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A Missing Chapter in Church History

When did the church of Christ begin?  Our friends in denominations often say it began in the early 1800s with the work of men like Walter Scott, Alexander Campbell, and Barton W. Stone.  This thinking has made inroads into churches of Christ.  Preachers and professors are increasingly fond of speaking of “our heritage” or “our 200-year history.”  Consequently, they view the plea for undenominational Christianity with suspicion and even with scorn.

We may have unintentionally contributed to this misunderstanding.  Our sermons, articles, books, and classes on church history have generally emphasized three periods of church history beginning in the second century:

• The Great Falling Away and the Dark Age

• The Reformation Movement

• The Restoration Movement

There is nothing wrong with this brief outline as long as we understand that it is a sketch of major trends in church history in the last 19 centuries.  The problem is that we have emphasized these “periods” to the point of being simplistic.  We have divided  these eras from each other by assigning their beginnings and as a result we have isolated them from each other.  We tend to look at each period as a stage in church history that corrected the previous stage.  To some extent this is true.  The Protestant Reformation corrected abuses in Catholicism, and the Restoration Movement in North America challenged and corrected the doctrinal departures of Protestant denominationalism.  But we go too far when we talk as if these periods were exclusive of each other.  We assume too much when we write and speak as if there were no works of reformation before “the Reformation” or no successes in restoration prior to “the Restoration.”  The language we have used is a bit incriminating.  We talk about when “the” reformation or “the” restoration “began.”  By stressing the uniqueness of restoration work in America and by accentuating the backdrop of doctrinal disarray that prevailed when these efforts began, have we inadvertently left the impression that no such efforts existed previously?  Why do we call the work done in North America in the 1800s “the Restoration Movement” rather than “a restoration movement” or “the American restoration movement”?  We are frustrated that people in the church are talking about “our 200-year history,” but could part of this misunderstanding have arisen because we have focused on the last 200 years as “the” restoration movement?  Have we stressed the work done in this country during the last two centuries and neglected the study of efforts at restoration in other lands during the 15 centuries preceding this movement, leaving some of our people with an incomplete or even skewed view of church history?


Relatively little has been written by brethren on the evidence for the existence of restoration work done in other countries prior to the 1800s.  When asked if New Testament Christians existed prior to this time, we have often responded in a general way by saying that Jesus promised the gates of hades will not prevail against the church (Matt. 16:18) or by stressing that the Word of God always existed during those centuries according to Jesus’ promise (Matt. 24:35), so the possibility of New Testament Christians existing during these centuries was always real.  Since the word of God is the seed of the kingdom (Luke 8:11), the church of Christ has always existed in seed form.  One exception is F. W. Mattox’s book The Eternal Kingdom.  In it he summarizes a few lines of evidence pertaining to this question, but he does not develop the point enough to give direct testimony from this period.  Another source of information on the existence of simple New Testament churches in Great Britain prior to the 1800s is the website  But sadly, for the most part we have simply brushed this question aside and returned to our traditional three-point outline of church history.

Compared to widely publicized Catholic and Protestant documents, ancient records of Christians who simply followed the Bible and identified with neither of these parties are not as numerous or as well known.  If we recall the circumstances these Christians faced, we can understand why.  Those who attempted to be Christians in opposition to the Catholic Church were branded as heretics and were executed.  Outside of possessing copies of the Bible, which was often illegal, these Christians wrote little.  The last thing they wanted to do was leave written evidence of their beliefs for Catholic officials to find and use in their prosecution!  One of the books we will review shortly shows that preachers during Medieval times who resisted Catholic doctrine would not even give their names to people who supported them as they travelled from city to city.  They did not want their friends to identify them if Catholic officials tortured these followers to find out where the preachers were.

A Chinese brother who lives in another country told me about a trip he once made into communist China.  He and another brother smuggled Bibles into China and visited churches that were meeting in secret.  Communist officials arrested them both, interrogating them in separate rooms.  The other brother had in his pocket a list of Christians in China with their addresses and information about where the congregations they attended were meeting secretly.  Before the officers searched him, he wisely asked to be excused to the restroom where he disposed of this list.  

