By Mike Willis
Many Christians only knew Roy E. Cogdill through his writings. Though I have had opportunity to have personal contact with him and to feel the influence of his work through his impact on my oldest brother Cecil, brother Codgill’s impact on my life came most directly through his writings.
The Cogdill-Jackson Debate
As a young gospel preacher, my brother Cecil encouraged me to read debates on various subjects. One of the first debates which I read was the Cogdill-Jackson Debate. Brother Cogdill met D.N. Jackson in Lufkin, Texas in December 1946 in a public discussion. The propositions for that debate pertained to salvation and apostasy. Brother Cogdill centered the issues of the debate on Calvinism, quoting extensively from the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, adopted by the Baptists as their creed in 1742.
The purpose of water baptism and the doctrine of faith only were discussed for two nights. I can still remember being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine while reading the book as a young Christian. As the debate progressed, the clear refutation of Calvinist doctrine was apparent; this was one of the many works which helped me to better understand the conditions for salvation.
The discussion of apostasy was as helpful as the first two nights of the discussion. As recently as two or three years ago, I went back to read how brother Cogdill responded to D.N. Jack;on on such passages as Romans 8:1 in an effort to be better prepared to discuss this passage as it is now being used by grace-unity advocates.
The Cogdill-Jackson Debate is still in print. I can recommend it to you because of its impact on my own life.
The New Testament Church
Choosing what subjects to preach on is a problem for all preachers, although it is usually more intense for young preachers. Cecil recommended that I preach a series of sermons on the church, using brother Cogdill’s book, The New Testament Church, as a study tool. I remember gathering several others books as well, including Why I Am A Member Of The Church Of Christ by Leroy Brownlow, The Church Of Christ by T.W. Phillips, several sermon outline books with miscellaneous sermons on the church, and other books. Every Sunday night for nearly a year, I preached on the church.
Those fundamental lessons have stayed with me through the rest of my preaching life. I frequently go back to those outlines and preach those basic, fundamental lessons in both the local church where I preach and in my meetings.
Unfortunately, many of the young men who are beginning full-time preaching have not preached these sermons. The fundamental lessons such as, “The Establishment of the Church,” “The Organization of the Church,” “The Authority of the Church,” “The Rules of Admission,” “The Worship of the Church,” and such like themes, are generally being neglected in the pulpits of this country. Many preachers reason that brethren have heard all of these lessons before, forgetting that a new generation has grown up which has not heard these lessons. Consequently, many Christians are beginning to see little difference in the church of Christ and human denominations. Books like The New Testament Church need to be a part of the curriculum of the local church.
Walking By Faith And The Cogdill-Woods Debate
I began preaching in Alexandria, Indiana in 1967. Within a couple of months of that time, the liberal churches in Indiana had a “campaign for Christ” in Indianapolis, Indiana. The featured speaker was Jimmy Allen and, as I recall, Pat Boone was scheduled to lead singing one night. The campaign was conducted through a sponsoring church arrangement, organizationally structured like the Herald of Truth at Highland, in Abilene, Texas.
One of my fellow students at Florida College was attending a liberal church in Anderson. As I began to make contact with him in an effort to persuade him to leave, I was forced to study the issues of church support of human institutions (colleges, orphan homes, old folks homes, etc.) and the sponsoring church arrangement. In studying these subjects, Cecil directed me to Walking By Faith and the Cogdill-Woods Debate.
The outlines in the book Walking By Faith, in my judgment, are still the best study material available on the “issues” which divided the church in the 1950-1960s. They show how the sponsoring church is a violation of the organization of the church, destroying the autonomy of the local church. They demonstrate that the church cannot do its work through (by making contributions to) human institutions, whether they be missionary or benevolent institutions. The book also shows that the work of the church is not recreational in nature. Anytime anyone asks me questions about these issues, I still direct them to brother Cogdill’s book, Walking By Faith.
Books And Tracts
Another source which I used in studying this issue was the Cogdill-Woods Debate. Reading through the book as a young preacher, I was confused by some of the arguments which were being made in this debate. I will never forget reading the final speech which brother Cogdill made. Recalling the proposition which brother Woods was committed to defend, brother Cogdill then took up brother Woods’ arguments one-by-one. He then raised the question, “Does this argument prove brother Woods’ proposition?” The confusion began to leave my mind as I concluded that debate book. This remains one of the most popular debates on the sponsoring church arrangement and church supported benevolent institutions which is in print. You need to read this debate, if you have not already done so.
The New Testament Book By Book
Another adult workbook which brother Cogdill has written is this survey book on the New Testament. In twenty-six lessons, brother Cogdill presents an overview of the books of the New Testament. The work was originally designed for a senior high class but has been studied by many adult Bible classes as well. The material in the book is thorough to. the point that it is difficult to cover each New Testament book in one class period. His analysis of the New Testament books makes this material useful to young and old alike. As more and more brethren use this book, the word will spread that this is a good companion study to The New Testament Church.
Chapters In Books
Brother Cogdill also participated in some other books in which he wrote significant chapters.
1. Preaching In The Twentieth Century. In 1945, the Old Paths Book Club published this work which was written by J. Pilant Sanders, C. Arthur Norred, Fanning Yater Tant, and Roy E. Cogdill. Brother Cogdill wrote a 55-page chapter entitled “The Bible In Preaching.” This chapter certainly reflects the concept which brother Cogdill had of the place of the Bible in the sermon. The final section of the chapter discusses 1 and 2 Timothy as “instructions to a young preacher” and a study of other significant texts on preaching. This book is no longer in print. However, if you see one in a used book store, brother Cogdill’s material will make the book valuable to you.
2. The Arlington Meeting. In January 1968, twenty-six brethren representing both sides of the institutional conflict, met to discuss their differences in Arlington, Texas. One of the participants was brother Cogdill. The discussions were recorded and published by the Cogdill (now Guardian of Truth) Foundation. The book contains an excellent article entitled “How To Establish Bible Authority” by brother Cogdill. J.D. Thomas presented the opposing point of view and both brethren had a fifteen-minute rebuttal speech. This book is still in print and will be one of the important historical documents of the division between brethren related to church support of human institutions.
Tracts And Booklets
There are a number of tracts and booklets written by brother Cogdill which remain in demand and stay in print. Among them are the following:
1. Miraculous Divine Healing. This booklet is a sermon which was preached in Bowling Green, Kentucky on Sunday afternoon, 5 October 1952. A faith-healer named Charles Jessup was in town, challenging preachers to deny what he was teaching. B.G. Hope met with Mr. Jessup and arranged the discussion. Approximately 12,000 attended the exchange. The booklet continues to be a popular tract on this subject.
2. What Constitutes Obedience? This tract emphasizes that obedience is the natural result of faith and that it requires more than just good intentions.
3. Bible Authority, How Established, How Applied. This tract is the first speech delivered by brother Cogdill in the Cogdill-Woods Debate which was conducted in Birmingham, Alabama in 1957.
4. The Bible – A Complete And Perfect Guide. Brother Cogdill discussed this proposition: “Either the Bible is a complete and perfect guide in religion or it is insufficient and incapable of fully directing man in his efforts to please God and reach heaven eventually.”
5. The Origin And Claims Of Roman Catholicism. This tract traces the historical origin of Catholicism and discusses some of its fundamental claims in light of the Scriptures.
6. Why I Am A Member Of The Church Of Christ. This tract details some of the unique characteristics of the New Testament church in contrast to modem denominationalism.
Although one cannot know brother Cogdill in a personal way solely through his writings, he can understand the basic principles of faith by which he lived. He can see his deep commitment to the revealed word of God and his militant stand against error and compromise. Brother Cogdill’s writings have had a deep impact upon me, and many others in other parts of this world. Through the printed page, brother Cogdill has preached in places his body could never have gone. His influence will continue to be felt as long as these writings remain in circulation.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 14, pp. 435, 439
July 18, 1985