleansing from sin, and other charges of lesser magnitude. These charges, coming, as we thought, from reliable authority, were believed as though veritable facts, and the Disciples shunned accordingly. After we had taken the stand on the question of fellowship which I have alluded to, we soon found, however, that charges, just as strange and misrepresentations just as gross as the above proved to be, fell to our own lot, from those who had maligned the Disciples.
SIMPLE REASONING AND SURE RESULTS.
This forced us to become reasoners; and we reasoned thus:- If those men, that we learned to trust and love, will now misrepresent us because we have differed from them, is it not possible that the accusations we used to hear against the Disciples may be worth inquiring into? At any rate, we thought it both manly and Christian to hear both sides as soon as opportunity offered. I concluded that the safe way to judge of
the tenets held by a people was not by conversation with an individual member, who possibly might be so erratic or ill-informed as to be incapable of fairly expressing what was, or was not, held by the body, but rather to consult the writings of such men as were acknowledged as teachers among them. So judging, I
sought the writings of men who were thus acknowledged, such as Lard, Errett, Campbell, McGarvey, Milligan, Richardson, King, Haley, O.A. Carr, and others. The result was, I found, that the most serious charges made were unfounded rumours. I judge that if these men believed such errors as were imputed to them, they would naturally seek to induce others to the same belief, and would certainly propagate those ideas in their literature. But I found them not.
MR. TENNENT ACCUSES MR. CARR.
I read a pamphlet written by Mr. E.C. Tennent (then of Hobart Town, but now a minister of the Presbyterians at West Tamar, Tasmania), in which he sought to expose the errors of O.A. Carr,
evangelist, at that time in Hobart Town. In seeking to convict Mr. Carr of denying the personality of the Spirit, he quoted from C.'s writings, as follows:-
MR. O.A. CARR SAYS -
The Holy Spirit is a Person, and is represented as having authority. The Saviour said that those taught should be baptized into (eis) the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. xxviii.19-20).
1. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, all co-operate in conversion and sanctification.
2. The Holy Spirit revealed the mind or will of God to the Apostles and Prophets, and also gave them miraculous gifts. The Apostles gave miraculous gifts to others (Acts viii.19).
3. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment (John xvi.7-11).
4. We are begotten, or quickened, or made alive, by the Spirit (Eph. ii; John vi.63) through the Word of God, which is the Sword of the Spirit (James i.18; I Peter i.22-23).
5. The Holy Scriptures are the words of the Spirit, and we must not separate the Spirit from His Word
6. The power and work of the Holy Spirit accompany the Gospel when faithfully preached; hence the Apostles were to simply preach the Gospel, and it is the power of God unto Salvation.
7. The Holy Spirit's power can be resisted (Acts vii. 51).
8. By the Holy Spirit we learn all we know of the Saviour (I
9. The Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian (Rom viii. 9-11).
10. The Holy Spirit does not dwell in the sinner (John xiv. 17).
11. The Holy Spirit is promised to all who believe and obey the Saviour (Acts ii. 38).
12. He comforts the Christian and bears witness with his spirit that he is a child of God; helps his infirmities, and intercedes with groanings unutterable (Rom. viii.).
13. Except you have the Spirit of Christ, you are none of His (Rom. viii).
How far these expressions deny the Scriptural teachings concerning the Spirit, I leave every reader to judge; adding that I only could but marvel at the folly which could collect such quotations to prove that Mr. Carr or the Disciples denied the personality of the Spirit. I found what they denied was, not the personality of the Spirit, but the mysticism which teaches that the Holy Spirit converts, bears witness to, and leads men by some mysterious means or influence other than the Word of Truth. I found that they taught, as we do, that through the Word of God the Spirit bears witness to us, and that to be 'led by the
Spirit' is not merely to follow an imagination, feeling, or inclination - but to obey the Word.
MORE ABOUT THE ACCUSATIONS.
On the subject of cleansing from sin by the water of baptism, I also found that the charge was without foundation, and that the teaching of the Disciples was that the 'blood of Jesus Christ' atones for, and cleanses from all sin, but that the sinner must needs be brought into contact with, or relation to, that
cleansing blood, and that in order to do this the Saviour has instituted (1) faith, (2) repentance, and (3) baptism into His Death (see Mark xvi. 16; Acts ii. 38; Rom. vi. 3, 4, 17, 18). Here is an extract from a sermon entitled, 'The Relation of Baptism to the Blood of Christ,' by G.L. Surber, an eminent preacher among the Disciples:-
'Some have the idea - or say they have - that we believe in water salvation. To my mind such a statement is horrible! And to every man who believes that the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin, it must be an offence.'
The following is an extract from A. Campbell:-
'It is not the first act of begetting, nor the last act of being born, but the whole process of conversion in the figure of generation, to which we have directed the attention of our readers. For, as often before stated, our opponents deceive themselves and their hearers by representing us as ascribing to the word immersion, and the act of immersion, all that they call regeneration. While, therefore, we contend that being 'born again,' and being immersed are, in the Apostles' style, two names for the same action, we are far from supposing or teaching that, in forming the new man, there is nothing necessary but to be born. 'The outward act (in baptism), then, is but the symbol of the transition, inward and spiritual, by which our souls are bathed in that ocean of love which purifies our person, and makes them one with the Lord. Without this, being born of water or being connected with a Church, is nothing. Hence, without previous knowledge, faith and repentance, immersion is a mere outward and unprofitable ceremony.' - Campbell-Rice Debate, page 493.
