The Closed Platform

Hawthorne Bailey

By the late Hawthorne Bailey Northern Ireland

I have read with interest the article in the Witness (October 1940) by Mr. C.F. Hogg on the ministry of the word, in which he seeks to prove his cause for a closed platform at believer’s gatherings. A few years ago I searched in the booklet of that honored servant, J. N. Darby’s, on Household Baptism, but in vain, for Scripture to prove household baptism. He gave many inferences, but of one direct scripture he gave none. Now Mr. Hogg admits the absence of scripture for his guidance on the matter of a closed platform. He makes inferences and gives his testimony after long years of experience, but there is another side to the subject and I will ask you or any unbiased reader to take his Bible and look at it.

I will take up the very scripture Mr. Hogg made use of to prove guidance for the open meeting or platform. In 1 Corinthians, chapter 12, the simile that is used is the body with its many members. We find variety and unity all working together for the edifying of the whole, with no monopoly or independence or certain gifts taking the place of prominence above the rest. Chapter 13 teaches that spiritual gifts must be exercised in love. In chapter 14, we have the church come together and rules and principles to guide the gathered company.

The closed platform is a denial of the order of chapter 12, as it gives a place to prominent gifts and sets aside the less prominent. It often works out, as I have seen it in England, Scotland and Wales, that brethren are booked up months ahead, in fact, into years. In some cases these brethren go around booking up here and there, so much preach for so much pay, while brethren whom the Lord of the Harvest has used in soul winning have had to sit in the audience (as I have seen them), and are not allowed to minister to their own spiritual children. Do appointed ministers at these conferences always give a message from God? In fact the writer has gone himself and ministered simply because he was announced. Would not the more excellent and Scriptural way have been to invite brethren and let them speak if the Lord gives them a message? But don’t close out the five words of chapter 14:19. If you do, you have set aside the divine order and in my simple judgment the closed platform has done this very thing. I have seen the chairman, the man with the tuning fork, the brother to lead in prayer, etc., but what came out of it all?

The brethren at the Easter meetings have gone on for years on the old lines which we believe is scriptural. It is true, the platform has been abused again and again but man-made rules are not the remedy. If a brother is habitually giving unprofitable ministry in the morning gathering in a God-gathered company, the leaders will put their hand on such an one. The same should apply to our conferences. The brethren who convene the gathering of the saints should see to it that those who minister are right in their home, their business, and their church life. If they are wrong in these areas, let them keep silent. Thus the brethren who are responsible should see to it that everything is done decently and in order.

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Human arrangement intruding into ministry and other areas that the Scripture leaves in the competent hand of the Holy Spirit of God is a bold admission that God’s methods don’t work.

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