Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 7, 1953

The Mail-Order Man And The Preacher

Thomas B. Warren, Galena Park, Texas

Once there was a preacher who lived in a little rural community. Not having access to a big department store, he bought most of his clothing from a large mail order house. One day the preacher decided that, in the light of the worn condition of his old one, he should purchase a new suit for himself. So he sat down before the shiny new catalog and picked the one which best pleased him. He then filled out the order blank by designating that the company should send to him the item which was described as follows: One suit, size 42, color blue, number 23x7c. Being very anxious to have the suit for a coming day of great importance to the congregation where he preached, the preacher rushed to the post office and mailed his order. He then began to count the days until the suit would arrive.

Ten days later a huge box arrived at the preacher's home. The preacher wondered why such a small item as a suit should require such a huge box for shipment. While still thus wondering, he opened the box expecting to find one blue suit, size 42. But to his amazement, he found that the huge box contained 15 brown suits, size 48, and 22 black ones, size 34, and not one single blue suit, size 42.

The preacher was so incensed that his order for one blue suit had been treated in such a fashion that he jumped into his car and drove to the city. He soon located the mail order house and confronted the man who had filled out his order.

"What do you mean by treating my order in such a fashion as this?" cried the preacher to the frightened clerk.

"Why, I thought it would be all right," said the clerk. "I was sincere in the matter."

"I do not care how sincere you were," exclaimed the preacher. "Sincerity does not give you right to tamper with my order. I ordered one blue suit, but you did not send me a single blue suit. Instead of sending me what I asked for, you sent a bunch of things for which I did not ask!"

"But you didn't say for us NOT to send the other things."

"Why everyone knows that you do not have to enumerate the things that you do NOT want. The enumeration of the things that one DOES want automatically excludes everything that he does not want. When I said that I wanted one blue suit, size 42, that excluded everything else. It even excluded blue suits which were not size 42. If you do not know that you are not intelligent enough to work in a position such as the one you now have. I have had to make a trip to the city because of your blundering."

Not long after that, it fell the lot of the clerk to pass through the little community where the preacher lived. It was Sunday morning so the clerk decided that he would stop and hear the sermon which the preacher would deliver that day.

The topic of the preacher's sermon was: "Narrow-mindedness Among Our Religious Neighbors." The particular group of people whom the preacher had in mind were what he styled "Campbellites." The fact that the people so styled rejected this name did not seem to bother the preacher. "The Campbellites," said the preacher, "are very narrow-minded. They are so narrow-minded in fact that they believe that there is only one true church. They forget that the Lord did not say NOT to have a Baptist Church, a Methodist Church, a Catholic Church, etc. Also, they go to such extremes in their narrow-mindedness that they reject the use of instrumental music in the worship of God. In addition to all this, they reject sprinkling as a mode of baptism. Again they forget the Lord did not say NOT to sprinkle for baptism even if He did say that baptism is immersion."

After the sermon was over, the clerk lingered near the door until he had a chance to have a few words with the preacher. "Perhaps you will remember me as the clerk who filled your order for a suit a few weeks ago," he said to the preacher. "After you left me that day I gave serious consideration to the things which you had said to me, and I came to the conclusion that you were absolutely right about the matter. I then came to the conclusion that I would never again send anything to anyone which they had not specifically ordered. Yet, when I hear you — the one who gave me the lesson — preach what you claim is the message of your Lord, you violate the very principle which you were so vehement in laying down to me. You became very angry when we sent suits to you that you had not specifically named even though you had not said NOT to send them. In the last thirty minutes in your sermon you have condemned the religion which you espouse by admitting that God has not authorized either the church of which you are a member, your practice of using instrumental music in the worship of God, or your practice of sprinkling babies and calling it baptism. You claim that it is all right for you to do this because the Lord did not say NOT to have or to do them. Let me ask you this question: Did the Lord say what TO HAVE and what TO DO? Did He say anything about a church, about music in worship, about how baptism should be done?"

"Yes, I must admit that He did," replied the confused preacher.

"Does the church of Christ — which you call the Campbellite Church — fit the description given in the New Testament?" the clerk asked.

"Yes, I suppose it does, but I object to the members of it being so narrow-minded just as I have described this morning," countered the preacher.

"Were you just being narrow-minded about the suits? Were you justified in your demand that we send you only what you ordered and exclude everything you did not order?" the clerk demanded.

"I think I am beginning to see what you are talking about," said the preacher. "I could see the principle when it applied to my suits, but for years now I have been blind where it concerned the Word of God. I am beginning to see that the members of the church of Christ were not just being narrow when they insisted that it was wrong to use instruments of music in worship. They just knew that God had stated what He did want and what He did not want was automatically excluded by stating what He DID want. When the Lord told Christians to sing that excluded every other way of making music in worship. When He told us that baptism was by immersion, that excluded sprinkling and pouring. When He described the one true church that excluded every church originated by man. In fact, I believe that I can now understand that He certainly did condemn denominational churches, for Paul lists divisions, factions, and parties among the works of the flesh in Galatians 5."

"I rejoice to see that you have a tender heart and are responsive to the truth. Why do you not now renounce the ways and churches of men and take your stand with the people of God?"

"I certainly intend to do that," answered the preacher. "I am ready now to obey the gospel by being baptized into Christ for the remission of my sins, as is taught in Acts 2:38. After that I intend to devote my life to an effort to undo the effects of the false teaching which I have been doing for years. I will try to get men to see the error of being a member of manmade institutions such as the Baptist Church, the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Catholic Church, etc. From now on I will try to speak as the oracles of God — to speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where it is silent."