Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 27, 1952

Parallels With Pendleton -- No. 2

Robert C. Welch. Louisville. Kentucky

This is a review of the address made by W. K. Pendleton to the convention of the American Christian Missionary Society on its eighteenth anniversary. Not all of it is being copied, but the entire address is to be found in the Millennial Harbinger, Vol. 37, page 494. The purpose of this review is to show that parallel arguments to Pendleton's are being made by those who seek to justify church supported institutions today. Pendleton proposes very little affirmative arguments in his advocacy of the society. The most of his effort is made up of oratorical flights and attempted refutation of the arguments of those opposed to the society. When all is read on the modern church support of institutions the same procedure is found to exist.

The former article dealt with the occasion for such defensive addresses. This one begins with his consideration of the objections to the society.

Leaving Original Ground

"One says, 'we are departing from original ground. The Fathers of this Reformation were opposed to missionary societies. We are building again the things which they destroyed.' It would be sufficient answer to this objection to say, that it proceeds upon an assumption, which, above all others, perhaps, we have labored to resist, — that is, the authority of human opinions, in matters of religious faith and practice. It has been our boast that 'We call no man master.' 'To the law and to the testimony' has been the motto of all our discussions. From the mail-clad giant with his club of logic, to the light Parthian archer, with his winged arrows of rhetoric this has been the rule of the combat. But now that we are turning against ourselves, we throw away the time-honored motto and appeal to the authority of venerated names! Is it from the lack of arguments? Do we find that the rule of controversy which has served us so well in our contests with superstition and error, crosses our path, when we undertake to carry out the wide significance of the command, `Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.' Surely blindness, in part, at least, has happened to these opponents, when they thus resort to the rusty arsenals of repudiated weapons, for the implements of their warfare. But they make the appeal, and with this protest against its legitimacy, we accept the criterion, and proceed to examine the testimony — for we yield to none in all proper veneration for the immortal names, who have led us into this liberty and light of the gospel..." (Pendleton)

In his eagerness to prove that he was right because of the practice of the great men before him he misapplied the statements of the objectors to the society. Their contention was that the restoration movement was right at its beginning in having nothing but the church to carry on its program of evangelization; and that in creating the missionary society there had been a departure from the original principles of righteousness. The objectors were not claiming the 'Fathers of the movement' as authority. He says that such a claim is wrong, and in his very statement of the error he uses the "Fathers" as authority to prove that it is wrong. The last of the quotation above states that he is going to turn to those leaders of the past for his authority.

Now notice that one of the modern defenders of church supported institutions uses the same misapplication of statements of objectors so that he can use the great men and tradition of the past to prove his position.

"Brother Elam and Brother Lipscomb and the other trustees — Brother Elam always spoke for the trustees in acknowledging receipt of money — would have accepted money from five hundred congregations if they could have got it. And yet those wile are now trying to create the impression that, in asking the churches to contribute to the schools, we are going in the way of the missionary society compare themselves in protesting against such contributions to Brother Lipscomb, who was caricatured as an old woman trying to sweep back the waves of the sea! In the very same issue of the paper in which Brother Elam made his appeals and reported money received for the school, both he and Brother Lipscomb exposed the society's machinations mercilessly. Those good brethren had intelligence enough to distinguish between things that differ." (G. C. Brewer, Gospel Advocate, 1933, p. 915.)

By such tactics as this used by Pendleton and the above writer there is less vindication of the institutional causes, than there is of charging these great leaders of former days with contradictions and inconsistencies. Instead of honoring themselves, they are trying to dishonor the names and lives of these former giants. What if Brethren Lipscomb and Elam did endorse church contributions to secular private schools? Does that make the practice right? Is it proof that there is no parallel between the church supported school and the missionary society because those brethren fought one while encouraging the other? The fact that a man is right on one matter does not prove him right on another. The fact that a man is right at one time on a certain matter is not proof that he is always right in that same matter.

The Sanction Of Older Preachers

With the stage set in the last quotation for his appeal to the authority of the "Fathers" of the restoration, Pendleton proceeds to consider the early statement of Alexander Campbell about the societies. This is the statement of Campbell given by him, "Our objections to the missionary plan originated from the conviction that it is unauthorized in the New Testament; and that, in many instances, it is a system of iniquitous peculation and speculation, I feel perfectly able to maintain...Not questioning the piety and philanthropy of many of the originators and present abettors of the missionary plan, we must say that the present scheme is not authorized by our King." He then goes on with the evidence that Campbell approved of the society and was its president at one time. He makes some eloquent statements about the approval of the society by Walter Scott. He concludes his appeal to tradition in these words:

"All along our pathway, these and other heroic men have led us, and the voice of one or two is yet cheering us on to the nobler prosecution of missions. Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, Jno. T. Johnson, and Walter Scott are gone, but some venerable heads, white with years and crowned with the glory of noble deeds, still adorn our assemblies. They prolong the labors of the age that is gone, and linger to witness how we carry it on into the age that succeeds. Fathers in Israel! we accept the trust you lay upon us, and will conduct it to triumph." (Pendleton)

In the same vein, but with far less pathos, we hear the appeal to tradition:

"We wish now to show that it has been the practice of the churches from the days of Alexander Campbell down until today to contribute as churches to the schools.

"The following reports, found in the Millennial Harbinger and the Gospel Advocate, will show that this has been the custom of the churches and the schools all along through their history...

"If we should search through these reports diligently, we doubt not that many other congregational contributions could be found, but what has been submitted is certainly sufficient to show that the churches did contribute, and that Brother Elam and Brother Lipscomb, with the other trustees of the school, accepted the contributions and commended the churches that donated..." (G. C. Brewer, Gospel Advocate, 1933, p. 915)

Thus, another page has been written, another stage of progress has been made, another projection of the lines has been drawn, of the parallel existing between the institutional practice and thinking of today and that of yesterday, when the digressives with their society claimed a great majority of the disciples. This comparison is presented in the hope that it will cause some to think before going on in the course of institutionalism. The next installment will discuss the reply to the objection that the society is not scriptural. (To be continued.)