In 1825, Alexander Campbell began a series of articles under the title, “A Restoration of the Ancient Order of Things.” Following are excerpts from that series.
All the famous reformations in history have rather been reformations of creeds and of clergy, than of religion. Since the New Testament was finished, it is fairly to be presumed that there cannot be any reformation of religion, properly so called. Though called reformations of religion, they have always left religion where it was. I do not think that king Henry was a whit more religious when he proclaimed himself head of the church of England, than when writing against Luther on the seven sacraments, as a true son of the church of Rome. It is even questionable whether Luther himself, the Elector of Saxony, the Marquis of Brandenburg, the Duke of Lunenburg, the Landgrave of Hesse, and the Prince of Anhalt, were more religious men when they signed the Augsburg Confession of Faith, than when they formerly repeated their Ave Maria.
Human creeds may be reformed and re-reformed, and be erroneous still, like their authors; but the inspired creed needs no reformation, being, like its author, infallible. The clergy, too, may be reformed from papistical opinions, grimaces, tricks, and dresses, to Protestant opinions and ceremonies … and yet the Pope remain in their heart. They are clergy still – and still in need of reformation…. A creed too, that is formed in Geneva or in London, is as human as one formed in Rome or Constantinople. They have all given employment to tax gatherers, jail-keepers, and grave-diggers.
All reformations in religious opinions and speculations have been fated like the fashions in apparel. They have lived, and died, and revived, and died again. As apparel has been the badge of rank, so have opinions been the badge of parties, and the cause of their rise and continuance….
Human systems, whether of philosophy or of religion, are proper subjects of reformation; but Christianity cannot be reformed. Every attempt to reform Christianity is like an attempt to create a new sun, or to change the revolutions of the heavenly bodies – unprofitable and vain. In a word we have had reformations enough. The very name has become as offensive as the term “Revolution” in France.
A RESTORATION of the ancient order of things is all that is necessary to the happiness and usefulness of Christians. No attempt “to reform the doctrine and government of the church” (a phrase too long in use,) can promise a better result than those which have been attempted and languished unto death. We are glad to see, in the above extract, that the thing proposed, is to bring the Christianity and the church of the present day up to the standard of the New Testament. This is in substance, though in other terms, what we content for….to walk in the faith and in the commandments of the Lord and Saviour, as presented in that volume; and this is to restore the ancient order of things….
… For, to the end of time, we shall have no other revelation of the Spirit, no other New Testament, no other Saviour, and no other religion than we now have, when we understand, believe, and practice the doctrine of Christ delivered unto us by his apostles.