Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 20, 1955
NUMBER 24, PAGE 4-5a

On Quoting A Brother


For some time we have had it in mind to write a word of caution concerning the matter of quoting from the writings of others. Any fair minded person knows that by garbling a quotation (taking a sentence here and there, deleting words, taking a few expressions from several sentences) it is possible to make a man say the very opposite of what actually he did say. When such perversion of a man's utterances is done by mistake and by a misunderstanding of him it is bad enough, but when there is a deliberate and designed effort to make a man say the very opposite of what one knows he actually did say that is worse.

As a case in point, I refer once again (for the third or fourth time in these pages) to what I consider an unfair, unbrotherly, and unChristian use of a quotation. More than five years ago I wrote some articles concerning some of the problems then developing, and closed an editorial with this paragraph:

"As the discussion develops, and as the dangers of the present situation are pointed out, we believe there will be a general awakening among the churches to what is happening. And it is our earnest hope that all the churches will be able to work together in heading off and preventing any hurtful development, and in spreading the gospel in every nation under heaven. But if our hopes prove vain, and if willful and determined men arise who are set on leading the church into apostasy, let no one mistake our desire for peace for softness. The battle 'for the defense of New Testament Christianity' will be waged without restraint. If there is to be no other way for the church than the agony of a new digression and division, then our course is set; we shall not be moved. God being our helper, we have no other choice."

A certain brother who for some years had apparently cherished a bitter hatred for the Gospel Guardian and its predecessor seized upon this quotation and began to publish both by word of mouth and in his writings that the editor of the Guardian had publicly stated that it was his intention to split the church if he could! Upon first hearing the report, I could not imagine where he had conceived such an idea. Finally I wrote and asked him what he meant by making such charges. He cited me to the above paragraph as justification for his charge. I responded, pointing out to him the conditions under which we were determined to "battle without restraint", and I wondered if there was any faithful gospel preacher in the land who could possibly have a different attitude! I wrote, "We are committed to 'battle' and that 'without restraint', yes, even to the point of 'division' on exactly the same basis that those who opposed instrumental music 'divided' the church seventy-five years ago."

The above sentence (with all quotation marks removed) was used by an excited young brother in the Gospel Advocate a few weeks ago in an effort to indict the Gospel Guardian as a troubler of Israel. And yet the young brother himself, along with the bitter brother who first misused the quotation, and the Gospel Advocate's editor, and every gospel preacher in the land (unless he be apostate!) would advocate identically the attitude this writer set forth in the above sentence!!

Where is the gospel preacher who will not "battle for the defense of New Testament Christianity" and that "without restraint" IF WILLFUL AND DETERMINED MEN ARISE WHO ARE SET ON LEADING THE CHURCH INTO APOSTASY? Would not Brother Goodpasture wage such a battle? Would not Brother Cecil N. Wright, the one who originally misused the quotation? Would not Brother Bill L. Rogers, the latest to try to make something of it?

And if, in spite of their battle, the "willful and determined men" were able to lead off a faction (as did the digressives) would they then surrender the battle, and let these men take the whole church into apostasy? Or would they continue to fight for the truth and try to save a remnant? This was what happened when the digressives split the church over instrumental music and the societies. Faithful men battled for the truth. Digressive journalists accused these loyal brethren of "dividing the church by their opposition to instrumental music. It was on this very point that I wrote.

There is one thing worse than church division; that is total apostasy. And with the certain knowledge that it will probably be widely (mis)quoted and garbled beyond recognition, I once again state my attitude: I had a thousand times rather see the church divide, and a remnant of the faithful saved, than to see the whole church united in apostasy. And I invite Brother Wright, Brother Goodpasture, Brother W. L. Totty, and Brother Bill L. Rogers (all of whom have misused my former statement) to make what they will of that. I have grown more or less philosophical about these things, and do not get as disturbed about them as do some of my friends. I'm even almost to the point of being sympathetic and understanding of their reason for perverting my words. When one has no scripture with which to argue a case, what is there left for him to do except to misrepresent his opponent? I share fully in the attitude expressed by Brother Roy Lanier a few years ago in one of the Annual Lesson Commentaries, and which is quoted in the "Overflow" of this issue. Read it.

— F. Y. T.