Vol.III No.II Pg.6
March 1966

Burnett's Advice In 1895

Robert F. Turner

In 1895, churches of Christ (or "Christian churches" as some called them) were divided into "Progressive" and "Anti" groups -- Or "digressive" and "loyal," depending on who named them. The controversy had begun with cooperation meetings, which led to "brotherhood projects" and finally to the setting up of an organization through which many churches could "do good" (such as sending preachers to a foreign field) by pooling their funds.

The missionary society, and the spirit which fathered it, spawned other changes including the use of mechanical music in the worship. Feelings ran high -- and all the way from "stomp out the opposition" to "better to practice error than 'cause trouble in the church'." (Of course these weak middle-of-the-roaders finally went into the liberal camp.)

At this time the well-known preacher T. R. Burnett wrote in the Gospel Advocate (May 9, 1895) the following:


"This budget becomes more and more convinced every day that it will become necessary to establish churches of the apostolic order in every town in the state where the so-called "Christian Church" now holds sway. The lawless determination of the society and organ people to rule or ruin every church with which they have connection, and either put in the unscriptural things, or put out the brethren who oppose them, makes this plainly evident.

The loyal brethren need not waste any valuable time waiting for a reformation, for there is none in prospect. Ephraim is joined to his idols, and he would rather have his society and music idol than any kind of Christian union known to the Bible.

Brethren, proceed to re-establish the ancient order of things, just as if there was never a church of Christ in your town. Gather all the brethren together who love Bible order better than modern fads and foolishness, and start the work and worship of the church in the old apostolic way.

Do not go to law over church property. It is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong. Build a cheap and comfortable chapel, and improve it when you get able. It is better to have one dozen true disciples in a cheap house than a thousand apostate pretenders in a palace; who love modern innovations better than Bible truth. The battles of this reformation have yet to be fought."


It simply amazes me that churches of Christ today -- many of whom came to their present state by following the advice of Burnett or others like him -- could be so utterly blind to the historical repeat which is taking place. Of course we are several generations removed from the earlier issue and I can understand that those who will not read church history are unaware that such things ever happened. But to refuse to investigate-- to dissolve fellowship rather than have Bible study of the issues -- this is incredible. For sure -- it separates man-pleasing sectarians from the faithful few who love the Lord.