By Edward Fudge
Benjamin Lee Fudge, known to many as Bennie Lee Fudge, was born April 5, 1914, and died following a sudden but brief illness on February 5, 1972. His funeral was held at the Eastside Church of Christ, Athens, Alabama, February 7, 19 72, and his body was laid to rest in Roselawn Cemetery, Athens, Alabama, in sight of Athens Bible School, which he was instrumental in founding. The following are the reflections of his oldest son, written one week after the funeral.
So many thoughts come to mind this morning as I think about Daddy. The simple phrase “he trusted in God” seems so appropriate a summation of his life. When my 17-year-old brother Paul went to the hospital Saturday before last minutes after Daddy’s death, he was directed to the chapel where Mother was. Upon entering the room (he later said) his first thoughts were the words from Job, “The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Paul wrote these words on our family noteboard at home, where they greeted the eye of every caller during those days that followed and gave such strength to all of us. Paul’s faith was also Daddy’s faith. He trusted in God.
“The faith of thy mother ” the apostle wrote to Timothy, and these words come to mind now. Through nearly 29 years with Daddy, Mother was in my opinion the perfect example of what a Christian wife should be and as for her role as a mother, six children and three daughters-in-law stand ready to testify. Her faith had been learned early in life, as the daughter of Brother and Sister W. N. Short in Africa. Now the Lord answered Mother’s prayer for strength to join in every song at the funeral and while the rest of us had an idea of supporting her, we often found ourselves leaning on her instead. She will carry on Daddy’s ministry of spreading the Word of God through the printed page in the C. E. I. Publishing Company and associated outlets, God being her helper. I think now of Mother’s faith.
“He that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” This phrase from Scripture came to mind more than once last week, and I do not know of any word which summarized Daddy’s life-goal more than this one: service. As we stood beside his casket while hundreds and hundreds of people walked by to pay their respects and give us a word of comfort, we were impressed by the many faces we did not know-of people he had helped in one way or another during the years. Old people came by who depended on his daily greeting as he walked to work. Others could not be there because they were bedfast, but they win miss his regular visits to read the Word of God and pray with them. One badly crippled man walked over a mile through bad weather to pay his respects. He lives alone and operates a little concession stand near Daddy’s bookstore on the square. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner at our house included a trip to town with a special plate for Sam. Sam will miss Daddy.
I have no idea how many preachers remarked concerning the times they had called on him for advice, for answers to a Bible question, for simple conversation or an encouraging word. Many an evening meal at home was interrupted by the telephone ring and someone, somewhere, wanting to ask a Bible question.
“No respect of persons” comes to, mind. Daddy never had any use for those who played favorites, or exalted preachers above other Christians. He often said that his greatest aim in preaching (besides giving the pure Word of God) was to be simple. He preached for the mine people he lived for — those who lacked most of this world’s goods and often its formal education — but people rich in faith and good works. This knack for expressing great truths of the Bible in simple language served him well during eleven years of daily radio preaching, and only God knows the lives he influenced for Christ through that medium. Now he was dead. Little children hugged Mother’s neck, and said he meant a lot to them. The mayor of Athens wrote her a letter. People who misspelled words sent cards of condolences. Well-known brethren paid him tributes. People known to few others came to say they cared and would miss him too. They all mattered to him, and they all strengthened our hearts.
A Christian Only
“A Christian only” This phrase is not from Scripture, but it expresses a goal of Daddy’s life — and one he sought to instill in all whom his influence touched. He was not a “Church of Christ Christian” — if there is such a thing; he was simply a Christian who believed what he understood the Bible to teach and practiced it—and that put him with those known as churches of Christ. No party within the church could claim him, though every child of God could, His fellowship with God’s children was limited only by their acceptance of him — so long as they had obeyed Acts 2:38 and were sincerely trying to please God, to lead a holy life and to abstain from a factious spirit. If he opposed congregational support of institutions or certain organizational arrangements, if he took a certain stand on “the war question,” or “the covering question,”‘ or any other question or issue — it was only because he thought that was God’s will — never because he belonged to any kind of brotherhood or party or segment for which he waved a flag or to which he gave allegiance. No man ever stood firmer for his Biblical convictions — and no man, in our time suffered more for them. But no man, I believe, ever loved more those who differed with him, or tried harder to enjoy Christian brotherhood with all God’s children.
Christ Magnified by Death
Years ago Daddy had said that his funeral was to be so far as possible a happy event, that it was to include the song “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less,” and that it was to emphasize the grace of God. In keeping with this, there was congregational singing (700 voices strong): “Our God, He is Alive!” “We Saw Thee Not,” and “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less.”
Brother Doyle Banta spoke of what Daddy had meant to him. Brother Irven Lee read the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah and pointed us to Him who died so we all might live. Brother A. J. (Jack) Rollings led our minds to the Throne as we poured out our hearts to the Father of mercies. Brother R. L. Andrews paid a tribute to Daddy out of his experiences. Those who knew Daddy could best appreciate Brother Andrews’ reflection that he was probably quite busy already greeting and visiting with Moses, David, Elijah and other saints of days gone by. Brother Sewell Hall summed up by saying that Daddy was a sinner — just like the rest of mankind. All his good works couldn’t save him, or remove his sins. But, he noted, we have great confidence and assurance, for Daddy had believed the gospel and had been joined to Christ in baptism. And by faith he had lived all his days — never intending to boast of his own righteousness or merit but always in the cross of Christ. His ambition was never to be good enough himself to be saved. His ambition was rather to be found in Christ — not having any righteousness but that which is by faith in Christ Jesus. Because this was his goal, and because his good works testified to such a faith, we have every hope that Daddy is now present with the Lord, and that he will certainly be among those saints whom Christ will bring with Him at His coming. The congregation finally joined in praise to God as we followed the body Daddy once occupied from the church building, singing together, “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord!”
With such glorious hope, with such assurance of faith, with such knowledge of God’s marvelous provisions of grace and love to us sinners, with such courage in the midst of grief and tragedy, with such praise to God in the face of Satan’s most evil work-with all this, I say, God’s saints on that day gave the devil a stunning blow, and God was magnified through His Son Jesus Christ. That, too, was Daddy’s goal, that Christ should be magnified in his body, whether by life or by death.
We look forward now to the day when we will join all God’s saints of all the ages in that final and eternal victory taunt against the devil — that day when Christ shall return, and the dead will be raised, and with our Lord we win behold the destruction of Satan and of death itself chanting together as we reunite to be with our Christ forever, “O Death, where is thy sting! O Grave, where is thy victory!”
For this we live. I Corinthians 15:58.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 22, pp. 9-11
April 6, 1972