“The Historical Background of the Restoration Movement”

By Batsell Barrett Baxter

    One of the earliest advocates of the return to New Testament Christianity, as a means of achieving unity of all believers in Christ, was James O’Kelly of the Methodist Episcopal Church.  In 1793 he withdrew from the Baltimore conference of his church and called upon others to join him in taking the Bible as the only creed.  His influence was largely felt in Virginia and North Carolina where history records that some seven thousand communicants followed his leadership toward a return to primitive New Testament Christianity.

    In 1802 a similar movement among Baptists in New England was led by Abner Jones and Elias Smith.  They were concerned about “denominational names and creeds” and decided to wear only the name “Christian,” taking the Bible as their only guide.  In 1804, in the western frontier state of Kentucky, Barton W. Stone and several other Presbyterian preachers took similar action declaring that they would take the Bible as the “only sure guide to heaven.”  Thomas Campbell, and his illustrious son, Alexander Campbell, took similar steps in the year 1809 in what is now the state of West Virginia.  They contended that nothing should be bound upon Christians as a matter of doctrine which is not as old as the New Testament.  Although these four movements were completely independent in their beginnings eventually they became one strong restoration movement because of their common purpose and plea.  These men did not advocate the starting of a new church, but rather a return to Christ’s church as described in the Bible.

Members of the churches of Christ do not conceive of themselves as a new church started near the beginning of the 19th century.  Rather, the whole movement is designed to reproduce in contemporary times the church originally established on Pentecost, A.D. 30.  The strength of the appeal lies in the restoration of Christ’s original church.

“And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon, Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter; and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  Matt. 16:17-18

via 36th St. church bulletin

Vienna, WV


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