The Restoration Movement (or Stone-Campbell Movement), which gave birth to the Churches of Christ, resulted from the merger of two earlier movements, one founded by Barton W. Stone and one founded by Thomas and Alexander Campbell. The Stone movement is quite a bit older than the Campbell movement, but over time, the thought of Alexander Campbell came to dominate, as he was much younger and more energetic than Stone.
Their views differed on many things, including the role of the Holy Spirit. While Stone saw the Spirit as vibrantly active in the church and in the lives of individual Christians, Campbell had little room for the Spirit in his theology.
To “walk in the Spirit,” and “live after the Spirit,” are, in effect, the same as to be “led by the Spirit.” Christians who think, speak, and act according to the gospel, are walking after, or according to, the Spirit–living according to the Spirit–led by the Spirit. Thus the Platonist was led by Plato–walked according to Plato–lived as Plato directed.
However, Campbell’s views were not strictly “word only.” He plainly taught that the Spirit does more than what the word does alone.
But the phrase “communion of the Holy Spirit,” will still more fully illustrate their views. It is koinonia, fellowship, joint participation. We have this word twenty times from the day of Pentecost to the close of the Epistles. It is twice applied to the Holy Spirit–II. Cor. xiii. 13; Phil. ii. 1. It is applied to the Father and to the Son–I. John i. 3-6; I. Cor. 1. 9. We have the communion of the Father, the communion of the Son, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, or the fellowship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; for it is the same term uniformly in the passages quoted. The communion of saints; of the blood of Christ; of the body of Christ, denote their joint participation of the influence, presence, and comforts of the good Spirit of God.
(italics in original and bold is added, here and throughout this post). Campbell sees “communion” or fellowship of the Spirit as involving influence, presence, and comfort.
We have communion with one another when we mutually give and receive consolation, whether in sentiment, in sympathy, in communication, or in any of the blessings of society. Man was made for communion with God and his fellows, but he lost it in Adam the first. In Adam the second he is restored to that communion; but while in his mortal body his communion with God is only by his Spirit through Jesus Christ our Lord.
One purpose of this fellowship is to restore us to the relationship Adam had with God before the Fall.
But we have not yet caught the precise idea expressed in the Apostle’s benediction–”The communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all”‘ There is suggested in this phrase a participation of the Holy Spirit common to all the members of the body of Christ. It is not some gift or special influence of the Spirit, imparted only to a few; but that fellowship of the Spirit which, under Christ, is common to the many–to all the family of God–of which the Apostle spoke. The best definition of the word communion which I can give, is, union in that which is common. Wherever there is union in common, there is communion. As the glory of the Lord equally filled all the tabernacle and the temple, so the Spirit of God animates, consoles, and refreshes the whole body of Christ. These consolations, joys, and refreshments from the presence of the Lord, the Apostle imprecated upon all the Corinthian converts.
Thus, Campbell argues that the Spirit consoles, animates, gives joy, and refreshes.
Into these relations to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit we are immersed; for the Lord commanded the believers to be immersed into the name of the Holy Spirit as well as into the name of the Father and the Son. To be immersed into the name of the Holy Spirit, prepares for the enjoyment of this communion; as being immersed into the Father, introduces into the enjoyment of the love of God; and as immersion into the name of Jesus Christ, introduces us into the favor of the Lord Jesus. This love, grace, and communion are the superlative glory of the Christian institution. They are equally apprehensible, though in their nature and modes of development incomprehensible. It is the duty, honor, and privilege of Christians to enjoy all that into which they are immersed. There is as much wisdom or folly in disparaging the communion of the Holy Spirit, as in undervaluing the love of God or the favor of Jesus Christ.
Campbell concludes that the communion of the Spirit is “apprehensible” (can be had) although not necessarily “comprehensible” (how the Spirit works cannot be understood). He couldn’t sensibly argue that the Spirit works exclusively via understanding the word and then say that it’s workings can’t be fully understood!
Campbell tooks pains, however, to argue that the Spirit worked only through the word before the Christian is converted. This was to refute the Calvinist view of unconditional election in which no one could be converted without the Spirit’s quickening. Faith could only come by the Spirit’s intervention, which the non-elect would never receive.
You’d think that the presence of faith would be entirely sufficient to show that the Spirit had allowed the convert to come to faith, right? But many taught in those days that no one could be considered saved until he or she related a story of how God had awakened his heart to the love of God — through a dream, a vision, or “strange warming.” Thus, in Campbell’s day, there were many people desperate for salvation and filled with faith who were excluded from the church because they’d never had such an experience. Campbell taught that their faith was sufficient to allow them to be accepted and baptized.