We can hardly expect to find church bulletins and announcements of gospel meetings from times and places when Christians were being persecuted.  Even if men and women in the Dark Age had written booklets defending their beliefs and condemning Catholicism, the ruling religious powers in Europe would not have allowed them to survive.  It is also not likely that these oppressed Christians had the funds to produce much religious literature or the means to circulate it.

In spite of the relative shortage of information on this subject, the evidence does exist.  In fact, there is a substantial body of literature on this subject that is well documented.  The surprising aspect of these records is that the original ancient sources of information about these people who aimed to be simple New Testament Christians come not from these truth seekers but from their persecutors and opponents.  Many of the descriptions we have of “heretics” in this period come from public records of their execution!  These records give the “crimes” of those accused of heresy, and the accusations provide a basic doctrinal portrait of these dissidents.  Sometimes called the “Medieval underground,” resistance groups arose spontaneously throughout Europe in defiance of the clearly unbiblical teachings of the ruling Catholic church.  They had no headquarters.  They had no human creed.  They did not always agree with each other and were sometimes unaware of each other’s existence.  But they had this in common:  a belief that the Bible alone, not any man or any human organization, is the standard of authority for true Christianity.  Their underground churches were autonomous, their worship was simple, and their conduct stressed holiness and separation from the world.  A number of groups today claim that these ancient practitioners were their religious ancestors.  Some Baptist groups say these religionists were basically Baptist in belief and practice.  Mennonites also identify with the religion of these resistance groups.  Then some of us would say there is good indication that at least some of these groups were simply Christians as we find them in the New Testament who did not believe in human doctrines or even human names.    The truth is that all of these claims are probably right because these dissenting churches were not unified organizationally or doctrinally.  We would therefore say that their work represents reformation or restoration in varying degrees.  In the midst of this diversity, however, there remains strong evidence of New Testament congregations meeting centuries before the American Restoration Movement.  That evidence is not merely the fact that some of these churches went by the name “church of Christ.”  That title is used throughout the centuries by Catholics, Protestants and other groups in a general sense without reference to its meaning in the pure context of the New Testament.  It is what they believed, not simply what they called themselves (though this too was one of their beliefs), that identifies them.

Stepchildren of the Reformation

A very enlightening book on this subject is The Reformers and Their Stepchildren by Leonard Verduin, a Reformed writer who also translated the complete works of Meno Simons.  His object in writing this book was to show that the Protestant Reformation was neither new nor successful.  Martin Luther’s objections to the Catholic Church had been made centuries earlier by oppressed and little-known truth seekers throughout Europe.  Luther got more attention than they ever did, and circumstances enabled him to gain a much larger and more organized following, but his protests were not new at all.  When the Protestant Reformation led by Luther, Calvin and others began, these obscure groups thought their beliefs were finally being vindicated.  To some extent they were.  But they quickly realized that Luther and Calvin were creating churches that were contrary to one of their most cherished beliefs—that a church should not be one with the state and wield political power in religious matters.  Their spiritual predecessors had died at the hands of a church that had this type of authority, and they were not about to join with a movement that was making the same mistake.  They pulled their support from Protestant leaders and as a result incurred their wrath.  Reformers began to see their battle existing on two fronts:  one being the organized and visible Roman Catholic Church, and the other being a very diverse and unconnected element of religious people who claimed to be Christians but who were as opposed to this “Reformation Movement” as they were to Catholicism.  This is why these people are called “the people of the second front.”  Verduin nicknamed them  “stepchildren” of the Reformation because that is how they were treated proverbially speaking.  Verduin observes that:

“The dissent against the medieval order was in 1517 already a millennium old and extremely widespread.  Because it had been obliged to carry on under cover, so that conference between the dissidents was quite out of the question, it had gone in all directions.  The ‘medieval underground,’ as it has been called, was unable to have its ‘town meetings’ to discuss and then come to consensus; hence the endless variety.  The Church called all its foes by one and the same name, ‘heretics’ ... they were all guilty of one and the same sin, that of challenging her monopoly.” (p. 15)

Verduin prefers to call these groups “restitutionists” because they aimed at the restitution of simple New Testament Christianity.  They believed the only true source of authority in doctrine is the New Testament:  “Restitutionists sought to recover the Church of the New Testament; their ambition, early and late, was to return the Church of Christ to its New Testament format” (p. 40).  This means that restitutionists saw the New  Testament as a pattern for belief and practice.  “Had it not been for the fact that the blueprints of the authentic Church were still accessible in the New Testament, there would never have been any clamor for the restitution of it” (p. 41).  The key controversy, then, was how the Scriptures are viewed.  The restitutionists believed the Bible is a finished revelation which is inspired of God, fully sufficient in doctrine and practice, and supremely authoritative.  Catholics, on the other hand, saw church tradition and the magisterium as necessary supplemental means of revelation.  Reformers professed a belief in sola scriptura, the Scriptures alone as authority, but their actions were inconsistent with this claim.  In the midst of this confusion, the restitutionists made the bold claim that they were the only ones who took biblical authority seriously.

Verduin notes that when we see the word “heretics” in Medieval literature, the reference is often to those who held that “the Scriptures are the sole rule of faith and conduct” (p. 143).  He cites the record of a Medieval official who led an inquisition of them and said “they scorn all that whereof they read not in the Gospel” (p. 143).  Since they rejected human authority in religion, they spent their time studying and teaching the Bible and they knew it well.  In fact, they were so familiar with the Bible that Catholic officials feared open disputes with them concerning the Scriptures.  “The medieval ‘heretic’ was decidedly word-oriented.  So thoroughly versed in the New Testament Scriptures were the ‘evangelical Cathars’ (who after 1179 were generally Waldensians) that Walter Mapes, a well-equipped son of the Catholic Church, said at Rome that he dreaded a disputation with them in the area of the Word” (p. 143).

The specific beliefs of one group of these underground churches is revealed in the government record of an execution by burning at Cologne in 1163.  These “heretics” were condemned to death on grounds such as these:

“... that they consider all men who are not of their sect to be heretics and infidels; that they spurn the sacraments of the true Church and say that they only have the true faith and that all others are worldly men and under condemnation.  They say that the body and blood of the Lord is nothing, ridiculing the Mass and calling it by awful names, for which reason they do not patronize it ... They deride the Confessional, saying that one ought to lay bare his heart to God and not to any man.  They contemn indulgences and penances...” (p. 145)

Another group of “heretics” was arrested in Trier in 1231 and was charged with these revealing accusations:

“Many of them are well-versed in Scripture, which they possess in Teutonic translation; others repeat baptism; others do not believe in the body of the Lord; others say that the body of the Lord can be constituted by any man or woman, ordained or otherwise, in any dish or goblet and at any place; others hold that extreme unction is not necessary; others minimize the pontificate and the priesthood; others say that the prayers for the dead do not help; others neglect the feasts and work on the church’s festivals and eat meat in lent.” (p. 147)

The basic marks of these underground churches are clear in spite of the diversity of beliefs and practices among them:

1.     They believed the Bible was the sole authority in religion, they studied it well, and they made and circulated their own translations of it, which was illegal.

2.     They rejected the claimed authority of the pope, the bishops, and the priests.

3.     They scorned the doctrine of transubstantiation; this is what their accusers meant when they charged them with saying “the body and blood of the Lord is nothing.”4.     They repudiated infant baptism and rebaptized those who had undergone it.  For this reason they were called anabaptists or rebaptizers.  Some of them, disgusted with the Catholic rite of baptizing infants to take away their “sin,” went to the other extreme and denied that baptism has any part in the forgiveness of the sins of a believing penitent adult.  But other Medieval groups did not overreact, and they held to the biblical view of baptism for the remission of sins.

