CHURCH HISTORY: RESTORATION PERIOD
The fourth and final period of church history has been designated the Restoration Period. The last period of church history extends from about l800 A.D. to the present time. This period is still in its beginning stages, having started only about 208 years ago. It has been termed the Restoration Period from an effort to restore primitive Christianity in its doctrine and practice. The word restoration means to put back or bring back into a former position. It is the process of putting something back into its original form This term is given to the last 208 years of church history because the primitive religion of Christ, as practiced in the first century, has been restored to its original form. Primitive Christianity has been returned to the earth exactly as it was in the days of the apostles. Restoration is a principle that pleads for a return to norm, a standard. It involves the belief that progress can be made by going backwards. In our present study, it applies to the idea of going back to the New Testament as the voice of authority in religion today. It pleads for the recognition of the New Testament scriptures as the one and only guide book for the church.
We have studied original New Testament Christianity as the apostles gave it to mankind from 33 A.D. to 100 A.D. Next, we learned that primitive Christianity deteriorated and was corrupted during the Dark Ages from about 500 A.D. to about 1500 A.D. This was followed by the Protestant Reformation which made an attempt to improve and reform the church of the Dark Ages. There was indeed an improvement made in religion from 1500 to 1700, but there was a failure to fully reproduce primitive Christianity of the first century. The Protestant Reformation deteriorated into quarreling sects and presented to the world a divided church. However, the Protestant Reformation introduced a “back to the Bible” movement which a few hundred years hence resulted in the restoration of New Testament Christianity to the world. The early reformers were Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley and others. The work of these men resulted in the giving back of the Bible to the common people. The New Testament principle was restored that a Christian can interpret the Bible for himself. This led to an intense restudy and reexamination of the New Testament, especially on the part of certain Protestant preachers.
The glory of the Protestant Reformation was the closing years of the period in the early 1800's. In addition to the early Protestant reformers, there were later Protestant reformers. The early reformers attempted to reform and improve the church of the Dark Ages. In like manner, a number of Protestant preachers attempted to reform and improve the Protestant churches. The Protestants claimed to follow the Bible, but there was no Bible authority for the traditions and creeds they brought with them. When the Protestants withdrew from the church of Rome, they brought many things with them for which there was no authority in God's word. Many Protestant preachers believed
there were corruptions in Protestantism which needed to be corrected. Strife, animosity, and jealousy reigned among the protestant churches. As a result, religious indifference began to sweep the land. Protestant churches failed to measure up to the primitive church of the first century, and this caused sincere men to begin to search for the truth in the New Testament. This search resulted in the fourth and last period of church history. At the lose of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries, religious unrest was to be found on every hand in America. Reformers were springing up among most Protestant churches, demanding a return to New Testament teachings.
The work of restoring the primitive, New Testament church began about 1800 A.D. At this time America, religiously, was surrounded with bitter jarrings, religious parties, and quarreling. In 1803, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to his friend, Benjamen Rush of Philadelphia, and said, “To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus Himself. I am a Christian in the only sense in which He wished anyone to be; sincerely attached to His doctrines, in preference to all others, ascribing to Himself every human excellence; and believing that He never claimed any other.” Now we do not claim Thomans Jeffersson as a restoration preacher, but the sentiment expressed in his statement is a resotration idea.There were preachers both abroad and in this country who recognized as men never had before, just how important it was to restore New Testament Christianity. These men concluded that it was impossible to reform churches with longstanding traditions and customs. They introduced the principle of restoration which was to bring back to the world the original conception of the church as embracing the whole divine family of God under the direct moral and spiritual dominion of Christ. This movement stood committed to the restoration of the whole truth and the harmonious unity of all true Christians in one Christ ruled church. In short, the restoration movement was committed to the restoration of apostolic Christianity in its entirety: its doctrines, worship, and spiritual life. The preachers who began this movement came from many walks of life and from many different religious backgrounds. In order that you might understand the process by which primitive Christianity was restored to the world, I direct your attention to a number of these later reformers in the Protestant Reformation who brought about the last reformation and gave Christianity back to the world as it was practiced in the first century.
0ne of the later reformers of the Protestant Reformation was James O'Kelly, a preacher in the Methodist church. In 1792 A.D. O'Kelly had a disagreement with the Methodist church regarding the right of a preacher to choose where he wanted to preach. The Methodist conference claimed the right to appoint preachers to their preaching locations. O'Kelly requested a change in this practice and threatened to withdraw from the Conference unless preachers should have the right to appeal their appointment if they considered it unsatisfactory. He insisted the practice of the bishops of the Methodist churches making the appointments gave them a power that was not vested in them by the New Testament. This matter was debated in the Methodist Conference in Baltimore, Maryland for several days. A vote was taken and O'Kelly's motion lost by a large majority, and resulted in a complete break with the Methodist church. O'Kelly and those who agreed with him, decided to lay aside all human creeds and take the Bible as their only guide. All rules of church government except the Testament were renounced, and it was agreed they would call themselves “Christians”. They agreed on these basic teachings. 1. Christ is the only head of the church. 2. The name Christian was to be used to the exclusion of all other names. 3. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments constitute the only creed and the only rule of faith and practice. 4. Christian character was acknowledged as the only test of church fellowship and membership. 5. The right of private judgment and liberty of conscience was to be the privilege of all. In accepting these beliefs these people took a gigantic step back toward primitive Christianity, and this represented a new movement out of Protestantism which resulted in the giving back of the original New Testament church to the world.
