It seems that 1835 was, in hindsight, a pivotal year for the Stoned-Campbell Movement. By 1835 the Reformers of Campbell and the Christians of Stone had united. Campbell had been marked through the infamous Beaver Anathema (1829) ... By the mid-1830s the Movement was growing and in search of an identity. An atmosphere of "bad blood" was being cultivated between "us" and "them." Many decided they had a word for the "brotherhood" to help provide guidance.
Dr. John Thomas (1805-1871) was one such new editor. Thomas was a preacher among "us" first in Philadelphia and then Richmond, Virginia. In 1834 he began publishing his new voice in his Apostolic Advocate. By 1835 it became clear that he was promoting sectarian point of view. Stone-Campbell churches had always accepted those who had been immersed into the name of Jesus. Thomas believed this was grave error. Stoned-Campbell churches were not simply Christians they were the only Christians! And apparently many even in his own fellowship were not Christians either. Many, like Alexander Campbell himself, had been baptized at the hands of Baptist preachers never understanding the "deeper" significance of baptism until years later. Campbell vigorously opposed Thomas who eventually left the Restoration movement to form the Christadelphians.
In 1835 other extreme positions bubbled to the surface as well. Matthias Winans, Arthur Crihfield, John R. Howard, and others, promoted a theory of the Holy Spirit that so closely linked the Spirit and the Word that they became nearly indistinguishable. Crihfield would throw his hat in the editor bishop's chair in 1837 with a journal creatively titled The Heretic Detector ... its task would be to root out any and all heresy. It was in the Heretic Detector that, as far as I can determine, we encounter for the first time the "marks of the one true church." The spirit of this publication has been "reincarnated" in journals that yet remain among us.
Interestingly enough Stone, Campbell and even Robert Richardson seem to have sensed that something was afoot at the Circle-K (for those who remember Bill & Ted!). Alexander Campbell wrote a lengthy piece titled "The Crises" (Millennial Harbinger [December 1835], 595-602). Richardson published a letter in the same issue to Campbell under the heading "Reminiscences of 1835" (pp. 611-618). Campbell's last words to his readers for the year 1835 was a plea for them to reread his article and even Richardson's (p.622).
Barton W. Stone had already voiced distress over the direction of some within the movement. In the August 1835 Christian Messenger he shared some "Remarks." Since it is brief, yet powerful, I will reproduce his entire "remark."
"The scriptures [sic] will never keep together in union, and fellowship members not in the spirit of the scriptures, which spirit is love, peace, unity, forbearance, and cheerful obedience. This is the spirit of the great Head of the body. I blush for my fellows, who hold up the Bible as the bond of union yet make their opinions of it tests of fellowship; who plead for union of all christians; yet refuse fellowship with such as dissent from their notions. Vain men! Their zeal is not according to knowledge, nor is their spirit that of Christ. There is a day not far ahead which will declare it. Such antisectarian sectarians are doing more mischief to the cause, and advancement of truth, the unity of christians, and the salvation of the world, than all the skeptics in the world. In fact, they make skeptics." (Barton W. Stone, "Remarks," [Christian Messenger August 1835], 180)
Stone did not shy from voicing his concern over the direction of some within the movement he helped spawn.
Due to the vigilance of Campbell, Stone, Richardson, and Scott most of the extreme views that began to surface in 1835 were held in check. Yet after the Civil War these uprooted tares among the wheat began to bud again. There is a direct link between the "Texas Tradition" in the Churches of Christ and John Thomas. We might explore that some more soon ... Those devoted to "truth" often have to point the search light back at their own heart. This is a legacy we can embrace from Stone, Campbell, Richardson and Scott.