The Written Word

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

The power of the written word is attested by the fact that God had His word not only delivered orally, but also permanently preserved in written form. Jesus taught that Moses "wrote" of the Messiah (Jno. 5:46, 47) He further said that He came to fulfill all things that had been "written" of Him (Lk. 24:44). The apostle Paul declared that God revealed His will, and then inspired the apostles and prophets so that they "wrote" under divine/guidance (Eph. 3:3-5). We now can "read" and "understand" what the will of the Lord is (Eph. 3:3-5; 5:17).

Throughout the years various instruments have been employed to disseminate this divinely revealed truth. The early Christians were prolific writers. The so-called "Ante-Nicene Fathers" wrote abundantly. Though they were not then privileged to use modern printing methods, yet the need to employ writing as one avenue for teaching the word was clearly felt. Though all their literary productions had to he distributed in handwritten form, it is a marvel that so much of what these men wrote has been preserved. One who is interested in studying the writings of Christians who lived before 325 A. D. may do so by studying the large library of works commonly called THE ANTE-NICEAN FATHERS.

Among these men who wrote before the council of Nicea t325 A. D.L probably none wrote as prolifically as did Origin who lived about 185-254. Jerome said that Origin wrote more than other men could read. Epiphanius estimated that the whole number of his writings would be about six thousand! When Origin came to reply to a noted skeptic (Celsus), he wrote eight books. And some think preachers today are long-winded!

Early Restoration Writers

When the effort to restore New Testament Christianity in this country was undertaken, the printed page was powerfully used. Alexander Campbell, soon after he started preaching, established a paper called THE CHRISTIAN BAPTIST which he published monthly from 1823-1830. In 1830 Campbell began publication of the famous paper, MILLENNIAL HARBINGER, which he continued to publish until his death in 1866. The HARBINGER continued to be published by others until 1870.

Without doubt, the influence of Alexander Campbell was enhanced by his literary productions. In his religious journals (the BAPTIST and the HARBINGER), Campbell produced nearly forty large volumes of religious literature. In addition to these writings, he authored nearly thirty other volumes.

But Alexander Campbell was by no means the only preacher to establish, edit, and to publish a paper. Dr. Claude Spencer, for many years Curator of the Disciples of Christ Historical Society in Nashville, compiled some years back a list of known religious journals which have been published by men connected with what is commonly referred to as the "Restoration Movement." There are about thirteen 'hundred such journals listed.

Truth Magazine

Many brethren feel that a printed Bible lesson which can be massly distributed greatly enlarges one's audience. Several thousand people can therefore be reached at one time. TRUTH MAGAZINE has been published by a religious publication corporation. Unless it is the work of the church to print and to sell religious literature and materials, TRUTH MAGAZINE has not done the work of the church.

Its founders viewing a religious journal strictly and solely as an instrument to be employed in teaching Bible lessons and principles, in October, 1956 the first issue of TRUTH,MAGAZINE was published. At the time of the beginning of the paper, most of those who conceived it and implemented its origination were in the Chicago area. Bryan Vinson, Jr. was the first Editor of the paper, assisted by Leslie Diestelkamp and Gordon Pennock as Associate Editors. Bryan Vinson, Jr. now lives in the Dallas area, but Leslie Diestelkamp and Gordon Pennock still work near Chicago. All still faithfully preach the gospel. The original staff of writers included James Cope, James Boyd, Ray Ferris, Clinton Hamilton, Bryan Vinson, Sr., W. Wallace Layton, John Hedge, Avon Malone, Ollie Duffield, and Foy W. Vinson.

These originators of the paper continued to publish it regularly from Aurora, Illinois until August, 1962. During this period of nearly six years, the paper had acquired a considerable influence. It had been ably staffed and directed. Without any question, it was the most attractive publication by the brethren, when viewed from the standpoint of appearance. But some of those publishing the paper grew weary of continually having to make up from their own pocket the loss incurred from its publication. Too, near the end of this six year period the subscription list had dwindled somewhat.

New Management

I wrote my first article in TRUTH MAGAZINE for a "Special Issue" entitled "Return Ye Unto God" (which issue is still kept in print in booklet form). This first article appeared in the September, 1958 issue. Sometime afterward I was asked to become one of the staff writers, which I was honored to accept.

