The Quality of Our Singing: excerpts from Connie W. Adams

From Connie W. Adams, “The Quality of Our Singing” Plainfield Church Bulletin. Church of Christ, Plainfield, Indiana, March 7, 1983:

I am not disposed to be a chronic censor of the song book.  While there are some songs which are unscriptural (and we have never seen any song book totally exempt from all criticism), we certainly do believe in poetic license.  It is possible to become so literal in our understanding of words that it would be impossible for some of the brethren to ever understand the book of Psalms or some of the prophetic writings where figures of speech abound.  But for the life of me, it is hard to derive much spiritual food from “The Jericho Road”, “Let Us Have a Little Talk With Jesus”, or “I’ll Be Somewhere List’ning For My Name.”  Some of the songs which the brethren seem to glory in were written for Pentecostal-type camp meetings and were designed to show off bass, alto or tenor leads.  The start and stop, hold your breath, let it out, pat your foot, up, down, in, out type of songs seem to be what many of the song leaders prefer.  Meanwhile, we have reared a generation of young people who do not know the great songs of faith. They are being greatly deprived and impoverished and we have many of our song leaders to blame for it.

Earlier in the article he cited the widespread use of Ellis Crum’s Sacred Selections as one reason why “congregations have been victimized by song leaders who prefer only the show-off quartet type songs, mostly of the Stamps-Baxter variety” and laments “in a book with well over 600 songs, why must a congregation be limited to about 75 songs while some of the greatest songs of faith are never used?” Adams then noted that in the prior decade (which would have been 1973-1983) “every time “The Old Rugged Cross”, or “Amazing Grace”, or “Tell Me The Story of Jesus” was sung, [he] had to ask for it.”

My thanks to Chris Cotten for calling this to my attention some years ago while we sorted a great deal of bulletins—a great deal– and along the way found a few nuggets.  In the thirty years since Adams penned this article  so-called mainstream Churches of Christ experienced a decade or so of worship wars.  I wonder how things panned out among Non-Institutional churches during this same period of time.  I don’t know Connie Adams preaching appointments for 1973-1983, but wonder how representative his observation might be today.  Does a similar situation obtain today?  Can a generalization even be fairly made?

Small Improprieties and Annoyances: A Quote Without Comment from Benjamin Franklin

J. A. Headington and Joseph Franklin. A Book of Gems, or Choice Selections from the Writings of Benjamin Franklin. St. Louis: John Burns, 1879, p. 409-410:

To pour the wine, or divide it into several cups, before thanks, at the Lord’s table.  We thank the Lord for the cup, and not cups.  Thanks should invariable be given for the one cup, while the wine is in the one cup.

For some one to start and push his way out through the assembly while an invitation is pending.  This is a most manifest impoliteness and disorder.

For some one that has eat about three dinners at once, to doze and nod in time of preaching, and in the midst of the exhortation, just when the preacher is trying to make an impression, to stretch his limbs, gape and crowd up to the pulpit, and get a drink to extinguish the fires burning within him.  This is ridiculous.

To see some great strapping saphead get up in the middle of a discourse, and go stamping out, thus interrupting the whole audience.  If these could see themselves as others see them, they would be very clear of showing themselves, as they frequently do.

To see a beautiful young lady sit in time of preaching, and then stand in time of invitation, with her mouth spread and a broad and supercilious grin upon her face.

To see some fellow draw his watch and snap it at the preacher, as he shuts down the case, as much as to say, “I consider it is time you would stop.” [410]

To see a lady sit and play with her infant, in time of preaching, laugh at its little pranks, and try to induce others around her also to laugh at them.

To see a lady get into a quarrel with her babe, in time pf preaching; slap it, jerk it, hold it, and this keep it squalling for about half an hour.  If the preacher can keep the thread of his discourse, in a case of that kind, he is a pretty good preacher.

To have some man standing near the preacher, in time of prayer, chewing an enormous quid of tobacco, and about once in half a minute, hear a large spoonful of the filthy spittle splash upon the floor.

Lord’s Day Meetings: A Quote Without Comment from Benjamin Franklin

J. A. Headington and Joseph Franklin. A Book of Gems, or Choice Selections from the Writings of Benjamin Franklin. St. Louis: John Burns, 1879, p. 270:

Churches should not be compelled to hear preaching every Lord’s day, and that the dullest and dryest kind, from the same man, the same thing, over and over again; but instead of this, have a variety of good songs; sundry readings of interesting Scriptures, from different persons, each occupying from five to ten minutes, with two or three prayers at suitable intervals, and words of exhortation.  The overseer who can so conduct these matters as to interest the whole congregation, develop and bring out the most talent, and make the whole most conducive to the edification of all, is the most efficient and successful overseer, whether he can preach or not himself.  No man, overseer or not, ought to appear before the people publicly more than is acceptable to them.  Many men kill themselves off by talking too much and being too officious.




