Stone Cold Unity

The man to the left is a man I would have liked to known.  Unfortunately, we were born 202 years apart.  Barton W. Stone was a frontier preacher who sounded the call for unity during the 2nd Great Awakening.  He was also one of the most influential leaders of the American Restoration Movement (otherwise known as the Stone-Campbell Movement). The religious unity movement that birthed the Churches of Christ, Christian Church and Disciples of Christ.

Stone was an ordained Presbyterian minister in Bourbon County, Kentucky.  He preached at the Cane Ridge Meeting House which became the sight of the 1801 Cane Ridge Revival.  A sacramental communion service that ended up drawing over 20,000 people to the location.  They camped all over the surrounding fields where they sang hymns, held prayer services and heard sermons 24 hours a day.  Preachers from the Methodists, Baptists and Presbyterians stirred up the crowd and many were “carried out” after becoming “overcome with the Spirit.”

The event made an indelible impression on Stone and he began to advocate for unity in the body of Christ.  He urged believers to dissolve themselves of all creeds, titles and denominational divisions.  Instead, he urged Christians to unite around the basic facts of the Gospel and be “Christians only.”  In 1804, he and his fellow ministers wrote a document that laid out this vision called The Last Will & Testament of the Springfield Presbytery.  Here’s a few of my favorite parts…

The Presbytery of Springfield sitting at Caneridge, in the county of Bourbon, being, through a gracious Providence, in more than ordinary bodily health, growing in strength and size daily; and in perfect soundness and composure of mind; but knowing that it is appointed for all delegated bodies once to die; and considering that the life of every such body is very uncertain, do make and ordain this our last Will and Testament, in manner and form following, viz.:

Imprimis. We will, that this body die, be dissolved, and sink into union with the Body of Christ at large; for there is but one body, and one Spirit, even as we are called in one hope of our calling.

Item. We will that our name of distinction, with its Reverend title, be forgotten, that there be but one Lord over God’s heritage, and his name one.

Item. We will, that our power of making laws for the government of the church, and executing them by delegated authority, forever cease; that the people may have free course to the Bible, and adopt the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

Item. We will, that the people henceforth take the Bible as the only sure guide to heaven; and as many as are offended with other books, which stand in competition with it, may cast them into the fire if they choose; for it is better to enter into life having one book, than having many to be cast into hell.

Item. We will, that preachers and people cultivate a spirit of mutual forbearance; pray more and dispute less; and while they behold the signs of the times, look up, and confidently expect that redemption draweth nigh.

Item. We will, that our weak brethren, who may have been wishing to make the Presbytery of Springfield their king, and wot not what is now become of it, betake themselves to the Rock of Ages, and follow Jesus for the future.

You can read the entire document here.

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