A movement similar to that of O'Kelly took place among the Baptists of New England about the same time under the leadership of Abner Jones, a doctor from Hartford, Vermont. Separating from the Baptist church, this group called themselves Christians, and adopted the New Testament as the only rule of faith and practice. They did not start another denomination but reestablshed the apostolic church of the first century. This was areturn to apostolic Christianity. This was not another Protestant church but the original New Testament church. Similar to this was thzt of Elias Smith, another Baptist preacher from teh state of New Hampshire. With less than twenty members a chrch was establlished whose only designation was, "The Church of Christ." They agreed that its only head was Christ and called themselves Christians. These great reformers had a great part in restoring New Testament Christianity. This new religious movement out of Protestantism caught fire all over early America.
Another Protestant reformer in the closing years of the Protestant Reformation was Barton W. Stone. Mr. Stone was a preacher in the Presbyterian church in central Kentucky, and had a disagreement with the Presbyterian church over the Westminister Confession of Faith, the creed book of that church. He believed that the church manual contained doctrines which were not found in the New Testament. When the Presbyterian church demanded that he accept fully the Westminister Confession of Faith, Stone separated from the Presbyterian church. He believed the Bible to be the only source from which man could learn of his obligation to God. Other Presbyterian preachers who assisted Stone in restoring New Testament Christianity were Richard McNemar, Robert Marshall, David Purviance, and John Thompson. Barton Stone attempted to prove to a fellow preacher, Robert Marshall, that infant baptism was taught in the scriptures and soon came to the conclusion that it was unauthorized by the Bible. Stone and those associated with him rejected all creeds, all church manuals, and all confessions, taking their stand upon the word of God alone. In doing this, they did not begin another Protestant denomination but reproduced the original apostolic church of the New Testament. In returning to the original truths of the New Testament, they ceased to be Protestants and became simply New Testament Christians. They wore no religious name but the name Christian. They called themselves the Church of Christ as Paul did in Romans 16:16. This was Protestantism' greatest hour when it produced these courageous Bible believing preachers who demanded a full return to the original teachings of the New Testament. This movement rapidly spread through the Western States. They were calling themselves Christians, rejecting human creeds and party names, and appealing only to the Bible for their guidance. Only by believing that God was leading them can you account for the fact that these men living in widely separated communities, unknown to each other, were devoting their efforts to one subject, the restoration of the church as it was in the first century. Years elapsed before James O'Kelly, Abner Jones, Elias Smith, and Barton Stone learned of each other's work in their respective fields. When they learned of the work of restoration that was being carried on by others, they saw that they were all striving for the same thing. They were not working for the reformation of apy religious group or a new denomination. They were working for the restoration of the one church of the New Testament. So we have religious leaders who once called themselves Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians, all working in unity for the restoration of the word of God as the only safe guide in religious matters. They were searching for unity. Not a unity achieved by one group giving up their creed and adopting the creed of another group, but the unity brought about by all of them giving up their respective creeds, confessions of faith, church manuals, and taking their stand upon the divinely inspired word of God
Another outstanding reformer near the end of the Protestant Reformation was Alexander Campbell. This man came to America in 1809 from Scotland and was a preacher in the Presbyterian church in the state of Pennsylvania. This reformer separated from the Presbyterian church over the mode and design of baptism. He had received sprinkling for baptism, but after a close study of the New Testament reached the conclusion that baptism in the New Testament was an immersion of believers. He rejected the Calvinistic idea that baptism is a seal of the covenant. He also restored the New Testament truth that baptism is for the pur pose of receiving forgiveness of sins. He rejected the direct operation of the Holy Spirit in conversion. He insisted that the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion is not a direct work of grace on the heart; the work of the Holy Spirit is to present through the written word of God the evidence for faith. Those associated with this preacher used no name but Christian and called themselves the Church of Christ. They restored the original New Testament Church in Pennsylvania in about 1811 A.D. He was one of the greatest of all the Protestant reformers. He had several religious debates with Protestant preachers and one debate with the noted atheist, Robert Owen. Campbell spoke in that debate for twelve hours. These debates are still available in printed form.
Many other preachers were involved in this new movement to restore primitive Christianity. Another one of these outstanding was Walter Scott. He was a Baptist preacher and circuit rider in the state of Ohio. Scott disagreed with the Baptist church on the plan of salvation, and separated from that church in 1830 A.D. This preacher made an intense study of the New Testament to answer these questions. Who is to be baptized and for what purpose? What is the work of the Holy Spirit and when does it come. When is the sinner added to the family of God? He rejected the Protestant idea that first the sinner must receive the Holy Spirit. Then, since he is elected by God, his sins are forgiven. After this he is to repent of his sins to live in conformity with his election. Then he is to confess his faith and be baptized in order to conform to a church ordinance. Scott said all this was contrary to the teachings of the New Testament. Scott is credited with the honor of putting the steps of salvation in proper order. They are as follows. First the sinner must have faith in Christ. Second, he must repent and turn away a sinful way of life. Third he is to make a public confession that Christ is the divine Son of God. Fourth one is to be baptized by immersion in order to have sins of the past life forgiven. Those associated with him simply called themselves Christians and the Church of Christ with no party names.
