Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 16, 1954



We publish three lengthy articles this week by Brother E. R. Harper. We have held these articles up a week or two longer than ordinarily would have been the case waiting to see whether Brother Harper had decided to deal fairly with us in the matter of confining his discussion with us to the pages of this journal. If he had sought to publish these articles in other papers it was our intention not to give space to them in the Gospel Guardian. At the time manuscript for this issue goes to the typesetter (August 31) we have not seen these articles in any other journal. We are therefore happy to give space to them here.

— F. Y. T.

When Brethren Differ

I am not by nature a controversialist. My whole natural bent is to avoid discussions rather than to seek them. This is particularly the case when it comes to arguments with brethren. When such things do come, however, I seek to be as fair as I know how to be, and to avoid the petty bickering and personalities which so often detract from such discussions.

I wish therefore to explain that I do NOT write the captions or titles for most of the articles that appear in this paper. They are ordinarily written by the man who submits the article. Sometimes I change them, but rarely — and never in the case of an article submitted by one who is attacking me or the Gospel Guardian. In this issue, for example, Brother Harper wrote the title to each of his articles. The "Dishonorable Ernie" is his own choice of a title; I did not write it; I do not approve it.

My Conference With Nichols

It is distasteful to me to enter into a debate with a brother as to my veracity — so far as I am concerned that is not a debatable matter. I must decline, therefore, to add anything to what I have already written relative to my conference with Brother Nichols — which, incidentally, did NOT take place "the latter part of February" (when I was in California) nor "the first of March" (When I was in Arkansas). Brother Nichols is confused as to the time of that conference; my records show I was not in Abilene when he thinks; and neither did he talk with "Fannin Yater Tant" (he can't even spell my name). He is confused as to the time of that conference; he is confused as to the man with whom he talked; he is confused as to what was discussed; he is confused.

The Don Carlos Janes Charge

Brother Harper brings forward the testimony of nine "good men and true" who positively declare that I went on record as approving what Don Carlos Janes did as "right and scriptural." It is a bit difficult to deny such overwhelming testimony; when two gospel preachers and seven elders stake their sacred honor and their hope of heaven on so direct a statement, it should give pause to even the brashest of men to deny such evidence.

But in the interest of truth I must DENY POSITIVELY the testimony they have given. I can account for it on no grounds at all save one of the following two:

  1. They deliberately perjured themselves in an effort to discredit me, or
  2. They completely misunderstood what I said.

Christian charity of course rejects the first alternative as unthinkable; the latter must be what happened. During the last twenty-five years several hundred thousand people have heard me say both from the pulpit and through the pages of the Bible Banner and the Gospel Guardian that what Don Carlos Janes was doing was neither right nor scriptural. I was even saying this when the Firm Foundation and the Gospel Advocate were still carrying his reports, encouraging brethren to accept him. I have continued to say this, and do say it even now. At the very time these nine men swear I said he was "right and scriptural" I had a short article in my brief-case (which appeared in the February 4 Gospel Guardian) showing clearly that I regarded even his memory as one that ought to be painful and humiliating to Christians!

Can anybody think of any reason why I should give voice to a sentiment which was the very OPPOSITE of what I had been preaching for a quarter of a century, and which was the very OPPOSITE of an article that at that very moment. I had in manuscript form and which was on its way to the typesetter for publication?

If nine hostile and excited men had come from an interview with President Eisenhower and reported him as saying that the men of the Kremlin were fine, sincere, Christian statesmen, that not a single promise Russia had ever made had been broken, and that in the event of any future world war it would be our moral and Christian obligation to join hands with Russia to try to smash the war-mongering fanaticism of Great Britain — who would believe them? Would it not be obvious to all that they had let their hostility to the President cause them either to completely misunderstand what he had said, or else to give a deliberate and calculated perjured testimony as to the interview.

Christian charity rules out the question of deliberate perjury so far as the testimony of my nine brethren is concerned. They simply misunderstood what was said. That might not have been difficult under the circumstances. A heated argument had been going on for an hour. I had repeatedly begged the brethren to show me what their objection was to the Missionary Society. Finally, as the conference was in the process of breaking up, with several talking at once, and a general hub-bub going on as we donned our coats and hats preparatory to leaving, one of the brethren said rather belligerently, "Well since you are so certain the way we are doing it is wrong, what would you suggest — something like Don Carlos Janes' or Eugene Smith's one-man missionary society arrangement?"

To which as nearly as I can recall I replied, "Certainly not; but I believe I could come a whole lot nearer proving Eugene Smith's plan had scriptural precedent than you brethren could come finding a scriptural example of what you are doing. We do at least have a Bible example of a number of congregations sending to one man (Paul) to help him in his work. No doubt Smith would cite that as justification for what he was doing. But your plan doesn't even have that semblance of scriptural justification."

I do not recall saying I thought Don Carlos Janes was "dishonest," but very likely I did. It sounds like me. I've been saying it for twenty-five years, and if I didn't say it then it was simply an oversight. I'll make up for it by saying it now. But I did NOT say I thought Eugene Smith's arrangement was "right and scriptural," and neither did I even remotely hint of such in regard to Don Carlos Janes. I'll let the matter stand right there. It is my impression that three or four of the men who have sworn as to what I said DIDN'T EVEN HEAR THE CONVERSATION! We were all in the process of leaving when the exchange took place, and a number of conversations were going on at the same time.

