Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 12, 1957
NUMBER 32, PAGE 9-11b

The Restoration Movement And Its Plea

Bryan Vinson, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Following the long, dark night of Papal supremacy the Reformatory efforts of Luther, Calvin, Wesley and others brought a measure of light to the world, but their labors resulted in the development of many denominations, each in competition with the others and all teaching conflicting doctrines. This was the condition that led Barton W. Stone, the Campbells and others to launch the appeal that wrought such salutary and far-reaching effects on the religious thought of America. I rather cherish the opinion that this nation was raised up by Divine Providence to afford a favorable soil for the restoration of primitive Christianity.

This was a land wherein religious freedom was guaranteed by our founding fathers, and such a climate was, and is, essential to the progress of truth. Truth has nothing to fear from an open and free contest with error, with an unrestrained expression by the advocates of contrary doctrines. This our constitution provided and is designed to protect. Hence, the providential circumstances which rendered propitious the appeal of these men and the righteous labors to lead men out of the mazes of denominational dogma to the pure light of God's Word unfettered by the opinions and creeds of men.

Protestantism, while avowing an undivided allegiance to, and dependence on, inspired Revelation to direct them in their faith and practice, yet by their creeds, disciplines, and peculiar dogmas and party prejudices rendered ineffectual their claim of allegiance solely to the Bible. To get away from all parties, all party names and denominational alignments was the great and noble aspiration of the leaders of the Restoration movement. Their slogan was: "Where the Bible speaks we will speak; where the Bible is silent we will be silent." This is but a paraphrase of 1 Peter 4:11, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God." The Campbells were at that time Presbyterians, and therefore practiced infant sprinkling.

In harmony with the principle of taking God at his Word, doing what it said, and of not presuming to go beyond it, Alexander Campbell was led to make a close, critical study of the subject of baptism before having his infants sprinkled.

The result of his study led to the conclusion that only immersion was scriptural baptism, and that infants were not proper subjects. Consequently, he acted himself, along with his wife and father, in harmony therewith and was immersed.

Campbell, in the preface of "The Christian System" relates a parable about a vineyard which did not produce profitably, and the owner took a journey leaving his vineyard in the care of a vine-dresser. Upon his return, he was amazed at how severely the vine-dresser had pruned his vines, However, in due time it produced more abundantly than ever before. The application: Never had Campbell anticipated the amount of pruning that would be necessary to conform to the initial principle advanced of speaking and acting only as the scriptures speak and authorize. But then, in 1835, the fruits were gratifying in the extreme as produced by the continued pruning away of all human opinions, will and wisdom, in religious faith and practice. The cause of Christ prospered mightily here in those days and under the benign protection of a freedom loving government. Asking no peculiar advantage for themselves, and granting to others free access to the pages of the Christian Baptist and Millennial Harbinger, the truth marched on in triumph over the denominational errors of the day. Campbell, while initially averse to public debates, nevertheless engaged in several of great importance — Infidels, Catholics and Denominationalists, and thus truth continued to triumph. He was led to observe that a week's debate was worth a year's preaching.

Those, and the days following, were times of great conflict and triumph. The Louisville Debate (Wilkes-Dietler), and Harding-Moody Debate (Nashville) were renowned battles where truth prevailed. But, by and by, the spirit of departure began to assert itself in a depreciated regard for the principle of restoration, and digression resulted. There were those who wittingly, but nonetheless impiously, reversed the slogan and said: Where the Bible speaks we will be silent, and where the Bible is silent we will speak." They presumed on the silence of the scriptures as affording license, under the guise of self-asserted liberty, to do that which the scriptures do not specifically condemn. Hence, organizations came into existence unknown to the Bible, and twenty years later the instrument of music was injected into the worship of the church. The former did not immediately rupture the body of Christ; brethren discussed the society question pro and con without an open breach.

It took the corruption of the worship to openly divide the church. Those who opposed the use of the instrument were styled "non-progressives," "anti-organ," "mossbacks," etc. They were styled, also factionists! "Anti-organ faction," "Firm Foundation faction" (MacGregor Church Trial, 1898) In the Petition or Complaint of the First Christian Church, of MacGregor, Texas, we read this statement: "That defendants and those associated with them do not claim to belong to the same religious body with those represented by the plaintiff, but they have withdrawn and departed from the said Christian Church, and have identified themselves with a faction holding principles and practices at variance with and violative of the faith, principles and usages of the said Disciples of Christ and the said Christian Church."

In Nashville, Tennessee, in 1923, there was conducted the Boswell-Hardeman Discussion on Instrumental Music in the Worship. From its written record we wish to make a few excerpts. "I want also to keep before you this fact, further: the faith and practice of your humble servant is not in doubt, is not in dispute, is not in question. There is not a single thing I preach or practice but that Brother Boswell will endorse. And I will pledge him this now: if he will call my attention to anything that I do preach or practice that is not in harmony with that which he says is scriptural. I shall be exceedingly glad, as far as my conscience will permit, to drop that thing in order that I may come to you and give no occasion for offense whatsoever. Name one item, therefore, in the acts of worship presented tonight, and if there be not a "Thus saith the Lord" for that act of public worship of the church of God, I want to drop it. I want to occupy no ground that all my brethren cannot stand upon." Page 118. That is a fine expression of the spirit of the New Testament, and was a guiding principle of the Restoration Movement. I would exceedingly fear to renounce or disregard it as a governing principle in my relationship with God's people, my brethren.

