Merger of The Stone & Campbell Movements – 1831
Alexander Campbell and the other pioneer preachers that we have been writing about were good men, but we must be sure that we understand our true relationship to them. They did not re-establish the Church. The Church of Christ has been on the earth since the first Pentecost after the Ascension of Jesus, and has been here ever since and will be here until the Lord comes back for His own. To teach otherwise would mean the words of Jesus in Matthew 16, where He said, “the gate of hades shall not prevail..” would have been untrue.
But it was the Lord Jesus who established the Church (Mathew 16:18). He was the One who purchased the Church with His blood that was shed on the cruel cross of Calvary (Hebrews 9:14; Titus 2:13-14). Jesus is head of the Church today, and it is in the Word of God that we, as simple New Testament Christians, go to seek the teachings of God concerning “The Ancient Order of Things.”
We have tried to show how Alexander Campbell and other godly men dedicated to the Word of God led men to seek after the whole counsel of God and organize churches after the New Testament pattern.
Alexander Campbell was a mere man who pointed men to the Savior and the Book. May we ever take his example and preach and teach the everlasting Gospel to a lost and dying world.
As we said in our previous article, the decades of the 1820’s brought great strides for the work of restoration in this land. Many were preaching New Testament Christianity all over America. James DeForrest Murch had this to say in Christians Only,
In a marvelous way, God raised up a people in many places throughout America prior to 1830. Without consultation or with prior knowledge of each other, men had been led by the Holy Spirit to abandon human dogmas and traditions and turn to the Bible as their only rule of faith and practice. A remarkable similarity in the views of these people was evident and usually when they confronted one another, they came to common ground and gladly worked together to further the kingdom of God.”
Let’s truly work together to spread the teachings of the Lord of Glory!
The two main groups in 1830 were those “led” by Alexander Campbell and those “led” by Barton Warren Stone. They were very strong in Kentucky. Murch says that each group numbered in the ten thousands. Thus it was to be in Kentucky that the informal union was to take shape, the area being around Georgetown, KY
John T. Johnson was the minister for the Great Crossings Church (Campbell Movement), and Barton W. Stone was the minister of the Christian Church in Georgetown. They decided to combine their efforts and work for unity.
The Christian Church (Stone Movement) was dedicating a new meeting-house on October 16, 1831. This event brought brethren from both groups. The tow main speakers that day were Barton W. Stone and “Raccoon” John Smith. Smith showed that the Bible taught Christian unity. John Augustus Williams, in his Life of John Smith, quotes Smith as saying,
God has but one people on earth. He has given them but one Book. A union as we plead for-a union of God’s people on that one Book-must, then be practicable. Every Christian desires to stand completely in the whole will of God. The prayer of the Savior, and the whole tenor of his teachings, clearly show that it is in God’s will that His children should be united.
Later in the same meeting, “Raccoon” John Smith spoke these words,
Let us, then, my brethren, be no longer Campbellites, or Stoneites, New Lights or Old Lights, or any other kind of lights, but let us come to the Bible, and the Bible alone, as the only book in the world that can give us all the light that we need.
Concerning this informal union, Barton W. Stone wrote these words in the Christian Messenger,
…they were united by no written compact, no association, no conventional constitution…They were free to think for themselves without the dictation of ghostly bishops…were drawn together by the spirit of truth by our common Lord and expressed by us, the subjects of his kingdom.
Alexander Campbell, writing in the Millennial Harbinger, had this to say,
These brethren need not to be told that to convert persons is not merely to baptize them, to loos them and let them go; nor to give them the name Christians, and induce them to protest against human leaders and human creeds, and to extol the sufficiency of the inspired writings; but to ‘turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance amongst them that are sanctified—to teach them to observe and do all that the Lord has commanded.’