In the April 24 1873 issue of the Gospel Advocate, Lipscomb reprinted a piece from the Apostolic Times under the title “Preaching to the Poor” (p. 390).
Here is the article as reproduced by Lipscomb:
In these days of mails, and printing, the newspapers, which go forth from the great cities with their well laden columns of local news sometimes make the impression on their country readers that the scenes occurring in the city are occurring at their own doors. As a consequence, some questions which are of interest only in the city, become absorbing topics to the people in the country. It is so in regard to the subject of preaching the gospel to the poor. The only poor in this broad land who have not equal access with the rich to the blessings of the gospel, are the poor in the great cities. it is also true, that they are about the only class of poor people among whom the gospel does but little good when it does reach them. The great mass of them are besotted by vices of all the baser kinds, that they turn a deaf ear to all the messages of truth and virtue. It was not to this class of the poor that Jesus referred in his celebrated reply to John; it was the poor peasantry of Galilee and Judea, who, though ignorant and often reduced to extreme want, were an industrious, sober, and comparatively poor people. Let us not confound things that greatly differ, and draw unfavorable comparisons between ancient and modern Christianity without sufficient cause.
Lipscomb replied (pp. 390-91):
We regret to see the foregoing from the Apostolic Times. Its tendency is to justify the neglect of a class of people that above all others need the attention and help of Christians, the wicked, depraved poor. We are too willing to neglect them, even with the heaviest sense of responsibility imposed upon us. Remove that sense of responsibility, and the tendency of us preachers to keep away from them and watch after the souls of the rich will greatly increase.
Christ came to save sinners, the worst, lowest, most depraved of sinners. The gospel has power to lift up the lowest, most besotted and debauched of sinners, if it is brought to them in the true spirit of the gospel.
In ancient times Christ and his apostles preached to the poor of the cities, the sinners, the profligates–the adulterers, the humblest and most degraded poor of the towns and cities. It did reach, lift up and and [sic] save the most wicked. At Rome the servants, slaves, poorer classes–received the truth. In Jerusalem there were poor widows both Grecian and Hebrew.
The poor, besotted poor of the cities are not the only poor in this broad land who have not equal access with the rich to the blessings of the gospel, provided hearing preaching be one of those blessings.
There are broad sections of country, where for hundreds and hundreds of miles, the people are poor, a poor peasantry can hardly get a preacher to visit them, because they are too poor to pay him. While in other rich sections the preachers are in each others way, they tread on each others toes, and elbow each other out of their places. The Mountain districts of Ky., large sections of Tennessee, and the large sections of the south where the churches are indigent and the people poor, it is exceedingly difficult to get a preacher to visit them, especially an educated preacher. They are an industrious, sober, and comparatively moral people. But they do not get preaching on equal footing with the rich sections, because they are poor.
The extreme poor of the cities in the days of Christ and the apostles were not the class difficult to reach. The Savior says, “I thank thee O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and has revealed them unto babes.” Paul says, “not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called.” He hath chosen the foolish things of the world–the weak things–the base things–things which are despised”–&c. To the poor the gospel is preached–the poor possess pre-emptivve rights in the kingdom of God.
If the rich are more easily reached than the poor at this day it is because the religion of Christ is perverted in its spirit–and the poor are not approached in the true Spirit of Christ.