Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 48

A Letter from Prof. J. Syphers

page break

A Letter from Prof. J. Syphers.

Mr. Editor: Brother A. Ellmore, of Frankfort, Ind., says that the "American Christian Review has open columns, and that it has never shut out a man, no matter how able nor to what extent he may differ from its editors."

Well, we shall see if this herald of the gospel as taught by Alexander Campbell, is correct or not in this declaration, which he made in the Review of May 20th.

This Brother Ellmore seems to be a strange fellow. From his writings you would be led to think that he himself was the very personification of all "authority." Now, authority is a big thing. Kings and popes and bishops and all priests and preachers generally, think so. They all love authority. It is so much easier to shut a man's mouth by authority, than to do it by reason, argument and demonstration.

This Indiana brother, I have no doubt, is called by many of his brethren a sharp critic and a profound common-tater, especially on the functions and duties of a preacher and "pastor!" This term "pastor" originally referred directly and alone to grass, cows and sheep. It always did sound sheepish to me, and always will. This brother seems to be greatly worried about organs and choirs in the church. Those churches which are so unfortunate as to have such furniture about their meeting houses, had better keep a sharp look-out or old "authority" might accidentally call around when they are not looking for him, and by the authority of his lord proceed to smash things! There is no telling what these men, who are so completely panoplied with authority, might do. Authority to do what? I would ask. To disorgnize church es that have them, I suppose. I think the poet must have had this brother in his eye when he said: "Man, proud man, clothed with a little brief authority, cuts such fantastic tricks before high heaven, as make the angels weep." In glancing my prophetic eye forward and casting the future horoscope of this organ hating brother, I fancy that I see him traveling through the country with a hand-organ and a monkey, grinding out sweet melodies for the lord, his monkey skipping around with his little cap in hand, begging for money to be used by his master in building churches, which are neither to be graced or disgraced with organs or choirs.

But one of the greatest troubles with this Frankfort divine is, he knows too much about God. He is so well acquainted with the mind of the Lord, that he can tell at a glance what will please him, or what would be an abomination in his sight, He certainly must have lived with the Lord and boarded in his family for many, many years! I would infer that at some past time he must have belonged to the Lord's cabinet and acted as his secretary of state and chairman of his privy council, and special committee on music! And so it all comes to this at last, that the church which my old friend Alexander Camp-bell, ordained and established on earth, and which he thought he had so firmly cemented together in the holy bonds of truth, is about to be bursted wide open by the noise made by a little piece of musical furniture containing only 6 stops and its notes running through page 11 but 5 octaves. It was taught us from Bethany, the great fountain head, of modern theological knowledge, that the very gates of hell itself, could not prevail against a church if it was only founded upon a certain rock!

But then music hath charms, you know, to sooth a savage, split a rock and bust a camp-bellite church into atoms! Now, my theory is, that the man who has no music in his soul, either vocal or instrumental, is only fit for stratagem, for treason and for spoils. Such men should ne'er be trusted.

But the brother informs us that he has a book an antiquated book—a book of destiny that fixes things! He even affirms that the destiny of a world hinges upon said book. I would call his veneration for this old book sublime idolatry! A kind of fetish worship. 1 believe that it is barely possible, if not absolutely certain, that this brother has been an idolator all his life, and never been sharp enough until now to discover the fact. Will the scales never drop from his eyes in this life? scales that are larger in circumference, more of them and much thicker through, than were those scales which fell from the eyes of Paul when he received that knock-down argument of his! Some say that his horse, or ass was knocked blind at the same time? but others affirm that he was blind when he was taken from the livery stable in Damascus!

The brother laughs at the idea of an infallible pope; but has strong faith in his infallible book, although it was written by fallible men and has been copied and translated by fallible men ever since, and to-day it contains many interpolations, and over 40 thousand errors! A sublime specimen of infalibility, indeed! I can go into almost any house and tell to what sect the inmates belong, by looking through their bible. If you find many little dog-ears turned down at the corners of the leaves and many dirty spots and greasy linger marks on certain pages that speak much about water, he is a campbellite or a baptist. If you find the book of Daniel and the book of Revelations all dirty and smeared over, the people are adventists and look kind of wild out of their eyes! They are fast becoming monomaniacs and will do well if they escape the crimes of the baptist in Tennessee, who shot his neighbor dead in his tracks at broad noon-day, declaring that he had to do it, for without the shedding of blood there was no remission of sins! Or like Mr. Freeman, of Pocasset, Massachusetts, who became infatuated with the story of old Abraham, that old lunatic, who felt so very certain that the lord commanded him to oiler up his beautiful little blue-eyed, curly-headed, sweet and innocent child Isaac, as a sacrifice upon an altar, for god's sake! They say the old fool did let the child escape, on a pinch; but was sorry for it ever afterwards. The history of this disgusting piece of heathenistic lunacy and outrageous wickedness, written up and published in that took, which my Indiana friend worships so devoutly, has caused hundreds of religious enthusiasts to slay their innocent children. The latest case of murder outright and deliberate, resulting from that Abrahamic story which is read and commented upon so beautifully every Sunday to our children in the Sunday school, is that of this man Freeman, who cut the throat of his own child, an innocent little girl of five years and let her warm blood stream out upon a rude altar of his own making, a la Abraham, believing that god would resurrect her and restore her to life in three days! Altars and priests and resurrections and 3d days, have been the curse of the world in all ages, even down to the present.

