In 1829 Thomas Campbell proposed: "Nothing should be admitted into our churches (congregations) either as to doctrine, or practice, or manner of teaching, or terms of communion, or ministerial qualifications, or government, but what we find taught, enjoined, and practiced in the primitive churches. Now this is the very thing we plead for, neither more nor less!" Such was the attitude common among those dedicated to restoring the ancient order. It was an attitude of fidelity to the Truth.
Unfortunately, over time there arose another attitude, as personified by L. L. Pinkerton. Pinkerton introduced instrumental music into the worship at Midway, Kentucky in 1860. He stated that as far as he was aware the church at Midway where he preached was the only one of his knowledge where the instrument had been successfully introduced.
Replying in 1881, J. W. McGarvey expressed the mindset of those committed to primitive Christianity: "It is manifest that we cannot adopt the practice without abandoning the obvious and only ground on which a restoration of Primitive Christianity can be accomplished, or on which the plea for it can be maintained. Such is my profound conviction, and consequently, the question with me is not one concerning the choice or rejection of an expedient, but the maintenance or abandonment of a fundamental and necessary principle."
Benjamin Franklin, editor of the American Christian Review, went even further. Commenting on the current state of affairs in 1860, he wrote: "Instrumental music is permissible for a church under the following conditions: 1. When a church never had or has lost the Spirit of Christ. 2. If a church has a preacher who never had or has lost the Spirit of Christ, who has become a dry, prosing and lifeless preacher. 3. If a church only intends being a fashionable society, a mere place of amusements and secular entertainment and abandoning the idea of religion and worship. 4. If a church has within it a large number of dishonest and corrupt men. 5. If a church has given up all idea of trying to convert the world."
Men such as McGarvey and Franklin were simply exemplifying the attitude of the early restoration leaders. The associates of Barton Stone and of Alexander Campbell came together at the Hill Street Church, Lexington, Kentucky on January 1, 1832, to bind themselves in a more perfect union. The representatives agreed with "Raccoon" John Smith in his keynote address when he said: "God has but one people on this earth. He has given them but one book. Let us come to the Bible alone, which is able to give us all of the light we need." Or, as Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:3: "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue." The attitude of steadfastness to God's Word is what we need today.
-David W. Hester