My father and I were able to enjoy the 2014 Freed-Hardeman University Bible Lectureship together, which is a great blessing! I always enjoy the presentations coordinated by the Friends of the Restoration Movement. This year, I was delighted to hear Sam Hester of Hester Publications announce the near completion of a new book. For those unfamiliar with Hester Publications, they reprint books, particularly restoration works that are difficult to find. The book is a compilation of articles by L. L. Brigance written for the Gospel Advocate in the 1930s. The book is entitled Theology of Three Restoration Documents and analyzes The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery, The Declaration and Address, and The Sermon on the Law. Sam Hester agreed to send me one of the first copies available.
E. Claude Gardner studied under L. L. Brigance, and he was at the announcement. Sam Hester asked Gardner to comment on Brigance. Gardner’s comments match his statement on the back cover of the book:
"L. L. Brigance was known as one of the top Bible teachers and scholars of Freed-Hardeman College the first half of the 20th century.... He was recognized for being balanced and free of extremism. His writings and teachings on the Restoration Movement had a far-reaching impact on influential preachers…. I counted him as the best Bible teacher of my college career. Because of my admiration and appreciation of him, I edited a volume of his sermons."
Brother Gardener did more than edit the sermons, he typed them himself! I have enjoyed reading Brigance's analysis of The Declaration and Address which he considered the greatest religious document since inspiration. Now, one may find Brigance’s assessment excessive; however, I suggest reserving one’s verdict until reading Brigance’s case. Here is a sample from "The Right to Private Judgment":
"Intolerance has ever been one of humanity's greatest weaknesses. We want others to agree with us--to see things like we see them, to believe, think, and act like we do. And if they do not, we do not like it nor them. We want to suspect their motives, declare them unsound, interdict them, 'read them out of the party.' Of course, it is not only our right, but our duty, to insist upon the plain teaching of God's word--to urge all men to follow it. It is the divine standard, the infallible standard, the only standard of truth and duty. But our opinions, preferences, prejudices, and judgments are an entirely different matter. We have no right to insist upon anyone conforming to them. To do so is to deny to men 'the right of private judgment.' Suppose that after diligent study I am in doubt as to the meaning of a passage of Scriptures. I search the commentaries. I find that 'able men' differ about it. And 'what shall we do when the doctors disagree?' We must decide for ourselves..." (L. L. Brigance, Theology of Three Restoration Documents, p. 22)
Many are familiar with N. B. Hardeman but may be unaware that Brigance assisted in the preparation of material for the Hardeman Tabernacle Sermons. Hugo McCord, who was baptized and taught by Brigance, told me Brigance stated, "I cannot preach like brother Hardeman, but I helped load his gun." Be sure and do not overlook this keen analysis of three major works which moved many toward "a restoration of the ancient order of things."
Originally printed in the West Virginia Christian, Vol. 28, No. 6, June 2021, p. 8. Reprinted by permission.