W. Carl Ketcherside: Incendiary Instruments
W. Carl Ketcherside 24.1 1962
The disintegration of the restoration movement under the impact of the factional spirit is a story to "make angels weep and strong men bow themselves in grief." The heart of the faithful historian recoils from the task of picturing the dissolution of the noble effort even while his sense of fairness and honesty demands that he pursue it to its end. It is a tragic tale of brother fighting against brother, a narrative of bitterness and hate, of strife and debate, of law suits and political maneuvers. The aftermath which we can still view betokens the intensity of the storm which passed over the heads of our parents and grandparents, laying waste the fond hope of uniting all the believers in Christ Jesus.
We are probing the ruins again, not to set fire to the wreckage, but in the hope that we may start anew to rebuild the city of peace. It is our intention to be both chronicler and commentator. We shall not only record events but try to determine what gave them significance. We shall attempt to interpret their relevance for our day. What we say will not be offered in dogmatic fashion. We will respect those who disagree as much as we do those who concur. While it is not our aim to assess guilt neither is it our intention to condone wrong. In this issue we shall be dealing with a topic which is charged with tension. Instrumental music in the public worship of the saints has become a symbol of intangibles. To one group it is a token of freedom, to another a badge of apostasy.
It is difficult to write on such a theme in objective fashion. The problem is enhanced when one is possessed with a deep personal conviction on the matter. Yet it is impossible to avoid dealing with this subject for its roots are intertwined with the division existing among heirs of the restoration. All we can do is to plead with our readers to defer judgment until all the evidence is in. Do not render your verdict upon partial testimony. If after reading all we write upon the subject you wholly disagree with what is said we shall allow our case to rest with you. As you read please bear in mind that our specific purpose in this series is not to determine the right or wrong involved in the use of instrumental music but simply to study the problems created by its introduction as relates to unity.
J. W. McGarvey wrote in Millennial Harbinger, November, 1864, that in the earlier years of the reformation there was "entire unanimity in the rejection of instrumental music from our public worship. It was declared unscriptural, unharmonious with the Christian institution and a source of corruption." He admitted that occasional attempts were made to introduce instrumental music but said it was "at first a sufficient objection to such attempts that a large portion of the congregation were offended and
that the Scriptures forbid giving offence to brethren." It is obvious that if instrumental music ever entered the public worship of restoration congregations there would have to be a change of attitude toward the instrument or a change of attitude toward the brethren. It is our conviction that both occurred.
We are interested in the factors which produced these changes for several reasons. (1) When those factors are no longer present attitudes may again be changed. Circumstances do alter conditions. (2) The introduction of the instrument was symptomatic of a feeling which may no longer exist in the hearts of those who have grown up in an environment where its use is traditional. (3) To charge against those who now employ it the same attitude as those who introduced it and to argue from that premise may be decidedly uncharitable. We must not hold any person liable for a position or attitude which he personally disavows. (4) The introduction of the instrument was preceded by an erosion or decay of the sense of brotherhood. Our first task is to restore the recognition of brotherhood and within its frame of reference work toward a solution of our current difficulties. If we seek to solve our problems by continued attack upon symptoms we will only worsen our state. We must sit down as brothers dealing with an inherited difficulty and not as aliens obligated to perpetuate a relentless feud. (5) We should cease to regard others as separated from us and realize that we have become separated from each other.
The restoration movement gained its early impetus because it appealed to the plain, hardy pioneers by its simplicity and freedom from ostentation. There were no musical instruments in the rude cabins of these settlers, and such instruments were associated with effeminate tastes. The idea of having them in the sacred worship was obnoxious. In 1856, Peter Cartwright, the famous Methodist circuit rider, wrote in his autobiography as follows:"The Presbyterians, and other Calvinistic branches of the Protestant Church, used to contend for an educated ministry, for pews, for instrumental music, for a congregational or salaried minister. 'The Methodists universally opposed these ideas; and the illiterate Methodist preachers actually set the world on fire the American world at least--while they were lighting their matches."
But the old preacher could see "the handwriting on the wall." The Methodists were demanding an educated ministry and institutions were being created to supply the demand. He declared, "I do not wish to undervalue education, but really I have seen so many of these educated preachers who forcibly remind me of lettuce growing under the shade of a peach tree, or like a gosling that had got the straddles by walking in the dew, that I turn away sick and faint." He was disturbed by the thought that popular clamor for a salaried minister and instrumental music to pamper pride would spell the end of a virile movement. We ask your indulgence for one more quotation."I awfully fear for our beloved Methodism. Multiply colleges, universities, seminaries and academies; multiply our agencies and editorships, and fill them all with our best and most efficient preachers, and you localize the ministry and secularize them too; then farewell to itinerancy, and when this fails we plunge right into congregationalism, and stop precisely where all other denominations started."
The restoration was passing through the same throes as it was transformed from a rustic to an urban movement. As the original purpose of "uniting the Christians in all sects" receded, and a desire to "hold our own among the sects" became the chief objective, alterations began to be urged regardless of the feelings of the brethren. Three years after Peter Cartwright wrote the above, the first instrument of music was introduced into the worship of a restoration congregation. We think it will be interesting for our readers to know something about the personalities involved in this radical change, and of the results accruing from it.
In 1859, Dr. L. L. Pinkerton brought a melodeon into the meetinghouse at
[Page 3]Midway, Kentucky. There were vigorous protests which went unheeded. Dr. Pinkerton was always a controversial figure. One historian writes, "Throughout the eighteen-fifties and -sixties he was a thorn in the flesh not only of the strict constructionists, but of most of those who considered themselves progressive; but such was his evangelical ardor, the fervor of his piety, and the unselfishness of his service, that even his severest critics found it difficult not to love him." For all of these traits, it appears that Pinkerton was somewhat inflexible in his views and bent on having his way regardless of consequences. When he died on his sixty-third birthday, President James Garfield wrote of him, "He was a man of most positive and intense nature; his opinions were convictions."
L. L. Pinkerton was born at Baltimore, Maryland, January 28, 1812, but was reared in Pennsylvania and Virginia, near Bethany. His Presbyterian father taught him the tenets of Calvinism, but he was unable to "get religion" at the mourner's bench. In September, 1830, he heard one sermon by Alexander Campbell and immediately requested the privilege of being immersed. After studying medicine he established a lucrative practice in a suburban district of Cincinnati where Walter Scott was laboring. It was because of the insistence of Scott and David S. Burnet that he discontinued his medical profession and began preaching in May, 1838. It was in 1844 that he moved from Lexington to Midway, Kentucky.
While at Lexington Dr. Pinkerton had guided the congregation in erecting a new meetinghouse on Main Street. Several of the well-to-do families wanted to reserve pews, which they marked with their personal name plates and fitted out with cushions. This action so incensed some of the others that they entered the new structure one night, pried off the name plates and ripped the upholstery to pieces. Dr. Pinkerton publicly assailed those who had been guilty of this vandalism and feeling ran so high he had to resign.
After the Civil War, in which he served as a surgeon in the Union Army, Pinkerton returned to Lexington in 1865 as a teacher in Kentucky University. The Main Street congregation ignored him in spite of the fact that he had led them in the construction of their building and once served as their minister. The opposition to him was so great that he resigned from the college faculty after one year. Three years later the congregation attempted to bring him to trial on the charge that he was guilty of "conduct of a schismatic character, and calculated to create and keep up strife in the body of Christ."
In January, 1869, Dr. Pinkerton and John Shackleford began a periodical called the Independent Monthly. In an article titled "Bible Inspiration" Pinkerton denied the plenary inspiration and infallibility of the scriptures. He attacked "Reason and Revelation" by Robert Milligan and branded it as fallacious. He affirmed that there would be a second chance after death for those who died without knowledge of the plan of God. He advocated a Presbyterian form of government for the churches, stating that it was a matter of liberty to select that method which was most efficient. It is probable that he was the first exponent of "open membership." He produced an article designated "No Immersion--No Membership in a Church of the Reformation." In it he declared that he would allow each man to settle the question of baptism for himself. Dr. Pinkerton declared that he would personally teach and practice immersion but would not deny admission to the congregation to one who did not concur. His position was that he "would not thrust his translation of a Greek word between a man's conscience and his God."
