Many churches of the Lord have been torn by digression and strife in recent years. Human institutions seem to have been considered more precious to many people than the blood bought church. Many have been especially delighted by the "eat, drink, and be merry" dissipation of church funds. In many communities digressive doctrines and practices were pushed with such determination that there was nothing left for conscientious brethren but to come out and be separate. Hearts were broken, families were divided, and 'the name of the Lord reproached by the division and the things that led to it.
It is obvious to students of American church history that history is repeating itself. Problems that were related to the instrumental music-missionary society division are involved in the present Conflict. Worldliness, the desire to please and be like the denominations, a disregard for Bible authority, and self-willed human wisdom bothered last century, and they' bother now.
Yes, the battle between truth and error has been in bitter struggle in the last score of years. Many suggestions have been offered by many people. Some seem to have thought that if they would not look all danger would pass. They have dodged, run, closed their eyes, scolded, flattered, and wished. These are not the victors and would not be good men to sit at a peace table because they lose the respect of both sides. If a thing is right we should earnestly contend for it. If it is evil we should abhor it. Much has been said and more should be said about those who sit on the fence when truth is locked in deadly struggle with error and digression.
Let none claim perfection for himself, The promoter of innovations and unscriptural practices is far from perfect. May we all be spared from his destructive influence. The cowardly onlooker is certainly not perfect. Neither is the brave soldier who robes himself in the Christian's armor and fights wickedness in high places. His knowledge, his sell-control, his patience, and every other part of his character is tested for weakness. Surely some weakness can be found in such prolonged and difficult battles as have come in recent years. Who can boast of no error in judgment, no impatience, or no loss of self control in twenty years? We all need mercy. We need to carefully use the spiritual weapons and the armor that Christians should wear. Any mistakes that good soldiers have made would not change the truth. Right is still right even ii good men make mistakes in their fight for the right. Mistakes are made and enemies magnify these, and imagine and publicize others. Truth should be bought and never sold regardless of what men say or do.
Heartaches come with struggles. Families are divided and friendship ties are broken. Former brethren become antagonists. This is all unpleasant. What shall we do? In many areas a clear line of distinction has been drawn between truth and error, and faithful men have pleaded with their fellows to line up on the side of truth. After lines between truth and error have been drawn, many rush headlong into further digression with hardly a glance over the shoulder at those that walk by faith. They have chosen their path and show no interest in the way from which they turned aside.
Good people see the two groups with less and less in common. There is the grim picture of division. It is now more difficult to get together to discuss these problems. Many seem to delight to go their merry way, with none present who would question. They could hardly care less for those with whom they did associate who did question their digression. Their suggestion now is, "Let them alone - do not hear them."
In the aftermath of battle, silence has come in many communities. We do not know them. We do not know their preachers. They do not know us. The silence seems to indicate that the effort to win them is over.
Communication is neede3d, we say. But on what basis? Now that battles have been taught, differences have been made clear, and men have taken sides, silence has settled
about us. Is this the eye of the hurricane? Would the voice of the Lord say, "Beware!"?
What dangers come with the silence? Is there danger that more may decide that the battles against error should never have been fought? Some have contended against contending. They have fought against fighting. They have argued against arguing. They suppose the sickening division is the fault of those who fought error rather than the fault of those who promoted the innovations and digressions. To these people silence may make them feel that they are right and winning. They may now plead for us to "be good" and invite the promoters of digression and cowardly men of compromise to conduct our meetings. Let us blot out the lines of distinction, they say, stop lighting, and enjoy peace again. Is it peace, if there has been no repentance? Is the lack of respect for Bible authority still there? Let us not cry "Peace, peace, when there is no peace"!
Silence may lead to hopelessness. There is no more battle, we think. They have gone, hopelessly gone! Shall we sigh and say, Let them go? Let us pursue, not with hate, but with truth. Keep the sword ready to battle error, but let us fight for the souls of men. Maybe some will realize that the ship is sinking as digression gains momentum. If there is the cry for help, let the life-line be thrown with haste, with care, and with a firm hand. Some may fall behind the promoters as they rush to copy the denominational machinery. Let us find those who hesitate. They may be waking up to the danger. We should be there to lead them back home.
The battle is not over even if there is less noise of battle. The effort must continue as long as any more may be restored to Christ. We must not give what ground we have gained. Fifty years from now men will need to boldly cry out against institutionalism, church support of entertainment and worldliness.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV 16, pp. 12-13
February 26, 1970