This is substantially the same as the views of baptism already given as held by the Disciples; and here I saw that they were able to do what the brethren we had parted from could not and did not, viz., to preach all the Word. And I remembered that when very young in the faith I had asked a very earnest evangelist
among the brethren how he understood and how he would treat such passages as Acts ii. 38, 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, etc., and Acts xxii. 16, 'Arise, and be baptized and wash away thy sins,' etc., and how he replied, with a gesture of impatience, almost bordering upon anger, 'Never mind such verses as those, there are plenty without them, "He that believeth," "Whosoever believeth," "All that believe," and so on, you don't need to meddle with such
verses as Acts ii. 38, and Acts xxii. 16.' Well, as far back as that, though the subject was thus disposed of, I still could not help thinking that the verses which had seemed to trouble my beloved friend surely meant something; that surely God had a purpose in placing them there, although it was not till long afterwards that I understood how that, by taking the Gospel just as the Apostles preached it, there was no need to evade any verse, but that it was quite simple, scriptural, and proper, to say to convicted sinners, as did Peter in Acts ii. 38, 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins,' etc., or to say to a penitent believer, as did Ananias to Saul in Acts xxii. 16, 'Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins,' etc. It comes so easy now. There is no need to evade, omit, oppose, or conceal any verse.
CONCLUSIONS, AND FURTHER CONTESTS.
So far, the investigation of the charges against the Disciples of Christ had led to the conclusion that they had been misunderstood and misrepresented, and I desired to have a closer acquaintance with them, an opportunity for which, however, did not occur till sometime later, as will be seen further on. Meanwhile, war raged on the communion question. A teacher in connection with the brethren meeting at the Assembly Hall,
Melbourne, issued a small pamphlet attacking and denouncing the position assumed by the assemblies which had abandoned 'mixed communion,' in which he gave a number of Scripture quotations so palpably inapplicable to the question, and giving the pamphlet such a specious, yet sophistical character, as to provoke censure from even his own friends. Of this pamplet I circulated a number of copies, willing that
brethren who had forsaken 'mixed communion' should, as well as others, see the best that could be written in its defence. Some time later, after numerous requests, I wrote a review of the said Melbourne pamphlet, which review, under the title, 'casting down imaginations,' and containing thirty-two pages, was
published in January, 1880, and has since been very extensively circulated, and to many enquiring minds it proved helpful in a marked degree.
WHAT OTHERS DID - AND DID NOT.
Some time after this, a brother in connection with the Church at Taradale, knowing something of the wide difference of teaching and practice on the communion question existing between the Disciples of Christ and the Brethren at Assembly Hall, resolved to submit the question to a Scriptural and very simple kind of test, by selecting three members on each side, to each of which six he sent a paper of printed 'Queries,' which, in a very concise form, embraced the whole of the question in dispute, and of which the following is a fac-simile:-
1. Does the New Testament command baptism in water?
2. Is the command to all believers, or to some only?
3. What test authorises the making of exceptions?
4. Give one instance of an unbaptized person being in the early Church?
5. Can you prove that the rule of those days is not the rule for these?
Of the above paper, a copy was sent to Mr. H., Mr. S., and Mr. T., of the Disciples, and to Mr. C., Mr. M., and Mr. V. N., of the Assembly Hall Brethren, with a request that each would fill in answers on blank lines, and return the paper. The three Disciples promptly returned answers as follows:-
Answer to 1st Question: Yes!
Answer to 2nd Question: To all (Acts ii. 38)
Answer to 3rd Question: None!
Answer to 4th Question: No instance!
Answer to 5th Question: No one can!
These answers were received as being in accordance with Scripture. Of the three Assembly Hall Brethren, Mr. V. N. never replied. After some delay, Mr. C. wrote, stating that before he answered the Queries, he wished to be told, 'Has Mr. Cheek anything to do with sending these queries?' To this he received a prompt reply, and then wrote a second time, saying, 'I decline to answer your queries.' Mr. M. also, after some delay, wrote saying, 'I decline to answer.' Comment upon this is unnecessary.
AMONGST THE DISCIPLES.
