Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 26, 1954
NUMBER 16, PAGE 1,9-10a

Suggested Solution Of The Orphan Home Issue

Bryan Vinson, Houston, Texas

That the question of the scripturalness or lack of it, of the institutional orphan home is an issue of current interest in the church is well recognized. The discussion of this issue should be designed to affect a solution which would result in complete unity of sentiment and safety of procedure. If this is attainable it is only so through such open, frank and fraternal discussion engaged in with a sincere desire for the truth. There is too great a divergency and multiplicity of views for any solution to be reached without some very pronounced changes in the thinking by many, or possibly all, of us. The Orphan Home issue is a phase of the whole institutional issue, and, in my judgment, constitutes the most pronounced and aggravated development of institutionalism among us today. It is in the vanguard of the march of liberalism, and has gained an impetus almost exclusively based on an emotional appeal, without scarcely any appeal to reason or revelation. Let us observe some attitudes and tactics which can never affect a solution to this matter.

First to berate sand demean brethren who are as yet unconvinced that all these homes are scriptural offers no solution, for there are still many whose faith in the Lord is too strong to be cowed by the anathemas of men. If every evil motive with which some have been charged in their opposition to these homes should be true, such would not establish the scripturalness of them, anymore than the insincerity of those proclaimers of the gospel mentioned by Paul (Phil. 1:15-16) proved the gospel to be false. Since, then, the good or evil attaching to men and their motives are wholly irrelevant in ascertaining the truth, we should recognize that all evil imputations cast on those with whom we differ only tends toward further confusion and renders more difficult the resolving of differences and the solution of problems. Hence, to resort to these tactics reflects a bad attitude and strongly indicates an awareness of the weakness of the position being defended or advocated.

Another course is being observed which many, perhaps, think is a most judicious solution. This is to ignore and proscribe against those with whom we differ, and virtually and practically withhold fellowship from our brethren. It is a freeze-out tactic, and is designed to so circumscribe the usefulness and influence of those who question these homes that they shall be unable to impair the enthusiasm and suffrage enjoyed by them. When brethren are invited to preach with the restriction imposed and promise requested that nothing be said unfavorable toward these institutions, it is high time that some thought be given to the danger of our liberty in Christ being endangered by those who would "spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage," and resolve to do as did the apostle — to "give place by way of subjection, no not for an hour." No man, nor set of men, have a right to exact of brethren rules to which they must conform that are not supported and enforced by a "thus saith the Lord." That is the very essence of sectarianism, which enjoins an acceptance of or submission to anything as terms of communion and union other than that which can be clearly found required by Christ and his apostles. To believe in the terms of pardon, the New Testament items of worship, and the church of Christ as the only and all-sufficient organization through which and in which the will of God is to be executed by His children appears to be inadequate with respect to one's faith today. We must believe in "our institutions," or else be marked and regarded as unworthy of the full fellowship and esteem of all the brethren. This attitude and corresponding course towards the opposers of the Missionary Society failed to solve that issue, and unify all of God's people on the side of these societies.

It might be well here to note the severely deep and sincere feelings of Moses E. Lard on this very point. Though he sought--rather lamely for one of his ability — to defend and support the Society, yet the dangerous excesses to which they went so rapidly in opposing those who didn't favor their movement incited the deepest resentment of Lard. Let us note his expression of resentment, and bear in mind that the same spirit may well be developing in our midst today. After discussing the point of their necessity and utility, he concedes them to be right in their nature but denies their absolute necessity, while acknowledging their possible utility within certain well-regulated precautions. Then Lard passes to the question of their dissolution, and remarks at length as follows: Now, if these positions be correct, and this we believe will be admitted, it then follows that these societies, since not necessary, but simply useful, may be dissolved whenever they cease to be useful, or at the discretion of the many. Much more, of course, should they be dissolved whenever they become injurious, or even dangerous, to an extent which excites great and serious fear. Further, since no Christian man is to be proscribed because he cannot, in conscience, consent to the creation of these societies, so neither is he to be proscribed when, in his discretion, he decides they should be dissolved. They are in no sense or view to be made a test of soundness in the faith or of fellowship. The moment they are so, in my opinion, the wrath of God settles down upon them, and upon those who so make them tests. Both in their origin and existence they are as purely optional as 'the tunes a church shall sing, or the kind of steps a meeting-house shall have at its door. Hence, no man's conscience is to be fettered by them, or his speech abridged by them; nor is he, in any sense or way, in his person, good name, or worldly effects, to be injured by them. Until they cease to be discretionary associations, and become tyrannies sporting with lawless insolence a power which is not inherent in them they can neither speak nor act to the well-grounded wounding of the most untutored conscience in the realm of Christ. The moment they do this that moment they deserve to be kicked and spit upon by every saint who feels that he owes allegiance only to Jesus Christ, and not to the mere creations of the human will. If it be said that they cannot be so managed as not, now and then, to wound and oppress, we deny it; but add, if they must be thus managed, then should they instantly cease to exist. They are in that view entitled to neither the respect nor sympathy of any single child of God." Before quoting further from this great writer and preacher, let us note some things about the above. First, he is protesting against a situation which evidently existed then, or else there would be no occasion for thus protesting. It is the proscriptive course of the society folks toward those who are against them; and such proscription inevitably shall result, anytime and anywhere, in division. While conceding its right to exist, and, therefore, a friend of the society, he nevertheless, expresses utter contempt for the abusive and arbitrary assumption of power by it, and says every child of God who respects his allegiance as only to Christ should kick and spit on this creation of the human will. If it be conceded every one of the institutions now among us has a scriptural right to exist and function. I'll say with Lard that they ought to be dissolved, kicked and spit upon when they directly or indirectly seek to curtail or injuriously affect the usefulness and influence of any child of God who doesn't, for any reason, seek to promote their interests. There isn't a single advocate or devotee of any of these institutions who shall be so bold as to affirm that their way and method is the only way in which the will of God can be done with respect to caring for orphans. Then, it should be apparent that no. one can possibly be regarded as unfaithful in doctrine or practice who doesn't advocate their cause and support their program; and, if so, it is most arbitrary and sectarian to so reason and act toward those who don't go along with any or all the schemes of benevolence and evangelization which are currently so popular.

