Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 24, 1955

Brother Harper Insults The Dead


On Sunday afternoon, October 2, Brother E. R. Harper delivered a radio sermon which will live in infamy. Speaking on the program of the Hillsboro Church of Christ, Nashville, Tennessee, he offered a gratuitous insult to the memory of that host of noble men, now sleeping in Christ, who braved the wrath of a popular movement and opposed the Missionary Societies in the early years. Brother Harper contended that it was they (the opposers) who split the church over this question!

He has apparently become so bewildered and confused by his "sponsoring church" hobby that he can not even read, much less understand, the simple facts of history. Speaking of Alexander Campbell and his well-known efforts to promote organized cooperation, Brother Harper declared:

"Nearly 150 years ago this subject was discussed thoroughly and every objection brought forth in succeeding generations was brought forth then and answered to the satisfaction of those striving to bring the world 'back to the Bible'."

One by one, he then lists the objections to the Missionary Society which faithful men had offered, and which Harper says were "answered": (1) not authorized by the apostles, (2) endangers local autonomy, (3) no precept or example for such organized cooperation, etc.

It is in this connection that he charges:

"Those opposing cooperation among congregations of the Lord were forcing the issue to the dividing of the followers of Christ even though they were begged not to press these issues to such a drastic extreme."

And just who was it that "opposed" the cooperation being urged by Campbell, Burnet, Pendleton, and others? Well, chief among the opposers was Tolbert Fanning. A few years later David Lipscomb raised his voice in opposition; as did also Benjamin Franklin, Jacob Creath, and others. Then came the "second generation" of those who opposed the organized cooperation which was being promoted: men like F. D. Srygley and his brother, F. B. Srygley, M. C. Kurfees, Austin McGary, Joe S. Warlick, J. D. Tant, and others too numerous to mention.

These are the men Brother Harper accuses of "dividing the followers of Christ" because of their opposition to the organized cooperation of the last century. These are the men who charged that the cooperation advocated by Campbell and Burnet and Errett would lead to the organization of "counsels, synods, creeds, and intolerant religious tyrannies and ecclesiastical hierarchies."

Hear Brother Harper as he denies this, and defends the Society:

"These great and vital issues were discussed and the great restoration of pure Christianity was built on the foundation that such "external cooperations" could not bring about any of these conditions pointed out. Mr. Campbell, one of America's most able religious scholars and one who had met more great men on the religious platforms of this country than any other living man, said of such cooperation, that the "external cooperations" did not lead to such organizations and only when the "internal affairs" of the congregations were invaded did such lead to the formation of such "counsels" and "ecclesiastical tyrannies". He should know for he was one of the world's greatest scholars in this field of research as you my brethren know."

Yes, and as E. R. Harper, our brother, apparently does NOT know, those "cooperations" did indeed do exactly what Harper said they could not do! Campbell himself became the first president of the "ecclesiastical hierarchy" which these cooperations produced. Has Brother Harper ever heard of the Cincinnati Convention of 1849? Does he not know that Campbell's "cooperation" at that meeting elected Campbell as the first president of the "cooperation"? Is it possible that E. R. Harper, gospel preacher, debater, voluminous writer, radio orator of national repute is so abysmally ignorant of the Restoration that he does not know these elementary facts of history? What is the matter with the man?

For a century or more the Digressives have been contending that it was the opposers of the Missionary Society rather than the promoters who divided the church. And now E. R. Harper joins their chorus of calumny and defamation of the dead. It is possible that some apologist for Herald of Truth will contend that Harper did not really mean to accuse Lipscomb, Fanning, and others who opposed Campbell's "cooperation" of splitting the church, and that he spoke only in ignorance of Restoration history, or else without realizing the implications of his statement. Well, when a man is that ignorant of the Restoration, and that inept in the use of English words, he has no business trying to speak on anybody's radio — on any subject. And when he insults the memory of those men of God who bravely fought against the apostasy of Campbell's "cooperation", it is way past time for something to be done about it. Incidentally, every elder of Highland Church shares with Harper in the infamy of his attack on these heroes of the faith; for they read and endorse every line he writes and every word he utters for publication.

Brethren, if we are going to have a "brotherhood eldership", let us at least select a body of men who will not insult the memory of those men of God who stood for the truth in years gone by. If faithful Christians are not disgusted by Brother Harper's insult to these saints of old, they ought to be! Harper either didn't realize what he was saying, or else he believed his charge to be true. In the first instance he is not intellectually qualified to speak on a national radio program (or any other kind); in the second instance he is not spiritually fit. In either instance his false accusation was a gratuitous insult.

— F. Y. T.