Away so carefully, or I know it is here somewhere…by Barton W. Stone

A few days ago I received some valuable communications from brother T. M. Allen.  I intended them to appear in this number, but had put them away so carefully, that I have despaired ever to find them.  I hope brother Allen will replace them in my possession as early as possible.  One thing I distinctly remember, that brother Boone, of Fayette, Mo. had recently, within six weeks, baptized, and added to the hchurc [sic] h in that town between 80 and 90.  B. W. STONE.

Christian Messenger April 1841, page 288.

S. H. Hall remembers James A. Harding

S. H. Hall remembers James A. Harding

Part 3 (of 3) of Samuel Henry Hall’s reminiscences of three men who significantly influenced his life and ministry: David Lipscomb, T. B. Larimore and James A. Harding. I prefaced the first installment, on David Lipscomb, with a brief biographical sketch on Hall. By way of footnotes I again insert a few clarifying details. Additional information about Hall is available at here.


Excerpted from chapter 3 of S. H. Hall, Sixty-Five Years in the Pulpit, Or, Compound Interest in Religion. Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1959. Pages 15-16.

JAMES A. HARDING – So different was he to either Lipscomb or Larimore.  Lipscomb was always deeply serious and grave; Larimore quiet, gentle, and exceedingly kind in looks and manners; but Harding was exuberant, abounding in faith and his face aglow with joy.  When I got into James A. Harding’s life I got into the field of faith and undoubting confidence in God’s love and care for his children here on earth.  Special providence was his hobby, if it be right to call it a hobby, and I came to go along with him all the way in his faith and trust in the Father’s taking care of his children here on earth.  He was often criticized by some as going too far in such faith, but when you listened to him talk about his Father in heaven and describe the beauties of the heavenly home, as a rule, you were made a believer.  How often have I been lifted almost out of myself as I listened to him talk about his Father’s love and special interest in his people!  Yes, I listened when he quoted Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  He would then hurry to Psalm 84:11, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” How he could emphasize, “NO GOOD THING WILL HE WITHHOLD FROM THEM THAT WALK UPRIGHTLY!” Then to Ephesians 3:20, looking up with tears coming down on his cheeks, he would exclaim, “He does for us exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think.”  Well, Harding made a full convert out of me, and made me wish that every child of God on earth has the faith and confidence in God’s love and care for his people that James A. Harding had.  Yes, he was criticized by some for his special /16/ providence “hobby,” as some called it, and even Brother Lipscomb who loved him dearly felt that he sometimes went too far with it.   But let me have his faith – it enabled me see as I had never seen before, and to rejoice as I had never rejoiced before in the consciousness that God is near, that his angels surround us, and that they are sent out as ministering spirits to God’s own here on earth.  Brother Harding saw good in all of his experiences.

            One other thing about him, and I close, but could write all day about him.  Due to the condition of his mind he did not seem to remember from one Lord’s day to the next what he had preached on the previous Lord’s day, but was continually discussing special providence or talking about heaven.  Therefore, we had to persuade him to give up pulpit work, a service which he had rendered for about a year after moving to Atlanta with what was then called the South Pryor Street Congregation.  After being out of the pulpit for quite awhile, one Lord’s Day morning he said to his wife, “Let’s go over and hear Brother Hall at West End Avenue today.”[1]  So here they came.  I knew how his heart yearned to get back in the pulpit, so asked my elders to let me use him that day because many people were there who had never heard him preach and, if he talked about heaven or special providence, it would be new to them and we who had heard him on these subjects would enjoy it.  I could never tire of hearing him speak.  I had promised to speak on the “Home” that morning, so to help him take that subject for study and stay with it I had informed him that this was the subject for study and he had expressed his delight to discuss it.  To make it easier for him to stay with the subject I made some preliminary remarks to get him to think along that line, and then turned the subject over to him.  A more coherent, logical line of thinking I had never heard that when he spoke of the different members of the home – father, mother, sons and daughters, and their respective duties to each other.  Then he said, “If we live as God tells us, some of these days” – now raising his hand and pointing toward heaven – “we will all be – Home, Home, that is Home!”  He never got out of heaven and not a dry eye was seen in that audience.

            Well, we have to stop here, but if I were to talk and write from now until then end of life comes, I could not tell all that these great men have meant to me.  I thank God that he, in his providence, brought them into my life.

[1] Hall began preaching in Atlanta the first of January 1907, p. 17, until he moved to Los Angeles to preach for the Sichel Street Church of Christ in September 1920, p. 85.  For a photograph of the West End building, see p. 18.   South Pryor Street Church was an outgrowth from West End, p. 20, and by the end of Hall’s first four years there was a second ‘swarm’ from West End, p. 23.  For additional instances of how Hall saw special providence at work, Harding style, see Ch. X, pp. 56 ff.

S. H. Hall remembers T. B. Larimore

S. H. Hall remembers T. B. Larimore

Part 2 of Samuel Henry Hall’s reminiscences of three men who significantly influenced his life and ministry: David Lipscomb, T. B. Larimore and James A. Harding.  I prefaced the first installment, on David Lipscomb, with a brief biographical sketch on Hall.  By way of footnotes I again insert a few clarifying details.    Additional information about Hall is available at here.


Excerpted from chapter 3 of S. H. Hall, Sixty-Five Years in the Pulpit, Or, Compound Interest in Religion. Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1959. Pages 14-15.

T. B. LARIMORE – He was at his best when I began to preach.  I heard so much about him and it was so favorable that I wondered if T. B. Larimore would leave this old world as did Enoch and Elijah and be relieved to what is known as death’s transition.  I have not the words to express the powerful influence he had on me.  We were blessed in our Atlanta work – I believe it was the third year – by having him there for a revival.[1]  He had his peculiarities, which never did any harm to a human soul, but sometimes embarrassed his friends.

            Brother O. B. Curtis, who perhaps knew Larimore as but few knew him, having been with him and led the singing the whole time he lived in Washington, D.C.[2], and who is now out very efficient song leader at Arcadia, California, made the statement a few days ago that he never heard Larimore say one harmful thing about anyone.  This made me think of a little of my experience with him.  I was preaching regularly once a month and doing all the mission work in the summer for a congregation[3] that once had on its board of elders a very shrewd lawyer, who took a position as legal adviser to the leader of a very strong religious cult that believed in Triune Immersion.  He was immersed in this way, doubtless, to please the one who was paying him a big salary.  But his services ended and he returned to his home town and, it seemed, expected to be received in full fellowship and to be recognized as an elder as he was before he left; however, he was not recognized.  He came to my room almost every day complaining about the treatment he was receiving, and spoke of what E. A. Elam, T. B. Larimore and others thought of him.  Some of our best were they, and I was just a very young preacher.  This was just before our move to Atlanta, Georgia.  He had a great deal to say about prophecy and gave me one position which he stated he also gave to Larimore, for which, Larimore said he never thought of before and thanked him most graciously for the thought.  While Larimore was in a revival in Nashville the lawyer chanced to be in Nashville also, and learning of Larimore’s being there and where he was preaching, decided to go and hear him.[4]  He got there a little late, and as he entered the building he was pleased to hear Larimore discussing the very point in prophecy that he has pointed out to him.  So, Larimore, seeing this great lawyer coming down the aisle, at once stopped his sermon and stated: “Friends, since beginning this sermon, I see a friend of mine is here and he knows more about this subject than I do, and I am inviting him to the stand to discuss it in my stead.”  This lawyer had related this a number of times to show what great men such as Larimore had thought of him, and as a rebuke to his elders at home for repudiating him as an elder.  He related this to me a number of times, and deep down in my heart I /15/ did not believe it and made up my mind if I ever met Larimore, I would ask him about it.  So one Christmas, as I was changing trains in Nashville, I met Brother Larimore in the waiting room.  After a little conversation about where I had been and where I was going, I stated, “Brother Larimore, I have a question that I want to ask you, and I hope you will not think it out of place for me to ask it.” I related the whole story, then stated, “I have wondered, Brother Larimore, if you did do this.” Get this – he raised those long arms and gently placed his hands on my shoulders and looked me straight in the eye – his eyes were so gentle and beamed with kindness, and said, “Brother Hall, you will never be any worse off if you never know.  Miss Emma Page is in the women’s waiting room, would you not like to speak to her?”  Into that room we went and I visited awhile and then took my train for home wondering what did he mean by saying, “Brother Hall, you will never be any worse off if you never know.”  My only conclusion was he feared that if he stated the whole story was false, I would abuse the information and say too much about it.  But that’s that.

