In the spring of 1996, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Ohio Valley College (now University) for a special Restoration History Workshop conducted by Earl West. At this workshop I was able to hear brother West lecture on key events and figures in the Restoration Movement. Then, I was thrilled to be able to travel a short distance to Bethany, West Virginia (formerly Virginia) to tour the mansion, study, cemetery and other key items relating to the lives of Thomas and Alexander Campbell. The tour climaxed with a visit to Bethany Memorial Church where Alexander Campbell preached for many years, which included a presentation of an overview of the Campbells by brother West. Thomas Campbell had not preached in the building; however, the foundation stones for the Memorial Church were from the stone building where Thomas had preached his final farewell sermon prior to his death. This was truly an exciting event to attend and I wish others would have had the opportunity to do so as well.
The Restoration Workshop was of great interest to me for several reasons, but none of these reasons probably would have materialized if it were not for men like Basil Overton, Earl West, my parents and others who have shared with me stories of the struggles and victories of those who led souls out of man-made denominations and back to pure Christianity. During his life, Brother West has written extensively on Restoration History. In Search of the Ancient Order reminds one of Alexander Campbell’s famed series on restoring New Testament Christianity entitled “Restoration of the Ancient Order of Things” in the famous (or infamous to the denominations), The Christian Baptist.
The first volume in the series takes a look at the early beginnings of the movement. It is important for people to realize that the plea to go back to New Testament Christianity preceded Alexander and Thomas Campbell. In fact, there were those in Europe making similar pleas. In the United States, there were also groups, such as the Christians with Barton W. Stone, who made the commitment to restore New Testament Christianity prior to the Campbells’ arrival in America. Those not as familiar with Alexander Campbell may wonder why his name is held in such regard that those outside the church often stigmatize our movement with his name. The reason should be remembered. Alexander Campbell’s name stands out because he stood up and was so successful in meeting the challenges of foes of New Testament Christianity whether from denominations, the Catholic Church, or even infidels. He is one of the richest scholars in the history of churches of Christ and his legacy is still one to be respected. One should also know that Alexander Campbell, just as Martin Luther pleaded for those who worshipped with him not to name themselves “Lutherans”, resisted and spoke out against the use of his name for the movement with such terms as “Campbellite” or Campbellism”. In fact, one of the reasons he ceased the name of his first journal, The Christian Baptist, was for fear that followers of him (rather than Christ) would call themselves Christian Baptists. So, he changed the name of his periodical to the monumental Millennial Harbinger.
This book deals with both the separate Stone & Campbell movements through the period where both recognized and unified on their commitment for a “Thus saith the Lord” in faith and practice. It deals with challenges of the movement including the missionary society and instrumental music into worship. It also discusses rise of educational institutions such as Bethany College. Several biographical portraits (in words and pictures) are presented including Walter Scott, Moses Lard, J. W. McGarvey, Jacob Creath, Benjamin Franklin and others. In Search of the Ancient Order is a tremendous source book on Restoration History and every church library is incomplete without this important series.
Originally printed West Virginia Christian, Vol. 16, No. 3, March 2009, p. 5. Reprinted by permission.