Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 15, 1951

"...In All Things Love"

Willis G. Jernigan, Spur, Texas

Just so long as the church is composed of human beings, fleshly ties being on the ascendant, it is inevitable that collisions will arise in the brotherhood. The pioneers of the "restoration movement" recognized this ever present condition, both within the movement and in their dealings with the bodies of religionists of their day, and as a rule of unity declared, "In matters of faith let there be unity; in matters of opinion, liberality; and in all things, love." In a recent communication respecting this rule brother W. W. Freeman of Commerce, Texas, wrote this essayist, "The younger men have no rational basis for the second and third points; they put all upon the first basis, even to the point of division, unless we are to accept some man's opinion as 'faith' or as the way things incidental must be done."

The brotherhood is in the present season of the "restoration movement" afflicted by a "rash collision" with reference to ways and means of "preaching the gospel to every creature." The rule of the pioneers relative to matters of faith, opinion and love, has in a large measure been overlooked in this discussion to the hurt of some worthy works in the home land as well as in foreign fields. In the assumption of this essayist, brethren have engaged in "verbal tirrivees" and insinuations to the hurt of the Lord's cause with many individuals both in and out of the church.

If "matters of faith" (faith comes by hearing God's eternal word) have been violated in the evangelistic fields of the world—with perhaps the exception of fields where the doctrine of "a supernatural kingdom on earth with Christ as earthly king" has been introduced—I have been unable to detect such violation either from field reports or from the "arguments and tirrivees" of the writers of either side of the controversy. In "matters of opinion" there is much evidence of a lack of "liberality," and in many things beside the most outstanding feature is the absence of "love."

I have attempted to follow the arguments, although at times genuine argumentation has been difficult to detect, as personalities have been involved rather than principles. Brother Freeman further wrote, "Principles not prejudice should control." With this most scholarly brother I am in complete agreement. (Brother Freeman is the conferee of seven earned college degrees, five in the graduate fields.) Many from all sides of the current discussion have quoted H. Leo Boles. Many sat at the feet of this good man during his life time, including some of the principals of the present "mission discussion" from both sides of the house. I too sat at his feet in 1913-14-15, and am happy to be numbered with the men now living and dead he often referred to as "my boys." Among the courses of study taught by brother Boles and which were pursued by me was a course in "Argumentation and Debate." This great teacher stressed the point in this particular course that "irrelevant and prejudicial matter" should ever be excluded from honorable controversy. I do not know how many of the essayists in the present series of discussions studied "Argumentation and Debate" under brother Boles (I know some of them did—while others would be too young); but I do know, and a great host of readers know, who have followed the discussions in the several religious periodicals, that much of the materials appearing in prominent places have been so very much filled with the prejudicial and the irrelevant that actual argumentation has not been obtainable.

Many times during these months in which these discussions have been on the ascendant in these publications, as I read I thought, "I would to God my brethren (some of the disputants on both sides are near and dear indeed to me) could enter into the spirit of honorable discussion as did Stephen A. Douglass with Abraham Lincoln to the end the issues could be discussed and discovered on their merit." I believe Douglass stated before his great debate with Lincoln began, "I regard him (Lincoln) as a kind, amiable, and intelligent gentleman, a good citizen and an honorable opponent; and whatever issues I have with him will be of principle and not involving personalities." If such an excellent spirit could prevail among men of the "realm of polity civil" why not among men of "goodwill upon the earth," viz: gospel preachers and gospel writers.

Yes, brethren we who are older need to be reminded, "In matters of faith unity should exist; in matters of opinion, liberality should be pronounced; and in all things love should ever be on the ascendant." We too need to teach the "young preachers" the full import of this rule. May God help us ever to remember that although in our "argumentative tirrivees" we may not love our brethren with whom we carry on the controversy the less, yet our words and conduct can be such that those not on the "inside," but who are innocent readers, may fail to see the true badge of discipleship upon us; for said the Master, " By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." If our writings do not reflect that we as followers of Christ love one another, we not only cast before the minds of our readers an unjust reproach upon His holy name which we wear, but give our readers just cause to suspect our own sincerity.

Recently one who has not been strong long in the church, remarked to this writer, after reading an article in one of our periodicals upon the "mission question," "Preacher, are these malicious, ill-natured editors related to you in religion?"

As Matthew Henry has said, "Brotherly love is the badge of Christ's disciples. By this He knows them, by this they may know themselves (I John 3:14), and by this others may know them. This is the livery of his family, the distinguishing character of his disciples; this He would have them noted for, as that wherein they excelled all others—their loving one another."

If then there must be argumentation (I am in favor of honorable discussion) let the irrelevant and prejudicial be excluded, and let the badge of discipleship, "love," that disposition which reveals itself in good will, confidence and mutual helpfulness, be on the ascendant, for such is the strongest argument obtainable to convince the world that Christianity and the gospel of Christ are the greatest beneficence and power to save in all the world. And in a concluding thought may we remember with the wise Thomas Campbell in his famous "Declaration and Address," "Until we associate, consult, and advise together and in a friendly and Christian manner explore the subject nothing can be done."