“Jesus Christ Had Not Joined the Shakers”

David Purviance: "Jesus Christ Had Not Joined the Shakers"

One of the principle documents of the Restoration Movement was The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery. It announced the dissolving of this religious body (the Springfield Presbytery) and articulated a desire for all such bodies to “be dissolved, and sink into union with the Body of Christ at large.”

This document was signed by six men – the most well-known was Barton W. Stone. Two of the men – Richard M’Nemar and John Dunlavy – later departed from the faith to join the Shakers. In his memoirs, David Purviance – another one of the six who signed The Last Will and Testament – described their departure and the impact it had upon the church.

“They were not content to abide in the simplicity of the truth. They became fanatics, and were prepared for an overthrow — when the Shakers entered in among us and swept them off with others who were led into wild enthusiasm. The shock to the church was severe — but it terminated for good. It served as a warning to us to watch and pray, and cleave to the Lord and to his word. We heard the word of the Lord: ‘Is there no king in thee, is thy counselor perished?’ M’Nemar was gone, but Jesus Christ had not joined the Shakers. The bond of union and fellowship was dissolved between us and those who had received the Shaker testimony. They were moved from ‘the foundation of the apostles and prophets,’ and had received a new revelation — ‘another gospel.’ ‘They went out from us, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.’ We found their character delineated: 1st Tim. 4:1, ‘Some shall depart from the faith giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils’” (The Biography of Elder David Purviance, p. 115).

There are two important lessons for us to learn from this example. First, we need to heed the warning that anyone can be led astray into error. As Purviance pointed out, Paul warned of those who would depart from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1). The fact that they would depart means they were once in the faith. Those who are led astray by false teachers are those who are “unsuspecting” (Romans 16:18). Therefore, we must be watchful.

Second, we need to be sure we are following Christ and not men. Those who were simply following these men would have likely followed them to the Shakers. Those who were following Christ would not because, as Purviance said, “Jesus Christ had not joined the Shakers.” Paul rebuked the Corinthians because they were divided and following after men (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). He then told them that he “determined to know nothing among [them] except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified…so that [their] faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:2, 5). Salvation is only found in Christ (Acts 4:12; John 14:6); therefore, we must follow Him and not men if we want to be saved.

Purviance could rightly say that “Jesus Christ had not joined the Shakers.” In the same way, we can confidently say that Jesus has not joined any of the religious movements that have arisen since He established His church. As the Hebrew writer noted, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is still head over His church (Colossians 1:18) and King over His kingdom that “will never be destroyed” (Daniel 2:44).

When Jesus told His disciples that they would “all fall away” when He was arrested, Peter said, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away” (Matthew 26:31, 33). Peter failed to do this, though he did repent and return to the Lord. However, his attitude at the time of this claim was commendable. We need to have this same attitude that no matter what others do, we will not be led astray by false teaching but instead will continue to faithfully serve the Lord.


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