church of Christ history Traces of the Kingdom - A history of the church of God
Phi 1:17 ....."knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel."
At one time owning a Bible was illegal for the ordinary person, believing it was worse, often resulting in torture and death! Bibles were copied and shared with brethren, they could not be purchased so the only way to have one was to copy the scriptures illegally from a friend. This way for centuries the word of God, the Holy Scriptures, were shared in the vernacular language until the age of printing, and then later, the Reformation. The church of Christ existed prior to the Reformation and were the only people to have the Bible except the Roman Catholic Church who kept it hidden. These pre-Reformation Bibles were the basis for Tyndale's printed English translations (1526 updated in 1530) and from there, the basis for the King James Bible (1611). In 2011 the Anglican Church made much about the King James Bible, but they were amiss in not giving credit to Tyndale, a member of the Lord's Church and also forgot to mention they too at one time would burn a person for owning the Bible. This web-site is a history of those people who kept the Bible alive during the Dark to Middle Ages and later, brethren who called themselves - The Church of Christ.
From about 600 AD in England, Christians called by their enemies derogatory terms such as 'Evil Spirits', 'Demons', 'Waldensian', 'Lollard', 'Pelagian' and 'Anabaptist', who baptised believers for the remission of sins by immersion upon confession, have been active in Great Britain and even earlier in Europe. They called themselves Christians and the church - The Church of Christ, having met continuously to join in fellowship with the Restoration Movement in the 1840s. The first Church of Christ came into being on the first Pentecost after the Resurrection.
Below is the Roman Catholic and Anglican 'saint' Guthlac, at his feet is a demon, the demon represents a member of the church of Christ. The representation is twentieth century, paid for by the Masons, it can be found in Crowland Parish Church, Lincolnshire. It brings to mind Isaiah 5:20 "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" Guthlac was famous throughout the Roman Catholic eighth century world for his battles with the British demons, who proclaimed the Gospel to him.
The churches of Christ (Romans 16:16) do not follow the Roman Gospel which originated in paganism, several hundred years after the first church of Christ assembled in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost after the Resurrection, who followed the Jerusalem Gospel. It is an error to confuse the churches of Christ with the Protestant Reformation, they are not Reformers but restorationists, who hold to the Word of God in all maters of faith and practice. For the pre-Reformation Roman Catholics it was sin, the reformation Anglicans, Protestants, Lutherans, Zwinglian, Calvinist and Roman Catholics all held that the churches of Christ were in sin, and through persecution many Christians died at the hands of the Reformers and Roman Catholics - there was nowhere to flee, except prayer. The Reformers and Roman Catholics held to the alliance of Church and State and denied Free-Will, the churches of Christ opposed this, confirming Free-Will and separation of Church and State, which made them criminals twice over. The Reformers holding fast to the doctrine of Church and State forced this through infant baptism (infant baptism is pagan in origin).
Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
The famous Swiss Reformer Huldrych Zwingli stated “Nothing grieves me more than that at the present I have to baptise children,for I know it ought not to be done" he also states "… If however, I were to terminate the practice then I fear I would lose my prebend.”He affirmed: “I leave baptism untouched, I call it neither right or wrong;if we were to baptise as Christ instituted it then we would not baptise any person until he has reached the years of discretion; for I find it nowhere written that infant baptism is to be practiced.” He concludes:“However, one must practice infant baptism so as not to offend our fellow men." (Verduin, Reformers and Their Stepchildren, 198/9)
Onethousand years of Churches@of@Christ in England - Traces of the Kingdom.
But even if we or an angel from Heaven preach a gospel to you beside what we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we said before, and now I say again, If anyone preaches a gospel to you beside what you have received, let him be accursed.
From the letter written by Paul of Tarsus to the Galatian churches, dated approximately 53/56 AD (Gal 1:8,9)
Photograph of the little chapel that sits on the bridge in St. Ives, Cambridgeshire, England where in the 1650s for a few months a 'church of Christ' met before moving to a house nearby.
The preacher, Henry Denne, was imprisoned twice for baptising by immersion believers for remission of their sins. Later his son John continued to work with the St. Ives Church of Christ and their elders.
'The time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service’ (John 16:2b).
James Bainham, by profession a barrister, preached at the Bow Lane (London) Church of Christ, was after torture burned for preaching the gospel, in 1532.
Bainham, as did those before taught the necessity of baptism for the remission of sins (by immersion) after the preaching of the gospel and repentance.
