Christadelphians (or Brethren in Christ) is a name adopted by a religious body of recent development, which accepts Christ as its authority, but discards the name "Christian." This is said to be on account of the gross perversion of the word Christian. Christadelphlans assert that the faith of Christendom is made up of the fables predicted by Paul in 2Ti 4:4, and is entirely subversive of the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
I. Origin. — The organization, made up of independent ecclesiae, was founded by John Thomas, M.D. (q.v.), who was for a time an associate of Alexander Campbell, but who gradually changed his views from those of the Disciples of Christ" until he encountered the violent opposition of Mr. Campbell. Although Dr. Thomas secured a hearing in various Campbellite churches of the United States for many years succeeding 1843, lectured and wrote in his native country and England from 1848 to 1850, and afterwards spoke extensively in the United States: continually adding to the number of his adherents, the name Christadelphian was not adopted until 1864. Congress had exempted from war service the members of any religious body which was conscientiously opposed to bearing arms. In order to go upon record in a manner that would secure this exemption, the name was adopted and certified to by Dr. Thomas, in August or September, 1864. In this certificate he stated that the brethren of Ogle County, Il., to whom it was given, were in fellowship with similar organizations in England, Scotland, the British Provinces, and various cities of the United States, north and south. "New York," he added, "is the radiating centre at this time."
II. General Features, etc. — The Christadelphians have never had any clergy, and consequently little or no ecclesiastical organization. Their customs are very primitive and unostentatious. They assemble every first day of the week, to commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ by the breaking of bread and partaking of the cup. To this participation, however, none are admitted except those who have been immersed after making declaration of assent to the beliefs of the ecclesia. All communicants are considered as equals religiously, and any member may be designated to conduct the ceremonies at the meetings. After the commemoration of Christ's death a hymn is sung, and if any visitors are present some brother delivers an address. This always relates either to "the things concerning kingdom," to things concerning the name of Jesus Christ. It is a modest exposition of their creed, abounding in Scripture quotations, and delivered without rhetorical or oratorical adornment. No address is ever made, even to members alone, upon what are known as practical or moral topics. They hold that each one must learn from God's Word, or by private consultation, with reference to right conduct in daily life. They say that if an acceptance of the creed of Christadelphians does not produce right conduct, no amount of lecturing and exhortation will. They teach Christ-like living only by example. The address being over, it is announced that the purpose for which they had assembled being accomplished, the meeting may be considered as having terminated. No collection is permitted for any purpose, but there may be a small box in the room for the reception of any contributions Which persons care to make in an unobserved manner. It is not, however, announced that such is the fact. The expenses are exceedingly light, the meetings being held in some "upper room" hired for the purpose, and the payments met by the most quiet means. No church edifice has ever been erected by them, as their principles would not permit it. No direct effort is made to increase the membership. If increase results from voluntary acceptance of their doctrines, it is welcomed. In many cases an ecclesia includes but from four to 'ten persons. The largest, in Birmingham, England, includes about five hundred. It is not expected that a considerable proportion of any community will join their number, for they realize that they are so unconformed to the luxury. fashions, display, and excitement of the world that but few will accept of truth under such circumstances. They expect that at the second advent, which they believe to be very near, they will all, if found worthy, be made priests and kings, to rule with Christ on the earth. Of course only a small part of the race would be needed for that purpose, even as but a few can be induced to prepare themselves for it. They see this to be in harmony with the prophecies of Christ concerning the few that shall be saved. They also accept cheerfully the necessity of being unknown, devoid of influence, or even despised for the present, in view of future reward. They lose no time upon missionary schemes, temperance, or sectarian schools, or even organized charity. Whatever good is done should be done personally and quietly.
As the number of each ecclesia is small, and the loss of a few of the brethren who are accustomed to be present may at any time interrupt the meetings, and as there is no general oversight by bishop, minister, deacon, committeeman, or other, so there are no statistics of the ecclesias or of members, and no one knows the extent of the sect. They themselves do not care' to know its extent, lest some one might boast of it. Offices nid organization, as stimulating the ambition of some, are considered in their influence subversive of the true spirit of religious equality and of right thinking and acting. They do not desire any position, religious, political, or otherwise, in this dispensation of the world. They decline to vote or to take any part in secular government, but they submit to the present condition of affairs, considering it too corrupt to be improved until He shall come whose right it is to rule the earth. They have no inducements for people of property to join them, for they think less, if anything, of those who have money. They regard it a duty to devote whatever of this world's goods may be intrusted to them, to doing good and in a secret manner. They desire not to know who is the author of good deeds among them, lest the doer get his reward in the praises of men. They prefer the reward should be deferred till the next dispensation. They do not esteem the first day of the week above any other, and feel entirely at liberty to do whatever they please on that day. They say there has been no divinely ordained Sabbath since Jesus abolished the Jewish Sabbath. But, out of respect for the feelings of others, they do not openly engage in what may be generally regarded as a breaking of the Sabbath, and for convenience they hold their meetings on that day. They will not speak against those who hold different religious creeds, and only ask to be allowed in an unmolested manner to hold and to express their own religious views.
