Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 1, 1955
NUMBER 17, PAGE 1,9b

"Orphanages And Homes For The Aged" -- No. 3

John T. Lewis, Birmingham, Alabama

In our last article we saw what "the Ladies Sewing Society" did for brother E. G. Sewell and other faithful members of the Woodland Street church Nashville, Tennessee, more than sixty years ago. At that time they did not have a sewing room, dining room, and kitchen connected with the meeting house, but these "incidentals" are now being added to "our" meeting houses, and woe unto the preacher that tangles with the sewing sisters of today.

I have not quoted David Lipscomb, E. G. Sewell, and other writers of the Gospel Advocate fifty and sixty years ago to prove that "the benevolent organizations among us" today, which brother Woods says "we have uncovered" are wrong, but only to show that they were "agin" all organizations in carrying out the work and worship of the Lord except the New Testament church.

In the Gospel Advocate of Dec. 16, 1954, brother Woods tells of a very touching and pathetic case, "Texas Mother Finds Her Sons After Seventeen Years", but he used it for the wrong purpose. He used it to show the advantage of "our" orphanages over other peoples', whereas he should have used it to show how trifling the congregation was for letting the mother be separated from her children for even one day. The "emergency" in that case was for only one year, and if her congregation had not been able to keep her and her children together, I am sure other congregations would have gladly helped them.

During the "flu" epidemic, in World War One, there was a poor family that belonged to the West-End church. Brother C. M. Pullias and I buried the father one day, and in the next day or two we buried one of the sons. That left the mother with several other small children. She owed some on the humble home they were buying, and the city had sewer assessments against it. The West End congregation paid the assessment, and also finished paying for the home, thus, the mother was able to keep the rest of her children together in her own home. In a few years the children were grown up, and that emergency ended. About a couple of years ago I married one of the grandsons to a very fine Christian girl, a sister of one of our faithful young gospel preachers. There are very few of the present day members of the West-End congregation that know anything about this case, and the ones that do know don't know that I am writing about it.

This was not an isolated case in the churches of Birmingham. Nearly every congregation in and around the city has had emergencies that they have cared for without even calling upon other churches in the city for help. We had an aged sister in the Ensley congregation who suffered with Arthritis for several years and spent all her husband left her in hospitals and clinics, with no permanent relief. She finally fell out of a chair and broke one of her legs; was in the hospital for several months, expenses nearly $100 per week. The Ensley congregation took care of the hospital bills without having to call upon other congregations for help. When the doctors said they had done all they could for her, she was moved to a nursing home where she had every need supplied and more visitors than she needed. In the above cases any member of the congregation could obey James 1:27 by visiting "the fatherless and widows in their affliction", offering them words of encouragement, and carrying them any gift that they thought would be appreciated. If they had been bundled up and sent off to "orphanages or homes for the aged", all the visiting the members could have done would be to send a little contribution to some institution, an idea foreign to James 1:27.

Such cases as the above have been taken care of in the churches of Birmingham through the passing years without any tooting of horns, or crying for "Orphanages And Homes For The Aged." This will be done when churches are taught their duty along these lines. In brother Woods' seven articles he had in the Gospel Advocate on these subjects, the strongest argument (?) he made was: "We would greatly regret to see this work fail, the doors of these institutions to close, the helpless and dependent ones who live because of the benevolence of a great and generous brotherhood turned out into the world." Add to this the story of "Texas Mother Finds Her Sons After Seventeen Years", and you could almost imagine the Egyptian Sphinx shedding tears.

A few years ago during the Freed-Hardeman lectures brother Gus Nichols told of a pathetic case: A young man died and left a wife and three children. He said the wife called him, crying, and said: "Brother Nichols, what can I do, I have not a living relative?" There he left the story to show the great need of Childhaven, the home they were establishing at Cullman, Alabama. It would have been a fine lesson, if he had told that great crowd of young, and old preachers, that he called the elders and they assured the mother that they would take care of her rent and their support as long as they needed it. She, therefore, could have kept her children together, in their own home, as she did while her husband was living. The chances are that the members of the congregation would have "VISITED THEM IN THEIR AFFLICTION", and the elders would have been out but little for their support. Read James 1:27. However, brother Woods says: "Were the elders to designate two members to carry the basket, and two sisters to prepare the meal, these would be an organization apart from the church, and therefore, sinful, in this ridiculous concept." Shades of Aristotle.

I have known of many baskets of food being prepared and carried to the needy, but I have never heard of elders designating "two members to carry the basket, and two sisters to prepare the meal", and I am sure brother Woods has never heard of such procedure. Therefore, the whole "ridiculous concept" was just a figment of brother Woods' imagination — trying to show that you could not prepare a basket of food to carry to the needy without an organization. According to this profound reasoning James 1:27 cannot be obeyed without an organization and all such organizations would have to keep "oneself unspotted from the world". I suppose if some one should challenge an individual Christian's right "to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction", he could argue that his body was a God ordained organization, and, therefore, he was not violating the organizational idea.

In the Gospel Advocate of October 28, 1954, page 945, brother Woods says: "If we may rely upon the affirmations of sacred writ the early church operated a home for the aged and destitute widows". Where was that home, brother Woods? I have been reading "our" religious papers for more than fifty years, and I have never read as much on any subject without reason, revelation, logic, or common sense, as I have read on the above subject in the last year or two, and all of it has not been in one paper either. More to follow.