Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 24, 1961

"Their Eyes They Have Closed"

James W. Sasser, Chiefland, Florida

Paul told the young preacher Timothy: "I charge thee in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus, who shall judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth and turn aside unto fables. But be thou sober in all things, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill thy ministry." (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

We often use this passage in reference to people of the world, who had rather hear "fables" than the truth; but I want to apply the passage in this article to some brethren — as Paul most surely had brethren in view when he wrote it. I want to refer to those brethren who stand up and say in one breath, "We speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent," and in the very next breath reject the preaching of the simple gospel of Christ — and even seek to expel from their midst the one who is faithfully preaching that gospel.

This shocking and nearly incredible thing happened in the course of a gospel meeting which I attended recently in the little town of Alachua, Florida. The night was June 23, 1961; and the preaching was being done by brother Hoyt Houchen of Abilene, Texas. His subject for the evening was "The Bulwarks of Zion," and in clear and simple language he was setting forth from the Scripture those teachings which show the all-sufficiency of the church to do every work God has assigned her, whether it be preaching the gospel to the unsaved, caring for the needy, or any other task God has laid upon his congregations. The meeting had begun on Monday night, and the audiences had grown in size and in interest with each passing service. On this particular night (Friday) the biggest audience of the meeting had assembled, and they listened with deep interest and attention as brother Houchen with Christian humility and power set before them the pure word of God, pointing out God's plan for the church, and indicating some ways in which men might pervert or mar that glorious perfection.

It was obvious to all who were present that the audience was much impressed; these were sincere and honest people, who were truly desirous of doing God's will. If they were failing in that respect, they wanted to correct the failure; if they were going beyond God's will, they wanted to cease doing that which was wrong. At the conclusion of the service, brother Houchen announced his subject for the next night, which, incidentally, was a lesson designed particularly for the non-Christians, a goodly number of whom were in attendance.

As quickly as the meeting was dismissed a "huddle" was seen to be in progress between the elders of the little Alachua congregation and several of the "promoting brethren" from other congregations in the area. It was obvious that pressure was being put on the elders to get them to stop the meeting; it was equally obvious that the agitators were boiling mad, and were being successful in getting the Alachua elders to share their passion. The preacher from one of the congregations in Gainesville, Florida, had contributed no small part toward this unhappy turn of events. Finally, one of the elders of Alachua came by brother Houchen as he was speaking to the departing visitors on the front porch of the building, and said, "Your services are no longer needed here." With no further word this angry brother went on his way. Brother Houchen was able to get his attention long enough to ask what was the matter; but he got no answer. No scripture was given to justify terminating the meeting; no explanation was given to the congregation (most of whom were gone by now); and in spite of brother Houchen's earnest plea that he be shown a single scripture he had misapplied, no effort was made to do so.

It was learned from others that the agitating brethren (outsiders) had been able to convince the Alachua elders that brother Houchen was a dangerous "anti," and that if they permitted him to continue the meeting, it would strain relations between Alachua and other congregations in the area. Not one word of brother Houchen's preaching was refuted; not one error was pointed out. And no criticism was made of his manner or spirit of presentation.

This sad story is written merely to show the tragic state of mind of brethren when they come under the influence of the liberal, institutionally-minded, promoting brethren among us. This meeting in Alachua was closed by prejudice — simply that and nothing more. It is high time brethren wake up to what is happening, and face up to the task of opposing and destroying this evil spirit. Otherwise, congregations are certain to be divided by it; fellowship will be broken; and souls will be lost in eternity.