            What did Larimore mean to me?  Well, I got this great lesson – you need absolutely nothing to be a good preacher of the gospel except to know the Book, the exact sayings of our Lord, and tell it to the people.  If ever a man spoke where the Bible speaks and stayed silent where it is silent, Larimore did just that.

[1] Hall began his work in Atlanta the first of January 1907, see p. 17; Larimore’s meeting there would have been in about 1910.

[2] 1922-1925, see Doug Foster on Larimore in Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, 453.

[3] Smithville, Tennessee, from 1904-1906, see p. 9.  Hall helped establish three congregations in and around Smithville during this time.

[4] Larimore’s first revival in Nashville was in 1885; he preached often for Christian Churches in Nashville from 1885-1906 including a long meeting in 1887 when the South College Street Christian Church was set in order.  David Lipscomb was one of the elders at South College Street from 1887 until his death in 1917.  Larimore and Emma Page were married 1 January 1911; see Terry J. Gardner on Emma Page Larimore in Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, 452.

“To be a historian”: Quote without comment

This from Doris Kearns Goodwin via Garrison Keillor’s “Writer’s Almanac” (with thanks to Don Haymes for passing it on to me): 

To be a historian is to discover the facts in context, to discover what things mean, to lay before the reader your reconstruction of time, place, mood, to empathize even when you disagree. You read all the relevant material, you synthesize all the books, you speak to all the people you can, and then you write down what you know about the period. You feel you own it.

Why I Became A Preacher, James A. Harding, concluded

[see part one here]

… after their business transaction was closed. No amount of business, no success, no adversity could cause him to forget God and the souls of men. The good he did is incalculable. Blessed is the memory of “Uncle Minor.”

I had not been long at Hopkinsville, teaching, before he wanted to make appointments for me in the country churches and schoolhouses round about. With some hesitancy and dread I consented, as I have always done, to the call to preach; and I was soon pretty busy with me teaching during the week and preaching on Sunday. At the end of five years’ work at Hopkinsville I was full of malaria. I fainted in the schoolroom, and had to be taken home in a carriage. So I left Hopkinsville and went back to Winchester, Ky., to get well. I was idle for several months, but was slowly getting well when Bro. John Adams of blessed memory, came for me to go with him back into the mountains to conduct a protracted meeting. I told him I had never conducted a protracted meeting; that it would be better for him to get some one else. But he said he could not get any one else, that I had been brought up in church and Sunday-school, that I had been to Bethany College, that I ought to be killed if I could not preach and that I was to shut my mouth and get my horse and come on with him. “Besides,” he said, “you know I can exhort like five hundred, and you come and preach the best you can, and I will exhort, and we will have a grand meeting. So I went with him; I doubt if I could have gone with a truer, bolder, kinder, better man. My eyes moistened with tears, and my heart is full of sweet, tender memories as I think of him. Sweet indeed to me is the memory of brave, strong, gentle, loving John Adams. I look forward, too, in hope to the day when he and I shall walk together the golden streets of the celestial city.

I went with Bro. John to each of his four preaching places that fall. We had five baptisms at the first place, five at the second, about seventeen at the third, and about twenty-seven at the fourth. Then I felt like I was man of not a little experience in evangelistic work, and was prepared to give points to the uninitiated. For four years my field of labor, for the most part, was the mountainous region of Eastern Kentucky. The people were very poor, the church houses were built of logs, and frequently lighted with tallow candles. They were poorly educated, if at all; but many of them were strong in native good sense and wisdom. Some of my most highly esteemed friends I found in those regions, and a number of them are there still. I know well, I have had goo opportunities to learn it, that a man is a man, whether in a mountaineer’s cabin or a brownstone front; and that a moral coward is just as likely to be found clothed in broadcloth; as in blue jeans.

After my father, the men of whom I am most indebted, I believe are Alexander Campbell, Benjamin Franklin, J. W. McGarvey and David Lipscomb. I have not named them in order in which I think they have been helpful to me, but in which I came under their influence. Campbell’s Christian Baptist, Franklin’s American Christian Review, McGarvey’s commentaries, in articles for the papers, Authorship of Deuteronomy and other writings, and Lipscomb’s editorials have furnished me the best reading I have found out of the Bible. I have used, of course, more or less, many of the great commentaries of ht sectarian world, but they have been of little value to me in comparison with the benefit I have received from the brethren just mentioned.