Picture from a woodcut in Foxes book of martyrs, 1684 edition.
A Web Site devoted to autonomous congregations who baptised believers for the forgiveness of sins whereby they were added to the church of our Lord - The church of Christ - Rom.16:16.
This is a brief history of those churches in Great Britain and Europe before the American Restoration Movement.
About the Author, Keith Sisman
Keith is the preacher at the Cambridge City Church of Christ, the congregation is active on the campus of the University City, for details of their outreach please click herealong with pictures of the historic city.
To visit the congregation's home-page, please click here.
I have been asked by brethren about the possibly of a history tour to see some of the sites on this web-site, I am working on an itinerary which may viewed by clicking on the logo below:
1Co 13:3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
1Pe 1:7That the trialof your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
1Pe 4:12Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trialwhich is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
Archie Watters in his History of the British Churches@of@Christ (1948) wrote " "
Alexander Campbell wrote in his Christian Baptist "He who reads Jones' History of the Church of Christ, the history of that society of Christians which we see described in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Apostolic Epistles, which has been persecuted since Constantine by such secular ecclesiastical establishments as that of the English episcopacy, will readily perceive that the church of Christ is quite a different thing from such hierarchies, and that their creeds and confessions have no claim to divine authority, but are reprobated by it. It will be seen that that such has been described by Mosheim and Milner as the Church of Christ has been the beastly persecutor of his church.” Jones' history was first published in 1816. Alexander Campbell was aware of the materials used both in the book and this web-site from sources he had, primarily Jones' history . It seems he understood the Church of Christ has always existed. William Jones' was a member of the British church of Christ.
In 1891 Walter Crosthwaite was baptised at Ulverston, England. The late American brother, John Allen Hudson, said of brother Crosthwaite in his book 'The Churches of Christ in Great Britain (1948)', to have "saved the cause of our Lord from complete defeat in Britain." It was from Walter Crosthwaite that the work of training evangelists to prepare the church for the later part of the twentieth century was undertaken. Brother Crosthwaite was born in Ulverston on October 30th, 1873. His father Joseph had started the Ulverston congregation in 1876 on the 19th of March and was an elder there for many years.
The fellowship to which Joseph Crosthwaite belonged was the churches of Christ which are known to have existed in the Furness Fells of Northern England in the 1600s, and those churches were in fellowship with other churches of Christ, which went back many years earlier, this is a history of those churches.
Dr Robert Halley, Principle of New College, London (congregational) wrote in 1869 in his work 'A History of Puritanism and Nonconformity in Lancashire' of the Tottlebank Church of Christ, "It has been disputed where was formed the first congregational church in England. Islington, Yarmouth, Southwark, Dukinfield have claimed the honour. Among the fells of Furness was founded the first Christian church in England. By Christian I mean here not congregational, not Presbyterian, not Episcopal, not Baptist, but simply Christian in its unrestricted sense - Christian not sectarian, Catholic not denominational, a church of people acknowledged as Christians and nothing else. A poor ejected Minister from over the sands had the wisdom and grace to form such a church, and the poor mountaineers of his neighbourhood had the piety firmly to adhere to it and long sustain it."
Dr Halley was wrong, such churches in the Furness Fells pre-existed the Tottlebank congregation.
Anglican clergyman, Dr Daniel Featly, (who was one of the translators of the King James@Bible) wrote in 1645 of the Churches of Christ meeting in London and elsewhere in his work the 'Dippers Dipt', took those congregations back to 1525 when he quotes from them "That baptism ought to be received by none, but such as can give a good account of their faith; and in case any have been baptized in their infancy, that they ought to he re-baptized after they come to years of discretion, before they are to be admitted to the Church of Christ." These churches in the 1600s were in communication with other churches of Christ in America, nearly two hundred years before Campbell!
Photograph of text from Featly's 1646 edition, taken from page 20 of the Dippers Dipt.
Featley, an enemy of the Lord's church, states there were members of the Church of Christ, in London, that they had existed in England during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, James I! These congregations existed separately from the Church of England and dismissed infant baptism, baptising those who could give an account. Featly confirmed these congregations immersed for the remission of sins (Dippers Dipt), from elsewhere we know they were congregational and opposed Calvinism, being "Free-Willers."
But Featly was wrong on one account, such congregations existed prior to 1525, being pre-reformation!