But our brother claims that the church to which he belongs is not a sect! This is the hugest joke of all! Alexander Campbell founded the campbellite sect, just as John Wesley founded the methodist church, or as John Calvin founded the presbyterian. Not one particle of difference. How half a dozen organizations, all holding precisely the same elements and history, can be five of them sects and the other one not a sect, is something I leave for an Indiana logician to explain! Every sect thinks its founder was the greatest man alive. The pet expression of the campbellite is something like this: "He is the greatest theologian of modern times; the greatest man that has lived since the days of the apostles," &c., &c. Now, I believe that he was a great man, such as the race only produces once in many long ages.

I used to read the bible through his eyes and study the logic under his direction for many years. But I have got hold of something deeper and sweeter than campbellism now, so I cannot use that particular form of sectarianism any more. He emphasized very strongly upon a few material ordinances, and of them he made his hobby. His very special pet ordinance was water baptism. It seemed to me that he had taken out a patent, and completely monopolized all the water privileges of the new testament. His sacred hydraulic and hydropathic salvation exceed any theological invention of either ancient or modern times! He could take the dry est passage of scripture in the whole bible and before he had given it half a dozen theological twists, you could see the water begin to come! By his eloquence he could cheat the people into the belief that by faith, repentance and baptism, they could have their sins remitted! Bogus receipts for the forgiveness of sin have been the bane of the whole world in all ages. Catholic priests barter them to their dupes for so much cash in hand! But, still I love the name of Alexander Campbell and I rever his memory, but well knowing at the same time that it takes great men to make great mistakes. But I discover that my old campbellite brethren are getting over their debating mania. The time was when a campbellite preacher thought his mission a complete failure unless he had at least half a dozen debates in soak at any given time, and not less than one maturing every three months! This debating mania was transmitted to them from their leader, Alexander Campbell, he page 12 being the greatest debater the world has ever produced up to date.

And there is poor Sweeney, anxious to be considered a campbellite debating star of the first magnitude, and has shone so brilliantly upon the campbellistic map of the theological heavens! He has talked his voice all away He is now reduced to mere whispers, as a punishment for the physiological law. All real sins are of a physiological character. Theological sins are purely imaginary. Sins which are really sins indeed, are violations of some physical law. They may be outgrown, but never can be forgiven.

I take notice that the old stereotyped supjects of the debate, such as the mode, the subject and the design of babtism, have become stale and obsolete. They have lost their grip and their interest upon the public mind. They are all worn out, and no preachers however eloquent, can retain the ear of the public to listen to them any longer. New questions have now come to the surface. Questions more progressive and more in harmony with the spirit of this advanced and still advancing age, such as evolution, materialism, spiritualism and Ingersollism are now receiving the public attention. This age has now progressed so far that mere authority establishes nothing. Men now look to reason, to logic, to demonstration from scientific and natural principles, and what these cannot settle must remain unsettled until we have progressed further. The people have now grown so bold that they demand of these authority preachers how they know that their authorities are correct? The mere ipse dixit of these old bald heads of ancient days establishes nothing. The people now will take a peep behind the returning boards!

But many readers of the Review will no doubt ask, who is this man from Illinois who presumes to speak so boldly? Has a modern Daniel come to judgment? We answer yes! He is a Daniel, too, who does not wait be thrown into the lion's den, but leaps right down in among the animals, (preachers,) defying the best of them! So let the Lye-ings whet their teeth and come on, yea, all ye compbellites, hittites, jebesites and blatherskites, in Indiana, for behold a David from Illinois single-handed and alone will fight the whole host!

Behold we stand
With pen in hand.
Already for to take command,
Thrice ready for the fray!

John Syphers.