By Cecil Willis
In Edward George Earl Lytton’s dramatic production, Richelieu, written in 1839, it was said that “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Our Lord also knew this. All that we know of what He taught is what we learn through the written word. We never would have known one thing that our Savior taught, had not God seen fit to preserve those teachings through the inspired writings of apostles and prophets who permanently inscribed them with quill and pen.
The power of the written word today well has been evidenced by the impact that religious periodicals and church bulletins have had in stopping that monster of digression which has devoured so many of the churches of our day. The Devil never ceases his nefarious work. Hence, there is always the need to oppose error both by the spoken and by the written word. While the meeting houses doors of many churches effectively have been locked to prevent anyone from teaching the truth from the pulpit, there has been one thing the liberals have not been able to do: They have been unable to put locks on the mail-boxes of their members. Many souls have been saved, “snatching them out of the fire” (Jude 23), because someone cared enough to send them a tract, or to send to them a good teaching bulletin published by some church, or by purchasing a subscription for them to some good religious journal.
Our brethren have been educationally oriented. They have realized the effectiveness of various teaching instruments, and have utilized the services of some service-type organizations which provide written and, in some cases, oral instruction to those who wish to purchase such products or services. But the mortality rate of these service-type organizations has been great. Recently I saw the following statement: “Of the 19 Christian colleges started before 1924, only six survived-Nashville Bible College, Abilene Christian College, Harding College, Freed-Hardeman College and the little colleges at Grafton, California and Beamsville, Canada . . . .” Those who know me well know that I do not approve of the usage of the word “Christian” when applied to a school or paper. Someone has said that the term “Christian” should not be applied to anything which has not been scripturally baptized. Nor do I approve of a single one of the schools mentioned in the above quotation. I simply am calling attention to the high mortality rate of such organizations.
The propensity of brethren to start religious journals has been many times greater than that of founding schools. Dr. Claude Spencer, Curator-Emeritus, of the Disciples of Christ Historical Society located at Nashville, Tennessee, said once that people associated with the “Restoration Movement” have within the last 175 years started at least 1300 different religious journals. The mortality rate among papers is likewise high. However, Mission magazine this year made a journalistic report on 66 periodicals now being published by members of the Churches of Christ. As I write this article, I have before me a listing of 90 different journals which are published by members of the church. Many of these papers, I have never seen. I subscribe only to about 35 of them. Most of them are published by liberal brethren. These journals are of varying types, from “Doctrinal or Teaching,” to “Regional News,” or from “Devotional and Inspirational” to “Open” or “Specialty.” The inclination of members to purchase and to read religious publications has not kept pace with the readiness of brethren to start new journals. This statistical fact probably is the main contributor to the high mortality rate among religious journals published by brethren.
But even after considering these unfavorable statistical odds for survival, there are several new periodicals being started by conservative brethren concerning which we would like to inform our Truth Magazine readers. I wish it were possible to get every member of the church to subscribe to one or more of these journals. I even wish it were possible to get every subscriber of Truth Magazine to subscribe to all of the good papers published by faithful brethren. Without intending to connote the opprobrious context in which the Apostle Paul made the statement, I can, like him, without difficulty say, “that in every way . . . Christ is proclaimed; and therein I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice” (Phil. 1:18). Just as there cannot be too much spoken gospel, neither can there ever be too much written gospel.
Currently Being Published
Until recently, the best known periodicals written by conservative brethren in English have been Searching the Scriptures, Preceptor, Gospel Guardian, Torch, and Truth Magazine. Additionally, there have been some “first principle” type papers which serve their purposes well. About two years ago Robert Welch, and his son John, started a Quarterly known as Faith and Facts which is well worth your money, and time spent in reading it. You can order Faith and Facts from P.O. Box 214, New Albany, Indiana 47150. Subscription price is $2.00 per year. Searching the Scriptures can be ordered from Connie W. Adams (previously associated with Truth Magazine), Box 68, Brooks, Kentucky 40109. This paper is published monthly, and the subscription price is $5.00 per year. Former Associate Editor of Truth Magazine, James P. Needham, now edits a monthly known as Torch. The subscription rate is $3.00 per year, and may be ordered from Brother Needham at 1600 Oneco Avenue, Winter Park, Florida 32789. The Preceptor is edited by Stanley Lovett, is published monthly, and may be purchased for $3.00 per year by writing Box 187, Beaumont, Texas. The Gospel Guardian is published fortnightly and may be ordered from Box 858, Athens, Alabama 36711, and its subscription rate is $7.00 per year. More will be said regarding the Gospel Guardian later on in this article. And I was just about to forget to mention another fairly young but very good journal, The Bible Standard. It now is published monthly, is edited by Kent Ellis, and sells for $3.00 per year. Subscriptions may be sent to Brother Ellis at 1210 Neans Drive, Austin, Texas 78758. David Tant and Billy Norris both publish “first principle” type papers, and I will be glad to send you information on how you may order them, if you will write me. I am now in the Portsmouth, Ohio area in a gospel meeting with the Harding Avenue church in Sciotoville, Ohio, and do not have all the salient information with me regarding these papers. A paragraph like this one is dangerous! It is nearly inevitable that I inadvertently overlooked some journal that I gladly could commend to you. If so, please call it to my attention, and I will publish pertinent data regarding it. I might just add here that there also is a paper called Truth Magazine to which we would like to have you to subscribe, if you do not already do so.
Several New Journals Beginning
Several brethren have announced intentions to start some new journals about January 1, 1975, and one new paper has just recently begun publication.
Gospel Anchor: Brother Gene Frost has revived his paper called Gospel Anchor. The first issue of this revived paper appeared in September, 1974. Gene Frost is a well-known and highly respected student and writer. Associated with him in this new journalistic effort as “Regional Editors” are Maurice Barnett of Phoenix, Arizona; Jere Frost of Orlando, Florida; David Harkrider of Denver, Colorado; Jack Holt of Memphis, Tennessee; Brent Lewis of Cypress, California; Elmer Moore of Kerrville, Texas; Lloyd Nash of San Antonio, Texas; and Morris Norman of Akron, Ohio. This monthly journal sells for $6.00 per year, and may be ordered from Box 21172, Louisville, Kentucky 40221. In case the name Gospel Anchor sounds familiar to you, let me just mention that several years ago Brother,Frost published for one year a very informative paper that bore the same name.
Sentry: Brother Floyd Chappelear, 3910 Glenbrook, Fairfax, Virginia 22030 has announced his intention to begin a new paper which he has chosen to call Sentry magazine. Subscription price to this monthly journal is only $2.00 per year. As yet, Brother Chappelear has not announced who, if anyone, will be associated officially with him in this effort. He may have chosen to bear his cross alone! Publishing a monthly or weekly paper is no picnic!
Brother Chappelear has indicated that most articles will be produced by request. The announcement states that Sentry will feature “articles on living as Christians.” “Upcoming Articles” are said to include a series on rearing children, an article on the Christian and the Labor Movement, a piece called “Games People Play,” and several articles on the Bible and Physical and Mental health, written by a physician. Getting its first subscribers is the most difficult period in the existence of any publication, so I am sure Brother Chappelear would appreciate receiving your subscription. I have been told that the paper has adequate financial backing to guarantee its continued existence. If true, I envy him! Truth Magazine has never been so fortunate.
With All Boldness: For several years Brent Lewis has put out an impressive and very informative eight-page or more bulletin entitled With All Boldness. Brent is a good writer, and he has done some particularly good work when he has devoted entire issues of his bulletin to one subject. Such issues usually have turned out to be something that you wanted to file away for future use. Now Brent has decided to turn With All Boldness into a subscription-type monthly religious journal. Subscriptions to this journal may be sent to Brent Lewis at 4871 Cathy Avenue, Cypress, California 90630. I am sorry that I do not know the subscription price at this moment, but Brent will be glad to supply you with details. Whatever the price may be, I feel confident that you will feel that your money was well spent on a subscription to With All Boldness.
Gospel Guardian: You may think it strange that I mention the Gospel Guardian under the heading of “New Journals Beginning.” But I think it appropriate to do so. The Gospel Guardian of ten or fifteen years ago slowly has died in the last five years. Some of those associated with the paper think that opposition to the Gospel Guardian is what killed it. Not so! The Editor, some of the Associate Editors, and its contents are what killed it. It was first “watered down” under the guise that it was going to become a “family magazine.” But more recently, it became the forum for those who advocated a loose view on the grace-fellowship question, which position we have strongly opposed, and do still strongly oppose, and have every intention to continue to oppose as strongly as we can: The Gospel Guardian which formerly was dedicated to do precisely what its name implied gradually died. Oh, I do not mean that it completely and formally died, but insofar as its original stance and intentions were concerned, it was dead. Worse still, in recent years, it has been the leading advocate among conservative brethren of positions of which it formerly was the leading opposer. So quite frankly, I was glad to see the Gospel Guardian, as we have seen it for the past four or five years, die.
But I am equally as happy to announce that the Gospel Guardian has been born again! The paper has been sold to a group of Christians who have dismissed the former staff, and have placed Eugene Britnell as Editor. The first issue of the Gospel Guardian under Brother Britnell’s editorship has appeared, but I have not seen it as yet. But going on one thing only-my implicit confidence in the soundness of Eugene Britnell-I feel confident to say that the Gospel Guardian, as we have known it for the past five years or so, is dead, buried, and will not be resurrected. And under Brother Britnell, it is my judgment that the Gospel Guardian, as it for many years previously was known, is among the living, again.
I do not know as yet who will compose the staff of the new Gospel Guardian, but I am confident that Eugene Britnell is – not going to permit any paper he edits to be loaded with errorists and softies. I do not think you will be seeing any more of the “fellowship every brother who has been baptized for the remission of sins” doctrine which recently has been taught through the pages of the Gospel Guardian. I am aware that Brother Edward Fudge would say that his is not a “fellowship every brother who has been baptized for the remission of sins” position. He believes that adulterers and murderers should not be fellowshiped, and he believes that those who knowingly, presumptuously, and high-handedly sin also should not be fellowshiped. But he simply does not believe that issues like instrumental music in worship, missionary societies, sponsoring churches, church-supported human institutions, churchsupported recreation, and other similar digressions should ever have become grounds for a breach of fellowship, and consequent division. According to Brother Fudge, these brethren merely are confused intellectually about some of the unnecessary “doctrine” of Christ, but they still believe and have obeyed the essentials of the “gospel.” So far as I can tell, his position on fellowship is identical with that of Carl Ketcherside, with the exception that he tacks on at the end of his affirmation, ‘for the remission of sins, ” and Ketcherside does not think that whether one was, or was not, baptized for the remission of sins is of any great consequence.
Ours has never been a fight with the Gospel Guardian as such. Ours has been a fight with the men who used the pages of the Gospel Guardian as their forum through which they taught pernicious error. I have talked with Brother Britnell, and have told him that we do not intend to carry on any longer a running battle with those who write in the Gospel Guardian, for I do not expect to see in it any more articles containing these pernicious errors. But neither am I naive enough to think that those who have promulgated such damaging teaching are going to roll over and play dead just because the pages of the Gospel Guardian no longer are available to them to be used as an instrument to further their false teaching. This error is not dead, so do not think that there will be no further occasion to oppose it. But I sincerely do not believe it will be taught, and left unanswered, any longer through the pages of the Gospel Guardian under the editorship of Eugene Britnell. This change of ownership we were very glad to see, and with a new editor to be appointed, I hardly see how the new owners could have chosen a man for whose soundness brethren have greater respect than for that of Eugene Britnell. We are delighted to wish the resurrected Gospel Guardian tremendous success and a wide circulation.
Vanguard Magazine: With the sale of the Gospel Guardian and the appointment of Eugene Britnell as Editor, Brother Yater Tant has chosen to start a new paper named Vanguard Magazine in January, 1975. This proposed new paper has an imposing staff connected with it. Brother Tant will serve as Editor, Brother Ed Harrell will serve as “Special Columnist.” and an Editorial Board has been appointed, consisting of Homer Hailey, Franklin T. Puckett, Clinton Hamilton, Robert Farish, Hoyt Houchen, L. A. Mott, Jr., Sewell Hall, and Peter J. Wilson. This new paper will cost $7.50 per year, will be published twice a month, will consist of 32 pages per issue, and may be ordered from Vanguard, Box 3006, Memphis, Tennessee 38103.
Brother Tant’s article, “My Farewell to the Gospel Guardian,” which appeared in the October 31, 1974 issue of the Guardian, was a poignant one to me. Brethren in faithful churches today owe a great debt of gratitude to those men who fought so hard for the truth through the pages of the Gospel Guardian during the early 1950’s. This feeling of such deep gratitude was that which increased my abhorrence of what I had seen the Gospel Guardian become in the past five or so years. Many of those great warriors have now left the battlefield here below; among them such admirable men as W. Curtis Porter, Cecil Douthitt, R. L. Whiteside, and C. R. Nichol. Others who had fought the good fight in earlier years had abandoned the Gospel Guardian when its management and ownership came under the control of those who stood upon shifting sands, and among these were Roy Cogdill, Luther Blackmon, James W. Adams, Robert Farish, Robert Welch, and Hoyt Houchen-the men who really were the heart of the Gospel Guardian. Brother Tant alone remained connected with the Gospel Guardian, and in his last article, he said that “for three additional years I was listed as an Associate Editor (during which time I wrote practically nothing . . J.” So after about 25 years of close association with the Gospel Guardian, Brother Tant, now approaching 70 years of age, sets out anew upon the journalistic seas, which he knows are frequently turbulent, in a brand new boat-Vanguard Magazine.
I graduated from High School in 1949 . . . the same year that the Gospel Guardian began to appear as a weekly journal. My home was at Woodlake, Texas, a metropolitan area of about 300 people, which was located about 3.0 miles from Lufkin, from which the Gospel Guardian for so many years was mailed. In my limited view of things, Roy E. Cogdill, Luther Blackmon, James W. Adams and Yater Tant were the Gospel Guardian. I did not know the other able writers then.
Due to bilateral cerebral atrophy, Luther Blackmon is wiped out completely as a gospel preacher and writer. His writings will continue to live for years to come, as they inevitably will be re-printed from time to time. But his pulpit days are gone, as he himself so well is aware. Roy Cogdill is battling cancer, and how much longer he may be able to continue to preach the gospel with such unique power is very uncertain. Already his failing health has seriously curtailed his ability to write prolifically as he has for five decades. James Adams, who is nearing 60, appears to be in good health and perhaps will be able to use the pen in his inimical way for some years to come. Perhaps it is just hard for me to realize that the “Old Guard” is passing from the scene of action, but I cannot restrain the tears as I reflect on those worthies, both living and dead, who have fought so hard for the defense and furtherance of divine truth. I know that God has His own way of raising up other men to take the place of those who fall in battle, but I cannot reflect upon these gallant warriors without great emotion of gratitude. We owe them so much, and should tell them so!
In Brother Tant’s “Farewell” piece, he said:
“My years on the Guardian were filled with many events and they are rich in memories. I especially carry in my heart, and will till the day I die, the total loyalty and support given me by Roy Cogdill. He was a tower of strength! He owned the paper, but not once did he tell me either to print something, or not to print something. I had absolute freedom to use my own judgment. And more than once I printed something I knew Roy would not like-and he didn’t like it. And told me so in words easy to understand; and then went right on with never a hint of any weakening in his backing and support! Others sometimes complained that he was hard to deal with; this was never my experience. And when I learned some months ago that he had a malignancy that might take his life, I wept openly and unashamedly. By God’s grace it seems now that he may have many additional years of service; but whether he lives or dies, his place in my heart will remain secure.”
A Concluding Postscript
I am not an Existentialist, but I suppose it will be all right if I use as a caption an adaptation of the title of one of Kierkegaard’s books. Throughout my preaching life, Roy Cogdill, Luther Blackmon, James Adams, and Yater Tant have had much influence upon me through their writings and preaching. Five years ago when Roy Cogdill and James Adams approached me about turning Truth Magazine into a weekly, I was very hesitant to do so. After deciding to do so, I suggested that we install Brother James Adams as Editor. He declined that proposal. So they both can verify that since 1969 I have leaned quite heavily upon them for counsel and editorial advice. Frequently when I was uncertain and wavering about whether to publish an article that I thought hit particularly hard, I have asked their judgment before proceeding. I believe I can say that, without exception, they have in every case said, “let her fire!” Though both now are “getting along in years” as we sometimes put it, neither has shown any sign that he is about to withdraw from the battlefield, or to soften his blows in battle against error.
Some of the new papers state rather idealistic objectives as to how they are going to deal with error when it arises. I do not know any way to deal with error but to deal with it specifically and explicitly. I have sought to represent those with whom we had controversy accurately; when we have failed to do so, I have sought to correct the misrepresentation, if I was convinced that I had indeed misrepresented the person involved. Perhaps some of these other papers can deal with error and errorists effectively without calling names and documenting the error taught, but I do not know how to deal with error effectively while dealing with it only in generalities. We have no intention to modify the course we have chosen to take in dealing with error in Truth Magazine. If our manner did not comport with that of our Lord and His Apostles, then we would be open to change. After reading again recently through all the Gospels and Acts, I have felt no need to question whether I have fought error too hard. However, I have wondered if I opposed error and those who teach it strongly enough!
I am not so naive as to fail to see that some of the new papers being started have been started because some .,have thought we write too strongly, and deal personally with errorists, through Truth Magazine. But as old Brother F. B. Srygley said once when he was criticized for personally dealing with some false teacher, so say I: “All the error which I have encountered thus far in my life has been error taught by some man; but if I ever encounter any of this error just floating around in the air, I certainly intend to take a shot at it!” If our deliberately chosen procedure eventually should cause the failure of Truth Magazine and should even bring on its demise, my attitude is, So be it! I have no apology to make for the course we have chosen in opposing false doctrine within or without the church, and have no plans to change our procedure.
Several years ago, a gospel preacher about 60 years of age and I were discussing the “methods” of a certain gospel preacher in opposing error. Being a young preacher and having very high regard for this older man, I was mostly listening, and letting him do most of the talking. (Did some of you say that you do not believe that last statement???) Well, I really was, believe it or not. This older brother, after criticizing the methods of the preacher being discussed, then paused and after reflection said: “I have never approved of the methods employed by Brother . Instead, I have always tried to just deal with the Bible principles involved, without dealing with personalities and without making specific application of those principles that I preached.” Then after another considerable pause, he continued, “But I must confess that everywhere Brother has preached, there is today a faithful church. They may have had quite a furor and quite a fight, and the church may even have split. But every single place he has preached, there is today a sound church. And I must confess that every church for which I have preached in my entire life, up until the one with which I am working now, is today a liberal church. ” That conversation spoke volumes to me about how to deal with error. I hope that we might so preach and so write that wherever we go, behind us will be left a string of churches faithful to the Lord, and fervent in His service.
Before you now are some details about many papers. I personally would like to see each Christian subscribe to all of them, and to read from and to study all of the material presented therein. Then appropriate into your life and work every morsel of truth presented by any writer in any paper. Preachers, papers, and writers are all of relative unimportance, but all divine truth is supremely important. Get all of it you can! As Solomon said: “Buy the truth and sell it not” (Prov. 23:23).
Truth Magazine XVIII: 6, pp. 82-87
December 12, 1974