One more prominent preacher in the 1800'S was Joseph Smith. He separated from one of the Protestant churches, claimed to be a prophet of God and in 1820 claimed he had a visio and saw God and Jesus Christ. He claimed to have received special divine revelations from God. On April 6, 1830 Joseph and five other men met in Fayette, N.Y and established the Mormon church. He said he resotred the Church of Jesus Christ. Actually he restored absolutely nothing. He added many rdiculous teachings to the teachings of the primitive church. All will be judged by the word of Chridt and not the book of Mormon. He just founded the Mormon church which has many beliefs the primitive church never believed and many teachings that contradict the New Testament. Joseph never miraculously foretold the future that could be verified by history and performed no miracles that could be verified by indisputable evidence. Supernatual power to predict the future and perform miracles were quallifications required to be an inspired prophet. Furthermore, many of his teachings contradict both the Old Testament and the New Testament. For example Joseph said the garden of Eden was in Independence, Missouri. The Bible says the Euphrates and Tigris revers ran through the garden of Eden. That would put it somewhere in southern Iraq or southern Mesopotamia. This teaching and others such as the doctrine of baptizing dead relatives by proxy, claiming they can be saved without faith and repentance. This proves Joseph rejected clear Bible teachings. The safe rule for all Christians is, “If it disagrees with the Bible do not believe it. ”The primitive church of Christ was restored by the above men cited in this message, and their work is historically verifiable. They used the New Testament alone to restore the primitive church. The above men had restored the primitive church before Joseph Smith ever founded the Mormon church. Christians are forbidden to worship angls. Doubtless Joseph got his idea of restoring the church from these great preachers cited in this study.
It was in this way that a new movement restoration got started out of the Protestant Reformation. Churches of Christ in America and all over the world represent this “back to the Bible” movement today. It was former Baptist preachers, Methodist preachers, Presbyterian preachers, and other Protestant preachers who initiated this movement. It is the very latest and most important religious movement in the history of the Christian religion. Protestantism is now out of date. The Church of Christ or Church of God, and feand a few other churches are still engaged in this great restoration of New Testament Christianity. The principles which guided the early restoration preachers included the principle of recognizing Christ as the supreme authority in religion, and the New Testament as the only rule of faith and practice. Thus they began to say, “Where the Bible speaks, we speak, and where the Bible is silent we are silent”. No creed but Christ; no book but the Bible. It is time to submit fully to Christ and to take seriously the concept of the church. The church must not remain a beautiful idea; it must become a reality. The knowledge of Christ and His church comes from the inspired writings of the New Testament anf from no other source. It will take faith and courage to protest the misconceptions and ill founded expressions of many churches today. But whatever it takes, it will be worth it. To know Christ and His church remains, even in the 21st century, the greatest blessing known to man.
In the first century, a man became a Christian after he believed in Christ as the Son of God, after he turned from sin, after he confessed his faith in Jesus as the Son of God, and immediately after that he submitted to baptism which was an immersion in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism was an act of obedience to the command of Christ. The burial in water was a decisive act, and marked a radical change in the person. The penitent believer is buried in water like Jesus was buried in the tomb. Jesus was buried because He died for sin, but the sinner is buried because he died to sin in his heart. In water baptism the old sinful life of the person is in a sense buried, having crucified the sinful desires. While buried in water, God forgives the past sins of the person. The person then emerges from the water forgiven, cleansed, and washed in the blood of Christ. When the person emerges from water baptism, he is born both of the water and Spirit as Jesus commanded. The Lord then adds him to he church and enters into the kingdom of God and into the family of God. As Christ was buried in the tomb and raised from the dead to a new life, so the penitent, baptized believer is raised from the grave of baptism to walk in the newness of the Christian life.
The great significance of baptism is expressed in Romans 6:3—11, “Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin night be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death has no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he lives, he lives unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord”(Romans 6:3-11).
What you have read in this message is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Do not be deceived. The true doctrines of primitive church have made their way back to the world. There are congregations in the world who practice the doctrines of the primitive church. Moreover, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the Protestant Reformation. It had a part in restoring New Testament Christianity. It was not easy to separate from the Roman Catholic church, and it cost the life of many Protestants. The New Testament church was restored by men who separated from Protestant churches because they could not reform Protestant churches. The men mentioned in this message restored the primitive church out of Protestantism. We also owe these men a debt of gratitude, but for the most part these men who fought the battles have been forgotten. In closing let me say that this historical presentation is the only sound explanation we have of the final restoration of the primitive church. There is no other sound explanation to my knowledge.The men who had the knowledge, courage and love of the truth to restore the primitive church were first members of Protestant churches. Consider what I say and the Lord give you understanding. Let us give honor to whom honor is due.