Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 6, 1955
NUMBER 34, PAGE 1,3b

The Principle And Its Consequences -- No. 3

Jack Holt, Indianapolis, Indiana

At the close of his first article, Brother Kurfees promised to give, in subsequent articles, quotations from various brethren to show how the idea of a "brotherhood publishing house" was being received. The statements of those who favored such have a familiar ring. They sound very much like the statements that were made when some brethren voiced their feelings concerning a "brotherhood radio program."

"The 'Brotherhood Publishing House' -- How Received By The Brethren"

"Had anyone dared forty years ago even to suggest a brotherhood or denominational publishing house among the advocates of the nineteenth-century Reformation, the suggestion would have been met with instant and almost universal rebuke, and those making such a suggestion would have been regarded and branded as either traitors in the ranks or woefully ignorant of the peculiar and fundamental principles of that Reformation. But a mighty and far reaching revolution has been wrought among this people in the last half century. In fact, if it were possible to arrange the reformatory heroes of seventy-five and one hundred years ago side by side with those now leading in the "brotherhood publishing house" affair, they would not only be seen to be two radically distinct and different peoples, but they would be arrayed against each other in an irreconcilable conflict."

Following these introductory remarks, Brother Kurfees then listed nearly two pages of quotations from those who hailed the publishing house as everything from "a gift from heaven," to "a worthy endeavor to protect the brotherhood from the papers of hobbyist's." Some of the quotations follow: "I am so thankful that the Christian-Evangelist is now practically, `brotherhood property' .... If this opportunity shall be used wisely, it ought to enable us to have a Christian journal and a great publishing house." .... "Among some of us there may exist the fear of too much concentration of power in such a central institution; but so far as efficiency, economy, and adequateness, great strides have been made." . . . . "The brotherhood publishing house will mean much to the cause: Our own publishing house! This marks an epoch in our own history." . . . . "We have long needed a paper owned and operated by the brotherhood." . . . . "Now we can have our own publishing house."

In a subsequent article Brother Kurfees quoted statements from a number of brethren who dissented. J. W. McGarvey was listed among the dissenters and his statement shows that he was suspicious of such an arrangement. He cautiously refrains from endorsing the publishing house until he can be fully informed as to its operations. He said, "I have not yet seen so full a statement of how the Christian-Evangelist is hereafter to be edited and controlled as to enable me to be a judge of its future. If it is to be 'Our paper' let us know all about it. Yours in hope."

It seems that Brother McGarvey "sorta" wondered about "Our paper." He was perplexed about the operation of a brotherhood affair. This is the sad case of a man living forty years too soon. It is too bad that he and others didn't have sense enough to just tuck it under some eldership. That would have "scripturalized" the whole shebang, and just about anything else as far as that is concerned.

Brother Kurfees quotes at length from the articles of J. B. Briney, as he raised his voice in opposition. Yes, J. B. Briney, endorser of the Missionary Society, was violently opposed to a "brotherhood publishing house." The following quotation from his pen teaches us much about the danger of encouraging even the slightest trend away from God's book.

"Has due consideration been given to the possibilities contained in a 'brotherhood publishing house,' with respect to the production of a dangerous ecclesiastical machine that may become a galling yoke upon the neck of the brotherhood? That such possibilities exist, no thoughtful, observant mind can doubt for a moment; and, as for me, I would by far prefer a Methodist Conference to such an ecclesiastical publishing house .... It is well known that the most oppressive ecclesiastical machines known to history had small beginnings that seemed harmless enough, but by processes of development they became wheels of crushing juggernauts that were worse than modern 'steam rollers.'

"Human nature is about the same in all ages, and history is constantly repeating itself, and he who can see no danger in this 'brotherhood publishing house' proposition knows but little of the arts and ambitions of mankind, and lacks information as regards human history."

From the foregoing we can see that J. B. Briney was getting his eyes opened to the dangers of centralization. Like many today, he was unable to see any danger at centralization's first stage. Brother Kurfees continues his article with a statement that will no doubt seem strange, and very unfamiliar.

"The Gospel Advocate now contends, and has all along contended, that the seeds of just such an ecclesiasticism as is now practically born were sown the day the brethren departed from local church independency and committed themselves to the principle of centralization in general organization. The fatal mistake is in starting in this direction at all. In an article in the Christian Standard of April 9, 1910, still writing on the brotherhood publishing house, Brother Briney says,

"'Events usually strike their roots back into the soil of the past, where they may be traced with more or less accuracy before they come to the surface in their legitimate fruits. That there is a trend in the direction of a centralized ecclesiasticism among the people who constitute the current Restoration movement can be doubted by no one who is acquainted with the past, or has any skill in reading the signs of the present?

Brother Kurfees does not miss the opportunity to direct a few poignant remarks to Briney. He lets Brother Briney know that he is "reaping what he sowed."

"Exactly so, my dear brother, and because this ecclesiasticism had not 'come to the surface' when the brethren first entered upon the unfortunate career of general organization, other well meaning brethren, like yourself, thought there was no harm in it and defended it even in the face of strife and division. The 'trend' of which you speak, was set in motion then, and we now have the 'legitimate fruits' in a denominational 'publishing house,' and hence another denomination."

Brother Briney, in supporting the Missionary Society, had leaned upon a broken reed and now it is piercing his heart. He cries out in anguish against the evident departure, but what availeth the anguished cry against a monster now full grown? Can the anguished cry of one who rolled some of the first pebbles stop the avalanche of destruction descending upon the church? I hope the picture of J. B. Briney, as here presented, will be emblazoned upon our minds. It is not the picture of a man who has lived a life of fidelity and service to God, and who looks back over a life filled with pleasant memories. Would to God that were the picture. Instead it is the picture of a distressed man who futilely cries out against the actions of his own child; whose face becomes wrinkled with anxiety; the hair turns grey, the shoulders stoop and finally he goes down to the grave in mourning.

Let us note carefully a statement Brother Kurfees made that seems, in the present scheme of things, utterly out of harmony.

"The Gospel Advocate now contends, and has all along contended that the seeds of such an ecclesiasticism . . . . were sown the day the brethren departed from local church independency and committed themselves to the principle of centralization in general organization."

What with the Gospel Advocate, of the present dispensation, endorsing any and every brotherhood project, the statement would have to be revised. It seems that a change in the priesthood of the Advocate made necessary a change in the law. I hope that the Advocate, '54 style, will someday, "remember from whence they have fallen, and repent and do its first works." This seems however, a thing afar off, though many have sought for its repentance with tears.

Brother Kurfees concludes the article by commenting upon the evil machinations of the society, and its riding rough shod over the churches.

"Such things . . . are among these 'small beginnings' to use the language of Brother Briney, 'that seemed harmless enough,' but 'the most oppressive ecclesiastical machines known to history,' have grown out of them. Protest may stay this latest movement for a time, but both the 'brotherhood publishing house' and 'delegate conventions' are inevitable under the present policy, and sooner or later they will come to stay."