By Steve Wolfgang

Footnote” Alexander Campbell, “Temperance Association, ” Millennial Harbinger, VI (September, 1835), 388-389.

During his early life, Alexander Campbell was firmly convinced that Christians should not create or belong to various reform societies. He wrote: “At the same time we have borne our testimony against Temperance Associations, Missionary Societies, and every other human institution. . . . There is not an infidel in America . . . who would not, could the Temperance Society banish one vice from the land, sound the triumph of human wisdom over the Christian Institution. They would boast that a human institution had done for the world what Christianity had not done – what the gospel could not do.”

Most of the early reformers firmly believed that the only way to reform the world was by making men Christians. That was their consuming passion. They had little time for the other crusades. They believed that the world would be a better place if more people became Christians and that a moral community which was not Christian was unthinkable.

Equally as interesting was their confidence in the superiority of God’s wisdom in all things. Could man devise a scheme for evangelizing better than that provided by God? Could man find a better way to make man moral than by the conversion of individual men? If one could think of something better, then he could boast of his achievement and God’s failure.

This issue goes to the heart of the philosophy of biblical literalism. It is important to do exactly as God directs because at stake is the glory and honor due to God. “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God, if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ to whom be praise and dominion for every and ever. Amen” (1 Pet. 4:11).

Finally, Campbell’s statement is a good example of the rugged individualism of the Christian. The pressure on “good people” to join temperance societies was enormous by the 1830’s. But Campbell did not allow society to interpret morality for him; nor would he be pressured to conform just because others demanded it of him. He followed the teaching of the Bible and not the whim of man. One must sometimes stand against the pressure tactics of the world’s “righteous,” as well as the corruption of the worldly. – Ed Harrell

Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 5, p. 134
March 1, 1990