From: [[url=mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]email@example.com[/url]] On Behalf of John Waddey
Sent: Saturday, April 28, 2007 3:38 PM
Subject: [fortify_your_faith] A Lesson to Fortify Your Faith - 04/28/07</font>
DID ALEXANDER CAMPBELL FOUND THE CHURCH OF CHRIST?
<font color=black face=arial>Dear Readers:
Today's lesson answers a question commonly encountered by members of the church of Christ. We are use to denominational antagonists raising this question, but today we hear it from those in our midst who are trying to remake the church of Christ into a denomination. Hopefully this information will be helpful to you should you encounter this question or assertion. Share it with other Christians.
- <font size=5>DID ALEXANDER CAMPBELL FOUND THE CHURCH OF CHRIST?</font>
<font color=indigo size=3 face=times new roman> Jesus promised to build his church (Matt. 16:18). In his death on the cross he purchased the church with his blood (Acts 20:28). He fulfilled that promise, for we read in the Book of Acts of the Apostles that the church existed in Jerusalem (Acts 8:4). The author of the Book of Acts relates how sinners were saved and added to Christ's church (Acts 2:14-42). It also reports the spread of Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome in the lifetime of the apostles. The Epistles of Paul, Peter, James, John and Jude provide instructions on the faith of the church and how they worshiped and served God. The New Testament was given by Christ to be a pattern by which his church would be ordered in every age and nation (II Tim. 1:13).
Historically, we know that the church prospered and flourished for the first three centuries, even though she faced severe persecution at the hands of the Jews, pagans and the Roman government. With the ascension of Emperor Constantine as head of the Roman Empire (313 A.D.), the church finally was freed from official persecution. Given power and privilege by the emperor, many unconverted people rushed to join the church. Soon signs of corruption were seen. Depending on the support of the government rather than on God, the church began a long journey away from the teaching of Christ. In time the church of Christ was supplanted by the Church of Rome with her pope and his supporting hierarchy of lesser officers. The Roman priesthood not only dominated the church, but also the souls of the people. They persecuted all who did not submit to Rome's dictates. While most conformed, individuals and small groups scattered throughout the empire refuse to do so. They sought to be true Christians, nothing more. They suffered for their faith, but steadfastly refuse to compromise themselves.
This sad situation continued from some thousand years until the birth of the Protestant Reformation in the early 1500s. Martin Luther, John Calvin and Huldrich Zwingle were the most notable leaders of that protest against Rome's corruption and domination. Their noble efforts were soon thwarted by internal strife and controversy that resulted in the creation of the many Protestant denominations. Although Protestantism greatly reduced the power of the Roman Church its adherents did not enjoy the pure and simple Christianity of apostolic times. Doctrines and commandments of men still ruled the day. After some 300 years of conflict, competition and confusion, many people began to question the concept of denominationalism. With easy access to the Bible, they began to study it with a desire to go back to the fountain head. These men were found in virtually all denominations in Europe, Great Britain and America.
As early as the 1600s scattered disciples in England were protesting against the sad state of the various denominations and calling for a pure church. Among the early voices pleading for a return to New Testament Christianity were James and Robert Haldane of England (ca.1765-1850). It was from Greville Ewing, one of their disciples, that a young Alexander Campbell learned about restoration of the ancient faith. Small groups known as Glassites, Sandemanians and Scotch Baptists were scattered throughout Great Britain. From Northern Ireland, Thomas Campbell, a Presbyterian preacher, and his family immigrated to America (1807-1809). His son Alexander eventually became a famous preacher and a leading voice for restoration of the ancient faith.
Here in America, others were pleading for a return to Biblical Christianity before Campbell arrived. In North Carolina, James O'Kelly launched a restoration movement among the Methodists as early as 1793. He had great success and his followers were found from Georgia, north to New Jersey and inland. In New England Dr. Elias Smith and Dr. Abner Jones left the Baptists and began a back to the Bible Movement in the
opening years of the 1800s. In Kentucky, in 1804, Barton Stone launched a similar movement among the Presbyterians. Several other smaller movements were also pleading for a return to the original faith and worship of the church. The Campbells left the Presbyterians and for a while worked among the Baptists. Young Alexander emerged as
a brilliant and capable student of God's Word, preacher, writer and leader. The Campbells eventually left the Baptists and proclaimed themselves and Christians only. Enemies of the church accused Campbell of founding a new denomination. This he vehemently repudiated and denied. Some of those who make this charge do so out of ignorance, others out of malice.
While we are deeply indebted to Alexander Campbell for his tireless and sacrificial labors, and while we greatly admire his knowledge of Scripture and skill as a preacher, writer and debater, we do not consider him or any other human being to be our founder. Jesus founded his church. Our stated goal is to be that church, nothing more nor less.</font>
John Waddey, Editor
Christianity: Then and Now