By Gainesville, Florida
Chuck Lucas: Our next speaker, brother Yater Tant.
An old man, going down a lone highway,
Came in the evening cold and gray
To a chasm, vast and deep and wide.
Through which flowed a sullen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fears for him,
But he paused when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
`Old man,’ said a fellow pilgrim near,
`You waste your strength in laboring here,
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will come this way.
You’ve crossed the chasm deep and wide,
Why build you this bridge at even tide?
The traveler lifted his old gray head,
`Good friend, in the way I’ve come,’ he said,
`There followeth after me today
A fair-haired youth who must come this way
This stream which has been as naught to me,
To that fine lad may a pitfall be,
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim,
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him.’
I don’t know whether you know that old man or not, but I know him. As a matter of fact, he is in the audience; he goes under several names. One of them is Richard Whitehead. And another is Alonzo Welch. And one not quite so old is the one you just listened to. And, sometimes, he might be known as Yater Tant.
Now, before I start, when I talked to brother Bartley, and brother Whitehead (I would have mentioned Bartley but he’s not old enough yet), they told me I’d have twenty minutes. I said, “There’s no way, no way, that I can do anything in twenty minutes. But, if you will permit me to bring an editorial that I have written, this will set forth some of my basic convictions.” Brother Bartley said, “These people are interested in knowing anything that will be helpful. They’re open-minded, they’re receptive, and they’ll read anything you want to bring.” So, I went down in my pocket and went to the bank and came up with about eight-hundred dollars, eight-hundred and fifty (850), and printed fifteen hundred copies of the June issue of Vanguard. They’ve been distributed. Now then, I want to know how many of you have not read the editorial that was in that issue. Let’s see your hands. Read it. Read it.
I taught school down at Stephen Austin University for several years, and I had the practice with some of my classes of giving a very exhaustive and exhausting examination the first week. And the students would come to me and say, “Professor, we haven’t been over this material, we don’t know this.” I said, “I didn’t give this examination to find out what you know, but what you don’t know, so I’ll know what to teach you.” And I want to know, I want to know if you have read this.
I want to recommend to you two more things. Let me first ask, how many of you can give a real logical, biblical answer as to what is wrong with the missionary society? Let’s see your hands, how many? Not even the preachers? Well, don’t be ashamed about it. I was forty years old, I’d been preaching for twenty-two (22) or three (23) years, before I ever really understood the whole thing. And the thing that helped me was a little tract by Earl West entitled Congregational Cooperation. Brother West teaches up at Harding Graduate School. I want to recommend that to you. I want to recommend another writing: The Emergence Of The Church of Christ Denomination by David Edwin Harrell. He is the head of the history department at the University of Arkansas. And, incidentally, both of these things will be published in the Vanguard within the next few months. And in all these papers, these fifteen-hundred Vanguards, that, presumably you’ll have a chance to read, you’ll find an envelope. If you want to get the paper, put your name in that envelope, put your money in it and send it to me. Now, I know a lot of you are students. If you don’t have the money, put your name in anyhow, and a little note, “I can’t pay for it,” and I’ll send you the paper. But you’ve got to promise me that you’ll read it, and give it to two or three others. I’ll come up with the money to do it. Incidentally, brother Whitehead, when he invited me, said, “We’ll take care of your expenses.” I think he meant my travel expenses. Alright, let’s get down to business (audience laughter).
There are three basic convictions which I hold, which I presume all of us hold, which will forever make division impossible, if they are properly understood and applied. Number one, we accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God. We all agree on that, don’t we? (“Amen” from a number of the audience.) Alright. Number two, we accept the Bible as a total revelation of the will of God for us. Everything we need to know or to believe or to practice is therein set forth. Everybody agree to that? (“Amen” from the audience.) Number three, the Bible can be understood insofar as it effects our obedience to God. Everybody agree to that? (“Amen” from the audience.) Alright. Now then, if these three basic convictions are firmly held, understood, and applied, division becomes impossible. (“Amen” from the audience.) And if it has happened, one or the other, or maybe all three of them have been abandoned. Now, let me go on from that.
These three basic convictions must be followed by four basic areas of total commitment. Some people are frightened of that word “Total Commitment.” And some have made some derisive remarks about it. John Whitehead told me that there’s an elder down here somewhere that boasted that there was not one ounce of total commitment in the church where he was an elder (audience laughter). Well, when I see that brother in heaven, I want to ask him about that. Oh, he’ll go to heaven. I may not but he will. Like my father was in a debate with a Baptist preacher one time many years in Texas, and he kept saying something about what my father said, “When we get to heaven we’ll ask Paul about this passage, and we’ll ask Peter or John.” Finally the Baptist preacher stood up and wanted to quit the debate. He said, “Elder Tant has agreed that I’m going to heaven.” And he said, “I was born a Baptist, I’ll die a Baptist, and my Baptist doctrine will take me to heaven.” My father said, “Yes, brother, I think you’re going to heaven.” He said, “When the Lord takes a look at the arguments you’ve been making in this debate, He gonna poke you in through the fool hole” (audience laughter). Not a very elegant way of saying it, but, I think, my brother who boasted that there was not an ounce of total committment in his congregation, I think he’ll be in heaven.
“What are these basic committments? Number one, a committment to Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives. (“Amen” from the audience.) Now there’s a difference between that and a conviction that He’s the Son of God; the devils have that. The devils have that (Luke 8:28); “What have I to do with thee, Jesus thou son of the most high God,” a devil said that. Matthew 8:29, “What do you want with us, son of God,” a devil said that. They believed that He was the son of God. There’s a difference in believing in the divinity of Christ, and making a committment of your life to him as the Lord of your life. (“Amen” from the audience.) That’s essential, that’s essential. His will expressed in His word comes to us with all authoritv. In Matthew 7:29, He spoke as one having authority. In Matthew 28:18, Jesus said, “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.” In John the sixth chapter, when many of the disciples turned back and walked with him no more, he turned to His immediate group and said, “Would you also go away?” and Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” We must have that basic understanding, that committment that the word of God comes to us with absolute and total authority. The third thing, we must be unequivocallv committed to the fact that unity is possible. (“Amen” from the audience.) Christ prayed for it in John chapter 17. The apostle Paul enjoined it in 1 Corinthians 1. And Christians through the centuries have practiced it.
We can be united, but some things are absolutely essential to that. Number one, if we are to have that unit v, there must be communication. There must be communication. We must talk to each other. We must associate with each other. Let me show you what happened. A hundred years ago, the Firm Foundation was started in Austin, Texas, for the very purpose, according to Austin McGary, of combating what he called “Lipscomb’s Heresy.” Brother Lipscomb taught that if a man has been immersed into Christ, he is a child of God. If he’s been immersed in order to obey God, he is a child of God. A. MeGary said, “That’s not so. He must know what he’s being baptized for. He must understand he’s not a Christian, he’s not in Christ, his sins are not forgiven, until he’s baptized into Christ.” McGary said, “The question is a very simple one. Is baptism for those who know what they’re doing, or is it for those who don’t know what they’re doing?” My father was with McGary. As he expressed it, he was on the “cow-catcher of the re-baptism train.” But at the very height of the controversy, brother Lipscomb invited my father to the Nashville Bible School, which is now David Lipscomb College, to give a series of lectures setting forth his conviction on the matter of baptism, or re-baptism. About the same time he asked my father to become an associate editor of the Gospel Advocate, knowing that their convictions were the very opposite on this question. But, they loved one another, they loved the Lord, and the church did not divide. There was communication. Oh, they debated it, hot and heavy. They discussed it, and sometimes they discussed it with considerabe heat. But through it all, kind of like the fights you have with your wife sometimes, it can get real hot, but it never even enters your mind that you’re going to split. Somebody asked one of the columnists in the lovelorn sections, “Has it ever entered your mind to get a divorce from your husband?” And she said, “No, not really. Murder once in a while, but never divorce” (audience laughter). I think we need to have that attitude in the church. No matter how angry we get, or how stirred up, and we do get stirred up, it never even occurs to us that we are going to quarantine one another.
Sixty years after that re-baptism controversy was settled, a question developed over the contribution of churches to Christian schools. It was debated pretty hot and heavy, and then from that it went into the question of the church contributing to benevolent organizations. I went to brother Goodpasture, who was editor of the Gospel Advocate, and pleaded with him to let men of capability, who had the respect of the brotherhood, discuss the question openly in the Gospel Advocate. I went to brother G.H.P. Showalter with the same plea. Men who are respected, C.R. Nichol, Foy Wallace, and others of recognized ability could discuss the issue. And the answer was “No, no.” And then in 1954 a quarantine was initiated against all those who questioned church contributions to the benevolent associations. Now if we are ever to get together, we must associate and talk and study. I’d like to recommend to you highly that some effort be made to lift that quarantine. There are about 1800 “Anti” congregations. I know 400-500 faithful gospel preachers. I’d like to think that some of these men could be invited into other, what would you call it, “segments” of the brotherhood, like the “main-line” churches, and the Crossroad churches, for a brotherly discussion of these matters. Men like Homer Hailey, or Robert Turner, or Ed Harrell, or Marshall Patton, who won’t come in with the idea that they’re going to blast you, but for a prayerful study. We have enough in common that if we are determined to be together, nobody will have to give up one iota of the truth that he holds. (“Amen” from the audience.) We can compromise our matters of judgment, and our opinions, but not the truth, not the truth. I don’t ask you to give up any truth you hold, and I’ll certainly not give up any I hold. But if we have the right spirit and the right’ attitude, we can find a solution to our problems.
So, a committment to Jesus as Lord, a committment to the Bible as final authority, a committment to the belief that unity is possible, and then, a total committment to the mighty task of evangelism are necessary. You find me a church that is really committed and working in the field of evangelism, and there’s not much chance for the devil to get in there and cause much trouble. We have a preventative, that total committment. Jim Cope wrote me some time ago, and said, “What is your judgment of the biggest problem the church is going to face in the next twenty years?” I replied, “There are all kinds of problems. Secularism, paganism, but the biggest problem that I see is apathy. Just indifference. Unconcern. I live in Birmingham, Alabama. About 75 years ago, not quite that far back, Studard Kennedy, who lived in Birmingham, England, wrote a little verse that’s become a classic of its sort. I quoted it when I was here three years ago. I’ll repeat it. It’s worth it. He said,
When Jesus came to Golgotha, they hanged him on a tree. They drove great nails through hands and feet, they made a Calvary.
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds, and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.
But, when Jesus came to Birmingham, they merely passed Him by.
They never harmed a hair of Him, they merely let Him die.
For men had grown more tender, they would not give Him pain.
They simply passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.
Still, Jesus cried forgive them, for they know not what they do.
And still it rained the winter rain that drenched Him through and through.
The crowds went home, and left the street without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against the wall, and cried for Calvary.
The spikes of the Roman soldiers through His quivering flesh,
Were less agonizing than the brutal indifference
Of those for whom He had died.
I think if Jesus should look out from the battlements of heaven today, and see His broken, divided, alienated, separated body, the church, He might crouch against the jasper walls of heaven and cry for Calvary. The spikes of the Roman soldiers would be less agonizing, less hurtful, than the division of His people. In the name of God, my brethren, I challenge you, let’s do something about it. (“Amen” from the audience.) I ask you to join with me in a crusade, a holy crusade, to bring peace to the troubled people of God. I hope I get an invitation to go among the “main-line” churches of Christ, the Crossroads churches of Christ, and the “anti” churches of Christ. And I may not live to see it. I enter my 75th year before this year is out. I may not live to see it, but I pray that the time will come before this century closes when there will be no Crossroads church of Christ, no “main-line” church of Christ, no “anti” church of Christ, but we will be Christians, children of God, one Lord, one faith, one body. (“Amen” from the audience.) I’m ready for that crusade, I hope you are. (“Amen” from the audience and then loud applause.)
Chuck Lucas: Brother Tant had asked me earlier, if we might be able to sing a song that is not in our books. And I don’t know how many of you even know this, but I got together rather hurriedly a group of brothers, and they have learned this song. They’re going to lead us in it, and if you know it, feel free to join in. It’s called, “Shall I Crucify My Saviour.” Certainly an appropriate thought after brother Tant’s remarks.
(Song is sung, followed by an audience ovation.)
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 6, pp. 196-198
April 7, 1983