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THOMAS CAMPBELL AND THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT


Back in early 1800's there was a preacher in Western Pennsylvania named Thomas Campbell. He was a preacher for the Old-light, Anti-burger, Seceder Presbyterian Church. Each of those phrases described a political division within the Presbyterian Church of that day. For example: a church that was "anti-burger" opposed any influence of city mayors in their congregation, while a pro-burger would have welcomed such input.


Thus, the Presbyterians were divided over many things, and each group sought to maintain the purity of their positions. So they (like many other denominations of the day) opted for "closed communion" to make sure that only those who clung to their standards could take communion at their churches.


In the Presbyterian churches it worked like this: the Lord's Supper was taken once every month or so... but on the Saturday night before Communion Sunday members were required to come in and answer a series of questions. If they answered the questions correctly they received a "Communion coin" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communion_token), and the next day they would drop their coin in the box and partake.

This didn't sit very well with Campbell -- who believed that the Lord's Supper belonged to Christ rather than to him - and on at least one occasion he opened the Communion table to all who belonged to Christ. Word got back to denominational headquarters and they sacked him. He was branded a heretic and eventually left that group.


About that same time, Thomas's son, Alexander, was shipwrecked on his way over from Scotland. He stayed in Scotland another year, and while he was there attended worship services at a Presbyterian congregation in the neighborhood. On Communion Saturday night he dutifully went in to answer the questions required of him for the coin... and was shocked to find that the questions were different than he was accustomed to. However, being well versed in Scripture and Presbyterian thinking, he was able to answer the questions correctly and received his coin. The next day he walked in, put his coin in the box and walked away without taking of the Lord's Supper.


When Father and Son got back together they both had come to the conclusion that the church had way too many HUMAN rules and regulations. Christians were being segregated from God (at the communion table) and from other Christians because each denomination insisted on clinging to their own distinctive denominational names, creeds and practices.


They were soon joined by Methodist and Baptist groups who were struggling with their own denominations' teachings. They were tired of all the divisiveness and they just wanted to be "Christians Only."


What these people were upset about was the tendency of Churches to change the rules. To change the oil in the machine of the faith once delivered to the saints. They began to believe they needed to do was go back and "restore" -- as best they could -- the pattern of the New Testament Church and to only practice and believe what that first group of believers held to. Because they were attempting to "restore" what the early church did, they began to refer to themselves as a "restoration movement."


(From a sermon by Jeff Strite, Restoration!, 5/9/2011)

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