Church History: Origin Of The Christian Church

By Aude McKee


I. In the last lesson, we studied the efforts of men to “restore the ancient order.”

A. James O’Kelly in Virginia and North Carolina.

B. Elias Smith and Abner Jones in the Northeast.

C. Barton W. Stone in Kentucky.

D. Thomas and Alexander Campbell in Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

II. In 1831, the mighty restoration forces of Stone and Campbell were united.

A. Previously, the two groups often met in the same town with little or no communion between them even though no basic differences separated them.

B. When people are sincerely dedicated to the proposition that the Bible alone will be the rule of faith and practice, division cannot long exist.


I. In The Restoration Movement, Two Different Ideas Regarding Cooperation Existed.

A. Stone in 1804, had led in the dissolving of the Springfield Presbytery and had set his course toward a complete return to apostolic Christianity. He believed that churches could not be banded together in associations, etc.

B. Campbell, on the other hand, never lost his ardor for the theory involved in Baptist Associations. When the Mahoning Baptist Association was dissolved in 1830, Campbell thought the action inconsiderate.

1. The Millennial Harbinger was published by Campbell beginning in 1830. Through its pages he had access to the brotherhood, and by this medium he kept laying before brethren his plan for “church cooperation.”

2. In 1842, he wrote: “Now if Christ’s kingdom consists of ten thousand families, or churches – particular, distinct, and independent communities how are they to act in concert, maintain unity or interests, or cooperate in any system of conservation or enlargement, unless by consultation and systematic cooperation? I affirm it to be, in my humble opinion, and from years of observation and experience impossible.”

3. Earl West, in his Search For The Ancient Order (Vol. 1, p. 159), says: “The church universal, as such, was not left with any specific work to do, but all work to be done was left up to local congregations. Hence, in New Testament times, the only organization of Christians to exist was a local church. . . . Ecclesiasticisms unknown to the church owe their origin directly or indirectly to beginning with the church universal. . . . For the brethren of a century ago to begin at this point and work toward general organizations was likewise to start on a false premise, and in these concepts the differences arose.”

4. In 1843, Campbell presented his views on church organization by presenting a hypothetical case of a group of evangelists who go to an island called Guernsey. In five years they establish congregations A, B, C, D, etc. After a while, Campbell says, these churches discover they cannot work efficiently without pooling their resources. A meeting is called at congregation A, and there the churches decided to band together and act in all matters just as one church.

5 It does not take an intelligent man to see that if the churches of one island could be banded together in order to act as one, then the churches of the world could be so banded together. Campbell, had he had it in his power, would have activated the church universal! There was one thing wrong with Campbell’s plan – he had no Scripture for it!

C. As a result of Campbell’s influence, Cooperation Meetings began to spring up all over the brotherhood. They were miniature missionary societies.

1. There was serious opposition to Campbell’s ideas and to these “Cooperation Meetings.” However, Campbell felt that he had the bulk of the brotherhood behind him, and early in 1849 he felt that the time had come to form a general organization for cooperation. He justified his position by beginning with the universal concept of the church and then saying that Christ gave no plan for the church, in this sense, to function; therefore the church is left free to devise its own plan.

2. In October, 1849, a Convention met in Cincinnati, Ohio, to consider the formation of a missionary society. Of the meeting W.K. Pendleton says: “We met, not for the purpose of enacting ecclesiastic laws, not to interfere with the true and scriptural independence of the churches, but to consult about the best ways for giving efficiency to our power, and to devise such methods of cooperation, in the great work of converting and sanctifying the world, as our combined counsels, under the guidance of Providence, might suggest and approve. There are some duties of the church which a single congregation cannot, by her unaided strength, discharge. . . . A primary object being to devise some scheme for a more effectual proclamation of the gospel in destitute places, both at home and abroad, the Convention took under consideration the organization of a Missionary Society.”

3. A. Campbell was elected the first president of the society.

D. There was opposition from many quarters to this new body, but perhaps the arguments were summed up by Tolbert Fanning, one of the founders of the Gospel Advocate. He said in that journal: “We believe and teach that the church of Christ is fully competent to most profitably employ all of our powers, physical, intellectual, and spiritual; that she is the only divinely authorized Missionary, Bible, Sunday School, Temperance and Cooperation Society on earth. It is, has been, and we suppose always will be our honest convictions, that the true and genuine service of God can be properly performed only in and through the church. Hence, we have questioned the propriety of the brethren’s efforts to work most successfully by means of state, district, and county organizations, ‘Missionary,’ ‘Publication,’ and ‘Bible Societies’ or Bible Unions, ‘Temperance Societies, Free-Mason and Odd-Fellow Societies’ to ‘visit’ the fatherless and widows in their affliction, any other human organization for accomplishing the legitimate labor of the church.”

II. A Second Disturbance Arose Among Brethren Over Instrumental Music In The Worship.

A. Moves toward its use came slowly. In 1851, a who signed his name “W” wrote to J.B. Henshall, associate editor of the Ecclesiastical Reformer.”Bro. Hensell – What say you of instrumental music in our churches?. . . I think it is high time that we awaken to the importance of this subject. We are far in the rear of Protestants on the subject of church music. I hope, therefore, that you will give your views in extenso, on this much neglected subject.”

