Oct 20, 2008

Campbell on Christian Experience

Alexander Campbell wrote much on the topic of Christian experience, and on the "spritual operations of the Spirit," for he lived in a time when many Baptists believed that assurance of salvation, or regeneration itself, came from certain emotional states or from some sensation. Though I think he went to an extreme himself, in fighting an extreme, nevertheless I cannot disagree with what he wrote in the following. Can you?


"THE object of this essay is to account for a difference in degree between the comforts of forgiveness enjoyed by the first converts, contrasted with those now converted to the ancient gospel.

As a preliminary to this, it may be remarked that amongst the moderns, corrupted by human gospels, there is a prevailing idea that persons are pardoned by means of, or in consequence of, a thought or a feeling. Hence, we often hear persons, in relating their experience, date all their joys and their hopes of heaven from some idea which they formed, from some feeling of which they were conscious, or from some impression made upon their minds, at a certain time. Ask such what they know concerning the pardon of their sins and they generally refer to that idea, feeling, or impression, as proof that they were pardoned. From this, in retrospection, often spring all their confidence and their present joys. Their knowledge of remission is their recollection of such an idea, feeling, or impression. According to its vividness, or faintness are their present comforts and hopes. If, at any time, their recollections should fail, or the original idea or impression become less vivid, doubts and fears arise; clouds overspread their heaven, gloomy feelings, and religious chills and fevers, disturb their tranquility. But, if the impression, that at a certain time they were truly converted, increase by new experiences, called by them the witness of the Spirit, the first idea, feeling, or impression, augmented by more recent ideas, feelings, and impressions of a similar character, produces a glow intense and a joy unutterable. Still, however, the fons et principium, the fountain and origin of all their hopes and joys, is an impression that they were at a certain time pardoned; and, mark what follows, that they were at that time pardoned is an INFERENCE drawn from what passed in their minds. Their feelings were the premises, and their pardon is the conclusion.

That the fountain and origin of all true peace, hope, and joy is an assurance of the pardon of all sin, and an adoption into God's own family is cheerfully conceded: for this is that for which we contend. But whether this assurance is any inference drawn from such premises;--from the workings of a guilty conscience--terrors, [498] convictions, feelings, and a subsequent calm, or from the written and well attested testimony of God, received and obeyed, is the great question.

The foundation of this assurance with the ancient converts was the testimony of God; with the modern converts to humanized gospels, it appears to be an inference drawn from one's own feelings. On testimony true and faithful, the ancients built; on inference the moderns rely. When the controversy is pruned from all verbosity and intricacy, this seems to be the fair and simple state of the case."

"When we reflect that all mental comfort, all spiritual health, all peace of mind, hope, and joy, arise from a sense of the friendship and favor of God, or from the knowledge of the remission of our sins, it is most obvious that the clearer the evidence, or the greater the certainty of pardon, the greater the peace, hope, love, and joy of the convert."

Millenial Harbinger Nov. 1830

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