There are Christians today who are part of a great religious movement launched on the North American Continent in the early 1800s, to restore the pure Christianity of the first century. The pioneers of this movement made it their aim to go back to the Bible for their faith, worship and practice. To maintain the Restoration commitment in our day, we must remind ourselves of what it was. To properly appreciate it, we must know wherein it was great.
The first clearly discernible call here, in America, to go back to Bible was heard among the Methodists. Jams O’Kelly led a revolt against bishop Francis Asbury’s autocratic rule. At a meeting at the old Lebanon Church in Surry County, VA, on August 4, 1794, Rice Haggard, with Bible in hand, challenged his brethren his brethren thusly: “Brethren, this is a sufficient rule of faith and practice. By it we are told that the disciples were called Christians, and I move that henceforth and forever the followers of Christ be known as Christians simply.” A Brother Hafferty then moved that they take the Bible as their only creed. From that meeting came, “Five Cardinal Principles of the Christian Church:”
|The Lord Jesus Christ as the only Head of the Church.|
|The name Christian to the exclusion of all party and sectarian names.|
|The Holy Bible…our only creed, and a sufficient rule of faith and practice.|
|Christian character…the only test of church fellowship and membership.|
|The right of private judgment and liberty of conscience the privilege and duty of all. (W. E. McClenny, Life of Rev. James O’Kelly, p. 111)|
Shortly thereafter in 1803, a similar back to the Bible movement emerged among the Baptists of New England. The principal leaders were Drs. Abner Jones and Elias Smith. Smith wrote:
“When our number was some short of twenty, we agreed to consider ourselves a Church of Christ, owning him as our only Master, Lord and Lawgiver, and we agreed to consider ourselves Christians, without the addition of any unscriptural name” (Elias Smith, Life and Conversion of Elias Smith, pp. 313-314).
About the same time, in Century Kentucky a group of dissident preachers broke with the Presbyterian Church. They first organized themselves as the Springfield Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church. After further study of the Scriptures they met and resolved to dissolve their presbytery. They framed a document entitled, “Last Will and Testament.” Among its remarkable items are the following:
|“We will, that this body die, be dissolved, and sink into union with the Body of Christ at large; for there is but one Body…”|
|“We will, that our power of making laws for the government of the church and executing them by delegated authority forever cease; that the people may have free course to the Bible…”|
|“We will, that the Church of Christ resume her native right of internal government…”|
|We will, that the people henceforth take the Bible as the only sure guide to heaven…”On June 28, 1804, the Will was signed by Robert Marshall, John Dunlavy, Richard McNemar, John Thompson, David Purviance, and B. W. Stone.|
|In 1809 Thomas Campbell, a Presbyterian immigrant preacher from Northern Ireland, broke with his church and issued a Declaration and Address of the Christian Association of Washington, Pennsylvania. Among Campbell’s declarations were the following:|
|“That the Church of Christ is essentially, intentionally and constitutionally one.”|
|“That the Bible is the only rule of faith and practice for Christians.”|
|“That the Old and New Testaments alone contain the authoritative constitution of the Church of Christ.”|
|“That no human authority has power to amend or change the original constitution and laws of the church.”|
|“That faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God is a sufficient profession to entitle a man or woman to become a member of the Church of Christ.”|
|“That division among Christians is anti-Christian, anti-scriptural, unnatural, and to be abhorred.”|
|“That neglect of the revealed will of God and the introduction of human innovations are and have been the causes of all the corruptions and divisions that have ever taken place in the church…”|
|“That all that is necessary to secure the highest state of purity and perfection in the church is to restore the original ordinances and constitution as exhibited in the New Testament.”|
These men thought not to found a new denomination, rather they worked to restore the original church of the Bible to its pristine purity.
Is it possible to read your Bible, and from your reading, see that in the New Testament there is a Church that Jesus established? Is it possible to see in the Bible, that God set forth His standard of acceptance in salvation, worship, church organization and daily living? Is it possible to follow the teachings of God, revealed in the New Testament, to direct our lives in the same way as He did first century Christians?
The answer to all the questions above is a resounding, yes! For since the writing of the New Testament, men and women of all walks of life have studied their Bibles, and seen how one, even to this day, can become a Christian the way those in New Testament times became Christians.
They have seen how one can establish the church of the New Testament and emulate its structure, worship, and activity.
Someone has rightfully expressed that we should always remember to stop and show appreciation for the bridges we have crossed. For the Christian this is especially true! Not only are we to be thankful for the work of the apostles and early church workers in the 1st century A.D., but we should also remember the value of all those since who have directed others to give up the shackles of religious error, only to take on the truth revealed in God’s Word.