From R. S. Dills' History of Fayette County
THE CHRISTIAN CHURCHThis church is the creature of the fifth missionary district of the Ohio Missionary Society. It is a mission of the district board. They instructed J. C. Irvin, who is still in charge of the mission, to go to Washington and make a reconnoisance. He visited all the members in the city, and established preaching temporarily in the Baptist Church. This was continued for five months.
In December, 1874, Rev. W. W. Sawyer and Mr Irvin, joined in a union service of Baptists and Disciples, which meeting lasted one week; an intercommunion service was held and friendly relations cultivated. This year several sermons were preached in the city hall.
During the next winter, Elder Robert Moffett, state evangelist, of Cleveland, Ohio, held a meeting of three weeks, in the Baptist house of worship, which was well attended. The interest, good from the beginning, increased to the close. At this meeting, two young ladies were added to the church.
The board, encouraged by this meeting, determined to make the mission permanent. J. C. Irvin was continued in the management. His health failing however, he was not able to preach, and was compelled to abandon active work; yet he never abandoned the idea of ultimate success. During the year 1878, he held Bible services and social meetings in the temperance hall. These meetings began as early as November, 1877, and have been held regularly ever since.
Organization.—The organization dates from April 6, 1879. There were but six members present, whose names were J. C. Irvin, Mrs. J. C. Irvin, Miss Jennie Davis, Mrs. Maggie C. Hess, Mrs. Julia Benjamin, and S. Eldan Irvin.
These solemnly covenanted with each other, and with the Great Head of the church, to live as becometh saints, and to keep the ordinances of the Lord's house. This little band has met regularly, and their members have gradually increased.
Benjamin Rankin and family have permanently settled in the neighborhood, and others having moved into the city, so that the number has increased to about twenty.
In November, 1880, a Sunday-school was organized in the city hall, and the meetings removed to that place. The school has succeeded well and is in a flourishing condition at present. The attendance is about sixty-five.
The church since its organization has had a slow but steady growth. Since which Elder A. A. Knight of Wilmington, J. S. Hughes of Dayton, and Dr. Oliver Hixon of Iowa, have preached for the organization.
The weekly meetings are conducted by J. C. Irvin, assisted by Benjamin Rankin.
Since the election of General James A. Garfield to the presidency of the United States, public attention has been called to this denomination of Christians so prominently, that we feel justified in giving a somewhat extended view of their faith and practice. This will be the purpose of the brief sketch which follows :
It is proper to state that this denomination of Christians prefer the simple term Christian Church, but do not wish to assume a designation that might seem to deny the appellation to others. They are willing to be known as Disciples, or to be distinguished by any term that is applied to the Church of Christ in the New Testament. Their aim is to bring Christianity back to what it was in the beginning. They reject all symbols of faith except the Bible, desiring to restore the primitive simplicity of the Gospel, as preached under the supervision of the heaven inspired apostles of Jesus Christ.
Previous to the inauguration of this movement, the condition of religion in this country was truly to be deplored. The religious parties of those times were extremely selfish, and were the bitter antagonists of each other. The spirit of rivalry and of sect had largely supplanted the Spirit of Christ. Ignorance and superstition were more prized than an intelligent knowledge of the word of God. Human creeds were the standards of faith and practice; while the Divine creed was regarded as a dead letter. The result was that the very life of religion became subject to a selfish despotism which was cruel and unrelenting.
The careful and impartial reader of the history of these times must see that a reformation was greatly needed. The success of Christianity in the world depended upon a movement that would break down this ecclesiasticism, and bring the people back again to the true knowledge of Christ. Early in the present century an attempt at this was made. But before entering upon a notice of this movement, it is proper to call attention to what had previously been accomplished.
Luther's was a noble work, but it was principally confined to one thing, namely : the restoration of the freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and the right of individual interpretation. This was his distinctive work. It broke the fetters of the papacy which bound the human soul, and gave lliberty once more to the individual conscience.
Calvin restored to the church the idea of God's sovereignty. This had been partially obscured by the works of supererogation which Catholicism enjoined upon its subjects; and it was necessary to any satisfactory progress in the restoration of primitive Christianity, that the Great Father should be properly recognized as the author of "every good and perfect gift." Extremes beget extremes, is the universal testimony of history. Hence, under the infiuence of Calvin's teachings, it was not long before the religious consciousness swung round to the extreme of a cold, lifeless formalism, which entirely ignored the human side in the plan of salvation, and left every thing to the unalterable fate of what were called the Divine decrees.
Wesley restored to the church the idea of human responsibility. He taught that there was something for man himself to do in order to salvation. Hence his teaching infused new life into the religious convictions of the people, and give a new energy to the work of converting the world.
To sum up the work of these reformations, it is sufficient to say, that Luther restored conscience to its proper place; Calvin restored the Divine sovereignty, and Wesley human responsibility, as part of the remedial system.
Two things yet remained to be done : the word of God must be restored to its proper authority, and such an adjustment made of the elements eliminated by the reformations just referred to as would secure a rapid and harmonious development of the religion of Christ in the world. This of course would involve a complete restoration of the primitive order of things, and this was the work proposed by the reformation of the nineteenth century, A few words concerning the origin and character of this movement are necessary at this point.
In the year 1807, Thomas Campbell, a Presbyterian minister, of the north of Ireland, arrived in the United States. He soon conceived a plan of Christian union upon the basis of the Bible alone. In the advocacy of this plan, he published the celebrated "Declaration and address," and a "Prospectus of a religious reformation." The burden of these papers was the inefficiency of denominational organizations, and the necessity of a return to apostolic teaching and practice, before the world could be converted to Christ; discarding all human creeds and confessions of faith.
A society was formed in Washington, Pennsylvania, for the purpose of propagating these sentiments. Soon after two churches were organized, and these agreed in the purpose of absolute and entire rejection of human authority in matters of religion, and the determination to stand by each other upon the proposition that the Holy Scriptures are all sufficient, and alone sufficient as the subject matter of faith and rule of conduct, and that therefore, they would require nothing as a matter of faith or rule of conduct, for which they could not give a "thus saith the Lord," either in express terms or by approved precedent. This was the beginning of the great reformatory movement known as the great reformation of the nineteenth century. Since this early beginning it has spread into all the states and territories of the federal union, where the number of communicants is now six hundred thousand. They are also numerous in Canada, Jamaica, the British Isles, Australia, and a few are to be found in France, Norway and Turkey.,
They also control a large number of fine colleges and schools. Among these may be named Bethany College, founded by Alexander Campbell, in West Virginia; Butler University, Indiana; Kentucky University; Hiram College, Ohio; Oskaloosa College, Iowa; with others too tedious to mention.
They also have their share of men in public places in the government, both state and federal. The most prominent among these is James A. Garfield, president of the United States, and Judge Jeremiah Black, of the supreme bench.
They are fairly represented in congress, having a larger number of representatives than any other church, except one.
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