In c. 1449-1455 Reginald Pecock, sometime bishop of Chichester wrote his most famous work, 'Represser of over-much weeting [blaming] of the Clergie' the first major theological work after the Conquest (1066) to be written in the vernacular English. The'Represser' was a refutation of the Lollards, who called themselves Christians, and the church , the church of Christ, who baptised believers by immersion for the remission of sins. The first major theological work written in English after the Norman Conquest of 1066 was to oppose the Church of Christ. Pecock, who held views similar to the later Anglican Church died a heretic at Thorney Abbey about five years after his'Represser' was written. His sin? The use reason against those Christians termed Lollards who called themselves the church of Christ.
Photograph of text from the 'Represser of over-much weeting of the Clergie'.
In 1529, Simon Fish a barrister by profession and one of the preachers at the Bow Lane Church of Christ (London) wrote his work, titled 'The Summe of the Holye Scripture.' The book was printed in Latin and English over several editions. The title page reads 'The Summe of the Holye Scripture and ordinary of the Christian teaching the true Christian faith by which we be all justified. And of the virtue of baptism after the teaching of the Gospel and of the apostles with an information how all estates should live according the Gospel.'
Fish's book teaches baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. For a time Fish was friends with Henry 8th and his wife, the queen, Anne Boleyn, advising on the Reformation until Henry realised Fish was seeking Restoration, not Reformation! Fish was a close friend of another member of the church of Christ, William Tyndale, the famous Bible translator. Fish with others through queen Anne getting the scriptures into the court of Henry. A perfectly dangerous thing to do, Fish fortunately dying of the plague a year later, his wife marrying James Bainham being made a widow twice when he died in the flames of persecution in 1532.
Photograph of the church of Christ meeting house at Monksthorpe, disguised as a barn, the little wooden door above the windows was to allow the preacher to escape if soldiers came to arrest the congregation. Without a preacher, the congregation could not be arrested as the law required the preacher to be caught. If caught, the preacher and the congregation could stave to death in prison. The little meeting house is now classed as Baptist. It was built in 1701. Below, the outdoor baptismal pool, now bricked would have appeared originally as a pond and being outside the building would not have raised suspicion. The website author is pictured in the pool with the meeting house behind.
Thebook has much more information and extensive footnotes. It is 659 pages, hardback and has ninety two pictures/illustrations.
To purchase the book, containing much more information and footnotes, agents for the book in the USA and Internationally are Chula Vista Books. For individual enquiries, or resale quantities, please click on the logo below:
One question often asked about the churches of Christ is; have there always been congregations meeting like ourselves before the time of Thomas and Alexander Campbell? The answer is Yes, as this survey will seek to show.
Sources used in this history include those at the University Library, Cambridge (over six million books) and the British Library, London (over thirteen million books).
Appreciation is acknowledged to the librarians for their time in locating books and manuscripts, many which have not seen the light of day for many years.
Thanks is also due to my wife Sarah, for reading and correcting the manuscript.
The New Testament Church is not a new church, for it was founded on the first Pentecost after the resurrection, nearly two thousand years ago. It has continued since wherever faithful brethren meet. This web site does not propose a continuous succession, for the church to exist it requires nothing more than faithful men keeping to the word of God (Mat. 13:1-23).
One possible objection to this survey is the question, how could people without our learning and knowledge come to our understanding? The answer has to be that it is not our understanding but the plain teaching of scripture that these Christians came to understand, and obey. They lived in societies which had far greater spiritual values than the materialism of today. Divorce, evolution, denominations, the instrument and so on were not problems to them as they are to us. Likewise they rejected the traditions of Catholicism which left them with the Bible as their only guide. It was to Christ and His Word to which they submitted. To suggest that Christianity died out in the second and third centuries only to be restored in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is simply too horrible to contemplate.
This survey is an account of those Christians who throughout time chose to serve the Lord and not to follow after the traditions of man. Through the writers and historians of the Catholic church we can read of the charges made against these Christians and the penalties meted out to them. This account is not a history of the church in general, nor a defence of the New Testament church, other excellent books are easily available and are listed for this in the endnotes. This survey should therefore be regarded as an addition to other widely available works.
The New Testament of our Lord makes it quite clear that the church would soon fall into apostasy, the responsibility for keeping the church pure would be for individual congregations and Christians using the Word of God.
The charges made against Christians through time can be paraphrased as follows;
1/ Rejection of infant baptism, their defence was that infants are without sin and that a person through their own choice should decide whether they wish to be baptised and wash away their sins, proclaiming the message of Gods grace and the free will of man.
