I Was Taught
One of the greatest frauds that has ever been perpetrated upon members of the church is the charge by orphan home advocates that those of us who oppose churches of Christ building and maintaining benevolent societies have recently come to our conclusions and that opposition to such is of recent origin.
I obeyed the gospel in 1928. I believed THEN exactly what I believe NOW relative to the question under consideration. That doesn't mean that I am adverse to change. There have been hundreds of times when I have changed and I will change hundreds of times still . . . if I think I should change. But on these issues I have NEVER changed and I never WILL.
One year after I obeyed the gospel (1929) H. M. Phillips said : "I believe the church is the only ORGANIZATION that should and can do it." He was speaking of benevolent work. His statement is in the Gospel Advocate.
One year after I obeyed the gospel (1929) James A. Allen said in the Gospel Advocate, ". . . every local congregation was all-sufficient in every avenue of charity and benevolence."
Two vears after I obeyed the gospel (1930) A. B. Barrett said in the Gospel Advocate, "There were no 'brotherhood colleges,' 'church orphanages, 'old folks homes,' and SUCH LIKE among Apostolic churches."
Three years after I obeyed the gospel (1931) F. B. Srygley said in the Gospel Advocate, "Benevolence was done in the early church without any organization except the local church."
Four years after I obeyed the gospel (1932) W. Claud Hall said in the Gospel Advocate, "There was not another organization formed to take care of this work." He was speaking of benevolent work.
Four years after I obeyed the gospel (1932) H. Leo Boles said in the Gospel Advocate, "Churches cannot cooperate, and please God, when they form new organizations through which to work. No organization is needed."
Five years after I obeyed the gospel (1933) George Pepperdine said in the Gospel Advocate, "If a separate organization to own and operate a children's home is not unscriptural then I do not understand why it would be unscriptural for the same board of directors to operate a missionary society."
Six years after I obeyed the gospel (1934) W. E. Brightwell said in the Gospel Advocate, "Church debts, INSTITUTIONS and cooperative enterprises will as surely enclave and destroy us as it has enslaved and destroved others."
Thus I was taught the very year I obeyed the gospel (1928) that the church COULD and SHOULD do its own benevolent work. I was taught the, VERY SAME THING the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth years after my conversion. I was taught the same by some of the best men the church has ever known.
But that isn't all. A. O. Colley said in 1936, "An orphan home, with its board distributed over a given territory . . . is an UNSCRIPTURAL ORGANIZATION."
Guy N. Woods said in 1939, in the ACC Lectures, "The work should be done by and through the church." In the same speech Guy N. Woods said, "The ship of Zion has floundered more than once on the sandbar of INSTITUTIONALISM " But Guy N. Woods also said, in the same speech, ". . . such ORGANIZATIONS usurp the work of the church and are unnecessary and SINFUL."
In 1946 Guy N. Woods said in the Annual Lesson Commentary, and we taught it all over the country, "There is no place for CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS IN THE WORK OF THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH."
Guy N. Woods also said, in the 1946 Lesson Commentary, "When brethren form ORGANIZATIONS independently of the church to do the work of the church, however worthy their aims and right their designs they are engaged in that which is SINFUL."
But Guy N. Woods also said in the same commentary, "NO ORGANIZATION is needed to accomplish the work the Lord has authorized the church to do."
In 1951 G.K. Wallace said, "There is a paralled between an orphan home that has a board of trustees other than the elders of the church to do the work of the church, and the United Christian Missionary Society." And in 1951 G. K. Wallace also said, "The care of orphans and widows is the work of the church so let the church do it." G. K. Wallace also said in 1951, "The church would do it too, if preachers would not get out and start in ORGANIZATION unknown to the Bible and beg churches to turn their work over to a HUMAN organization." Thus for twenty-three years after I obeyed the gospel, faithful gospel preachers taught the all-sufficiency of the church.
But before I obeyed the gospel, yes, long before I was born, they were upholding the truth of the all-sufficiency of the church.
Prior to 1897, S. L. Barker said, "They could have founded special BENEVOLENT financial and missionary societies besides the church of the living God, but they certainly did NOT and would not use them todav for the same reason."
Prior to 1897 T. G. Phelps said, "Mv Bible is silent about ENDEAVOR SOCIETIES' Leagues, etc. therefore I cannot endorse them." He said also, "The church of Christ is divine, these SOCIETIES are human."
Prior to 1897 J. J. Limerick said, "A great many people are very particular about visiting the widows, orphans and afflicted ones. Some churches have SOCIETIES for such work . . . Such work is not the kind nor the way Christ intended his church to do."
And exactly fifty years ago, E. G. Sewell said, "They have taken things out of his hands and are doing things through and in the name of HUMAN SOCIETIES, and not in the name of Christ, with no promise of getting a particle of credit for what they do from him, for they are not working by his authority." Sewell also said, fifty years ago, "This SOCIETY business is as purely HUMAN as the tower of Babel was." Brethren, I could go on and on with quotations of faithful gospel preachers who have taught that the church should do its own benevolent work. But these will suffice.
I never realized the danger of these things until two or three vears ago when brethren began to boldly declare that "the church is not its own benevolent society, and cannot do its work of benevolence." I said then, that if that idea became prevalent it would destroy the church of the Lord.
It is not a question of fighting AGAINST orphan homes. It is a question of fighting FOR the church of Christ. If an orphan home wants to exist as a private human enterprise, it has a right to do so, and I am not disposed to resist it. If a congregation wants to avail itself of the services of this private enterprise, I do not object to it. But when preachers start to sell the church of my Lord down the river, by saying it CAN'T do the work God requires of her without the aid of HUMAN INSTITUTIONS, I am ready to fight.
There isn't a verse in the New Testament that authorizes any congregation to build or to maintain any HUMAN INSTITUTION. When W. L. Totty debated Charles Holt, of all the scriptures he mentioned only ONE of them referred even remotely to orphans. It was James 1:27, which teaches individuals to care for orphans. Even if it did say for the church to care for them, it DOES NOT authorize building and maintaining ANOTHER institution to do it.
When Athens Clay Pullias made his speech on "Where There Is No Pattern," he mentioned only ONE verse that ever REMOTELY referred to orphans and it was James 1:27. When W.B. West made his speech on "How New Testament Churches Cared for Orphans," he, too, mentioned only ONE verse in the New Testament that referred to caring for orphans. You guessed it, James 1:27.
I repeat, there is NO verse in all the New Testament that even HINTS at any benevolent organizations except the church of Christ.
Why do these men who favor the brotherhood benevolent societies shy away from the EXAMPLES of benevolent work in the New Testament? Thev hardly ever mention Acts 2:44,45. Why? Because it was the CHURCH that "parted to all men." It was not a church DIVIDING society of man! So they let that verse alone. Why don't they talk about Acts 4:34, 35 ? Because it was the CHURCH that "made the distribution." It was not a church DIVIDING society of man's devising. Why don't they talk more about Acts 6:1-6? Because it was the CHURCH that looked after the "daily ministration." It was not a church DIVIDING human society that did it.
Why don't they deal with Acts 11:29, 30? Because the CHURCH sent relief to the Judean brethren. It was not sent to a church DIVIDING human society for distribution. No, my friends, they give the examples of benevolent work a good letting alone. The only verses they ever use that deal with benevolence are I Tim. 5, James 1:27 and Gal. 6:10. And they PERVERT all three of these passages. In some of these passages it is INDIVIDUALS who are instructed to help the widows and orphans and in some of them it is the CHURCH that is to help them. But in NONE of these verses, nor in ANY VERSE in the Bible is the work to be turned over to a man-made human society to do. If it is a work of the church, the ELDERS must oversee it.
Brethren, let's let the CHURCH be the church. Let's let the elders of the church oversee the work of the church. Let's not press the society business again to the dividing of the body of Christ. Let's quit appealing to prejudice by saying we who oppose institutionalism are opposed to orphan care. Let's be honest.
Institutional brethren try desperately to place the blame for the trouble in the church on those who oppose their innovations. The instrumental music crowd did the very same thing. The Premillennialist crowd did the very same thing. The Missionary Society did the same thing. But friends, it was the crowd that introduced the instrument that was the cause of the split in the church. It was the crowd that INTRODUCED premillennialism that was the cause of the split. It was the crowd that INTRODUCED the missionary society that caused the split. And it was the crowd that INTRODUCED the BENEVOLENT SOCIETY that will have to bear the responsibility of causing the split if and when and wherever it comes.
HISTORY WILL NOT RECORD THAT THE DIVISION WAS CAUSED 0VER OPPOSITION TO SOMETHING. History will record that THE SPLIT CAME OVER THE BENEVOLENT SOCIETY.
May God help those who love the church of the Lord, not to tear it asunder by insisting upon something that they admit is in the field of opinion or judgment. Again I appeal for New Testament Christianity.
(The above article was taken from the booklet Congregational Cooperation of the Churches of Christ by Herbert E. Winkler.)
Truth Magazine IV:7; pp. 12-14