Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 17, 1982
NUMBER 3, PAGE 1,8-10

Voices In The Wilderness

James R. Cope

(Editors' note: This is the first in a series of six articles by Brother James R. Cope, giving an exhaustive, completely documented, and authoritative study in the development of benevolence societies and their support among the churches of Christ. He answers such questions as "Have Churches of Christ 'always' supported orphan homes?" When did the opposition begin?" "Is it really true that persons now living remember the origin of the first orphan home supported by Churches of Christ?" and many others. These articles have been printed in a little booklet, which can be ordered from Brother Cope, Glen Arven Avenue, Temple Terrace, Florida. Prices are: Single copy, 75 cents; 10 copies, $8.00; 25 copies, $12.50; 50 copies, $22.50; 100 copies, $35.00; and 500 copies, $125.00. We suggest that many individuals, and many congregations, could do a highly profitable work in ordering these booklets in quantity for selective distribution among sincere Christians who are seriously concerned about "the benevolence society" problem among Churches of Christ.)

Chapter I A Slogan Based On Scriptures

"Where the Scriptures speak, we speak' and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent." So spoke Thomas Campbell near the beginning of the Nineteenth Century while still a Presbyterian. These words, however, were not only to lead Mr. Campbell out of and away from Presbyterianism but were to become a slogan which would shake the religious world to its foundation. In fact, they were so revolutionary that hardly had they fallen from Campbell's lips until a dear friend and fellow-Presbyterian said, "Mr. Campbell, if we adopt that as a basis, then there is an end of infant baptism." Not perceiving the full implications of this announcement at the moment, Mr. Campbell, nevertheless, recognized its soundness and straightway replied, "Of course, if infant baptism be not found in Scripture, we can have nothing to do with it." (Richardson's Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, Vol. I, pp. 237, 238.) True to the principle proclaimed, Thomas Campbell analyzed his own "sprinkling in infancy" and later, as a believer in Christ, was baptized for remission of sins. He would not allow the tradition of his fathers to keep him from obeying God.

The Slogan's Scriptural Basis

Almost eighteen centuries earlier, the Holy Spirit had announced the same principle which Thomas Campbell announced to a small group of Presbyterians. The Spirit had said, "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God; he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son." (2 John 9.) He had also said that "If any man speaketh" he should speak "as it were the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11), and that men should "learn not to go beyond the things which are written." (1 Cor. 4:8.) Like Jesus, who, speaking as "one having authority and not as the scribes," confounded the Jewish teachers and awakened the multitudes because of His appeal to the word of God, so Campbell and other pioneer preachers called the deceived and confused people away from the creed-bound preachers of their day to the simple but living word of the living God. They urged their hearers to forsake traditions of men for the truth of God. "To the law and to the testimony!" they cried. Nothing else will do! they declared. And they were eminently correct for Jesus had said, "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my sayings, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day." (John 12:48.)

Truth Opposes Tradition

Tradition had said, "Let us sprinkle or pour water upon men and call it `baptism'," but truth had said, "We are buried with him in baptism." (Rom. 8:4; Col. 2:12.) Those who loved truth more than tradition forsook tradition for truth. Tradition had said, "Let us baptize babies," but truth had said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mk. 18:16.) Babies could not be baptized at Christ's command because they could not believe. Tradition had said, 'We may have our church associations, our intercongregational arrangements, even our presiding elders, archbishops and popes," but truth had revealed nothing larger than a local congregation of saints with its bishops and deacons (Phil. 1:1) none of which exercised themselves to control anything other than the work and souls committed to their charge by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 5:1-5.) These are but a few of the traditions surrendered in the light of truth newly learned.

Truth Conquers Tradition

The success with which these preachers pushed their anti-tradition plea while they urged their pro-Scripture appeal is evidenced by the tremendous impact they made upon the religious society of that distant day. By the hundreds and by the thousands the multitudes became excited as they became enlightened by the simplicity of the appeal to return to the ancient order of things religious. They laid aside their human creeds, their denominational names, their human organizations, their man-devised governments, and obeyed the gospel of Christ. Onward they marched as a mighty phalanx. Forward they moved as a mighty army. Methodists said, "We must forget Wesley and return to the apostles." Presbyterians said, "We must forsake John Calvin and return to the New Testament. Baptists said, "Let us cast aside our manuals and go back to the Word of God." Catholics said, "Let us forsake Rome for Jerusalem." It was not easy for many of them, but it was safe for all of them Truth was prevailing over tradition for the first time in centuries!

