Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 11, 1955
NUMBER 14, PAGE 1,11b-13

The Last Night Of The Lufkin Debate

Roy E. Cogdill

Brother Harper hurt his cause irreparably the last night of the debate. It had been completely sensed by every unprejudiced mind that he had utterly failed to establish the scripturalness of his position. More than a few had freely expressed their dismay at the complete abandonment of the New Testament position by the defenders of Herald of Truth. But the last night what had been disappointment, discouragement, and dismay turned to complete disgust because of the new low levels to which the defense of Herald of Truth sank. The tactics employed and ruthlessness shown in the efforts made to carry their point speak for themselves. We tell you about them so that they may register on those who were not present as they did upon those who were present.

In the beginning of the discussion the last night Brother Harper introduced some charts illustrating some information he said he had concerning the Lufkin Church and its work and also concerning the Gospel Guardian. He made no explanation as to why he introduced the Lufkin Church into the debate. Brother Tant was under no obligation to defend what the Lufkin Church had done nor so far as that is concerned was anyone else. He was affirming that the teaching of the Gospel Guardian is scriptural with reference to church cooperation. The Guardian, its editor, and none of the writers are in any sense obligated to defend every practice of the Lufkin Church. But Brother Harper and his Herald of Truth defenders are so completely void of any scriptural grounds upon which to defend their practice that they have "compassed land and sea" to find something which will in some measure discredit their opposition and satisfy their minds by arousing blind prejudice or act as a sedative for their consciences. They have really scraped the bottom of the barrel as events of the last night reveal.

One of the charts represented the Gospel Guardian as receiving help or support from the Lufkin Church. Harper contended that the Lufkin Church had paid four preachers to spend their time working at the printing plant owned by the Roy E. Cogdill Publishing Company at that time which company then owned and published the Gospel Guardian. Thus he would make it appear that the church was contributing to the Gospel Guardian.

The remarkable thing about this contention was the kind of testimony it rested upon. The whole thing was based upon the fact that Brother George Jones had written Brother Harper a letter giving him this information and that was the extent of his evidence of the truth of this story. Brother Harper thus demonstrated either his complete ignorance of what constitutes evidence or his carelessness in ascertaining the truth of his representations. What did George Jones know of his own knowledge about who paid the salaries of those who worked for the Guardian? Absolutely nothing! He had been told that such was the case. It has not been disclosed who gave him that information so far as my knowledge goes. If ever it is, I promise now to prove by documentary evidence that the party falsified completely. The records of the company as well as the church will prove it a complete falsehood. But that did not seem to matter to the Herald of Truth brethren if they could introduce it and get someone to believe it.

That kind of evidence is not admissible in any court in the country. It is hearsay testimony and worth nothing as evidence. George Jones could not testify to such in any court anywhere because he had no way of knowing of his own knowledge that it was the truth. Such testimony is inadmissible always and is overruled and excluded. Brother Harper had made no effort to verify the information. He had someone to take the responsibility if it was not true and he didn't care whether it was or not if he could get by with it. If he had, he would have been impelled to make some effort to ascertain its credibility. It was his obligation to know the truth of the matter and be able by credible witnesses to establish the facts represented. Does he believe everything he is told and by using it seek to do someone harm? Such is unscrupulous conduct and altogether reprehensible. If that is his policy, and it was in the Lufkin debate, he is a poor kind of Christian. When a man thus presents false testimony without any effort to verify it at all, he is just as guilty as the man who manufactured it and told the falsehood to start with.

If it had been true, it would not be competent to establish the scripturalness of his position. He, of course, did not use it for that purpose. He did not go into the debate with the purpose of proving anything to be scriptural. If he had, he would have pursued a different course. To this writer it seemed evident that Brother Harper entered the discussion with the idea in mind of destroying his opposition. At least, such was his effort from the beginning and about the only effort he made. But his hearsay evidence (?) backfired and the explosion shattered his composure and sweet attitude. It all disappeared momentarily. We have mentioned in a previous article that he called upon James W. Nichols, Dean of promoters, to testify during his speech. When Brother Tant came to reply to these charts mentioned, he asked Brother George Jones to stand and make a statement and the statement he made was as follows:

Jones: "I wrote to Brother Harper about October 15th, I believe. I was honest in what I wrote him at that time. I wrote him my sincere convictions. For a period of about two years before that I had not been studying these matters. In the seven months that have followed since I wrote him this letter I have been studying these issues as I have the right to do and as everyone has a right to do, and I have changed my mind as everyone has a right to do. And, I'm not ashamed to tell this audience that I have changed my mind. The church that I preach for has been supporting the Herald of Truth but in this debate I have learned and I believe it to be unscriptural. Now if I need to say anything else...

