THE PUBLISHER'S PREFACE
TO THE PRESENT ENGLISH EDITION
TRUTH IS TRUTH, no matter by whom written;
but most readers desire to know something of the authors whose books they
enjoy. For those who so desire, but who know nothing of the author of "
The Christian System," the following brief statement is offered.
Alexander Campbell, the son of Thomas and Jane Campbell, was born in Ireland
in 1788, and was educated, as was his father before him, at Glasgow University
- both of them for Presbyterian Ministers. on the paternal side Mr. Campbell
was of Scotch, on the maternal, of French origin. The father emigrated to
the United States, and was followed in 1809 by the son. Alexander found his
father advocating a reformation in religion to consist of a complete return
in faith and practice to the Bible, and heartily joined in the advocacy.
The propaganda gradually developed from general principles to the practical
details they involved, and spread so rapidly that at the death of Alexander
Campbell, in March, 1866, it was computed that about half a million persons
had embraced the plea or the Restoration of New Testament Christianity. During
his lifetime the strenuous labours - of A. Campbell in literature, in public
debates (several of which were published), and as President of Bethany College,
Va. (which he founded), greatly helped the cause, and since 1his death his
published works have continued to he of great influence. "The Christian System"
gives a fairly complete view of his teaching and plea in reference to
This edition is issued by a "Publishing Committee" appointed. by Churches
of Christ in Great Britain and Ireland co-operating in the Gospel, and pleading,
as Mr. Campbell did, for a complete return to the faith and practice of the
churches planted by the Apostles of Christ. The instructions to this Committee
include the re-printing of books which "faithfully advocate the doctrine
and practice enjoined upon the Churches of Christ and His Apostles." The
present work comes, they judge, pre-eminently under that description. This
is not the first edition of it published in this country; and in America,
where it was written, it has been frequently re-printed.
We need scarcely say that the work is not published as an authoritative
statement. Mr. Campbell himself sufficiently guarded that point in his preface
to the second edition. He there wrote that he spoke for himself only, and
added: "While we are always willing to give a declaration of our faith and
knowledge of the Christian System, we firmly protest against dogmatically
propounding our own views, or those of any fallible mortal as a condition
or foundation of church union and co-operation."
Many of the quotations from the New Testament, made in this work, are from
a translation from the original Greek by Drs. Geo. Campbell, James Macknight,
and Philip Doddridge, all principal scholars of that day, associated with
leading denominations. In publishing and using the work of these translators,
Mr. Campbell was moved by his great desire to keep close to the word as
originally given; and readers will notice that in many particulars the
translations he uses anticipate the Revised Version.
On the other hand, we may mention one important change which the Revised
Version has not endorsed the use of reform and reformation
instead of repent and repentance. The original words are
metanoeo and metanoia, and these denote a change of purpose
or will, resulting from Godly sorrow. "Godly sorrow," says Paul, "worketh
repentance." Mr. Campbell and those whom he followed were dissatisfied with
"repentance," as a translation of metanoa, because it was often used
to mean merely sorrow or regret for sin; and indeed even to-day
"repentance" is often loosely used as synonymous with "regret."
So far, then, there was, and is, need of a word which will more definitely
mean " change of will," and not the Godly sorrow out of which the change
of purpose comes. But "reform " and "reformation" err in the
opposite direction, for they denote the activities and life arising out of
the changed will. Still, what Mr. Campbell says on repentance, or rather
on metanoia, makes plain the important truth that not mere regret,
and not even Godly sorrow is what the Greek means in those places where our
translations speak of "repentance."
On another point we would ask the reader to be careful. Mr. Campbell thought
that the word "regeneration," in the only place in which it is used
in connection with the great change which a sinner undergoes when he is saved
from sin, referred to baptism as the last part of that change - the part
that changed, not his heart, but his state. This some misrepresented as meaning
that to be baptized was all that was necessary to this great change! What
Mr. Campbell taught was that the Greek word rendered regeneration
in Titus iii.5 only referred to the last act of what is popularly meant by
the English word regeneration. In the essay on regeneration,
in the title of which Mr. Campbell uses the word in the popular way, he explains
that this great change includes a change of thought, of heart, of purpose,
and of state. Indeed, the very point of his understanding of the New Testament
is that baptism, unless preceded by faith and repentance, is unauthorised,
and injurious instead of helpful.
It is not, however, as commending every detail in the book that we send it
forth, but as a comprehensive view of "The Christian System" by one who was
at once one of the best scholars, one of the clearest intellects, and one
of the greatest saints of his day. Much that he teaches, hotly contended
against when he wrote, is now generally accepted; yet much remains which
the religious world still needs, and which is essential to the abolition
of sectarianism and the triumph of the Redeemer's Kingdom.
The reader will keep in mind this work was written in America; doing so,
we hope the references to and illustrations from American customs, and history,
will not be any disadvantage, but rather will add freshness and interest
to the volume.