Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 5, 1957
NUMBER 31, PAGE 6-7b

An Eighty-Three Year Old Letter

L. C. Wells

(Editor's note: The papers of Isaac Tipton Reneau, evangelist for the Kentucky Christian Missionary Society during the critical years following the Civil War, are now on deposit with the Bosworth Memorial Library at the College of the Bible in Lexington, Kentucky. The papers include over 460 letters, one of which is here reproduced. L. C. Wells, a young preacher who had been baptized by Reneau, had to face the serious problem of the Missionary Society — and, facing it honestly and courageously took his stand among the defenders of the truth. This is one of the letters to his "father in the gospel" relative to that matter. Since churches and preachers in our day are again facing the problem of "organized. cooperation," we thought the letter would be of interest to readers of the Gospel Guardian.)

Richmond Ky. July 11 1874 Brother Reneau:

Perhaps by this time you imagine that I have forgotten my promise but such is not the case. I now seize an opportunity of trying to fulfill it. I trust you will pardon me for not writing sooner as I have been very busy and have written a great many letters since I came here.

I have been working on the farm most of the time since I came up. I have a very good class in vocal music which I teach on Saturdays at Union a little village in this neighborhood. I have about twenty students, — terms $1.50 each for twelve days. I am very well pleased with this country: or at least I can see that it is much better country than that, notwithstanding the prospect is gloomy at present because of the drought. We have not had a good rain since I came here. The old saying is, "A dry June for a good corn-year." I fear that a dry "May, June and July" will not prove so favorable. It is threatening rain today. but I do not know that we will get it. When to comes to digging holes in the bottom of the creek to get water, it is rather distressing. I have been forcibly impressed with the truth that water is more precious than gold.

So far. I like the people of this community very much. By them I have been welcomely received and kindly treated. They are plain. industrious and generally thrifty people. However we all have our faults, and they have theirs. For instance, we have a large congregation of brethren here at Union, but I fear they are more in numbers than in good works and zeal for the Master's cause. They depend too exclusively upon their "pastor's" monthly round for their spiritual growth and enlightment. There is too much grasping after the world, — too much meddling with politics — too much mixing and mingling with worldly institutions.

You remember we spoke of the practice of "laying on of hands" and I said I thought our Tenn. brethren were generally misrepresented on that subject. The fact is, very little had been said in the Gospel Advocate on that subject since I had been taking it. But soon after that I received a number which I will send you in which Bro. Lipscomb has a short article on the subject, drawnout by some inquiring remarks of Bro. C. M. Wilmeth a college mate of mine. It is a subject on which my mind is not settled, but certainly, Bro. L. could come very near sustaining his views by the New Testament. I send you also another number which contains an account of a debate which will be interesting to you, as well as some remarks on missionary cooperations which I trust you will read. There is now no question in my mind as to the impracticability as well as the unscripturalness of these societies. I had been rather doubtful of their propriety long before Bro. Pangburn made his first visit to Albhny. I was in his company from Albany to Bear Creek and he talked a great deal about it and removed all doubts and fears that it was anything else than the church working through a committee. He disclaimed the name "Society" as being a mis-nomer, — substituting the term "Convention," etc.; in a word, he left me fully wrapt up in the harmless character of the Missionary Convention. But pretty soon I read in the Apostolic Times the minutes of the "Ky. Christian Missionary Convention" held at Lexington, and behold Bro. Withers makes a motion to appoint a committee to petition the Legislature to charter the "Ky Christian Missionary Society." (You see Bro. Pangurn had failed to give Bro. Withers any previous instructions and hence was under the necessity of publicly offering an amendment to the motion, substituting "Convention" for "Society" — a sugar coating — but I had seen too much to swallow the pill then.) Of course if the thing is such that it can be chartered, the difference between it and a society consists in the name only. It is true we need organization in order to carry on the work of preaching the gospel as well as any other good work. But, in the church of Christ we have a society, a divinely sanctioned one too, in whose heaven imposed obligations are embraced, temperance, benevolence, missionary work (i. e. gospel preaching), and every other good work. No man or set of men can create one which is more fitly adapted to the work than this. I confess that the missionary societies have done some work; but they have done nothing that the church could not have done without them. Has any congregations contributed money to this society with which to sustain a preacher? She could have placed the same means into the hands of the preacher without this machinery. Has any one been sent by a society? He could have been sent by the church as such. But it is objected that the church does not do her duty in this matter. Then it is not organization that we need for we have that on whose members are laid the most binding obligation known to man. Instead of men to canvas the country, trying to persuade the church into the adoption of a "plan," we need men to stir up the members to a sense of the duty devolving upon them as Christians; and a congregation who understands her duty and has means, will find no difficulty in conveying her money into the hands of her evangelist, while, if her heart is not right, all the missionary societies in the world could never lift a dollar from her pocket, or at least one that would be acceptable in the sight of God. But enough on this now.

Excuse the haste with which I have written this, — Bro. Jerry and family are well and send respects. I wrote to John some time ago, have received no reply. I would be pleased to have a letter from you. My respects to all.

Your bro. in Christ L. C. Wells I. T. Reneau