All posts by BradleyCobb

Restoration Moments – The Heresy Trial of Solomon Morton

The name Solomon Morton is probably unfamiliar to most people.  In fact, it’s unfamiliar to most church historians as well.  But his story is well worth noting.

This week’s Restoration Moment comes from “Alexander Campbell’s Tour in Scotland” (written by Thomas Chalmers) which is available in Alexander Campbell: A Collection (Volume 1) from Cobb Publishing.  Enjoy!

Mr. Campbell’s victory over the Edinburgh audience was local, not general. It served rather to unite his enemies and intensify their bitterness for him. “Campbellism,” which had before been but a harmless delusion, became in the danger that now threatened Scotland’s religious peace, a ‘damnable heresy.’ No man now defended Alexander Campbell, the “arch-heretic” from this on, with impunity.

In my own congregation there had been many who held views similar to those preached by Campbell and who had even advocated them before his coming, but they were quiet now unless they dared to face the music.

Among these daring ones was Solomon Morton. Her­esy had been whispered against him before—now it was loud, since he was fearless in his defense of Campbell and his views. I tried as much as I thought prudent to shield my friend, but he had become so fully converted to the new ideas (or “the old ones” as he used to call them) that he could not refrain from openly expressing his confidence in them. This was going a little too far, and against my earnest action, he was brought to trial, charged with “holding doctrines contrary to the teachings of the Holy Spirit and perilous to be held both for the soul’s salvation and the safety of God’s church.” I tried very hard to prevail upon Morton to retract, but he firmly held his ground.

The day for trial came—it was held in the vestry of the church and many ecclesiastical dignitaries from abroad were there to witness the first trial for the Campbellistic heresy. It began at ten o’clock. After a prayer by a visiting preacher the proceedings of the day began. The presiding presbyter stated the purpose of the meeting; and the general charge, which we have mentioned, was read, and followed by a warm discussion on the part of his prosecutors. He was accused of sympathizing with slavery and man-stealing, of holding doctrines not in consonance with the Westminster Confession, of having discarded the Presbyterian name, and of many other things which made him unworthy of further Christian communion.

Morton was then called out to answer these charges. He came forward, took out his Bible and opened it. Just then one of the prosecutors arose and reminded the chairman that a categorical answer should be required of the heretic on trial, he should respond ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to every separate accusation. The injustice of such a requirement was obvious. And, besides, it was contrary to the custom the Scottish Church had always observed. I immediately arose and objected to such a course of action as unworthy of the church and as likely to do us more harm in the eyes of our people than all the protection it could be in this case. I trusted we were not so fearful of Morton in his use of Scripture that we could not accord him such a hearing as heretics had always been afforded.

At this, one of the prosecutors responded that permission should not be given anyone to desecrate the Word of God by using it in support of heretical notions. “We are all convinced,” said he, “of his heresy. I move that we proceed at once to a vote.”

Deacon Morton then spoke: “Brethren,” said he, “is this a matter in which I am to have nothing to say? Am I to be condemned upon the testimony of others, who can not, by the nature of things, possess quite as accurate knowledge of the state of my heart and mind as I possess myself? I have been charged with sympathizing with and believing in certain things. Full and unhindered testimony has been rendered in this matter by others. Is not my testimony on a subject concerning which I claim to be as well informed as they, worth something, and can they not accord me as much patience, while I defend myself as I have given them while they were accusing me? I ask, will you hear my testimony on this subject?”

After some discussion, Morton was voted ten minutes in which to make his reply.

“The specific, written charge against me,” said he, “is that I hold doctrines contrary to the teaching of the Holy Spirit. To this much I can give a categorical answer. I hold the words of the Holy Spirit in my hand. I deny that I cherish one doctrine contrary to the teaching of this book. Let my accusers specify one and I shall humbly retract it in your presence today. This answer covers the whole of the written charge, for if my doctrines are not contrary to the teachings of the Holy Spirit, they can not be perilous to the soul’s salvation nor to the safety of God’s church. I deny the charge until more definite accusations are made. Wherein do I offend the Holy Spirit? It has been said today that I sympathize with slavery. For this charge there is no foundation, and I hardly need take the trouble to deny it. It has been also said that I do not respect the Westminster confession. I frankly own that it exercises no power over my convictions. If it is the voice of the Holy Spirit, then have I offended against God, but if it is not the voice of Holy Spirit, why should you or I respect its spiritual dominion over us? I ask you, is it the voice of the Holy Spirit? If so, then, it have I offended. If not, then surely I have avoided that same offense in refusing to place it in the throne of the Holy Spirit, an offense which you commit, and not I. The only question, therefore, which determines whether heresy lies on your side or on mine, is whether the Westminster creed is the voice of the Holy Spirit.”

“I have also been charged with rejecting the Presbyterian name. Show me where such a rejection is contrary to the teachings of the Holy Spirit, and again I shall own my fault and abjure my heresy. Again the point upon which our respective orthodoxy is to be hung is whether the Presbyterian name has been applied to us by the Holy Spirit. If it has, then am I a heretic for rejecting it; if not, then you are the heretics for assuming it.”

There was no response to anything that Morton had said. He was called down by the chairman on the second, but his ten minutes had been sufficient. His prosecutors became more rabid in their remarks, but the more reasonable portion of the session considered him with some favor. The vote was taken and by a plurality of two votes against him he was pronounced a heretic. This trial did us more harm than anything else that had happened to us. It was universally condemned as an outrage and such a reaction followed that several of our best members went with Morton and joined the Disciples in Edinburgh. It was the first and last trial for “heresy” of Campbellism that was ever precipitated upon a Scottish Kirk-session to my knowledge.

The David Lipscomb Commentary Collection

David Lipscomb.  He was a gentleman and a true scholar.  He helped hold the church together, especially in the south, after the Civil War.  He helped to create the Gospel Advocate, and was its editor for decades.  He also helped found the Nashville Bible School (now David Lipscomb University).