When tile previous publishers decided they could no longer keep the paper going, and not wishing to see it die, they contacted me to see if I would take over its editorship and keep it going. Being reluctant to accept such a position and responsibility, I suggested they inquire as to whether any others into whose hands they would be willing to commit the paper would take it. Later I received another telephone call telling me that no other arrangements had been made, and that unless I took over the paper, it would cease publication.

Fortunately, just while I was deliberating this matter, William E. Wallace came from Oklahoma to Ohio for some meetings. I discussed the matter with him. He said that if I would accept the paper, he would within three weeks move from Oklahoma to Lisbon, Ohio to assist in publishing and operating the paper. It is probable that had William Wallace not pushed the matter then, TRUTH MAGAZINE would have ceased publication in 1962. But William is a hard worker, and he did more than his share of the work to resuscitate the paper. Since he and I both lived in that section of Ohio which was called the "Western Reserve," he jestingly suggested that we probably would get dubbed "Willis and Wallace: The Woeful Whistlers from the Western Reserve." But actually we got dubbed a few things worse than that.

With the help of many brethren, the subscription list of TRUTH MAGAZINE was gradually rebuilt. In fact, we got it up to the point that it quadrupled the number of subscriptions when we took over the paper. We have lost a little money on it over the years (about $4000 total), but we felt it did some good too.

Aside from many brethren who helped us to secure subscriptions and helped the paper in other ways, a number of preachers rendered signal assistance. Among them were James P. Needham, Luther Blackmon, O. C. Birdwell, Connie Adams, Earl Robertson, William Wallace and a host of others.

Now a Weekly

Over a period of several years there have been those who have encouraged us to publish TRUTH MAGAZINE with greater frequency. Feeling that the paper had done substantial good, of course we would have liked to have published the paper more frequently. Recently a considerably larger number of brethren have requested that we go to weekly publication. Though we will cut our issue size from 28 pages to 16 pages, our costs will still be tripled. So naturally it is with financial "fear and trembling" that we undertake weekly publication.

It seems that I frequently do not have enough initiative on my own to do what I would like to do, as instanced by the fact that it took William Wallace's nudge to get me to undertake monthly publication of TRUTH MAGAZINE. But other brethren rallied to help us make the paper succeed. Frankly I must confess that had it not been for the insistence on the part of some and strong encouragement on the part of others, I would not have had the confidence to undertake weekly publication.

I think we have an excellent staff of writers in Connie W. Adams, James W. Adams, O. C. Birdwell, Luther Blackmon, Roy E. Cogdill, Ferrell Jenkins, James P. Needham, Earl Robertson (all Associate Editors), and that corp of able men who continually keep us amply supplied with quality material. All of our Associate Editors are men with whom I have had long and pleasant associations. Roy Cogdill, James Adams, and Luther Blackmon are men a little older than the rest of us who staff TRUTH MAGAZINE. So we will have to lean on their strong arms a little extra for advice and encouragement.

So far as I personally was concerned, the deciding factor in our becoming a weekly publication was when I asked Roy E. Cogdill and James W. Adams to join our staff as Associate Editors, and they replied, "We will help you." There are no two men in the brotherhood whose help I feel we needed more to make this undertaking a success. So the word now is "Go!", and we are on our way with this issue. After thirteen years as a monthly, we begin our fourteenth year: as a weekly journal.

The affairs of this life already have taught me that the best laid plans of men can fail. We realize that TRUTH MAGAZINE as a weekly could fail. We realize that nothing is permanent that pertains to this life. Consequently, we feel implicitly our need of help from God and from our good brethren to make this effort redown to God's glory. For this help from both God and our brethren, we will earnestly pray.

Confidently believing in the power of the printed page as a teaching instrument, we shall watch, labor, and pray that our efforts may be used for the glory of God, and the benefit of our fellow-pilgrims upon this earth. If we ever needed your help, we need it now. So please manifest overtly any interest you find in your heart .toward this endeavor. Unless we can increase our subscription list by at least 1500, a burdensome financial loss will be incurred in this first year of weekly publication. So if you want to see TRUTH MAGAZINE published weekly, help us to do it by assisting to supply the required number of new subscriptions.


November 6, 1969