III. Creed. — The doctrines of the Christadelphians are, perhaps, nearer like those of the Adventists than of any other. They hold the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, and demand its literal interpretation. On this basis they defy the disproof of their doctrines. They group their beliefs under two heads, and the outline is as follows:
1. Things Concerning the Kingdom of God. — The gospel preached by Jesus and the apostles was with primary reference to this kingdom. A divine but literal kingdom is to be established on the earth, superseding all existing governments. It has once existed as a type, being the kingdom of Israel, but was destroyed because of iniquity. It will be re-established at Jerusalem, will involve the restoration of the Jews, will extend in dominion over the whole globe, and Jesus of Nazareth will be the supreme ruler. Those who are Christ's will be awarded a participation in the "honor, glory, and power" of that kingdom, in the sense of being associates and coadjutors of Christ in the work of ruling the world in righteousness. The visible reappearance of Christ, and the sharing in his inheritance of the physical kingdom, are therefore the "good news," and the hope of true believers. This kingdom will last a thousand years, in which sin and death will continue as now, but in a milder form. At the end of that period there will be an entire change in the constitution of things. Christ will surrender his position of supremacy, when God will manifest himself as father, strength, governor, and friend of all. Meantime, a revolt of the nations, at tle close of the millennium, occurs, and succeeds to the last point, only being suppressed by a summary outburst of divine judgment. Then occurs the resurrection and judgment of all who have died during the thousand years, and a judging of those then alive. The approved are immortalized, and the rejected are destroyed. Sin and death thus abolished, none remain but the righteous, who will inhabit the earth forever. Christ's work' being finished, God will no longer deal with men through a mediator. Christ and his associate millennial rulers join the company immortalized at the post- millennial judgment.
2. Things Concerning the Name of Jesus Christ. There is but one God, who made all things by his spirit. He dwells in a definite locality, "in unapproachable light," and is not universally diffused through space. The Spirit is his instrumental power, and extends whithersoever he wills. God's spirit is manifested, not personally, but by his works. God did not dwell personally in Jesus Christ, but the Messiah was approved of God, and in character was assimilated to the divine character. He was filled with the spirit of God. "Spirit" is a scriptural personification of the power, wisdom, and goodness of Deity. Christ had these from the Father. Jesus Christ is not one of an eternal Trinity, but is the manifestation of the one eternal Creator. He had two sides in the days of his weakness; one Deity, one man. The latter dated from his birth. The Deity dwelling in him was of the eternal Creator. Before "the man Christ Jesus," there was but one eternal God, and he neither Father nor Son. Notwithstanding the mode of his conception and anointing with the Holy Spirit, Jesus was of our nature, a second Adam, tempted in all points like ourselves, triumphant by obedience, thereby removing the consequences of Adam's sin. His death was not to appease the wrath of an offended Deity, but to express the love of Deity, by abrogating the law of sin and death through a full discharge of its claims. Holding immortality in trust. for the obedient, he now acts as priestly mediator between the Father and those who come unto God by him.
According to the Christadelphians, the devil is a scriptural personification of sin in the flesh, not the name of a personal, supernatural being. Man is a creature of the dust, whose individuality and faculties are attributes of his bodily organism. In the state of death, man, instead of having gone to another world, is simply a body deprived of life. Corruption will destroy the body .and nothing remain of what was a living man. This mortality is the consequence of Adam's sin. In the Bible, soul means creature, but never involves the idea of immortality. Spirit, as applied to man, is no more expressive, but signifies breath, vital energy, etc. attributes of the living being. The doctrine of the inherent immortality of the soul is a pagan fiction. But there is a doctrine of immortality attainable, to be found in the Bible. Instead of being inherent in man, it is a quality to be acquired through belief in the gospel and obedience to the divine commands. It results from resurrection and the change supernaturally wrought upon the body. It is not a right nor a property of man's fallen nature, but is a gift to be bestowed upon the faithful. It will be enjoyed upon the earth, which is to be the habitation of the saints. Hell and eternal torments are fictions of popular theology. The hell of Scripture is either sheol, the grave; or it is gehenna, a place of judicial execution in the land of Israel. It was once so used, and will be again, on a larger scale. The grossly wicked are to be convicted and annihilated, while that larger part of mankind which is sunk in ignorance and degradation will never see the light of resurrection.
IV. The only publications of the sect are The Christadelphian, a small monthly magazine, issued in Birmingham, England, and the following literature: Roberts, Dr. Thomas's Life and Work: — Twelve Lectures on the Teaching of the Bible in Relation to the Faiths of Christendom: — Is
the Bible Divine? (six nights' debate between Charles Bradlaugh, of London, and R. Roberts): Was Jesus the Messiah? (three nights' debate between R. Roberts and a Jew): — Prophecy and the Eastern Question: — Everlasting Punishment Not Eternal Torments: — The Declaration, or the Truth Defined in a Series of Propositions, with Proof-Texts in Full: — Discussion on the Immortality of the Soul (between R. Roberts and R.C. Nightingale): — A Good Confession: — A Defence of the Faith Proclaimed in Ancient Times: — Vindication of the Truth. (reply to a pamphlet by Reverend C. Clemance, entitled, Christadelphianism Exposed): — J.S. Andrew, Chriistadelphian Shield (sixteen serial papers in answer to orthodox arguments against the truth): — Roberts, The Kingdom of God: — Christ's Doctrine of Eternal Life: — Andrew, Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. For other literature, SEE THOMAS, JOHN, M.D. (C.W.S.)