DavidLipscomb

In 1896, David Lipscomb published his commentary on Acts.  Before his death in 1917, Lipscomb had compiled his own commentary notes on the books of John, and all of Paul’s epistles (Romans through Philemon), but never published them because he believed they could be improved upon.  He requested that J.W. Shepherd, his dear friend, expand these notes and publish them.  Beginning in 1935, the David Lipscomb commentary collection began to see the light of day.

J.W. Shepherd took Lipscomb’s notes, but also went back and scoured through all of the articles that Lipscomb had written for the Gospel Advocate to find more material.  And, at the request of Lipscomb, Shepherd also added his own notes to “fill out” the commentaries on Paul’s epistles.  C.E.W. Dorris was chosen to expand the notes on John.

Then these commentaries were made available to the public.

  • John (originally published in 1939)
  • Acts (originally published in 1896)
  • Romans (originally published in 1935, expanded in 1943)
  • First Corinthians (originally published in 1935)
  • Second Corinthians and Galatians (originally published in 1936)
  • Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians (originally published in 1939)
  • Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (originally published in 1942)

Years have gone by, and these commentaries are still of great use!  This is why we have taken the time (well over 100 hours of work) to convert these wonderful commentaries into e-Sword format (as well as theWord, MySword, and e-Sword HD).

Seven volumes, 2110 pages of notes, all available in one very usable format.  We have taken great care to make sure the formatting is beneficial, that the spelling is correct, and as much as was possible, check to make sure the cross-references  were correct (if you find a mistake, please let us know).  Comments in italics were added by J.W. Shepherd (or C.E.W. Dorris in the book of John).

Look at the example below (Acts 2:38), and see for yourself.  Click on the image to enlarge it.

Lipscombe-Sword

This collection is an absolute bargain!  Just $4.99 gets you the entire seven-volume set (that’s less than 72 cents per volume!).

NowAvailable

Bible Q&A – Are Babies Born in Sin?

I heard someone on the radio talk about people having a “sinful nature,” and as proof that we are all born sinners, he quoted Psalm 51:5 from the NIV. Are we really born sinners?—D. from Illinois.

Thanks for the question. This is one that has bothered people for many years. In fact, this one doctrine has led to all sorts of other doctrines and practices which are foreign to the Bible.

Before we go any further, let’s look at the passage, quoted in the NIV (since that was what the man referenced). This version of the Bible has David saying, “Surely I was sinful at birth; sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” When you read that passage by itself (which is questionably translated), it can sure make you think that we are all “born in sin.” But we need to look at the rest of the Bible first, then we’ll come back to this passage.

In order to understand where people are coming from when they say that we are all “born in sin,” we need to figure out how they came to that conclusion. They claim that all people are born sinful, condemned to hell from the time they were conceived (some say from the moment of birth) because of the sin of Adam. They claim that we all hell-bound sinners from birth because we bear the guilt of Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden. This is why Catholics and Lutherans “baptize” (actually sprinkle) babies—to supposedly cleanse them of the sin of Adam.

But do we really bear the sins of Adam?

Let’s think this through for a moment. If every human is born sinful because of the sin of Adam, then that applies to everyone who has ever been born, starting with Adam and Eve’s first child. That would apply to every person under the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament.

But this doctrine is 100% denied in the Old Testament. The prophet Ezekiel, while speaking words directly from God, said, “the soul that sins, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). And look at what else God says through this prophet: “The son will not bear the sin of the father, nor will the father bear the sin of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20). God makes it incredibly clear that we do not “inherit” sin from any ancestors.

King David was incredibly upset, because his brand-new baby was incredibly sick. Then the baby ended up dying at just 7 days old. But, when the baby died, King David said these words: “Now he is dead…can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23). David, a prophet of God (Acts 2:29-30), said that he would be reunited with his son. Since David was a man after God’s own heart, and fully expected to go to heaven, that means he also fully expected his infant sin to be in heaven as well. This is because babies aren’t born in sin.

But suppose someone won’t accept these Old Testament examples as evidence. What then?

How about the New Testament, which clearly states that we will be judged on what we do, and not on what someone else does? All people will be judged, according to their works (Revelation 20:12-13, 2 Corinthians 5:10).

But let’s consider one more thing: if all babies are born sinful, bearing the guilt of Adam’s sin, then no one can be saved!

Whoa! Wait a minute! What do you mean by that???

If all babies are born in sin, born sinful, then that means Jesus Christ was a sinner from birth. That means Jesus wasn’t the sinless and perfect sacrifice. And if Jesus isn’t the sinless and perfect sacrifice then (1) His death on the cross couldn’t take away sin, and (2) the New Testament contains lie after lie when it says that Jesus “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21, I Peter 2:22, Hebrews 4:15).

So, which one are you going to believe: the Bible, which says Jesus never knew sin, or the people who claim all babies (which must include Jesus) are born in sin?

As for me and my house, we’ll believe the Bible.

But what about Psalm 51:5?

Yes, that’s where this question started, so let’s paint the picture. David has sinned, having committed adultery with Bathsheba. The prophet Nathan has confronted him and said, “You are that man!” (2 Samuel 12:7). David’s realization that he has sinned completely overwhelms him. And in that state, he writes Psalm 51.

He says, “blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me [that is, it’s all around me, it’s everywhere I look]. Behold, I was shaped in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me…purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:1-7).

David is poetically saying that all he can see is his sin. It’s like he’s always sinning. He’s such a horrible sinner, it’s like he’s done nothing but sinning. It’s like he’s been sinning since he was born. His sin is overwhelming him, and he’s begging for God’s forgiveness. He’s not saying, “I was a hell-bound sinner the instant I was conceived.” He’s saying, “I’m such a horrible sinner, it feels like that’s all I’ve done my entire life.”