We mention these things because they may help to give an insight into the nature and temperament of the man who boasted in 1860 that he was the only preacher in Kentucky who approved of the use of the organ and his church at Midway was the only one in the state that had an organ. It is barely possible
that general division might have been averted had it not happened that on April 12 of the following year the Confederate forces began their bombardment of Fort Sumpter and the War between the States became a reality.
It has been the proud boast of those allied with the restoration movement that they did not split over the issue of slavery and war as did most of the other religious bodies in America. This is true as regards formal or overt separation but the civil strife left its imprint. The very nature of the conflict cheapened brotherhood, aroused suspicion and magnified differences. We freely admit that there was a rapidly developing difference in philosophy among those who constituted the forces of restoration yet it might have been possible to have averted a serious disruption had it not been that the tempers of men were inflamed. In Lard's Quarterly, April, 1865. the editor wrote:"No position has been more distinctly enounced, or more firmly held among us, than this: that matters of opinion shall never be made tests of fellowship. The pertinacity with which we have clung to this principle, so obvious and so just, and defended it both for ourselves and for others, is no secret. It has been our pride and our boast. Is it so now? Alas, for the mutability of man! The last four years have seen it changed changed not in the sacred matters of religion but changed in the paltry affairs of polities. Many so-called brethren in our ranks now actually refuse to meet with and fellowship their brethren of the adverse political faith. Not only so, but they have gone so far as to advise and counsel their arrest, imprisonment, and banishment, for no crime against any law of heaven or earth, but merely because of a difference in political opinions. Even preachers have not blushed to be foremost in the work."
At the very time when passions were kindled by the war, instruments were introduced in some of the congregations. The regard which had formerly been shown for the personal feelings of the brethren who objected was no longer accorded. The congregations were being rent asunder by the violence of the discussions pro and con. . Those who opposed the instruments but who saw the tragic results which would accrue from severance of fellowship were outspoken in their condemnation of the organ but just as plain in their statements relative to maintenance of brotherly relationship. They regarded the use of the instrument as a surrender of the very basis of the former plea.
Dr. H. Christopher, writing in Lard's Quarterly, for October, 1867, expressed it in this fashion:"Standing on the ground and proceeding on the principle so frequently proclaimed before the world, that in all matters of religions faith and practice, the faith and practice of the apostolic church are our only guides and authorities, the introduction of instrumental music into our congregations is simply a logical and moral impossibility. It can not be done without abandoning our ground and giving up our fundamental principle. We are compelled to discard this innovation on primitive practice, or give up all pretension and purpose of prosecuting any further the grand design of our reformatory movement. And if we have been right up to this time, to abandon the ground and principle would be nothing less than apostasy. To this dilemma are we driven by the most remorseless logic and by the highest considerations for honesty and consistency."
Prof. J. W McGarvey, in Apostolic Times, 1881, wrote after the same tenor:"It is manifest that we cannot adopt the practice without abandoning the obvious and only ground on which a restoration of Primitive Christianity can be accomplished, or on which the plea for it can be maintained. Such is my profound conviction, and consequently the question with me is not one concerning the choice or rejection of a necessary expedient, but the maintenance or aban-
donment of a fundamental and necessary principle."
F. G. Allen, who became influential as editor of Old Paths Guide which he started, wrote thus:"I regard the use of the organ in the worship a violation of one of the fundamental principles of our plea for restoration and unity. We have ever claimed that our plea is catholic--that is, we hold as common ground that, and that only, which is conceded by all to be right. In restoring just what we find in the beginning in faith and practice, and refusing all else, we stand on undisputed ground... The world has seen and felt the advantage and self-evident correctness of this catholic position; but the introduction of the organ, since all cannot worship with it, is a violation of this grand principle. All can worship without it; all cannot worship with it. Therefore we can be united and harmonious without it; we cannot be harmonious and united with it. To introduce the organ to the destruction of our peace and unity is a complete renunciation, therefore, of this principle of catholicity characterizing our plea for the union of God's people on God's word."
Benjamin Franklin, whose leadership and plain manners endeared him to many, and who was distinguished from the illustrious statesman of the same name, by the designation, "the gospel preacher," declared:"If any one had told us forty years ago, that we would live to see the day when those professing to be Christians; who claim the Holy Scriptures as their only rule of faith and practice; those under the command and who profess to appreciate the meaning of the command, to 'observe all things whatever I have commanded you,' would bring any instrument of music into a worshiping assembly, and use it there in worship, we should have repelled the idea as an idle dream. But this only shows how little we knew of what men would do; or how little we saw of the power of the adversary to subvert the purest principles, to deceive the hearts of the simple, to undermine the very foundation of all piety, and turn the very worship of God itself into an attraction for the people of the world, an entertainment or amusement."
It is evident, however, that these men were able to distinguish between an attitude toward "innovations" and "fellowship." F. G. Allen said that it was not a question of fellowship. Both J. W. McGarvey and Benjamin Franklin were unwilling to regard use of the instrument as a test of fellowship. In his book, "Brother McGarvey," W. C. Morro writes:"When he found that it was necessary to speak he was largely content to state his position and not to press it to the point where it would become a barrier or a cause of division between him and his brethren. This much is a certainty: McGarvey never allowed his position on the organ question to become a cause of division within the church. His soul recoiled from such a step. Yet, he stood so firmly by his original position that he was willing and actually did bring upon himself discomfort, alienation from friends, and practical isolation, yet he was not willing to impose this upon others."
Winfred E. Garrison in his book "Religion Follows the Frontier," writes about the situation in these words:"But it should be said that much Christian forbearance was practiced on both sides. Franklin (anti-organ) advised the anti-organists to meet separately for worship if an organ was put in over their protest, but not to organize a new church, or create a split. And Errett (pro-organ) advised discarding the use of the organ where there was opposition by a considerable minority."
Not all the writers were as amiable in their treatment of the question or of those who contended for the instrument. Moses E. Lard, a staunch defender of the missionary society was just as strong in his opposition to instrumental music. This was regarded as the "middle of the road" position in that day. His advice to those troubled about the problem was given in Lard's Quarterly, March, 1864:"Let now, as further evidence of this, any set of brethren, no matter how pious and true, set about inducing a church which has introduced an organ, to put it away, and these brethren will soon fall under its proscriptions and it will absolutely go the length of putting them away before it will put away its organ. It will part from everything and anything rather than its infamous box.
But what shall be done with such churches? Of course nothing. If they see fit to mortify the feelings of their brethren, to forsake the example of the primitive churches, to condemn the authority of Christ by resorting to will worship, to excite dissension, and give rise to general scandal, they must do it. As a body we can do nothing. Still we have three
partial remedies left us to which we should at once resort 1. Let every preacher in our ranks resolve at once that he will never, under any circumstances or on any account, enter a meeting house belonging to our brethren in which an organ stands. We beg and entreat our preaching brethren to adopt this as an unalterable rule of conduct. This and like evils must be checked, and the very speediest way to effect it is the one here suggested. 2. Let no brother who takes a letter from one church ever unite with another using an organ. Rather let him live out of the church than go into such a den. 3. Let those brethren who oppose the introduction of an organ first remonstrate in gentle, kind, but decided terms. If their remonstrance is unheeded, and the organ is brought in, then let them at once, and without even the formality of asking for a letter, abandon the church so acting; and let all such members unite elsewhere. Thus these organ-grinding churches will in the lapse of time be broken down, or wholly apostatize, and the sooner they are in fragments the better for the cause of Christ. I have no sympathy with them, no fellowship for them, and so help me God never intend knowingly to put my foot into one of them."
A year later, in the Quarterly, dated April, 1865, Lard referred to his previous statement, and added:"Editors and preachers may write and preach against organs till the last trump shall sound, but while they countenance the churches in which they stand, visit them, and suffer the machines to be cracked over their heads, they are but whistling idly in the air. There is but one way to cure the spirit in question--crush it. When a church learns that no preacher will set foot within its doors while it holds an organ; when it sees that its members are abandoning it; that it is fast coming to naught; and that unless it gives up its unholy innovation it is destined to ruin--then will it kick out its organ, and not before."
