Twilight Thoughts of Alexander Campbell: An InterviewAuthor: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Alexander Campbell, Bible, Christian hope, Church History, eschatology, Preaching, Restoration History
In the Twilight Years of Alexander Campbell he lectured and preached extensively to the Bethany College community. By this time Alexander Campbell was a saintly old gentleman and a seasoned reflective student of Scripture. For those who know only Campbell’s “Sermon on the Law” might be surprised a large chunk of his hermeneutical enterprise was focused on the Pentateuch. In 1859 and 1860 his lectures were recorded and later published after the Civil War by W. T. Moore as Familiar Lectures on the Pentateuch. Also recorded in this same period were extensive extracts from his sermons. What follows is an imaginary interview with the old Reformer … I will refer to quotations by Extract numbers as printed in Familiar Lectures …
Elder Campbell the reformation you promote has exalted the Bible. Can you share your mature thoughts on that old religious tome?
“The Bible is a perfect chart for the entire voyage of life. Beyond that it has no value. It is not adapted to man in Heaven or Hell.” (# 21). But the “vast deal of Bible reading, in these latter days [is] for the purpose of enabling men to stand erect upon a particular point of faith, peculiar to themselves … than with obtaining a clear and unbiased understanding and truthful appreciation of the intent and meaning of Holy Writ” (# 9).
Elder Campbell what kind of book is the Bible?
“[T]he Holy Scriptures have every form of expression. We have not only poetry and prose, precepts, promises and threats; but all various forms and usages of human speech … It is very proper that this should be so. For this book is addressed to man, by Him who alone comprehends him in his relations to his fellow man and to his Creator … It is worthy of observation, that in the Bible as addressed to man, God does not deal in abstractions.” (#11)
Do you have a favorite part of Scripture or is there any “more important” than other parts?
“No man has ever suggested an improvement to the parables of the Saviour … they are the wisest exhibitions of literature in the world.” (# LXXX). However “among the most important ecclesiastical documents are the two oracles, which we sometimes denominate the kernel of Christianity – the Epistles of Paul to the Romans and to the Hebrews. They contain the most comprehensive and complete exposition of all that enters into Christian faith and worship, ever spoken or written.” (# LXXXV)
Elder Campbell, in our day Christians have retreated from the physicality of the world. Do you have any mature thoughts on Creation and its destiny?
Absolutely! “The principles of creation are: First, goodness, the actuating: Second, wisdom, the directing: third, power, the executive principle” (# 8). The order here is important. “The universe itself is the offspring of God’s love. It was not created simply because he had the wisdom and power to do it. The element of love entered into the intention, characterized the execution, and approved the completion of his labors.” (# 18). Its all about God’s love!
Some have been influenced by the materialism of the Enlightenment and have abandoned biblical teaching. You see “the impression prevails in many minds that the earth is to be annihilated. Such is not our belief. There is a vast difference between annihilation and change … This earth will will unquestionably be burned, yet through the process of variation and reconstruction of its elements, God will fashion the earth and heavens anew, and fill them with tenants to glorify His name forever” (# 13; cf #LXVI). The victory of the Messiah goes as far as the curse is found.
One final question Elder Campbell, what kind of God do you worship?
“I worship a great God and a little God…He is so large that he fills the universe with his presence, and so small that he dwells in my heart. [A]nd if the love of God fills the heart of man, he must be happy.” (# XCVII)
Thank you for the courtesy of the interview Elder Campbell. Your thoughts certainly exhibit years of study and worship. Thank you for sharing them with us … we will have to reflect on them ourselves.