Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 17, 1953
NUMBER 19, PAGE 8-9a

The Restoration Movement

Walter Crosthwaite (Scripture Standard)

(Editor's Note: This is an address delivered by Brother Crosthwaite at Hindley Bible School, June 4, 1952, and published in Scripture Standard, of which Brother Crosthwaite is editor, in November. It shows some sound thinking on the part of our British brethren.)

Apostasy has been common to man in all ages. We see it in Old Testament history. God set men off on a clear, plain path, with the command, "This is the way, walk ye in it." For a time they were quite contented to tread the God-appointed path, then some man arose pointing out an easier and pleasanter way; and, like Bunyan's pilgrims, they turned into By-path Meadow, and soon found themselves in Doubting Castle. Then God sent faithful prophets, not to start new religions, but to call them back to the old one: "Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls." (Jer. 6:16)

Archbishop Purcell, who, when Bishop Purcell, debated the Roman Catholic religion with Alexander Campbell, writing on the death of his able opponent in 1866, said:

"In Mr. Campbell's church the form of worship is very simple as in the days of the apostles. He hoped always to keep it so. Here is where he was mistaken . . . . As the church becomes great in numbers, and rich and strong, it will lose its original simplicity .... We begin to see changes already in some richer congregations in cities. Are not the advanced congregations already discarding congregational singing, and procuring fine organs and hired choirs? Are they not placing flowers in the pulpits and on their altars? Has not fine stained glass found its way into lofty windows of their truly Gothic cathedrals? . . . The church is drifting, drifting away from the apostolic simplicity of which its founder dreamed, and has joined the race all Protestant churches are making towards something grander and more majestic." (Apostolic Review, Feb. 3, 1931)

Brother Benjamin Franklin, one of the most loyal pioneers of the Restoration Movement, writing on April 12th, 1859, said: "We are satisfied that an effort is now determined upon to renounce, insidiously repudiate and covertly sink, all we have done and are now doing. We have some men among us — without ever being of us — opposing, pulling down what has been built up by the greatest sacrifices, incessant labours, and determined perseverance of other men . . . They agree in nothing that we are aware of, unless in disliking the main principles we as a religious body have maintained, and defended for many years." (Life of Benjamin Franklin, pp. 358-359)

We have seen, and are still seeing, the result of the work of such men. We will now look at some notable landmarks:

Worldly Prosperity

In the early days of Methodism, John Wesley, the founder, said: "Beware lest rich men become necessary to you .... they will rule you, and then you can bid farewell to Methodism." It is said that money talks; the only thing some of us have heard it say to us, is "Good-bye." But we have seen men put into prominent positions in churches and conferences because thy were wealthy; and w have seen many of the plans and schemes launched by such to make our cause more popular and prosperous: and most of their costly schemes have resulted in weakening the churches.

At the first Annual Conference of Churches of Christ which I attended, in 1891, two wealthy men made a bitter attack on Brother David King, editor of the official magazine, because he was publishing articles they did not relish. I can see Brother King, even now, as he rose, and said, with dignity: "So long as the present editor remains in the editorial chair he will put into the magazine what he considers beneficial for the bulk of the brotherhood without reference to personal likes and dislikes."

One of our early evangelists predicted that the first organ put into a Church of Christ meeting house would be the first step back to sectarianism. We have seen the fulfillment of that. Not only organs have been introduced, but we read of Romanesque windows, altars, and crosses. Costly buildings with towers, etc., have been erected, and worship in many places is according to the sectarian pattern. No wonder the Christian Hymnary omits from Brother G. T. Tickle's hymn the verse

"No lofty pile, nor glittering fane Is ours in tribes to seek:

God's House is one of loving stones, Where Christ is heard to speak!"

Anxiety To Add Numbers

The pioneers regarded the Restoration Movement as primarily a mission to believers, to call them back to Jerusalem, to the ground on which the church stood at the beginning. They endeavoured to answer the Lord's prayer, "that they all may be one that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." (John 17:20-21) They pleaded for restoration as the ground of reunion, that the church united might go forth to the conquest of the world for Christ.

But about the year 1890 it was decided to raise at least 5,000 to put more paid men in the evangelistic field. It was said, we need men just to preach the Gospel, and not to attack the sectarian parties. It sounded all very nice and plausible, but the agitators for that fund failed to see that an army which does no fighting wins no victories, and that when you cease to fight you must prepare to die. However, many men were engaged and sent forth to preach, some of them not even knowing what Churches of Christ stand for.