The spirit characterizing these truth-seekers was one of freshness. They weighed everything in the light of the New Testament. If they could not find where any practice had been commanded by Christ through His apostles, they rejected it. With them it was a direct statement or command, an approved apostolic example or a necessary inference for whatever they taught and practiced. If the apostles taught it, they practiced it; if not, they repudiated it. Regardless of what they had once felt, thought, or said they now surrendered minds, sentiments and wills to the decrees of the sacred Scriptures.

Fleshly ties and blood relations felt the impact. They knew that the peace made possible by the Prince of Peace came only after the sword of the Spirit had cut through the walls of sin which separated men from God, for Jesus had said, "Think not that I came to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.... and a man's foes shall be they of his own household." (Matt. 10:34, 36.) Nevertheless they knew that the very kingdom for whose borders they were battling was a kingdom of "joy and peace," and that they had been promised "the peace of God which passeth understanding" as a result of their relationship with Christ the King. (Rom. 14:17; Phil. 4:7.)

Chapter II. Development Of Division: 1849 — 1919

But, alas, the movement fell upon stormy seas as winds of division and strife rolled down from the domain of the ruler of the darkness of this world. Brother began to oppose brother. Again, man's foes were they of his own house. Even among some who had shouted the loudest to flee fast and far from Rome came also the suggestions and urgency of forming organizations and introducing innovations upon the ancient order which neither they nor their followers could find commanded by the Christ which they professed to serve. Alexander Campbell, great and good man that he was, led hundreds away from the fundamental principles to which he had formerly directed them. Perhaps more than any other person in Restoration History, Campbell stirred the fires and fanned the flames which eventually brought divisions among the people who were once united upon the simple plea 'We speak where the Scriptures speak; and we are silent where the Scriptures are silent."

A. Campbell's Changed Views: 1823 Vs, 1842

In the first issue of The Christian Baptist, August 3, 1823, Alexander Campbell expressed his opposition to all organizations of a "religious nature" outside the Lord's "societies called churches" as follows:

"The societies called churches, constituted and set in order by those ministers of the New Testament, were of such as received and acknowledged JESUS as Lord Messiah, the Saviour of the World and had put themselves under His guidance. The ONLY BOND OF UNION among them was faith in Him and submission to His will.... Their churches were not fractured into missionary societies. Bible societies, education societies; nor did they dream of organizing such in the world. The head of a believing household was not in those days a president or manager of a board of foreign missions; his wife, the president of some female education society; his eldest son, the recording secretary of some domestic Bible society; his eldest daughter, the corresponding secretary of a mite society; his servant maid, the vice-president of a rag society; and his little daughter, a tutoress of a Sunday school. They knew nothing of the hobbies of modern times. In their church capacity alone they moved. They neither transformed themselves into any other kind of association, nor did they fracture and sever themselves into divers societies. They viewed the church of Jesus Christ as the scheme of Heaven to ameliorate the world; as members of it, they considered themselves bound to do all they could for the glory of God and the good of men. They dare not transfer to a missionary society, or Bible society, or education society; a cent or a prayer, lest in so doing they should rob the church of its glory, and exalt the inventions of men above the wisdom of God. In their church capacity alone they moved. The church they considered 'the pillar and ground of the truth'; they viewed it as the temple of the Holy Spirit; as the house of the living God. They considered if they did all they could in this capacity, they had nothing left for any other object of a religious nature. In this capacity, wide as its sphere extended, they exhibited the truth in word and deed. Their good works, which accompanied salvation, were the labors of love, in ministering to the necessities of saints, to the poor of the brotherhood. They did good to all men, but especially to the household of faith. They practiced that pure and undefiled religion, which, in overt acts, consists in 'taking care of orphans and widows in their affliction, and in keeping one's self unspotted by (the vices of) the world'."

