By Cecil Willis
On the preceding page, there is an article written by Brother Tom Oglesby of Bedford, Ohio in which he responds to an article which I wrote. Before reading this article, read Brother Oglesby’s article, and then if you still have it available, read again what I said in my April 11 editorial.
Frankly, it was against my better judgment to print Brother Oglesby’s reply, and I wrote to him about the matter. Tom Oglesby, from all I have ever known or heard about him, is a faithful and fearless preacher of the gospel. I was afraid that some would think that his article would indicate some sympathy for the error which we have been exposing recently on what has been labeled the “grace fellowship heresy.” But Brother Oglesby wanted his reply printed anyway, and thus his wish in the matter has been honored. In the letter which Brother Oglesby wrote requesting that his article be printed, he said: “As of now, the only reluctance in having the article printed would be that Bill Wallace would pick it up, print it in the Guardian, and, in the eyes of some brethren, I would become his defender, or worse yet, Ed Fudge’s defender. I am not and do not intend to become such! That, I suppose, is an occupational hazard in writing for publication.” This, Brother Oglesby, precisely was the reason why I would rather not have published your reply, but at your insistence now have done so.
Brother Oglesby needs no recommendation from me. Though he is yet one whom some brethren would call one of our “young preachers,” everywhere that I have known of his work, he did a mature man’s job at it. I do not, nor did I in my April 11 article, doubt for one moment Brother Oglesby’s soundness in the faith.
He states he is not sure which of my “descriptive verbiage” was applicable to him, and which was not. Well, if he would have considered the three issues I discussed in the article, that would have been some help to him as to which terms might have been applicable to him. I do not know Brother Oglesby’s age exactly, but I would judge him to be about 30 years old; so he is no novice. However, the major portions of the early battles over premillennialism and institutionalism had been fought either before he was born, or while he was yet but a very small child. So Brother Tom, you can eliminate all the “descriptive verbiage” that I used in describing the fence-straddlers during the early days of the premillennial and institutional fights. That cuts out quite a few of my descriptive terms as being applicable to you, doesn’t it?
The truth of the matter is, Brother Oglesby, not a single one of my opprobrious adjectives which you quote were intended for you! Now that should soothe your feelings somewhat. You might now even withdraw your “bordered on pomposity” charge against me! That “pomposity” charge, which incidently, I have seen in only one other source, made me feet a little “like the fellow who was called a ‘loquacious homo sapien,’ ” and who therefore was “not sure if I have been insulted or not!” Let me just say, Brother Tom, that I am not insulted by your “bordered on pomposity” charge. After editing a paper for a few years, I am a little harder to insult than I used to be. I get called all kinds of things. Just last week I got two letters addressed to “Cecil Willis, D. A. ” There were seven pages, single-spaced, so I turned to the end to see who was addressing me. As usual for such letters, the writer did not sign the letters. I assumed that he was depicting me in the role of the “District Attorney,” since I had been writing some articles critical of some teaching being done, until a friend of mine came in, and I handed the letters to him. He took the time to read them. Rather than meaning I was the “District Attorney,” my kind respondent informed me near the end of one of his letters that the “D. A.” stood for “Devil’s Advocate. ” Now I never would have known what I was being called, if someone else had not taken the time to read those anonymous letters. I do not waste much time reading unsigned letters. So, your Apomposity” charge did not upset me, though I think the charge is completely groundless.
Brother Oglesby thinks my article was uncalled for. That is his prerogative. I just happen to think his little jibe in his bulletin, which I quoted in my April 11 editorial, was likewise uncalled for. Futhermore, he charges that I have made a “blanket condemnation” of men who did not jump into this or previous controversies before they had studied the issues. Quite the contrary, Brother Oglesby. I said, “If these brethren see no doctrinal error involved, then their silence is understandable.” Brother Oglesby refers to brethren who have “burned the midnight oil for many months” before deciding wherein is the truth. I have never reproached such a brother. In fact, there is one faithful preacher who previously was aligned with the institutional element that I frequently have used as an illustration of a man diligently searching for the truth. This man at that time earned his living as a welder. But I have often said, “I believe if you were to visit Brother-‘s house at midnight for five consecutive nights, I feel confident that you would find him sitting at the kitchen table studying the Bible and materials related to the controverted issues at least three of those five nights.” I have only the highest respect for such men, Brother Tom, and I do not condemn them by either specific or “blanket condemnation.” I commend them, one and all, highly!
But the brethren whom I did have in mind do not fit into this category. They are the brethren who either refuse to study the issues for fear of what they might learn, or who fear to speak out publicly what they believe in their heart. My “descriptive verbiage ” was aimed only at such men. And interestingly, I have not received a single letter of criticism of that article from any man who was old enough to know that such situations did in fact exist.
The charge had been made that we were fostering a controversy to gain subscriptions from the Gospel Guardian (I am now even a paying subscriber to that paper), or to increase our bookstore business. Spelled any way you want to spell it, Brother Oglesby, I deny that charge in my most “descriptive terminology,” and deeply resent it being made.
Brother Oglesby has said that he would be willing to write on both grace and fellowship in Truth Magazine. It has never entered my mind that he would write anything except the truth on either subject. In my letter to him, I invited him to write on both subjects for publication in Truth Magazine. But whether he elects to accept my invitation or not, does not in any way affect what I believe about his convictions and his actions. I believe he both believes and teaches the truth on both grace and fellowship.
I told Brother Oglesby in my letter that “I was talking about a few, but well-known and experienced preachers, who straddled the fence until the battle-lines had been well drawn, and in some instances, until the smoke of battle had cleared away.” If Brother Oglesby does not know of any such brethren, then he is a little-naive. On the other hand, if he does know of some such brethren among us now (or in the premillennial and institutional controversies), what does he expect me to give them? A garland of roses and recommend they be given by a grateful brotherhood a “medal of honor”? Or would he likewise use some of my “descriptive verbiage” on such fence-straddling brethren?
It seems that no matter how many times I say it, some brethren are determined not to believe it. Truth Magazine, and those of us who are connected with it or write for it, is not seeking to form a Truth Magazine-party in the Lord’s church. We are only seeking to do what every faithful gospel preacher should be doing, and that is to teach the truth, and to expose error and errorists. And I wish brethren would quit trying to indict our motives, and cease to make their charge that we are trying to line up everybody with Truth Magazine.
I am glad for Brother Oglesby to be heard, and once again, I want to state that I did not apply a single one of what he termed my “descriptive verbiage” to Brother Tom Oglesby. He always, so far as is known to me, has been in the thick of battle and has fought some heroic battles for a man of his age.
But there are some brethren among us who know right now what the truth is on this grace-fellowship heresy (they already have burned the midnight oil), but who have remained and, in some instances, still remain as silent as a tomb regarding these matters, while these errors are permitted to have free-course among God’s people, and while this false doctrine wreaks its course of havoc across the country. I wish it were true that error unopposed would silently disappear. But the teaching of Scripture, as well as what little I have learned by experience, indicates that such does not happen. This grace-fellowship heresy is here to stay. These loose brethren have the right tune for the time. They are preaching exactly what many brethren would like to hear, and it is inevitable that they will gain a popular following. Silent appeasement is not going to stop this infiltration of error. Every single servant of God ought to be in the thick of this fray, until this error and its influence have been stamped out from among us. Forget about Truth Magazine, Torch, Gospel Guardian, Searching the Scriptures, Preceptor, and any other paper published by brethren, but do not forget to teach the truth and to oppose error on every front.
It happens to be my opinion that Tom Oglesby will do his share of the teaching of the truth, but it also just happens to be my opinion that some brethren who already know the truth on this insidious error which is permeating the Body of Christ are being criminally negligent in their silence, regardless of their reason for keeping silent. None of us desires to see churches rent asunder, but more than that, none of us desires to see error permitted to run rampant through the church, and some of us are determined to use every righteous means at our disposal to stop it. And I do not intend to sound like a discouraged-Elijah when I make that statement. God still has His seven thousand who will not bow their knees to the grace-fellowship Baal. But watchmen upon the towers and walls of spiritual Israel had better not close their eyes to existing or approaching error. If they should fail to do their duty, their divine Master will require it of them.
Truth Magazine, XVIII:35, p. 3-6
July 11, 1974