Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 7, 1954
NUMBER 34, PAGE 1,5b

"History Triumphs Over Time"

James W. Adams, Beaumont, Texas

"History hath triumphed over time, which besides it nothing but eternity hath triumphed over." (Sir Walter Raleigh) Just what was in the mind of the writer of these lines is not known as the contextual matter is not available, but so apropos are they of that which shall constitute the subject of this article that the sentiment has been chosen as the title. Vainly the poet wished, "Backward, flow backward, 0 tide of the years!" (Elizabeth Akers), but God's people have brought such to pass numerous times in their varied history. Joshua made the sun to stand still upon Gibeon, and the moon in the valley of Ajalon (Joshua 10:12), but members of the Lord's church have caused the sun to turn backwards and the moon to reverse the tides of time a number of times since the dawn of Christianity in ancient Jerusalem.

The First Apostasy

It will not be denied by any student of history that the first great apostasy grew out of a corruption of the organization and government of the Lord's church. Basic to the development of the apostasy was a lack of confidence in the adequacy of the Divine order. The belief in the absolute essentiality of congregational "cooperation" gave rise to the development of the Metropolitan Bishop, the Diocesan Patriarch, and finally the "Prince of the Patriarchs," "his excellency the Pope." In the primitive church, the principle of equality in church government was universally recognized and practiced; each bishop, presbyter, pastor, elder in a local congregation was equal in standing and authority to all others in that congregation; each congregation was equal to every other congregation. There were neither subordinate congregations nor subordinate bishops, but perfect equality prevailed. Orders of the clergy, metropolitan bishoprics, and the Roman See together with the supremacy of her bishop resulted from a corruption and destruction of this equality. Cooperation, so called, resulted in confederation, and confederation in hierarchy. A few quotations from history will suffice to get the picture before the reader:

"In those early times, every Christian church consisted of the people, their leaders, and the ministers or deacons, and these, indeed belong essentially to every religious society." (Pg. 97) "The rulers of the church were called either presbyters, or bishops, which two titles are, in the New Testament, undoubtedly applied to the same order of men." (Pg. 99)

"Three or four presbyters, men of remarkable piety and wisdom, ruled these small congregations in perfect harmony, nor did they stand in need of any president or superior to maintain concord and order where no dissentions were known." (Pg. 103)

"The churches, in those early times, were entirely independent; none of them subject to any foreign jurisdiction, but each one governed by its own rulers and its own laws." (Pg. 105)

"During a great part of this century, the Christian churches were independent of each other; nor were they joined together by association, confederacy, or any other bonds but those of charity. Each Christian assembly was a little state, governed by its own laws, which were either enacted, or, at least approved by the society. But, in process of time, all the Christian churches of a province were formed into one large ecclesiastical body, which like confederate states, assembled at certain times, in order to deliberate about the common interests of the whole . . . . To these assemblies, in which the deputies or commissioners of several churches consulted together, the name of synods was appropriated by the Greeks, and that of councils by the Latins; and the laws that were enacted in these general meetings were called canons, i.e. rules ... These councils, of which we find not the smallest trace before the middle of this century (Cent. 2), changed the whole face of the church, and gave it a new form." (Pages 174-175)

(All quotations from: "Mosheim's Church History," First American Edition, Vol. 1.)

Many more quotations from such men as Schaff, Neander, Fisher, Newman, and others could be given but these will suffice for the present. It is enough thus to show that the first great apostasy in the church of Lord grew out of a cooperative movement among churches, and to establish the fact that the apostolic order was that of perfect equality among bishops and churches. The merit of combined action plus the superiority of talents of metropolitan bishops served at the first as justification for the change in church government action, later, this evolved into claims of "Divine right.'

The Restoration Movement

In the latter part of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th, men in England, America, and other parts of the world burdened under the weight of Roman Catholicism and Protestant Denominationalism began to seek for a return to the Apostolic order of things. At the first, the movement was thought of in terms of reformation. It soon became evident, however, that reformation was impossible, hence that there must be a complete restoration of the primitive faith and practice. In America such names as Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Walter Scott, Barton W. Stone, and "Raccoon" John Smith were prominent in this movement. Out of the need for restoration were legitimately born such pleas as: "Let us speak where the Bible speaks, and remain silent where the Bible is silent"; "A thus saith the Lord for every act of work or worship"; "In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion, liberty; in all things, charity."

