Saturday, July 15, 2017

Alexander Campbell, Early Church History, and the Breaking of Bread

Alexander Campbell concluded his 1825 series "On the Breaking of Bread" by pointing to early church history as a verification for his conclusions about the frequency of the Lord's Supper. He emphasizes that New Testament foreground has no authority. However, he writes, it is useful as an answer to those who say, "Innovation!" in reaction to authentic New Testament teaching. Notice in the following brief passage the two disclaimers regarding the authority of tradition. Note also the two reasons given for the value of studying church history. As soon as I read this, I was taken back to Everett Ferguson's booklet in the Way of Life series on Early and Medieval Church History, where Ferguson makes similar points in favor of this kind of study, in church "Bible classes" no less:

"We lay no stress upon what is no better than the traditions of the church; or upon the testimony of those called the primitive fathers, in settling any part of Christians worship, or Christian obedience. Yet when the scriptures are explicit upon any topic, which is lost sight of in modern times, it is both gratifying and useful to know how the practice has been laid aside, and other customs been substituted in its room. There is, too, a corroborating influence in authentic history, which, while it does not authorize any thing as of Divine authority, it confirms the conviction of our duty in things Divinely established, by observing how they were observed, and how they were laid aside." (A. Campbell, "A Restoration of the Ancient Order of Things, No. IX, On the Breaking of Bread, No. IV," Christian Baptist, Vol. III, November 7, 1825, p. 83).

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