Backgrounds of the Restoration Movement: Source Material

passioncartoonI’ve had a number of requests for source material on the Restoration Movement. The two best books — by far — are  by James Deforest Murch, Christians Only: A History of the Restoration Movement and Leroy Garrett’s The Stone-Campbell Movement: The Story of the American Restoration Movement.

Christians Only is not as current as The Stone-Campbell Movement, but s written from the Christian Church perspective by one of the men who led the unity movement between the a cappella Churches of Christ and instrumental independent Christian Churches in the 20th Century, making it a particularly useful source book on our 20th Century history.

Garrett’s The Stone-Campbell Movement is a masterpiece of historical writing and comes from the Church of Christ perspective.

There have been countless other books published dealing with the Restoration Movement, many quite excellent, but these are the two most complete resources. It’s easy enough to see Murch’s and Garrett’s theologies in their works, but they don’t distort the record to suit their beliefs. On the other hand, many older histories of the Restoration Movement are highly distorted, often severely misrepresenting the views and personalities of the men who led the Movement.

Another comprehensive source is The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement edited by Douglas A. Foster. This massive volume has extensive articles on the Movement by multiple authors, and I find it invaluable to my studies..

Finally, these websites have the full text of important Restoration Movement documents.

I can’t tell you how useful these sites have been to me. Some 30 years ago, I began a study of Restoration Movement history in preparation for teaching a series of classes. Our church library contained nearly all the material available at the time, because we’d had a minister who’d been fascinated by our history. In pouring over the many biographies and histories, I kept finding chapters praising the work of Thomas Campbell, who founded the Campbell wing of the Movement when he wrote the “Declaration and Address.” And yet I couldn’t find the text of the document anywhere!

Some years later, I came across The Cause we Plead: A Story of the Restoration Movement by J. M. Powell, published in 1987. This was the first volume I could find with the full text of Campbell’s 12 propositions from the “Declaration and Address” that summarize his plea. And I learned that I’d been deceived by countless authors who claimed Thomas Campbell’s document in support of their views! At that point, I re-doubled my studies in light of a veritable flood of new books and internet resources. It’s been an illuminating study.

You see, I learned that H. Leo Boles in his famous “The Way of UNITY Between “Christian Church” and the Churches of Christ” (1939) severely took Campbell out of context and misrepresented his true positions, in order to preserve division contrary to Campbell’s teachings. Just so, I learned that Daniel Sommer, in his “Address and Declaration” that declared the Churches of Christ separate from the rest of the Restoration Movement in 1888, similarly abused Campbell’s “Declaration and Address.”

It is a demonstrable fact that, beginning at least with Sommer, there’s been an effort to fool good people into believing that division over the instrument is consistent with the founding principles of the Restoration Movement. It’s not. Here’s what Thomas Campbell actually wrote –

PROP. 1. THAT the church of Christ upon earth is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one; consisting of all those in every place that profess their faith in Christ and obedience to him in all things according to the scriptures, and that manifest the same by their tempers and conduct, and of none else as none else can be truly and properly called christians.

2. That although the church of Christ upon earth must necessarily exist in particular and distinct societies, locally separate one from another; yet there ought to be no schisms, no uncharitable divisions among them. They ought to receive each other as Christ Jesus hath also received them to the glory of God. And for this purpose, they ought all to walk by the same rule, to mind and speak the same thing; and to be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment.

3. That in order to this, nothing ought to be inculcated upon christians as articles of faith; nor required of them as terms of communion; but what is expressly taught, and enjoined upon them, in the word of God. Nor ought any thing be admitted, as of divine obligation, in their church constitution and managements, but what is expressly enjoined by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles upon the New Testament church; either
in express terms, or by approved precedent.

4. That although the scriptures of the Old and New Testament are inseparably connected, making together but one perfect and entire revelation of the Divine will, for the edification and salvation of the church; and therefore in that respect cannot be separated; yet as to what directly and properly belongs to their immediate object, the New Testament is as perfect a constitution for the worship, discipline and government of the New Testament church, and as perfect a rule for the particular duties of its members; as the Old Testament was for the worship discipline and government of the Old Testament church, and the particular duties of its members.

5. That with respect to the commands and ordinances of our Lord Jesus Christ, where the scriptures are silent, as to the express time or manner of performance, if any such there be; no human authority has power to interfere, in order to supply the supposed deficiency, by making laws for the church; nor can any thing more be required of christians in such cases, but only that they so observe these commands and ordinances, as will evidently answer the declared and obvious end of their institution. Much less has any human authority power to impose new commands or ordinances upon the church, which our Lord Jesus Christ has not enjoined. Nothing ought to be received into the faith or worship of the church; or be made a term of communion amongst christians, that is not as old as the New Testament.

6. That although inferences and deductions from scripture premises, when fairly inferred, may be truly called the doctrine of God’s holy word: yet are they not formally binding upon the consciences of christians farther than they perceive the connection, and evidently see that they are so; for their faith must not stand in the wisdom of men; but in the power and veracity of God — therefore no such deductions can be made terms of communion, but do properly belong to the after and progressive edification of the church. Hence it is evident that no such deductions or inferential truths ought to have any place in the church’s confession.

