Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 16, 1954
NUMBER 32, PAGE 1,10b

The Concept And Its Consequence

Jack L. Holt, Indianapolis, Indiana

The concept that the church universal may work through a single agency is a settled and true one with many brethren. When these brethren think of the church and her work, like their fathers in the last digression, they think of the church in the universal sense. To them the church universal is to function. It is to preach, establish educational institutions, and perform benevolent works. With this concept firmly settled in their minds they face only one other problem: how, or by what agency or means is the church universal to function? Their practice answers the question: "any means that is right within itself may be used." This answer is right and true, for if God intended for the church universal to function, and did not provide the organization through which it is to function, then it may work through any organization which is right within itself.

Thus we see the church universal doing benevolent work through a board, and preaching the gospel through a board of elders. If the concept be true, then it is perfectly right to provide for the widows and orphans through a board, and further, select a board through which the church may preach the gospel. If the leaders in the "church universal at work movement" deemed the elders of some local church more acceptable than a group of delegates from a number of churches, then the church universal could work through them. But let it be noted that it is no more scriptural for the church universal to work through an eldership, than through a board of delegates. Since the concept necessitates an organization, then any organization right within itself is as scriptural as any other. The decision whether to work through an eldership or a missionary board would be one of judgment and not one of scriptural principles.

There are many honest and sincere people who stand in doubt as to the scripturalness of the organization of the Herald of Truth. What with the defenders of the program side-stepping a discussion of the real issues involved, and throwing up a smoke screen of inconsistencies, impugning of motives, and ridicule, it is not surprising that people are confused.

That the Herald of Truth is the offspring of an unscriptural concept is a truth that cannot be successfully refuted. And it is for this reason that the program is opposed. Some, who think the program is opposed becausebrethren may think the Highland elders err in judgment, are mistaken in so thinking. Because of this error they have been led to believe that an issue has been made over matters of judgment. It is not matters of judgment that have made the program an issue; the unscriptural concept that fathered the program made the issue.

If the concept be a scriptural one then the program is right. If the concept be an unscriptural one, then the program is wrong. Is it not then amiss to attempt to justify the program by saying it does good? Does the end justify the means? Is it right to "do evil that good may come"? (Rom. 3:8.) Is it not still true that "to obey is better than to sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams." (1 Sam. 15:22.) The good work of Moses in giving the thirsty Israelites a drink of water, became a curse to him because he failed to do good in God's appointed way.

To state, as some have done, "if there is any unscriptural organization etc., about the program they are so small and insignificant that they are not worth considering," is but to side-step the issue and refuse to heed the divine admonition," prove all things, hold fast that which is good." (1 Thess. 5:21.) Can an arrangement which God never authorized be good? We are further commanded to "abstain from the very appearance of evil." The context shows the primary meaning of this verse is that we are to abstain from the very appearance of any evil teaching and practice. What is so evil as to tolerate and condone teaching that subverts God's order. We should, "touch not, taste not, handle not."

One studies history in vain if in his study he has not found that every departure had a small beginning. It is never wise to "despise the small things." Jesus said, "Whosoever, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5:19.) Again, "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much." (Luke 16:10.) God places responsibility upon us to do great things only after we have proven ourselves worthy by doing the small things. Because "small" departures were tolerated or ignored, because they were passed off as matters of judgment, major departures have come. And every one who was not faithful when the departure was least, will answer to God for his stewardship. The fact that apostasies have a small beginning explains why many are swept away when it becomes a destructive force.

The last major departure had a "mustard seed" beginning. There was never, perhaps, a more innocent looking speck upon departures horizon than the Cincinnati convention in 1849. But this innocent babe became a monster, and the realization came too late that the church had nursed and raised a viper in her bosom. Men who favored the society in its inception were destined to weep bitter tears as they saw it get out of control, and as they realized that the institution of God was but a tool of an institution made by hands.