Tant: "Yes, I think you do, Brother Jones: Concerning your statement to Brother Harper that the Fourth and Groesbeck Church was paying men who worked for the Gospel Guardian. Do you have any further information on that?"

Jones: "Well, if the Fourth and Groesbeck Church was paying men to work for the Gospel Guardian at that time, I believe that it was wrong and I believe now that it was wrong. If I was mistaken in that matter, and I believe that I was and I believe that since then that I have learned that I was and I have had it pointed out to me that I was mistaken, then that makes the difference. But I would not endorse the church at Fourth and Groesbeck or the church anywhere else paying the men who work for a printing company then or now."

Cogdill: "Neither would I."

Brother Harper in his last speech showed more bitterness than he had shown during the debate. He reverted to his "writing style." He charged Brother Jones with knowing he intended to use the information given him and deliberately allowing him to continue to believe it and use it after learning that it was not true. On this point in Brother Jones behalf, it could have been pointed out that he told Brother Tant on Wednesday and also told me on Wednesday night that he didn't know whether Brother Harper intended to use the information that he had given him or not; but he thought that Tant had a right to know that he had been given such information. After Brother Harper asserted on Thursday night that he told Brother Jones he intended to use it and that Brother Jones told him that he would gladly testify to it if called upon, Brother Jones denied that Brother Harper had told him any such thing. But that, of course, was between Brother Harper and Brother Jones. Brother Harper found himself in the position of having relied upon testimony which he had not even checked, pure hearsay without any verification, and deserted in the midst of the trial by the only witness he had. The evidence would not have been worth anything though even if his witness had not learned better and had stayed with him. It is worth nothing as evidence, as anyone informed about such matters ought to know. Brother Harper has since been hurting so by this incident and the result of it that he has charged that the whole thing was a trap and hence questions the honesty of both Brothers Jones and Tant, as well as W. Curtis Porter, Tant's moderator. This he has no right to do and only adds insult to injury. But he isn't happy about the matter so I guess we will have to overlook his attitude.

When George Jones came to me asking about the truth of the information he had given Brother Harper, I offered to show him the books and records, time cards, and payroll checks of the company and verify the whole matter by the elders of the church. Affidavits can easily be secured to verify the fact that not one hour of work did the Lufkin Church ever pay for in behalf of the Guardian. It is a charge that is absolutely false. The testimony comes from either the misinformed or the dishonorable. I will be glad to furnish Brother Harper enough evidence — documentary in nature — to convince even him that it is not so, if he wants it. He does not have to dig around among our enemies to find out what we have done, we will give him the information if he will forthrightly ask for it. We will defend what we have done that is right and unhesitatingly acknowledge any error we have made.

These Herald of Truth brethren have peculiar ethics. The last day of the debate, Brother Willeford and Brother Nichols visited the Banner Printing Company plant in Lufkin and under the guise of "making a survey of the circulation of religious papers" Brother Willeford tried to pry into private business matters. He asked the pressman in the plant what the circulation of the Guardian is now. When he refused to give him the information and suggested that he go to Brother Tant if he wanted such information, Brother Willeford sought out the president of the printing company, Brother Tex Allen, and tried to get the information out of him. Brother Allen told him that it was Brother Tant's place to give out such information as that and told him to go to Brother Tant. Instead of looking up Tant, who was in his office not more than fifty feet away and forthrightly talking to him about it, they silently stole away without asking any more questions. Such information is trade or business information and is none of their business. To seek it as they did is sneaking and deceitful snooping. It is unbecoming to Christians and I told them so after the debate closed. They claimed that they did not know any better but if they were just ignorant of the ethics of such matters, why did they not go to Tant in an honorable fashion when they were told to do so? Such attitudes and tactics are to be deplored among brethren. If I wanted information about the Christian Chronicle, would I go to Brother Nichol's plant in Abilene and seek out such information from his employees under the guise or ruse of "making a survey"? I know I would not. But that is the method they have employed continually in an effort to try to get something they can "use" against us. They have scoured the corners of the country and still are. We have word of their efforts along these lines frequently.

The lowest and most ungodly thing perpetrated, however, was the "Dick Smith Check" which was the subject of another Harper introduced chart on the third night of the debate. This chart represented the Gospel Guardian as a forwarding agency receiving thousands of dollars in contributions and forwarding them to preachers in various fields. In evidence again the case was very woefully lacking. Let us look at it factually.

