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Home The Light Articles from 1999 The Dividing Wedge

The Dividing Wedge

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The Dividing Wedge

This insertion, condensed from the July, 1999 issue of "Vigil," is purposely introduced following the foregoing on the history of individual cups in the Lord's church in America. There is great inconsistency in the preaching of churches of Christ who use multiple Communion cups. Our conservative brethren among them are facing today precisely what we have faced since the early part of this century when brethren began to introduce individual cups into the worship. Invariably, as brother is separated from brother, the fault is always laid at the feet of those who are content with what can be clearly read, "the way that is right and cannot be wrong." This is unreasonable.

We repeat here the words of bro. G. C. Brewer, lifted from page XII of the intro-duction of his book, Forty Years On the Firing Line: "I think I was the first preacher to advocate the use of the individual communion cup and the first church in the state of Tennessee that adopted it was the church for which I was preaching; the Central Church of Christ in Chattanooga, then meeting in the Masonic Temple. My next work was with the church in Columbia, Tennessee, and, after a long struggle, I got the individual communion service into that congregation. About this time, Bro. G. Dallas Smith began to advocate the individual communion service and he introduced it at Fayetteville, Tennessee, then later at Murfreesboro. Of course, I was fought privately and publicly and several brethren took me to task in the religious papers and called me digressive" [emp. mine, jj].

With bro. Brewer's remarks fresh before you, read the excellent work that follows and judge if it really makes any difference whether the church is divided over the instru-ment wedge, the hand clapping wedge, the "special music" wedge, the "singing while communing" wedge, or the multiple cups wedge. Or may we acquit certain wedges of our own choosing, pardoning them of their divisiveness?


It has been nearly one and one-half centuries since the advocates of instrumental music drove the dividing wedge into the body of Christ. In 1860 the church at Midway, Kentucky began worshiping with the instrument over the protest of many of its members. That fact stands out in our minds, along with the incident which occurred at Add-Ran Col-lege in Thorp Spring, Texas a few years later, when Addison Clark said those fateful words, "Play on, Miss Bertha." Roy Deaver, quoting a speech from Don Morris, wrote in an article which was reprinted in Vigil in November 1973:

"As the organ and singing started, Joseph Addison (Addison Clark's father) arose with his wife and led the opposition out of the auditorium. He was a gray bearded man, seventy-eight years old, with a cane. About 140 people ... followed the elderly Clark out of the building."

Think what a blessing it would have been if those who favored the instrument had been less determined to satisfy their own whims and fancies and more determined to keep the "unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Not one of those who insisted on using the instrument believed such was essential. All would have agreed that the instrument could have been left off without rendering the worship unscriptural. It seems that love for their brethren and for unity would have dictated they forego the use of the instrument.

Do we not face a similar situation today with those who are trying to change our worship to fit their own whims and fancies? Some want to clap to accompany the singing and at other times during the worship...

I have a question for those who want to clap during our worship periods. Is the desire to clap stronger than the desire to keep "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace"? Certainly one would not take the position that clapping is necessary, or that it makes our worship more acceptable to God. Can it be left off without hindering the work and worship of the church? Then, my beloved brethren, please leave it off in the interest of peace and harmony.

Some want to have what they call special music (solos, choirs, quartets and the like) in worship. That kind of music simply is not authorized in the New Testament, despite efforts on the part of some to prove that it is. Not one of the advocates of this kind of music would take the position that God does not accept congregational singing, nor deny that we can worship acceptably without ever having any other kind of singing. Will the advocates of "special music" place their own personal preferences above the welfare of the church? Will they have their solos, quartets, and choirs, even if these become the wedge which divides the church? Those who love the church and who want God's people to be united certainly will not place their personal whims above the welfare of the church.

There are those who like to sing during the eating of the Lord's Supper. Of course, those who follow the teaching of the New Testament do not fall into this number. Jesus and his apostles ate the Supper and then sang a song (Matthew 26:30). Will those who want to sing during the Supper push their own desires ahead of the interests of the body of Christ? Surely one who really loves the church will be willing to set aside his own preferences in order to maintain unity and peace in the body of Christ.

What is the attitude of those who think we need to make these changes? Is it the same as was the attitude of L. L. Pinkerton, preacher at Midway, Kentucky who encour-aged the use of the instrument? Is it the same as that of brother Addison Clark, who read the request of his brethren not to use the instrument, and then turned to the organist and said, "Play on, Miss Bertha"? Or will they take seriously the admonition of Paul in Ephesians 4:1-3:

"I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

In the Judgment, I would rather be in the shoes of the soldier who pierced the Lord's side, than to stand in the shoes of the man who drove the wedge which divided his body, the church. —B. Duncan



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