Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 2, 1955

"A Principle Eternal" (3)

Luther W. Martin, St. James, Missouri

In the Lufkin Tant-Harper Debate, Brother E. R. Harper stated:

"There are four ways to teach a thing: one is by command; the other is by an example; the other is by necessary inference; and, the other is by a principle eternal."

In the Otey Briney Debate, conducted in 1908, J. B. Briney stated:

"'Let all things be done decently and in order.' Now, that embraces and presents the GREAT GENERAL PRINCIPLE (Emphasis mine, L.W.M.) that is to control the children of God or the church of God in carrying on this great and world-wide work." (See original edition, Otey-Briney Debate, page 162.)

In the Wallace-Hunt Debate, held in Ottumwa, Iowa, in 1951, Julian O. Hunt said:

"Now, the PRINCIPLE (Emphasis mine, L.W.M.) upon which I justify all aids, which I consider is we might say in interpretation or a principle upon which I have derived from the study of the law of expediency, is this. That any law or precept — now here is what I said — that any law or precept of the New Testament whether it be a commandment or ordinance, or item, or acts of work, or worship permits the individual to aid himself by the use of any or all aids in obeying the commandments of God. As long as these aids do not change the law or if it does not usurp authority over it, and is not wrong within itself. In other words, my friends, a person can use an aid if it does not change the law, or if it does not usurp authority over it, or if it is not wrong within itself. Now, I say that I go down to the hardware store and pick up something and say, 'Well, I decide that this aids me, and it is not wrong — so I will use it.' That is the principle that I argued, and I do not justify aids on that principle and that principle alone. I did not use. that at all — I stated the principle. It must not change the law of God. It must not usurp authority over it, and it must not be wrong within itself. You will hear much more about that principle." (Wallace-Hunt Debate, page 22.)

When I first read Mr. Hunt's prophetic statement ... that 'You will, hear much more about that PRINCIPLE, 'I merely accepted it at face value . . . thinking that he would make further use of it in debating with Brother G. K. Wallace. Little did I suspect that the 'principle' argument would be subsequently used by my own brethren in attempting to affirm the scripturality of 'centralized cooperation.' Brother Harper's moderator, Brother James Walter Nichols, was present throughout the Wallace-Hunt Debate, and served as moderator for Brother Wallace. This discussion was on the subject of the use of musical instruments (mechanical) in the Christian worship service. Mr. Hunt used the 'principle' argument in attempting to show that the instrument was a 'scriptural aid' to the individual in worship.

Direct Command — Approved Example — Necessary Inference — What Next?

Quoting again from Mr. Hunt, in the Wallace-Hunt Debate:

"By the way, I have a question written out here. Now, here, does a commandment, and example, and necessary inference of the word of God constitute everything scriptural? Now you answer that. Does the commandment, example and inference of the word of God constitute every thing scriptural? I want to find out. You will find out why he will not define the word scriptural. I know why, and I am going to tell it on him tomorrow night if he doesn't do it." (Wallace-Hunt Debate, page 52.)

Brother Wallace replied as follows:

"I want to notice first, some of the things that were said by Brother Hunt, in his speech last night, or in his last speech. He handed me a written, question that says, 'Does a commandment, example, inference of the word of God constitute everything scriptural?' And, I reply, `See John 4:24'." (Page 65, Wallace-Hunt Debate.)

John 4:24 reads, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth." However, if the 'principle eternal' is to be embraced and endorsed by gospel preachers, then they had better cease opposing the use of the instrument in Christian worship.

Mr. Hunt's reply states in his final paragraph to the above argument:

"So the piano doesn't change the singing, it does not usurp authority over singing because for as a rule there is just one playing and the whole congregation sings. So, there are so many more people singing than are playing that the playing of the sound of the instrument could not possibly usurp authority over the singing. Neither is the instrument wrong within itself. Therefore it does not change God's law to sing: it does not usurp authority over singing and is not wrong within itself. Therefore, ACCORDING TO THE LAW OF EXPEDIENCY (Emphasis mine, L.W.M.) in which this PRINCIPLE is involved, the piano is a good instrument to aid a person in obeying a commandment to sing. Now jelly on the Lord's Supper would change that supper. So it is not in the category, my friend, with the aid of a piano. That's his first speech answered." (Wallace-Hunt Debate, page 100.)

Of course, we do not agree with most of Mr. Hunt's reasoning . . . in fact his 'logic' is lacking in many respects. However, the SIMILARITY of Mr. Hunt's `principle' which is equivalent to his 'law of expediency,' and Brother Harper's FOURTH way of teaching a Bible truth, which he calls the 'principle eternal,' look like a pair of twin rabbits. There's no telling how many WAYS of teaching a Bible truth will be propounded by those who try to uphold a practice that has no Bible pattern, nor authorization.

Nor do we charge Brother Harper with presently holding similar views with Mr. Hunt in the use of the instrument. We do charge, however, that Brother Harper cannot consistently oppose the use of the instrument, and at the same time proclaim a FOURTH method of teaching God's will, i.e., by a PRINCIPLE ETERNAL. If not, why not?