By Connie W. Adams
Buy the Truth and Sell it Not
These words from Proverbs 23:23 are engraved on the stone at the grave of Roy E. Cogdill in Hobart, Oklahoma. No words could better describe his life than these. It was a memorable experience for Bobby and me to visit this grave site on a beautiful day in April while in a meeting at Duncan, Oklahoma. Our friend, C.R. Scroggins, preacher at Duncan, drove us to Hobart. As we stood at the grave, a flood of memories inundated my mind. I thought of numerous articles he had written and the effect they had on my thinking and my life. I remembered the Cogdill-Woods Debate at Newbern, Tennessee when I was the local preacher. I recalled having him in our home at Newbern during a meeting when our son, Martin, was a baby and the times he sat and rocked that tiny bundle. I thought of several occasions when I heard him preach and remembered that every sermon was a learning experience for me no matter what the subject. I thought about the influence his books, The New Testamant Church, Walking by Faith, and Faith and the Faith had on me and a host of others. When the institutional division came, he was one of the most respected preachers in the land and was invited to preach in meetings for the largest churches and at numerous college lectureships. But he took his stand and paid the price. He cast his lot with a minority of brethren. He truly bought the truth and sold it not.
He made his share of mistakes along the way. But you were never in doubt as to what he believed nor where he stood. He was not of the number who sought appeasement and compromise with error. His preaching featured clear exegesis of the text of Scripture forcefully argued with compelling logic. He believed the truth could be determined and that it ought to be defended. “Precious mem’ries, How they linger.” From what place will the next Cogdill, Puckett, Miller, Phillips, and other worthies who could be named, arise?
A Disappointing Book
The recent book, The Churches of Christ in The 20th Century (Homer Hailey’s Personal Journey of Faith) by David Edwin Harrell, Jr. makes interesting reading. He parallels the life and times of Homer Hailey with the issues which confronted brethren during the 20th century. Ed Harrell is an excellent writer. His treatment of Hailey’s life is both interesting and informative. Several glowing reviews of the work have already gone forth. But there were several disappointments about this work.
1. While it is clear that Foy E. Wallace, Jr. had his faults and foibles, I thought Harrell’s description of him as a warrior in constant battle mode was inaccurate and unfair. Premillennialism was a battle that had to be fought, and whatever you may think of Wallace, we are indebted to him.
2. There were glaring omissions in dealing with influential voices especially during the last half of the 20th century. Scant notice is given to the influence of Truth Magazine on the work in the Ohio Valley and the north central states. The work of Cecil Willis, along with the efforts of Earl Robertson, William Wallace, James P. Needham, and others, was monumental. There are scores of congregations in that part of the country which exist today in large part through the efforts of these men and their writings in Truth Magazine were significant contributions.
In the southeastern states, the influence of Searching the Scriptures was heavily felt. While H.E. Phillips and James P. Miller worked together on that paper, the circulation reached 12,000 at one point, a far greater circulation than any of the papers published by conservative brethren during or since the institutional battle broke out. That paper was published for 33 years and even at the time it ceased publication, there were 5,000 on the mailing list. Harrell makes reference to a minor controversy between H.E. Phillips and James W. Adams while the latter edited the Gospel Guardian, but scant notice is given to the effect of the work of this influential paper nor the popular and influential book by H.E. Phillips, Scriptural Elders and Deacons.
3. Harmful inaccuracies occur. Mike Willis was misrepresented twice. In one instance criticisms of Robert Turner, Eugene Britnell, and Leslie Diestelkamp were attributed to Mike Willis when they were actually written by John Welch in Faith and Facts. A later apology to Mike Willis does not undo the harm done by the copies of the book already in circulation. It was careless handling of the matter. It is also a notable variation from the usual careful documentation which has characterized Harrell’s other historical works.
4. There is a bias reflected against militancy in preaching and writing. Paper editors are not treated with much kindness. Sometimes there is plenty of room for criticism and those of us who either have, or presently, occupy that role should be able to accept fair criticisms. But I can tell you that the publishing of papers is hard work, often unappreciated, and takes a heavy toll on finances and health. Comments about Foy E. Wallace, Jr., Roy E. Cogdill and others reflect a bias against debating and attacking error openly.
5. While it is hard for an author to be totally objective toward his own work and involvements, Harrell’s book does much to put into the limelight, in a favorable light at that, those who have been his fellow-travelers in the dispute of the past 12 years over the application of Romans 14 to the marriage, divorce, and remarriage issue, as well as the extended conflict over fellowship and how to identify a false teacher. Others may approve of this if they will, but I believe it is self-serving.
With all that said, the book deserves a careful reading. You will come away with new insights into the life and influence of Homer Hailey and you will better understand the personal attachment to him by his close friends and former colleagues at Florida College who have disavowed his position on marriage, divorce, and remarriage while at the same time going to great lengths to defend him and to justify fellowship with both Hailey and those who stand where he does.
There may be a more extended critique of this book later in this paper.
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