Thus, Campbell taught,
All that is done in us before regeneration, God our Father effects by the word, or the gospel as dictated and confirmed by his Holy Spirit. But after we are thus begotten and born by the Spirit of God–after our new birth, the Holy Spirit is shed on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; of which the peace of mind, the love, the joy, and the hope of the regenerate is full proof; for these are amongst the fruits of that Holy Spirit of promise of which we speak. Thus commences [THE NEW LIFE.]
Notice that Campbell plainly states that “word only” is a pre-conversion rule and that, after conversion, the Spirit gives the Christ peace, love, joy, and hope, which are proof of the Spirit’s presence.
Similarly, John Mark Hicks quotes Campbell,
In 1832 he wrote a friend: “To his view of baptism, as the only medium of actual pardon, justificatio[n], sanctification, reconciliation, adoption and salvation from the guilt and power of sin–and to his view of divine influence as consisting merely in the moral influence of the word, I would not consent” (Broaddus, Memoirs, 289-90).
Moreover, the early 19th Century was a time when the Society of Friends (Quakers) and the Shakers were arguing for direct revelation from God by the Spirt in addition to the scriptures. Thus, Campbell repeatedly emphasized that the Spirit worked only in conjunction with the word before conversion, as he wrote in The Christian System –
Now we can not separate the Spirit and word of God, and ascribe so much power to the one and so much to the other; for so did not the apostles. Whatever the word does, the Spirit does; and whatever the Spirit does in the work of converting men, the word does. We neither believe nor teach abstract Spirit nor abstract word, but word and Spirit, Spirit and word.
But in the next sentence, Campbell makes it clear that the Spirit’s work in the Christian is beyond the work of the word by itself –
[The Spirit] is promised only to them that believe in and obey him. These it actually and powerfully assists in the mighty struggle for eternal life[.] Some, indeed, ask, “Do Christians need more aid to gain eternal life than sinners do to become Christians? Is not the work of conversion a more difficult work than the work of sanctification?” Hence, they contend more for the work of the Spirit in conversion, than for the work of the Spirit in sanctification. This, indeed, is a mistaken view of the matter, if we reason either from analogy or from divine testimony. Is it not more easy to plant than to cultivate the corn, the vine, the olive? Is it not more easy to enlist in the army, than to be a good soldier, and fight the battles of the Lord; to start in the race, than to reach the goal; to enter the ship, than cross the ocean; to be naturalized, than to become a good citizen; to enter into the matrimonial compact, than to be an exemplary husband; to enter into life, than to retain and sustain it for threescore years and ten? And while the commands “believe,” “repent,” and “be baptized,” are never accompanied with any intimation of peculiar difficulty; the commands to the use of the means of spiritual health and life; to form the Christian character; to attain the resurrection of the just; to lay hold on eternal life; to make our calling and election sure, etc., are accompanied with such exhortations, admonitions, cautions, as to make it a difficult and critical affair, requiring all the aids of the Spirit of our God, to all the means of grace and untiring assiduity and perseverance on our part; for it seems, “the called” who enter the stadium are many, while “the chosen” and approved “are few;” and many, says Jesus, “shall seek to enter into the heavenly city, and shall not be able” – “Let us labor, therefore, to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” …
This requires aid. Hence, assistance is to be prayed for; and it is promised. … The Holy Spirit is, then, the author of all our holiness; and in the struggle after victory over sin and temptation, “it helps our infirmities,” and it comforts us by seasonably bringing to our remembrance the promises of Christ, and “strengthens us with all might, in the new or inner man.” And thus “God works in us to will and to do of his own benevolence,” “while we are working out our own salvation with fear and trembling.” Christians are, therefore, clearly and unequivocally temples of the Holy Spirit; and they are quickened, animated, encouraged, and sanctified by the power and influence of the Spirit of God, working in them through the truth. …
[B]y his Holy Spirit, in answer to our prayers, he worked in us, and by us, and for us, all that is needful to our present, spiritual, and eternal salvation.
Therefore, Campbell is no advocate for the “word only” view of the Spirit. Rather, disciples of Campbell, took his words regarding the work of the Spirit pre-conversion and expanded them out of context to apply to all of the Christian experience.
On the other hand, while Campbell’s teaches a personal, effective indwelling after conversion, his writings say very little on the subject. The Spirit is not a big part of this theology. You see, he is a sufficiently bright and responsible scholar to see what the Bible says about the Spirit, but he is such a rational, Enlightenment intellectual, the Spirit was just not a large part of what he taught.
It was only later that his disciples began to teach the word-only view, but Campbell had said so little on the subject, he made it easy for the following generations to ignore the Spirit very nearly altogether.