Prominent in this movement was the repudiation of the distinction between clergy and laity, synods, councils, associations, etc., and the advocacy of a return to the apostolic order of church government. In the Christian Baptist, a religious journal which Alexander Campbell edited and published for seven years (1823-29), may be found the most severe indictments of all forms of church association and the strongest kind of advocacy for the complete independence of the local congregation. As time passed, however, and the churches grew in numbers, wealth, and material prosperity, Brother Campbell and many of the brightest luminaries of the "Restoration Movement" receded from this position. Their retreat was not headlong, but, like the apostasy of the early church, it was gradual and evolutionary in character. Institutions of learning and benevolence sprang up, cooperation meetings were held, a "brotherhood" song book came into being. From these cooperative endeavors was born the "Christian Missionary Society" of 1849, and as a result of the formation of this society came the great cleavage that to all intents and purposes vitiated the "Restoration Movement" and spawned the modern Christian Church with its infidelity, compromise, institutionalism, and doctrinal corruption. Like the first apostasy, this, too, was justified on the ground of the necessity for combined action in matters affecting the whole church of God and the superior talents of certain bishops and preachers over others. Thus did our brethren of 100 years ago roll back the tides of time and reincarnate the apostasy of the second century.

May it be emphasized that the men who made this "Digressive Movement" possible were some of the purest and best of the church of that day. That their motives were noble, who would deny? That their talents were of the highest order, who would think of questioning? Who today in the church compares favorably in intellect, scholarship, platform ability, and Bible knowledge with A. Campbell, Moses E. Lard, J. W. McGarvey, D. S. Burnet, Isaac Errett, J. B. Briney, W. K. Pendleton, and Robert Richardson ? Few, indeed, of our day compare favorably with these men in these matters, yet, to the society and its work they gave their endorsement and support. As we progress in this study, we shall have occasion to call your attention to the basis on which they endorsed the society and the light in which they viewed it with reference to its relation to the church of God. Now, however, we desire to invite your attention to our day and age and

The Herald Of Truth As The Embodiment Of The Missionary Society Principle

Brother Logan Buchanan has put himself forward as the champion of "Herald of Truth" of Abilene, Texas. It might have been more appropriate if its champion had been Brother E. R. Harper, the preacher of the Highland church which sponsors "Herald of Truth," nevertheless, it is good that someone has the disposition to seek to defend the work, or whatever it is, from a scriptural point of view. In this issue of the Gospel Guardian will be found a lengthy article by Brother Buchanan which has already been published in a number of periodicals among the brethren. Brother Yater Tant, the editor of the Gospel Guardian, has requested that I present in connection with Brother Buchanan's article the other side of the matter with which his article deals. This, I shall strive to do, not because I do not love and respect Logan Buchanan and his ability and love for the Cause of Christ, nor because of any personal aversion to anyone connected with "The Herald of Truth," but rather because of what I conceive to be the truth about these matters. It is my firm belief along with many other brethren as sincere as Brother Buchanan and the brethren of "The Herald of Truth" that the work being done embodies in its execution all of the essential features of and basic principles involved in a missionary society. Call it by another name, even "The Herald of Truth," yet it is the same. It shall be my purpose in this study to survey the whole ground of our "cooperative" efforts among the churches with special reference to "The Herald of Truth." I shall engage to show the illogical character of Brother Buchanan's reasoning and the manifest lack of scriptural authority for that which he defends. It is my hope that I shall be clear, that I shall be as inoffensive as possible, and that I shall be at all times completely cognizant of the fact that "we be brethren." It is my belief that my brethren today are surely pushing back the tides of time 100 years and reincarnating the issues and events and arguments of days long dead and men now sleeping in the dust of the earth. My hope is that the light of truth may be made to shine upon our situation today so that there may not follow the sad consequences of the past. To this end, I shall write with the prayer that God may add His blessings to whatever truth I may present and open my eyes to any false position I may advance or occupy.

Next week, let us think together on the subject. "Follow God — Follow the Bible — Always."