I " No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible." In a world of warring sects, each with its own human creed and tests of loyalty, our brethren confessed no human creed; only Jesus as the Christ the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:18). They acknowledged no document as authoritative in matters religious but God's book. That confession all sincere souls of every stripe can confess without reservation, shame or embarrassment. With the inspired Bible as their guide, they can "be complete, furnished completely unto every good work" (II Tim. 3:16-17). To confess Christ and follow the Bible is a way that is right and cannot be wrong.
II. " Do Bible things in Bible ways; call Bible things by Bible names." This simple statement struck at the corruptions of the Christian faith as practiced by the spokesmen of denominationalism. Across the ages Catholicism had corrupted every item of the faith. Protestant sects still held to many Romish practices and spoke her corrupt language. Like the Hebrews in Nehemiah's day, "the children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews's language..." (Neh. 13:24). To bring all believers to unity in Christ, the restorers saw the need to "turn the people (to) a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of Jehovah with one consent" (Zeph. 3:9). Rather than human names of identification they took the God-given name, Christian (Acts 11:26). Laying aside the terms "mass" and "eucharist" they spoke of "the Lord Supper" (I Cor. 11:20). Rather than affusion, sprinkling or pouring they spoke of baptism as a "burial" (Rom. 6:3-4). No longer were preachers called pastors, reverends, or fathers; rather, they were called ministers, evangelist, brethren (Matt. 23:8-9; I Tim. 4:6; II Tim. 4:5). Baptism by immersion was administered to penitent believers not to guileless infants (Acts 2:38; 8:38-39). The whole vocabulary of the faith had to be restored. In so doing they cleared away most of the dreary mist that had confused the people.
III. " Where the Scripture speak we speak; where the Scripture are silent, we are silent." This truth sets forth the fundamental difference between the Lord's church and the whole of denominationalism. The pioneers correctly learned that we can only do what Christ has authorized in his New Testament. We are specifically told to teach men to observe Christ's commencements (Matt. 28:20). Again we are warned, "not to go beyond the things which are written" (I Cor. 4:6 ASV). They recognized that to please God we must respect "the silence of the Scriptures." This principle is illustrated in the case of Nadab and Abihu. They were struck dead for offering "strange fire before Jehovah, which he had not commanded them" (Lev. 10:1-2). Christian preachers s who taught Gentile brethren that they must be circumcised were rebuked by the apostles because they had not been given commandment to do so (Act. 15:1; 23-24). We do not ask where does the Bible forbid infant baptism or instrumental music? We ask where is such authorized? Those who ignore the silence of the Scriptures opened a flood gate through which a thousand corruptions pour in unchecked.
IV. " In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion liberty; in all things, charity." These words, first spoken by Rupertus Meldenius, were drafted by Thomas Campbell and placed in his Declaration and Address. They form a workable plan of unity in a world of divided believers. All devout souls accept the Bible as God's Word. All agree on the fundamentals. It urges men to humbly accept what is plainly taught in Scripture. Love for Jesus means keeping his commandments (John 14:15). Christ saves those that obey him (Heb. 5:8-9). In unclear areas and in matters of judgment all are urged to grant the fullest liberty to others (Rom. 14:4-5). It is this area of Christian faith and practice where we have stumbled most. Campbell's slogan urges brotherly love as the essential nutrient for unity (John 13:34-35). We can be most patient, forgiving and tolerant of those we love dearly.
V. "Truth first, union afterward; and union only in truth." This saying of David Lipscomb was voiced when a large segment of our brethren departed from Scriptural ground to embrace missionary societies, instrumental music, the denominational pastor system, women preachers and a host of other departures. While so doing, they expected our brethren to tolerate their innovations and fellowship them under the guise of maintaining unity. Our fathers responded with John's warning that "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." To receive the false teacher and give him greeting made one a partaker in his evil works (II John 9-11). They noted Paul's charge to "mark them that are causing divisions and occasions of stumbling contrary to the doctrine which ye learned; and turn way from them" (Rom. 16:17). True unity can never ignore error, it can only be attained when men meet on God's divine truth.
VI. "Be true to the truth, oppose the error, but bear with humanity." This wise saying of David Lipscomb spoke to those who were impatient in dealing with fellow Christians. Without discounting the value of truth or the duty to oppose error, it urged patience in dealing with those in error. Not all Christians are at the same level of maturity. Not everyone will see the danger that you may see. All will not have the strength of conviction that you have at this moment. Everyone has not had, or taken the time to study a given point which is at issue. "We who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak..." (Rom. 15:1). We "must not strive but be gentle towards all, apt to teach, forbearing, in meekness correcting them that oppose themselves; if peradventure God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil..."(II Tim. 2:24-26). We must recognize the difference between those who are coming out of error into truth and those who are leaving truth for error. There is a difference in those who are confused or misled on a matter and those who are deliberate, destructive false teachers. Our goal should be to salvage as many people as possible rather than cut them off.
VII. "Back to Jesus, back to the Bible, back to Jerusalem." These words declare the direction we are traveling. We are not progressives departing from Christ (II John 9). We are looking for "the old paths" that we may walk therein (Jer. 6:16). The faith was once for all times delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Jesus is our savior, founder and head; we look to no other man. The Bible is our standard; we need no other book of doctrine. The church which began in Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago is our pattern.
VIII. "The only way to make progress in religion is by going back to the Bible." This reminds us that we must not seek to modify the church to please modern man. We strive to please only Jesus (Gal. 1:10). We please God and reach our optimum effectiveness by seeking out "the old paths" and walking therein (Jer. 6:16). This would not be true of any other institution, law, book or system. What comes from man's hand is dated and is soon obsolete. But what the omniscient God creates in perfect, eternal and ever contemporary. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8). So is the Bible, and so much be the church.
These slogans are not inspired, they are not to be thought of as Scripture. They are truths that help us remember our commitment to be Christians only as were those saints in the first Christian century.