Theological Underpinnings

No movement remains untouched by other's thought. The worst men hold some truth. The same is true for religious movements, theological systems, and creeds.

I want to survey some of the theological trends which influenced the Restoration Movement.

I. The Protestant Reformation

Martin Luther lit reformation fires in 1517 when he nailed his propositions for debate on the Wittenberg chapel's door. Under his leadership, Europe's theology changed drastically. Other reformers followed him. Even Luther received input from other reformers. John Hus, the fiery Bohemian, preached reform during the Renaissance. Hus copied, literally, England's John Wyclif. Even staunch Catholic Erasmus added much to the spirit of reformation.

European reform efforts ultimately numbered five, with four being most important. Martin Luther led the German reform. Ulrich Zwingli led reform in German speaking Switzerland. John Calvin labored in French speaking Switzerland and his influence spread throughout France, the low countries, and Scotland. Henry VIII led English political reform that carried over into church organization. A host of rather obscure men, some who worked within other movements, formed the Anabaptist traditions.

These efforts never came to completion. Furthermore, they never seemed to bring people together. Division proved a hallmark of the Protestant Reformation. After the Colloquy at Marburg, an attempt to find agreement on issues surrounding the Lord's Supper, Luther and Zwingli continued on their separate ways. Catholicism pointed to this division as proof of Protestant heresy. At the very least, they argued, Catholicism was united.

II. Seekers of Church Unity

Christians usually saw division as evil. Unity efforts existed long before the Reformation reached full swing. After John Hus' death in 1412, the Bohemian Brethren attempted to keep their identity separate from Catholicism but they divided into two camps. The Taborite Brethren called for religious separatism. The Utraquists yearned for unity with other believers. Ultimately they compromised with Catholicism and returned to the fold with guarantees that they could hold some of their group distinctives.

By the late 1400s Brethren called for unity. Peter of Chelcic and Luke of Prague (b. 1460) wanted unity on Scriptural bases alone. These Brethren took as their guiding principle the following, "...in so far as to hold fast to essentials, but not to bind conscience with regard to non-essentials."

A Scottish minister living in Holland called for the abolition of sectarian names during the 1600s. John Drury (1595-1680) said Christians should allow freedom in non-essentials. Other names associated with unity efforts are Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) and Benjamin Grosvenor (1676-1758).

III. Movements in Great Britain

Movements in Great Britain hold more interest for us. These free-church movements greatly influenced the Campbells . Of these movements two stand out.

The Glas-Sandeman Movement. This movement occurred in Scotland during the 1700s. One major leader, Robert Sandeman, migrated to the United States where he established a congregation in Danbury, Connecticut. That congregation affiliated with the Restoration Movement after 1840.

John Glas (1695-1773), the other leader, was one of the first Scottish Independents (Congregationalists). He left Scotland's established church in 1728. Robert Sandeman (1718-1771) was Glas' son-in-law. In their history of the Restoration Movement, McAllister and Tucker state that "Sandeman gave the movement its theological content." Campbell always went to great lengths to deny this whenever charges of "Sandemanianism" appeared. In truth, Sandeman practiced certain excesses. He advocated the "holy kiss" and a community of goods as practiced in the early chapters of Acts.

A few important concepts did come into the Restoration Movement from Glas and Sandeman. John Glas very carefully distinguished the Old and New Testaments. He rightly, I think, pointed out the fact that in the Old Testament the "church" and state were identical. The New Testament, however, saw the church as wholly a spiritual community. Sandeman upheld justification by faith and defined faith as simple assent to New Testament testimony! Campbell would not go quite that far. He saw faith as more than simple assent and he reacted strongly to accusations to the contrary.

Haldanes. The Haldanes heavily influenced Campbellian thought. Alexander Campbell studied with one of these men during a year in Scotland. Campbell's biographer says of them:

(The Haldanes were) a movement from which Mr. Campbell received his first impulse as a religious reformer, and which may be justly regarded, as the first phase of that religious reformation which he subsequently carried out so successfully to its legitimate issues.

James Alexander Haldane (1768-1851) and his brother Robert (1764-1842) were wealthy Christian Scottish laymen from a distinguished family. Their father, a noted naval officer, died when the boys were quite young so their mother trained them. At nine they began to consider the Lord's claims. During this period, however, wealthy Scots did not enter the ministry. After Robert left Edinburgh University, he entered the navy receiving numerous commendations during conflict with France.

After the war Robert returned to Airthrey, the family estate. He turned his attention to Scripture and Christian evidences. He wrote and published the book, Evidences and Authority of Divine Religion, in 1816. In 1835 he published Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans. Each year he became increasingly zealous for the faith.

James Haldane left the university at 17 to become a seaman. He ultimately became a captain in command of his own vessel. By December, 1793 he also turned his mind to religious matters. Because of his brother's example, he left the sea and turned to the church studying the Bible and carefully analyzing Scripture.

Both men became intensely interested in missions and organized an early missionary society then organized missions in Scottish cities. The Church of Scotland refused to help, so the Haldanes organized a Congregational Church in January, 1799, with 310 charter members. James Haldane served as the first minister and stayed 52 years. Soon the brothers erected a second tabernacle and began a seminary. They called Greville Ewing to head the new school. They enrolled the first class in 1799 and by 1808 nearly 300 ministers graduated. The Haldanes underwrote the whole expense. Ultimately differences arose between Ewing and the brothers resulting in Ewing's dismissal. Alexander Campbell resided in Glasgow in late 1808 and early 1809, when these differences created much excitement.

The Haldanes' substantially impacted Campbell. Let me mention a few things.

1.The emphasis on the full authenticity and inspiration of the Scripture. The Haldanes emphasized the Bible and the Bible alone as the only sufficient rule of faith and practice. They went to great lengths to avoid giving up the inspiration of Scripture.

2.The motivation to preach the Gospel everywhere through a scheme of lay preaching. To this the Haldanes remained faithful in spite of clerical opposition.

3.Preachers should work without remuneration. The Haldanes felt that a laborer should be worthy of his hire, but they refused to take support for their work. All through his life Campbell refused remuneration for his preaching.

4.The rejection of the extra-congregational church. Each Haldane congregation enjoyed local autonomy and supervision by a plurality of elders. Greville Ewing probably accounted for this more than the Haldanes. Max Ward Randall says, "It was Greville Ewing more than any other who affected the transition from the Church of Scotland structure to an independent or congregational form." The view calling for a plurality of elders was published by William Ballantyne in his Treatise on the Elder's Office.

5.The practice of immersion for adult believers only. In the spring of 1808 James Haldane informed his Edinburgh congregation he would no longer baptize infants. He himself was immersed in April. Division resulted immediately. The division occurred just a year before Campbell's arrival, but people still talked about it. It is also interesting to note that the Haldanes practiced immersion but left it a matter of choice. It was not a term of communion!

6.The Glas-Sandeman movement and the Haldanes agreed that faith precedes regeneration. With most of their definition of faith Campbell agreed.

Conclusion

European interests in unity and a blossoming "free-church" movement left its imprint on at least two of the early Restoration fathers. These two, and others, gave these principles fuller expression in the "new world."

                 | Home | Contents |

1