  1. This lone contribution — a $5.00 check made out to the Gospel Guardian, marked "For Dick Smith in Germany," endorsed, "Payable to Richard E. Smith, The Gospel Guardian by Yater Tant," was the extent of their evidence. Imagination supplied the rest of the "thousands of dollars" suggested by Brother Harper.
  2. This involved no church in any way and utterly failed to prove the receipt of a contribution from any church by the Gospel Guardian. This was a contribution from an individual to an individual — forwarded by an individual — or individual enterprise without any agency, control, or choice to be exercised except to forward it according to specification or send it back.
  3. By this incident no sort of practice was established. There is not another like it. The Gospel Guardian did not and has never asked for churches to send contributions to it. This is the only one that has ever been received in any fashion and the only one that has been forwarded. What flimsy evidence of their wild insinuation and implication that the Guardian Company is a missionary society of some sort and constitutes a danger to the brotherhood! This is indeed, "straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel" but Brother Harper and the Herald of Truth brethren seem good at that if the camel is theirs.

The facts concerning this check came out into the open after its introduction. Even Brother Tant had not known about it until then. All he knew was that when Dick Smith at Karlsruhe, Germany, was unmercifully cut off by Grove Avenue in San Antonio, his support suspended without any advance notice and was destitute to the point of selling his furniture to feed his family, Brother Tant knowing his plight had urged brethren to come to his rescue. In response he received a letter which was almost illegible, with misspelled words, bad grammar, and professing a great sympathy and regard for Dick Smith, stating that he had been mistreated by Grove Avenue, containing a $5.00 check made out to the Gospel Guardian and marked, "For Dick Smith in Germany," asking that the amount be forwarded to him. Brother Tant endorsed the check and sent it on.

Brother Harper alleged that such a contribution had been received by Brother Nichols at the Christian Chronicle and he was wise enough that he sent it back instead of forwarding it. But Brother Nichols received his after the Dick Smith incident for he wasn't even connected with the Christian Chronicle at that time according to his own testimony. He was careful to send the check back that came to him much later with the request that he send it on. According to Brother Harper this incident happened about two weeks after Brother Nichols became editor of the Christian Chronicle so it is only recent. It is just possible that Nichols knew about the Gatewood trick in the Dick Smith check and was afraid that someone was trying to trick him into the same sort of thing. He was familiar with such trickery at that time. Tant was not. Nichols knew of their intent to use the trickery of Gatewood and did not want to do anything that would prevent the use of such. It is easy to see why he did not forward the contribution.

There is nothing in such an incident, however, that is comparable to what Highland Church is doing in the Herald of Truth arrangement. There is no "sponsoring church cooperation" arrangement in that incident even as it stands on its face. Why then did Harper use it? And he was not by himself in the use of it. Along with him in the use of this base collusion and connivance stand the Herald of Truth preachers and the elders of Highland in Abilene, if not all of them, then at least Brother Patterson and the Bishop of the Herald of Truth, Brother Reese. They knew about it all along and knew it was to be used. Brother Harper has affirmed that they pass on everything he says and writes and does concerning the Herald of Truth. They used the Dick Smith check for only one reason — to make it appear that the Gospel Guardian is receiving contributions and forwarding them and is therefore comparable to a missionary society. I am persuaded that Brother Harper and the rest of these brethren know that isn't so but they are desperate for something to use in their complete lack of scriptural proof for their practice.

But what are the circumstances behind this check that make it so reprehensible? Brother Harper said he didn't know all of the circumstances. He admitted that he did know some of the circumstances. How many of them he did know is a question in all of our minds. He knew that the check came into his hands through Otis Gatewood. Wonder if he knew how Gatewood got hold of it? It would be my guess that he did or at least that his suspicions were aroused about it. That would have been the first question to ask Gatewood naturally, "Where did you get the check and how did you know about it?" Perhaps Brother Harper did not so inquire. We have already found out that he isn't very careful about investigating the truth of the testimony furnished him if he can use it. He vowed that he would not be a part to such a scheme as involved the check but he was not above trying to use it when he did admittedly have some of the facts concerning its origin. He needed something to create distrust and destroy confidence and grabbed at it when it came along.

