Prior to His ascension, Jesus Christ spent forty days with His Apostles, teaching them all things pertaining to the Kingdom of God and establishing His Church among them. Following the establishment of the Church, man slowly began to transgress the laws, change the ordinances, and break the everlasting covenant, so much so that the Church fell away and apostatized as the Lord promised. [2 Thessalonians 2:1-4]. However, as the centuries progressed and the Gospel became more and more darkened by the precepts of men, there were many individuals who began to see a pattern. Namely, what they saw in the Scriptures was not what they saw being practiced. Moreover, as the principles of Christ were altered, the workings of Holy Spirit began to diminish. This too caught the attention of many who desired to the Church change to previous order of things. Thus they set out as best as they could, to reform the Church of Jesus Christ. The following consists of a few reformers and some of their more famous quotes
Scriptures to Consider
John Wesley (1703-1791), Methodist
It does not appear, that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were common in the church for more than two or three centuries. We seldom hear of them after the fatal period, when the emperor Constantine called himself a Christian: From this time they almost totally ceased.
The cause of this was not, (as has been vulgarly supposed,) ‘because there was no more occasion for them,’ because all of the world became Christian. This is a miserable mistake: not a twentieth part of it [the world] was then nominally Christian.
The real cause was, ‘the love of many’ almost of all Christians, so called, was ‘waxed cold.’ The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ, than the other heathens. This was the real cause why extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian church; because the Christians were turned heathens again, and had only a dead form left.
– Wesley’s Sermons, Vol. 2, p. 266
“The times which we have reason to believe are at hand—if they are not already begun—are what many pious men have termed, the time of ‘the Latter-Day Glory’; meaning the time wherein God would gloriously display his power and love…and set up his kingdom over the earth.”
– John Wesley’s Sermon #71
What could God have done which He hath not done, to convince you that the day is coming, that the time is at hand, when He will fulfill His glorious promises; when He will arise and maintain His own cause and to set up His Kingdom over all the earth?
—Wesley's Sermons, vol. 2, p. 98
Johann Lorenz von Mosheim (1693-1755), German Lutheran church historian
The Christian church was scarcely formed when in different places, there started up a certain pretended reformer, who not satisfied with the simplicity of that religion that was taught by the Apostles, meditated changes of doctrine and worship.
– First Century, Ch. 5, p. 2
There is no institution so pure and excellent which the corruption and folly of man will not in time alter for the worse, and load with additions foreign to its natures and original designs. Such in a particular manner, was the fate of Christianity. In this century many unnecessary rites and ceremonies were added to the Christian worship, the introduction of which was extremely offensive to wise and good men.
– Second Century, Ch. 4, p. 2
During this [seventh century] true religion lay buried under a senseless mass of superstitions, and was unable to raise her head. The earlier Christians had worshipped only God and His Son; but those called Christians in this century worshipped the wood of a cross, the images of holy men, and bones of dubious origin.
– Mosheim’s Ecclesiastical History, Fourth American Edition, p. 50
Roger Williams (1603-1683), Started the first Baptist church in America
He [Roger Williams] seems rather to have conceived that the church of Christ had so fallen into apostasy, as to have lost both its right form and the due administration of the ordinances, which could only be restored by some new apostolic, or specially commissioned messenger from above…He conceived “that the apostasy of Anti-Christ has so far corrupted all, that there can be no recovery out of that apostasy, till Christ shall send forth new apostles to plant churches anew.”
– Struggles and Triumphs of Religious Liberty, pp. 238-239
After Constantine, a true ministry no longer existed, and none but God could now bring it back. Williams did not come to this position easily, nor did he find it easy to persuade others that recreating the true church of Christ was a vain pursuit – apart from direct divine intervention.
- Edwin S. Gaustad, Liberty of Conscience: Roger Williams in America (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 91-92.
One member baptized [Roger] Williams, who in turn baptized all the others. About twenty persons joined in the creation of this, the first church of Baptist identification not only in Rhode Island but in all of North America as well... For Williams, who wrote of the “restless unsatisfiedness of my soul,” found no enduring peace, not even in the church molded by his own hands.
What authority did he have to be baptized or to baptize others? What line of apostolic continuity could be traced to that score of Bible believers who agreed to worship together? What biblical commission or divine command set this church apart or perhaps even above all others?...
In writing to John Winthrop as early as 1636, Williams bemoaned the spiritual nakedness of New England’s churches but added the hope that within a few years the Lord would reveal “the first and most ancient path” more plainly “to you and me.” More than a dozen years later, in a letter to Winthrop’s son, Williams indicated that he found no churches organized “after the first pattern” . . . His growing unease about the nature of all man-made (as opposed to Christ-created) churches led to his departure from the Providence church after only a few months of fellowship in that congregation’s midst…
– Edwin S. Gaustad, Liberty of Conscience: Roger Williams in America (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 91.
