Who Are the Christadelphians?
from The Christadelphian 1870, p. 8
An Account of the Rise and Progress of
The Sect Everywhere Spoken Against
A writer in a village magazine, entitled the Barnet Congregational Magazine, having caricatured the history of the Christadelphian movement (with a bitterness attributable to the fact, that several of his relations and acquaintances have embraced the Christadelphian faith), the following sketch of the origin and history of a sect, which from the beginning has been everywhere spoken against. The fiction writer in question, attributes the movement in its modern phase to the agency of fanatical persons, half educated, conceiving they have a mission. With this in view, the allusions in the subjoined synopsis will be understood.
1st. Between eighteen and nineteen hundred years ago, a certain man, whom his contemporaries considered a fanatical person, announced that he had a mission from God, that of preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. (Mark 1:14; Luke 4:43).
2nd. He induced a few partially educated, and apparently fanatical persons, mostly fishermen, to believe in him; by proclaiming to them a set of doctrines which hold out wonderful ideas of future grandeur to their devotees: namely, that of being associated with him in ruling the restored kingdom of Israel.
3rd. He commenced a crusade by holding irregular meetings, delivering discourses, parables, &c., and denouncing all the religious teachers of that age, although very pious, learned and devout, for teaching the traditions of men, instead of the word of God.
4th. He spoke to as many partially educated and fanatical persons as he could get to listen to him.
5th. Having secured a number of adherents, he announced his intention of taking his departure, but before doing so, he specially appointed certain of his followers to carry on the crusade.
6th. These men manifested such zeal in fulfilling their mission, that they were looked upon both by the religious Jews and the pagan Gentiles, as fanatical persons and madmen.
7th. Nevertheless, they induced a large number of both classes to believe their strange and new religion.
8th. But before leaving the scene of action, they predicted that this doctrine would become corrupted, and that fables would be substituted for the truth.
9th. History has amply verified this prediction. The corruptions of the church increased century after century, wholly obscuring the original doctrine. In the sixteenth century, an attempt was made to reform the abuses of the church by parties who saw there was something wrong, but were not acquainted with the truth which had been departed from.
10th. This led to the establishment of an opposition church, which was founded on protest against so much of the error as the protesters perceived to be such, without a recognition of the original apostolic faith, which was almost wholly unknown to the protesters or protestants.
11th. From this there sprung certain other churches which dissented from the original protestants in minor matters, such as order of worship, mode of government, &c.; but agreed with the original protestants as to fundamental doctrine.
12th. The existence of these dissenting churches has been useful in a certain way in establishing religious freedom, and in reviving enquiry and controversy on Biblical topics.
13th. But amidst the conflicting claims of each party, it was impossible for one, ignorant of the truth, to decide which was correct.
14th. Surrounded by this state of things, a certain man about thirty years ago, made up his mind not to rest until he had found the truth for himself. He did not move in clerical circles, but was a member of the medical profession. He was not even a member of any religious denomination; neither was he a partially educated man, but was educated up to the standard of that order which ministers to all the ills which flesh is heir to. The author of Edgar Akeroyd (a work of fiction) terms him a peripatetic doctor of medicine. This is one of those clever untruths which consist of facts perverted. The impression conveyed is that he is a travelling quack doctor, than which, a more unfounded libel was never uttered. It is quite true that he travels, but not in connection with his profession, which he abandoned years ago to devote himself to higher work. He travels to preach the truth, without fee or reward. Luke was a beloved physician, (Col 4:14), and doubtless was peripatetic in the sense of walking about.
15th. Dr. Thomas began his religious career by joining the most apostolic and Scripturally enlightened religious organization in America, calling themselves Disciples of Christ, but denominated by their opponents, Campbellites.
16th. While amongst them, he was led into controversy on the fundamental articles of the religious systems of the day, which produced on his part a very close, critical and thorough study of the Old and New Testaments.
17th. The result was, he came to the conclusion that the teaching of the Bible was opposed to the religious teaching of the day, not on minor points only, but on essentials.
18th. This led him to renounce the latter, and believe and obey the former.
19th. He then communicated the pearl of great price which he had found to his fellow-men, by means of the platform and the press; in both America and England.
20th. This has resulted in a number of persons on both sides of the Atlantic, returning to the apostolic teaching.