What will be the ultimate outcome of the evident departure that made possible the Herald of Truth? Will the leaven of this unscriptural concept continue to work until the whole loaf is leavened, or a part thereof, and another division take place? It is still true that a tree is known by its fruits. If the brethren will only realize that the same tree of thinking that produced the missionary society produced the Herald of Truth, then perhaps they will awaken to the dangers with which such arrangements are fraught. It should not be very flattering for one who claims to stand for the "Old Paths," to announce that he favors the concept that led to the Cincinnati convention, in 1849, yet all who endorse the Herald of Truth endorse this concept.

Perhaps it will make us think if we see some of the consequences that can follow this concept. If it be a true one, we should use it to the full. Let us, therefore, inaugurate a national benevolent work. We could call it the Mission of Mercy. We could give the work a semblance of scriptural authority by placing it under the Highland elders. The churches throughout America could turn their funds over to Highland and Highland would then become sole administrator of the work. Whenever, and wherever benevolence was needed Highland Church, or headquarters, could be called and the work would be done. But please understand, Highland may use your money, and the work may be done in your back yard so to speak, but you will not get any credit for it, for the work no longer is your responsibility. You have merely helped Highland do her duty of caring for her poor in your community. So you will kindly knuckle to headquarters. Now before you say this is stretching an illustration please answer a question. Why would it be right for a church to turn monies over to another church to preach the gospel for them, yet wrong to turn monies over to them to do benevolent work? If churches may pay Highland to preach the gospel in their communities, why can't they pay Highland to do benevolent work in their communities? Further, the defenders of the Herald of Truth make the claim that preaching and benevolent work is to be done in the same way. Moreover, the example of churches cooperating in benevolence is the example given by defenders of brotherhood projects as proof that their method of cooperation in preaching the gospel is right. Which eldership will oversee the Mission of Mercy?

A further application. Why not put all the evangelistic work in America under the oversight of one church? The elders of this church could select the field and the preacher. Would not Highland elders have as much right to oversee 1,000 preachers supported by contributing churches, as she has to oversee two of them? Brethren, turn your money over, and bequeath your responsibilities to Highland Church. They will take care of your money and do HER work. If any church needs a preacher they need only call headquarters. "Oh," someone says, "we will never go that far." Think not? Well it so happens that James W. Nichols sees nothing wrong with such an arrangement. Unless I have been misinformed, he has stated his approval of such publicly.

"You are a bunch of Anti's trying to stop a good work," is the accusation commonly made against those who oppose this program. This statement and kindred ones are not new. The attitude that caused the digressives of the last century to picture David Lipscomb as an old woman with a broom trying to sweep back the sea of progress is the same attitude that brands all who oppose the same concepts as Anti's.

A prayer that should touch and thrill the heart of every follower of Jesus was uttered by him in John 17. He prayed, "That all his followers may be one." Everyone, therefore, who loves Jesus will do his best to "keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace." The only way this unity can be achieved and preserved is for all to do as Caleb, "wholly follow the Lord."

When the Restoration movement began, it captured the hearts of thousands. The simple plea of the restorers, "We speak where the Bible speaks, and remain silent where it is silent," was a powerful plea. With the word of God, "the hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces," they battered down the walls of denominationalism. Nothing and no one could stand against them, for the word of God was, "in their hearts as a fire." Their warfare was successful because "the weapons of the warfare were not carnal — of man's invention — but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." Their one aim was, "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." With what success they were blessed thou knowest. What halted the march back to God? Man seeking and finding an invention halted the greatest movement for God since the apostolic days. In 1849, in the city of Cincinnati, a carnal weapon was chosen, the word of God was laid aside, and its fire flickered and died in the hearts of thousands.

Some of the consequences of choosing a carnal weapon will be pointed out in articles to follow. These articles will contain several quotations from the gifted pen of M. C. Kurfees, who wrote a series of articles on the formation of the first society and the consequences that followed.