Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 28, 1959
NUMBER 4, PAGE 9a-10,14a

Commending "The Search For The Ancient Order"; Or, History Repeats Itself -- (II.)

George T. Jones, Kilgore, Texas

In a previous issue of this journal we wrote the first part of an article under the above heading. The immediate occasion for our writing is a short article from the pen of brother E. Claude Gardner in the Gospel Advocate March 5, 1959. His was a commendation of "The Search For The Ancient Order" by Earl West, as a history of the Restoration Movement. In our first article we set forth our wholehearted commendation of this "monumental" work as just exactly that. It is all brother Gardner claimed for it. But we also expressed our amazement that some men such as Dean Gardner and the editor of the Advocate fail so completely to discern the lessons of history. We showed that historian Earl West called the problem of the "sponsoring church", a controversy over church co-operation, the same in principle as the problem of the missionary society faced by the brotherhood seventy-five years ago. We quoted a number of statements by brother West regarding that former controversy; and, some statements from men who were engaged in that controversy, whose statements are quoted by West in his history Dean Gardner commended so highly. In this article, we shall continue these quotations.

IV. Anti-Missionary

In the present controversy those who oppose such cooperative schemes as Herald of Truth radio program, and other arrangements where one church oversees the work of a number of churches are called "anti-missionary" by Dean Gardner and the editor of the Gospel Advocate. We are accused of not believing in preaching the gospel. (Such accusations are falsehoods but they have been made in abundance.) Interestingly enough, brother West relates the opposition which met the revival of the Gospel Advocate by David Lipscomb following the Civil War. Soon after the issuance of the "Prospectus" of the revived journal, its publishers received a letter from Thomas Munnell dated November 27, 1865. Here is the letter:

"Dear Brethren: Your Prospectus was handed to me today, with a request to use my influence for its circulation. Before I do so, I want to ask if it is to oppose our Missionary Societies?

I have been laboring two years to build up our Kentucky Society, and could not favor the introduction of a paper to war against it all. I am told that anti-mission is to be one feature of the "Advocate". If the "Advocate" will come out and help us in all our good work, I could wish for it a large circulation in our State, otherwise, my influence, much or little, will be against it. I would be glad to see Brethren cooperate in every good work, and hope we will be able to do so." (P. 68.)

Every person who knows aught of the present controversy knows there is not one scintilla of difference between Munnell's attitude toward the Advocate in 1865 and the attitude of Gardner and the present Advocate editor toward those who today oppose the "sponsoring church" and institutions like Tennessee Orphan Home and Boles Home. They dub us "anti", just as Munnell dubbed Lipscomb and Fanning. Was the Advocate "anti" in 1865?

V. Progressing

"Progressive" was a popular word among many in the brotherhood following the Civil War. The modern counterpart to that term in our generation is "On The March". Bro. West shows well the direction of "progress" in those days. The student will note remarkable similarity between it and the "marching" of our own generation.

On page 83, he has the following quotation from J. W. McGarvey:

"We are moving; we are progressing; at least some among us are advancing. Whether you think the movement forward or backward depends very much upon the way you are going yourself. Once we had no men among us who were known to tolerate instrumental music in worship. After that there arose some who contended that whether we use it or not is a mere matter of expediency. More recently, a few churches have actually used it, and their preachers have approved, but have not often ventured publicly to defend it".

On page 132, West quotes Robert Graham: " ... there is among ourselves a falling off from the simplicity of the gospel, a conforming to the mode of the other denominations, the loss of zeal for the spread of the gospel for fear people will think us solicitous only to build up a party, the decrease of Bible reading and study among us of late, the growing disposition to recognize the distinction of clergy and laity in our churches, and among much more that might be named, our conforming to the unscriptural phraseology of sects, to say nothing of our adopting many of their anti-scriptural customs. With the uniform experience of past ages before us, the tendency of men to make the gospel popular under the plea of extending its influence, and that, too, even at the cost of its purity and power to save, should make us keen to detect and fearless in our condemnation of all departures from the faith".

