Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 4, 1962
NUMBER 34, PAGE 1,13-14a

The Restoration Of The Ancient Order --- (No. I)

M. C. Kurfees

(Editor's note: Thrity-three years ago the scholarly M. C. Kurfees published three articles under the title "The Need Of Continued Emphasis On the Restoration of the Ancient Order." These articles were published in the Gospel Advocate (April 19, April 26, and May 3, 1928), and were later later produced in the form of a tract. Because his warnings are even more urgently apropos today than they were then, if possible, we reproduce the entire series.)

The Common Tendency Among Religious People In All Ages To Compromise With Error

For some time now it has been my abiding purpose to write a few articles for publication on the restoration of the ancient order, but numerous duties have hitherto prevented its execution. I have received from Brother Price Billingsley a request practically covering the general line of my purpose and which I make the occasion of carrying it out by preparing the contemplated articles. His very earnest request has reached me in the following impressive form:

I write you upon a matter very close to my heart. Our churches grow in numbers, nor are we without reason for hope and confidence. Only with increase of power our problems are weightier and more difficult to handle. Never are we in graver danger than when we feel no need of caution. Eternal vigilance in the price of our success. Our congregations must be rightly manned; we must needs be wisely and faithfully led. For our leaders sustain pretty much the same vital relation to the church's rank and file that officers sustain to their army. So that defection or misdirection upon their part works frightful general havoc. Our preachers for the most part are an excellent lot, and I love them. Yet I am anxious. We know that thousands of subtile sinister influences are abroad to deflect them from the one great business upon which they are commissioned of the Lord, to modify the fury of their assaults upon sin, or to lead them up some blind alley of compromise.

Satan hates the word of God and forever drives at stealing it from the hearts of men, making any compromise necessary, teaching ever so much truth, if only allowed to put over his deception. We are all in peril from these lures. And I feel that today there is the most urgent need for a reaffirmation of gospel cardinals, a blowing of the trumpet, so to speak, that throughout our entire ranks may be a clearer understanding of the mighty truths of God's word. I come seeking to enlist your aid, to ask you to write upon these graves matters a series of articles in the Gospel Advocate.

He then adds the following very pertinent and timely comment:

Evidences multiply that we slip from safe moorings, that a strong tide of departure sets in. We cooperate with sectarians, conform to denominational spirit and methods, decry debates with errorists, work through - lodges and glory in politics. Preachers are produced by colleges rather than by congregations, men and books are elevated to the authority of the word of God, and we court rather than fear human standards of education. Elders slacken in dealing with the unruly, fail to fit themselves for their duties, and so hire outsider to do their work. There is a craving for smooth things, and evangelists, failing to reprove evil conditions and apparently thinking more of show and numbers than genuine conversions, more of offending men than God, are filling the church with unconverted and those undominated by gospel ideals. Are not these danger signals?

In an additional statement, referring to the policy of those preachers who sometimes fail to reprove wrong which should be reproved no matter where nor by whom taught, and to others who propagate their opinions and speculative teachings on unrevealed things to the division of the body of Christ, he says:

Speculative teaching, bearing the bitter fruit of division, gets a strangle hold upon us because responsible brethren keep silence on it. Even brotherly love, our greatest need, is mis-taught, and misunderstood. And all the while oversoft evangelists, who in the interests of material success know what not to preach, capitalize the cry for peace and smooth things, and so fill the church with unconverted or those not rightly committed to the gospel. Are not these evidences that a dangerous tide of departure sets in With His frank and uncompromising words, the Master winnowed out the unfit and turned back many who would have followed Him. He and the apostles spoke to serve the immediate particular needs of their hearers, however disturbing or unsuccessful for the time it seemed, taking the fight to false teachers and by name publicly exposing their errors. And they suffered for so doing. Did they err, or do we in following them? Yet we have those who speak but to praise and preach inoffensively, boasting their unvarying success and universal favor. Shall we accept them as stronger and wiser than God?

You no longer write regularly for the Advocate. Methinks many must miss your timely and forceful contributions. In the present need, will you not give us the benefit of your great influence and ripe Bible knowledge, and leave a permanent record of your reflections?