As more homes began to install organs in the parlor and these instruments ceased to be a luxury, the pressure to have them in the meetinghouses increased. The controversy waxed fierce in every section of the land. It was the chief subject discussed in the papers from 1864 to 1875. The spiritual life of many waned as character became no longer the criterion of the Christian walk and loyalty to Christ was judged primarily by an attitude toward the organ. Partisan spirit was aroused to such an intensity that W. K. Pendleton exhorted, "We notice a growing heat under the discussion of this subject--but let us keep cool." This warning went unheeded. Men boasted of the congregations into which they had thrust organs, or of those in which they had thwarted its introduction, as so many scalps dangling from the party belt.
Challenges for debate began to be issued by the opposing groups within local congregations. Each camp secured a champion who had built up a reputation as a party "hatchet man" for his side. The debaters were not always noted for their intellectual ability. A common boast was that they "would skin an opponent and tack his hide on the barn door with the bloody side out." They resorted to ridicule, invective, sarcasm and derision. The public gladiatorial combats, held in full view of the delighted sectarians whom the movement started out to unite, were not investigations carried on between brethren. They were fights to the death between tribal warriors, the "Digressives" and the "Antis."
Only at first did calm sense prevail and then not for long. When the congregation at Seventeenth and Olive Streets, in Saint Louis, Missouri, had an organ forced into the worship by a small group of agitators, many of the brothers and sisters with tears streaming down their cheeks, stumbled from the auditorium, their hearts both incensed and broken. There still lingered in their minds the greatness of the cause which they had espoused so they agreed to submit the case for arbitration. Among those who heard the respective sides were Robert Graham and Isaac Errett. These brethren decided that one soul was worth more than an organ and that a brother for whom Christ died should not be destroyed by preference for any expedient. They recommended that the organ be silenced. This was done and the dissenting members were restored.
But the united effort did not long con-
tinue even in Saint Louis. Those who desired to use the organ felt they were being inhibited in their freedom and the next rift was caused by their withdrawing and securing another place to meet. This produced one of those queer ironical twists so often noticeable under such circumstances. The hall which they rented did not have an organ, the meetinghouse they abandoned had one. For months there were two groups worshiping not far apart. One group had an organ which they would not use, the other group would have used an organ but had none.
In many urban communities especially there were those who felt it was necessary to make the congregation "cultured" regardless of the manner by which it was accomplished. In the heated exchanges the instrument became a status symbol. Those who regarded themselves as in a higher social bracket and who were progressive in thought and action resented the idea of "holding back the church" in the community to please "a bunch of old fogies." They saw no reason for catering to the whims of an uneducated segment who would make the congregation always subject to the regulation of yokels. In turn, those who opposed the instrument often regarded themselves as the loyal defenders of the bastion against a sinister group of conspirators whom Satan had infiltrated to destroy the last hope of Christianity from the earth.
Regardless of the spiritual and scriptural implications of the music question (and we are convinced there are many such worthy implications) we dare not overlook the circumstances and conditions which contributed to the division over the issue. We must never lose sight of the fact that instrumental music in the social worship of the saints is one thing, while division into two rival parties over the subject is a wholly different thing. It is our contention that while such subjects as the use of an instrument may be debatable, the subject of division among brethren is not debatable. If opposition to the instrument is based upon the silence of the apostolic doctrine, opposition to division among the members of the family of God must be based upon the positive declarations of scripture.
In any final analysis, such questions as instrumental music aggravate the problem of maintaining brotherly and family relationships, but overt division is caused by an attitude toward brethren, not by an attitude toward instrumental music or other such innovations. It is because of this fact that I contend that social, political and economical factors, prevalent at a given time, may have much to do with our spiritual reaction to troublesome and vexing problems. Certainly the transformation in our national life wrought by the industrial revolution, or the effect of the Civil War on our social fabric, have nothing to do with whether instrumental music in Christian worship is sanctioned by the Lord Jesus Christ, but they may have a lot to do with the atmosphere in which such problems are discussed and in the manner in which the discussions terminate.
It is possible, and I think quite probable, that this great test of the restoration movement had to end in division because of the very condition prevailing at the time of its introduction. To maintain that state of division and to make the same accusations and counter-accusations as were made in its inception, when conditions have altered, reveals that we are naive and childish. This in no sense implies that a thing becomes right in one generation which was wrong in another It does not argue that instrumental music in the corporate worship is sanctified by the passage of time. Our contention is that it was an attitude toward brotherhood which resulted in the formation of distinct parties around the pro and con of this issue, and it is time for us to recapture the sense of brotherhood. We may never settle such questions as those which have split and fragmented us but we will settle our eternal destiny in a manner we do not crave if we do not love our brethren all of them!
In past generations those who lived in the remote hill country of our Missouri
Ozarks were often superstitious and illiterate. In spite of this they possessed a high degree of integrity and family honor. When insulted they knew but one way to purge the blot from their name and that was by ambushing and killing the guilty person. Often this provoked a feud which was carried on from generation to generation, with members of each clan swearing over their latest victim to "wipe the others out." I have personally immersed into Christ some of the descendants of these feuding families. They have gone to the same schools and sat in the same classes. They are now members of the same congregations of the saints. They have outgrown the cruder methods of their fathers. Shall we learn in every department of life except the spiritual? Will we perpetuate the same bitter feuds which made havoc of the restoration plea in past years? Will we transmit to our children the same heritage of bitterness and sectarian animosity which we have received from our fathers.
It occurs to me that if we can grasp the significant difference between a thing and the division which occurred among brethren when they discussed it, we will be able without compromise of any personal conviction to restore a concept of brotherhood as a proper framework for future investigation and examination. And it will help us to realize that the disintegration of brotherhood was encouraged by external forces of which the participants were wholly unaware at the time. Those factors have been altered or amended in some cases and in most cases have passed away. It is time for a re-study of brotherhood and fellowship in the light of more advanced knowledge and free from the unfortunate interference of outside elements which had such an adverse influence a century ag0--free also from the personalities which then affected the struggle!
The instrument has lost its importance as a status symbol either in home or congregation. The industrial revolution which has acted to raise the living standard to such a high plane has made it possible for almost any home to possess radio and television. Aerials are seen above the poorest cabins and rudest shacks. Music appreciation is taught in schools. Congregations which oppose instrumental music have, in some instances, developed the art of singing until it is conceded by all that an instrument would he a hindrance instead of an aid. Those who do not employ instrumental music are no longer regarded as "old fogies." It not infrequently happens that their place in the industrial, economic and educational world earns for them in some communities a respect not enjoyed by many who contend for the instrument. The implications of the instrument as a social gauge have been completely altered.
The division now existing is an inherited one. We do not know of a single congregation that has been disturbed for several decades by the attempt to put in an instrument. We know of several that have suffered some unpleasantness when certain ones have sought to remove an instrument. Many of the brethren who see no harm in the use of an instrument and who do not consider it a sin would never recommend adoption of an instrument in a congregation that did not have one. Others in this category would gladly surrender the instrument in their locality if the decision were theirs to make, and if this one act would secure peace and harmony and reunite the divergent elements in love.
Under existing conditions it seems rather absurd to regard all who worship where an instrument is used as "dividers of churches," and to quote Romans 16:17 as universally applicable to them is both unfair and untrue. There is a difference between one who "causes division" and one who grows up in a state in which he may be wholly oblivious that division exists. It is also possible that the attitude of those who oppose the instrument has done as much to perpetuate the controversy as has a love for the instrument. The unbrotherly treatment that has been accorded has cemented the factional spirit in many communities.
The simple truth is that in the inception of the problem the partisan spirit
was not the exclusive possession of either side. This was demonstrated by the eagerness of both groups to rush into the courts of the land to guarantee their property rights often at the expense of their spiritual influence for generations to come. The ruin wrought by lawyers who knew nothing of the goals of the restoration movement and whose relation to the problem under dispute was on a mere mercenary plane can never be fully assessed until eternity reveals its effect in the lost souls driven away in discouragement or disgust.
Any sensible approach to the situation as it now exists must be made on a basis other than that of partisan debate by selected champions before the religious world. It is just possible that such an approach was never Christ-like in its nature, and was one of the means used by the Arch-foe to assure that the family of God would become so divided as to feel it was useless to ever strive for unity again. If we are to defeat his sinister designs we must reject his weapons which belong to "the works of the flesh." We must recognize that in every factional movement the partisan debate is one phase through which it passes until men can arise who look at the situation as a whole and who recognize that those methods which engender or encourage passion and emotion provide no rational solution of the difficulty. But we should reject such ineffective and outgrown weapons as we would the "law of fang and claw."