Again on page 137, West quotes from L. F. Bittle his impression of the "progress" being made by the disciples in 1873. His words all too clearly describe the "march" of many brethren today. "The greatest danger that threatens you, as a religious brotherhood, is the rapidly growing disposition, manifested by your so-called educated men, to elevate your people into the dignity of a sect, a denomination, with a name, policy and organization in harmony with those employed by the various parties into which Christendom is so unhappily divided."

VI. Little Things

It has been asserted by those who favor the type of church cooperation involved in Herald of Truth and the sponsoring church and church support of orphan homes, etc., that opposition to these involves "little things," too insignificant to draw the attention of a "marching" brotherhood. Bro. West has shown this same attitude prevailed among those who foisted the innovations on the church in the last century. On page 101, he relates that the "Louisville Plan" of church cooperation was advanced by the society advocates in lieu of the missionary society itself. The "Louisville Plan" was thought to be more palatable to conservative brethren. However, as brother West relates, "The brotherhood was filled with bickering and debate over the Louisville Plan. In the midst of such a crisis, R. M. Bishop urged the brethren to be settled and not waste time arguing. He declared that some had as their mission only finding fault." (Emphasis mine, GTJ) Bishop is quoted thusly by West: "Must we continue to fritter away our resources and cramp our energies by attempting to settle the difference between tweedle dee and tweedle dum while the great world is begging us for the Bread of life?"

To every person conversant with the present crisis in the church, these sound like the words of Harper, Good-pasture, Gardner, Woods, etal.

VII. Love Of The Lost

Those of us who oppose these unscriptural arrangements for church cooperation are charged with being an uncharitable and unmerciful lot who have no love for the lost. From reading what brethren have written in the Gospel Advocate in recent years, one would conclude that the Advocate brethren have a monopoly on loving the unsaved But this is not new! On page 103, West describes the annual convention of the Society in Louisville in 1875. He tells of a speech by Isaac Erret, urging the society's plans for the coming year. We quote: "Erret delivered a speech, speaking tenderly of the dying love of Christ, until all eyes were wet with tears". The course of the innovators has not changed.

VIII. Opposing Good Works

In another effort to turn aside our opposition to unscriptural cooperative schemes and the inroads of the social gospel, we have been put down as just being against good works. Again, the modern counterparts of those who led the church into digression once before have merely borrowed another page from the latter. On page 134, West quotes from Ben Franklin who was replying to a charge Isaac Erret had made against him. "Wherein are we a 'millstone around the neck of the reformation?' In our decided and determined opposition to the departures being made from the primitive gospel. In our opposition to church fairs, festival, church concerts, organ concerts, useless outlay in gorgeous and fashionable temples of folly and pride, called 'churches', instruments of music in worship, etc. We have sinned against Dr. Progress. Mrs. Fashion, Sirs Custom, and offended the taste of their friends and the spirit of the world in general, and have thus become a millstone around the neck of pride, folly, arrogance, and self-importance in general, the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life in general .. . We have failed to appreciate church fairs, festivals and entertainments, as a means of raising money for the Lord ..."

IX. Who Is Responsible?

Over and over, like a broken phonograph record Dean Gardner and others who write in the Advocate have with monotonous regularity, accused us of dividing the church. We are responsible for all the divided congregations and alienated brethren, according to them. That this is not new will be seen by West's quotation from L. F. Bittle on page 149. "Elijah was not to blame for the drought and famine that for three years or more cursed the land of Samaria. He was not the troubles of Israel as Ahab said. It was the wicked king himself that by departing from the way of the Lord, and bringing in the religious devices of his idolatrous neighbors, had incurred the displeasure of the Almighty, and the prophet was but the instrument of divine vengeance.

So it is now. The folks that built costly meeting-houses to please the eye, and introduced organs to gratify the ear, and have since apologized for these things, against the protestations of a great brotherhood, are responsible for all the alienation that has in consequence occurred. The men who left the New Testament plan of evangelizing, and organized sectarian societies to usurp the authority of Christ by creating offices and delegating powers unknown to the apostles, thus rightful independence, and who still in spite of brotherly admonition and scriptural argument, persist in their wild schemes, are responsible for all the strife that their plans have enkindled".

X. On Division

In regard to division in the church, the current Advocate writers have pursued two themes, viz., (1) that a major division in the church is not even a remote possibility; and, (2) that division is the worst thing that could befall the church. Notice again how they have aped the digressives of three-quarters of a century ago. On page 222, West quotes W. B. F. Treat on the possibility of division: "But it begins to occur to the minds of many that there is a possibility of division over things not in the Bible! That any great number of men among us would insist on organizations, customs and practices not mentioned in the Bible, and force these into the Church, does not appear to have been included among the possibilities by the scribes who decided that we could never divide."

Concerning just how evil division was regarded, in relation to some other alternatives, read David Lipscomb's words in the Advocate, 1883: "We have not doubted, for many years, that if the course of adding innovation to innovation, pursued by many, is persisted in, that division and separation will come. Nay, it ought to come. God will cause it to come . . . If a separation will, and ought to come, it may be asked, how will it be brought about? All the true disciple has to do, is to firmly stand for the truth, and to be true to it. God in His providence will then bring it." Again, this from the pen of J. W. Mc-Garvey appeared in the Advocate, 1885: "I have but little sympathy with those brethren who seem to dread disunion among ourselves as the direst of all evils. If we would inspire sensible men around us with a desire for union with us, we must be careful to show them that we do not and will not maintain unity with anything unscriptural, whether it shows itself within our ranks or outside of them. Truth first, union afterwards, and union only in the truth. This is our motto." Both the latter quotations are on page 223.

XI. Quarantine, Old Style

All of us remember too well the proposal carried on the editorial page of the Advocate with editorial endorsement about four years ago to "quarantine" with a "yellow tag" all the preachers who opposed the Advocate's position in the current controversy. That was not new. Solomon wrote: "There is no new thing under the sun". And when the Advocate began this "new" quarantine it was not new. On page 287, historian West wrote: "Now that the State Conventions and the Missionary Society had grasped more and more power, brethren of the Advocate frame of mind saw that it was dangerous to oppose these organizations. The Conventions and the Society would work against any preacher or any congregation or paper that would not dance to their tune." So the Advocate, 1950 style, is simply dishing out the same treatment to those who oppose its stand as the Society proponents accorded to Lipscomb and the Advocate during the latter half of the 19th century!

XII. Starting Anew

No one cherishes the thought of division. This writer thinks the next to last chapter of volume II, Search For The Ancient Order, is the most painfully moving of the two volumes. It is entitled "The Reality of Division". It sets forth how that in congregation after congregation, the innovations were forced over the wishes of loyal brethren who were forced to go out and start anew. The following paragraph was penned by T. R. Burnett (Burnett's Budget) in 1895. It appeared in the Advocate that same year. "This Budget becomes more and more convinced every day that it will become necessary to establish churches of the apostolic order in every town in the state where the so-called "Christian Church" now holds sway. The lawless determination of the society and organ people to rule or ruin every church with which they have connection, and either put in the unscriptural things, or put out the brethren who oppose them, make this plainly evident. The loyal brethren need not waste any valuable time waiting for a reformation, for there is none in prospect. Ephraim is joined to his idols, and he would rather have his society and music idol than any kind of Christian union known to the Bible. Brethren, proceed to re-establish the ancient order of things, just as if there was never a Church of Christ in your town. Gather all the brethren together who love Bible order better than modern fads and foolishness, and start the work and worship of the church in the old apostolic way. Do not go to law over church property. It is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong. Build a cheap and comfortable chapel, and improve it when you get able. It is better to have one dozen true disciples in a cheap house than a thousand apostate pretenders in a palace who love modern innovations better than Bible truth. The battles of this reformation have yet to be fought".

There are numbers of us who now read Burnett's words quoted by West, to whom his admonition has a peculiar propriety. For we have followed the very course he outlined for starting anew. This is because the same forces, in spirit, which compelled him to pen these lines, have compelled many of us to experience what it is to start anew.

The foregoing statements from "The Search For The Ancient Order" are only a tithe of such information as is to be found in this "monumental" history. As we said in beginning, we wish every member of the Lord's church would read it. However, we would that those who read it, would do so with more profit than did Dean E. Claude Gardner. He obviously failed to learn his history lesson.