Methodistic Candor and Consistency

1843-12

Millennial Harbinger Johnson, T. C.

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“Methodistic Candor And Consistency.” T. C. Johnson to Alexander Campbell. Millennial Harbinger 7, no. 12 (December 1843): 553–57.

METHODISTIC CANDOR AND CONSISTENCY.

SPENCER, IA. August, 1843.

Brother Campbell,

I HAVE just finished reading a book, entitled “Mormonism and the Mormons: a Historical View of the Rise and Progress of the self-styled Latter Day Saints—by Daniel P. Kidder.

Published (in New York) by C. Lane and P. P Sandford, for the Methodist Episcopal Church, at the Conference Office, 200 Mulberry-street, 1842—J. Collard, Printer”—in which I find much information concerning the origin and progress of that worst of all modern delusions. And if the account I have read be true, it is very astonishing that rational and enlightened people ever have been imposed upon by it, and receive the Book of Mormon (the Mormon Bible) and Joseph Smith’s pretended revelations, as coming from God. But notwithstanding the author of the above entitled book would wish to make his readers think that his entire object is to expose the absurdities of Mormonism, yet (to me) it is manifest that he has another object in view; that is, to make an impression upon the minds of the ignorant and unsuspecting, that “Mormonism and (what he is pleased to call) Campbellism,” owe their origin to you; and thus to identify the doctrine of Christ as taught by you, and your fellow-laborers in the gospel, (which he is pleased to call Campbellism,) with Mormonism; which attempt to impose upon his readers seems to deserve a passing notice—for, no doubt, many will read this book that never hear us teach; and it being published under the control of such high authority, coming to them with the sanction and approval of the Methodist Episcopal Church, will be taken as true; and they will be made to believe that you, and your coadjutors, in the work of the Lord, are as much deluded as the Mormons, and as much to be avoided. But to show you that my opinion is well founded, I will give you some extracts from said publication.

On page 215 is the following:—“In order to understand the theological character of Mormonism, the reader needs recollect that Rigdon and several of his associates had been followers of Alexander Campbell. They had been drilled thoroughly as coadjutors of that self-styled reformer. Immersion for the remission of sins had been their [553] favorite theme, nor did it cease to be so when they embraced Mormonism.

The Campbellite preachers had been famous for their rant and declamation against all creeds and sects; yet they were going about to establish a new sect, while, to vindicate THEIR CREED, they published a new translation of the New Testament.

From the success and temporary popularity of Campbellites, the Mormons manifestly took their cue, but they have distanced their forerunners.”

And upon page 216 we find the following:—“Various passages in the Book of Mormon show the writer to have been a Campbellite in his views: e.g. page 451. ‘Eight thousand of the Lamanites were baptized unto repentance.’ Page 514: ‘Behold ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them. And ye shall immerse them in the water and come forth again out of the water.”

Our author goes on to give other expressions found in the Book of the Mormons, which (he says) are similar to those used by you, and your fellow-disciples, in speaking and writing upon the subject of religion; and then, forsooth, comes to the satisfactory conclusion (at least to his mind) that Mormonism and Capbellism “are identical,” or at least “bear a striking affinity.

Hear him again on the same page:—”Other passages of the same purport might be introduced, but we proceed to show the affinity between Campbellism and Mormonism. Here our author gives extracts from certain publications of the Mormons, both from the United States and Great Britain, showing that their “great success was attributable to Campbellism;” and then remarks,

“Thus it appears that Campbellism has proved the harbinger to Mormonism, both in America and England. The two systems seem still to be identical in denying the necessity of spiritual regeneration.”

Further, on page 308 of the same publication, we have the following:—“We must now, however, close this review with two extracts, showing that the Book of Mormon bears the broad impress of Campbellism, which his not yet quite fourteen hundred years old.” Here our author attempts to show that because the Book of Mormons teaches faith, reformation, and immersion for the remission of sins, and you and your co-laborers in the gospel of Christ preach the same, therefore it must certainly follow that you and your coadjutors in the reformation are the founders of the doctrines of that [the Mormon] sect. I look upon the whole of his efforts, on this part of his work, as the argumenium ad captandum vulgus; for surely if he has brains enough to be an author, he ought to know that, even the intelligent of his own party can easily see through the flimsy vail of his sophistry.

Now by the same mode of argument that he uses, I can prove that Methodism and Mormonism are identical. For instance:—

1st “Rigdon and some of his associates had been followers of Alex. Campbell,” &c. Well, some of the preachers of Mormonism had been Methoidst preachers and followers of John Wesley, and had been thoroughly drilled as coadjutors to Methodism. Therefore, Mormonism owes its origin to Methodism, according to our author’s own logic [554]!

2d. “Immersion for the remission of sins had been their favorite theme, nor did it cease to be when they became Mormons.” Well, John Wesley, the father of Methodism, taught that immersion was the ancient apostolic mode of baptism; and that baptism was for the remission of sins. Hear Mr. Wesley, in his comments on the New Testament, (page 350:)—“Baptism administered to real penitents, is both a means and a seal of pardon. Nor did God ordinarily, in the primitive church, bestow this [pardon] on any unless through this means.”

In a tract of his, republished by the Methodist Episcopal Church, in the year 1836, by order of the General Conference, in a book called “Doctrinal Tracts,” we find that he teaches—

“By baptism we are admitted into the church, and consequently made members of Christ, its head.” “By baptism, we, who were by nature children of wrath, are made the children of God.”

(page 248.) “This is grounded on the plain words of our Lord, ‘Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” John iii. 5. “By water, then, as a means, the water of baptism, we are regenerated or born again.” (page 249.) Therefore, we might with as much propriety say, that Methodism was the harbinger to Mormonism.

