A Slogan Based on Scripture
"Where the Scriptures speak, we speak: and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent." So spoke Thomas Campbell near the beginning of the nineteenth century while still a Presbyterian. These words, however, were not only to lead Mr. Campbell away from Presbyterianism but were to become a slogan which would shake the religious world to its foundation. In fact, they were so revolutionary that hardly had they fallen from Campbell's lips until a dear friend and fellow-Presbyterian said, "Mr. Campbell. if we adopt that as a basis, then there is an end of infant baptism." Not perceiving the full implications of this announcement at the moment, Mr. Campbell, nevertheless, recognized its soundness and straightway, replied, "Of course. If infant baptism be not found in Scripture, we can have nothing to do with it." (Richardson's Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, Vol. 1, pp. 237, 238) True to the principle proclaimed, Thomas Campbell analyzed his own "sprinkling in infancy" and later, as a believer in Christ, was baptized for remission of sins. He would not allow the tradition of his fathers to keep him from obeying God.
The Slogan's Scriptural Basis
Almost eighteen centuries earlier, the Holy Spirit had announced the same principle which Thomas Campbell announced to a small group of Presbyterians. The Spirit had said, "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son" (2 John 9). He had also said that “if any man speaketh" he should speak "as it were oracles of God" (1 Pet. 4:11), and that men should "learn not to go beyond the things which are written" (1 Cor. 4:6). Like Jesus who, speaking as "one having authority and not as the scribes," confounded the Jewish teachers and awakened the multitudes because of His appeal to the word of God, so Campbell and other pioneer preachers called the deceived and confused people away from the creed-bound preachers of their day to the simple but living word of the living God. They urged their hearers to forsake traditions of men for the truth of God.
Truth Opposes Tradition
Tradition had said, "Let us sprinkle or pour water upon men and call it 'baptism,’" but truth had said, "We are buried with him in baptism" (Rom- 6:4; Col. 2:12). Those who loved truth more than tradition forsook tradition for truth. Tradition had said, "Let us baptize babies," but truth had said, "He that
believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mk. 16:16). Babies could not be baptized at Christ's command because they could not believe. These are but a couple of the traditions surrendered in the light of truth newly learned.
Truth Conquers Tradition
The success with which these preachers pushed their anti-tradition plea while they urged their pro-Scripture appeal is evidenced by the tremendous impact they made upon the religious society of that distant day. By the hundreds and by the thousands the multitudes became enlightened by the simplicity of the appeal to return to the ancient order of things religious. They laid aside their human creeds, their denominational names, their human organizations, their man-devised governments, and obeyed the gospel of Christ. Onward they marched as a mighty phalanx. Forward they moved as a mighty army. Methodists said, "We must forget Wesley and return to the apostles." Presbyterians said. "We must forsake John Calvin and return to the New Testament." Baptists said, "Let us cast aside our manuals and go back to the Word of God." Catholics said, "Let us forsake Rome for Jerusalem." It was not easy for many of them, but it was safe for all of them. Truth was prevailing over tradition for the first time in centuries.
The spirit characterizing these truth-seekers was one of freshness. They weighed everything in the light of the New Testament. If they could not find where any practice had been commanded by Christ through His apostles they rejected it. If the apostles taught it they practiced it; if not, they repudiated it. Regardless of what they had once felt, thought, or said they now surrendered minds, sentiments and wills to the decrees of the sacred Scriptures. Fleshly ties and blood relations felt the impact. They knew that the peace made possible by the Prince of Peace came only after the sword of the Spirit had cut through the walls of sin which separated men from God, for Jesus had said, “Think not that I came to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword … and a man's foes shall be they of his own household" (Matt. 20:34, 36). Nevertheless they knew that the very kingdom for whose borders they were battling was a kingdom of "joy and peace," and that they had been promised “the peace of God which passeth understanding" as a result of their relationship with Christ the King (Rom. 14:17, Phil. 4:7).