Vol.I No.V Pg.6
May 1964

Church Issues 160 Years Ago

Robert F. Turner

The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery is one of the most important documents of the Restoration Movement. Signed June 28, l803, it marked one of the earliest moves of this country, from denominational government to N. T. church organization. Space limits us to print but a few items of the "will".


Imprimas "We will, that this body die, be dissolved, and sink into union with the body of Christ at large; for there is but one body and one spirit, even as we are called in one hope of our calling.

Item 3 We will, that our power of making laws for the government of the Church, and executing them by delegated authority, forever cease; that the people may have free course to the Bible, and adopt the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

Item 5 We will, that the Church of Christ resume her native right of internal government, try her candidates for the ministry, as to their soundness in the faith, acquaintance with experimental religion, gravity and aptness to teach; and admit no other proof of their authority but Christ speaking in them. ++++++(omission)+++

Item 6 We will, that each particular church as a body, actuated by the same spirit, choose her own preacher and support him by a free-will offering, without a written call or subscription, admit members, remove offenses; and never henceforth delegate her right of government to any man or set of men whatever."

Accompanying the Will and Testament, the "Witnesses' Address" offers further reasons for dissolving this church association. They testify:


"At their last meeting they undertook to prepare for the press a piece entitled, "Observations on Church Government," in which the world will see the beautiful simplicity of Christian Church government, stript of human invention and lordly traditions.

As they proceeded in the investigation of that subject, they soon found that there was neither precept nor example in the New Testament for such confederacies as modern church sessions, presbyteries, synods, General Assemblies, etc. Hence they concluded that while they continued in the connection in which they stood, they were off the foundation of the apostles and prophets of which Christ himself is the chief cornerstone."

This was the process by which a group of Presbyterian churches read their way out of denominational doctrine and organizational error. Each congregation began to work independently, and their teaching along this line had much to do with the dissolving of the Mahoning Baptist Association some years later. (1830)

The New Testament church, with simple N. T. government, was not easily separated from sectarianism. It is the more pitiful, therefore, that today brethren accept inter-congregational operations without even recognizing, apparently, that they are now turning back the clock.