Another Lesson In History
I am taking this correspondence course in history under Brother J. N. Armstrong who was one of my teachers in the Old Nashville Bible School forty years ago. At that time he was only a beginner, and had no higher title than Brother Armstrong. Now he is "J. N. Armstrong, M. A. LL.D. President Emeritus, Dean of Bible." Brother Armstrong is not charging me for this course and I am glad to share it with the readers of the Bible Banner. This ought to give the Bible Banner a little better rating than Brother Armstrong gave it before his writings began to appear in it. I have Brother Armstrong's reply to my article published in the August issue of the Bible Banner; but I have not yet received his reply to my article in the September issue of the Banner. Of course Brother Armstrong is a very busy man, and we will have to wait for his lessons as he finds time to give them. We should not complain at the delay since the course is free. I now submit Brother Armstrong's present paper, with my reply.
Dear Brother Lewis:
I thank you for giving my letter to the readers of "The Bible Banner" just as I wrote it. I appreciate also, the spirit of your comments.
I hold that the unity of God's people is so important that it is sinful to break fellowship and make division in the body of Christ over differences that may arise among brethren who hold the common faith and who are faithful to the commandments of God and whose lives are worthy differences that do not hinder obedience to Christ and that do not change in any way the work and worship of the Church-differences in which nobody's conscience is bound by the other's teaching; but each one left free to think, believe, and act as he sees God's Word leads him. I agree most heartily with the man whose words I now quote:
"The whole sum and substance of Christianity may thus be reduced to faith in Christ and obedience to his commandments. Beyond this men should not be restricted in opinions or circumscribed in investigations. When we believe in Christ and obey his commandments, we are Christians. Having done this, if we differ we should differ as Christians, as brethren in the Lord and not make our differences denominational barriers which interdict Christian love, destroy brotherly fellowship, prevent successful cooperation, promote party strife and ugly contentions." (From F. D. Srygley in "Larimore and His Boys," Second Edition).
I believe Brother F. D. Srygley's position is the undenominational position and here I stand, also. Furthermore, if I have paid a price for keeping a "good conscience" respecting my conviction, it is no more than thousands of other Christians have done. If this price has been exacted of me by my brethren, I can but deeply regret their wrong doing. No man has a right to decide my scruples.
Remember, Brother Lewis, I made no comparison of positions. You are the man who compared my position to Brother Boll's. And, since I could not see how you could fail to know T. W. Brents' and J. A. Harding's position on these matters, and since my position is about the same as theirs, I concluded that you would have to judge that the same difference--that of tweedle dee and tweedle dum--existed between the position of Brents and Harding and that of Boll. But, you are the man who introduced the comparison of positions. You, not I, also introduced that unfortunate Advocate-Boll affair. And, while I believe it is better to let "the dead past bury the dead," I am not averse at a proper time, if you desire it, to digging up for review that regrettable piece of history; but only on the condition that both sides be given impartially to your readers. Suffice it to say here that doctrine alone was by no means the basis of that trouble. One of the chief men in the Advocate group is known to have said back in those years that, had it been a doctrinal matter only, it would have been easily settled. The one to whom this statement was made still lives (Is his initials G. C.? J. T. L.)
But, surely you have forgotten your dates, Brother Lewis, when you connect Brother David Lipscomb with that unfortunate Advocate-Boll affair. While Brother Lipscomb was still living, he had passed beyond active participation in the management of the Advocate when Brother Boll was dropped from its staff. I, myself, have always believed if Brother Lipscomb could have been himself, and could have been in those conferences with his impartiality, his wisdom, and his experience, the results would have been different.
