Lipscomb, McGary and Forgiveness
By Terry J. Gardner
Reprinted with permission, Gospel Advocate
Two of our best-known preachers in 1905 were David Lipscomb and Austin McGary. Lipscomb was synonymous with the Gospel Advocate and McGary was the founder of the Firm Foundation. Lipscomb rarely dealt in personalities; McGary enjoyed mixing it up and was not above using the crude language of the frontier in his religious discussions. Lipscomb taught that those baptized to obey God would be saved while McGary insisted, “belief that baptism is for remission of sins is essential to its validity.” Lipscomb was a life long pacifist; McGary was a former Texas Sheriff who killed one man in the line of duty and another in days of his wayward youth.
Lipscomb gave his opinion of McGary in the Gospel Advocate, “I do not think McGary can fairly state the position of one from whom he differs. Cuts and innuendoes that irritate and keep up a ferment, and divide into parties, but convince no one, are not profitable. When Christians discuss questions, it should be with the desire to see how clearly they can understand each other, how nearly they can come together; and they ought to regard the slightest misrepresentation of each other as a wicked lie.”
McGary gave his view of Lipscomb in the Gospel Outlook writing in 1905, “If Lipscomb had enough moral courage and reverence for revealed truth to acknowledge his error and repent of his evil work against the gospel of Christ, then charity would demand that I should forgive him and recognize him as an honest man. But as long as he stands before the world in his present insincere, dissembling, double-dealing Janus-faced attitude, charity demands that I shall brand him as a willful perverter of the truth he pretends to love, and a religious reprobate of the most hypocritical cast.”
If the story ended here then it might be like so many other sad tales where brotherly love failed to prevail. In 1917 Lipscomb passed from this life into the next. Several more years passed until 1923 when this appeared from the pen of A. McGary in the Gospel Advocate:
Brother [H. Leo] Boles and Brother [J. C.] McQuiddy have both written me concerning some very improper and unchristianlike things I said about Brother D. Lipscomb in the Gospel Outlook many years ago. I sincerely and deeply and penitently regret having said these things, and I unfeignedly and feelingly beg all of Brother Lipscomb’s personal friends and the brotherhood in general to forgive me. It will be a lifelong regret with me that I did not apologize to Brother Lipscomb before he died for saying these things about him.
McQuiddy replied that he was sure Lipscomb would have “rejoiced” at such an apology and “would have freely forgiven Brother McGary.” McQuiddy then added, “We must forgive if we expect to be forgiven. This is a lesson that not only needs to be learned, but also one which should be practiced.”
A few weeks later M. C. Kurfees wrote an editorial, in the Gospel Advocate commending McGary’s “effective and beautiful” apology as a “noble example,” for all Christians, “and especially for preachers.” Kurfees noted that McGary’s actions were “gracious” and of the “beautiful spirit of the Master” and then added that McGary’s apology “furnishes the occasion for some important and timely reflections on the duty of Christians, and especially preachers, toward one another.” Kurfees then offered his observations about McGary’s apology:
- The apology, Kurfees noted, was accompanied by no doubtful ‘ifs’ or conditions which … would leave one in doubt as to whether there is any real confession of wrong or wish to make matters right. It was clear, distinct, and directly to the point, bearing on its very face its own genuine sincerity and noble wish to make everything right.”
- The apology “betrayed no silly fear that its author might lower his dignity or injure his standing with men by a frank and open confession of wrong.” Kurfees added that McGary “evidently made that confession and apology with an open Bible and a determination to please God at all hazards.” Kurfees noted that he had “seen a few noble confessions of wrong and apologies on the part of preachers” but that McGary’s “occupies a place among the noblest.”
- According to Kurfees, McGary was exalted “in the eye of God and in the esteem of all right-thinking persons” by his apology. Kurfees believed that McGary’s actions “in the present case is proof that back of it all is a heart which beats in unison with noble purpose to be true to God and to his word.”
Kurfees then visualized Lipscomb rejoicing in Heaven with angels over McGary’s noble act and that Lipscomb’s “great heart yearned to press in tender brotherly love the honest hand of Brother McGary.” Kurfees concluded, “May the good Lord overrule this noble example to the accomplishment of great good.”
What about it? Can we learn from history or will we repeat it? Remember, it was Jesus who said if we fail to forgive others, our Father will not forgive us. (Matt: 6:15). Every idle word will be brought into judgment.