"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.IV No.VIII Pg.9
March 1942

Sighting-In Shots

Cled E. Wallace

New customs have a peculiar way of creeping into the general practice of the churches. At the beginning they are usually viewed with some alarm, often create some confusion but finally become so deeply rooted by repeated observance that it would require a major effort to dig them up. These customs may be good, harmless if somewhat foolish, and some have appealed to the fancy of some brethren which are downright pernicious. About the time I began preaching plenty of years ago, I ran into the tail-end of a controversy over the right hand of fellowship. The practice had taken such a hold in general practice that many did not consider a man a member of the church until he had been extended the right hand of fellowship. The formal custom has been long since dropped and apparently with good reason. In some sections it was long the custom for contributors to walk up and lay their money on the table, the Lord's money was placed on "the Lord's table." The change from this to waiting on the audience with baskets sent temperatures soaring and inspired a multitude of words. The passing out of the old custom was accompanied by many a heated argument. I have even seen an incorrigible stalk up to the table and lay his money down after the rest of the audience was waited on. It is easy for a mere custom to assume the place of divine law in the minds of those accustomed to it. Practice is not always accompanied by thinking of a desirable acquaintance with the teaching of the scriptures.

Some new customs in the field of incidentals contribute to decency and order and the convenience of large groups of worshippers. Sometimes one creeps in I am unable to see any good reason for, even if I do not feel justified in crying out against it. Giving thanks for the communion of the body and blood of the Lord at the Lord's Table is universally recognized as right in view of some plain scriptural references. But I had been preaching a good many years before I ever saw anybody duck his head and say a prayer into a contribution basket. Somebody started it recently, possibly the idea of stimulating the contribution spirit, it caught the fancy of the brethren, some of them, and it now occupies as fixed a place in worship as giving thanks for the bread. I have more than once observed some shocked expressions when I handed out the baskets or contribution plates without praying over them. They thought I had forgotten something. It is just a recent custom with little, and I think nothing to commend it. A few well-placed remarks on the duty of liberality, would be much more appropriate at that particular time. There is a time for prayer and thanksgiving and there is a time for admonition.


A good brother with a sizable amount of common sense suggested a very good test of good preaching. He thought the business of a preacher was to preach the gospel. He was listening to a certain preacher through a meeting. He applied this test. "I just imagined I was a sinner with little or no knowledge of the gospel and listened to see if I could learn enough from his preaching to intelligently obey the gospel. I was somewhat taken back to discover that information along that line was entirely too meager to get the job done." In a lot of present day preaching references to the plan of salvation are entirely too casual and abbreviated to properly instruct people in the right way of the Lord. Eloquent and heated lectures on the state of the nation and the decline of public morals may be interesting but pulpit autopsies of that character fall short of furnishing the information that both sinners and saints must have to establish and maintain fellowship with God. The old fashioned Methodist circuit-rider could beat most of us at that sort of thing, but he fell far short of ringing the changes on the gospel. Sinners need to be told what to do to be saved, and saints need to be told over and over how to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world. There is nothing that beats preaching the Bible to the people, giving to each and all their portion in due season. Sectarian preachers can preach morals and many of them are extra good at it. They can tell us that the nation is headed straight for hell without a return ticket and why. People need to know about the establishment of the church, the change in covenants, the conditions of salvation and other vital issues that pertain to life and salvation. Who is going to tell them if we become too squeamish or prudent to venture out on controversial issues? It would be a revelation to some members of the church, including some preachers, to know of the bitter battles over matters of doctrine that brought the church to its present strength which is far short of what it ought to be. If a preacher can be eloquent at all, he ought to wax eloquent over the divine offer of salvation to sinners and the conditions upon which it can be enjoyed.


A preaching brother was one day "glorifying his ministry" using me as an audience. He was not so hot as a writer and took occasion to disparage gospel papers among us almost to the point of contempt. "Nobody reads these little old papers of ours anyway." I have noticed his picture in one of them more than once and have seen numerous and lengthy reports of his work, written by himself, in at least two of them. He should not blush unseen and waste his fragrance on the desert air in any such futile fashion, if nobody but a few preachers ever reads the papers. As a matter of fact more people read the papers in a year than he can preach to in ten, and he is a very good preacher at that. There is a place for both oral and written preaching. The brother should write something that rubs brethren wrong, like I do sometimes, and he may find that they read the papers all the way from New York to Pearl Harbor. I have been curried by gentlemen of the clergy, even a Bishop, from faraway places. I'll warrant that he never had a Bishop do any squirming over his preaching. The preaching that is read in the papers may not be always the best variety, but then it is probably as good on an average as that which is heard in the pulpits. And the reader has an advantage in that he can walk out in the middle of a poor article without attracting attention.


It seems to me to be bad business and poor judgment to try to run a paper to please a soft, compromising element in the church. That sort doesn't read the papers anyhow, especially the kind of papers designed to appeal to them. When they do read, they like to read something that stirs them up, or at least they do whether they like it or not. Some of them read the Bible Banner and we and others hear from them and what we hear would not be suitable reading in the sort of paper they profess to like. Most people will warm up to a fight and a fight is a good thing if it is directed at something that needs fighting and in defense of something worth fighting for. "Fight the good fight of the faith." It is a mistake to confuse such a fight with a personal squabble.