This does not mean that the question of the use of instrumental music is settled, or that it no longer needs to be studied and discussed. Men cannot be asked to set aside their convictions or to "just go along" with each other as if nothing had ever happened. Such a course would be merely following the path of least resistance and this always makes for crooked men. We must face up to the fact that in some places the question will never be settled in such a manner as to provide any working agreement. This should not deter us from working on the problem and lessening areas of tension where we can. It is possible that in the physical realm we shall never discover a cure for cancer which will be universally successful, but we must dedicate our energies toward trying to do so and never allow discouragements and setbacks to offset our zeal.
Our proposal is very simple. It is based upon the general recognition that before the division occurred we were united, all of us part of the same fellowship. The introduction of the instrument and other things placed a strain upon the ties of brotherhood. Under the existing conditions then prevalent our fathers sought to solve the problem by division and by a declaration that a state of brotherhood no longer existed. We need not question their sincerity nor impugn their motives. Instead we should credit them with the noblest intention, that of preserving the purity of the church and the original purpose of the restoration movement. But in the light of additional knowledge we can see that they misunderstood the implications of "fellowship" as the Holy Spirit used the term. Perhaps it would he safer to say that in the heat of the controversy they forgot those implications, at least temporarily. We must now decide whether we shall continue to perpetuate their mistaken concept.
If we decide to do so in order to preserve our partisan status, we shall doom our posterity to such recurrent divisions as will eventually divide the restoration movement out of existence. The philosophy adopted by our fathers was a factional one. It can never produce unity. It can only perpetuate existing divisions and breed new ones. If we decide to renounce this unscriptural concept of fellowship or brotherhood we can then begin to examine our points of difference from a new perspective, as brethren seeking for a common solution, not as enemies or aliens seeking to capture each other. We can recognize our differences as legitimate subjects for exploration but not occasions for division.
It is at this juncture we must personally face up to some grave problems as did our fathers in their day. One of those
problems is occasioned by fear--the fear that we may lose all we have gained so far. Thus, there are some who would take a limited view of our situation and who ask why we cannot restrict our efforts to restoring a proper sense of fellowship to those only who do not use the instrument. They are willing to recognize as bothers those who are divided over cups, classes, colleges, etc., and seek to alleviate the conditions existing among these, but they recoil from a recognition of those who employ the instrument in worship. They regard them as sectarian, whereas the groups who do not use instrumental music are looked upon as factions or parties within the church.
This attitude will never meet the needs of our day. In the first place it is unscriptural. It makes a distinction between sectism and factionalism, but these are applicable to the same thing so far as God's word is concerned. Moreover, it does not get to the real core of the problem. It is artificial and superficial. Our divisions have not been caused by things but by an attitude toward others of God's children, our brothers. It is not enough to merely nibble around at the troublesome issues which have arisen to plague us since we adopted the factional approach. We must go back to the time when we were misled into accepting that approach and reject it, and start to deal with our problems on a wholly different basis--one that will lead toward unity which God commands instead of toward division which he condemns.
This is a real adventure of faith! For those of us who have always lived sheltered, protected lives behind the barriers we have erected since our fathers chose the factional method in an attempt to protect what they had gained, it seems too risky and daring to associate with those of other factions and groups with a view to allowing the leaven of the Spirit to work in direct contact with the whole lump. But there are some considerations we should always bear in mind. First, it is false to assume that truth must always be overcome by error when they are brought into contact. Indeed it should be the other way around. Moreover, God is working in this age. The Holy Spirit is mightily at work in the hearts of many who are heirs of the restoration movement prompting toward unity and oneness. We do not risk anything when we submit and surrender ourselves completely to the guidance and care of the Spirit. We are never safer than at such a time.
