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For The Truth's Sake

In recent times a spate of books and pamphlets purporting to be histories of "the Brethren" has issued from the press. This follows a pattern in secular literature. It seems there is a vogue to re-assess history and to advance novel and sensational theories about events and personalities of the past. One pitfall in this sort of research is that sources from which views are culled may be unreliable or biased. There is also the danger of reading into history one's own viewpoint and choosing only what seems to support it. Often an interpretation of an event is put forward as fact and repeated so often that it becomes accepted as beyond dispute. Those who value truth need to beware of accepting theory and speculation as fact.

Histories of "the Brethren" usually include references, mostly derogatory, to teaching which has been set forth in Needed Truth during the past 80 years or so. Two pamphlets recently sent to us follow this course. It is not our intention to review these pamphlets here; we have no enthusiasm for this sort of controversy. Our concern is that issues should not be blurred. The discussion is about New Testament teaching on church constitution and practice. Attempts to disparage a small movement by dubbing it with disreputable tendencies are deplorable. Let the debate be conducted on the plane of New Testament doctrine. This is where it belongs.

In the pamphlets referred to in the preceding paragraph it is inferred that the teaching which has been set forth in this magazine is akin to that of "Exclusive" brethren. This, of course, merely repeats what is alleged in previous histories of "the Brethren". Here are the facts. On many occasions in past years writers in Needed Truth have strongly combated J.N. Darby's teaching on "church truth". Some time ago we commented on this page on some excesses of "Exclusives" which, in our view, are completely incompatible with New Testament teaching. Add to this the fact that "Exclusive" brethren themselves disown completely the teaching set forth by us on church constitution and practice, The truth is that there is a very much wider divergence between our teaching and that of "Exclusive" brethren than there is between ourselves and "Open" brethren. Yet "Open" brethren writers will persist in giving us the "Exclusive" label. Why?

One of the pamphlets to which we have referred is entitled, "Spiritual Balance". Yet there is an obvious lack of balance in the method of controversy used by the writer of this pamphlet. Examples of this are his use against us of strictures by L.G.W. Alexander and J. Montgomery. The former was an editor of Needed Truth 70 years ago. He left the churches of God but later returned expressing repentance for having done so. After some years he left again. An account of his second defection and the reasons for it are set forth in detail in Needed Truth (see volume 19, 1907, pp.87-127). Those who have access to that volume should read the account there given. This will help them to assess the value of Mr Alexander's testimony against us. J. Montgomery was never associated with the churches of God. He was a leader among the "Vernal" brethren. He wrote a pamphlet against our teaching and a detailed reply was published by us at the time (1920). What the writer of "Spiritual Balance" does not reveal is that J. Montgomerie was equally critical, if not more so, of "Open" brethren from whom he separated. He wrote, "When coming in contact with sectarian Christians who asked why we were separated from Open Brethren, I could always with the utmost confidence and zeal, show forth the evils of Open Brethren; but when they asked why we were separated from what was known as Needed Truth people, I always felt unhappy in facing the matter" (Light after many days, part 11, page 6). Further examples of inaccuracy and misquotation could be given. One would expect a writer appealing for spiritual balance to be scrupulously careful in such matters. As it is not our intention to review this pamphlet in detail we forbear to comment further but emphasize the caution given in the opening paragraph of this article.

What we plead for here is that any whose knowledge of our teaching is second-hand or based on hearsay should, in fairness, examine it for themselves. Books and pamphlets on Scripture doctrine as we understand it are available from our publishing office. The address is at the foot of the back page. Last month we issued an important new publication entitled: The Faith: outlines of Scripture doctrine. We give an extract from the preface: "It is sometimes asked, Where do the churches of God stand on fundamental doctrines of the Faith?

It has been thought well to bring together in this booklet some outlines of what has been held and taught amongst us during the past 75 years.... The object throughout has been to give guidelines so that what we teach and endeavour to practise will be clearly seen.... None of us knows as he ought, much less practises what he knows. There is room for neither complacency nor pride.... We send forth these outlines as a contribution to the understanding of the word of God for the strengthening of those who love the Lord and who are pledged to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints (Jude 3)".

We commend this booklet to our readers as worthy of careful study.