Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 5, 1950

Old Wine In New Bottles

James W. Adams, Longview, Texas

The Master warned against putting new wine in old bottles (Mt. 9:17) and strongly recommended that new wine be put in new bottles. Employing the same figure of speech with a slight substitution of terms this article proposes to issue a warning against the imbibing of old wine from new bottles. The potency and intoxicating effect of wine is known to increase with age. Should wine of ancient vintage be put in new bottles spuriously labeled, the hapless imbiber would in all probability, much to his surprise, become helplessly drunk.

In our day in the church of the Lord, we view with considerable alarm the spectacle of multiplied churches imbibing with great freedom bordering on reckless abandon a wine known of old for its intoxicating potency. With great gusto, they drink from new and spuriously labeled bottles reveling in the exhilarating thought that they have discovered a new wine with all of the superlative, pleasurable qualities of the old and none of its baneful after effects. The old wine in old bottles represents cooperation among churches of Christ through the Missionary Society beginning about 100 years ago. The old wine in new bottles represents cooperation among churches of Christ through the "Sponsoring Church" of our day. It is our firm conviction that the fundamental principles and characteristics of the Missionary Society Cooperation are identical with those of the Sponsoring Church. In all controversy where common ground is occupied by the disputants respecting the issue, it is logically correct to begin with it as a starting point and proceed therefrom to the area of controversy. Observing this rule, your attention is invited to

A Position Of Almost Universal Acceptation.

Though there is much disagreement among us today upon the question of the cooperation of churches in the preaching of the gospel of Christ, there is one position that is of almost universal acceptation, namely; that the Missionary Society form of cooperation is unscriptural and anti-scriptural. If it can be shown that the Sponsoring Church Cooperation so popular today is identical in principle with the Missionary Society Cooperation, all should readily acquiesce in its condemnation. This being true, a careful comparison of the two should meet with universal approval. If, on the other hand, it appears from a close examination of the two that they are identical in principle and, despite this fact, that the brethren continue to contend for and function through the Sponsoring Church Cooperation, it will become obligatory upon them to cease all opposition to the Missionary Society. These considerations highlight the need for

A Comparison of the Missionary Society

and the Sponsoring Church.

Whereas the Missionary Society Cooperation is widely reprobated and the Sponsoring Church Cooperation widely approved, it is enlightening to observe upon comparison that they are practically Siamese twins. The fundamental characteristics of the Missionary Society have their counterparts in the Sponsoring Church. There follows a delineation of these characteristics in both forms of cooperative effort:

(1) The Missionary Society was originally constituted for the purpose of cooperation among churches in the preaching of the gospel and for that purpose only. In all likelihood, there are those who labor under the impression that it was instituted for other aims and purposes, hence differs from the Sponsoring Church in this regard. If so, may we emphasize the fact that the Missionary Society as it was originally conceived, launched, and approved by the stalwarts of the Restoration Movement was only for the purpose of cooperation in the preaching of the gospel. Much evidence could be given on this point, but one quotation will suffice, and that, from the pen of the brilliant, inimitable Moses E. Lard.

"The right of Christian men to have them (Missionary Societies J.W.A.) is a right we by no means call in question" (Pg. 136)—"We know not that we hold any peculiar views in regard to Missionary Societies. We believe them right per se"—"We hold, then, that a Missionary Society can do absolutely nothing except engage in the spread of the gospel" (Pg. 139 - Lard's Quarterly, Vol. 2).

No man connected with the Restoration Movement was in a better position to know the original purpose of the Missionary Society and none better qualified to express it. The Society as originally constituted did not contemplate the exercising of jurisdictional power nor an infringement upon the autonomy of local churches. These were later developments and are to be viewed as corruptions and abuses of the Missionary Society Cooperation. They are by products of the principle of cooperation through the Missionary Society as it was originally contemplated. Those who defend the Sponsoring Church Cooperation have taken refuge in the charge that the abuses of such cooperation have been indicted and not the principle. They style their cooperation as "cooperation not combination". They argue that "the autonomy of local churches is not infringed upon". Our digressive brethren can and have made the same claims with reference to the Missionary Society just as honestly and correctly, or should I say, incorrectly. It was on this basis that such men as Moses E. Lard, Benjamin Franklin, J. W. Mc-Garvey, and Alexander Campbell along with a host of others equally illustrious were led to endorse the principle of cooperation through the Missionary Society. There is not one iota of difference between the Missionary Society and the Sponsoring Church with reference to the aims and purposes for which they were conceived.

(2) Membership in and participation through the Missionary Society was purely voluntary. Defenders of the Sponsoring Church Cooperation emphasize the fact that participation is purely voluntary. This is supposed to make them scripturally free from any infringement upon the autonomy of a local church. The Missionary Society Cooperation as originally conceived and established could make the same claim. The coercion and high pressure tactics employed by the Missionary Society and her advocates was a later development and not a part of its original constitution and practice. If it should be denied that such will ever develop in the Sponsoring Church Cooperation, clear cut evidence can be cited to show that it already exists in recognizable degree. These practices, however, not being a part of the original constitution and practice of the Missionary Society must be viewed as abuses and corruptions. Those who defend the Sponsoring Church add nothing to their cause by emphasizing the fact that membership in and participation through their cooperation is purely voluntary. Such was also true of the Missionary Society.

(3) The Missionary Society Cooperation had an official board elected to represent the Cooperation in making all decisions necessary to the accomplishment of the work undertaken. This board was formally elected by delegates from the churches and invested with such authority as was essential to the prosecution of their duties and the accomplishment of their delegated responsibilities. This is viewed by the brethren generally as an unscriptural organization separate and distinct from the church of the Lord created to do the work of the church. It is thought by many that the Sponsoring Church Cooperation is free from this objectionable and unscriptural characteristic, but not so. The Sponsoring Church is actually a Missionary Cooperation whose membership is made up of participating and contributing congregations; the delegates are the elders of the participating churches; the elders of the Sponsoring Church constitute the official board. The elders of a Sponsoring Church in their missionary activities are not functioning as the elders of a local church at all, but as the recognized, official representatives of a Missionary Cooperation. Though they have not been formally elected by orthodox procedure, yet they have been elected by means of their own nomination plus the consent of participating churches. If this be thought extreme, perhaps some ambitious writer will engage to show either from the stipulated qualifications or duties of elders set forth in the New Testament that such activities as must necessarily characterize the elders of a Sponsoring Church were contemplated by the Holy Spirit.

The Missionary Organization over which the elders of a Sponsoring Church preside may not be formally organized and chartered under the laws of the state with a written constitution and by-laws, but it does have such in the stated objectives, personal promises, and public commitments of those who have instituted it. It may not have voting representation based upon monetary consideration, but it would be difficult to believe that small and large contributors have equal influence with the official board.

(4) The Missionary Society owns and operates colleges, orphan homes, publishing houses, and other institutions. In the recent controversy over church support of colleges, brother G. C. Brewer cited this fact as distinguishing between colleges and Missionary Societies. Attention of the reader is called to the fact that ownership and operation of such institutions was no part of the work of the Missionary Society as originally launched. Such was a later development and logically viewed as a corruption of the original charter. The principle of cooperation through the Missionary Society is not necessarily affected by an indictment of such abuse. Let it be observed however, that the Sponsoring Churches are much further along in this respect than was the Missionary Society at a comparable period in its evolution. Already, Sponsoring Churches are operating colleges, orphan homes and such like.

(5) The legitimate and inevitable fruits identical. In comparing the Missionary Society and the Sponsoring Churches some harp upon such things as: Demanded and enforced membership; infringement upon the autonomy of local churches; operation of institutions; and voting power based on money contributed indicting the Missionary Society and absolving the Sponsoring Church. As has already been suggested, these are logically viewed as byproducts, abuses, and corruptions of the principle of cooperation through the Society. They cannot, therefore, be used to indict the principle unless it can be shown that they are its logical and inevitable fruits. This we believe to be true and would so affirm, but when the defenders of the Sponsoring Church grasp and seek to use such for an indictment of the Missionary Society, they but embroil themselves. These things are no more the legitimate and inevitable fruits of the Missionary Society than they are of the Sponsoring Church. The underlying principles are the same and the fruits will be identical ultimately. Those considerations that make the Missionary Society productive of such fruits will likewise make the Sponsoring Church productive of them, and herein lies much of the danger.

The difference between the Missionary Society

and the Sponsoring Church

The only difference which we can perceive between the Missionary Society Cooperation and the Sponsoring Church Cooperation are: (1) The Missionary Society is formally organized and chartered, whereas the Sponsoring Church is a loose, informal organization; (2) The Missionary Society is organized along democratic lines with voting representation, whereas the Sponsoring Church is organized along monarchic lines, the participating members simply surrendering to the official board whatever authority, responsibility, or rights they may have in the field and over the money contributed. Viewing the matter objectively, it would appear that the last state is worse than the first in this respect.

In law, two kinds of corporations are recognized: De facto and de jure. A de facto corporation is a corporation in fact, formally organized and chartered. A de jure corporation is a corporation in principle. Both are alike corporations, organizations. The Missionary Society is a de facto missionary corporation. The Sponsoring Church is a de jure missionary corporation. The difference in principle is the difference between "tweedle dum and dum tweedle". Each is unknown to and, therefore, unauthorized by the New Testament. Verily, brethren, we but have old wine in new bottles.