Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 1, 1953
NUMBER 34, PAGE 1,15

Parallels With Pendleton -- (Concluded)

Robert C. Welch, Louisville, Kentucky

The American Christian Missionary Society was about to die after eighteen years of effort to galvanize itself into acceptability with the churches. W. K. Pendleton was selected to make an address to its convention on its eighteenth anniversary. He was selected because they thought he could bring it to life. Actually it did begin to stir again after this appeal, steeped in rhetoric but with far less powerful argument than that made by Lard. This address is to be found in the Millennial Harbinger, Vol. 37, p. 494.

It has not been reviewed especially for the purpose of answering his arguments in favor of the society. The main purpose is to compare his argument with the reasoning of brethren today whose trend is toward institutionalism in the work of the Lord. Some refuse to accept the fact that there is any parallel between the missionary society and orphanages or schools which seek to do the work of the church. As the parallel arguments are presented who can still deny that they are parallel?

The Churches Are Responsible

One childish way of justifying an action is to lay the blame upon someone else, especially upon the objector to the action. Pendleton is not averse to using such flimsy argument on behalf of the society. In the same statement he is not willing to admit that its faults are real.

"Such as the Society is, the churches made it. As an organization, it is an expedient, embodying the delegated wisdom of the churches which formed it; it pretends to nothing higher. As a means, it is deemed to be in harmony with the spirit and tenor of the scriptures, and wisely adapted to carry out one of the grandest enterprises ever undertaken by God or man — the salvation of a lost and ruined world. If it has faults, they are neither anti-scriptural nor irremediable. They are faults of judgment, as to what is wise in adapting the means to the end." (Pendleton)

Is that different from the claims made by brethren, now, for their institutions? The following quotations are from articles advocating either orphanages or schools, or both, being supported by contributions from churches.

"It is still a private enterprise, and no eldership is under obligation to support it. Now if wise elderships through the land think that such a private work of Brother Potter should be maintained and perpetuated I'd be afraid to oppose such." (Hugo McCord, Gospel Advocate, 1952, P. 333)

"If, however, a church believes any school is teaching the truth and is thus furnishing an avenue through which parents may train their children, and such a church desires to help the school to exist, it has the right to do so." (N. B. Hardeman, Gospel Advocate, 1947, p. 144)

"This is a good work and a work that Christians are taught to do, and there is no organization doing the work except that which simply implements the purpose and makes the accomplishment of the thing intended. There is nothing unscriptural in these institutions unless they have, in some details, made mistakes. The contention is that such work is scriptural." (G. C. Brewer, Gospel Advocate, 1949, p. 646)

Paul And Institutions

The work which Paul did in encouraging churches to contribute to the necessity of the saints in other places, and in taking that contribution to the needy places, is often cited as a scriptural example for the building of institutions for doing evangelistic and charitable work. How some person can see an institution for doing such evangelistic and benevolent work in an individual's private teaching and carrying of funds to the place where distribution is to be made is not understandable. Yet that is the argument:

"The money that was given for the relief of the poor saints at Jerusalem, was raised by the solicitations of Paul. It was not a primary impulse of the churches. He asked for it — from place to place — and the contributions made to him for his own support were the fruit of the liberality of the Christians in the whole provinces. The personal aid afforded him, was often the free personal impulse of noble individuals, acting without concert, and independently of all church control. And thus, we raise money. We send out a solicitor — we ask churches, we ask individual members. Our field is the world, and our harvest is wherever there is a generous heart, in whom we can excite the divine impulse to give." (Pendleton)

The facts he states concerning Paul are accurate, but the application he makes is false. Paul did not raise funds for a missionary society; such funds came to him, personally. Paul did not raise funds for an institution to care for the needy. He raised funds for the needy and delivered them to the elders. (Acts 11:30) But that a man can utterly disregard the difference between an individual private work and an institution; and can foist an institution upon Christians and churches as their duty to support, by reason of individual duty and right; can be seen from the following writing.

"No, they do not say it is wrong for you to help privately from your purse, but they fail to see that Potter Home is purely a private matter.. The fact that Brother Potter put his private work under a board of trustees (for the better legal care of the children; for continuation of the private work after the passing of the Potters, for added counsel, and for increasing the good to be done) does not in anywise change the setup of the Home. It is still a private enterprise, and no eldership is under obligation to support it. Now if wise elderships through the land think that such a private work of Brother Potter should be maintained and perpetuated I'd be afraid to oppose such." (Hugo McCord, Gospel Advocate, 1952, p. 333)

The above writer fails to grasp the significance of turning a private work into a church institution. If Brother Potter had wealth to use in caring for unfortunate children, he certainly could have the blessing of God upon him for using it to care for them. But does the prerogative justify his beginning an institution which his wealth cannot maintain, and passing such obligation of maintenance and growth onto the churches and other Christians? A man might give several dollars to a beggar, but that does not justify his using that amount, instead, in making a down payment on a flop-house and asking the churches to keep it up and enlarge it.

The End Justifies The Means

That such a disposition should characterize the work of the Lord is deplorable. But when men are looking for some last straw to save their cause they will turn to even such a craven principle as that "anything is all right, just so it gets the job done."

"Andrew Jackson once said, when his counselors were halting for a plan, and fearing to advance less their plan might not prove a good one, — this wonderful man of action said — 'Stand not on the plan — let me advance — give me any plan — even a bad one, and I will make it succeed.' This is the spirit that this society now needs, and this the temper of the men, President and Board, whom we ought to appoint to represent us." (Pendleton)

Such a principle may work in war, but this matter we are considering is not based on such ruthlessness. Our instructions come from one who always has the best plan, the Lord, and it behooves us to be certain we are using his plan. Brethren are now making just such statements as this one of Pendleton's, with reference to charitable and evangelistic work. Though it is not specifically stated, yet the following quotation has just such a spirit.

"His opposition to Childhaven is founded upon prejudice and a failure to give proper consideration to the thing that is being done. Some of his statements reflect on Brother Lewis' spirit and attitude. He doesn't show proper sympathy for the unfortunate, the sinful and the suffering of the human race. He doesn't show any spirit of tolerance in considering the views and efforts of his brethren. He would appear to be uncharitable, unkind, radical, legalistic and dogmatic." (G. C. Brewer, Childhaven, A Reply, p. 49)

Custer's Last Stand

"It is meetings like these that give us this mighty sense of our unity, and inspire us with the true grandeur of our mission as the church of the living God. It is here that we are made to feel that we are members of the congregation, the innumerable congregation of the firstborn, whose names are enrolled in heaven. Let us swell the gatherings then from year to year, — put our hearts closer and closer to the great heart of the Church Universal, and bring them to beat more and more in unison with the will and the word of the King eternal, immortal and invisible, to whom be honor and glory forever and ever." (Pendleton)

Thus the curtain falls, the last strain of music fades away and a mighty applause rises from the audience. No parallel shall be given for this last rendition of Pendleton. It was placed in this article to give the reader one last view of his grand eloquence. That is one thing that is not paralleled by the brethren who today want institutions to do the work that the churches should be doing.

No attempt has been made to answer exhaustively the arguments of Pendleton. They were answered adequately at the time he made them. All the arguments he made, and more, were made by Lard, and have been reviewed more exhaustively in recent issues of the Guardian. This has been presented to show the parallel existing between that institution and those being promoted today. It shows that their thinking and reasoning are parallel. It is hoped that the review has accomplished its purpose by causing a few to see the parallel, and be warned of the consequences of promoting institutions for doing the work which they should be encouraging the churches themselves to do.