Since then, American and Australian preachers have been brought to this country, and great and costly missions have been held. Many were brought into the churches who brought sectarianism with them, and many of them never really left the sects. The sad part is that the membership of Churches of Christ today is lower than it was sixty-one years ago.

The editor of The Christian Advocate, in issue of September 24th, 1941, said: "We become more and more efficient, and less and less successful." After speaking of literature published in recent years which has "put us on a level with churches much larger than our own," he asked, "But what is the good of all this if we are a diminishing community?" That shows that we are not alone in our view of the situation.

Amalgamation With The Christian Association Churches

These were churches which came into being as a result of visits paid by Timothy Coop (a rich man) to America. He saw what big things were being done there; and thought the same methods would produce similar results in Britain. Some of America's ablest preachers were brought over, buildings were erected, the unimmersed were permitted to partake of the Lord's Supper, there were open collections, and instrumental music at the meetings. After forty years' strenuous efforts, there were sixteen churches with a membership of 1,700. During that same forty years, the old brethren, who had been regarded as too slow and narrow, established seventy-eight churches, and added nine thousand members. It pays from every standpoint to be loyal to the Lord and His At the Annual Conference of Churches of Christ held in Leicester, in 1917, the Christian Association, as a dying cause, was received into the Cooperation. We are proud to have been one of what was described as "a wretched, miserable minority," who opposed that amalgamation. Speaking on the Thursday evening of that same Annual Conference, Leslie Morgan, who had been secretary of the Association, referred to a speech delivered by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, in which he spoke of the Tsar dissolving the Russian Duma (parliament) and then said, "The Duma is dead! Long live the Duma!'; and Leslie Morgan cried, "The Christian Association is dead, long live the Christian Association, and the principles for which it has stood." Very soon, they proved to be the little leaven that almost leavened the whole lump.

Establishment Of A Theological College

The day after the Christian Association was received into the cooperation their men were pleading for a college. The churches were not consulted about this, but on September 11th, 1920, Overdale College was opened in Birmingham. It was evidence of faith in the wisdom of the world. We were told if we had more highly educated preachers, with degrees, as B.A., M.A., etc., the churches would be raised to "a higher level of stately spiritual dignity," and rapid advance would result. The present position of the churches supplies a terrible answer to all that.

Modernist Views Of The Bible

Brother A. C. McCartney, when editor of The Christian Advocate, stated clearly what had always been the position of Churches of Christ, thus: "Accepting the Bible as the Word of God, and denying the right of any to add to or take from that revelation, our people have ever sought to apply to all human teaching the accepted standard of Holy Scripture." (March 5th, 1937) But, in the same issue, on p. 153, Principal Robinson, M.A., DD., said: "In our use of the Bible our position has never been that of Protestantism (Sola Scriptura). Our fathers claimed that no interpretation was authoritative unless supported by the considered qualified judgment of the whole church." In view of that one wonders why Principal Robinson and his followers do not practice infant sprinkling for baptism.

Brother Lancelot Oliver stated our true position, thus: "We refuse to accept any interpretation of the Word of God, such as that of a pope, a council, a synod, or conference, as binding." (Faith and Practice of Churches of Christ, p. 11) Books used at Overdale College, and recommended by the Principal, are by such notorious writers as Harnack Peake, Hastings, and Gore. Books described by Dr. Graham Scroggie as "sodden with infidelity."

No wonder that some of those trained at Overdale say openly that they do not believe the Genesis story of creation, the fall of man, the flood, or the story of Jonah. But our Lord Jesus believed and confirmed these stories, and He said, "I have not spoken of myself, but the Father which sent me. He gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak." (John 12:49) So it is the veracity and Deity of the Lord Jesus and Christianity itself that is at stake. This is an issue in which there can be no compromise. Modern critical methods of searching the scriptures will soon leave us no scriptures to search.

Further, "Churches of Christ" are now one of "the constituent denominations of the Free Church Federal Council." They have become a sect among sects and, realizing that they are a dying cause, the leaders of Churches of Christ recommend the churches to join up with the Baptists (Christian Advocate, August, 1951) So far as the official Cooperation is concerned, the Restoration Movement is ended. The tragedy of all this is that leaders blame those who refuse to move from the original position for the plight into which they have brought themselves.

What Are You Doing About It?

If all who profess to stand for the old position would cease helping digressive churches, many of them would come to a speedy end. The inspired command is: "Come out from among them, and be ye separate."

"In this strife none can be neutral, Each must yield to some control, We must boldly show our colours, Form in line, and call the roll!"