I have heard J. A. Harding tell more than once the story of the interest on the part of some to have Brother T. B. Larimore speak at the Nashville Bible School and why he was not invited to speak. I had every chance to know those facts, and I think your memory jumps a few cogs in calling up details. But, should I grant that you remember the incident better than I, the whole thing becomes interesting in these times. Brother Harding was unwilling to invite that "saintly man," but Brother Lipscomb knew all that Brother Harding knew, and yet he was willing to invite Brother Larimore, who was right Lipscomb or Harding? At that very time, Brother Larimore was conducting a three months meeting at South College Street Church, the largest congregation of faithful disciples in the city at that time, of which church Brother Lipscomb was the senior elder. Whatever may have been wrong with Larimore in Harding's eye, Brother Lipscomb found no trouble in using Brother Larimore anywhere. The question still is, "Who was right, Harding or Lipscomb?" But, the fact that their difference of judgment did not mar the relation between Harding and Lipscomb, or disturb their hearty cooperation with each other is of interest. Their difference of judgment did not lead them to "line up" the preachers or to "line up" the brethren into two parties: the Harding party and the Lipscomb party. Nor did these men write anybody up in the papers, warn the Churches, and tell them whom to select to preach for them.
Though Brother T. B. Larimore (as you remember) did not think "opinions (?) over missionary societies and instrumental music" in the work and worship of the Church should cause him to "mark faithful men;" though Larimore continued to use "the digressive preachers to lead prayers and take part in his meetings;" though Harding "had just as soon call on the devil himself" as to do what Larimore was, doing; and though Harding had a paper of his own; Harding never "exposed" Larimore by writing him up and warning brethren and churches against him, but left the churches free to judge the matter for themselves, and to invite this "saintly man" to preach for them whenever they wanted to do so.
It would be a good thing, Brother Lewis, for "faithful men" now to follow this "example" of my "illustrious father-in-law," and there would surely be less disturbance, less strife and bitterness, and fewer parties in the Church of our Lord. Harding could have made a whale of a fuss in the Church over Larimore's practice. But he did not. What do you think of Harding's example here?
The report you have received that Brother Lipscomb stopped Boll from preaching his sermon on the millennium at David Lipscomb College must also be an incorrect report.
In 1910, Boll gave a series of lectures at David Lipscomb College. G. C. Brewer says, Boll "preached the whole of the premillennial theory;" that this preaching was heard by "Brother Lipscomb, Brother Elam, and many of the other preachers in Nashville;" that in an afternoon lecture, after Boll had preached the whole of the premillennial theory, Boll made a statement that Brother Lipscomb thought was a criticism of Lipscomb's own position on teaching prophecies; that Brother Lipscomb challenged Boll's statement from the audience; that Brother Boll immediately said, "Brother Lipscomb, I did not mean you." G. C. Brewer was an eye-witness to what occurred in Boll's 1910 lectures; and the above is the report as given by Brewer himself in his lecture at David Lipscomb College on January 27, 1939. Read his testimony in his mimeographed lecture, "Premillennialism," pages 1, 2, and 3.
This was the only "stopping" of Boll that Brother Lipscomb is reported ever to have done, so far as I have heard or read, and this was in reference to his own teaching and not Boll's. There is no evidence that Boll was at any time stopped by Brother Lipscomb from teaching anything thing he announced or planned to teach. On the other hand, R. H. Boll continued to lecture at David Lipscomb College for five years after the lectures of 1910. His last engagement was in 1916, one year before David Lipscomb's death.
But now to another matter: Since you, Brother Lewis and Brother T. Q. Martin, have both strongly commend James A. Harding and T. W. Brents, and since you both seem doubtful of Harding's position on the millennium, I think the readers of the Banner are now entitled to hear both of these men for themselves on the question. I quote from their own pens:
J. A. Harding on The Millennium
(taken from his editorial in "The Way," October 15, 1903)
When God made this earth he gave it unto the hands of man while he was yet in his pristine purity. Man turned it over to Satan. God swept Satan's servants from the face of the earth, and gave it again to righteous men, who before a great while turned it over to Satan again; who now is, and for a long time has been, "the prince of this world."
(See John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) Christ came to this earth, and, as the son of man, took command of the discouraged and dispersed sons of righteousness, that he might deliver the earth from Satan, and destroy his hosts.
The war is raging now, the war of righteousness against wickedness, of Christ against Satan, of the kingdom of heaven, under the leadership of Jesus, against the kingdoms of this world, under the leadership of Satan. When Christ has fully prepared all things for the collecting of his people out of the kingdoms of the earth, he will come again "with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God." Then all the dead in Christ shall arise from their graves, immortals; then "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump," the living Christians shall be changed, shall become immortals; and then all the righteous shall be caught up into the clouds by the angels to meet the Lord, to be with him forever more.
When the saints are caught up to meet him, Christ comes on with them to the earth. Then all the kings of the earth gather their armies together, with the beast and the false prophet, to make war against Christ and his army. The beast and the false prophet are captured and cast into the lake of fire, the first to be consigned to that awful place; then by the sword which proceeds out of his mouth Christ slays all the rest, all the wicked that are on the earth, and all the birds are filled with their flesh. Satan is then caught, chained and cast into the abyss, which is shut and sealed. In this place he is confined for one thousand years.
During this time, this thousand years, Christ and his saints reign, but the rest of the dead live not again till the thousand years have expired. This, the resurrection of the righteous, is the first resurrection; over these who come up at this resurrection "the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Paul says: "There remaineth therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God" (Hebrews 4:9). The beginning of Christ's reign was announced on earth on the first Pentecost after his resurrection, and it will end with the judgment day, at the close of which the wicked shall be cast into the lake of when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign till he hath put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be abolished is death. . And fire, "the Gehenna of fire." Then cometh the end, when all things have been subjected unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subjected to him that did subject all things unto him, that God may be all in all. (1 Cor. 15:24-28).
From all this it is evident that the last thousand years of Christ's reign will be a period of perfect rest from sin. During this period Satan will be in the abyss, chained, closed up and sealed over; the beast and false prophet will be in the hell of fire; all the rest of the wicked will be dead; and the saints will have received their spiritual bodies, having been delivered "out of the body of this death."
These facts point clearly to this period of a thousand years as the Sabbath rest that remains for the people of God... this glorious thousand years with which time ends, during which all the saints of all the ages will reign with Christ in perfect freedom from the guilt and all the evil effects of sin, in perfect freedom from the temptation to sin. That this millennial reign will be on the earth is clearly indicated by the facts that at the beginning of it Christ and his saints are on the earth and so they are at the end of it. Compare Rev. 19:11-21 with Rev. 20:1-10. Read also 1 Cor. 15:20-28; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 2 Thess:7-9; Matthew 24:29-31.
T. W. Brents on The Millennium,
in "Gospel Sermons" by Brents pages 325, 340, and 341, and 342
There is surely something taught in the Bible on the subject, and it can do us no harm to study it. This quotation, 1 Thess. 14:13-17, is full, clear, and specific. We learn that there will be righteous persons living when the Lord comes, but they will not go before those who sleep in Jesus. The dead in Christ shall rise first. This is generic, and includes all the dead in Him. We are now prepared to read our text. ."And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them; and I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshipped not the beast, neither his image, and received not' the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years." This is the millennium. If this does not express a literal reign with Christ a thousand years, we know not what assemblage of words would be capable of expressing that thought
But Satan is to be bound during this thousand years. The wicked will be all dead, the righteous clad in the habiliments of immortality, and under the protection of their Master, and there will be none subject to the machinations of the devil, and hence he will be completely shorn of his power. This will be a glorious period. No wicked living the saints all immortalized, hence, free from pain, sickness and death. No sorrowing, no sighing, no tears, no sad farewells... All will be joy, peace, and love for a thousand years.
Brother Lewis, I am not, and never have been, interested in teaching and writing on the millennium, as Brent and Harding were and as many other godly men have been from the first century to the present day--had I been, I should have been at it through these years; but I am concerned about your making our differences in respect to these matters a ground for division and the breaking of fellowship. I believe it is just as wicked for you to bind your opposition to this doctrine on the Church as it is for the man who teaches on the subject to force his doctrine on the brethren.
If you believe you should oppose some brother's teaching, then do it, and do it in the spirit of the Master. This is your right. But if other brethren do not agree with you in your judgment, you have no right to force your teaching on them.
After H. Leo Boles had discussed with R. H. Boll" Pre millennialism" as it is styled; after he had examined, not in a heated oral debate, but in the quiet of his study, every position Brother Boll advocates in this field (and may I say after he had done a real job at it, too) he conclude with:
"Brother Boll and I hold many things in common-enough to fellowship each other as brethren in the Lord. . . We differ as the reader knows; our differences and a discussion of them do not keep me from esteeming him very highly as a brother in Christ Jesus."
Never mind about any change Brother Boles has made since then. He gave what was his free, deliberate, and volunteer judgment at that time. This was his right as a free citizen of the kingdom of heaven. During the time he held that judgment, long or short, it would have been wrong for those who held a different judgment to persecute him or to warn the brethren against him as an unfaithful teacher. He was far better prepared after his thorough examination of the matter to make up his judgment than brethren who had not made so thorough an examination.
The fact, Brother Lewis, that a man of Brother Boles' training and scholarship, experience and wisdom, came to this conclusion after a careful and painstaking study of the issues proves that other good, intelligent, and faithful men may, after a thorough examination of the matters involved, reach the same judgment; in fact, many have done that very thing. The only righteous course, therefore, toward such brethren is to esteem them highly as brethren in Christ Jesus.
If Brother Boles has since seen reasons for a change of judgment, he has a perfect right to make the change. But, those of us who hold now the same judgment as Brother Boles held in 1927, and who have not seen valid reasons for a change, deserve brotherly treatment. It is contrary to the spirit of the whole gospel for you to try to force your judgment on us and to decide our scruples. And, I verily believe, when you write us up in the papers, and warn brethren against us, and urge them to "mark us," you become responsible for any and all discord, disturbance, and division that may come from your course.
I am now repeating my question: "If these men were living now--Harding and Brents--would you invite them to preach in your congregation, and would you make them free to preach on the millennium?" Since this involves the very issue between you and me, namely the "marking" of brethren for preaching their convictions on the millennium, I am anxious for you to tell the readers of the Banner what you would do now with those "veterans of the Cross."
It seems to me, Brother Lewis, that many good men, like you, have not looked at this matter from all sides and seen the thing clear through.
J. N. Armstrong.
Evidently, Brother Armstrong, when you prepared the above article, you had not read my article in the September issue of The Banner. Has not your friend from Tennessee sent you the September Bible Banner yet? If you don't read my papers you cannot grade them. And you will be going over ground that I had already covered. I have told you that I compared your position, on the millennium, to R. H. Boll's position because you are so vehement in defending Boll's right to teach his theories, and so bitter in the philippics you hurl against those who challenge his right, that I thought logic would force you to avow his vagaries, and share the consequences.
You ignored this explanation of mine, and wrote another rigmarole about my comparison, and reached the climax of absurdities by declaring that I compared Brents' and Harding's position to that of R. H. Boll's position, on the millennium. I introduced "that unfortunate advocate Boll affair," to show that the editors of the Gospel Advocate, who fellowshipped Brents and Harding, but cut Boll off and out of the Advocate, knew there was a difference in their teaching on the millennial theory. When Boll was given the front page of the Advocate, he certainly had the same confidence and respect of the other editors that Brents and Harding had had. But when his teaching became "vitiating and divisive" he was cut off the Advocate staff. He agreed to quit teaching his newly discovered theories of the millennium, was put back on the Advocate staff, but later violated his agreement, and for four years denied having made an agreement. At the joint request of N. B. Hardeman and E. H. Ijams, "that regrettable piece of history" was dug up, and published in the January 1936 issue 'of the Gospel Guardian. Didn't your friends ever tell you about this? Somebody told you what H. Leo Boles said in the Guardian about Boll's theories; because you later referred to Boles' statement as having been made in an insignificant paper: I then tried to get Brother Boles to say the same thing in the Gospel Advocate; but he never did do it, and you were right when you said only a few people ever heard his statement.* If, he had given the reason for his changed attitude toward Boll's teaching, through the Gospel Advocate, you doubtless would not have referred to it in your present letter.
(*About 10,000 copies of the issue of that "insignificant paper," the Gospel Guardian in which Bro. Boles statement appeared were published and mailed to preachers and elders everywhere.-Editor.)
In speaking, of what I said about Harding and Larimore, you say: "I think your memory jumps a few cogs in calling up details." Did you say this, Brother Armstrong, to discredit what I said that I heard Brother Harding say? I never claimed to have heard everything Brother Harding said about that matter. I simply told what I heard him say in his Bible class. You were not in the class. Of course you "had every chance to know those facts" because you were one of the teachers, and I am sure you "heard J. A. Harding tell the story more than once." If you will tell what you heard Brother Harding say "more than once" on this subject, I will not try to discredit it, neither am I afraid it will contradict what I heard him say.
You next introduce G. C. Brewer to disprove what I said about Brother Lipscomb stopping R. H. Boll's lecture. You then speak of H. Leo Boles' attitude toward R. H. Boll's teaching in those days. If I have not the facts in these matters, I certainly want them. I am not out on a rampage of destruction, and distortion of facts, as you think I am. So my reply to Brewer's facts (?) and what you say about Boles' attitude is the following from H. Leo Boles.
Dear Brother Lewis:
Your kind letter of November 27 came in due time and I just now find time to give attention to it.
First, about the report that Bro. Brewer has given in an incident that occurred more than 30 years ago. His memory of the events and my memory of them do not agree. As I recall Boll was lecturing on the Return of the Jews to Palestine; Bro. Lipscomb heard his first lecture and called his attention to the prophecies that he had given, and pointed out that they were fulfilled when the Jews came out of Babylon. It was announced that he would continue his lecture the next afternoon. He did not lecture the next afternoon. I did not know why, neither did the other teachers and student body know. In our faculty meeting the next week the incident was discussed and it was revealed that Bro. Lipscomb had asked Boll not to teach further on that subject.
I was a teacher at that time; Brother Brewer was a student. I was present at the faculty meeting when the matter was discussed and reason given for his not continuing the lecture on that subject; Bro. Brewer was not present. As a member of the faculty I took part in the discussion and asked questions; Bro. Brewer was not present. I leave you to judge as to whose memory is the more accurate.
When the Boles-Boll discussion was had in 1927 conditions were different from those that now exist. What was stated and quoted by Bro. Armstrong expressed my attitude at that time. Since that time the theories have been more definitely formulated, some points have been added, emphasis has been put on different phases, and the theory of Boll has been pressed and promulgated until the brotherhood has been disturbed. The peace and harmony of many churches have been broken because of the advocates of these theories. Boll and others have changed their attitude toward the theory and become more dogmatic and aggressive. One would be unfaithful to the truth and right if he did not change his attitude, when the opponent of truth changes his attitude. God himself changes his attitude toward men; if they are penitent his attitude is that of forgiveness, but if they are stubborn, persistent, and rebellious his attitude is different toward them. It is very unfair and illogical to take language which was spoken or written under one set of circumstances and apply it to different conditions under a different set of circumstances.
Brother Armstrong has changed his attitude many times. At one time he sustained a certain attitude toward Bro. E. R. Harper; his attitude now is far different. The language that he used in speaking of Bro. Harper at one time he will not use now in speaking of him. His attitude one time was the most friendly and complimentary of John T. Lewis, but his attitude and language have changed. He would recognize the unfairness to take his language at one time and apply it to the present situation. This is so evident that it needs no emphasis.
H. Leo Boles.
I shall wait with interest your reaction and comments on Brother Boles' letter. I feel sure you will admit that H. Leo Boles "had every chance to know the facts," and G. C. Brewer did not. Naturally G. C. thought what he was telling would be the last word on the subject, and you evidently thought so too; but you were wrong in this however, I have not lost faith in you as a teacher yet. But I do think you ought to be careful about inserting, in your lessons, the manuscripts of other "doctors."
We now come to Brother Harding's article. What did you publish this for, Brother Armstrong? Did you publish it to show that Brother Harding believed that the "old Roman Empire will reappear and flourish again? That Christ will then come, convert the Jews nationally, gather them back to Palestine, re-establish the earthly Kingdom of Israel, sit upon the earthly throne of David, and rule over an earthly kingdom, in Jerusalem, for one thousand years? I cannot get these things out of the article, and if you did not publish the article to prove these things, then the article is beside the issue. These things are the warp and woof of Boll's vagaries. If you do not know this, ask Brother Brewer, he knows. You might also get Brother Brewer to tell us if R. H. Boll taught these things when he "preached the whole millennial theory" before Lipscomb and Elam, in 1910, at the Nashville Bible School? "He was an eye witness." Dr. Brents, in his sermon on the millennium, to which you referred, said it took more credulity than he had to believe those things. If you want to defend Boll's theories, you are certainly trying to use the wrong witnesses when you call in Brents and Harding.
I will, for the benefit of the readers, quote from R. H. Boll, and let them see if they can get his theories out of Harding's article.
"Israel is back in their land just before the Lord's glorious coming: the temple is rebuilt, its service resumed. The last great world power, Rome, in her final shape, flourishes. The man in supreme rule exalts himself above all that is called God. He sits in the temple (either in person or his image installed there), setting himself forth as the object of worship. This is the "abomination of desolation." When that thing occurs, all believers in Jesus who are in and around Jerusalem are warned to flee instantly. For then shall be unparalleled tribulations. The glorious appearing follows immediately upon this tribulation (Matt. 24:29.)"
Readers, is this the "forty second cousin" of anything you read in J. A. Harding's article? Brother Armstrong says: "I believe it is just as, wicked for you to bind your opposition to this doctrine on the church as it is for the man who teaches on this subject to force his doctrine on the brethren." The only consolation I get out of this is, Brother Armstrong inadvertently admits that Brother Boll is as "wicked" as I am, and G. C. Brewer will tell you that R. H. Boll is the most pious, consecrated, and humble man of God that he ever knew. Therefore by "comparison" I am put on higher ground than I had ever hoped to find myself.
Back to Harding and Larimore again. You say: "Harding could have made a whale of a fuss in the church over Larimore's practice. But he did not. What do you think of Harding's example here." I suppose I think well of it. At least I am following it. For instance, G. C. Brewer, who holds an honorary "Doctor's" degree from Harding College, calls on denominational preachers to lead prayers in his meetings, and I have never tried "to make a whale of a fuss" about that. I will ask you a question. Whose example, in these matters, would you recommend to the young preachers in Harding College-Harding's or Larimores?
Now to your final question. "If these men were living now--Harding and Brents-would you invite them to preach in your congregation, and would you make them free to preach on the millennium?" If you asked this question to embarrass me, you "missed the bus" again. If J. A. Harding were living today, and in his prime as I knew him, there is not a man living that I had rather have preach where I preach, and I would not worry about what he would preach. I am absolutely certain that I would hear nothing about the re-appearing of the ancient Roman Empire, the national conversion of the Jews, the re-establishment of the earthly Kingdom of Israel, with Christ sitting on the earthly throne of David, in Jerusalem, ruling over an earthly kingdom for a thousand years, and such like bunk which is the very essence of Boll's vagaries. Since you persist in trying to prove, in a curious, circuitous way, that Boll's theories on the millennium are the same as Dr. Brents' and Brother Harding's were, would you have Boll "to preach for your congregation"?
Or would you invite him to Harding College to give his theories about the millennium to the students there? I am sure you, too, would be glad to have Brents and Harding, those "veterans of the cross," preach for you, if they were living. But what about Boll? Have you joined the markers"? I am sure the readers of the Bible Banner will appreciate the kindness of the editor in giving them the benefit of these lessons you are trying to teach me.
I hope you can see your way to continue this free course. I assure you that your lectures will be published just as you send them. And I feel sure that it will eventually appear to you that yours and F. D. Srygley's position on undenominational Christianity is too elastic, it would cover every ism under the sun. I told you that Brother Larimore himself told me in later years that some of his brethren had gone farther from the truth than he ever dreamed they would go. Therefore I believe Brother Larimore's matured conclusions on digression, and Boles' on "Bollism," should take precedence over their earlier "opinions." Don't you?