Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 23, 1954
NUMBER 33, PAGE 1,13b

The Principle And Its Consequences -- No. 2

Jack Holt, Indianapolis, Indiana

In 1910, Brother M. C. Kurfees wrote a series of articles in the Gospel Advocate, in which he exposed the Missionary Society and the principle behind it. The first article dealt with a proposed "Brotherhood Publishing House." As you read the article you will no doubt be struck with the fact that his exposure of the principles behind the society, is equally an exposure of similar movements among us today. This is by no means coincidental, for it is a fact, and one that is becoming more increasingly evident and embarrassing every day; that one cannot brand the Society as unscriptural, without at the same time condemning the thinking and actions that brought forth and made possible the Herald of Truth, and similar brotherhood projects. Here is the article written about forty years before the Highland elders, began their attempt to function for the brotherhood.

"The 'Brotherhood Publishing House' The Denomination Complete" (Ga. 1910)

M. C. Kurfees

"We think it opportune now to offer some reflections upon this latest advance in the evolution of affairs connected with the 'Reformation of the Nineteenth Century.' When certain leaders in this now famous movement, which was so successfully inaugurated a century ago by the Campbells, Stone, and others, against every form of denominationalism, became dissatisfied with the absolute independence of the local church, and adopted the principle of general organization, they entered upon a perilous pathway which was inevitably destined to lead them, sooner or later back into denominationalism.

"No observant eye can fail to see that restless and ambitious leaders in this movement, instead of persistently maintaining a firm and continuous revolt against denominationalism, have succeeded, after all in adding another denomination to the long list already in existence. In all the annals of ecclesiastical affairs, history, in our judgment, does not record a more conspicuous example of self-contradiction and self destruction than this same 'Reformation.' The distinctive and distinguishing plea which it made from the very beginning — the solemn necessity for which in fact, brought it into existence — was the plea that denominationalism in all its various and multifarious forms was utterly contrary to and subversive of the ancient order of things revealed on the pages of the New Testament, and that in the effort to spread the gospel and restore the one church of the apostolic age, it was solemnly incumbent upon all the friends of truth to lay aside every form of religious organization, except the ' local church of the New Testament; that this primitive organization, founded in the wisdom of God with its divinely appointed board of overseers and directors, must be maintained as the only divinely authorized tribunal for the adjustment, regulation, and control of all ecclesiastical affairs, and the only divine organization for the spread of the gospel in the world.

"In one of his earliest attempts to magnify the ancient order of things and exalt the church to its divinely appointed sphere and mission, Alexander Campbell, referring to the operation of the primitive Christian said,

'In their church capacity alone they moved. They neither transformed themselves into any other kind of organization, nor did they fracture and sever themselves into divers societies. They viewed the church of Jesus Christ as the scheme of heaven to ameliorate the world; as members of it, they considered themselves bound to do all they could for the glory of God and the good of men. They dare not transfer to a missionary society, or Bible society, or education society, a cent or a prayer, lest in so doing they should rob the church of its glory, and exalt the inventions of men above the wisdom of God. In their church capacity alone they moved.' (Christian Baptist, Vol. 1, Pgs. 6-7.)

Now how shall we account for the radical and rapid apostasy with the widespread division among brethren and other disastrous results that have followed this well-begun Reformation of the Nineteenth Century? We unhesitatingly affirm, without the fear of successful contradiction, that the taproot of all this evil and the greatest of all barriers to the church's progress and prosperity in every age — yea, the very rock on which nearly all, if not quite all, efforts at reformation have split and run aground IS THE CENTRALIZATION OF POWER. (Italics M.C.K.) He who does not know this to be a fact has not read history as it is written. On the pages of inspiration is recorded a clear and definite expression of divine wisdom in the absolute independence, efficiency, and all sufficiency of the local church for the management and regulation of all ecclesiastical affairs, and for the spread of the gospel in the world. This ground as we have seen was taken by Alexander Campbell at the start, and it has never been successfully combated.

"It is true, provision is made in the New Testament for the cooperation of churches, but it is always and everywhere a cooperation, WITHOUT ANY CENTRAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS AND MANAGERS, AND HENCE, WITHOUT THE CENTRALIZATION OF POWER. (Italics M.C.K.) Each local church was divinely provided with its own board of directors and managers, and all departures from this order, from that day to this, have been an infringement upon divine wisdom.

"Referring to the order recognized in the New Testament, Mosheim says,

`The churches in those ancient times were entirely independent; None of them subject to any foreign jurisdiction, but each one governed by its own rulers and its own laws.' (Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 1, Page 92.)

Again contrasting the things in the New Testament with the apostasies and corruptions of a latter date he says,

`Nothing, on the contrary, is more evident than the perfect equality that reigned among the primitive churches: nor does there even appear, in this first century, the smallest trace of that association of provincial churches, from which councils and metropolitans derive their origin.' (Ibid, Page 92.)

"Now there has scarcely been a century since the apostolic age that has not witnessed the attempt in one form or another, to get away from this primitive order: and every such instance known to history has involved the principle of centralized power. Sometimes the attempt is made on a small scale and the departure from local church independence is but slight, those not acquainted with such matters regarding it as entirely innocent: but the principle of centralization is, nevertheless, involved, and when the principle is once adopted the tendency is ever the same, and the day of downfall and destruction is certain to come."

Brother Kurfees then illustrates his last point by directing our attention to the Cincinnati convention in 1849. He points out that there was very little harm seen in it due to its small and apparently innocent beginning, but he then calls attention to a fact, which was the foundation of the departure, "The principle of centralization was there." How small and insignificant the dangers were can be partly seen in the fact that brethren who had opposed such innovations gave support to the Society. If we, as the church of the Lord are to profit by the mistakes of the past, we will raise our voice and wave the red flag of danger whenever and wherever, that principle rears its ugly head. It is time to cry "wolf" for the "wolf" is there. Is it possible that with all of the brotherhood projects now underway, and in prospect that this principle is absent? Rather is it not the working of this principle that provides for such? To make the question more pertinent: is it possible for 1080 churches to work through a single agency without centralization of some kind?

Brother Kurfees then comments on the consequences of the acceptance of the principle:

"And now comes the capstone in the denominational structure — a 'Brotherhood Publishing House' — and the edifice is complete. Through the munificence of R. A. Long, of Kansas City, Missouri, the Christian Publishing Company of St. Louis, Missouri, including the Christian-Evangelist has been purchased for the handsome sum of $130,000 and turned over on certain conditions to the 'Brotherhood' of the Christian Church, to be owned and operated by the latter as the `Brotherhood Publishing House."

Brother Kurfees' articles stung the digressive brethren. They squawked long and loud about such, but were not able to "resist the wisdom by which he spake," after all, "what was the chaff to the wheat." Brother Kurfees, perhaps, never dreamed that in the space of about forty years brethren would again "arise speaking perverse things," and that another departure would loom just over the horizon. If Brother Kurfees thought a brotherhood publishing house was the capstone in another departure, what would he think of the brotherhood projects now in existence? If we had lived at the time Brother Kurfees called the "Brotherhood Publishing House" the capstone in departure, and could have had the power to look down the stream of time into the year 1954 we could have written Brother Kurfees a letter short and to the point:

Dear Brother Kurfees:

So you think a Brotherhood Publishing House is a departure, Brother Kurfees, "you ain't seen nothing yet."

Sincerely, Jack Holt