Thomas Campbell

Animadversions on the Above [M. Winans' "Faith Alone"] (1840)






B E T H A N Y, VA. AUGUST, 1840. =================================================================


JAMESTOWN, Ohio, June 4th, 1840.      

Dear brother Campbell,

      MANY have tried to prove that remission of sins is by faith alone; and now suppose you allow me to try, and see whether I can succeed any better than my predecessors.

      I am fully aware that unless I get the assistance of an Apostle I shall fail. I will therefore call on Paul, and see what he will say.

      Paul speaks thus: "Although we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more;" besides, "We know that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord; therefore, we walk by faith, not by sight." In the above the Apostle clearly affirms that nothing in religion is matter of knowledge, but that all is matter of faith to men in the flesh. Therefore no man knows that his sins are forgiven, because in the absence of Christ he has not heard him say so: but the Apostles have testified that Christ did promise to forgive men their sins on certain conditions. Therefore, when the conditions are complied with on our part, it is by faith that we receive and enjoy remission, and not by sight, nor by hearing, nor by feeling, nor by tasting, nor by smelling, nor by repentance, nor by baptism, nor by prayer; for repentance, baptism, and prayer are nothing more than actions resulting from faith; neither of them can take hold of a promise, but faith can; and therefore it is by faith alone that men in the flesh receive and enjoy the remission of sins. God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, remission of sins, and eternal life, all dwell in our minds and hearts by faith, and by faith only; for not a man in the universe knows any thing about God, or Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit, or the remission of sins, or eternal life, but by the belief of testimony, which is faith. Therefore it is evident that remission of sins, and every thing else in religion, is received and enjoyed by faith, while we remain in the flesh; "for we walk by faith, and not by sight," or knowledge. I shall now leave you to judge whether, by the help of Paul, I have proved my position or not.

      Affectionately yours,

M. WINANS. [337]      

      P. S. Every condition must be complied with before faith is perfected; for faith cannot take hold of a promise until the condition on which that promise is predicated is performed; therefore, faith is perfected by works.

M. W.      


Brother Winans,

      IN attending to son Alexander's business in his absence, your letter of the 4th instant came to hand; and I must say, I feel much gratified with the lucid and masterly manner in which you have proved your position; for proved it I think you have.--Not, indeed, that we are saved by faith alone, as some appear to understand it; but only that we are justified by faith alone; for justification is but the one half; yes, but the commencement of our present salvation; for "without holiness no wait shall see the Lord." Now holiness is the result of unlimited obedience; see 1 Peter i. 22. "Having purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit;--to unfeigned love of the brethren;--"love one another with pure hearts fervently." The truth is, we are justified by the blood of Christ. Rom. v. 9. Through faith in it. iii. 25., and sanctified through his Spirit by a continued course of humble self-denying obedience. Rom. viii. 9-14. "Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his." And, "As many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God." So that we are saved through faith and obedience; or through the obedience of faith. Rom. xvi. 26. That is, the obedience that proceeds from it. For faith is the principle of all true and acceptable obedience; "for without faith it is impossible to please God." Heb. xi. 6.--Impossible to know any thing at all about him, as you have well show it in your letter. And, indeed. quite as impossible to be justified by any thing else, because it is by promise; "for God gave it to Abraham by promise." "And not being weak in faith, he staggered not at the promise through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God:--therefore, it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now, it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed him; but for us also to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised lip Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification." Moreover, as to the enjoyment of justification, or being actually justified, it is all the same, whether the promise, by the belief of which we are justified, be conditional or unconditional; for still it is the belief of the promise alone, and not the performance of the condition, that actually justifies: for even suppose the condition was actually fulfilled, and the promise not believed, the performer would not be actually justified;--would not "have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Now this is the proper and immediate effect of the justification of which the Apostle treats, Romans 3d, 4th, and 5th chapters; as also in his Epistle to the Galatians, chapters 3d, 4th, and 5th; exhorting us to stand fast in this blissful liberty, wherewith Christ has made us free.--Consequently, it must be by faith alone.

      Nevertheless, it appears to me that you have somewhat embarrassed your position by the following concessions, viz. "That the Apostles have testified that Christ did promise to forgive men their sins upon certain conditions. Therefore, when the conditions are complied with on our part, it is by faith that we receive and enjoy remission: for faith cannot take hold of a promise, until the condition, on which that promise is predicated, is performed; therefore, faith is perfected by works." Now does not this appear like necessarily connecting faith and works in the article of justification, or in order to the enjoyment of remission? I am aware, however, that this is not your intention;--that you only mean baptism, which, with respect to the recipients or subjects, is no where called a work, neither indeed call he, whatever it might be called with respect to the baptizer, who performs the action. And even suppose we should consider it as a condition of the enjoyment of remission, yet that would, by no means, justly entitle it to be called a work, any more than a naked man's accepting and putting on a coat freely offered him, could be legally so called. And, indeed, is not this expressly the scripture phraseology respecting [338] the connexion of a believer's baptism with the enjoyment of Christ our righteousness? For, saith the Apostle, "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ." Gal. iii, 27. The believer's baptism, then, in the name of Jesus Christ, is the formal constitutional expression of his faith in Christ for all the promised blessings of salvation, which are all comprehensively contained in the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit;--the former, for justification from the penalty,--the latter, for deliverance from the practice of sin;--the former, by virtue of the blood of Christ, through faith; the latter, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, through obedience.

