Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 28, 1956

Christian Unity: How Promoted, How Destroyed (VII.)

David Lipscomb

"If the fathers of this reformation emphasized one thing more than another it was the importance of the distinction between faith and opinion." This is true. But they emphasized the difference, that opinion and every practice based upon it, might be rigidly excluded from the church, and that only the things clearly required by the Lord, by plain precept, or clear and well approved example — so matters of faith — should be received or tolerated in the church of God. Yet the writer would represent Campbell and his coadjutors, as laying down a basis of union, that would embrace and cherish in the church of God opinions and service based on them, which he denounces as "the essence of all partyism, the firstborn of Satan, the very spirit of discord and strife, the prolific mother of emulation, strife, sedition, heresy and treason." In the face, too, of the emphasized declaration, "It is not the right of any citizen of Christ's kingdom to propagate any opinion whatever, either in the public assembly or in private." "Oh, shame, where is thy blush?"

Alexander Campbell nor his compeers ever dreamed that by basing fellowship upon faith, and not opinion, that every "fad and fancy and preference of opinion" was to be brought into the church and tolerated. But opinions were to be held as private property and never to be introduced into what was common to all or in what others had a common interest or into that in which all participated.

A man has an opinion that the organ may be used in worship. That, as all admit, is an opinion. It is and can only be an opinion — because there is no basis for faith, in connection with it. According to A. Campbell, that man has a right to that opinion, as private property. And he who would disfellowship him for holding that opinion as private property, would be guilty of tyranny of opinion. But when that man makes his opinion the basis of his action, teaches it is right, and introduces that organ into the church, he makes his opinion the rule of faith and action for the church. Just as much as the man who holds the opinion that Calvinism is true and seeks to make all accept his Calvinism as the creed of the church, enforces an opinion on the church. All this making our opinions, our "fads, fancies and preferences" the rule of action in church matters, forcing them upon the acceptance, fellowship or toleration of the Church, is to make these opinions the rule of faith and action for the Church, and for those who hold a contrary opinion, and is the highest and most offensive type of tyranny of opinion possible. Your opinions must be accepted and become the rule of action, mine must be restrained and held in check and be dominated by yours!

The true and only plea for union is that all should lay aside their opinions, or hold them as private property, and unite upon what all agree is plainly taught in the Scriptures. No man shall ask of another to do, to submit to, to fellowship a thing in church service that is not plainly required by the word of God. One man cannot sacrifice his opinions and preference to those of another man — his equal — but all men can lay aside their opinions and preferences, to do just what God requires, nothing less, nothing more. And this is the ground and strength of the plea for the union of Christians. It was not to tolerate the introduction of the "fads, fancies and preferences" of every or any opinion into the church of God. This is to introduce different and conflicting rules of action and to bring confusion and strife into the churches of God. This will only make confusion worse confounded and sow the seeds of discord and strife and perpetual and never ending divisions.

To receive and tolerate these in the church is to open the door for all innovations and perversions of the Divine order. It is to crowd the church with the follies, fads, fancies and preferences of the thoughtless, the giddy, the frivolous, the godless members of the church, and it is to drive out of the church reverence for God and His holy word, consecration and devotion. It is to cast out the spirit of piety and holiness and reverence for the appointments and commandments of God, and of self-denial and self-consecration for God and His cause, and is to substitute for it the spirit of levity and frolic, of lightness and fleshly gratification. It is to pervert the religion of Christ in all its holy and essential elements of devotion and worship, to one of lightness, frolic and entertainment.

He who maintains that Alexander Campbell taught that Christian union was to be founded in loose latitudinarian toleration of all the fads and fancies and preferences and opinions of men in the church of God, never appreciated the strength of his plea or the grounds of his labors. His life work was to deprecate all opinions in religious service, to cast them out of the work of the church, to retire them from public attention as private property, not to be introduced into public service or public notice and to direct and concentrate the attention, and to unite the labors of all, upon that which is clearly required in the Bible, as embodying the faith of all who accept the word of God as the sum of Christian faith and the rule of action for the Christian, in his individual and church capacity. He who appreciates the true plea and the lifework of Mr. Campbell will never be found introducing the "fads, fancies, preferences and opinions" of men into the work or worship of the church of God, nor will he be found justifying, excusing or apologizing for those who do introduce them. But if he would carry out the work A. Campbell engaged in, he will deprecate, discourage and condemn every introduction of what is a mere matter of opinion, and which is not clearly a matter of faith, and will urge all to lay aside these matters of opinion and to unite in the matters clearly revealed to our faith and required by the word of God. Here is ground for union and peace and harmony, and nowhere else in the universe can it be found.

The introduction of the missionary society, the organ, the festival, the pastor distinct from elder, and all the fads and fancies that are based on opinion, is a gross and palpable violation of all the principles of union laid down by these worthy men who undertook to unite the religious world on the word of God, and is condemned by them as the fruitful source of corruption and division in the churches of God. If these men who introduce these devices and inventions of men, will imbibe the spirit of these movers in the restoration movement and will follow their example, or be guided by their advice, peace, union and harmony would permeate the whole brotherhood of disciples with the rising of the morrow's sun. But while they continue to introduce these fads, and fancies, and preferences based on opinions, they stand condemned by this address, and the men to whom they appeal, as the corrupters and defilers of the church of God and as sowers of discord among brethren. We, in opposing the introduction of these things and in urging that nothing shall be brought into the church of God except that for which a "thus saith the Lord," in express precept or by approved precedent, can be produced, are contending for the ground of union presented by them, and the Scriptures, and the only one possible to man.