1. Henshall replied: “In proportion as men become worldly minded, provided they have not entirely lost the fear of God, do they begin to require helps to their devotion. That they would require such helps under a dark dispensation where they were rather lead into the use of symbolic rites, than inwardly illuminated by God’s word and spirit, is not all astonishing; but to say that we need them who live in the full light of the gospel privileges, and enjoy God’s mercies and providence over us, is to say that we have no gratitude in our hearts and that we are every way unworthy of these benefits.”

2. A. Campbell wrote in opposition to the instrument. In one essay he said: “I presume, to all spiritually-minded Christians such aids would be as a cow bell in a concert.”

B. To the church in Midway, KY, goes the “distinction” of being the first church to introduce it. L.L. Pinkerton, the Midway preacher, said: “So far as is known to me. . . . I am the only preacher in Kentucky of our brotherhood who has publicly advocated the propriety of employing instrumental music in some churches, and that the church of God in Midway is the only church that has yet made a decided effort to introduce it.”

1. The singing was so bad at Midway that it would “scare even the rats from worship,” Pinkerton said.

2. The congregation then began meeting on Saturday night to improve their singing and shortly afterwards someone brought in a melodeon to be used in getting the right pitch. Before long one of the sisters accompanied the singing with her playing on the melodeon.

3. Then the group observed that the melodeon was good for the singing and so it was decided to use it on the Lord’s Day.

C. The advocates of instrumental music used two main arguments.

1. The Old Testament authorized it. (The old law was nailed to the cross [Col. 2:14) and could no more be used to justify instrumental music than dancing, keeping the sabbath, animal sacrifices, temple worship, etc.)

2. It is expedient such as meeting houses and song books. (the error here lies in the fact that for a thing to be expedient, it must first be lawful! Song books are an expedient because an assembly is commanded. There is no command, approved apostolic example or necessary inference for instrumental music; therefore the piano, melodeon, or organ cannot be an expedient. If there was authority to play in the New Testament, then the instrument would be an expedient!)

D. As time went on, the opposition deepened.

1. Moses E. Lard wrote in 1864: “What defense can be urged for the introduction into some of our congregations of instrumental music? The answer which thunders into my ear from every page of the New Testament is none. Did Christ ever appoint it? Did the apostles ever sanction it, or did any of the primitive churches ever use it? Never. In what light then must we view him who attempts to introduce it into the churches of Christ of the present day? I answer, as an insulter of the authority of Christ and as a defiant and impious innovator in the simplicity and purity of the ancient worship.”

2. Lard also wrote: “But what shall be done with such churches? Of course, nothing. If they see fit to mortify the feelings of their brethren, to forsake the example of the primitive churches, to condemn the authority of Christ by resorting to will worship, to excite dissension, and give rise to general scandal, they must do it. As a body we can do nothing. Still we have three partial remedies left us to which we should at once resort: (1) Let every preacher in our ranks resolve at once that he will never, under any circumstances or on any account, enter a meeting house belonging to our brethren in which an organ stands. We beg and entreat our preaching brethren to adopt this as an unalterable rule of conduct. This and like evils must be checked, and the very speediest way to effect it is the one here suggested. (2) Let no brother who takes a letter from one church ever unite with another using an organ. Rather let him live out of a church than go into such a den. (3) Let those brethren who oppose the introduction of an organ first remonstrate in gentle, kind and decided terms. If their remonstrance is unheeded, and the organ is brought in, then let them at once, and without even the formality of asking for a letter, abandon the church so acting; and let all such members unite elsewhere. Thus these organ-grinding churches will in the lapse of time be broken down, or wholly apostatize, and the sooner they are in fragments, the better for the cause of Christ.”

III. The Continued Progress of Liberalism and Complete Division.

A. Any time brethren depart from divine authority in order to introduce one unauthorized practice, the door is left open for the introduction of others.

1. Earl West, in Search For The Ancient Order (Vol. 2), devotes 46 pages to the increase of liberalism.

2. These things are mentioned:

a. Fraternization with denominations.

b. Denial of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures.

c. Teaching that the pious unbaptized would be saved.

d. Sermons that did not sound a clear note. Sermons that took months of explaining as to what they meant and what they did not mean.

e. The teaching that we are guided by the spirit of the New Testament – not by the letter. If you are sincere that is all that matters.

f. Misconception of the nature of the church. The church, many came to believe, is just another sect and denominational as the rest.

g. A drift toward a centralized ecclesiasticism that would serve as the “voice of the brotherhood.”

B. The body of Christ was torn asunder.

1. The prayer of Christ (John 17:20-21) was scorned.

2. The entreaty of the Holy Spirit for unity was ignored (1 Cor. 1:10).

3. The plea of the divinely inspired apostle was trampled under foot (Eph. 4:1-6).

4. The United States government, in its census of Religious Bodies in America in 1906, recognized two separate bodies – the Disciples of Christ (Christian Church) and the church of Christ. Division was complete.

a. The Christian Churches took their instruments and their missionary societies and walked a new course.

b. As they did they took the bulk of the brotherhood with them.

c. Brethren who contended for Bible authority in all matters were in the minority and most of the buildings were lost.

d. The relatively few who still stood in the “old paths,” “licked their wounds and looked to the future to start all over again.”


1. May there always be men on this earth who, in kindness and with love in their hearts for the truth and the souls of men, will stand for the truth without fear.

2. May God help us to never digress from the path of truth and righteousness.

3. We urge those of you who have never come to Christ in obedience to his Word, to make this “the day of salvation.”

Guardian of Truth XXXII: 24, pp. 742-744
December 15, 1988