For Your Thought – 39 (Alexander Campbell On Fellowship)

The following quotes relative to fellowship were part of a response to Andrew Broaddus, an elder in the Baptist Church, who Alexander Campbell addressed as “brother”. Broaddus was questioning Campbell’s “fraternization” with Barton W. Stone because of their different views of “The Atonement”.

Well, then, be it observed, that on the broad foundation of Christian union, according to Paul, we must fraternize with all who practically own one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one body, one Spirit, one hope, one God and Father of all. With all such we must maintain unity of spirit in the bonds of peace. So we are divinely commanded. A question may arise, however, on one of the seven points. viz. – on the “one faith”; on the “one Lord”. On these subjects there has been an interminable, international speculative war, in which all parties have incorporated the language of Ashdod with that of Canaan. Calvinist and Arminian, Arian, Trinitarian, Socinian, and Sabellian, all have gone out of the way more or less. On the principles of Christian liberty and unity only I could fraternize with any of them all: for if my communion with any one of them is to be regarded as a declaration of my acquiescence with that party in all its allegations and disquisitions upon the one Lord and the one faith, I would never break the loaf with it while the world stands.

What a contrast in attitude and understanding to the dogmatists and sectarians of our day! Bro. Campbell saw fellowship/unity as having a “broad foundation” when it comes to interpretation of the new covenant scriptures. Not so the former who want to limit it to those who acquiesce to the unwritten party creed, select viewpoints that identify the party.

A little later in the response bro. Campbell pointed out that a believer saying, “I am for Christ” could be “as great a sectary as he that said, ‘I am for Paul’.”  In my lifetime some of the most sectarian brethren I have observed have been those who vociferously voiced they followed Christ and castigated those who did not ascribe to their opinions.

Bor. Campbell recognized that fellowship/unity is not endorsement or based upon endorsement of reasoned views of the teachings of the new covenant scriptures relative to “matters of faith” . It is not based upon conformity of the intellect.  For it to be so would necessitate hypocrisy on the part of believers. Consistency and honesty to a foundation of conformity of intellect would result in no fellowship at all, either with God or any of His children. To insist upon such an impossibility while we are in this human state is an affront to God for creating us with the ability to discern, reason, and think, having moral agency.

If our Lord gave the supper to the Twelve on the night in which he was betrayed, and communed with them in all their vulgar misconceptions of himself, his mission, and kingdom, well may we commune with all those in our communities who acknowledge those seven items of which Paul speaks to the Ephesians, although in many points they may err both in theory and practice. I thank my Lord that I feel myself so authorized and so enabled; and I trust, my dear sir, that you will yet see the day when you will as cheerfully extend the right hand of fellowship to me, and to all them who love our Lord Jesus Christ sincerely, as I could to many Baptist Christians and other sectaries that now falsely accuse our good behavior in Christ.

In both of these quotes bro. Campbell makes a distinction between acknowledgment or belief of the facts and interpretations of the facts. We are and can be united upon the facts, but not upon interpretations of the facts. We have confused the two. Each party insists that their interpretations are the facts. Party leaders manifest in various ways that they are the authoritative interpreters of the facts. Unlike bro. Campbell who was thankful that he could “cheerfully extend the right hand of fellowship” to those he thought  “may err in theory and practice” party leaders of today are thankful they are not like their “brethren-in-error” who they exclude, accusing them of not recognizing the authority of the scriptures. Balderdash!

(The quotes are found in the 1842 “Millennial Harbinger”. pp. 209-211.)

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