Realizing, at least in some measure, the lamentable religious situation in general confronting the country today as well as the particular situation indicated by our brother in the extract here quoted, I have decided to comply, to the best of my ability, with this request, and to do so in three articles to be published, with the consent of the management, in the Gospel Advocate. In accordance with my purpose, the plan adopted is to

devote these articles, respectively, to a consideration of the following themes:

1. The Common Tendency Among Religious People In All Ages To Compromise With Error. 2. The Leading Reformatory Movement Of History And Why They Failed. 3. The Remedy For The Present Situation.

According to this outline, the common tendency in question, as the heading of the present article indicates, first demands our attention. It is an indisputable and significant fact that in all the ages of God's recorded dealings with man, His people have exhibited, in some form or other, the tendency to compromise with error. This tendency is not always flagrant nor even very manifest on the surface, but the tendency, nevertheless, has always existed. Like the pendulum of a clock swinging to and fro, the people of God have swung from one extreme to another, sometimes clinging tenaciously to the word and way of God, and sometimes drifting away from His word and way and following their own ways. It is true that, in all periods of religious history, some of the people have, in the main, been true to God and were ready at all times to defend His truth and speak out boldly against all recognized departures from it. Hence, distributed in different periods, there have almost always been the Hezekiah's, the Jehoshaphat's, the Josiah's, and those of the type of John the Baptist and the Apostles John, Peter, and Paul to lift their clarion voices in defense of God's word and way, and to speak out with equal boldness against the ways and devices of men; but there have also been those like Ahab, Ahaz, Ahazia, Jehoram, Jeroboam, Manasseh, Omri, and Zedekiah who ignored the order of God and led the people in rebellion against His authority, and still again, there have sometimes been those who, like Amaziah, Azariah, and Asa, were sometimes right and sometimes wrong, following the Lord in some things and departing from His will in other things.

Now, instead of men with this fluctuating, vacillating. and wavering tendency to compromise with wrong, the world has always needed men, and sadly needs them today, who, like a stone wall, resolutely stand always and everywhere for the right and against the wrong; --men who are willing to say with the indomitable and peerless Paul: "Christ shall be magnified in my body whether by life, or by death;" (Phil. 1:20) men who, with the happy contentment of complete resignation to the will of God, can join the illustrious apostle in the added and significant reason for his brave course: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Phil. 1:21) What sublime courage! What heroic faith! What enduring patience! What magnificent resignation! Men of such character exemplify the inspired admonition to "hold fast the confession of our hope that it waver not," (Heb. 10:23) and their example is worthy of all imitation by the Christians of every age.

We are now prepared to consider the fact that all religious denominations and all denominationalism and partyism in religion of every description are traceable to this tendency. It is the one prolific source out of which, without exception, they have all come; and hence, nothing will ever stop or even materially check the tide of denominationalism and division among the followers of Christ until men stop yielding to this baleful tendency; and before we complete the present investigation, I think we shall see the one and only way by which it can ever be stopped. We should not have error, in any form, mixed with the truth; and hence, while we should always be considerate and respectful as well as kind and courteous in dealing with honest advocates and propagators of error, we should, nevertheless, be careful to point out to them plainly and unmistakably what God says and whereinsoever denominationalism or anything else is a departure therefrom. This is one of the crying and pressing needs of the present hour. Not only is there today with conflicting sects and sectarianism on every hand the urgent "need for a reaffirmation of gospel cardinals," but so long as there are sinners to save and people to be delivered from the confusion and entanglements of denominationalism, so long will it be necessary to preach the gospel of the Son of God in all its fullness.

To illustrate there is just as much need in our time to set forth and defend the fundamental truths of God's word as there was when it was so ably done by Alexander Campbell in his debate with Robert Owens on the Evidences of Christianity in 1829; in his debate with Bishop Purcell on the Roman Catholic Religion in 1837; and his debate with N. L. Rice on baptism and other vital themes in 1843; or when with equal faithfulness it was done by Benjamin Franklin in his debate with James Matthews on "Predestination and the Foreknowledge of God" in 1852; and in his debate with Joel Hume on "Hereditary Total Depravity" in 1853; or when it was done by Clark Braden in the Braden and Hughey debate in 1868; or by L. B. Wilkes in the Wilkes-Ditzler or Louisville debate in 1870. The demand for these seven famous debates from 1829 to 1870 was brought about largely by the aggressive, uncompromising, and unyielding fight waged by the faithful and fearless preachers of the time against denominationalism and all other forms of division among the people of God; and similar results would doubtless follow today if all the preachers professing to be undenominational were still making the same aggressive uncompromising, and unyielding fight. Of course, the truth of the Bible is precisely the same now that it was then, and error is just as rampant and many-sided on every hand now as it was then. The trouble today is there is too great a let-up among the preachers in waging war against error in any and all forms. On the other hand, the people other than the preachers in many instances, like ancient Israel, "will not hear the law of Jehovah" but say in effect: "Prophesy not unto us right things; speak unto us smooth things"; (Isa. 30:9, 10) and in some instances, Jehovah can say today as He said then: "The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priest bear rule by their means; and, My people love to have it so;" (Jer. 5:31) and thus the tendency is to compromise, which is always and everywhere wrong where the issue is a question of truth or error. Let it be stated here with all possible emphasis that whenever and wherever churches "slacken in dealing with the unruly" and preachers "speak but to praise and preach inoffensively," then and there is a compromise with error and the cause of God is made to suffer. No matter what may be the preacher's learning, he must surrender to nothing in religion but the word of God. Proper education in schools and colleges is all right, but nothing in literature or science must be "elevated to the authority of the word of God," but, on the contrary, in the preacher's hands, all learning in any and all lines should be made subservient to the faithful proclamation of that word.

Hence, I here respectfully call attention to the fact that the crying need, in present religious situation, is a faithful, pointed, full, and unreserved proclamation of God's word, not only as it was so ably set forth in the famous debates mentioned and in others that might be mentioned, but as it was then so faithfully proclaimed both orally in the general evangelistic field and by the pens of such men as Tolbert Fanning, John Smith, Walter Scott, Dr. Robert Richardson, John T. Johnson, Samuel Rogers, John I. Rogers, Jacob Creath, Philip S. Fall, Aylett Raines, John Allen Gano, Benjamin Franklin, Elijah Goodwin, Moses E. Lard, and many others of the period long ago, to say nothing of its equally faithful proclamation by both tongue and pen of the heroic spirits nearer our own time, such as the lamented I. B. Grubbs, J. W. McGarvey, John F. Rowe, David Lipscomb, E. G. Sewell, James A. Harding, and many others too numerous to mention by name. Some of the great men that have been enumerated pursued a course on some lines which some of us cannot fully endorse, but all of them were uncompromising defenders of the Bible as the inspired word of God, and were committed to the plea for a restoration of the "ancient order;" but this is precisely our duty now as much as it was their duty then. Never was it more important to turn the light of God's word on the isms and schisms of men than it is now. Hence, let very "soldier of Jesus Christ" stand aloof from all denominationalism and from all fractions, "put on the whole armor of God," and "fight the good fight of faith." While it is entirely proper to "cooperate" sometimes even with those in error on some things, provided we do so in a way not to uphold any error, yet we should never "cooperate with sectarians," nor with anybody else in any way or to any extent whatever that upholds anything not in accordance with the word of God.

As to working through any moral or religious institution aside from the church, if preachers and all other Christians will give proper attention to the New Testament, they will find that there is no possible moral or religious good which they cannot do as members of the church of the living God, and that, so far as this high end is concerned, they will find no time to "work through lodges and glory in politics." I have often proposed to the representatives and leaders of other institutions that, if they would name some moral or religious good which I cannot do as a member of the church of God, but which I could do in their institutions, then I would promptly join. No such thing has ever yet been named or pointed out to me, and for the very simple reason that there is no such thing. From the Christian point of view, this fact is a complete refutation of the claim that any such institution, aside from the church, is necessary. Hence, there should be no compromise here, but faithful and unceasing adherence to the truth.

Of course in all contentions for the truth against error, we should be courteous, and gentle, and kind, but wherever "there is a craving for smooth things" at the expense of the truth, we should remember the inspired injunction to "fight the good fight of the faith" (1 Tim. 6:12) and "to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints." (Jude 3) In the immortal words of that famous slogan adopted by the reformatory leaders of over a century ago, and which remained the slogan of their successors for about forty years, we should still, with all the eloquence that we can command, say to the world: "Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent." As an infallibly safe rule for the guidance of men in all their religious faith and practice no greater uninspired oracle in my judgment was ever proclaimed to the world. Constant and unswerving fidelity to that famous utterance will not only forestall any and all strife and division but it will always and everywhere point the way to good success and will lead to ultimate victory.