5.     They rejected human traditions such as prayers for the dead, celebrating Lent, and indulgences and penance.

6.     Also interesting is that these dissidents, rejecting the organization of the Roman Catholic Church, had leaders in their autonomous churches called “elders” (pp. 150, 156).  

A History of Heretics

An old Catholic work on church history that sheds somewhat unintentional light on this subject was written by Louis Ellies Du Pin and entitled A New History of Ecclesiastical Writers.  Du Pin (1657-1719) was a Roman Catholic priest.  His History, which was originally composed in French and was published in a 17-volume English translation (1693-1707), is such an immense examination of the first 16 centuries of church history that McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia states that “no theological library is complete without Du Pin.”

As one might expect, a frequent topic in this series on church history is the problem of “heretics,” and some of the people he describes  were heretics by New Testament standards.  But, as Verduin correctly observed, this title was a broad Medieval term used to describe anyone who held to a belief that contradicted official Catholic teaching.  What Du Pin’s work reveals is that this age was characterized by an enormous diversity of belief and practice.  Catholicism was the state religion in many countries, but pockets of religious dissenters appeared throughout Europe in spite of the attempts of the state church to get rid of them.  Some of them had marks of a cult in the modern usage of the term, others resembled and were forerunners of later Protestant denominations, and a few were neither cultic nor denominational but restorative in their attitude toward the New Testament.  This diversity is present in virtually every century following the first and manifests itself in a complex and wide array of doctrinal disputes and in the varying degrees in which the dissenters were committed to following the New Testament. 


In spite of the divergence of doctrines among “heretics,” there appear in Du Pin’s History the same basic distinctive positions that Verduin noted:  rejection of infant baptism, denial of transubstantiation, refusal to acknowledge the authority of the pope, and repudiation of the veneration of images and of prayers to Mary.  Du Pin relates a stir caused by two of these opposers in France about the year 1110:

“Whilst Henry preached in France, Peter of Bruis continued likewise to publish his errors in Provence.  Peter the Venerable Abbot of Cluny, who has refuted them, makes mention of five. (1) His denying that baptism was of any advantage to infants, and maintaining that only adult persons ought to be baptized; a doctrine which they put in practice by re-baptizing all those who initiated themselves into their sect. (2) His condemning the use of churches, temples, and altars, and beating them down. (3) His rejecting the worship of crosses, and breaking them. (4) His believing that the Mass was useless, and that none are obliged to celebrate it. (5) His teaching, that alms and prayers for the dead are of no avail...” (vol. 10, p. 86)

A writer named Enervin near Cologne wrote about others in this century:

“...who denied that the body of Jesus Christ was consecrated on the altar, because all the priests of the church are not consecrated, and that the ministry is corrupted by the secular and profane lives of the ecclesiastics; That therefore they have no other power than to teach and preach, and that all their sacraments are null except the baptism of adult persons; for they did not believe that infants ought to be baptized...They styled all the usages of the church, which were not established by Jesus Christ and the apostles, superstitions.  They denied purgatory, and maintained that the souls departed immediately went into the place allotted for them, and by consequence they rendered the prayers and sacrifices of the church for the dead null and void.”  (vol. 10, p. 88)

The ruling powers punished these dissenters severely.  The Council of Toloufe in 1119 ordered: “We condemn and turn out of the church of God as heretics those who under pretence of religion reject the sacrament of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, infant baptism, priesthood, holy orders, and lawful marriages.  We enjoin that they be suppressed by the secular powers.  We subject their defenders, under the same condemnation, if they do not repent” (vol. 10, pp. 89-90).  As intolerance toward these objectors spread, their punishments grew increasingly horrific.  An assembly of bishops in 1160 persuaded King Henry II of England to condemn those they labeled as heretics; the King accordingly ordered the despised resistors to be branded with a red-hot iron on their cheek, whipped publicly, driven out of the city half-naked and left to starve to death (vol. 10, p. 90).  Many, however, faced a more sudden end by being burned to death.