But let us hear more from Lard: "Missionary Societies are dangerous institutions. Not in themselves, or when doing right, or acting within their own proper bounds; but dangerous because of their extreme liability to usurp power which does not belong to them, and to perform acts hurtful and oppressive to the feelings of God's children, which they cannot lawfully perform. No man living can say the danger here does not exist, or that it is imaginary. The tendency of all human institutions, especially of all moneyed and chartered institutions is to augment continually their power, that thereby they may become the more effective in their operations. This is perfectly natural; nor can it be pronounced absolutely wrong. But just here the danger appears. Let now anyone, no matter who he may be, or from what motives he may act, rise up to oppose these institutions, and not more naturally does the wild beast defend to the death her young than do they seek to maim or crush the interfering party. But their most dangerous features lie, not in their efforts to preserve themselves, but in their usurpation and use of unwarrantable power. As a mournful and humiliating illustration of what is here said, we have only to refer to the action of our own general Missionary Society, within the two years preceding the past, in turning aside to pass resolutions expressive of the political feelings of a majority of those then present, to the pain and grief of remonstrating and dissenting brethren. In this act the feelings, not merely of young men with high blood, but of venerable men whose whole grand lives had been given to the cause of Christ, not even excepting those of the patriarchal President of the Society, were rudely disregarded and trampled upon. Boys and women there cast votes, and rushed the party papers through, while men like John Smith hung their heads in shame. For this act no justification can be pleaded. It is a stain upon the records of the Society which it will take long years to efface. How much more sublime would its action have been if, like an affectionate mother, it had thrown itself between its chafed and chafing children and said: Not a word on the angry theme; be still; ye are brethren; let there be no strife among you; work only for the cause of Christ, and the salvation of the lost; work with a whole, undivided heart. Why, oh why, brethren, did you not act thus? But if in coming time all shall go well, then will we, in the lofty and noble spirit of the Master, forgive the seventy times seven, and forget the bitter past." This evidently is an allusion by Lard to the strife occasioned by the Civil War, and the divided sentiment and allegiance of brethren, respectively, from the North and South. There was a very decided difference on the slavery question for years preceding the conflict between the States, and also on the question of bearing arms in the wax then in progress at the time referred to by Lard.

But let us hear from him on the matter of partiality in regard to whose voices shall be heard. Their proceedings strikingly reminds us of the one-sided journalism and lectureships so prominently displayed today. "Here, moreover, while speaking of the foregoing Society, we beg to call attention, in no peevish or fretful spirit, to the list of honored speakers for the time already named. Is there nothing partisan in this? Or can there be no true men among those who are unable to pronounce in favor of the dogmatic shibboleths of the managers of said Society? Is it a general Missionary Society? Can all the children of God meet there on equal footing, or none save those who shout Magna est Diana? If such be its decrees, it may yet live to learn that after a day of passion comes a day of sober thought, and with it a day of reckoning. Are such men as F. R. Palmer, John B. McGinn, John I. Rogers, Curtis J. Smith, Alexander Procter, Lansford B. Wilkes, John W. McGarvey, et al, to be slighted and overlooked because they cannot chant the to drum of the wild passing hour? Surely this can never happen with a Christian Missionary Society. Gentle, amiable Haley, we have not forgotten thee, nor that apology! But in reply to this it will be said, the Society is at best but human, and, therefore, not to be judged by a perfect standard. This is just and true; and no one wishes to judge it more leniently than the pen that traces this. If, then, in time to come it will do right, then we are its steadfast friend; but if in time to come it will not then we cannot be.

"Hold, cries a brother, close at hand, we have the Quarterly on probation. Lift your voice against the ACM, and we silence you, silence your paper, take from wife and little ones the bread that feeds, and consign all to disgrace. We believe that, rude stranger; and more than that we believe. Afford you the chance, and you would once more relight the fires of Smithfield about the man that dares dissent from you on the difference between dum. tweedle and tweedle dum — that we believe. But by the Lord's leave we shall dare speak our honest thought in defiance of your taunt and heartless threat." These quotations are from Lard's Quarterly, Volume Two on "Missionary Societies and our Hymn Book." The design in quoting thus rather extensively from this periodical is with the hope of arresting the attention of brethren to the possible harm which can follow a course such as that described by him, and, too, the utter futility of thinking that it can resolve the differences and bring us all to one mind and judgment. It failed then; it shall, if pursued, fail again. There are some weaklings who will succumb to popular pressure and drift with the tide by silently acquiescing in that which they regard as inevitable anyway. There are many, however, who honestly and intelligently prefer to consider the evidence on both sides of every issue and be governed according to their findings. To pursue a course of partiality, of proscription and prejudice is but to insult the independent lover of truth, and all who are devoted to its interests.

It shall be my purpose, in the next article, to consider this question with regard to the relationship of the elders to such institutions.