      I am also aware, however, that many connect repentance, i. e. reformation with baptism as an indispensable condition of remission. Indeed, were this so, not only a cessation from all evil, but also a constant performance of all good works, would be previously necessary, not only to remission, but even to baptism itself; which, if carried out to its proper ultimate, would necessarily lead the believer, with some of old, to postpone his baptism to the very last, that so he might receive the full remission of all his sins. But those of old that did so, were led to think that sins committed after baptism were unpardonable; whereas, those who at present connect repentance with baptism, as a previous condition of remission, do so from the order of the words in the text, merely because it precedes baptism, Acts ii. 38 ; not duly considering the state of the case:--that the querists were already believing penitent sinners, and therefore the fit subjects for baptism; and also that the import of their inquiry,--what they should do to be saved from the justly apprehended dreadful consequences of their guilt, in crucifying the Lord of glory, both demanded and received a complete answer, as is fully comprehended in the words of the Apostle;--presenting them with the blissful promise of the "remission of their sins," and of "the gift of the Holy Spirit," through baptism; thus virtually presenting them with a complete salvation.--Also, not duly considering, that both in thinking and speaking the end commonly precedes the means; thus we say, be sober and quit drinking, &c. &c. Now sobriety is the end, and ceasing to drink--the means: according to the old adage, "What is first in intention is last in execution." Wherefore reformation--the grand intention of faith, repentance, and baptism; yea, even of the gift of pardon and of the Holy Spirit, is put foremost in the Apostle's answer to the believing penitents.--"Reform, said he, and be immersed," &c.

      Besides we are divinely informed, "that it is by faith, that it might be by grace, that the promise might be sure to all the seed, Rom. iv. 16;--not of works, lest, any man should boast;" therefore it cannot be conditional: and even faith itself is but the principle of enjoyment;--not the means of procurement.

      Moreover, how can the unholy, unjustified, unsanctified sinner do any thing religiously good? "For the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." Jer. xviii. 9. And "the old man is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts." Eph. iv. 22. Now "who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one." Job xiv. 4. These things being so, it necessarily follows, that justification must be received and enjoyed by faith alone; being already procured by the blood of Christ alone. And seeing also, that even baptism itself, the proximate means of the enjoyment of remission, does not belong to the catalogue of good works; but merely symbolizes a birth, a burial, and a washing: the first of which is prior, and the second posterior, to all works of any kind; and as to the third, the subject is passive, as were the disciples, when Christ washed their feet. Therefore the enjoyment of justification has nothing to do with conditional works of any kind; but merely with faith alone; by which alone, in this life, we can enjoy it; and to which primarily and alone the promise is made: for he that believeth is justified from all things: Acts xiii. 39. Through faith in the blood of Christ. Rom. iii. 1-25.

      But is it not written, James ii. 21, 24., "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he had offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see, then, how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." True, but not from his sins; for it is not about this that the Apostle is speaking, but merely with respect to his character and claims as a professed believer: see verse 14--"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works; can faith save him?" Surely no; such a faith can save [339] no man. But not so true justifying saving faith; for "it works by love and purifies the heart." "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision availeth any thing, but faith that works by love." Upon the whole, it appears demonstrably evident that as the enjoyment of justification in this life is by promise, it must necessarily therefore be by faith alone; seeing it is faith alone, and nothing else, that can realize and enjoy a promise, whether conditional or unconditional.

            Yours, dear brother, very respectfully,


[The Millennial Harbinger (August 1840): 337-340.]


      Thomas Campbell's "Animadversions on the Above" was first published in The Millennial Harbinger, New Series, Vol. 4, No. 8, August 1840, as a response to M. Winans' "Faith Alone." The electronic version of the essay has been produced from the College Press reprint (1976) of The Millennial Harbinger, ed. Alexander Campbell (Bethany, VA: A. Campbell, 1840), pp. 337-340.

      Pagination in the electronic version has been represented by placing the page number in brackets following the last complete word on the printed page. I have let stand variations and inconsistencies in the author's (or editor's) use of italics, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling in the essay. Emendations are as follows:

            Printed Text [ Electronic Text
 p. 337:    sight " [ sight."
            W. WINANS. [ M. WINANS.
 p. 338:    fervently " [ fervently."
            Christ " [ Christ."
            works " [ works."
 p. 339:    Jer. xviii 9 [ Jer. xviii. 9.
            by faith oniy." [ by faith only."

      Addenda and corrigenda are earnestly solicited.

Ernie Stefanik
373 Wilson Street
Derry, PA 15627-9770

Created 17 March 1998.

Thomas Campbell

Animadversions on the Above [M. Winans' "Faith Alone"] (1840)

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