And he’s not that different from us. Haven’t you ever said, thought, or heard the words, “I can’t do anything right”? Or perhaps, “All I ever do is mess up”? That’s how David was feeling when he wrote Psalm 51.

So, to answer the original question: No, we are not born sinners. We do not get our sin from someone else. We are born precious and free from sin. We become sinners when we ourselves disobey God’s law.

For further reading on this topic, check Luke 18:16 and Romans 7:7-9.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Sermon Thursday – Jesus the Healer

Introduction:

  1. There’s a little boy who is paralyzed. His family is poor, and they can’t afford to take him to the specialists who might be able to do something to help him. They’re listening to the radio one day in their barely-running junker of a car, and they hear something that gives them hope. An anonymous donor is willing to pay for treatments for one person. The only catch is that you have to be the first person to call in to the radio station. The family swerves to the side of the road into a gas station parking lot, and the father runs to the payphone to call the toll-free number. But he’s too late. Someone already got through first. All their hope, which for a moment was through the roof—for a moment they had no worries at all because they saw that glimmer of hope—all that hope came crashing down on them.
  2. There’s a man, unable to walk, struck with a disease that’s left him helpless for 38 years. He’s been brought to a place where the rumor is he can be healed. But the catch is that only one person per day can be healed—and it’s on a first come, first served basis. With no one to help him, his hope is gone. He hears the call to come for healing, but he has no way of going, and someone always gets there first.
  3. But there’s another man. This man walks up and says, “Are you wanting to be healed?” You can imagine this poor man getting angry—I’m laying here by the healing place. I can barely move. Of course I’m wanting to be healed! That’s how a lot of folks would respond. But this man was so depressed, so hopeless, that he couldn’t even get angry. “Sir, I have no one to help me, and another one gets there before me every time.”
  4. Could this new man be the one I’ve been waiting for? Could this new man be the one to help me get to the healing place first? Is it possible that there’s really hope for me? Can I possibly be healed? This poor man is hesitant to allow any hope in his heart—after all, it’s been 38 years that he’s suffered with this horrible disease. But maybe?
  5. Read John 5:1-9

He recognized his condition.

You’re probably thinking, Of course he recognized his condition. He was crippled!  He lives with this debilitating disease every day for thirty-eight years. He can’t escape it. It’s always right there in front of him. His limitations. His disease. His inability to be like everyone else.  He has no family—at least, no family that cares enough to try to help him. You can hear the heartbreak in his voice as he tells Jesus, “I have no one…”

But every day, you can find him sitting at the place where people say you can be healed. You find him there, hoping, wishing, probably begging for someone to help him.  He knows that he’s broken. He knows that he’s not what he wants to be.

There’s no healing without first recognizing your condition.  A woman goes to the doctor. After running some tests, the doctor is overwhelmed. “Have you been feeling OK?” he asks the woman. “Well, I’ve been having some headaches, and there’s been some blurriness in my vision, but I’m sure it’s nothing.” The doctor sits down, shaking, and says, “You’ve got cancer on your brain.” “What? That’s not possible!” “It’s spread to the point that there’s nothing that can be done. If you’d have come in earlier, when you first started having the headaches, we might have been able to take care of it. But now, it’s too late. At most, I think you’ve got a month to live.”

If this woman had recognized her condition—recognized that she had a need, then healing was possible. But since she kept putting it off, ignoring it, it was too late. Even when the doctor told her of the condition, she refused to believe it.

There’s no spiritual healing without first recognizing your condition.  The number one reason why people aren’t being saved, being brought into Christ through baptism, is that they don’t realize they’re lost! They don’t recognize their condition. They don’t realize that they are sick and dying. They think they’re doing A-OK.

Jesus says, “Those who are whole don’t need a physician, but those who are sick” (Matthew 9:12). The thing is, everybody is sick—whether they realize it or not.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 6:23), and the wages for sin is death (Romans 3:23). Everyone is sin-sick. Everyone is dying from sin. And everyone needs the doctor, the healer, the physician—Jesus Christ.

Until someone recognizes their sin-sick condition, they’ll never be healed—because they’ll never look for healing. People who think they’re just fine don’t have a reason to look for healing.  What’s your condition?

He looked for healing.

Granted, he’s looking for it in the wrong place, but at least he’s looking He is a man who knows he’s got problems, and he’s trying to fix them. We ought to admire that. He has failed for 38 years to fix the problem, but he keeps trying. I wish more people were like that.

He hears that there’s some special healing power in the pool of Bethesda, and he makes sure he’s there. Whether the healing powers were real, or whether they were just a rumor, the point is, the man is looking for healing, and willing to go wherever he needs to try to get it.

Even Jesus recognized that this man was looking for the cure to his disease. Jesus asked him, “Are you wanting to be made whole?” (John 5:6). The man knows he’s broken. He knows he’s not well. And he’s not content to stay that way. He’s looking for a way to be fixed—to be healed.

There’s no healing without looking for it.  William Clairemore is sitting at his desk, writing a letter. He is incredibly depressed. He’s got a flesh-eating disease that has gradually destroyed his leg, and it is slowly creeping up towards his chest. He’s stopped going out in public. He refuses any visitors. The only one who ever sees him is his wife, and even then it’s only long enough for him to take the plate of food that she’s prepared before he shuts the door. There’s no one that can help me. What’s the point? There’s no hope.

If William would make up his mind to look for help—to look for healing, he would find that his disease is treatable. But instead, he sits. Alone. Depressed. Fully aware of his sickness, but refusing to look for a cure. And then he dies.

There’s no spiritual healing without looking for it.  There’s no such thing as accidental forgiveness. You aren’t going to be going along in life one day and God just accidentally forgives you.

God offers forgiveness to anyone who’s willing to take it. It’s like a free clinic that heals your sin-sickness—and there is a 100% success rate. The thing is, God isn’t a door-to-door doctor. He doesn’t come knock on your door and say, “Hey, I’m here to forgive you.” You have to go to Him.

If you want to know about the healing that’s available, where to get it, and how to get it, you’ve got to read the Bible. You’ve got to read it with an open mind and an open heart. In the pages of this book the cure can be found. In the pages of this book, you can learn about the healing that will save you from dying.

But if you’re not willing to look for it, you can’t be saved. “Seek and ye shall find” (Matthew 7:7).

Jesus gives the healing.

The man has been looking for healing in the wrong places. But we can’t be too harsh on him. After all, he isn’t the only one thinking that this was the way to be healed. There’s blind folks, and crippled folks, maimed folks, folks who are every bit as broken as he is.  But if he wasn’t there—if he wasn’t looking for healing, he never would have met Jesus.

Jesus asks him, “Are you wanting to be healed?” And the man’s answer expresses Yes! I long to be healed. I am so broken, and I struggle. I want to be made whole again. But I don’t see any way to do it. I need help.

Jesus saith unto him, “Rise. Take up your bed, and walk.” And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked. (John 5:8-9).

Jesus is the way that this broken man is healed.

There is no spiritual healing without Jesus. Jesus Christ of Nazareth…Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).  Jesus is called the Savior because He is the only one who has the power to save—the power to heal. “The great Physician now is near, the sympathizing Jesus.”

Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are laboring, and who are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my burden on you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

The gift of God is eternal life through His Son (Romans 6:23).

Conclusion:

  1. John is dying. Years of smoking invited cancer to make its home in his lungs. Then one night, he’s reading on the internet and comes across this webpage advertising a “heal-yourself-at-home” product. His interest is piqued, and he keeps reading. As he reads, he sees a testimonial from Wilma of Akron, OH who says that after just two weeks of being on this program, her lung cancer is gone! So John excitedly enters his debit card information and anxiously awaits the package. When he opens it, he finds a professional-looking book and a bottle of special powder. He mixes up the powder just like the instructions say, and takes some before every meal. As the days go by, he says to his wife that he thinks this new product is working. His lungs don’t seem to feel as heavy as before. By the end of three weeks, he’s convinced that his cancer is in full remission, if not gone completely. At the end of the fifth week, John dies as the lung cancer wins. You see, the powder didn’t do anything. He had convinced himself that he was healed, and all the while, he was still dying—the disease was still there.
  2. Jason is looking for healing from sin. He knows he’s lost. He feels the immense weight of guilt and shame of his sins. He desperately wants to be made free. His friend tells him, “Jesus is the only one who can take away your sins. Let’s bow down together and ask Jesus to come into your heart.” And Jason does. He gets up, convinced he’s free, convinced that he’s been healed. But he’s still dying. The disease of sin is still there, because he bought into a fake cure.
  3. Jesus wants you to be healed. He gave up His own life so that you can be healed. But Jesus doesn’t come to you. You have to come to Him. Where is He? Well, He’s up the steps:
    1. Step 1: believe in Him (John 3:16).
    2. Step 2: leave behind the things that were making you sick in the first place—repent (Acts 17:30).
    3. Step 3: acknowledge Him as the only one who can save you—Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Romans 10:9-10).
    4. Step 4: bury your old, dying self into the watery grave of baptism—be buried with Christ, and rise up a brand-new creature—one that has been healed! (Romans 6:3-4).
  4. There is healing—you don’t have to be broken anymore.
  5. But what if I get sick again? What if that sin-sickness comes back? Go back to the doctor. Go to God in prayer, confessing that you let yourself get sick again, and He will heal you (I John 1:9).

Humility

There was once a preacher who was always quiet and reserved outside of the pulpit.  He never interrupted, always listened, and always showed an honest interest in the problems of others.  He was truly a humble man.  The congregation thought so much of him that they decided to give him a medal, proclaiming him the most humble man in the world.  The man took the medal graciously, and then pinned it to his suit jacket.  It was then that the congregation took it away.

We may laugh or giggle at such made-up stories, but if we are all honest with ourselves, odds are we’d love to be surrounded with humble people.  Humility (the act of being humble) is a trait that seems to be missing from much of the world today.  Oftentimes, when it is present, it is mistaken for shyness.  People want to be recognized; they want their deeds to be noticed–even if it isn’t much of a deed.  For example, many husbands make it a point to let their wives know that they ran the dishwasher, or picked up a single piece of trash off the floor.  They long to be noticed for what they do.

If we could get it through our heads that God recognizes what we do here on earth, then perhaps we wouldn’t be seeking for praise from men.  After all, Jesus warned, “don’t be like the Pharisees who do things to be seen by others.  I tell you for certain, they have their reward.”

There was a man in the Bible that had things he could brag about, but he didn’t.  His name is Judas–but we know him better as Jude.  He was the blood-relative (half-brother) of Jesus Christ.  Jude knew Jesus before He became famous, before He began preaching.  Jude was also a convert to Christ before the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:14).  Jude was a preacher of notable importance, even being referenced by the apostle Paul as an example (I Cor. 9:5).  Jude was inspired by God to write Scripture!  If anyone had things he could boast about, it was Jude.

However, Jude was a humble person.  When he wrote his inspired letter, he didn’t say, “this is Jude, the brother of Jesus, the one who’s been a Christian longer than any of you.”  Instead, he identified himself as Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ, and the brother of James.  He could have identified himself as a famous preacher, but instead identified himself as a slave.  He could have boasted about having grown up knowing Jesus as his brother, but instead identifies himself as the brother of James.  He does this not as bragging, but simply as a way to identify himself with someone they knew.

Many people view the first verse of Jude as simply a greeting.  I view it as an amazing example of humility that we all should emulate.

–Bradley Cobb

Restoration Moments – The Rafting of Pardee Butler

American slavery had been a hot topic for many years, and tempers flared whenever it came up.  What is a Christian to do in such cases?  Should he (like Isaac Errett) pretend the problem doesn’t exist?  Or should he (like Pardee Butler) stand up and fight against it?

This week’s Restoration Moment comes from “The Personal Recollections of Pardee Butler,” which appears in Pardee Butler: The Definitive Collection.  These are Pardee Butler’s own words:

The things that had been happening in the Kansas Territory [regarding slavery] had been so strange and unheard of, and the threats of the Squatter Sovereign had been so savage and barbarous, that I wanted to carry back to my friends in Illinois some evidence of what was going on. I went, therefore, with Bro. Elliott to the Squatter Sovereign printing office to purchase extra copies of that paper. I was waited on by Robert S. Kelley. After paying for my papers I said to him: “I should have become a subscriber to your paper some time ago only there is one thing I do not like about it.” Mr. Kelley did not know me, and asked: “What is it?”

I replied: “I do not like the spirit of violence that characterizes it.”

He said: “I consider all Free-soilers rogues, and they are to be treated as such.”

I looked him for a moment steadily in the face, and then said to him: “Well, sir, I am a Free-soiler; and I intend to vote for Kansas to be a Free State.”

He fiercely replied: “You will not be allowed to vote.”

When Bro. Elliott and myself had left the house, and were in the open air, he clutched me nervously by the arm and said: “Bro. Butler! Bro. Butler! You must not do such things; they will kill you!”

I replied: “If they do I cannot help it.”

Bro. Elliott was now to go home. But before going he besought me with earnest entreaty not to bring down on my own head the vengeance of these men. I thanked him for his regard for me, and we bade each other goodbye.

Bro. Elliot had come to feel that my life was precious to the Christian brethren in Atchison county. Except myself they had no preacher. And they needed a preacher.

The steamboat bound for St. Louis that day had been detained, and would not arrive until the next day. I must, therefore, stay overnight in Atchison. I conversed freely with the people that afternoon, and said to them: “Under the Kansas-Nebraska bill, we that are Free State men have as good a right to come to Kansas as you have; and we have as good a right to speak our sentiments as you have.”

A public meeting was called that night to consider my case, but I did not know it. The steamboat was expected about noon the next day. I had been sitting writing letters at the head of the stairs, in the chamber of the boarding-house where I had slept, and heard someone call my name, and rose up to go down stairs; but was met by six men, bristling with revolvers and bowie-knives, who came upstairs and into my room. The leader was Robert S. Kelley. They presented me a string of resolutions, denouncing Free State men in unmeasured terms, and demanded that I should sign them. I felt my heart flutter, and knew if I should undertake to speak my voice would tremble, and determined to gain time.

Sitting down I pretended to read the resolutions—they were familiar to me, having been already printed in the Squatter Sovereign—and finally I began to read them aloud. But these men were impatient, and said: “We just want to know will you sign these resolutions?” I had taken my seat by a window, and looking out and down into the street, had seen a great crowd assembled, and determined to get among them. Whatever should be done would better be done in the presence of witnesses. I said not a word, but going to the head of the stairs, where was my writing-stand and pen and ink, I laid the paper down and quickly walked down stairs and into the street. Here they caught me by the wrists, from behind, and demanded, “Will you sign?”

I answered, “No,” with emphasis. I had got my voice by that time. They dragged me down to the Missouri River, cursing me, and telling me they were going to drown me. But when we had got to the river they seemed to have got to the end of their programme, and there we stood. Then some little boys, anxious to see the fun go on, told me to get on a large cotton-wood stump close by and defend myself. I told the little fellows I did not know what I was accused of yet. This broke the silence, and the men that had me in charge asked:

“Did the Emigrant Aid Society send you here?”

“No; I have no connection with the Emigrant Aid Society.”

“Well, what did you come for?”

“I came because I had a mind to come. What did you come for?”

“Did you come to make Kansas a Free State?”

“No, not primarily; but I shall vote to make Kansas a Free State.”

“Are you a correspondent of the New York Tribune?”

“No; I have not written a line to the Tribune since I came to Kansas.”

By this time a great crowd had gathered around, and each man took his turn in cross-questioning me, while I replied, as best I could, to this storm of questions, accusations and invectives. We went over the whole ground. We debated every issue that had been debated in Congress. They alleged the joint ownership the South had with the North in the common Territories of the nation; that slaves are property, and that they had a natural and inalienable right to take their property into any part of the national Territory, and there to protect it by the strong right arm of power. While I urged the terms of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and that under it Free State men have a right to come into the Territory, and by their votes to make it a Free State, if their votes will make it so.

At length an old man came near to me, and dropping his voice to a half-whisper, said in a confidential tone: “Nee-ow, Mr. Butler, I want to advise you as a friend, and for your own good, when you get away, just keep away.

I knew this man was a Yankee, for I am a Yankee myself. His name was Ira Norris. He had been given an office in Platte County, Mo., and must needs be a partisan for the peculiar institution. I gave my friend Norris to understand that I would try to attend to my own business.

Others sought to persuade me to promise to leave the country and not come back. Then when no good result seemed to come from our talk, I said to them: “Gentlemen, there is no use in keeping up this debate any longer; if I live anywhere, I shall live in Kansas. Now do your duty as you understand it, and I will do mine as I understand it. I ask no favors of you.”

Then the leaders of this business went away by themselves and held a consultation. Of course I did not know what passed among them, but Dr. Stringfellow many years afterwards made the following statement to a gentleman who was getting up a history of Kansas:

“A vote was taken upon the mode of punishment which ought to be accorded to him, and to this day it is probably known but to few persons that a decided verdict of death by hanging was rendered; and furthermore, that Mr. Kelley, the teller, by making false returns to the excited mob, saved Mr. Butler’s life. … At the time the pro-slavery party decided to send Mr. Butler down the Missouri River on a raft…”

The crowd had now to be pacified and won over to an arrangement that should give me a chance for my life. A Mr. Peebles, a dentist from Lexington, Mo., … a slave-holder, was put forward to do this work. He said: “My friends, we must not hang this man; he is not an Abolitionist, he is what they call a Free-soiler. The Abolitionists steal our niggers, but the Free-soilers do not do this. They intend to make Kansas a Free State by legal methods. But in the outcome of the business, there is not the value of a picayune of difference between a Free-soiler and an Abolitionist; for if the Free-soilers succeed in making Kansas a Free State, and thus surround Missouri with a cordon of Free States, our slaves in Missouri will not be worth a dime apiece. Still we must not hang this man; and I propose that we make a raft and send him down the river as an example.”

And so to him they all agreed. Then the question came up, What kind of a raft shall it be? Some said, “One log”; but the crowd decided it should be two logs fastened together. When the raft was completed I was ordered to take my place on it, after they had painted the letter R. on my forehead with black paint. This letter stood for Rogue. I had in my pocket a purse of gold, which I proffered to a merchant of the place, an upright business man, with the request that he would send it to my wife; but he declined to take it. He afterwards explained to me that he himself was afraid of the mob. They took a skiff and towed the raft out into the middle of the Missouri River. As we swung away from the bank, I rose up and said: “Gentlemen, if I am drowned I forgive you; but I have this to say to you: If you are not ashamed of your part in this transaction, I am not ashamed of mine. Goodbye.”

Pardee Butler survived his “rafting,” and later returned to town where he was “tarred and cottoned” (they had no feathers to use).  But still he kept returning, and kept fighting against slavery until the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Lincoln.

 

Justified by Works

The Cobb family is proud to announce the release of our newest book!

JamesCover(Front Only)

Justified by Works: A Study of the Letter from James is a 264-page commentary on what has been called the most practical book of the New Testament.

There is an extensive introduction, answering questions such as:

  • Who wrote it?
  • When was it written?
  • Does the date matter?
  • Who first received the letter?

Every verse is covered with in-depth notes discussing things like (1) how each verse and phrase fit into the overall context of the book, (2) a better understanding of some of the original words, (3) how the passages applied to the original readers, (4) how we can apply these same verses to us today.

It is thorough and in-depth, but it is also very easy to read and understand.  The books was written to be useful to new Christians as well as those who have been teaching the Bible for years.

And to celebrate the release of this new book, we’re making it available at a massive discount for this week only.

Paperback – $9.99 $5.99

eBook – $2.99 99 cents!

Bible Q&A – How Old Should an Elder Be?

We’ve discussed installing some new elders.  Some of the men under consideration are in their late 30s.  Are they old enough to be elders? –A Christian from Indiana.

That is a great question that really needs to be discussed.

It was about eleven years ago when the knocking of a hand against my front door got my attention.  Upon opening the door, I was faced with two Mormon boys who could not have been older than 19.  I asked the customary question, “Can I help you?”  Instead of answering the question, they proceeded to introduce themselves.  “My name is Elder Bob, and this is Elder Joe.”  Knowing that these boys had no idea what the word “elder” meant, I asked them a simple question.  “How are your wife and kids?”  The look of confusion across their face told me they also didn’t know what the Bible teaches about elders.  Upon explaining that an elder was the husband of one wife and had believing children, I asked them the question again.  They said “thank you” and shortly thereafter were on their way to the next house.

The word “elder” signifies, by its very definition, someone who is older.  How old?  Ask the members of the congregation what they consider to be an “older man” and you’ll have a pretty good guess.  But let’s look at some of the other things the Bible says on this matter.  There are certain “benchmarks” that also help us in determining a minimum age for an “elder.”

The first place to look is in the qualifications for elders which were laid out by the apostle Paul in I Timothy 3.  The person desiring the office of bishop (elder) must be the husband of one wife.  Literally, the wording is “a one-woman man.”  This man must have proven himself to be faithful to his wife, a dedicated husband.  Obviously this is not something a 19-year old can prove.  This is something that is proven over a period of time.  According to some sources, most men during the first century did not marry until they were in their 30’s.  Imagine, then, the age at which these people would have been known as dedicated husbands by the rest of the congregation.

Also, the elder must have faithful children (Titus 1:6).  Does this mean faithful to him or faithful to God?  Skipping this question for a moment, let us look at the simple point that the man must have children who are old enough to show they are faithful.  The children must be old enough to make decisions and show that they have been raised to make the right ones.  They obey their father because they are in subjection to him (I Timothy 3:4).  This does not describe children under the teenage years.  If this means children who are faithful to God, it means that the children must be faithful Christians.  If it means faithful to their father, this age of accountability would be about the same, wouldn’t you think?  This man’s children must be known to be obedient.  This again is something that takes time to prove, especially if it is referring to being a faithful Christian.

Looking at the likely age of marriage (say 30-35), adding the time it would take for their children to get to be teenagers (add another 15 or more years), as well as tacking on the time it would take for the children to prove themselves “faithful” once they reach the age of accountability, and you get someone who meets these first two qualifications for being an elder probably around age 50.

Let us also consider one last point.  The apostle Peter, approximately 61-63 AD, said he was an elder of the Lord’s church (I Peter 5:1).  If we accept that he was about Jesus’ age when he became a disciple of the Lord, then Peter would be about 65 years old when he wrote this.  He commanded the elders to whom he wrote, using the fact that he was an elder as back-up for his commands (I Peter 5:1-4).  This is not something that a newly-appointed elder would likely do, so Peter had likely been an elder at the church in Jerusalem for some time, perhaps a decade?

From a Biblical perspective, there is no way that a 19-year old could be an elder.  It would be pushing it to say someone in their 40s would qualify as “older,” as the word “elder” necessitates.  Though the Bible gives no specific age, it does give certain milestones (faithful husband and faithful children) which would be very difficult to reach and prove before their late 40s/early 50s.

Plus, unless you’re asking teenagers, no one considers a 40-year old to be an “older man.”

-Bradley S. Cobb

Is the Church a Denomination?

James Bales wrote a tract with the above title many years ago (my copy is so brittle that is didn’t survive the scanning process).  We present it here for your enjoyment and consideration.

Is the Church a Denomination?

We are faced with religious divi­sion and the denominational conception of Christianity. These various denominations did not always exist. Secular history records their origin and they are not mentioned in the New Testament. They exist in spite of the New Testament, for Christ prayed for unity which would be based on His Word (John 17:20). Yet when people today discover that you are a Christian they ask you to what denomination you belong. They cannot conceive of one who is just a Christian without being some particular brand of a Christian. This is in contrast to the fact that in the days of Paul if one said that he was a Christian no one would then ask him, What denomination do you represent.

I. Denominationalism: Its Meaning, Cause, Curse, Naming and Cure

The Meaning of Denominational­ism.

Denominationalism as it exists among professed Christians is the organization of professed Christians into different religious bodies. These bodies do not claim to be the whole church, but only a part of it. It means that people regard the church as something which is divided, with various groups with different faiths and practices in many instances. Denominationalism conceives Christianity as divided into sects.

The Causes of Denominationalism.

First, the party, self-centered, spirit which attempts to build up a certain group instead of the church as a whole. These look away from the Bible and walk more or less by their own wisdom. Second, mis-interpretations of the scriptures which are pressed and bound on others to the point of divisions. Third, a division over personalities. People form groups around certain individuals (Acts 20:30). Some in Paul’s day tried to form parties around various preachers and Paul condemned that condition (I Corinthians 1:1042). Fourth, some do err and form denominations because they are ignorant of the Scriptures and of the power of God. Fifth, others build a sect on one passage of the Scripture, or one doc­trine, to the neglect of other passages and doctrines. Sixth, at the root of all denominationalism is sin in one form or another. Once a denomina­tion is formed it is perpetuated by the ignorance of its adherents of Bible teaching, by pride and by the party spirit. Children often take the religion of their parents without even once comparing what their denomination teaches with what the Bible teaches.

The Curse of Denominationalism.

First, it opposes the prayer of Christ for unity (John 17:20). Second, it is a cause of infidelity and brings reproach on Christ for people discredit the Bible by saying that it cannot be right and teach so many conflicting doctrines. However, the conflict is in the ignorance of the people and not in the Bible. Jesus prayed for a visible unity on earth that the world might believe (John 17:20). Third, such division is condemned by Paul (1 Cor. 1:10-12). Fourth, It is a mark of carnality (1 Cor. 3:1-4; Gal. J :19’21). Fifth, it consumes time and money because of the duplica­tion of work. Sixth, it hinders world evangelism because each tries to build up his own sect rather than convert the world.

The Source of Denominational Names,

First, names of persons. Second, names of countries. Third, names of ordinances. Fourth, names drawn from forms of church govern­ment. Fifth, some are named from a certain doctrine which they stress.

The Cure for Denominationalism.

First, the proper respect for Christ and for the word by which we are to be judged (John 12:48; Acts 17: 30). Second, a sincere effort to speak where the Bible speaks and to be silent where it is silent (1 Pet. 4:11). Third, a study of the New Testament to determine what constitutes the church. Fourth, a study of our own faith and practices in the light of the New Testament with the willingness to change wherein we fail to abide by the New Testament. Fifth, love and forbearance which do not press and bind differences of opinion (Rom. 14).

II. Is The Church of Christ A Denomination?

The Meaning of the Term “church.”

The Greeks used the term to design­ate an assembly called out by the magistrate, or by legitimate author­ity. In the Gospels, Christ said that I will build my church (Matt. 16: 18). The term is used, when speaking of His church, with reference first to individual congregations (Acts 8:1; 9:22, 26; Rom. 16:1, 4, 5; Gal. 1:2) and second the whole body of believers or Christians (Matt 16:18; Eph. 1:22; 5:10; Heb. 12:23). (Samuel W. Barnum, Smith’s Comprehensive Dictionary of the Bi­ble, 1868, p. 175).

The unbelieving Jews referred to it as the sect of the Nazarene and as the sect which was everywhere spok­en against (Acts 24:5; 28:22). They believed it was a division which had been cut off from the Jewish faith or church. However, that which they regarded as heresy (Acts 24:14), and as everywhere spoken against, constituted God’s church and God’s only church in this dispensation. The church, it is true, was named and cut off, separated, from all other reli­gious bodies. However, it was not a denomination in the modern sense of the term which defines a denomina­tion as a religious organization con­taining a part of the saved; a group which constitutes a part of the church instead of the whole church. What the Jews called a sect was in reality the church.

The church is the body of Christ (Col. 1:18, 24; Eph. 1:22, 23). The saved are in Christ’s body, in His church, and they got there by being baptized into Christ (Eph. 5:23 Rom. 6:1-4; Gal. 3:27; Acts 2:40, 41, 47; John 3:5). They are born into it (John 3:5). The church of Christ is not a part, it is the whole. It has done nothing to break itself off from those who are Christians and Christians only. It is not a denomination because: First, it is the body of Christ, composed of the saved, and there are no saved people outside of it. One cannot be a Christian with­out being a member of Christ’s church. Second, it was founded by Christ’s apostles and it is the only church founded by them. Third, it is characterized by the names which are set forth in the New Testament. Fourth, it does not preach a denominational message. Fifth, its head is Christ. Sixth, its creed is His word. Seventh, its wor­ship is in spirit and in truth. Eighth, it is entered by the new birth (John 3:5). Ninth, it is both undemoninational and anti-denominational.

There are those who deny that it is possible to be only a Christian. They assert that one must be denom­inational Christian. However, the disciples of Christ in Paul’s day were Christians only and we today can be Christians only by following God’s word. The seed, which is God’s word, when planted by itself in a heart, produces a Christian only (Luke 8:11). It takes something more or less than the Word of God to make something else.

It is true that some Christians have wandered into denominations. All who have been born of water and the Spirit have been added to the church by God Himself (Acts 2:38-47). However, those who have wandered into denominationalism ought to forsake it and be just Christians. They ought to come out of Babylon (Rev. 18:4).

It is true that members of the body of Christ often fail to live perfect lives. Thus at times they may adopt a denominational attitude and fail to respect both the voice and the silence of the Scripture. However, such shortcomings do not mean that de­nominationalism is approved or that the goal and message of the church of Christ is wrong. It means that in­dividual Christians fall short and that they ought to try to do better.

Friend, why not be a Christian and a Christian only? This is possi­ble, desirable, necessary and scriptural.

Restoration Moments – A Lesson in Giving

You have only a dollar to your name–and no food to feed your family.  Then a man comes to your door, deeply in need, begging for help.  What do you do?

Today’s Restoration Moment comes from Memoirs of Abner Jones (by his son, A.D. Jones), which will appear in the upcoming Abner Jones: A Collection (Volume 2).  Enjoy!

How often I have heard the good old man relate this story, which, however, it might affect others, never failed to bring tears into his own eyes:

On Saturday morning, as I was sit­ting in my study, pondering the poverty of my condition, my wife came in with her accustom­ed inquiry of “well, Mr Jones, what shall we have for dinner?” Adding, “we have not a grain of meal,”—flour was out of the question—”nor a particle of meat of any kind in the house. Then the sugar is out, there is no butter, and in fact there is nothing to eat, and tomorrow is Sunday.”

So saying, she quit the room, leaving me in such a state of mind as may well be con­ceived, when I say that a solitary one dollar bank note was the only money I had on earth, and no prospect whatsoever appeared of getting any until the accustomed weekly contribution should be put in my hands. And what would a single dollar do at the prevailing high prices, towards feeding seven hungry mouths for two whole days? I saw no way of escape, and in the agony of spirit which may well be guessed, I lifted up my heart in supplication to Him who feedeth the ravens when they cry. And a sin­gular answer to my prayer I seemed speedily to attain.

I had just risen from my knees, when my wife again appeared at the door, all unconscious of the struggle which was going on within me, and ushered a gentleman into my study. His whole appearance was of that shabby genteel which betokens a broken-down gentleman.  And from the first moment of beholding him, I took him to my confidence as unfortunate but not debased. “Sir” said he, “I am a stranger to you, and you are utterly so to me, save that I once heard you preach in ______.”

My home is in that place—if indeed I may now claim a home. I sailed from that port nearly a year since, with all my earthly possessions, and embarked in a promising adventure. My ship fell into the hands of the enemy and I became a prisoner, my property of course became lawful plunder. After suffering many hardships and much indignity, I effected my escape on board a vessel bound to St. John. From that place to this I have worked my way along with incredible fatigue and pain. I have suffered much from hunger, cold and wet, and have slept many a night in the open woods. And here I am, in one word, Sir, penniless, and altogether too much worn down to proceed further without aid. I have friends in ________, to whom I am pressing on as fast as I can, and who will relieve my necessities when I reach them. I am an utter stranger in your town, and you are the only person I ever knew or saw in the whole place. I cannot beg, and I feel entirely reluc­tant to ask a loan of an utter stranger.”

Here was a struggle. I was poor, very poor; but here was one poorer than I. I had a hungry family to feed—so had he. And even more, a heart-breaking fact, his family was even now mourn­ing him as dead. I could hesitate no longer. I thrust my hand mechanically into my pocket, and pulling out my last dollar, which I pressed upon the unfortunate mariner—for he could hardly be persuaded to take it, when he knew how low my finances were,—I blessed him in God’s name, and he left me with no words of thanks; but I knew that, had I from a full purse bestowed a liberal sum, he could not have felt more grateful.

When he had gone, and absolute hunger for me and mine, stared me full in the face, I be­gan to doubt the propriety of my act in taking the very bread from my children’s mouths to feed a stranger. But it was now too late to repent. The last dollar was gone and my chil­dren must go dinnerless and supperless to bed. For myself I cared nothing, but how would my family bear this unusual fasting? I seized my hat and cane and rushed into the street to escape from my own thoughts, which had become too painful to endure. I knew not—cared not whither I should bend my steps.

As I walked moodily and mechanically on, thinking o’er all the bitterness of my situation, suddenly the thought came into my mind: — why should I despond? Have I ever gone hun­gry, even for a day—me and mine? Has not the Lord provided hitherto? And will he not in time to come? —in the present time?  I had scarcely concluded this soliloquy, when one of my neighbors, whom I knew to be a Universalist, and whom I had occasionally seen at our meetings—the members of his family came frequently—accosted me with, “good morning, Mr. Jones. I have been thinking for some time past that I ought to discharge a debt I owe you.

“I was not aware,” I replied, “that you had incur­red such an obligation.”

O, but I have,” said he, “my family goes occasionally to hear you preach, and once in a while I go myself. Now as the laborer is worthy of his hire, and as I wish no man to labor for me without pay, I beg you will accept this trifle as in part a liquidation of the debt.

The “trifle,” was a five dollar note, which I received with feelings that I will not mock by attempting to describe. I returned to my house, and after again falling on my knees, hum­bled under a sense of my lack of confidence in God, and grateful for his goodness to me, all unworthy as I felt myself to be; I sallied forth to the market, and soon came back ladened with the things necessary to our comfort.