Disciples of Christ; Sometimes Called Campbellites, or Reformers.
The rise of this society, if we only look back to the drawing of the lines of demarkation between it and other professors, is of recent origin. About the commencement of the present century, the Bible alone, without any human addition in the form of creeds or confessions of faith, began to be preached by many distinguished ministers of different denominations, both in Europe and America.

With various success, and with many of the opinions of the various sects imperceptibly carried with them from the denominations to which they once belonged, did the advocates of the Bible cause plead for the union of Christians of every name, on the broad basis of the apostles' teaching. But it was not until the year 1823, that a restoration of the original gospel and order of things began to be advocated in a periodical, edited by Alexander Campbell, of Bethany, Virginia, entitled "The Christian Baptist."

He and his father, Thomas Campbell, renounced the Presbyterian system, and were immersed, in the year 1812. They, and the congregations which they had formed, united with the Redstone Baptist association, protesting against all human creeds as bonds of union, and professing subjection to the Bible alone. This union took place in the year 1813. But, in pressing upon the attention of that society and the public the all-sufficiency of the sacred Scriptures for every thing necessary to the perfection of Christian character, -- whether in the private or social relations of life, in the church, or in the world, -- they began to be opposed by a strong creed-party in that association. After some ten years debating and contending for the Bible alone, and the apostles' doctrine, Alexander Campbell, and the church to which he belonged, united with the Mahoning association, in the Western Reserve of Ohio; that association being more favorable to his views of reform.

In his debates on the subject and action of baptism with Mr. Walker, a seceding minister, in the year 1820, and with Mr. M'Calla, a Presbyterian minister of Kentucky, in the year 1823, his views of reformation began to be developed, and were very generally received by the Baptist society, as far as these works were read.

But in his "Christian Baptist," which began July 4, 1823 his views of the need of reformation were more fully exposed, and, as these gained ground by the pleading of various ministers of the Baptist denomination, a party in opposition began to exert itself, and to oppose the spread of what they were pleased to call heterodoxy. But not till after great numbers began to act upon these principles, was there any attempt towards separation. After the Mahoning association appointed Mr. Walter Scott an evangelist, in the year 1827, and when great numbers began to be immersed into Christ, under his labors, and new churches began to be erected by him and other laborers in the field, did the Baptist associations begin to declare non-fellowship with the brethren of the reformation. Thus by constraint, not of choice, they were obliged to form societies out of those communities that split, upon the ground of adherence to the apostles' doctrine. The distinguishing characteristics of their views and practices are the following: --

They regard all the sects and parties of the Christian world as having, in greater or less degrees, departed from the simplicity of faith and manners of the first Christians, and as forming what the apostle Paul calls "the apostasy." This defection they attribute to the great varieties of speculation and metaphysical dogmatism of the countless creeds, formularies, liturgies, and books of discipline, adopted and inculcated as bonds of union and platforms of communion in all the parties which have sprung from the Lutheran reformation. The effect of these synodical covenants, conventional articles of belief, and rules of ecclesiastical polity, has been the introduction of a new nomenclature, -- a human vocabulary of religious words, phrases, and technicalities, which has displaced the style of the living oracles, and affixed to the sacred diction ideas wholly unknown to the apostles of Christ.

To remedy and obviate these aberrations, they propose to ascertain from the holy Scriptures, according to the commonly-received and well-established rules of interpretation, the ideas attached to the leading terms and sentences found in the holy Scriptures, and then to use the words of the Holy Spirit in the apostolic acceptation of them.

By thus expressing the ideas communicated by the Holy Spirit, in the terms and phrases learned from the apostles, and by avoiding the artificial and technical language of scholastic theology, they propose to restore a pure speech to the household of faith; and, by accustoming the family of God to use the language and dialect of the heavenly Father, they expect to promote the sanctification of one another through the truth, and to terminate those discords and debates which have always originated from the words which man's wisdom teaches, and from a reverential regard and esteem for the style of the great masters of polemic divinity; believing that speaking the same things in the same style, is the only certain way to thinking the same things.

They make a very marked difference between faith and opinion; between the testimony of God and the reasonings of men; the words of the Spirit and human inferences. Faith in the testimony of God, and obedience to the commandments of Jesus, are their bond of union, and not an agreement in any abstract views or opinions upon what is written or spoken by divine authority. Hence all the speculations, questions, debates of words, and abstract reasonings, found in human creeds, have no place in their religious fellowship. Regarding Calvinism and Arminianism, Trinitarianism and Unitarianism, and all the opposing theories of religious sectaries, as extremes begotten by each other, they cautiously avoid them, as equidistant from the simplicity and practical tendency of the promises and precepts, of the doctrine and facts, of the exhortations and precedents, of the Christian institution.

They look for unity of spirit and the bonds of peace in the practical acknowledgment of one faith, one Lord, one immersion, one hope, one body, one Spirit, one God and Father of all; not in unity of opinions, nor in unity of forms, ceremonies, or modes of worship.

The holy Scriptures of both Testaments they regard as containing revelations from God, and as all necessary to make the man of God perfect, and accomplished for every good word and work; the New Testament, or the living oracles of Jesus Christ, they understand as containing the Christian religion; the testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, they view as illustrating and proving the great proposition on which our religion rests, viz., that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the only-begotten and well-beloved Son of God, and the only Savior of the world; the Acts of the Apostles as a divinely-authorized narrative of the beginning and progress of the reign or kingdom of Jesus Christ, recording the full development of the gospel by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, and the procedure of the apostles in setting up the church of Christ on earth; the Epistles as carrying out and applying the doctrine of the apostles to the practice of individuals and congregations, and as developing the tendencies of the gospel in the behavior of its professors; and all as forming a complete standard of Christian faith and morals, adapted to the interval between the ascension of Christ and his return with the kingdom which he has received from God; the Apocalypse, or Revelation of Jesus Christ to John, in Patmos, as a figurative and prospective view of all the fortunes of Christianity, from its date to the return of the Savior.

Every one who sincerely believes the testimony which God gave of Jesus of Nazareth, saying, "This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I delight," or, in other words, believes what the evangelists and apostles have testified concerning him, from his conception to his coronation in heaven as Lord of all, and who is willing to obey him in every thing, they regard as a proper subject of immersion, and no one else. They consider immersion into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, after a public, sincere, and intelligent confession of the faith in Jesus, as necessary to admission to the privileges of the kingdom of the Messiah, and as a solemn pledge, on the part of Heaven, of the actual remission of all past sins, and of adoption into the family of God.

The Holy Spirit is promised only to those who believe and obey the Savior. No one is taught to expect the reception of that heavenly Monitor and Comforter, as a resident in his heart, till he obeys the gospel.

Thus, while they proclaim faith and repentance, or faith and a change of heart, as preparatory to immersion, remission, and the Holy Spirit, they say to all penitents, or all those who believe and repent of their sins, as Peter said to the first audience addressed after the Holy Spirit was bestowed, after the glorification of Jesus, "Be immersed, every one of you, in the name of the Lord Jesus, for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." They teach sinners that God commands all men, every where, to reform, or to turn to God; that the Holy Spirit strives with them, so to do, by the apostles and prophets; that God beseeches them to be reconciled, through Jesus Christ; and that it is the duty of all men to believe the gospel, and turn to God.

The immersed believers are congregated into societies, according to their propinquity to each other, and taught to meet every first day of the week, in honor and commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus, and to break the loaf, which commemorates the death of the Son of God, to read and hear the living oracles, to teach and admonish one another, to unite in all prayer and praise, to contribute to the necessities of saints, and to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord.

Every congregation chooses its own overseers and deacons, who preside over and administer the affairs of the congregations; and every church, either from itself, or in cooeperation with others, sends out, as opportunity offers, one or more evangelists, or proclaimers of the word, to preach the word, and to immerse those who believe, to gather congregations, and to extend the knowledge of salvation where it is necessary, as far as their means allow. But every church regards these evangelists as its servants; and, therefore, they have no control over any congregation, each congregation being subject to its own choice of presidents or elders, whom they have appointed. Perseverance in all the work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope, is inculcated, by all the disciples, as essential to admission into the heavenly kingdom.

Such are the prominent outlines of the faith and practices of those who wish to be known as the Disciples of Christ; but no society among them would agree to make the preceding items either a confession of faith or a standard of practice, but, for the information of those who wish an acquaintance with them, are willing to give, at any time, a reason for their faith, hope, and practice.

mennonites or harmless christians
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