Nineteen years later, Campbell reflected an entirely different attitude. He wrote in the Millennial Harbinger of 1842, p. 522, as follows:

...We cannot concentrate the action of the tens of thousands of Israel in any great Christian effort, but by co-operation....We can have no thorough co-operation without a more ample, extensive and thorough church organization."

American Christian Missionary Society Founded: 1849

The evolution of Campbell's thinking was gradual but it was complete. The eventual result was the founding of the American Christian Missionary Society in Cincinnati, Ohio, in October, 1849, with Mr. Campbell himself elected president of the organization whose constitution set forth its purpose as follows:

"The object of this society shall be to promote the preaching of the gospel in destitute places of this and other lands."

The same constitution established an "Executive Board" and, in addition to possessing the usual powers of such an organization, this Board was to act as follows:

"They shall establish such agencies as the interests of the society may require, appoint agents and missionaries, fix their compensation, direct and instruct them concerning their particular fields and labors, make all appropriations to be paid out of the treasury, and present to the society at each annual meeting, a full report of their proceedings during the past year."

It is interesting to observe that Dr. L. L. Pinkerton who formally opened the Kentucky Female Orphan School at Midway Kentucky, the first week in October, 1849, served as Chairman of the Convention which established the American Christian Missionary Society the third week in October, 1849. From the beginning both of these institutions drew contributions from churches. Pinkerton was also credited with introducing the melodeon into the Midway Church just ten years later (1859) and then denied verbal inspiration of the Bible within another ten years (1869).

Society Opposition Gradual But Intense

From the beginning of the American Christian Missionary Society there was serious discussion, though perhaps not at first widespread, regarding its scriptural right to exist. As time passed, the opposition increased. The opponents of the Society stepped up their opposition in direct proportion to the intensity with which the proponents of the society pressed its claims upon local churches. The Society's friends branded its opponents as "radicals," "hobby-riders," "trouble-makers," and "church-splitters." They spoke of such opponents as being "anti-cooperation" and "anti-missionary." Popularly they came to be identified by the society as "antis." "Progressives" and "digressives" were used by the "antis" to describe the "liberals." A few years after the Society controversy began, instrumental music was introduced into the worship of a few churches. This innovation came in 1859 at Midway, Kentucky.

Reflective of the attitude expressed above is the following excerpt from an article, "Love the Brethren," by W. E. Daugherty in the Christian Standard (considered by the "antis" as a "digressive" paper) of August 29, 1896, p. 1114:

"I was once what some of your scribes call `anti.' In those days I could hardly report a meeting, or write a line for any of our papers without 'spatting' at some of the 'Digressive' wanderers as we 'Antis' called you then — and as you are still called."

"Official" Division: 1906

In time, churches favoring missionary societies and instrumental music came to be distinguished from others by the names of "Christian Churches" and "Disciples of Christ." Between these latter groups there now exists practically no fellowship. For government purposes the 1906 Federal Census set forth "Churches of Christ" and "Disciples of Christ" "officially." The "Disciples" group is now much too liberal for the "Christian Church" since it has gone even to "open membership" in many places and has greatly enlarged the Missionary Society to include widow and orphan benevolences, colleges and universities, and other cooperative activities. The "Disciples" are identified with a much more liberal attitude toward the inspiration of the Scriptures than the "Christian Church" and are identified with the "Federal Council of Churches of Christ." As early as 1907 the Christian Standard, a mouthpiece for persons identified with the more conservative element (Christian Church) opposed vigorously the Federal Council. In fact, there is now such a cleavage between the two groups that in 1956 A. T. DeGroot, identified with the "Disciples," wrote a book, Church of Christ Number Two, wherein he speaks of these conservatives in the same general class with "Churches of Christ (anti-organ and anti-missionary society)."

"Progressive" Organizations Multiply And Merge

The United Christian Missionary Society was the inevitable development of churches sending funds to numerous self-governing institutions. The churches rapidly became little more than pegs upon which these human institutions were hung. With the development of extra church organizations and with these various institutions begging hundreds of churches for places on the "church calendar" and money from the church treasury, the same reasoning that gave rise to one society governmentally independent of but supported by churches ("It is merely an expedient method for a church to do its work," its supporters said) logically demanded a unifying of the multiplicity of extra organizations into one giant body; hence the United Society in 1919. Some of these other smaller societies in addition to the American Christian Missionary Society were the Christian Woman's Board of Missions, the Foreign Christian Missionary Society and various educational, benevolence, health, recreational and cultural organizations.