21st. The sacrifice which this involves on the part of people generally is too great to entice the learned and influential members of society. Consequently, those who have been bold enough to take this step, comprise many partially educated persons. That is to say, they can only speak their mother tongue; but in this they can read the Bible, which is the only authoritative book on divine matters. They are not learned in all the arts and sciences, and modern languages, philosophy, metaphysics, &c. Nevertheless, they find they can understand the Bible, and profit by its study, and are prepared to contend earnestly for the original faith against any upholder of orthodox religion, however learned in all these things
22nd. Of course, they are considered fanatical, and are called all sorts of hard names, but this they do not care about, for they know that their own master was considered a fanatical person, and even said to be in league with Beelzebub. They are aware also, that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called. (1 Cor. 1:26); but that God hath chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, heirs of the kingdom (James 2:5), which Jesus Christ is going to establish on the earth at his second appearing; and that the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. (1 John 3:1) So that it is quite true what our sneering fiction writer says, that the world knows nothing of its greatest men; that is to say, the world does not know those in its midst who will be its greatest men in the age to come. We have here another illustration of the proverb that many a truth is spoken in jest.
23rd. Believing the oft repeated New Testament truth that those who believe what Jesus and his apostles taught, and obey their commandments, are brethren of Christ, they have adopted this title to distinguish themselves from the motley crowd of so-called Christians around them; but for the sake of conciseness and greater distinctiveness, they use the Greek equivalent in the form of one word, namely, Christadelphian.
24th. Christadelphians deny that their leaders are seeking to settle down as paid advocates. They do not object to the principle that the labourer is worthy of his hire. Yet as a practice liable to misunderstanding and abuse (or in the words of Paul lest the gospel of Christ should be hindered,) they have not resorted to it, and have no intention of adopting it. The maintenance of a magazine for the general benefit is as much a business arrangement, as the support which fiction writers and others give to the serial literature or newspaper press of the country. The only difference is, that the interest served is a higher interest, and the mode of serving it a little more direct.
25th. Christadelphians have no wish to rob ordinary churches of their glory at present. They hope, however, when Christ, their Captain and Leader comes, to assist him in scattering them to the four winds, and thereafter blessing the world; for not until all the ecclesiastical rubbish of Christendom has been cleared out of the way, can the families of the earth be blessed through Abrahams seed. At present, Christadelphians are content to prepare themselves for this high destiny; and in so doing, it is their duty to show to others how they also may become associated with Jesus as warriors, kings, and priests of the future age. They do this by means of printed matter and public lectures. They invite all believers in the Bible to read and listen, and then investigate for themselves. Following the example of the apostles, who began their mission by preaching to devout Jews, (Acts 2:5, ) who had some knowledge of Gods purposes, and continued it by reasoning with them in their synagogues, (Acts 17:2, ) Christadelphians endeavour to convince them who already believe in the Bible of the all-important, but much neglected truths revealed in it. When anyone, by Scriptural investigation, is convinced of the truth of the doctrines presented to their notice, they are willing to receive them into their midst. Indeed, it is their duty so to do; they have no option in the matter. They do not care, however, to have anyone who is not thoroughly convinced, believing that it is better never to know the truth, than tinker with it in a half-hearted way. To call this mode of procedure robbery is a base slander.
26th. Writers of fiction and others may protest against such a travesty of religion as this Christadelphianism. As mere Protestants, it is very appropriate they should content themselves with a simple protest. Let them set about the work of establishing the truth and demolishing Christadelphianism if they can. It is not to the point to say that Christadelphianism is a libel on the new commandment that Christians should love one another. The question is, are those who assume the name of Christians, Christians or not? When any of them can prove that they believe what Christ taught, and obey what he commanded, then, and then only, is the time to raise the question of brotherly love. It is not from any want of love that Christadelphians condemn all other churches. It is the simple result of a conviction that orthodox Christians deny and disobey the gospel of Christ while professing to be his disciples. The justice or otherwise of this conviction must be tested by an appeal to the Scriptures. Sneering it down will never settle the controversy which the Christadelphians have raised, and which they mean to prosecute with increasing vigour and determination. Numbers and popular belief have no weight with them. They know that the truth always has been, and always will be, held by the minority, until the Gentiles have come to the King of the Jews from the ends of the earth, and confessed, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit. (Jer. 16:19.)