The Flood-gate of Innovation

(James A. Allen, "Concluding Remarks," Defender of the Word, Vol. II (January, 1907), p. 3, 8)

"A. Campbell published the first number of The Christian Baptist, July 9 1823. This was the first regular periodical begun in the effort to tear down the shackles of sectarianism, to emancipate the conscience from the tyranny of opinionism, to dethrone the creeds of men and enthrone the word of God in the hearts of the people. Since the cessation of the Millennial Harbinger, published by Mr. Campbell, numerous other periodicals have been started with the same leading motive that first brought out the Christian Baptist; chief among which we might name The American Christian Review, published by Benjamin Franklin, and The Gospel Advocate, begun by Tolbert Fanning and Wm. Lipscomb ... Immense results for good have been produced by these publications. The men who have had the control of their columns have been men who endeavored to magnify the paramount Authority of the Bible, as opposed to human opinion, in matters of religion and who have endeavored to restore the ancient order of things in the churches. They have stood firm against any and all departures from the original order of Christian work and worship, as set forth by the apostles; they have opposed innovations and the organization of human institutions and societies, unknown in the New Testament, to do the work that God, in His wisdom, established the church to do.

"Such churches . . . have gradually lost their identity with the original plea of the reformation to restore the ancient institutions of the Messiah, as observed by the primitive disciples, and have gradually conformed themselves to the model exhibited by the predominant sectarian parties. It can not be denied that they are now more in harmony with the denominational world. . . . When the gap is let down no man can estimate where the tide of innovation will stop. Bishop Purcell, who met Mr. Campbell in debate upon the Roman Catholic religion, in an interview in after years, in which he spoke very complimentary of him as a Christian and as a man, called attention to Mr. Campbell's wish to see the primitive simplicity of the Apostolic Age restored in the work and worship of the church; but he gave it as his opinion that Mr. Campbell's labors in this cause would result in vain. He called attention to the fact that even the larger churches were beginning to place flower pots in the windows, together with other evidences of worldly pomp and show, and that, as these churches were working upon the same principle first exhibited in Catholicism, it would only be a matter of time until they would themselves have all the paraphernalia of the Roman church. We need hardly say that Bishop Purcell was wrong in his opinion that the primitive order of things could not be restored; for, indeed, we have the express Scriptural declaration not only that it can be, but that it must be. God must be served in his appointments. Israel, in his way, failed; in God's way, he was successful. The churches must observe the divine order of things to meet God's approbation and approval.

"We would advise over digressive brethren that, as our honest opinion, it would be best for them to formulate themselves a creed or a discipline. We think it would be the best choice between two evils. The sectarian denominations, when they cut loose from the Bible, have their creeds to hold them in check; but when a church repudiates all human creeds and accepts the Bible alone as its Guide, and then afterwards rejects the Bible alone, it has nothing else to hold it in check, but opens the flood-gate of innovation through which anything can consistently be introduced."

September 9, 1971