The United Christian Missionary Society: 1919

The Constitution of the U.C.M.S. sets forth the aims and objects of the Society as follows:

" preach the gospel at home and abroad; to maintain missionaries, preachers and teachers in America and other lands; to promote religious education in the churches; to establish and conduct schools, orphanages, hospitals, and homes; to pension and support disabled ministers and missionaries and their dependent families; to assist in the erection of churches and other buildings for religious purposes; to disseminate religious information and encourage a missionary and benevolent spirit in the churches; to solicit, receive, hold in trust, and administer funds for these objects; and to engage in any other form of Christian service that will help to bring in the kingdom of God, in which His will shall be done, as in heaven, so on earth."

Warnings To "Antis" By "Antis" Watching Floodtide

In the Gospel Advocate of October 20, 1932, H. Leo Boles wrote on "The 'United Christian Missionary Society'" in which he pointed out the tendency toward consolidation of various organizations in the United Society. After quoting the foregoing objectives of the society, he said:

"It is strange that religious people would organize institutions and form the by-laws of those institutions with the wisdom of men and set aside the New Testament church and still claim to do the will of God on earth as it is done in heaven! St. Louis, Missouri, was selected as the headquarters of this new society.

"These boards still conduct their own educational and financial campaigns; hence there is still some competition and overlapping of efforts. Many strong men among them opposed the uniting of all their organizations into one big organization; quite a few of them are still opposed to the 'United Christian Missionary Society.'

"There is no end to organization when once a departure is made from the New Testament pattern. It will be well to note the steps that were taken which resulted in this tremendous organization now known as the 'United Christian Missionary Society.' The steps are as follows: (1) 'Cooperative meetings': (2) Organized cooperation'; (3) 'Bible Society'; (4) 'The American Christian Missionary Society'; (5) many organizations too numerous to list; (8) finally, the 'United Christian Missionary Society,' The steps were taken gradually and carried them over the same road that resulted in the organization of the Roman Catholic Church and all other gigantic denominational organizations. Those who have studied these things and have observed the dangers in them are grieved at the least departure from the New Testament pattern. Occasionally brethren who claim to follow the New Testament and who claim to be loyal to the congregation in its autonomy call for 'preachers' meetings; 'elders' meetings,' cooperative meetings,' tabernacle meetings.' union meetings.' of all the churches,' and get-together meetings of the churches in a certain city or vicinity. These are steps along the road and are impregnated with great danger."

The very year (1919) that the United Christian Missionary Society was established, C. M. Pullias wrote a front page editorial in the July issue of Tidings of Joy, and among other things said:

"The main principle violated by the missionary society is combining of all the congregations to do what God has assigned to one. There is no work that cannot be done by the power of God....That which the church has not the power to do, then, should not be considered. Betides this, we might say this way of a few getting together and saddling on the church of Christ orphan homes and schools or anything else is a very serious thing, and will in the course of time prove to be a curse to the church such combines are wrong and in them the man of sin is working, just as in Paul's day, and in the course of time he will be revealed to the sorrow of the church. (2 Thess. 2:3-10.)"

We mention the writings of H. Leo Boles and C. M. Pullias in this connection to reflect their thinking at the time church centralization of funds and the resulting loss of church oversight of church resources were reaching floodtide among Disciples of Christ. Liberal thinkers formally opened the gate in 1849 when they established the American Christian Missionary Society. They and their spiritual descendants had kept the current running swiftly through all succeeding years. Brethren Pullias, Boles and many others had seen something in the experiences of Disciples' Churches which caused them to sound the warning notes among those who had not gone with the missionary society movement. They knew that the seventy years between 1849 and 1919 composed a period of dissension, strife, division, and heartache produced by the "man of sin." These seven decades revealed his usurping presence first in the field of evangelism and later combined evangelism with benevolence and secular education. They knew that what happened before could happen again, and they did not hesitate to lay the blame for the discord at the feet of those who had promoted the innovations and combines.

— Glen Arven Avenue, Temple Terrace, Florida