The Course Of The Church Through The Centuries
1800 To 1955 AD
(Dates are highlighted in red)
Seed In Good Soil
The seed of the blood of the martyred churches had not been sowed in vain; Godís Word did not return again void. In all the Occident the survivors of the centuries of persecutions, without knowing it gave the decisive impulse to mighty movements of awakening. In England the remnants of the Leollard Christian churches, the Seekers, exerted a decisive influence upon the Puritans and Quakers; in Holland fugitive English Puritans found their way through the influence of Mennonite and Old Evangelic groups to the Congregational and Baptist movements. In Central Europe much of the essence of the old churches trickled into the fundamental teaching and constitutional systems of the Moravian Herrnhuters. Nevertheless, only in a few churches and numerically very small churches, was shown more evidently the survival of the New Testament pre-reformation wealth of thought: among the Sandimanians of Scotland for example; or the Kollegianten in Holland; or the Dunkards of Northwestern Germany, who later were to establish flourishing churches on the other side of the Atlantic.
But in that very epoch when seemingly among these few struggling groups left in Europe and Asia the flame of apostolic faith was about to be put out, there arose on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, wholly independent of the churches of Europe and without the Europeans knowing about it, the great "Restoration Movement" calling for a return to the apostolic faith and practice. Their efforts were not directed to a continuation or even remaking of old customs and traditions but a finding of the purity of the New Testament church and a restoration of that. Coming to their own decisions quite independently of each other, the Methodist OíKelly, the Baptist Abner Jones, the Presbyterian Barton Stone, and the two free church theologians, the Campbells father and son, just immigrated from Ireland, who were to put aside all humanly devised creeds, dogmas and catechisms, and to build the church of the New Covenant on the Cornerstone, which is Christ. Their message found far and wide a responsive echo in the hearts of thousands. God added to the churches not only countless individuals, but also hundreds of young preachers, yes, entire congregations abandoned the prisons of their separate churches and joined themselves to the movement of New Testament Christianity. In a few years there were hundreds of these churches on the American continent.
May I speak of myself as a connecting link of the Central European churches of Christ and the brethren and sisters of the English-speaking restoration movement? Hitlerís henchmen in World War II tried to terminate the destruction of the Lordís little flock. In 1933 all bishops and deacons of the churches of Christ on German soil were imprisoned in Konzentrationslager. In 1939 the adult members in East Prussia followed their shepherds into the prisons and hard-labor convoys, where they perished in 1944, and in 1942 the 11 Alsatian families were deported to Poland. There they were massacred by the advancing Red tankists in January, 1945. All died with the same heroism for their Lord as their ancestors did.
I was born in 1899 at Sablon-les-Metz as a scion of one of the oldest Christian families between the Mosele and the Alps. My dear father was one of the last three bishops of the church of Christ in Strassburg, and I was immersed by my uncle in the icy waters of the Hanauer Weiher March 18, 1916. Trained in Strassburg, Konigsberg, and Hamburg Universities, I obtained a license in comparative history of religions. Imprisoned in 1933 by the Nazis for preaching the gospel in the face of a blasphemous government, I had to suffer almost two years in the concentration camps of Hammerstein and Lichtenburg hunger, thirst, and the uninterrupted thrashing of arms, shinbones, and head like all other political, religious or non-Aryan prisoners. Released, deaf in one ear and with crushed kidneys, I continued preaching like my ancestors in woods, hills, and swamps or in hiding places in the large cities. I had to sell my special library and furniture to manage to live. When World War II began I was commissioned as an interpreter with the army.
Back in Leipzig on Christmas, 1945, I learned of my dear fatherís death, from some survivors, the extermination of our churches in East Europe. I immediately took up the task of rebuilding the destroyed brotherhood, and I had to work hard as a proofreader, reporter, and lecturer to earn a living not only for me, but also for the old and sick brethern and sisters in Communist-ruled, famine-stricken and ravaged East Germany. I could say with the apostle: "These hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me" (Acts 20:34).
Just at the beginning of a remarkable revival of young people in Leipzig, and three months after my wedding, I was arrested October 9, 1948, by the Communists and for four years imprisoned in the ill-famed jails of Leipzig, Waldheim and Graefentonna. The pretended reason: conspiracy against the Red government in religious circles.
Released in the fall of 1952, I joined my dear wife in Western Germany. In March 1955, the protestant State Church of Kurhessen-Waldeck invited me to take over the office of president of the Evangelical Academy for Social Ethics in Kassel. I declined; I could not subscribe to the promise not to attack the teaching of the Confession of Augsburg.
But in the same month I met for the first time in my life a member of the restored churches of Christ of America. What he had to tell me was not other than the faith of my ancestors which I had taught and practiced all my life. My grandfather had had contacts with Scottish (Haldane) Baptists and Sandemanians, yea, even with Christadelphians in Birmingham, but the American Restoration Movement had been totally unknown to us. And now the fact that the Lord had built up his church beyond the Atlantic, just in time, when his last followers in Europe dwindled, hit me like a thunderclap.
The torch did not die out. God had kindled it again and put it on a lamp-stand and it gives light for everybody in the house. This was the fulfillment of Christís promise: I am going to build my church, and the powers of death will never prevail against it.