7. That although doctrinal exhibitions of the great system of divine truths, and defensive testimonies in opposition to prevailing errors, be highly expedient; and the more full and explicit they be, for those purposes, the better; yet, as these must be in a great measure the effect of human reasoning, and of course must contain many inferential truths, they ought not to be made terms of christian communion: unless we suppose, what is contrary to fact, that none have a right to the communion of the church, but such as possess a very clear and decisive judgment; or are come to a very high degree of doctrinal information; whereas the church from the beginning did, and ever will, consist of little children and young men, as well as fathers.

8. That as it is not necessary that persons should have a particular knowledge or distinct apprehension of all divinely revealed truths in order to entitle them to a place in the church; neither should they, for this purpose, be required to make a profession more extensive than their knowledge: but that, on the contrary, their having a due measure of scriptural self-knowledge respecting their lost and perishing condition by nature and practice; and of the way of salvation thro’ Jesus Christ, accompanied with a profession of their faith in, and obedience to him, in all things according to his word, is all that is absolutely necessary to qualify them for admission into his church.

9. That all that are enabled, thro’ grace, to make such a profession, and to manifest the reality of it in their tempers and conduct, should consider each other as the precious saints of God, should love each other as brethren, children of the same family and father, temples of the same spirit, members of the same body, subjects of the same grace, objects of the same divine love, bought with the same price, and joint heirs of the same inheritance. Whom God hath thus joined together no man should dare to put asunder.

10. That division among christians is a horrid evil, fraught with many evils. It is anti-christian, as it destroys the visible unity of the body of Christ; as if he were divided against himself, excluding and excommunicating a part of himself. It is anti-scriptural, as being strictly prohibited by his sovereign authority; a direct violation of his express command. It is anti-natural, as it excites christians to contemn, to hate and oppose one another, who are bound by the highest and most endearing obligations to love each other as brethren, even as Christ has loved them. In a word, it is productive of confusion, and of every evil work.

11. That, (in some instances,) a partial neglect of the expressly revealed will of God; and, (in others,) an assumed authority for making the approbation of human opinions, and human inventions, a term of communion, by introducing them into the constitution, faith, or worship, of the church; are, and have been, the immediate, obvious, and universally acknowledged causes, of all the corruptions and divisions that ever have taken place in the church of God.

12. That all that is necessary to the highest state of perfection and purity of the church upon earth is, first, that none be received as members, but such as having that due measure of scriptural self-knowledge described above, do profess their faith in Christ and obedience to him in all things according to the scriptures; nor, 2dly, that any be retained in her communion longer than they continue to manifest the reality of their profession by their tempers and conduct. 3dly, that her ministers, duly and scripturally qualified, inculcate none other things than those very articles of faith and holiness expressly revealed and enjoined in the word of God. Lastly, that in all their administrations they keep close by the observance of all divine ordinances, after the example of the primitive church, exhibited in the New Testament; without any additions whatsoever of human opinions or inventions of men.

13. Lastly. That if any circumstantials indispensably necessary to the observance of divine ordinances be not found upon the page of express revelation, such, and such only, as are absolutely necessary for this purpose, should be adopted, under the title of human expedients, without any pretence to a more sacred origin — so that any subsequent alteration or difference in the observance of these things might produce no contention nor division in the church.

To me, the first test of a historian is whether he’s willing to tell the truth of what really happened, and we have a lot of “histories” that are more exercises in wishful thinking than actual histories. Thanks to the internet and the hard work of Hans Rollman and other genuine historians, we can now read the original documents for ourselves (and so learn something about those who’ve abused the work Campbell and others).


5 Responses

  1. There is a large segment of our fellowship who are far better at revisionist history than theology. Cambell would be shocked that many are so far removed from his view of Scripture and Christian unity while claiming he taught the same error.


  2. I was greatly blessed to read The Churches of Christ in the 20th Century: Homer Hailey’s Personal Journey of Faith by David Harrell

    It is one of my favorite biographies ever.

  3. Jay,
    I am sure you must have already checked, but the bookstore at ACU used to carry copies of the Ceclaration and Address. It was available when I took Bill Humbles class on the RM back about 1972 and I also ordered copies of it several times when I did a class at church on the RM. Perahps it was out of print for a while

    FYI, Hans Rollman has a webstie which has a lot of old material that he has put there for anyone that is interested. I thinmk it even has old stuff from James O’Kelly and Rice Haggard. His website is:

    Richard Hughes also a book titled Reviving the Ancient Faith that is worth reading. He was once at ACU (I think) and then Pepperdine and is now at Messiah College in Pennsylvania.

    Thanks for all the material and links you included in you post. I have bookmarekd a couple that I was not familiar with.


  4. Jay,

    Reference #6, what are your thoughts about, say, church buildings? I believe we have traditionally justified them by ‘the command to meet implies a place to meet,’ or something like that. If inferences cannot be used, seems that we would have to tear down our buildings, that is, we are sinning by having them since we have justified them by inference. I think our buildings are fine. What do you think about #6?

  5. The 19th Century language can be hard to follow. Campbell doesn’t say that inferences are wrong. He says they shouldn’t tests of fellowship.

    Therefore, it’s wrong to make fellowship halls or kitchens in the building test of fellowship. And that is, I think, entirely right.

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