Last night Norma Jean and I attended the opening session of the Florida College Lectures and heard the keynote address by Dr. David Edwin Harrell, Jr on the subject “What Shall We Do With History?”
Ed, as he’s known by those in our fellowship, is a social historian with an impressive academic resume. He served as a professor at six universities including the University of Georgia, the University of Alabama in Birmingham and Auburn University. He has been published in professional journals, edited and authored several books, spoken at dozens of conferences, and is recognized as an expert on Religious history as evidenced by his many interviews on national news programs.
The Florida College Lecture book lists in greater detail Ed’s many academic and professional accomplishments in dedicating this year’s volume to him. However, to those of us who know him, Ed Harrell is a beloved brother, a faithful proclaimer of the Word of God, and defender of “the faith once delivered to the saints.” And in his own words, he is “a restorer” who is dedicated to seeking “that illusive, pristine image of Christianity as it came from the mind of God.”
Last night our 88-year-old brother stood before us, some said for an hour (I don’t know. I didn’t look at my watch), and methodically detailed an impressive historical perspective regarding those who have gone before us seeking Truth. He spoke of those who bravely “set out to faithfully serve God” regardless of the personal consequences.
It was encouraging. Edifying. And uplifting. “We are not alone,” Ed reminded us. From the inspired apostolic record of men like Peter, Paul and John to the secular accounts of the courageous men of the Reformation Era to the American Restoration movement, we can find strength and courage in their quest for Truth.
In his own unique way, Ed encouraged us “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 4:11).
“Finding fellow travelers and heroes through the centuries assures us that We Are Not Alone,” as Ed reminded us of the words of Paul from Philippians 3:12-15). The apostle walked that road. And as an aged man in a Roman prison was still pursuing that goal ahead–“the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Ed pointed out two important points from that passage. Like the apostle, “all of God’s servants are imperfect.” Honesty demands we admit them. Yet we are called “to walk in perfect unity in our commitment to speak as the oracles of God.” When we do, Ed confidently assured us, “we join a great army of those whose stories, truly told, let us know that we are not alone.”
Ed spoke of the famed men of history like Wycliffe, Luther, Zwingli, Faraday and Campbell whose collective works might well be summed up in Bernard Rothmann’s affirmation in 1533, “It is essential that everything required or desired by men should be done in the name and at the command of God through the positive word of God as Peter affirms (1 Pet 4:11) and certainly we should discontinue everything else that God has not expressly commanded.”
However, as I looked around the assembly I was reminded of those in addition to Ed Harrell who have taught, encouraged and strengthened my resolve to faithfulness and steadfastness. Paul Earnhart. Dee Bowman. Colly Caldwell. Bob Owen. Harold Comer. And Buddy Payne. I am not alone.
I thought of those who have gone to their reward who’ve made a difference in my life. Clinton Hamilton. Homer Hailey. Aude McKee. And Robert Jackson. I am not alone.
As I come to celebrate my 50th class reunion, I am encouraged by my former classmates who continue to “fight the good fight of faith.” I am not alone.
Looking around, I saw young men and women in the prime of their youth who are virtuously, vigorously and valiantly opposing the errors of our age and standing firm for the righteousness of God. I am not alone.
The atmosphere and the audience of some 1500 fellow travelers who joyously raised their voices in praise to God and humbly bowed their heads in prayer, reminded me that I am not alone.
Thank you, brother Ed Harrell for your life of service. Dedication. Devotion. And unwavering determination to proclaim God’s Truth. Thanks for the reminder last night.
“We Are Not Alone.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman