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Looking Back

May 10, 2009

This summer will we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Declaration and Address by Thomas Campbell, the document which marked the beginning of the Restoration Movement. In commemoration I will be posting a few articles commenting on the document and the subsequent history of the resulting movement. It seems appropriate to begin that series by quoting from the introduction of the document, where the causes and motivation for the actions to be taken were announced.

DECLARATION AND ADDRESS
OF THE CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION
OF
WASHINGTON

AT a meeting held at Buffaloe, August 17, 1809, consisting of persons of different religious denominations; most of them in an unsettled state as to a fixed gospel ministry; it was unanimously agreed upon, the considerations, and for the purposes herein after declared, to form themselves into a religious association, titled as above–which they accordingly did, and appointed twenty-one of their number to meet and confer together; and, with the assistance of Mr. Thomas Campbell, minister of the gospel, to determine upon the proper means to carry into effect the important ends of their association: the result of which conference was the following declaration and address, agreed upon and ordered to be printed at the expence and for the benefit of the society. September 7, 1809

FROM the series of events which have taken place in the churches for many years past, especially in this western country, as well as from what we know in general of the present state of things in the christian world; we are persuaded that it is high time for us not only to think, but also to act for ourselves; to see with our own eyes, and to take all our measures directly and immediately from the Divine Standard; to this alone we feel ourselves divinely bound to be conformed; as by this alone we must be judged. We are also persuaded that as no man can be judged for his brother, so no man can judge for his brother: but that every man must be allowed to judge for himself, as every man must bear his own judgment;–must give account of himself to God–We are also of opinion that as the divine word is equally binding upon all so all lie under an equal obligation to be bound by it, and it alone; and not by any human interpretation of it: and that therefore no man has a right to judge his brother, except in so far as he manifestly violates the express letter of the law. That every such judgment is an express violation of the law of Christ, a daring usurpation of his throne, and a gross intrusion upon the rights and liberties of his subjects. We are therefore of opinion that we should beware of such things; that we should keep at the utmost distance from every thing of this nature; and, that, knowing the judgment of God against them that commit such things; we should neither do the same ourselves, nor have pleasure in them that do them. Moreover, being well aware, from sad experience, of the heinous nature, and pernicious tendency of religious controversy among christians; tired and sick of the bitter jarrings and janglings of a party spirit, we would desire to be at rest; and, were it possible, we would also desire to adopt and recommend such measures, as would give rest to our brethren throughout all the churches;–as would restore unity, peace, and purity, to the whole church of God. This desirable rest, however, we utterly despair either to find for ourselves, or to be able to recommend to our brethren, by continuing amidst the diversity and rancour of party contentions, the veering uncertainty and clashings of human opinions: nor, indeed, can we reasonably expect to find it any where, but in Christ and his simple word; which is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever. Our desire, therefore, for ourselves and our brethren would be, that rejecting human opinions and the inventions of men, as of any authority, or as having any place in the church of God, we might forever cease from farther contentions about such things; returning to, and holding fast by, the original standard; taking the divine word alone for our rule: The Holy Spirit for our teacher and guide, to lead us into all truth; and Christ alone as exhibited in the word for our salvation–that, by so doing, we may be at peace among ourselves, follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

In the next few articles I will highlight some of the key points in the document and comment on how their intentions have worked out to this point.

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