One of my readers prevailed on me to add a section on Walter Scott (not the Sir Walter Scott famous for being included in the Authors card game). Scott is of near-equal importance to the founding of the Movement as either of the Campbells.
Scott introduced to Alexander Campbell the idea that baptism is by immersion for the remission of sins. Scott came to this realization from a tract written by Henry Errett, father of Isaac Errett, in 1821, and immediately passed the tract along to Campbell. Campbell began teaching from it, helping define the Movement’s baptismal doctrine.
Scott was also the great sloganeer of the Movement–and its first great evangelist. Interestingly, he was sent out as a missionary by the Mahoning Baptist Association. Campbell’s church, of which he was the sole elder, was a member of this group of Baptist churches until they later expelled them over a doctrinal dispute. Campbell, of course, disagreed with the Baptists on several points, but he could not imagine his congregation having no fellowship with other Christians–and Campbell undeniably considered the Baptists saved. And so Campbell’s congregation joined this fellowship of churches.
At one of their quarterly meetings, the Association voted to send Scott to Ohio as a missionary. Ohio was very much part of the American frontier at the time. Soon word returned that Scott was having great success. This concerned the Association, and so they asked him to return and report on how he was doing so well. (We haven’t changed that much, you know!)
Scott reported that he taught the gospel using a five-finger exercise: faith, repentance, confession, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that he taught this in contrast to the 5 points of Calvinism. As a result, people were thrilled with the simplicity of the gospel message and readily accepted salvation.
Now, we’ve added “hear” at the beginning and dropped the Holy Spirit from the end, due to our discomfort with our understanding of the Spirit.
Scott further coined the term “plan of salvation” with respect to five-finger exercise. And he adopted the practice of extending “the invitation” at the end of his lesson. He didn’t invent the invitation, which goes back to other Second Great Awakening evangelists, but unlike Charles Finney, for example, Scott did not invite those in attendance to the “mourning bench” to tearfully contemplate their lost state. Rather, he simply asked them to confess their faith and submit to baptism.
Scott, like the Campbells, saw the solution to Christian division in uniting on faith in Jesus and in refusing to divide on questions of “opinion,” which he considered to be anything else. Nearly all the statements made in the Protestant creeds he declared “opinion.”
Now, if any of us were to pick up any of the Lutheran, Calvinist, or other European church creeds, we’d agree with most of what’s written in them. We’d recognize that most of what’s there is taken straight from the Bible. The creeds only differ from each other and from what we believe on a few salient points. And yet Scott considered nearly all said in the creeds “opinion” because they dealt with matters–some true, some not–other than faith.
Unlike Campbell, Scott taught the effectual indwelling of the Spirit–
Has the Spirit which was sent down from heaven on the day of Pentecost ever left this body? No; never. A human body without the Spirit is dead; and Christ’s body (the church) without the Spirit in her would be dead also. He shall abide with you forever.
Scott converted thousands, and without his early efforts, the Campbell movement would likely have been stillborn. And his impact on the Movement remains today. We still use five fingers to teach our children how to be saved, and yet we rarely know who first used this exercise.
Now, the “plan of salvation” has been rightly criticized by many as being too focused on the work of man and only indirectly referring to the work of Jesus. Other complaints have been lodged. But compared to the 5-points of Calvinism, as taught in the early 19th Century, the plan of salvation was brilliant theology and served to show that the Bible can be taught and understood simply. Even a child can grasp it. And I write as one who, as a child, did so and so became a Christian.