Brethren, the sobering words that follow are a source of warning. The present day MDR digressions are waxing worse and worse (II Timothy 2:16; 3:13). Where shall we go from here (cf. Ephesians 5:6-17)? I have added underlines for emphasis. - Jeff 

The Gospel Guardian
Volume 9, Number 42
February 27, 1958


Cecil Willis 

Once the door is opened to let in one thing without Bible authority, where can one stop? When man assumes God will not object to something he wants to add, there is no stopping place. Anything that someone else might want can just as well be added. So ultimately, the church will cease to be as God wants it, and will be transformed into the kind of institution that man wants, if this sort of thinking prevails.

About a century ago some of the brethren began gradually to go away. At first the departures were so slight that some of the brethren could see no danger in them at all. Finally, with absolutely no Biblical authority for them, mechanical instrumental music was added to the worship, and missionary societies were built in addition to the organization of the church. But these brethren, who became the Christian Church, could not stop with these two departures. The flood gate had been opened and none could turn back the tide.

In fact, no religious organization, having started down the road of apostasy, has ever turned back to reform itself...

Most of us can see the ridiculousness of such things as we have just mentioned. We ask, “Why would anyone go so far?” The answer is simply that there is no logical stopping place for apostasy. Once the gate is opened to let in some things, there is then no logical reason why others of the like nature should not also be admitted. The place to stop apostasy is before it begins. No step away from the truth is too insignificant to warrant our concern. The Christian Church we have been talking about attempts to justify these things by the “expediency argument.” What they failed to do was to prove these things to be scriptural, and then they could attempt to prove they were expedient. Virtually every departure in this or any other age has been defended by this now-thread-bare expediency argument. We should remember that nothing is expedient that is not first scriptural!

 The Gospel Guardian
Volume 10, Number 38
January 29, 1959

McGarvey, And The Course of Digression
at Lexington, Kentucky
– (1) 

Henry S. Ficklin 

(Editor’s note: And who is Henry Ficklin? See brief article in this issue by Robert H. Farish.)

In March of this year (1958) I spoke at the mid-week service of the University Heights Church of Christ in Lexington, Kentucky. By way of introduction to this sermon, I recounted my previous experiences at Lexington, and, in particular, I told about some things that occurred when I was a student at Transylvania and the College Of The Bible when McGarvey was President of the College Of the Bible. And I related that I was present at Broadway Christian Church when the congregation voted to introduce the organ into its worship.

I have been asked to write out these experiences, so that this account may be published. Since McGarvey was by far the most prominent person in this significant and tragical turn of events, I have chosen as the title of this article: “McGarvey and the Course of Digression at Lexington.” In spite of his opposition, the organ was introduced.

For five years I was a student at Transylvania College and the College Of The Bible –1902-1903, 1904-1905, 1905-1906, 1906-1907 and 1907-1908. During all of these years McGarvey was president of the College of the Bible, and he continued in this capacity until his death, in 1911. These were eventful years. Great changes were taking place, and the tide of digression was running strongly, I. McGarvey And The Introduction Of The Organ At Broadway

As I have said, I was present at the service at the Broadway Christian Church on the morning of November 23, 1902, when the congregation voted to introduce the organ into its worship...

McGarvey had opposed the use of the organ in worship during all of his long ministry. He wrote against it, and spoke against it, and when he spoke he used arguments that were irrefutable. I remember what one of the students of the College Of The Bible said one day when the argument was at its height: “I don’t agree with Brother McGarvey about the organ, but I don’t want to argue with the old man about it.” No one would dare, to debate with him about it. Just before the Broadway Christian Church took the vote on the resolution, McGarvey wrote an article for the Leader, the Lexington evening newspaper, setting forth the Scriptural argument against its use. But McGarvey could no more stop Broadway from introducing it than Samuel could dissuade Israel from having a king. A large part of the Restoration Movement, which had begun so devoutly 100 years before, had now “gone with the wind.”

Yet, as much as I loved McGarvey, candor requires me to say that he did not oppose the use of mechanical instruments in worship as effectively as he should have done. He was weak in the course that he pursued. And he did not oppose it consistently. Before the Broadway congregation voted as a body to introduce the organ into the worship, there had been much agitation for its use. Professor Morro, in his life of McGarvey writes about it as follows: “One of the superintendents of the Sunday School insisted that she must have an instrument for her department. The situation was submitted to McGarvey and inasmuch as this was the Sunday School, and not the worship of the church, he consented. A second department also asked and received.” (P. 221.) This was a weak position, from one so able in the Scriptures as McGarvey...

Brother McGarvey often voiced his opposition to the use of the organ in worship, and all understood his convictions on the matter. However, he often worshipped with congregations which used it. This, of course, weakened the force of his argument against it. Besides, while he opposed the use of mechanical instruments in worship, he endorsed the organization of the American Christian Missionary Society, and spoke strongly in its behalf. He was a strong advocate of missions, and co-operated fully with the workers and officers of the Missionary Societies. His fellowship was with churches which used mechanical instruments in the worship, and which supported the Missionary Societies. And, it has been said that when he was away from Lexington, he would not attend regularly the worship of congregations that did not use mechanical instruments in the worship and did not endorse the Missionary Societies, but would attend services where both were endorsed. And it has been well said – by Brother Sewell, I think – that his influence went with his fellowship, and not with his arguments.

Even before McGarvey’s death, in 1911, the Missionary Societies which he upheld fell into the hands of modernists. And the modernists finally began to advocate receiving the unimmersed into congregations professedly advocating New Testament Christianity. This was a matter of grief to McGarvey, as I know. But he should have realized that there is a natural kinship between digression and modernism. They both spring from the same evil root – unbelief. It would have been well if McGarvey, after seeing where this digression was leading to, had come out strongly against it. After his death, modernists connected with the Missionary Societies had a large part in turning over the College Of The Bible, which was so dear to his heart, to unbelief. The account of that sordid, shameless, betrayal I hope to tell you about later. But, do not forget that modernism has no conscience. And it is not controlled by Scripture, or even by fixed principles, but by self-interest...

See Also Making A Present Day Application of McGarvey’s Advice

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