Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 27, 1968
NUMBER 42, PAGE 4,6b

An Old, Old Story - Repeated


It was Solomon, the son of David, who wrote: "That which hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun." (Eccl. 1:9) Some months ago Brother Hollis Creel of Birmingham, Alabama, handed us a little tract, its pages yellowed and brittle with age. It was written about thirty years ago; but with the change of a name here and there (to indict the guilty) it might well have been written last week. The principles are the same, only the names are different.

We publish the tract on the front page of this issue. Written by Brother Guy N. Woods so many years ago to set forth the fundamental difference between the Christian Church and the churches of Christ, the point is abundantly and fully demonstrated that that difference is not in instrumental music, the missionary societies, or any one of a dozen other outward manifestations. The basic difference is in an attitude toward the Scriptures. The other and more obvious things are all simply fruit or manifestations of the one basic point of disagreement. That the early leaders in the Christian Church "digression" did not understand this is, we think, pretty obvious. For they continued for two whole generations to give lip service to the Bible, parroting phrases and slogans which they had long since abandoned in actual practice; their sermons and booklets expounded principles which their activities completely ignored and violated. "We speak where the Bible speaks, and remain silent where the Bible is silent," was sounded from a thousand Christian Church pulpits just after the organ solo had faded away and just prior to the collection for the Missionary Society. The Reverend Pastor waxed eloquent in his sermon extolling the virtue of "calling Bible things by Bible names, and doing Bible things in Bible ways."

But no more. At long last, and after the old generation has gone the way of all the earth, the Christian Church has frankly, even boldly, acknowledged its denominational status, divested itself of any pretense of adhering to the Bible as authority, and has won the respect of all of us by being finally completely honest in its humanistic religious profession and claims. It no longer makes any semblance of claiming 'New Testament authority' for what it does; and looks with an air of amused toleration and condenscion on those who still think they need to have 'Bible authority' for the things they do in religion.

Whereas Brother Woods' tract thirty years ago might have proved offensive to a few old-timers in the Christian Church, we think there are very, very few of them today who would even bother to deny what he set forth. lndeed, most of them would not only admit the truth of his charge, but would openly and proudly acclaim it. The DO have a different attitude toward the Bible — and feel that herein lies the very heart of their new freedom in Christ. They have outgrown the fettered narrowness of their progenitors in the Restoration Movement — and are happy to tell everyone so.

But back to the tract. Is Brother Woods unable to see that his indictment of the Christian Church three decades ago is applicable with crushing force to his own present status? Are those of like persuasion with him incapable of understanding that the fundamental difference between that great host of brethren whom they derisively defame as "anti-orphan" and "anti-cooperation" and themselves lies not in orphan homes, Herald of Truth, or church-supported colleges, but in an attitude toward the Scriptures? Will they continue to give lip-service to the same great slogans of the past — and go right on violating them, just as the Christian Church did in the turbulent days of the previous apostasy?

If the history of the past is any criterion by which to judge the future, it seems quite probable that this is precisely what they will do. Indeed, it is what they are doing at this very moment. And this, of course, serves to confuse many good people — including, we doubt not at all, a great host of the very preachers who proclaim the old slogans. For, verily, they have not come to grips with the simple truth that their practices violate those principles. They preach the principles, and they believe them. But they do not understand that they are violating them.

Back in the 1890's, the great John S. Sweeney held a meeting in Nashville, Tennessee for the "digressive" church. Some of David Lipscomb's friends urgently entreated him to attend the meeting, declaring that Sweeney preached "the old Jerusalem gospel" with power and conviction. To which Lipscomb responded (we paraphrase from memory, not having the old Gospel Advocate before us as we write), "I have not a doubt in the world that Brother Sweeney believes the ancient gospel, and preaches it with great power. I have never charged otherwise. But it is in his application of those ancient truths that I think he falls short. Here is the crucial test. Brother Sweeney does not APPLY the truth that he preaches."

It is not enough to preach the ancient gospel: there must be an application of it both in the life of congregations and in the life of the individual.

— F.Y.T