By Steve Wolfgang
Footnote Thomas Campbell, “Declaration and Address,” in H. Shelton Smith, et al., eds., American Christianity (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1960), 1583.
The following is Proposition I of the “Declaration and Address”: “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 manifests the same by their tempers and conduct, and of none else; as none else can be truly and properly called Christians.”
This statement, prepared by Thomas Campbell on September 9, 1809, is probably the most famous quotation from the nineteenth century restoration movement. Campbell, “tired and sick of the bitter janglings of a party spirit,” li~d joined himself together with a small group of like-minded people into the “Christian Association of Washington.” Disgusted by creeds, theology, sectarian churches, and an arrogant clergy, they determined to be “Christians only,” announcing their motto: “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; were they are silent, we are silent.” They sought for “the restoration of primitive Christianity.”
From the beginning there were two clear themes in the thinking of the restoration leaders, and they were both implicit in Proposition I of the “Declaration and Address.” One is the essential unity of the church. Unity is God’s will; it was Jesus’ fervent prayer (John 17:21). This unity which God intends is possible if Christians will adhere to the one constitution which God has provided in his word. And so we work to restore the essential, intentional and constitutional unity of the New Testament Church of Christ. The second theme in Thomas Campbell’s statement was “obedience to him in all things according to the Scriptures” as the means of restoring unity to God’s people. Thus, these reformers began their long and tedious journey to search the Scriptures to find those biblical principles upon which all men could unite. They urged, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11). They slowly and carefully revised their practices to bring them into agreement with biblical examples. They labored diligently to “restore the ancient order of things.
As Campbell said, who truly can be called Christians except those who united in his church and on his word?
– Ed Harrell
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 13, p. 391
July 7, 1988