The question of fellowship intruded itself into this discussion several times. It should be profitable for us to consider the attitude and approach of these disputants toward this subject as it related to the issue at hand. We might learn something which could help us today in our present difficulties in the church." But now, ladies and gentlemen, to get some matters further and fresh before you, he says: "Why, Brother Hardeman, you make the organ a test of fellowship." I beg to say exactly the reverse. "Fellowship" means "joint partnership." When he asks me to partake of the worship with the organ, he asks me to become a participant therein; and when my conscience will not permit me to do it, he would have me stultify my conscience, or else charge me with the responsibility for making a test of that fellowship. That which I do he does not question; but if I accepted what he wants me to do, I stultify my conscience in so doing. Because I won't do that, the ugly charge is made that you folks make it a test of fellowship. Not so. The man who demands it, the man who would ask his brethren to stultify their consciences in observing it, is the man who makes it a test of fellowship and stands in the way of unity." Page 169. Again we quote: But, ladies and gentlemen, he openly and above hoard asks me and my brethren all over this country to stultify our consciences by worshipping where there is an instrument of music. And unless we do so we must be responsible for the test of fellowship. That thing I deny most positively, and denounce as absolutely the opposite of the truth.

The man that injects the difference, the man that brings in the thing that causes the trouble, is the man that makes the test of fellowship. Before you introduced the organ we were in fellowship, in perfect accord, here in Nashville, with Brother Lin Cave and others, men whom I appreciate; all were together and were fellow-shipping.

What caused us not to be? Is it something, Brother Boswell, I have done? You have been absolutely unable to point it out. Gentlemen it is something he has done. You have brought into the worship of God that which was left out for fifty years after the Restoration Movement. It is that for which there is not a scintilla of authority, and you think more now of your instrument, which you say you can get along without, than you do of ten thousand people in the city of Nashville. If you want fellowship, remove the barrier. Brother Boswell says: "I can do that and not stultify my conscience I can worship with or without the instrument." Then, ladies and gentleman, if that statement be true, and you accept his word for it; how do you account for his not removing it, and therefore, taking away the breach to the fellowship? There is but one answer: viz., he prefers his man-made instrument to the peace and harmony and oneness of the body of Christ in the city of Nashville. God said that six things he hated; one of them was a man that soweth discord among brethren, " Page 181-182.

Boswell charged Hardeman as not being on scriptural grounds in opposing the instrument. He asked:"Do you have a right to oppose what I have a right to do?" Hardeman replied: "No, if you have the right to do it, Brother Boswell, I have no right to oppose it; but your right to do it is the thing in question. You have no right to do that. Why? Because not one single word have you read from the Bible as direct authority, apostolic example, or necessary inference." Page 140.

From my youth I have read such literature as is identified with the Restoration Movement, supplementary to the study of the scriptures. Hardeman's Tabernacle sermons have thrilled me time and again as I have read them. The plea to take God at his Word, to believe what it says, do what it requires, and be content therewith, trusting Him for the ultimate fulfilment of His promises has been the guiding star of my "Walk by faith." From this I have no desire or intention to depart, let the temporal consequences be what they may. Present issues confronting the church do not justify the breaking of fellowship at this juncture, and the independence and autonomy of each congregation to mold its own faith and chart its own course of work by a "thus saith the scriptures", without having to submit to brotherhood promotional schemes is sacred and dear to those who reverence the truth and esteem the favor of God above the praises of men. Congregations are being filled today with members who are uninformed and untaught in the principles of New Testament Christianity, and, consequently, they are lacking in their appreciation of the appeals of Brethren Campbell, Lard, McGarvey, and later of Bro. Hardeman in this debate. Even now do we hear an occasional voice saying that it would have been preferable to accept the instrument of worship rather than to allow a division over its injection into the worship. Is this symptomatic of a general development in the thinking of brethren, and thus characteristic of the increasing liberalism among us? Once we asked for a direct command, an apostolic example of necessary inference, but such has become too "rigid and severe a rule to govern us now; a principle eternal" or a "constituent elements" and "component parts" philosophy has been invented to justify that which cannot be sustained by the former standard of authority by which we were governed, and by which we tested the faith and practice of denominationalism.

Just what are the issues that beset and plague the church of Christ today? There has been so much misinformation and misrepresentation indulged in that many sincere and devout Christians are confused or deceived. Inflammatory and prejudicial reports are being circulated both locally and generally, that a clear statement of the issues is mandatory. The next article in this paper will be devoted to a definition and delineation of them. Fundamentally, there is but one and that is what constitutes authority in religious doctrine and practice. It finds expression in the form of two questions. First, can the church create and support human institutions to do the work that God has decreed it should do? Second, can one congregation assume to function for the churches generally, through its eldership? The issue is not over whether there is a work the churches (congregations) are obligated to do both in the field of preaching the gospel, and in the work of material benevolence. To charge brethren as being against either of these fields of endeavor is to be guilty of falsehood and misrepresentation. We, therefore, beseech you to reflect seriously on the principles set forth in this paper above, and await with a sincere devotion to the truth the appearance of the next issue. There are those who would have you refuse to read this just as sectarians, both Protestant and Catholic, would endeavor to dissuade their brethren from reading any gospel literature, or hearing a gospel sermon. This isn't anything new. Elymas, the sorcerer, withstood Paul and Barnabas as he endeavored to turn away Sergius Paulus. a prudent man, who desired to hear the word of God. (Acts 13:7-8). We welcome the circulation of the printed page by one and all, and pledge ourselves to patiently, and earnestly consider all that might come before us in reply and opposition to that which we set forth herein.