Actually we are lost anyhow if we continue to evaluate our own little parties as the church of God and are thus led to disregard as our brethren those who have been reared in other factions. Nothing is a greater insult to the Father than the refusal to recognize His other children as our brothers. Instead of protecting what we have gained by maintaining a factional attitude, we actually insure our own condemnation. In the only portrayal which he gave of the final judgment scene, Jesus conditions our entrance into eternal rest upon our attitude toward and treatment of our brothers. This is the area to which we need to give the greatest attention for, if we believe Jesus, it is the one which will determine our right to be welcomed into the kingdom prepared for the faithful.
We can see no real gain to be derived from merely agreeing to recognize those who see "most things as we do," while we nourish the seed of partisanship in our hearts. It is not that we need to turn over a new leaf; we need to turn up with a new life! As we become convicted of the wrong inherent in our divided state we will be tempted to do the same things our fathers did three-quarters of a century ago. They chose the factional method of trying to preserve their spiritual gains; we may choose to gain spiritually by preserving the factional method. They doomed the restoration movement to failure by their choice; we will doom our souls eternally, for we could profit by their mistakes.
No faction among us today is "the loyal church." Not one is the church of God to the exclusion of all others. All of them are parties. They exist as monuments to our failure to keep the peace.
Their partisan gains and growth do not necessarily enrich the kingdom of heaven. Their multiplication is a disgrace to us and not a blessing to humanity. It is time for all of us to rise above the narrow partisan approach and to restore the spirit of the restoration movement. As I see it, this involves going back to the place where we began to divide, and not starting in at some subsequent point where we sub-divided. It means a recapture of the true sense of brotherhood in Christ Jesus based on the new birth. It does not mean endorsement of those things which were brought in to test and try our fathers. It does not mean the adoption of a single thing that you regard as an innovation or which you cannot conscientiously condone.
It does not involve a change of procedure where you worship. It does involve a change of heart toward those baptized believers who do not proceed as you do. It does not require surrender of any truth you hold, or of anything you hold to be a truth. It only involves renunciation of the greatest error Satan ever palmed off upon us--the fallacy that we can untie ourselves into unity, split ourselves into harmony and divide ourselves into oneness. I do not deny a single thing which our fathers in the faith discovered to be the truth, but I want it to be known to one and all that I renounce the factional approach which they adopted. In spite of their sincerity it was no part of the truth, it is not now and never will be!
I regard as my brothers in the Christ every sincere immersed believer in the Lord Jesus. Our differences I will approach as differences between brothers, not as occasions of strife between aliens. I deplore the introduction of instrumental music over the protests of the saints but I deplore even more the adoption of the false premise that those who were my brothers yesterday are no longer my brothers today. I renounce as untenable the very idea that brotherhood in Christ Jesus is based upon any other consideration than the mutual Fatherhood of God. "We are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus," and not by conformity on matters of opinion or interpretation.
It is my intention, if God spares my life, to deal directly and positively with the rise of the factional spirit, in our next issue. It will be my purpose to show how those who opposed innovations chose the factional method of dealing with their brethren who introduced them, and how these latter then adopted that method in retaliation, and aggravated, irritated and agitated until in many communities the bitterness created by this intestine strife and civil war still lingers to haunt the battlefield and to thwart any real hope of producing unity until hearts are purged and renovated. We shall quote from legal briefs and court decisions to show how love had fled and mercy hid her face while hate was enthroned on the sacred altar.
Perhaps what is said in the paper next month will humble us all as it should. Certainly as I contemplate my own past and see how I was victimized by the party spirit bequeathed from our ancestors, as I realize how I even regarded the sacred oracles as a repository of scriptures to be drawn upon for factional conquest, I am saddened, distressed and penitent. I do not ask you to concur with what I write. I only ask you to fervently pray for me that I may have understanding of His will for my brief life and courage to fulfill the design without fear of what men may do unto me.
We believe that every anxious member of the fellowship of the concerned will want to share the paper next month with others who need to be shaken from their complacency. We promise you that it will be worth reading, even though you cannot find it in your heart to agree with its contents. In the meantime, you are my brother if you are God's child, and I love you sincerely because I love Him. I am resolved to make nothing a test of fellowship or communion which He has not made a condition of salvation! This recognizes my right to disagree with my brothers in Christ and respects their right to disagree with me. Thus Jesus becomes central in our thinking and we truly become one in Him!
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