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EARLY BEGINNINGS OF THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT (Part 1)


While for the most part of our study of the Restoration movement will be confined to activity in America, it should be noted that there were some important roots in the Old World. There were churches of Christ in the following places:


(1) Morrison’s Court, Glasgow, Scotland, in 1778.

(2) Leith Walk, Edinburg, Scotland, in 1798.

(3) Criccieth, North Wales (the home of David Lloyd George), in 1779.

(4) Tubemore, Ireland, in 1807.

(5) Manchester, England, in 1810.

(6) Dublin, Ireland, in 1810.


There arose in America about the same time leaders who advocated a return to the New Testament pattern. Among the first in America to see the need for restoration of the New Testament church was James O’Kelley. He began preaching in 1775, as a lay preacher in the Episcopal church. His interest in religion was prompted by the writings of John Wesley. Wesley advocated that the Bible was God’s authoritative Word and was all sufficient for faith and practice.


These concepts appealed to O’Kelley, and he soon began to work as a traveling minister. In the year 1793, he went to the Baltimore conference of his church and declared that he could no longer hold to some of the things he had pledged himself to preach, because he could not find them in the Bible.


The history of that period records the fact that five thousand people went with him, endeavoring to take the Bible as their only guide. One of these men, Rice Haggard, stood up at the meeting in 1794 and pleaded that the Bible itself be accepted as their only creed. He also moved that they be known as Christians only. (1) Christ is the only head of the church, (2) The name Christian is the only acceptable name, (3) The Bible is the only rule of faith, (4) Christian character is the only test of church fellowship and (5) the right of private judgment is the privilege of all.


While O’Kelley was making headway in Virginia, Abner Jones, a Baptist, was reaching similar conclusions in New England. Jones became convinced that “sectarian names and human creeds should be abandoned.” Soon Elias Smith joins Jones and as they worked together other preachers gave up denominationalism top have part in the undenominational undertaking.


In the year 1804, a man by the name Barton W. Stone and a half dozen other preachers felt the same way. They said, “Why can’t all of us who believe in Christ be united?” They wondered why they couldn’t take the Bible as their only guide. Stone’s work was largely in Kentucky. A revival was conducted at Cane Ridge 1801. Over thirty thousand attended. This meeting marked the beginning of a movement to restore the New Testament church. As a result of Stone’s work, many churches seeking to restore the ancient order were started in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Thomas Campbell, a member of the Seceder Presbyterian church, moved his family to America on May 13, 1807. Campbell advocated the principle: “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.” In 1809, Thomas Campbell delivered what became known as the “Declaration and Address.” In this address the Restoration plea was comprehensively proclaimed.


While Thomas Campbell was working on the principle of the Declaration and Address, his son, Alexander, in Glasgow, Scotland, was feeling a growing dissatisfaction with the Seceder church. Soon Alexander joined his father in the work. He also advocated the acceptance of the Bible as man’s only rule of faith.


Walter Scott came to America in 1818 and soon came to realize that human standards in religion were wrong. He announced his intention of rejecting all authority but that of Christ. He became convinced that the gospel contained facts to be believed, commands to be obeyed, and promises to be enjoyed. He resolved to preach it that way. He began to preach: (1) faith to change the heart; (2) repentance to change the life; (3) baptism to change the state; (4) remission of sins to cleanse from guilt.


May the Lord bless you and keep you!


Billy



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