Excerpts from A Restoration of the Ancient Order of Things (No. 3)
by Alexander Campbell
“Holy Father – now I do not pray for these only, but for those also who shall believe on me THROUGH THEIR WORD, that they all may be ONE – That THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE that thou has sent me.” The testimony of the apostles, the Saviour makes the grand means of the enlargement and consolidation of his empire. He prays that they who believe on him through their testimony may be united. And their union he desires, that the world may believe that he was sent of God, and acted under the authority, and according to the will of the God and Father of all. The word of the apostles, the unity of those who believe it, and the conviction of the world are here inseparably associated. All terminate in the conviction of the world. As the Father so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son; as the Son so loved the world as to become a propitiation for its sins, and as the Spirit came to convince the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment, the conviction of the world is an object of the dearest magnitude in the estimation of the Heavens. All the attributes of Deity require that this grand object be achieved in a certain way, or not at all. That way or plan the Savior has unfolded in his address from earth to heaven. We all must confess, however reluctant at first, that, in the government of the world, there are certain ways to certain ends, and if not accomplished in this way they are not accomplished at all. The fact is apparent, and most obvious, whether we understand, or can understand the reason of it. As well might Israel have dispossessed the Canaanites in any other way he might have devised, as we attempt to carry any point against the established order of Heaven. Israel failed in his own way; in God’s way he was successful. We have failed in our own way to convince the world, but in God’s way we would be victorious. Wisdom and benevolence combined constitute his plan, and although his ways may appear weak or incomprehensible, they are in their moral grandeur of wisdom and benevolence, as much higher than ours, as the heavens are higher than the earth.
“… If, then as is evident, there is a certain way in which Christianity can pervade the world, and if the unity of the disciples is an essential constituent of this way, how grievous the schisms, how mischievous the division amongst them!! …While the Saviour, in the prospects of all the sorrows that were about to environ him, in the greatness of his philanthropy, forgetful and regardless of them all, was pouring out his fervent desires for the oneness of his followers, many that call themselves his disciples are fomenting new division, or strenuously engaged in keeping up the old ones. They in fact prefer their paltry notions, their abstract devices, their petty shibboleths to the conversion of the world. …so many, in appearance, would rather than the world should continue in Pagan darkness for a thousand years, than that they should give up with a dogmatic confession, without a life giving truth in it. From the Roman pontiff down to a licensed beneficiary; each high priest and Levite labors to build up the shibboleths of a party.
“I have no idea of seeing, nor one wish to see the sects unite in one grand army. This would be dangerous to our liberties and laws. For this the Saviour did not pray…. Let them unite who love the Lord, and then we shall soon see the hireling priesthood and their worldly establishments prostrate in the dust.
“But creeds of human contrivance keep up these establishments, nay, they are declared by some sects to be their very constitution. These create, and foster, and mature that state of things which operates against the letter and spirit of the Saviour’s prayer…. So far from being the bond of union, or the means of uniting the saints, they are the bones of controversy, the seeds of discord, the cause as well as the effect of division.
“But the constitution of the kingdom of the Saviour is the New Testament, and this alone is adapted to the existence of his kingdom in the world. To restore the ancient order of things this must be recognized as the only constitution of the kingdom. And in receiving citizens they must be received into the kingdom, just as they were received by the apostles into it, when they were in the employment of setting it up. And here let us ask, How did they receive them?… The acknowledgment of the king’s supremacy in one proposition expressive of a fact, and not an opinion, and a promise of allegiance expressed in the act of naturalization, were…requisite to al the privileges of citizenship.
“… In the act of naturalization which was then performed by means of water, he abjured or renounced spiritual allegiance to any other prince, potentate, pontiff, or prophet, than Jesus the Lord. He was then treated by the citizens as a follow-citizen of the saints,… And whether he went to Rome, Antioch, or Ephesus, he was received and treated by all the subjects of the Great King as a brother and fellow-citizen.
“… Such was the ancient order of things, as all must confess. Why, then, should we adopt a new plan, of our own divising, which, too, is as irrational as unconstitutional.