2/ Rejection of the Eucharist as a sacrifice, their defence was that the Lords supper was not a sacrifice but a memorial to be taken on the first day of the week.
3/ Rejection of the Old Testament and certain New Testament passages, their defence was that they held all the scriptures sacred, but the Word of God needed to be rightly divided, the formal Priesthood of the Old Testament did not apply in the Christian era was one example.
4/ Rejection of church buildings and altars, their defence was that any place was a suitable place of Worship.
5/ Rejection of idols and images, their defence was that this practice was contrary to the Word of God.
6/ Rejection of sprinkling or pouring as a mode of baptism, their defence was that immersion was commanded in the Word of God.
7/ Rejection of a separate priesthood and clergy, their defence was that all were equal in Christ, proclaiming the 'Universal Priesthood of Believers.
8/ Rejection of prayers for the dead, holy days and good works (without faith, Ephesians 2:8-10 ), their defence was that these were contrary to the Word of God.
9/ Rejection of celibacy, the defence was that this was contrary to the Word of God.
10/ Rejection of the hierarchy of Bishops, the defence was that congregations were autonomous, being overseen by a plurality of Elders (Bishops).
11/ Another accusation made time and time again was the crime of heresy of Manichaeism, which goes back to a heretic named Manes or Mani who died around 276. This charge has always been strongly denied, evidence suggests that this was a contrived charge to gain quick conviction. One problem the authorities have always had with true believers who use the scriptures as a justification was that their defence could be seen publicly, therefore charges of Gnosticism and Manichaeism were often bought to gain a fast conviction, usually followed by death by burning.
12/ Witchcraft, especially for women including the crime of flying on broomsticks. The penalty for this was burning.
Did early churches of Christ use the instrument for music in their assembly? No, they did not. The instrument problem is a recent one and does not affect the time period we are looking at, having only become common place since the late 1800s.
Such were the complaints made and such was the defence (a return to scripture as the authority for the church and the Christian). Their defence by scripture was rejected by the authorities and banned. The traditions of the Catholic church would set the standard and many thousands died because they refused to obey the Pope.
The writer believes the Bible to be the very Word of God revealed and made available for all mankind. The writer has rejected modern (and not so modern) evolutionary theories believing in the Genesis account of six day creation less than 10,000 years ago. This reflects in the time periods and conclusions made of pre-Roman Celtic and Scandinavian Europe.
Neither statements can change the ultimate conclusions reached as these are dependent on known history since the time of Christ and the Bible.
For many people today when presented with the numerous Christian denominations are totally confused, and rightly so. Calvinism and Catholicism, Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, Anglicans and Baptists, and many, many more, in fact hundreds of Christian denominations claim to hold to Biblical truth, yet their doctrines (as their opponents will happily point out) contradict sound Bible teaching. Yet in the beginning there was one church based on the teaching of Christ through His apostles, as written and handed down through the Bible. So how has this confusion come about and when did it happen? This survey will attempt to show how this has happened, the struggle of Christians who were faithful in opposing this, and lastly to show that it is possible still to Worship God in the manner that He expects.
In fact in view of all of this confusion the writer believes that the only way to get back to the truth is to use the Bible, in seeking answers about the Christian Faith. It would take a lifetime to check each and every denomination and to work out the history of their particular doctrines, it is far easier and safer to go to the Bible direct and to ignore the teachings and traditions of men.
In the Bible the inspired writers claim that Jesus is none other than the Christ, God Himself. The New Testament teaches that salvation is through Christ, so all mankind needs and is obliged to check these statements found in Holy Scripture. And we must reach the right conclusion, for if the Bible is right and we get it wrong we will spend eternity outside of Heaven and outside of the fellowship of God. Clearly the most important task of any responsible person is to check the claims made in the Bible and to act accordingly.
The people who are written about wore no name other than Christian. For convenience in this study we will use the same term and refer to the congregations who met together to Worship the Lord as churches of Christ. This description was given in Pauls letter to the Romans in chapter sixteen verse sixteen. The term church of Christ is a common designation made in the English language referring to those churches who are in Christ.
The 'church of Christ' is none other than Christians who make up the body of Christ, His spiritual Kingdom on Earth.
This work is supported by The Anthony McNulty Fund for evangelism and Christian knowledge, and book sales.
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To purchase the book, containing much more information and footnotes, agents for the book in the USA and Internationally are Chula Vista Books. For individual enquiries, or resale quantities, please click on the logo below: