Voices In The Wilderness --- (No. 4)
Chapter V--The Opposition Speaks: 1897 1951 "Behold, How Great A Matter A Little Fire Kindleth!"
Frequently fires kindled with difficulty are ten thousand times more difficult to put out. Once begun they may smolder and then later burst suddenly into a great conflagration. This has been the story with church support of human institutions of every kind.
Opposition Is Proportionate To Innovation's Intensity
It is also true that any innovation arouses opposition in proportion to the zeal and intensity with which its proponents push it upon the minds and hearts of men. Little push means little holdback. For example, little can be found to indicate widespread opposition to sprinkling or pouring for several hundred years after it was first practiced. (251 A. D.) Likewise, centuries passed before instrumental music, first introduced in Christendom in the Seventh Century, was vigorously and widely opposed.
Isolated Cases Do Not Prove General Practice
The fact that relatively little opposition to church donations to orphanages and schools can be found in the literature of fifty, seventy-five or a hundred years ago does not prove that this practice was either widely or generally accepted by churches. One might as well argue that churches in general went into the missionary society movement from the beginning or that most of them accepted instrumental music as to insist that they generally supported benevolent societies fifty years ago. Here and there voices were heard in opposition to missionary societies and to instrumental music from seventy-five to a hundred years ago, but not until those riding these "hobbies" began to push them to the division of churches was there widespread, outspoken opposition. So also goes1 the story of church support of benevolence homes and schools. As the fire has spread, the firefighters have appeared in growing numbers and with strength of opposition.
Scriptural Authority Does Not Need Historical Approval
It is to be expected that those who promote human institutions into church treasuries should appeal to the practices of churches in yesteryears to prove the rightfulness and justice of their cause. If, however, this practice could be sustained by the Scriptures, references to later practice would be unnecessary. This, even the strongest proponents of this relatively late innovation cannot do, and therefore they resort to human tradition instead of divine truth.
Voices In The Wilderness
The following quotations speak for themselves. Unmistakably they show the attitude of their authors toward the matters mentioned when they spoke the words presented here. The fact that some of them may have 'changed their views in later years does not change the fact of their speaking or writing as they did at the dates indicated. When any person says that all of the opposition to church donations to human institutions was born within the last ten years he necessarily speaks ignorantly or is deliberately misstating the facts.
The following statements cover a period of fifty-five years. Some of them were made as much as thirteen years before the oldest "home" now supported by churches of Christ was established, while most of them came forth as their authors observed the development and influence of these human institutions among and over the churches.
1897 — S. L. Barker In Sermon On "Mission Work":
...This is an infallible guide, and to depart from this is to presume to be wiser than the apostles. The only exceptions to this rule are those things which may be classed under the heads of means, implements and opportunities, which they did not have, in which are included steam, electricity, printing, etc. It is quite sure that they would have used all these had they been available. But whatever they hard, or could have had, and did not use, were rejected, and, consequently, are prohibited. They had, and used, instrumental music elsewhere, but never in the Christian worship. This was one of the radical changes in the worship. It was used in the Jewish worship, but never in the Christian. Here is the strongest example and precedent for us to leave it out of the Christian worship. They could have founded special benevolent, financial and missionary societies besides the church of the living God, but they certainly did not, and would not use them now for the same reason that they did not then. They had only the church which the Lord founded, and nothing more; were in it, and 'complete in Christ. If nothing more was needed then, it cannot be needed now?
--J. J. Limerick, Gospel in Chart and Sermon, pp. 164,187
1897 — J. J. Limerick In Sermon On "Pure Religion":
"A great many people are very particular about visiting the widows, orphans and afflicted ones. Some churches have societies for such work, and some churches permit their poor and needy to go to the country poorhouse, while they make a big to-do about the poor heathen across the ocean. Such work is not the kind nor the way Christ intended His church should do. Men must obey the gospel of Christ in order to become dead to the world and the societies of the world, and they then will be able to keep themselves unspotted from the world and the ways of the world. (James 1:26, 27.)
"... I say, brethren, it is time for the preachers and bishops to cry aloud and spare not, and, if possible, cleanse the church of Christ of the sin of covetousness. Then will loyal preachers be supported. Then will people obey the gospel of Christ. Then will the church do her duty in caring for the poor, the widows and orphans, and that without the aid of human societies."
— J. J. Limerick, Gospel in Chart and Sermon, pp. 248,249
1916 — C. E. Wooldridge:
"Each congregation should make provision for the relief of the needy and suffering of the congregation and the community.
"All this work should be directed by the overseers of the congregation; nor should any part be burdened with special or separate organization."
— A. B. Lipscomb, Christian Treasures, Vol. 11, P. 119 1919 — C. M. Pulliam, Article On "Combines In The Church":
...That which the church has not the power to do, then, should not be considered. Besides this, we might say this way of a few getting together and saddling on the church of Christ orphan homes and schools or anything else is a very serious thing, and will in the course of time prove to be a curse to the church....
"A brotherhood paper, or school, or orphanage, or a brotherhood anything else will prove itself to be a dictator and usurper of the church of Christ, and an octopus that grips the interest and life out of the church.
"If you say they make the church more efficient, I answer that man can, then, improve upon what God has made. This I deny. The Lord had a purpose in making the church. He made it to fill a place and do a work and, therefore, it is adequate to such. He also made the church a small, poverty-stricken, insignificant institution in the eyes of the world so designing men would not want it, but so soon as it gets to be respectable with the world the armistice is signed and peace is near, but not the kind of peace God approves. There is, therefore, great danger in human methods and wisdom. `The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.' All conventions, associations, societies and even elders' and preachers' meetings may prove to be a curse to the cause they claim to love. There is no combine with the church and human institutions that does not take the life and power from it
— Tidings of Joy, July, 1919, p. 1
1930 — A. B. Barrett, Founder Of Abilene Christian College:
"There were no 'brotherhood colleges; 'church papers,' 'church orphanages; 'old folks homes,' and the like, among apostolic congregations...The churches established by the apostles did not contribute to any organization other than a sister congregation. All 'church' movements should be kept under the local congregation.
"History repeats itself. Following the restoration of the ancient order of things, launched by Stone, Campbell, and others, men of worldly ambition crept in among us....Individual Christians, any number, may scripturally engage in any worthy work, such as running colleges, papers, and orphanages, and other individual Christians may properly assist them in every proper way; but no local congregation should be called upon, as such, to contribute a thing to any enterprises. Such a call would be out of harmony with the word of the living God. And if any congregation so contributes, it transcends its scriptural prerogatives."
— Gospel Advocate, March 13, 1930, p. 287
1931 — Foy E. Wallace, Jr., Editor Of Gospel Advocate:
"If it were 'permissible to have a Bible college as an adjunct to the church in the work of education and an orphans' home in the work of benevolence,' we quite agree that it would also be 'permissible' to have 'a missionary society in the work of evangelism.' But the question assumes the point to be proved. Nothing is 'permissible' as an auxiliary of the church which is not scriptural. And it is not scriptural for the church to delegate its work, either missionary or benevolent, to boards and organizations other than the church. Bible colleges and institutional orphans' homes cannot be made adjuncts of the church, scripturally. The only way the church could scripturally run a school or a home would be for the local church to undertake such work through the local organization — elders and deacons — in which case is would be the work of THAT congregation."
— Gospel Advocate, July 2, 1931, p. 804
1931 — F. B. Srygley, Longtime Staff Writer And Adviser On Gospel Advocate:
"....In the days of the apostles there were needy people, widows and orphans, just as there are today, and the apostles taught the churches to care for them, and there was no organization or institution by which the churches were tied together in supporting them. Paul directed the church to care for the widows that were widows indeed, and there was nothing said about any institution except the church through which it was to be done. There were famine sufferers in Jerusalem, and their needs were supplied without anything in the way of an institution except the church in Jerusalem."
— Gospel Advocate, July 9 1931, p. 288 1934 — F. B. Srygley:
...The average denominational preacher seems to think that Christ gave only a few fundamental principles, and allows man to add to it everything in the way of an organization which in his judgment is necessary.
"When men add the things which they think are allowable, they become naturally very much attached to them. They are the creations of man, and man has always loved his own creations....You will get an argument quicker out of some religionists when you condemn something that man has started than you will by condemning that which is divine....
"It seems that some of the brethren think that there must be some extra organization in order for Christians to teach the Bible on Sunday....When one contends for such an extra organization, it seems to me he opens the floodgates to everything that anyone thinks we need. The brother who indorses these extra or outside organizations would fare rather poorly in a debate over the missionary society. I know he might argue the fact that these missionary societies take control of the churches; but suppose his opponent should say that it is an abuse of the missionary society, and should promise to help in reforming it at this point. Is it not the tendency of any extra or outside organization to try to control the church?
"But the brethren sometimes argue that the church can organize anything it feels that it needs. I don't grant this, but it is my observation that individuals start these things for the church to support. Who is to say how many and what kind of institutions the churches need? I do not think the church as a divine institution needs any of them, but some of them do need the church, or churches, to support them. As was said by another: `If the organization of institutions continues, the church will be little but a peg on which to hang institutions.' We are told again that any number of churches have the right to do collectively what one church has the right to do, and, therefore, churches can be hung together by institutions other than themselves. On its face this seems to be true, but hanging churches together with a separate institution is lacking in divine authority.
"There are, no doubt, divine reasons for not tying them together with any kind of an institution which is not revealed to us....
"In the early days in the discussion of this matter those in favor of extra organizations argued that there could be no cooperation without organization. But this was not true then, and it is not true now. 'Operate' means to work, and 'co' means together; therefore, when a Christian operates as the Bible directs, he cooperates with every other Christian who operates in the same way. When a church operates as the Head directs, it operates with every other church which operates under the same directions.
"....Let us spend our time walking in the light of God's truth, and then we will have fellowship with God, with Christ, with apostles, and with all others who walk in the light of the same Word. Let us not get out of step with each other by adding extra organizations to the church, for in so doing we might so far get out of step with God as to be lost."
— Gospel Advocate, Jan. 11, 1934
When F. B. Srygley Died In 1940 The Present Advocate Editor Said Of Him:
"Like old John Knox, he never feared the face of man. He was loyal to Christ first, last, and all the time. He would not wink at error in the practice of anyone, not even in his most intimate friends."
— Gospel Advocate, 1940, p. 484
1946 — Guy N. Woods:
"Paul labored at length in the provinces of Macedonia and Achaia....When these brethren heard of the distress that was occasioned in Judea because of a famine in those parts, they determined to send relief. There were many poor saints in Jerusalem at this time.... Concerning this contribution, see 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2; 2 Corinthians 8:1, and 9:2. For another such contribution for the poor in Jerusalem, see Acts 11:27-30. It should be noted that there was no elaborate organization for the discharge of these charitable functions. The contributions were sent directly to the elders by the churches who raised the offering. This is the New Testament method of functioning. We should be highly suspicious of any scheme that requires the setting up of an organization independent of the church in order to accomplish its work."
— Annual Lesson Commentary, 1946, p. 338
"The self-sufficiency of the church in organization, work, and worship and every function required of it by the Lord should be emphasized. This lesson is much needed today. Religious secular organizations are always trying to encroach on the function of the New Testament church, interfere with its obligations, and attempt to discharge some of its functions. The church is the only organization authorized to discharge the responsibilities of the Lord's people. When brethren form organizations ' independently of the church to do the work of the church, however worthy their aims and right their designs, they are engaged in that which is sinful.
"In line with the fact that our lesson today deals with , the autonomy of the church we point out that the contribution here alluded to was raised wholly without the high pressure organization at all; the churches, in their own capacity, raised the funds, and they were gathered by brethren especially appointed for the purpose. This Is the Lord's method of raising money, and it will suffice in any case. There is no place for charitable organizations in the work of the New Testament church. It is the only charitable organization that the Lord authorizes or that is needed to do the work the Lord expects His people today to do."
— Ibid., p. 340
"No organization is needed to accomplish the work the Lord has authorized the church to do. When men become dissatisfied with God's arrangement and set up one of their own, they have already crossed the threshold to apostasy. Let us be satisfied with the Lord's manner of doing things."
— Ibid., p. 341
1951 — G. K. Wallace:
"A great deal is being written these days about orphan homes and how they should operate. The appeal has largely been to tradition. Catholic priests say that tradition is equal in authority with the Word of God. Many of my brethren today are much like the Catholic priests. The priest tries to prove his point by tradition without reference to the Word of God. The appeal made by many preachers today is to Larimore, Lipscomb, Harding, and the pioneers. The Catholics appeal to the church fathers, and these preachers appeal to the pioneers.
"That the care of orphan children is the responsibility of the church is not denied, except by a few brethren north of the Mason-Dixon line. They affirm that the care of orphan children is an individual matter. Most of my brethren admit, however, that it is a work of the church. If it is a work of the church, we wonder why the church cannot do this work without forming an organization to take over the work of the elders....
"Elders of the church have a right to hire a superintendent, a matron, a nurse, a cook, a teacher, a dairyman, just as they do to hire a song leader, a preacher, a janitor, or somebody to mow the lawn or fix a window. The New Testament does not contain officers such as matrons, nurses cooks any more than it contains officers called janitors, song leaders, ministers, carpenters, or plumbers; but the elders of the church may hire any or all these to serve the church.
"The elders of the church may hire someone who is not a member of the church to do a job of work for the church. They may let a contract to some builder to erect a building, and this contractor may use dozens of men, none of whom are members of the church....
"There is no parallel between colleges and orphan homes. There is a parallel between an orphan home that has a board of trustees other than the elders of the church to do the work of the church, and the United Christian Missionary Society.
"Since it is admitted that children may be cared for by New Testament churches, why is it necessary to have anything other than the church to do it?....
"Can we still affirm that the church of Christ is scriptural in name, organization, doctrine and practice?"
— Gospel Guardian, May 24 1951; Vol. III, No. 4, pp. 1,3
"I am thankful for the effort that is being made to care for widows and orphans. I do wish that brethren would not set up some organization that God did not authorize to do the work of the church. If it is the work of the church let the church do it. The care of orphans and widows is the work of the church, so let the church do it. The church would do it, too, if preachers would not get out and start an organization unknown to the Bible and beg the churches to turn their work over to a human organization. There is no discussion today about the church supporting an orphan home out of the church treasury. The discussion is about the kind of a home being supported. If it is a work of the church being done by the church and under the direction of God's elders, no one objects to supporting it out of the treasury. If some organization has taken over the work of the church you cannot blame good elders for objecting. Let the church be the church."
— Ibid,. August 30, 1951, Vol. III, No. 17, p. 8 1931 — A. N. Trice in article "Law and Expediency," Gospel Advocate, March 19, 1931, pp. 314-317:
"To object to a method of teaching as unscriptural' when God has not given a method is to set up a rule where God has not established one. We should respect the silence of the Bible; but some of the hairsplitters and objectors seem to delight to pervert the slogan of the Restoration Movement, and, to conform to their views, it should read: 'Where the Bible speaks, I will speak; where the Bible is silent — this is my opportunity to speaks my whims, my opinions, and ride any hobby that my fancy may suggest'
"We are taught to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction but we are not told how this is to be done. Here again we must rely upon expediency, for we have no plan set forth as such in the Scriptures....Why may we not build an inn, a hospital, an old woman's home, a school, or establish a paper to teach the truth? And why may we not have any of these conducted under a charter from the State by a board of trustees or directors...?
"Finally, Scripture authority has been demanded for teaching the Bible in schools; for cooperation of churches; for supporting schools from the treasury of the church; for activities other than through the treasury of the local congregation; for maintaining an orphanage or home for the aged; for arranging for a series of gospel meetings; etc. It is freely granted that the affirmant must support his position with evidence, and my answer to this demand is that God requires us to teach his word, to give of our means, to help the poor and needy, to sing and otherwise worship God. Abundant authority is found in the Scriptures for all this. But if one insists on one plan or method to the exclusion of all others, where God does not specify any plan or method, the obligation rests on him to support his position by Scripture evidence, and he becomes the affirmant on the point at Issue....Hobby riding and speculation are responsible for much strife and division, the alienation of brethren, the tearing down of churches, schools, etc.; and when these ripen into dogmatism, the result is the tearing down of primitive Christianity and the establishing of sectarianism. Shall we be responsible for the rending of the body of Christ? God forbid. 'If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God?
We cite the foregoing to call attention to the fact that A. N. Trice was making the same pitch in the Gospel Advocate more than thirty years ago and using the same worn out appeal to "expediency" that the orphan home and college-in-the-budget brethren have been making more recently and was branding those who opposed his views then as "hobby riders," "hairsplitters, " and "objectors" (another word for "antis"). This forever settles the question of whether church support of these human institutions was an issue thirty years ago for A. N. Trice wrote a four-page article on the subject at that time.
But this is not the end of the story. Two weeks after the Trice article appeared in the Advocate, F. B. Srygley, who wrote some fifty years for the Advocate, used the same title "Law and Expediency" that Trice had used and presented a withering review of the Trice article. Brother Srygley said exactly what some of the rest of us have been trying to get brethren to see ever since churches have been dividing over the orphan home question. Here are some of the Srygley observations:
"While Brother Trice condemns missionary societies through which to preach the gospel, he defends other things with the same arguments the society brethren use with which to defend missionary societies. The question is not that certain things ought to be done, nor is it how they should be done, but it is the institution or organization through which they are to be done. There is nothing in the New Testament larger than a local church and smaller than the entire body of Christ. I am seeking to make no law, rule, or regulation when I say this. If Brother Trice's article is not used by the society brethren in defense of their societies, it will be because they do not know a good thing when they see it or do not care for Brother Trice's support. The same arguments that Brother Trice makes have been made for the societies for the last forty years."
— Gospel Advocate, April 2, 1931
When F. B. Srygley Died In 1940, H. Leo Boles Wrote Of Him In The Advocate Of February 15, 1940, P. 148, As Follows:
"The last years of his life were given to editorial work of the Gospel Advocate.... The writer has been closely associated with him for about thirty years....No man living today can claim greater loyalty to the church than F. B. Srygley. He has fought more battles for the truth of God, won more victories over error and false teachings, than any man now living. He has engaged in more battles for the truth, in public debate and preaching the gospel, than any other man of modem times...Those who read his editorials can bear testimony that he waged a relentless warfare against every encroachment on the truth of God and against the enemies of the church of our Lord.
...The writer cannot recall now a single instance where he was on the wrong side of any question that disturbed the peace and happiness of God's people.... He had a clear insight into the intricate problems of the brotherhood. He could analyze with accuracy the problems that disturbed and troubled the churches. He could apply scriptural teaching and solve these problems.
...It fell his lot to deal with problems and situations that called for courage. Brother Srygley never faltered, evaded, or compromised any truth or righteous principle. He knew that the truth in many sections is unpopular, yet he did not shrink from declaring in an effective way the truth. Any enemy that he has was made in fighting for the truth."
"But," asks one, "have not some of these men changed their views within recent years?" This is certainly true if one may judge by some of the recent activities and teachings of two or three of these men. Only four of those quoted yet live. The others did not change before they died. The fact remains, however, and shall stand at the judgment of the Great Day that the words of these men reflect what they understood to be the conditions existing and developing at the time they wrote the words cited above. Whatever explanations may be made as to changes in views of any of these men (we grant every man this privilege) their words of record in earlier years speak to intelligent and unprejudiced present-day minds what they thought and felt in view of what they claimed they saw when they spoke. The innovations they opposed then, we oppose now. If they were right then and have since changed their views, they are wrong now. If they were wrong then, it is conceivable that they could yet be wrong, but of one thing every intelligent person is positive: they cannot be right then and right now with a change of views between then and now! Some who once opposed the innovations are in the forefront among the innovators now.
These then are a few of the voices of those who observed the growth of benevolence societies, originally independent of churches in constitution and control, but increasingly dependent upon churches for the finances whereby they pursue and promote their declared interests. These men did not like what they saw, They said so and gave their reasons why.
What has been the effect of all that they were opposing? What has it done to churches of Christ?
— Glen Arvin Avenue, Temple Terrace, Flordia