Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 7, 1956

Alexander Campbell And E. R. Harper

Wm. E. Wallace, Akron, Ohio

Brother E. R. Harper, prominent author, evangelist, debater and "Herald of Truth" speaker, referred to the cooperation controversy of "nearly 150 years ago" in a recent sermon over WLAC in Nashville, Tennessee entitled "Misapplied Patterns." The sermon is in tract form and I have a copy. Brother Harper said that "those opposing cooperation among the congregations of the Lord were forcing the issue to the dividing of the followers of Christ even though they were begged not to press those issues to such a drastic extreme." The controversy "nearly 150 years ago" was one in which Alexander Campbell was calling for assemblies of delegated messengers of congregations to discuss ways and means and to expedite business. "Campbell was ever wont to defend organizations outside of the local congregations doing the work of the church." (The Search For The Ancient Order, Vol. I, page 156.) He was not pleased when the old Baptist Mahoning Association was dissolved and his advocacy for and his support of district cooperation business meetings helped lay the ground work for the state and national missionary societies, organizations which eventually resulted in the formation of the Christian Church — the disciples of Christ denomination. Brother Harper further asserted that Campbell should know what he was talking about because "he was one of the world's greatest scholars in this field of research."

Now church members who study restoration history know that Campbell's great weakness was in his teaching concerning cooperation and organization. Alexander Campbell was the first president of the United Christian Missionary Society, the organization that wrought the schism. Campbell wanted the church to move out and to act as a whole in evangelism, in the universal capacity rather than in independent congregational efforts.

Campbell's liberal principles along cooperative and organizational lines were opposed "nearly 150 years ago," 100 years ago, 65 years ago. It was David Lipscomb who finally turned the tide. But the battle is renewed today as the principles are pressed on the church. Today, brethren, the church of which you are a member, the church of Christ, owes its current strength in numbers to the movement away from unscriptural organizations and cooperative arrangements — the movement led by men whom Brother Harper labels as "dividing the followers of Christ."

Brother 'Harper has taken his stand (perhaps unwittingly) in sentiment with the digressive movement of the last century — the movement that originated the present day "Christian Church." He has accused those who opposed the unscriptural cooperative efforts that led to the missionary society as being church dividers. Those men of 150 years ago who opposed the liberal cooperative arrangements were succeeded by the great warriors of 1850-1900 who held the lines against the digressive waves.

This statement from Brother Harper, the champion of the "Herald of Truth" missionary society should be enough to awaken every Christian as to what is taking place. Let it be known that it is not congregational cooperation that is being opposed, but it is the error of Alexander Campbell which led to the establishment of the United Christian Missionary Society, the same error seen in the thinking and the efforts of brethren today.

Who divided the church back then? Was it those who pushed the missionary society or those who opposed it? Who is dividing the church today — those who are pushing the innovation or those who oppose it?