Here is the story of the check and the infamous trickery involved in it: Otis Gatewood sent both the letter and the money to his sister at Earth, Texas; Mrs. J. H. Garrett. The check was signed by J. H. Garrett and was somewhat mutilated. It was a Muleshoe, Texas, bank check but Muleshoe was marked out and the check was drawn on the Citizen's State Bank of Earth, Texas, and was signed by J. H. Garrett. Under the signature was "Earth Locker." Gatewood thus arranged to use his sister and her husband in carrying out his trickery. He sent the letter and the money to her with the request that she write or have her husband to write a check on their family bank account and send it with the letter to the Gospel Guardian. The letter was not in Gatewood's usual handwriting, so he either disguised his normal penmanship or else had someone copy the letter. He instructed his sister and her husband, according to his own story, to be sure and make the check out to the Gospel Guardian and mark it for Dick Smith and when it came back endorsed and cancelled to send it to him. He furnished it to Totty and Sterl Watson to use in the St. Louis debate and they have never repudiated the scheme. They demonstrated that they would stoop to the use of anything in order to discredit an opponent. Then he furnished it to the Herald of Truth brethren to use again. This was the use for which he arranged the whole scheme. It was instigated in order to get something to use against the Guardian. The letter accompanying the check composed by Gatewood himself was a lie, deceitful in every line. The contribution was a low, vile trap for the very purpose of tricking a man to do something which could be used to destroy confidence in him and discredit him. They didn't have anything so they set about manufacturing something which they could use. It is astonishing to even those of us who had little or no confidence in Gatewood to know now that he would stoop to such a vile trick. Those who have had confidence in Otis and have entrusted many thousands of dollars to him had better re-examine the character of the man. Surely knowing about the low trick arranged by him they cannot now have any confidence in his honor until such is corrected. One who will stoop to such unprincipled deceit and conniving in an effort to destroy another will do anything that will serve his purposes. Gatewood isn't fit to enjoy Christian fellowship until he repents and asks forgiveness for this ungodly scheme. Will the elders of the Broadway Church at Lubbock sustain him in such deceit and unrighteousness? If so, they aren't any better than he is. We have no apology for the strong language and plain speech which has been used in setting forth the nature of this trickery. It is completely without honor and belongs in the same class as Balaam — who loved the hire of wrong doing, and for the sake of reward taught Balak to send his lewd women down into the camp of Israel to tempt the men of Israel to sin so they would become a curse unto themselves and their purposes would be accomplished.

Brother Harper found his efforts to destroy those who differ with him backfiring on him. This effort was altogether unworthy and he should repent of it. A man who uses such trickery is but very little if any better than the fellow who conceives and arranges it.

It all demonstrates to what depths brethren will stoop to justify themselves in what they want to do when it is not in harmony with God's will and cannot be justified by His word. If they had any Bible to stand upon they would not need to stoop to such trickery. But then if they were interested in standing upon the Bible they would not stoop to such anyway. It is all the outgrowth of an attitude toward the word of God. This is the basic, fundamental difficulty with all of their schemes.

I am curious as to what is being "hatched" up or "arranged" for the Abilene debate. It will have to be more of the same. They will have no more scripture on which to stand there than they had in Lufkin. Sincere brethren everywhere who think the "Herald of Truth" can be defended by the word of God should write to Harper and the elders who are running this program for them and insist that they offer some scripture the next time. Only the scriptures can prove a thing scriptural. The Gospel Guardian or the worthiness and consistency of its editors and writers are not the issue nor will the issue be settled before God that way. If Harper, Reese, Patterson, Nichols, Willeford, et al, be able completely to destroy the Guardian (and I understand that such an effort is the reason assigned for their willingness to enter into the debate at all), and should they accomplish their purpose, which they won't of course, it would not prove that the "Herald of Truth" is scriptural. Only the word of God can do that and they have nothing to offer from the word of God for such an arrangement. This was the outstanding fact of the debate and it was this fact, that they had no scripture to offer, that opened the eyes of many of the brethren and convinced them that it is wrong and cannot be defended. The debate did an untold amount of good. The gospel preachers who were present with honest and unprejudiced minds and saw the weakness of the defense for the program will spread the story wherever they go and ultimately will teach many thousands of the brethren all over the country that one church cannot promote and direct a program of work for the, whole brotherhood. Give them time and more and more will turn away from such unscriptural promotions and be satisfied with the simplicity of God's plan. This whole controversy is not a matter of personalities. It cannot be settled that way. It is a matter of eternal truth and must be settled by what the word of the Lord says about it.

Though this was Yater Tant's first debate he demonstrated that like his illustrious father, he is equal to the occasion. He did a magnificent job of upholding God's word.