I'll leave it to fair-minded brethren to decide as to the competence and trustworthiness of nine brethren who can solemly and with a straight face give serious witness that they heard a statement which was never made. If they can so easily misunderstand and pervert a simple declaration such as was there given, it is not to be wondered at that they are careless and confused with God's word!

The G. K. Wallace Article

Brother Harper quotes a part of my endorsement of Brother G. K. Wallace's articles concerning the orphan home at Wichita, Kansas. It will be interesting, I think, to give a few portions of that editorial which he omitted. Here it is:

"Some weeks ago we published an article by Brother G. K. Wallace entitled, 'The Church at Work,' in which the position was advanced that the care of orphan children comes within the scope of the mission God has laid upon the church, and that whatever the church does in carrying out that part of its mission work must be done by the church. Brother Wallace showed that it was possible for the church, as the church, to do everything God wants it to do. There is therefore no justification in any way, or authority of any sort, for some outside benevolent institution or organization (such as some of the brethren are now promoting) to take over this work of the church. The elders of the congregation constitute the only 'board of benevolence' God knows anything about. Those elders have the right to make whatever provision may be necessary to do any benevolent work God has laid upon the church — whether it be the care of orphan children, the support of widows that are widows indeed, or the ministering to the 'poor saints.'

"We felt that this position was so eminently scriptural and unassailable that we gave editorial endorsement to it, declaring it to be in our judgment, 'solidly based on scriptural foundations.'

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

"We did endorse, and do endorse, the principle set forth in Brother Wallace's articles, i.e.: the eldership of the congregation is the only organization God has for any work he has laid upon the church to do. Whatever 'home' the elders of a church may provide for caring for those orphan children who are their charges can rightly be regarded as nothing more nor less than 'the church at work.'

"Our endorsement of that principle, however, does not mean, nor can it be taken to mean, that we endorse every ABUSE that may be made of the principle in practice. For instance, we very seriously question the right of an eldership to deliberately plan, promote, and undertake any work on a permanent basis which they know in advance will be far, far beyond the ability of their congregation ever to sustain or carry on. That looks too much like an instance of an eldership deliberately planning a permanent program that will make them continually dependent (an object of charity) on other churches. Such permanent dependency is as bad for a congregation as it is for an individual. And it is clearly as wrong for a church as it is for an individual to plan and provide for a permanently dependent status. That is an abuse of the principle. The principle is right; the abuse of it is wrong."

— (Gospel Guardian, Aug. 30, 1961)

That editorial was written at a time when Childhaven, the mammoth benevolent institution of Alabama was trying to fasten itself upon the churches. Brother Wallace pleaded that the church under her elders, was adequate for every benevolent work God wanted her to do; hence, it was a violation of God's plan for a separate organization to be set up to do the work God has laid upon the church.

I felt, and still feel, that such a thesis is "solidly based on scriptural foundations." Indeed, I will say that the concept of a church putting on a radio program under her own elders (and with no outside organization of any sort) is also "solidly based on scriptural foundations." But does an endorsement of that principle imply an endorsement of every abuse that can be made of it? Herald of Truth is an abuse of the principle. For while the program is "under the elders" and has no separate governing body, it is NOT a program of Highland Church, but is a project of over 1,000 churches. It is a "brotherhood program" under a local eldership. That is wrong whether it is an evangelistic program or a benevolent program.

And now, once more, may we earnestly plead with Brother Harper to tell us 'What Is Wrong With the Missionary Society?" Surely he knows! Or does he? Why does he oppose it? What makes it wrong? We have printed eleven articles from him (nearly thirty columns), and he has ignored our plea for such a statement. It is beginning to look like our brother KNOWS lie cannot correctly and truly point out what makes the society wrong without at the same time condemning his own "Herald of Truth."

I end this editorial by kindly differing from a suggestion in Brother Cecil B. Douthitt's article (this issue). Moved no doubt by the genuine affection he has for Brother Harper, and seeking in some way to find explanation or excuse for the latter's "churlish and unbrotherly" attitude, Douthitt suggests that illness may have something to do with the matter. I must dissent. That Brother Harper is a sick man, and for some years has suffered extremely serious psycho-somatic disturbances is a matter of common knowledge. But there is a more obvious explanation than illness, either physical or mental, to account for his current behavior. For many years E. R. Harper has been known as a man who stood for his convictions. When he was engaged in controversy (which was often) it has been his practice simply to overwhelm the opposition with SCRIPTURE. He has been a fighter whom we all loved and admired. And now he finds himself in the bitter and frustrating position of being engaged in a battle in which he is unable to make any argument at all based on scripture! All the scriptural arguments are against him. Instead of pointing out clear and undeniable Bible examples and precepts to justify what he is defending he must needs resort to a long, long catalogue of (1) his own glorious achievements of the past, (2) mistakes and errors of others.

To a man of E. R. Harper's temperament and background this must be a particularly galling and humiliating experience. He seems lost and bewildered in the midst of the fight; he has no weapon with which to wage his campaign. The one time he did attempt a scriptural parallel, he found himself defending and justifying a "diocesan eldership" before he realized what was happening. He hastily drew back from that. Such an experience is enough to drive even an ordinary man distracted; it has been so frustrating and embarrassing to Brother Harper that it has well nigh driven him berserk. It is this, we believe, and not illness that accounts for the veritable Niagara of meaningless and pointless statements from our brother's pen. We could be wrong, and if we are, certainly we'll be the first to offer apology; but as of the present we simply can not buy Brother Douthitt's charitable and kindly explanation for Brother Harper's incredible behavior.

— F. Y. T.