The opportunity previously alluded to for further acquaintance with the Disciples presented itself when, in June, 1880, I visited Wedderburn. Here I found a Church of these once-avoided people, but before co-operating with them determined to be fully satisfied that their faith and practice were in accordance with
the Word of God. At a meeting of the Church, held shortly after my arrival, I was present, with two other brethren associated with me, and all the points of supposed difference or difficulty were fully investigated, and the result was highly satisfactory, and may be well stated in words quoted from a report of the matter furnished by one of the leading brethren there, and published in the Australian Christian Advocate of August, 1880:- 'Meetings for conference between the Church, and these dear brethren made manifest the fact that we are in reality one in spirit and in mind.'After a time our acquaintance began to extend, and a desire for union and co-operation of a wider and more general character began to grow. How a union came about between the assemblies at Castlemaine, Drummond, Elphinstone, Newstead, and Taradale, with
which I had laboured and worshipped, and the Disciples meeting in Castlemaine, Barker's Creek, and surrounding places, will be learned from the following extract from a report of the matter written by Bro. W. W. Davey, and published in the Australian Christian Watchman, of July, 1881. Referring to myself and the Churches I was identified with, the writer says:- 'Both he and they, on account of circumstances which cannot be here detailed, were under misapprehensions as to the position and teaching of the Churches of Christ in Victoria, which had been previously established: and therefore have until recently remained separate from them. 'Bro. Cheek and myself became personally acquainted about a year ago, and have since had conversations together respecting the importance of our mutual recognition of each other as fellow-
labourers; and of the assemblies amongst whom we labour, recognizing each other as Churches of Christ in fellowship, as one body. But as there were differences of opinion between us on some points which seemed important, a conference was ultimately proposed. 'This conference was held at Castlemaine, on Wednesday, May 18th, when fifteen brethren, as representatives of the several assemblies, met in a most cordial spirit and discussed these differences; and after about four hours spent in earnest prayerful examination of them in the light of New Testament teaching, they had almost vanished away. But lest there should be any after-difficulty from a want of thoroughness in understanding each other, a second conference was held at
Taradale, on Monday, June 6th. That an increased interest was felt in this second conference was made manifest by the presence of thirty-one brethren as representatives.... The result of this second conference was a unanimous affirmation of certain resolutions which recognized our oneness as Churches of Christ,
and a cordial acceptance of each other as brethren and fellow-labourers in the "one body". Whilst these conferences in Victoria had resulted in the way shown above, similar investigations had been made in Tasmania, with the same happy termination. Bro. G.B. Moysey, who was labouring with the Church of Christ
in Hobart, visited Port Esperance, to confer with the leading Brethren there, in order to discover the nature and extent of differences between the two Churches. The result of Bro. M.'s visit will be best told in his own
words, extracted from his report of same, published in the August number of the Australian Christian Watchman:- 'We soon found that on fundamentals - as to what we must believe, and be, and do, in order to salvation - we were one; there was no difference. 'In regard to matters on which there were differences of
opinion, it was soon seen that they were not of such a nature as to bar Christian fellowship - that in regard to such points we must cherish and manifest mutual forbearance and consideration, and that in speaking on disputed points, especially in public, we should each, as nearly as possible, let the Scriptures themselves
speak: thus we should all 'speak the same thing,' and, as each believes the whole of the Scriptures, no objection can be made to the free quotation of Scriptures which are supposed to teach conflicting sentiments. And finally, in case a hearer occasionally finds a little grit, or sand, or other unpalatable or indigestible substance in the spiritual bread presented, he is not to certainly conclude that the brother meant to poison him, but to put it down to the imperfection of the human mill in which the precious corn was ground, or that of the trough in which the flour was kneaded.'
CONCLUSIONS AND COUNSELS.
And now, having sought to give an answer to the questions at the head of this paper, and to give an outline of the step-by-step proceedings by which we attained the present position - a few closing words. Disciples of Christ, once despised and rejected by us, you are not so now! Finding you built upon the right foundation, we rejoice in your fellowship. You have plenty of faults, but we love you because you love our Master, and have contended earnest for His truth. Our hearts and hands would go out to you everywhere in fraternal greetings; shoulder to shoulder we now march with you, contending earnestly for the faithwhich was once delivered unto the saints -
' The battle is indeed the Lord's,
But soon will end the story,
When Christ will come with His rewards,
His crowns of fadeless glory.'
And now, to the mixed-communion Brethren left behind (miscalled Plymouth Brethren), we just tarry in our march to wave to you the message, in loving entreaty, 'Come thou with us, and we will do thee good, for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel.' Put away prejudice if you can, it is a fearful foe. Be candid
and willing to investigate. Search the Scriptures, whether these things are so. You have all along been making a great mistake. The great Lawgiver of the New Dispensation says, 'He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.' He wants you to preach it so; but you've always been reading it, 'He that
believeth and is saved may be baptized.' Rest assured that what Christ says in one passage He cannot unsay in another. He has given the pattern of but one Church, with one Lord, one faith, one baptism.
And lastly, to any reader whose eyes this may chance to meet. Where do you stand? Are you perplexed by the confusion existing in the religious world, and with a believing heart honestly desire to follow the Lord acceptably? Then away back to the fountain head, to the original pattern, 'Beginning at Jerusalem' (Luke xxiv. 27). The way in which men came into the Church of Christ then, must be the way, the only way now. For the pattern of the first Church read carefully the second chapter of Acts. Here you have the starting point. And if your heart believes, then obey from the heart the form of doctrine delivered; then you will stand on the immutable foundation. May every reader be profited by our journey to Jerusalem.
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