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LETTER FROM W. JONES TO MR. A. CAMPBELL.
London, April 20, 1835. MY DEAR BROTHER CAMPBELL!
I wrote to you under date of the 16th of last month, by one of the packet ships from Liverpool to New York, and, by the same conveyance, forwarded you a small parcel of books to the care of Messrs. Joseph Stanley and Co., both of which, I hope, will reach you in due course. As Mr. Thomas, father of Dr. Thomas, of Richmond, in Virginia, and who resides in my neighbourhood, informs me that you have had an unusually severe winter in the United States, the frost having blocked up the ordinary channels of communication, I suppose I must not expect to receive any letters from you for the next two months. Nevertheless, I purpose, if the Lord spare me, and grant me ability, to adhere to my stipulation of forwarding a letter to you monthly; for, on dipping a little further into your “ Christian Baptist” and “ Millennial Harbinger,” I find there is no danger of my lacking materials for correspondence for many months to come, even though “stern winter" should interpose to withhold, or keep back, your letters to me.
Well, my dear friend, I have now issued from the press two numbers of my “ Millennial Harbinger," and they have taken their flight east, west, north, and south. As they are mostly made up of selections from your “ Christian Baptist,” and manuscript letters, I think it very natural for you to inquire what kind of reception they have met with among my countrymen; and to this point I shall first address myself.
It will no way surprise you to be told, that, as is usual in all cases of this kind, a great diversity of opinion prevails. Some are lavish in their commendation of the productions of your pen; but I do not intend to offend your delicacy by quoting these. Applause is intoxicating to proud mortals, and few can withstand its deleterious influence; I prefer, therefore, the opposite course, namely, that of laying before you a few of the animadversions, remonstrances, and complaints which have reached me, hoping that you will take them into consideration, and where reproof and censure are well founded, allow them to have their due weight. Here, then, follows an extract of a letter, which I received, a month ago, from a correspondent who resides more than five hundred miles from the metropolis, but who had then only seen the first number of the M. H. Thus he writes :
“My dear Sir, you must correct Mr. Campbell ; he is by far too censorious as regards the views, practices, and proceedings of
others, and too rash as regards his own. I shall continue to denominate myself a Baptist, a Calvinist, and a Trinitarian (to use a Scotch phrase), in spite of his thropple (or thrapple). He is not the first that has attempted to discard names as descriptive of parties. But in every attempt of the kind, I always fear some cloven foot to lie concealed. I shall truly rejoice if Mr. Campbell does not strike his head against some dangerous post in the rapidity of his flight. His zeal and labours are abundant; but whether his wisdom and prudence keep pace with them, seems to admit of some doubt."
This, Sir, emanates, not from a light-headed Englishman, like myself, but from a sober-minded Scotchman, one of your own nation and kindred ; consequently, is entitled to the greater regard. Another, from the same country, addresses me thus :
“ With regard to the · Millennial Harbinger,' it certainly communicates much information in which I rejoice. Mr. C. and his friends are extremely sanguine, however, and in danger of getting into extremes. His animadversions on Mr. M.Lean surprised me much, and led me to suppose that he had never seen his writings. I am glad to see that you have done justice to Mr. M. in your second number, though, indeed, it is only what I expected ; and my prayer is, that you may be useful to Mr. Campbell and his friends in many respects, for which I suppose there may be opportunity, as his letter in your first number, pp. 23--29, affords much ground for criticism, &c. Allow me, now that the subject is before me, to quote to you an extract of a letter written by a young man, whose father is a member of this church, and who, in his early days, attended with his father on our church meetings, though he never applied for baptism. When arrived at man's estate, he left this country for America ; and, since his residence there, he thus writes to his parent.
". The religious part of the community here are very zealous in the propagation of divine truth. The Sabbath-schools, although conducted somewhat different from what they are in Scotland, are numerous, and have done much good. The Tract Society is prospering; and much good has also resulted from the Temperance Societies. But these benevolent institutions do not escape the malevolence of men. If this, indeed, were confined to men of the world, or (some of those who profess what they call the Christian faith, such as the Universalists, it would be nothing strange. But the principal agent in this is a Mr. A. Campbell, a native of Scotland, the same person that debated the truth of Christianity at Cincinnati with Mr. Robert Owen. This gentleman is opposed to Bible Societies, Sunday Schools, Tract and Missionary Societies, and other institutions for the dissemination of divine truth. He calls the whole “milking schemes,” impoverishing the people and enriching a few, and describes the people as being subject to priestcraft. Selecting one or two verses, or a part of a verse, from which to discourse, he ridicules by the name of text-preaching. And not satisfied with the common version of the New Testament, he has compiled one from the labours of Drs. Campbell, Macknight, and Doddridge, with notes critical and explanatory. His religious sentiments, stripping its reasoning of its herbage, are-denying the agency of the Holy Spirit in the conversion of a sinner, (maintaining] that the bare confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God entitles any one to Christian baptism ; that water-baptism is the new birth and the regeneration of the New Testament; that until a person has been thus baptised, he is a stranger to the forgiveness of sins, or the consoling influences of the Holy Spirit; but that, when he is regenerated by water, then he participates in the "times of refreshing” spoken of, Acts iii. 19. For a further account of things propagated by this gentleman, I refer you to the “ Millennial Harbinger," of which Mr. Campbell is editor.” Dated Vicksburgh, State of Mississippi, Sept. 5th, 1831.
A third correspondent thus writes :-“ I have only just got No. II. of the “ Millennial Harbinger," but have not read it. Some persons allege that Mr. Campbell denies the necessity of the Spirit's influence to convert the sinner, and holds that the Spirit is given after, and in consequence of, being baptised. His illustration of baptism from the Old Testament seems to me very fanciful.”