A notable group that appeared in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was the Waldenses.  These were named after Peter Valdo, a rich merchant at Lions who in 1160 began a movement to help the poor and to restore New Testament teaching.  Their number continued to increase well into the next century, and religious authorities again felt they had to address the problem of another “sect.”  Among their errors, as recorded by their enemies in 1250, were:

“In the first place they say, that the church of Rome is not the church of Christ, but a church of wicked men. . . They add, that they are the Church of Jesus Christ, because they follow the doctrine of Jesus Christ and the apostles in their words and actions.  The second error they teach is, That the church is full of vices and sins, and that they are the only ones who live holily.  The third, That scarce any besides them hold the doctrine of the gospel...” (vol. 11, pp. 147-148)

These are just a few examples of the meticulous and exhaustive information given in Du Pin’s History, but they are enough to show that “heretical” groups which appear throughout Medieval times were not so heretical after all.

The German Connection

One of the few works written on this subject by a member of the churches of Christ is Tradition and History of the Early Churches of Christ in Central Europe by Hans Grimm.  Born in 1899, Grimm came from a long line of seekers of simple New Testament Christianity.  What makes this document so compelling is that his ancestors and their acquaintances believed the basics of New Testament Christianity without any awareness of the restoration work in America.  These forerunners actually held to these convictions–and died for them–long before the birth of the American restoration.  From documented sources, Grimm makes the case for the existence of congregations of Christ’s church that resisted Catholicism, Protestantism, and cultism, tracing the struggles and successes of these Christians during the Dark Age and the Reformation period.  His thesis at the beginning of this short but impressive book is that there

“. . . has always been a real church of Christ in this world since Pentecost, and this means: a church believing in faith, repentance, confession and immersion for the remission of sins–a church which worshipped at least the first day of the week with hymns, prayers, the Lord’s Supper, Bible study and contributions for the saints–a church which worked under the oversight of bishops, deacons, evangelists and pastors–a church–not some isolated seekers, but an organized church, which trusted in the Lord’s promise that ‘the powers of death will never prevail against it.’” (p. 5)

There is a problem with saying that a church is “under the oversight” of deacons and evangelists and “pastors” who are separate from the elders.  We might make some allowance for the fact that this source is an English translation of Grimm’s original German manuscript.  But aside from this question, the contribution this work makes to this field of study is invaluable.

After setting forth some foundational passages about the nature of the church and the finality of revelation in the New Testament, Grimm begins a unique survey of the course of the church throughout the ages.  There are records of brave souls who refused to conform to Catholicism in the early days of its ascendency to power; how closely they followed the New Testament we do not know in detail.  In 380 a merchant preacher named Priscillianus in the northern part of the Pyrenees Peninsula converted two Catholic bishops and was eventually beheaded (p. 18).  About the same time a small group in Syria opposed both the teaching of the Catholic Church and Arians, appealing to the New Testament as their authority (p. 19).  Then in 422 a Catholic bishop named Germanus wrote of the beliefs of the citizens of the British Isles, complaining that

“. . . numerous Christians in Britain had rejected Augustine’s doctrine of the original sin, practiced the immersion of adults only, did not follow the Roman ritual in their divine service, and did not recognize the hierarchy of Rome, especially the spiritual jurisdiction of the pope.” (p. 18)

Indications of primitive Christianity continue to surface in the 600s and 700s.  A number of believers called themselves “Christians” and refused manmade names while referring to each other as “brothers” and “sisters.”  These small groups occasionally locked horns with the “scholars” of the day who despised them.  A Byzantine monk of this time wrote about their beliefs:

“Only the New Testament was accepted among them as rule for faith and church practice; they rejected the worship of the Mother of God and of the saints, even of the great martyrs George and Sergius; they do not consecrate a special worship to the Archangels or to Elias, have no church feasts at all; each Sunday they assembled in places of prayer which are not worthy to be named thus, since they have neither altar nor wall for pictures of the saints, nor a place for keeping the holy vessels; they use neither incense nor chrism oil.  They despise and scorn the baptism of the church and say that infants have no faith.  They recognize neither the jurisdiction of the Patriarch at Constantinople nor of the Patriarch of Antioch and Jerusalem and have no respect for the schismatic church of the Armenians.  They are proud of the fact that their churches are small and poor and that their evangelists live only from what sheltering believers give them voluntarily.  They do not accept the false accusation that the heretic Paulus is said to have founded their sect, and say that they are not Paulicans, but Christians, and chosen by God.”  (p. 21)

After relating the continued persecutions of non-Catholics in the ninth and tenth centuries, Grimm cites an example of belief in the essentiality of baptism:  

“In 1118 Gregory Grimm was tortured in Ensisheim in Alsace as a ‘Patarene’ and put to death, because he had been baptized by immersion for the forgiveness of sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit by a traveling merchant from Venetia of the church, which according to his words was the only church of the saints.” (p. 27)

During the centuries that followed, Catholic authorities tried to exterminate any group that did not submit to their control.  Here we find in Grimm’s work information about two names sometimes mentioned in books on church history but about which we are usually given little detail concerning who they were and what they believed.  These were the Albigenses and the Waldenses.  Grimm says that the term Albigenses (from Albi in France where religious controversy had stirred) was used by the state church as a blanket label to describe anyone who resisted the religious decrees of the papacy; from mystical cults to those who practiced simple New Testament Christianity, these “heretics” were all lumped together under the same heading.  The term Waldenses was given to a movement in Southern France that showed courage in following New Testament authority.  It is impossible to say how many of these groups were churches of Christ, since these were not organized denominations but scattered and doctrinally diverse congregations seeking refuge from religious oppression.

As Grimm brings us to the year 1400, he recounts the arrest, torture, and mutilation of members of the Strassburg church:

“The persecutors extorted from these victims the confession that their sole authority was not the church but the New Testament, which should be studied in the language of the country.  They rejected all adoration of Mary and of the saints and all veneration of pictures or crucifixes; they disavowed the authority of consecration by priests and bishop along with the clergy’s claim to the keys of salvation and heaven. Of feast days they kept only Good Friday, Whitsunday and the first day of the week.  They called the baptism of children useless, since there could not yet be belief in these little ones.”  (p. 30)

As the Protestant Reformation began to dawn with men like Hus and Wycliffe, these little-known “heretics” continued to assemble.  Because they refused to fellowship this movement, they were persecuted by Reformers as well as Catholics.  Grimm notes that “by no means was it the Roman Church alone which poured out in streams heretic blood.  The new reformation churches of Lutheran and Zwinglian or Calvinistic stamp vied with the Roman church in the rooting out of the disturbers of graveyard quiet” (p. 38).  Sadly, “little by little the churches of Christ in Europe ceased to exist” (p. 39).  Those who survived the bloody years of persecution between 1525 and 1575 began to blend in with Mennonites, Baptists, Quakers, and others who were neither Catholic nor Protestant.  Eventually a number of them also adopted “the spirit of the Evangelical Alliance, that spirit that conceded to everyone membership in ‘the church of his choice’” and pitched their tent toward denominationalism (p. 39).  

Grimm’s work is enlightening.  One may question the doctrinal identity of some of these underground churches or the extent to which they sought to follow the New Testament, but he cannot deny that the restoration plea existed all along.  Like Verduin, Grimm was not averse to speaking of “the pattern of the New Testament” or “the apostolic pattern” (pp. 34, 36).  He does seem to get close to saying that pacifism is a part of that pattern at times.  Given the level of persecution he and his ancestors endured at the hands of churches who had gotten control of the government, it is easy to see how he and others in Europe could come to this position, though Paul plainly declared that government use of the sword is authorized of God and thus morally right (Rom. 13:1-7).  But they had witnessed so much abuse of the state sword that they opposed Christians participating in the government in any way.  Still, his story as told at the end of this book is an encouraging reminder that people anywhere in any age with the New Testament can be pure New Testament Christians:

“I was born in 1899 at Sablon-les-Metz as a scion of one of the oldest Christian families between the Mosele and the Alps.  My dear father was one of the last three bishops of the church of Christ in Strassburg, and I was immersed by my uncle in the icy waters of the Hanaver Weiher March 18, 1916 . . . Imprisoned in 1933 by the Nazis for preaching the gospel in the face of a blasphemous government, I had to suffer almost two years in the concentration camps of Hammerstein and Lichtenburg hunger, thirst, and the uninterrupted thrashing of arms, shinbones, and head like all other political, religious or non-Aryan prisoners.  Released, deaf in one ear and with crushed kidneys, I continued preaching like my ancestors in woods, hills, and swamps or in hiding places in the large cities...Back in Leipzig on Christmas, 1945, I learned of my dear father’s death, and from some survivors, the extermination of our churches in East Europe.  I immediately took up the task of rebuilding the destroyed brotherhood...three months after my wedding, I was arrested October 9, 1948, by the Communists and for four years imprisoned in the ill-famed jails of Leipzig, Waldheim, and Graefentonna.  The pretended reason:  conspiracy against the red government in religious circles...Released in the fall of 1952, I joined my dear wife in Western Germany.  In March, 1955, the Protestant State Church of Kurhessen-Waldeck invited me to take over the office of president of the Evangelical Academy for Social Ethics in Kassel.  I declined; I could not subscribe to the promise not to attack the teaching of the Confession of Augsburg. . .” (pp. 41-42)

Grimm then reveals the most startling part of his life as a New Testament Christian:

“But in the same month I met for the first time in my life a member of the restored churches of Christ in America.  What he had to tell me was not other than the faith of my ancestors which I had taught and practiced all my life.  My grandfather had had contacts with Scottish (Haldane) Baptists and Sandemanians, yea, even with Christadelphians in Birmingham, but the American Restoration Movement had been totally unknown to us.  And now the fact that the Lord had built up his church beyond the Atlantic, just in time, hit me like a thunderclap.” (p. 42)

Our brother concludes:

“The torch did not die out. God had kindled it again and put it on a lamp-stand and it gives light for everybody in the house.  This was the fulfillment of Christ’s promise:  I am going to build my church, and the powers of death will never prevail against it.”  (p. 42)

There are many thoughts and feelings that run through our hearts when we read this amazing story.  Here are just a few to consider and apply:

1.     All we need to be Christians is the Bible.  People do not have to have any of the journals, commentaries, debate books or colleges or preachers from America to know how to be in Christ’s church.  That should humble us.  We sometimes seem to think that the only or the best work of the Lord’s church is done by well-known figures of the church in America.  There are good things that have been done and that are being done here, but as Grimm’s example shows, sometimes we can be so locked into our time and our land that we forget the Lord’s cause in other ages or places.     

2.     The last 200 years in the United States, compared to the almost 2,000-year history of the Lord’s church, is a unique period.  It is one of the few times and places where religious freedom has allowed God’s people to worship and especially evangelize without fear of being persecuted.  Actually, our situation is remarkable.  We should get down on our knees and thank God when we read accounts like Grimm’s of Christians being hunted like animals throughout the centuries.  

3.     The nature of God’s true church makes it very mobile.  If it is persecuted in one area, it can quickly move to another.  It is not like denominations or Catholicism whose power is tied to organizational systems involving key physical locations, extensive buildings, and dependence on money to pay those who manage the corporation or denomination.  When the church began to dwindle in Europe, it sprang up in America, and if time continues and it begins to die out in America, it will revive somewhere else.

4.     Rather than viewing church history in stages as self-contained entities, we should think of the practice of New Testament Christianity as a theme that has continued throughout the centuries since the apostolic age.

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