While reading parts of the Firm Foundation for a research project, I rediscovered the following article by J. D. Tant (“Looking Back Fifty Years,” Firm Foundation 50.3 [17 January 1933] 2).
In this article he highlights how the Firm Foundation had served the church over the past fifty years. In his view, the periodical saved the church from extremes–the extreme of the “digressives” and also “sect baptism” as well as the extreme of those who oppose Sunday schools and multiple cups for the Lord’s Supper. He stresses opposition to digressives and sect baptism as the origins of the polemical advocacy of the Firm Foundation.
In his estimation, “[Austin] McGary was to Texas what D[avid] Lipscomb was to Tennessee when the society tried to capture Tennessee.”
It is an interesting brief analysis from one who lived through those first fifty years of the Firm Foundation. Here is the article:
I notice last issue of the Firm Foundation shows fifty years on the firing line.
Few of our gospel preachers today have any conception of the work and battles the pioneer preachers had fifty years ago.
I remember well the first issue of the Foundation. It was brought out in pamphlet form–five hundred copies by A. McGary, and after mailing out copies to all he cold think of he pushed the rest under his bed as he had no one to send them to.
The doctrine of one Lord, one faith, and one baptism created as much stir among my brethren as Campbell did among the denominations when he began to argue to drop all creeds and come back to the Bible.
For years and years my brethren had been teaching in Texas that man instead of God must be the judge of man’s baptism, and all who had been baptized by immersion and were satisfied were fit subjects for the kingdom of heaven.
When McGarvy began to teach that all laws, human or devine [sic], are predicated upon design, and for man to change the design God had placed upon his laws caused said law to cease to be a law of God, a cannon seemed turned loose.
About this time I. C. Stone of Indiana, A. J. MCarty, John S. Durst, J. W. Strode, “Weeping Joe” Harding, E. Hansbroough, Jack Larimore, J. W. Jackson, Brice Wilmeth, J. R.Will,A. J. Clark, William McIntire, D. Pennington, J. W. Denton and a host of other strong preachers took up the battle cry, and none on the side of sect baptism were able to meet their arguments. Later on, among the younger set, Joe S. Warlick (the ablest debater we ever had in the South) H. G. Oliver, J. W. Chism, W. L. Swiney, Will Stafford, U. G. Wilkerson, J. F. Grubbs, W. F. Ledlow, anda large number of younger men saw the consistancy [sic] of McGary’s position and fell into line. None of these the world could meet in debate.
As I had come into the church of Christ (as I thought) on my Methodist baptism I lined up with T. R. Burnett, D. Lipscomb, J. A. Harding, A. J. Bush, W. K. Homan and others to fight on the other side, trying to show that McGary was wrong.
When J. F. Grubbs showed me that I could not make a Bible argument in favor of sect baptism I then deserted those brethren who held to it and rode a Texas pony one hundred and twenty-seven miles to get John Durst to baptize me.
About this time the church of Christ was divided in Texas by the digressives pulling off at the state meeting in Austin in 1886. and starting to build up a sister church among other human churches where they could have hired pastors, missionary societies, instrumental music, and other human devices to pull disciples after them.
About that time Brother W. J. Rice, who had been excluded from the church at Covington, Indiana, so I heard, came to Texas and stared his “order of worship,” and pulled off many disciples.
Later on Brother J. P. Nall and Brother Ament started their “formal confession” faction which operated for a while, killed a few churches and then died.
N. L. Clark, one of the ablest Bible teachers in Texas, and Brother J. N. Cowen started their hobby about anti-Sunday school, and anti-class and anti-literature foolishness, divided many churches, did much harm, and no good. But they have divided into the one cup and the two-cup, the grape juice, and the fermented-wine worshippers, and are kept so busy trying to straighten out the kinks in each other that it will be a few years until they will be forgotten and their baleful influence will be in the past.
Fifty years ago we had fewer than fifty preachers in Texas, including all the digressive preachers, and fewer than twenty thousand members, and not a located preacher among the loyal members. Many predicted that the Bible principles as advocated by these godly men would soon cease. When the digressive thought they would capture all the churches in Texas and pull them over to the society McGary and the other loyal preachers met them on all parts of the battle field [sic]. McGary was to Texas what D. Lipscomb was to Tennessee when the society tried to capture Tennessee.
But McGary, Jackson, Durst, McCarty, Dr. Herndon, and Handsborough have all crossed the divide and gone on, yet I am glad their work continues. With fifteen hundred churches of Christ in Texas today and almost a thousand loyal preachers I am impressed that their labors were not in vain and that God is on their side.
While I have been on the firing line fifty-one years, and am perhaps the only old-time preacher now living who fought side by side with those godly men, I do not think it amiss to remind the young men many of whom are hunting for located jobs, that you know nothing of hardships to be a gospel preacher as we “old timers” do. Many, many nights I have slept on the ground by the side of A. McGary, or Jack McCarty going to or from our appointments. I have had to swim the creek as many as seven times in order to reach my appointment to preach. I have traveled horseback forty miles a night, laid down my saddle blanket, slept two or three hours and wold get up and go on.
The first three years of my preaching life I was not paid one cent. The fourth year was paid $9.75, the fifty year $92.00 and the sixth year 0235 [sic], yet I continued to preach. Have held a number of meetings and pick as much as three hundred pounds of cotton every day, preach every night cut out cotton picking on Saturday afternoon to baptize all who had made the confession.Had to pick cotton and do all kinds of work to support my father and mother and sister. Yet I continued to preach. Have walked fifty miles to meet my appointment because I had nothing to ride, and gone hungry many times because I did not have twenty-five cents to buy my dinner. But through all these things God has preserved me wonderfully, and my physical health and my mental powers are a [sic] good as thirty years ago.
I hope my experience will be an inspiration to some young preacher, and help him to keep on against obstacles, knowing for whom he is laboring. Also hope our job hunting preachers many see that much good can be accomplished without a “located job.”