A fourth declares, that “if Mr. Campbell's notions respecting baptism and the Holy Spirit are correct, he unchristianises all the Paidobaptists in every age and country.”!
I might thus proceed with my quotations to a considerable extent, but the limits of a letter forbid further enlargement, and enough has been already adduced to lay a foundation for a few observations and reflections, which I must now submit, on one point of doctrine above alluded to, viz, the work of the Holy Spirit in the economy of human redemption. This is a most important article of the Christian faith ; and correct views concerning it appear to me to be essential to soundness in the doctrine of Christ, as well as to real comfort and holiness in the divine life. But, upon second thoughts, I need not have said this to you, since I have it from under your own hand, that “correct views of the office of the Holy Spirit in the salvation of men are essential to the knowledge of the Christian religion, as also to our enjoyment of it.” Christian Baptist, Vol. II.
My dear friend, when the first intimation was given me, and that before I looked into your published volumes, that you denied the necessity of any supernatural divine influence to enlighten the understanding of a sinner and convert the heart to God, to produce faith unfeigned and that repentance which is unto life, such was my confidence in you, that I treated the report as a mere calumny. I could not be made to believe that one who was so very conversant with the “living oracles," and at the same time so entirely emancipated from all human systems, creeds, and confessions, had discarded a doctrine which lies at the very foundation of all true religion or vital godliness. The report, however, gained ground by currency, coupled also with another heresy, to wit, the confounding of baptism with regeneration and the forgiveness of sins. This increased my perplexity certainly, yet I was still sceptical ; for I thus reasoned with myself :-Mr. Campbell has too much good sense to maintain such an absurdity as that immersion is regeneration—that the external act of washing in water renovates the heart ; he must well know that men may be “baptised infidels, washed to fouler crimes," as the poet expresses it ; for what better was Simon Magus, Acts viii. though immersed by an Evangelist? There must be some mistake, some misrepresentation in all this ! Mr. Campbell is not the man to confound the sign with the thing signified: he well knows that immersion in water is the symbol of regeneration, or the new birth; and that it is an emblematical representation to the repenting believer of the washing away of his sins in the blood of Christ : he surely never can confound immersion with the renewing of the Holy Spirit, of which it is only the outward sign!
In this state of perplexity, I determined to have recourse to the pages of the “ Christian Baptist” for satisfactory information on the subject; and was glad to find, in the second volume of that work, a series of Essays on the Office and Work of the Holy Spirit in the Salvation of Men-eight or ten in number-and in which I was exceedingly gratified at finding the subject taken up from the beginning, and pursued consecutively, step by step, with more than ordinary ability, and in a very clear and convincing manner. It gave me infinite satisfaction to find you exonerating the doctrine in question of a cart-load of rubbish, which has been heaped upon it by expositors, and commentators, and other learned Doctors in Divinity, whose lucubrations tend to no better purpose than that of involving the subject in mysticism, and hiding the simplicity of divine truth from the minds of inquirers. Agreeing as I do with you most fully that the influence of the Holy Spirit in his operations on the human mind in the work of regeneration and sanctification are wholly of a moral and not a physical kind, I was pleased to find you, throughout these Essays, clearly maintaining this distinction, and also successfully exposing the pernicious tendency of the latter system. The question, however, was constantly before me, and uppermost in my mind,-does Mr. Campbell really admit the necessity of any divine influence to give the word of God its proper effect in the conversion of a sinner, enlightening the understanding, removing the obscuring film from the mental vision, and, by means of divine revelation, causing the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, as it shines in the person of Jesus Christ, to shine into the heart, and thus produce faith unfeigned? Essay after Essay I perused with intense interest and anxiety, hoping to meet with some unequivocal testimony from his own pen, which should silence all my doubts, and put the question finally to rest. But how shall I express my disappointment when I arrived at the end of the last Essay, without finding the grand point ever fairly met! My heart sunk within me, and the mortification I endured is not to be told. And is it come to this, said I, that Mr. Campbell has actually discarded from his creed a fundamental doctrine of the Gospel ? Why, the denial of this tenet must necessarily affect more or less every other sentiment connected with it, particularly the nature and properties of divine
race ; and it must make salvation to be of “him that willeth and runneth,” in flat opposition to the divine declaration in Rom. ix. 16, as well as a hundred other texts of Scripture. Well, I bless God that the Scotch Baptists on this side the Atlantic “ have not so learned Christ.” We have no dispute among us on this subject; the doctrine is universally recognised in all our churches, that “salvation is wholly of grace, through faith, and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God," and comes through divine teaching. But, thought I, perhaps Mr. Campbell does not mean to deny the necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration and sanctification, though he has not insisted upon it where he had a fine opportunity of doing it with effect, and where, I think, he ought not to have omitted it; let me, therefore, not be too hasty in coming to a conclusion on this matter, but examine his writings more fully, and especially as I meet with many things in them, which are wholly incompatible with such an admission.
In this way I determined to prosecute my researches through the volumes of the “ Christian Baptist ;” and perhaps you will not be offended with me, if I here submit to you a thought which more than once obtruded itself upon me as I perused your pages. It was this : “ I now perceive how it is with my friend Campbell : he has witnessed so much of the mysticism, misery, and mischief resulting from the commonly received notion of a physical energy exerted on the human mind, producing faith and repentance, that he never meets with that sentiment but he appears to think he sees the great Devil, and he instantly scampers out of his way as fast and as far as he can possibly get!"