On his return from England he [Roger Williams] refrained from fellowship with the church, and lived in an isolated religious condition, preaching the gospel to the Indians as he found opportunity, but refusing to participate in the ordinances. He had embraced a singular notion, which is thus stated by one of his biographers: “He denied that any ministry now exists which is authorized to preach the gospel to the impenitent, or to administer the ordinances.”
- Baptist History, J. M. Cramp, p.461
In four ways, he wrote, the modern ministry fell short of its New Testament pattern: in gifts, in calling, in work, and in wages. With respect to the first, Williams argued that the greatest gift of all was missing – namely, an apostolic commission, a discipleship like that enjoyed by those whom Jesus appointed. A simple proof of this lack was that present leaders could not even agree on such matters as the proper baptism or the ceremony of laying on of hands for ordination or even church membership…
But it was the fourth point that attracted Williams’ chief attention: the matter of wages, and more particularly of wages paid by means of a forced tithe collected by the civil power. The ministry was a calling, not a trade, Williams argued . . . He who haggles over his wages, who bargains for his keep, who “makes the cure of Souls, and the charge of men’s eternal welfare, a trade, a maintenance, and living” was never sent of God to be a laborer in his vineyard. Like servants hired by the year, today’s clergy leave one parish for another the minute they hear offers “of more Ease and better wages.” Indeed, they even leave one religion for another . . . in order to keep their comfort and their salary…
We also learn from Williams in 1649 that the Baptists not only persisted in rejecting infant baptism but came to require that adult believers be fully immersed. Not content with sprinkling, as was the case with infants, Baptists now wanted all members “dipped,” symbolically buried with Christ in baptism and raised with him into a new life. “I believe,” Williams wrote, that this baptism “comes nearer the practice of our great Founder, Christ Jesus, than other religions do, and yet . . .” For Williams, always that “and yet.” His qualification pertained, of course, to his conviction that until Christ came again and created new apostles, all church ordinances lacked full validity.
– Edwin S. Gaustad, Liberty of Conscience: Roger Williams in America (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), pg. 90-93 and 116
Alexander Campbell (1788-1866), leader of a reform effort known as the Restoration Movement
“We argue that all christian sects are more or less apostatized from the institutions of the Saviour: that by all of the obligations of the christian religion, they that fear and love the Lord are bound to return to the ancient order of things, in spirit and truth.”
– A. Campbell, The Christian Baptist, Vol. 5, p. 402
“We have to pattern after the first church as well as we can. But we can never equal it. With all our efforts, the great disparity will ever remain. And could the Apostles and primitive Christians be here, they would doubtless weep at beholding it.”
– A. Campbell, Millenial Harbinger, Vol. 5, p. 40
“The primitive gospel, in its effulgence and power, is yet to shine out in its original splendor to regenerate the world.”
– A. Campbell, as quoted in History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve, by A. S. Hayden, p. 37
“ . . . either some new revelation, or some new development of the revelation of God must be made . . . We want the old gospel back, and sustained by the ancient order of things;”
– A. Campbell, Christian System, p. 250
John Robinson (1575-1625), Episcopal
In the next place, for the wholesome counsel Mr. Robinson gave that part of the church whereof he was pastor at their departure from him to begin the great work of plantation in New England, - amongst other wholesome instructions and exhortations he used these expressions, or to the same purpose:
’We are now ere long to part asunder, and the Lord knoweth whether ever he [John Robinson] should live to see our faces again. But whether the Lord had appointed it or not, he charged us before God and His blessed angels, to follow him no further than he followed Christ; and if God should reveal any thing to us by any other instrument of His, to be as ready to receive it as ever we were to receive any truth by His ministry; for he was very confident the Lord had more truth and light yet to break forth out of His holy word. He took occasion also miserably to bewail the state and condition of the Reformed Churches, who were come to a period in religion, and would go no further than the instruments of their Reformation.
As, for example, the Lutherans, they could not be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw; for whatever part of God’s will He had further imparted and revealed to Calvin, they will rather die than embrace it. And so also, saith he, you see the Calvinists, they stick where he left them; a misery much to be lamented; for though they were precious shining lights in their times, yet God had not revealed His whole will to them; and were they now living, saith he, they would be as ready and willing to embrace further light, as that they had received.
Here also he put us in mind of our church covenant, at least that part of it whereby we promise and covenant with God and one with another, to receive whatsoever light or truth shall be made known to us from His written word; but withal exhorted us to take heed what we received for truth, and well to examine and compare it and weigh it with other Scriptures of truth before we received it. For, saith he, it is not possible the Christian world should come so lately out of such thick antichristian darkness, and that full perfection of knowledge should break forth at once.
– "Winslow’s Brief Narration: the true grounds or cause of the first planting of New England" (also known as Hypocrisie Unmasked) as printed in Alexander Young’s Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers. Boston: Charles C. Little & James Brown, 1841.