Vol.IV No.XII Pg.6
February 1968

"That They May Be One"

Robert F. Turner

Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell first met in 1824. "When they compared views, it seemed that there were irreconcilable differences between them. Stone thought Campbell was heterodox on the Holy Spirit, and Campbell suspected Stone's soundness on the divinity of Christ." But by 1832, following careful investigation, these differences were found to be more imaginary than real. At a meeting of brethren in Lexington, Ky., on January lst, "Racoon" John Smith and Barton W. Stone were key speakers in an effort that brought great numbers of brethren together. "This union of the Christians and Reformers was not a surrender of one party to the other; it was an agreement of such as already recognized and loved each other as brethren to work and worship together." (The Church, Falling, Restoration; by J. W. Shepherd; P. 251-f.)


In March 1827, five or six couples formed "a society for the investigation of Scripture subjects." They were Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, and non-communicants.

They explain, "We assumed that the Christian religion, in its fulness and perfectness, was recorded in the N.T., and what could not be found there... was no part of Christianity. We also assumed that this was an intelligible document, for, if not adapted to the common intelligence of mankind, it could not be received as a revelation from God to man."

For more than one year these folk met regularly, discussing all points of difference and questions of mutual concern, until finally they were united in practice as well as in spirit, and formed a local church. Notice the attitude and faith expressed in the following. "We had but two alternatives between which to choose; either to transmit religious partyism, with all its bitter fruits, to our rising families, and live and die in that state of doubt and uncertainty, vascillating between hope and fear, the inevitable result of a mixed profession; or to find relief by going back to the old record, to 'look up the old paths and walk therein."' (History of Disciples on Western Reserve; by A. S. Hayden; p. 317-f.)


How often, in your experience, have brethren shown this spirit in our day? I know of several examples of non-members having a sincere desire for truth, and allowing open Bible study -- which almost always led to some being converted to the truth. I even know of one case where a whole church came together regularly for nearly one year, studying the "issues" of the day. If I remember correctly, one family dropped out after a few months, but the others decided to operate as a completely independent church, sending no support to interchurch projects. BUT I KNOW OF MANY CASES WHERE PERSONAL BITTERNESS, REFUSAL TO HEAR BOTH SIDES, AND "MAJORITY RULE" QUARANTINE TACTICS HAVE MADE MOCKERY OF CHRIST'S CAUSE.

Party union is not our goal, but genuine unity upon God's truth. This is our justification for PLAIN TALK.