3d. The Campbellite preachers had been famous for their rant and declamation against all creeds and sects; while, to vindicate their creed, they published a new translation of the New Testament.”

Here we have a great charge—that of making a new translation of the New Testament to vindicate our creed; insinuating thereby, that we have a human creed; and that, too, so repugnant to the word of God, that, to vindicate it, we had to have a new translation made to suit it: by which I suppose our author wishes to make his readers believe that we are so impious and heaven-daring, that, to vindicate a certain creed we have, we had to alter the word of the Lord!

May the Lord have mercy upon the individual who would thus attempt to impose upon his readers, and upon those through whose agency it has been printed and published throughout the length and breadth of the land!

It is true, brother Campbell, that you published a new translation of the New Testament, “translated from the original Greek, by Doctors George Campbell, James Macknight, and Phillip Doddridge, (with prefaces, various emendations, and an appendix,” &c.) who were orthodox Pedobaptist Divines. But John Wesley made and published a new translation of the New Testament. Did he do this to vindicate his creed? Do modern Methodists republish it to vindicate their creed? Wesley did it. The Methodist Episcopal Church have republished it. Therefore, according to our author’s mode of reasoning, Mormonism bears a striking affinity to Methodism!!

As to our fame for our declamation against all creeds and sects, it is true that the Christian teachers unanimously preach against all human creeds and confessions of faith, as unauthorized by the word of God, the offspring of human wisdom and authority, as obstacles in the way of the union of God’s children as prayed for by our Divine Redeemer: John ch. xvii— consequently, in the way of the conversion of the world.

We plead guilty also, as to our being opposed to all sects, save that one which was first called Christian at Antioch—that sect of which Christ is the head, and the Apostles the first members and builders. [555]

Did not the Apostles of the Lamb oppose sects and divisions in the body of Christ?

Certainly they did. See 1 Cor. iii. 3. “For whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, [sects,] are ye not carnal” Rom. 16, 17, 18: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and, by good words and fair speeches, deceive the hearts of the simple.” See Titus iii. 10. “A man that is a heretic, [a sect-maker,] after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” See also 1 Cor. i. 2. 10, 11, 12, and 13, which the reader will please examine. Then, in our opposition to sects or divisions amongst Christians, we are in good company.—Since, then, the Saviour and his Apostles opposed divisions, or sects, and contended for the union of the children of God, ought not we to follow their hallowed and praiseworthy example? Certainly we should, notwithstanding even Mormons should do the same.

Do our Methodist Episcopal friends contend for human creeds and sects among the people of God, by divine authority? If not, they should be cautious how they act in this matter: for if we are right in this, they are wrong, and of course fighting against God.

4th. But the Mormon Bible contains many phrases in it that we commonly use. Therefore, Mormonism owes its origin to you, and “bears a striking affinity to your teaching.” Profound logic, truly!

But what if the Mormons have quoted the words of Christ and his Apostles in their Bible and books, (which they manifestly have done,) shall we therefore cease to speak of Bible things in Bible language, or to speak of spiritual things in spiritual words on that account?—Should we even, to avoid the odium of being branded or identified with Mormonism? Probably if we were to do like our opposers, adopt a different way of talking upon the subject of salvation, and talk about ‘anxious seats,’ ‘mourner’s bench,’ ‘getting religion,’ ‘dry land conversion,’ &c. &c. we might escape the invidious affinity attempted by our veritable author!

5th. We are charged with being like the Mormons in denying spiritual regeneration. This oft repeated slander is now republished in a new edition, associated with Mormonism; and that, too, under the direction of the Methodist Episcopal Church!

How any one who fears God, and has regard for truth, can make such statement, after all that has been spoken and written by us on the work of the Holy Spirit in our salvation, to me it is matter of astonishment, and, in my opinion, shows that the author and publisher of it is either very ignorant or basely dishonest.

It may be said, however, that the author is not a member of any church, and is at liberty to say just what he pleases about us, or any other people, being irresponsible for what he utters.

True, but he that takes upon him to give correct information should not utter falsehood.

But, leaving the author out of the questiou, we cannot see any reasonable excuse that can be offered for that large and respectable body of professed Christians, who have endorsed the misrepresentations, by printing and publishing them under their control, and having them peddled out by their booksellers, editors, and itinerant preachers, [556] throughout the length and breadth of the land. A body of people who cannot allow that any other religious sect has more “religion” than they have—a people who profess degrees of sanctity above their religious neighbors, and at the same time violate that command which says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor”!

We are frequently asked by our “evangical” neighbors, If we are not Campbellites, why do we take offence at the mention of that name? And if what we preach be not “Cambellism,” why do we notice them when they speak against it? We answer, that when they speak of Campbellites and Campbellism, they so locate their remarks as to make their hearers understand them to speak of us. But we deny the name they attempt to impose upon us for many years, but one of which we will now give, and that is, that the Devil originated and gave the name with which to reproach us, and do not allow his Satanic Majesty the right to name the family of God: therefore, we treat the name “Campbellite” with that contempt it deserves. And what they tell people “Campbellism” is, we neither believe nor teach: for I must say, that so far as I am capable of judging, I have never seen or heard a fair statement of what we believe and teach from the public teachers belonging to the sect that has had the above named book printed and published.

Brother Campbell, when I see and hear their misrepresentations, and know the efforts that are made by some of them to prejudice the minds of their church members against us, I am frequently made to exclaim with the Prophet, and say, “O that my head was waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.”

There will be an awful reckoning, when the Master comes, with those servants who thus beat and evil entreat their fellow-servants. But it is due to many teachers in that sect, and members too, with whom I am acquainted, to say, that they do not follow nor approve such a course against us.

May we all be prepared for that terrible day of the Lord, when he shall “bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.”

T. C. JOHNSON.

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