An effort is made in the following pages to set forth what the New Testament church was when it came into the world through the preaching of inspired men; how it was led into apostasy; and an account of some of the many attempts to restore it to its original purity and simplicity.
In proportion as any religious work becomes a potent force in affecting the welfare of mankind, its early history becomes interesting and important. This is especially true of the very beginning of its history where those influences which have molded its character are most clearly seen. It is due to the world no less than to the heroic men who were chief actors in such a movement, that the motives which inspired them, the principles which guided them, and the forces which opposed them, together with the results of this conflict, should be set down accurately for the information and for the benefit of those who are seeking the truth.
If the writer did not most profoundly believe that this effort to restore the New Testament church was one of those providential movements designed by Jehovah to correct existing evils, and to purify religion from its corruptions that the gospel may run and be glorified in the earth, then he would feel but little interest in its history and achievements. But recognizing, as I do, the hand of God in this remarkable movement of the nineteenth century, it is believed that an important service is being rendered by putting on record the causes which gave birth to it, and the influences which by action and reaction have made it what it is. If God overrules in human affairs, and teaches men by means of history, then he who faithfully records historic facts fulfills an important service in the education of men. This is pre-eminently true of that kind of history which deals with the struggles of the human mind and heart to know God, and to understand his will concerning human redemption.
It is of the very greatest importance to the successful carrying forward of the Lord’s work that the younger generation should become thoroughly acquainted with the spirit which animated, and the principles which controlled the men who, under God, gave the primary impulse to this great work. They should become familiar with the conflicts of those early days and with the tremendous sacrifices made by those valiant men and women who loved the truth more than popularity, more than ease, more than wealth, friends, and family ties. It is only as we shall be able to perpetuate this love of truth, this freedom from the bondage of tradition and inherited opinions, that we shall be able to carry forward, successfully the work they inaugurated.