David Lipscomb (1910)

Towards the end of 1909 David Lipscomb fell seriously ill and was unable to write for the Gospel Advocate. When he returned to writing in 1910 he had much to say as he approached his 80th year of life.

What is Most Important To Him.  In the first issue of 1910, Lipscomb summarized his primary interest in continuing his writing.  Here we get a glimpse of this man’s heart. Notice that for Lipscomb God’s actions are for the “race and world”–salvation belongs to humanity but also to creation!

But to God as the Creator, Preserver, Sympathizer with man, one soul is much. Else God had never clothed himself in human form and Jesus had never died. Christ’s mission, death, and sorrow for man were God in sympathy with and suffering for his creature, proclaiming his goodness, mercy, and love to a lost and sorrowful world. And all he aks of us now to repay his love and condescension to this race and world in ruin is to trust and follow him and show we appreciate his wisdom and love by trusting and obeying him. We must let him lead us….We have tried to understand the true relationship of man to God and have sought to so serve God and to teach others so to do. Our remaining days on earth cannot be many; our writings for the future must be few; our desire is that they shall be with increasing zeal in the way we have traveled, that God may bless us and we may lead others in the way of salvation.[1]

On Civil Government. When Lipscomb received an affirmation for his book entitled Civil Government, he offered the following comment on the book itself and the importance of the question it addresses. In the light of the last election and April 15th’s “tea parties” perhaps it is an opportune moment to hear Uncle Dave once again.

Were I to rewrite the book, I would change some of the arguments. I would modify the positions on some scriptures. A few points I would explain a little differently, and some passages that were left out altogether I would introduce. I would do this, not because I have abated my faith in the truth of the position one particle, but to make it conform in all respects to the truth. As a sample, one of the scriptures condemning Christians looking to the political government to settle difficulties and troubles is 1 Cor. 6:1-1; yet, as I remember, this passage is not noticed in the book. There is an application of the allusions to some of the political kingdoms of this world that I think not correct. But I have not abated or lost confidence in the least in the truthfulness of the position. I do not believe the church can ever be clean and holy with its members commingling in the political affairs of the world. It is probably that I have done wrong in failing to press the truth as I should have done. The difficulty of holding men up to the position, the readiness of those who professed to believe the truthfulness of the position to fly into an excitement and politically fury and do bitter denunciation because some election or some political movement did not suit them, all has had a tendency to discourage me, and I ceased to press it. I would rejoice to see brethren take hold of the subject and press it as a great issue on which the welfare of the church and of Christians depend. Christians will never be loyal and true to God while engaging in political strifes. [2]

The Making of Sectarians. He claims the disciples of Christ have tended to either join the sects (and thus become sectarian or one denomination among others as in the Disciples of Christ or Christian Church) or to exalt a particular text of Scripture (and thus create a new sect as in the case of the Rebaptists). In light of the latter, Lipscomb calls for preaching the whole of Scripture rather than focusing on a few texts (“textuary” preaching) which ultimately amounts to proof-texting. The kind of “text” preaching he dismisses here is not preaching from Scripture’s narrative (e.g., teaching a chapter of Scripture and plowing through a book) but focusing on a text to make a polemical point without hearing the flow of Scripture itself. Preaching and teaching is about conveying what the Bible says rather than “skinning the sects” (a favorite description of militant preaching in the Texas Tradition).

The preachers and teachers claim to know the gospel, but the knowledge is very much confined to the people to ‘be baptized for the remission of sins.’ Many at the protracted meeting are moved to this obedience; when this was done, they claimed they were saved, attended meetings no more, and ,of course, drifted into sin and rebellion against God—became practical infidels….There was and is ground for the charge of Mr. Ditzler that a “Campbellite’s Bible could be told, because it is worn and soiled at the second chapter of Acts and a few other passages, but not soiled in the other places”….When a man exalts one passage above of scripture above any other, he is in danger of become sectarian. The war against sectarians itself become sectarian. Man is weak and frail and liable to become a partisan or sectarian. Two parties of sects or sectarians spring up among those making war on sects or parties in religion. One, as the original fervor for the discovered truth cooled, fell in with the parties and sought to become one with the popular religious parties—a party among parties—and so to affiliate with the religious parties of the day and country. The other party magnified the truth discovered above all other truths and became a sect or party in behalf of this truth above all other parties and sects. The man who exalts and magnifies ‘for remission’ above other inducements and incentives to obedience laid down in the Scriptures makes himself a sectarian against or in opposition to sectarians. Into one of these two parties or sects the disciples have strong tendencies to go. But all sects or parties in religion are sinful. They exist in the providence of Gold to test and prove the faith of Christians and to show the fidelity of Christians to God and his word. …The textuary preaching is liable to lead into one-sided ideas of God’s will and should be carefully guarded….Our teaching from texts leads to the exaltation of our own theories and the ignoring of other scriptures. [3]

The Nashville Bible school has been in existence nineteen years. During these years the teachers have never taught a lesson showing what or how to preach, nor to defend a system or theory of doctrine. The come to the Bible in the spirit of learners, to learn and know what the Bible teaches….The majority of young preachers—and old ones, too—had rather be fixed up with a sermon or a series of sermons ‘to skin the sects’ than to be taught the great truths of the Bible. I favor no compromise of truth, but ‘skinning’ the sects and fighting them is well-calculated to make sectarians of us. Compromising with them makes us fellow-sects with them. [4]

 Women Teaching Men in Sunday Bible Classes? Yes!.  While Lipscomb opposed women teaching in “public” and in the assembly of the church, he thought they should be teaching at all other times. This included teaching Sunday Bible classes with men present.  He did not think that women who taught a Bible class with men were violating God’s limitations.

Philip’s daughters prophesied at home to Paul and his company. (Acts 21:8, 9.) Men and women are so universally addressed together as one and the same that it is rejecting the word of God to say women are not as much commanded to teach the Bible as men are. The only difference is, they are not permitted to teach at certain times and in cetain manners. Women may teach and be taught at home, at the houses of strangers, as they travel through the country, at the meeting for preaching; they may take an ignorant preacher to themslves and teach him ‘the way of the Lord more accurately.’…At the Sunday school the woman does not usurp the place of a man in teaching all present. Only a few who wish to be taught or to teach attend. The woman does not teach before all who are present. She takes her class, old or young, to themselves and teaches them. I never saw it otherwise. In this course they obey the command given to teach the word of God to the people and to avoid the things prohibited to women as teachers and leaders of the men….Suppose a number of men, women, or children, or all combined, were willing to study the bible, and a woman was the best teacher they could find, and they were to meet at her house to get her help, and she was to teach them in studying the Bible; would she do wrong in helping them?…Suppose it was more convenient to meet at the meetinghouse and study the Bible at an hour not used for the regular church meetings, would this be sin? What makes it a sin to meet at the meetinghouse to study the word of God? [5]

Imperfect Obedience. Lipscomb stressed obedience to God’s requirements about as much as anyone could. Obedience was a core value for him and specifically doing exactly what God required, nothing more and nothing less. Nevertheless, he recognized that human beings understand God’s requirements imperfectly, obey imperfectly and that God is is merciful. I have assembled below a few examples below.

When asked about assurance….: “We must strive to walk in the steps of Jesus and so grow into the likeness of God. But with our best efforts to serve God, we will often fall short of doing his will. We are human. And never a day passes that a man can say: “This day I have done my whole duty.” We fall short; we make wrong steps; we are frail and imperfect. When we have done the best we can, we must be saved by the mercy and love of God. His grace is sufficient for us, but we never reach the point that we do not need his grace to save us….It was a blessing thing for humanity hat Jesus gave the example of the two men that went up into the temple to pray,’ and the assurance that the publican, who stood afar off, and ‘would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote his breast, saying, God, be though merciful to me a sinner,” “went down to his house justified rather than the other”—the self-righteous, self-sufficient Pharisee, who felt that he possessed all the virtues. God’s grace is revealed to our faith as sufficient to have all who continually strive to serve God, to do his will despite the weaknesses and frailties of humanity that cause men to fall short of a perfect obedience. What God requires is to be like Jesus in having no will of our own, but a constant, earnest desire to do just what God requires.” [6]

When asked whether a formal confession was necessary before baptism…: When a man openly confesses Christ by putting him on before the world, to rebaptize him because he had not confessed Christ is to make a mockery of the service. It shows a low idea and conception of God. It represents God as anxious to condemn a man and watching for an opportunity or excuse to condemn him. I have never known a man or a woman to be baptized that did not in that act declare faith in Jesus as the Christ. The apostles tell us of only one case that required rebaptism. Then they were not baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. To be rebaptized on light grounds brings reproach on the Bible. [7]

When asked about rebaptism….: Imperfect beings never perfectly understand anything. Imperfect beings never do anything perfectly. This is a contradiction. The spirit in which one should come to Christ is that of a little child, knowing but little, but trusting in God, and glad in his ignorance and helplessness to follow God and do what God desires him to do, and because God desires it. “Ye are my friends, if ye do the things I command you.” A better motive to do than because God commanded it never moved a man. [8]

God saves through imperfect obedience? For some that is heresy; for some it opens too many doors.  For me, I don’t see any other option and I am grateful for God’s mercy and grace.

Footnotes:

[1] David Lipscomb, “Another Year,” Gospel Advocate 52 (6 January 1910) 13.

[2] David Lipscomb, “The Christian’s Relation to Worldly Government,” Gospel Advocate 52 (10 March 1910) 294.

[3] David Lipscomb, “The Rule of Faith,” Gospel Advocate 52 (9 June 1910) 688.

[4] David Lipscomb, “Bible Schools,” Gospel Advocate 52 (16 June 1910) 712-3.

[5] David Lipscomb, “Should Women Teach?” Gospel Advocate 52 (25 August 1910) 968-9.

[6] David Lipscomb, “Assurance of Pardon,” Gospel Advocate 52 (27 October 1910) 1184-5.

[7] David Lipscomb, “The Confession,” Gospel Advocate 52 (1 December 1910) 1337.

[8] David Lipscomb, “Query Department,” Gospel Advocate 52 (6 October 1910) 1109.



3 Responses to “David Lipscomb (1910)”

  1.   Terrell Lee Says:

    Talking to a middle-aged brother I’ve been mentoring for several years today he said that the more he learned about the Bible the more he realized how little he knows. I believe God is glorified through honest statements like these. I sense a level of integrity in Lipscomb’s writings that is somewhat unique–he had no ax to grind, no position to defend, no practice to promote, no wound to avenge, no ego to repair… He simply wanted to trust and obey. That’s refreshing.

    Good posts. Thanks.

  2.   randall Says:

    In some ways it is surprising how narrow and rigid we had become just a few decades after Lipscomb has passed away.

    It is refreshing to know it had not always been that way.

  3. Profile photo of Royce Ogle  Royce Says:

    Lipscomb is one man worth quoting. The sad truth is that perhaps most coC people have no clue how far our fellowship has strayed from the sincere, simple faith of men like Lipscomb, A. Campbell and others.

    Men today who preach the same truths espoused by our former greats are labeled “change agents” and “apostates”. Our movement has not arrived, most of us don’t even know where we are going.

    Thanks for these posts and the much needed truths in them.

    Royce

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