But the most valuable gift I ever received, I believe, was a little Bible my father gave me while I was yet a small child. It had pictures in it; and very plain and simple they were; not at all to be compared to the splendidly illustrated volumes of today. But those pictures were marvelous to me. My father trained me to turn the leaves without tearing them; and he and my mother would tell me the stories the pictures illustrated. For a long time that Bible was my chief treasure, and those stories my greatest delight. I was the first born in our house, and in course of time I showed the pictures and taught the stories to the other little ones. God only knows how much of blessedness that little book brought to be and to our house. I have made it a rule to have plenty of picture-books for my little ones, and their mother has given much time to telling them the stories. The sooner God’s truths are impressed upon the mind the better. He who is full of God’s truth, who delights in it, will preach. Not in public, may be, but he will preach; and his life will be a benediction to those who come under its influence. –James A. Harding.

The Sayings of the Fathers on reading Scripture

The nature of water is soft, that of a rock is hard. But if a narrow-necked bottle is hung above a stone, drop by drop the water wears away the rock. So it is with the word of God: it is soft and our heart is hard. But when a person hears the word of God, often then his heart is opened to the fear of God.

The Apophthegmata Patrum (the Sayings of the Fathers) is a collection of proverbs and quotes from 4th-5th c. monks.   This quote is from Everett Ferguson, Inheriting Wisdom, Readings for Today from Ancient Christian Writers. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004, page 229.

M. C. Kurfees remembers J. W. McGarvey

Practice of the “Fathers” on Opinions

[Kurfees marshalls quotes from the Restoration Fathers…he says that “those who did express themsevles leave no room for doubt that they all stood as a solid unit against the practice.  We now call upon this distinguished roll of reformers with their associates and successors to speak for themsevels:”].  

23. PRESIDENT JOHN W. MCGARVEY.  This distinguished preacher and educator, who has been engaged in the systematic teaching of the Bible for more than half a century, and who is now President of the College of the Bible, Lexington, Ky., has taken a prominent and important part in the discussion of the question, and we select from his writings the following passages:

it is manifest that we cannot adopt the practice without abadoning the obvious and only ground on hich a restoration of Primitive Christianity can be accomplished, or on which the plea for it can be maintained.  Such is my profound conviction, and consequently the question with me is not one concerning the choice or rejection of an expedient, but th e maintenance or abandonment of a fundamental and necessary principle. *  *  *  I hold that the use of the instument is sinful, and I must not be requested to keep my mought shut in the presence of sin, whether committed by a church or an individual.  *  *  *  The party which forces an organ into the church against the conscientious protest of a minority is disorderly and schismatical, not only because it stirs up strife, but because it is for the sake of a sinful innovation upon the divinely authorized worship of the church; and, inasmuch as the persons [236] thus acting are disorderly nd schismatic, it is the duty of allgood peole to withdraw from them until they repent.–It is universally admitted by those competent to judge that there is not the slightest indication in the New Testament of divine authoristy for the use of instrumental music in Christian worship.  *  *  *  As to the introduction of an unscriptural test of fellowship, it is enough to say that we do not refuse fellowhip with those who use the organ; we onyl refuse to partake with them in that practice and choose tp worship when we can where it is not in our way.  To deny us this privilege would be an attempt to force us into fellowship with a practice confessedly unauthorized in the Scriptures, that which there ccould be nothing more unscritural or more intolerant.–In Apostolic Times, 1881, and “What Shall We Do About the Organ?” pp. 4, 10.

M. C. Kurfees, Instrumental Music in the Worship, or the Greek Verb Psallo Philologically and Historically Examined Together With a Full Discussion of Kindred Subjects Relating to Music in Christian Worship.  Nashville: McQuiddy Printing Company, 1911, pages 235-236. 

Kurfees penned the introduction to this volume on 31 January 1911 (quite incidentally, my grandmother, Ella May Dudley Ice, was born the same day in Oberlin, Ohio).  McGarvey would be dead before Thanksgiving.  This book has a foot in to worlds in a sense.  In one sense it is part of the on-going discussion of instrumental music during McGarvey’s lifetime.  In another sense it becomes a document of memory about McGarvey.  This book was reissued a various points and is in print today.  Kurfees does not so indicate here, but he was a student at McGarvey’s feet…graduated Valedictorian of his class in 1881 from the College of the Bible.