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A Declaration of Christian Convictions, Lack of Human-influenced Religious Organization and Unity

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The Declaration and Address is a testimony towards Christian unity and was written by Thomas Campbell in 1809. This was the first document of the Christian Association of Washington, which was a religious movement during the 19th century. Thomas Campbell the founder of the Christian association of Washington and began his career as a Presbyterian minister. He migrated to America from Ireland in 1807 as he felt America represented a new life not only for himself but offered new hope for the church. He only lasted two years as a minister as he was reprimanded for a number of things including offering communion to people outside of his jurisdiction. These complications led to Campbell’s creation of the Christian Association of Washington which would be free from all mixture of human opinions and inventions of men.

The purpose of the Declaration was to describe the function of the Christian Association of Washington. It begins with a stating the religious convictions of the association “We are persuaded that it is high time for us not only to think, but also to act, for ourselves.” It is clear that the founders of the Christian Association believed in one divine spirit that could restore the church. Members felt obliged to make sure the truth was told to the masses “Taking the divine word alone for our rule; the Holy Spirit for our teacher and guide.” The Declaration is broken down into nine points describing the function of the Christian Association. The first point exemplifies what Thomas Campbell is aiming to accomplish. Campbell is organizing an association free from all opinions and that it should be called The Christian Association of Washington. The second point explains that to be a member of the association you must donate whatever sum of money you can to support the ministry in their teachings. It also states that you must give bibles to the poor which suggests that the association is actively recruiting new members. The third point states that the society is a job in itself. You must use proper means in your power to encourage the word of God and respond to everyone who needs assistance is their life. The fourth point made in the Declaration is that the association is merely an association and does not consider itself to be a church in anyway. The purpose of the association is to reform the church “…but merely as voluntary advocates for church reformation.” The fifth point tells that the sole purpose of the society is to promote simple evangelic Christianity. There should be support for ministers who are willing to practice and preach New Testament Christianity without imposing any of their beliefs. The sixth point made is that the association meets at least twice a year and that the yearly dues are paid “…that the collectors appointed to receive the half yearly quotas of the promised subscriptions, be in readiness.” This shows that the association needed funds to keep growing and moving forward. The eight point in the declaration tells how every meeting should be in public with a sermon, communication should be had and offerings be accepted “That each meeting of the society be opened with a sermon, the constitution and address read and a collection lifted for the benefit of the society.” This could be because passers would hear the word of the preachers and get involved, increasing members. The ninth and final point in the declaration declares that the association looks towards Jesus as the head of the church and will also depend on fellow Christians to support preachers by donating money. The preachers will also preach the eternal Gospel and administer ordinances exactly as the bible does. This ties in with the fourth point made in the declaration that they aren’t trying to create a new church they are still honoring Jesus and are simply looking for a church reformation.

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The next part of the testimony is the Address, this is thirteen propositions presented by Campbell. This is where we hear of all the problems facing the church such as the division within it. The first point Campbell makes in his address is that the Christian church is open to anyone on earth who shows faith and obedience in Christ and the scriptures. This shows that Campbell was open to new followers if they’re willing to obey the rules he has set. The second proposition explains how Christ appears all throughout the earth in different locations and that there should be no divisions between each location if they follow Christ. Each church should practice the same morals and principals. This makes a lot of sense as there should be a clear understanding of practices between all churches regardless of their location or members involved. The Third proposition is an example of what Christians need to do in order to ensure that there are no divisions within the church. In order to achieve this everyone involved must accept what accept the teachings of God and forget about human traditions despite how long they have been practicing them. This point has a great impact as it is an all-in or nothing attitude which Campbell obviously feels not many Christians have. The fourth point suggests that the Old and New Testament express Gods will but in order to move forward they need to look towards the New Testament for worship. The Old Testament is for previous ways of the church which hasn’t been working. The fifth point made by Campbell is that no human authority has power to interfere with Gods commands in anyway. This includes procedures taken from the New Testament. This is a difficult point to follow as a lot of people don’t take gods commands exactly as they are without breaking them in some sort of way. The sixth point exemplifies how followers should trust god over trusting the word of fellow men. If your beliefs are in order you should share them with fellow Christians and not to those who are not. Again, this is a good point made by Campbell as you need people who know what they are talking about to strengthen the beliefs of other Christians. The seventh point shows how Campbell wants to use communication to better understand Christianity within the church. He explains how people’s views will vary but with constant communication differences will be eliminated and it should not interfere with our beliefs. The eight point shows how much dedication is needed in order to be part of this association. Campbell states people must be recognized for this loss in faith and in order to fix this they must declare their faith in God and obey his commands. The ninth point is that you should love others who made the same sacrifices as yourself as a brother. This makes sense as it is also one of the Ten Commandments. The tenth and eleventh points state that division among Christians is evil and certain to cause tragedy and all past corruptions in the church have come from not following the will of God and the constant personal human opinions interfering with belief. The twelfth point explains that there are four practices within the church. The first rule explains that nobody should be allowed join the church who isn’t obedient to God. The second rule is no one is allowed be kept in the organization who doesn’t back up the word of the lord. The third rule explains that preachers only ever teach the word of the lord. The fourth and final rule explains how preachers must preach from the New Testament and everyone in the church should observe. The thirteenth and last point states that when legislation are being changed due to circumstances is it down to human cause only and that God cannot be held responsible for it. This sort of contradicts the whole other twelve points made by Campbell as he wants consistency throughout his association then speaks about altering the rules without causing division within it.

I respect what Thomas Campbell tried to do by getting a stricter set of rules for Christians to follow throughout his Declaration and Address. Almost all of the points made sense bar the last one which totally contradicts the whole all of the other points. This could be one of the reasons why it wasn’t successful or maybe because difference of opinion has a great effect regardless of what rules are in place.


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