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Joint Discussion On Foreign Missions

Elder Lemeul Potter -  Reverend Clay Yates

Preface

At a meeting of an Association of Regular Baptists, held in the town of Owensville, Ind., September 14, 1885, one of the ministers of said Association stated publicly, “Christian people need not trouble themselves about Foreign Missions; when the Lord gets ready, in his own good time, he will attend to them.” This induced the publication of the following in the Gibson County Leader, October 14, 1885:

“IS THE FOREIGN MISSION WORK OF GOD OR OF MAN?

“Even today, in the light of the wonderful triumphs of the gospel work in the Foreign field, among the many thousands of gospel ministers there are a few here and there that oppose this work as unscriptural, and hence of man and not of God. Therefore, in view of these facts, for the sake of gospel truth and gospel work, and the honor of the blessed Saviour, I make the following challenge: That I will meet, in joint discussion, any ordained minister of the gospel, indorsed by the denomination to which he belongs as a representative man and of good character, in Owensville, Ind., upon the following proposition: Resolved, That the gospel work carried on by the different denominations of the Protestant world in heathen lands or foreign countries, known as the Foreign Mission work, is authorized in the Holy Scriptures and is blessed and owned of God.”
“H. CLAY YATES.
“OWENSVILLE, IND., October 9, 1885.”

This was answered by the Rev. Lemuel Potter, of Cynthiana, Ind., a minister in the Regular Baptist Church. Subsequent negotiations led to arrangements for a joint discussion, as embodied in the following regulations:
1. The debate shall commence December 14, 1885, and continue six days.
2. It shall be held in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Owensville, Ind.
3. Rev. W. J. Darby, of Evansville, Ind., shall be Moderator for Rev. H. Clay Yates, and Rev. Benjamin Lampton, of Kentucky, shall be Moderator for Rev. Lemuel Potter.
4. In discussing the question at issue, Rev. H. Clay Yates will assume the affirmative, and Rev. Lemuel Potter the negative.
5. The debate shall occur four hours each day, viz., from 10 AM. to 12 M., and from 2 P.M. to 4 P.M. In the forenoon each debater shall make one speech, an hour in length, and in the afternoon each shall have two speeches, thirty minutes in length.
6. The speeches shall be published in book form as taken down by a stenographer. As Rev. H. Clay Yates bears the expense of publication, he shall have the ownership of the book and receive all the proceeds from sale of the same.
7. Each debater shall select one person, and the two jointly shall constitute an Auditing Committee, who shall see that in revising the manuscript the debaters do not make any verbal or grammatical changes in the stenographers report that shall alter the state of the argument or change any fact.
H. CLAY YATES, LEMUEL POTTER.

Much interest was manifested in the approaching discussion, and at the appointed time a very large congregation was present. The exercises were opened with prayer, after which the Moderators read the endorsements of the debaters, as follows:
“The undersigned ministers and members of Indiana Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, hereby indorse Rev. H. Clay Yates as a minister in good standing in said Presbytery, and as a man competent to defend the doctrines and usages of said Church. We especially commend him as worthy to represent the ministry of said Church in defense of its policy in the work of Foreign Missions, as also the cause of Foreign Missions in general.
“W. J. DARBY, M. L. GALLOWAY,
“J. E. JENKINS, M. E. CHAPPELL, 
“W. B. CRAWFORD, THOMAS WALKER.”
We, the undersigned ministers, members of the Southern Indiana Christian Conference, consider Rev. H. Clay Yates in every respect highly qualified and able to establish the common Christian doctrine that sending the gospel to the heathen is Scriptural and ordained of God.
“M. G. COLLINS,
“D. M. SHOEMAKER.”

“OWENSVLLE, IND., Dec. 14, 1885.
“We, the undersigned elders of the Regular Baptist Church, do certify that we indorse Elder Lemuel Potter as a Christian minister of the gospel, and that in the pending debate, to begin today, between him and Rev. H. Clay Yates, of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, we indorse him as a representative man, in whose hands we are willing to risk our cause.
“JOSIAH HUME, BENJ. LAMPTON,
“SIMON REEDER, ARCHIE BROWN,
“JAMES STRICKLAND.”

Endorsements of Rev. H. Clay Yates by the officers of Bethel and Fort Branch congregations, Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and New Liberty Christian Church, were read; also, endorsements of Rev. Lemuel Potter by the Salem and Big Creek Regular Baptist Churches.
It was agreed that the debaters should be governed by the rules laid down in Hedge’s Logic, as follows:
1. The terms in which the question in debate is expressed, and the point at issue, should be clearly defined, that there could be no misunderstanding respecting them.
2. The parties should mutually consider each other as standing on a footing of equality in respect to the subject in debate. Each should regard the other as possessing equal talents, knowledge and a desire for truth with himself, and that, it is possible, therefore, that he may be in the wrong and his adversary in the right.
3. All expressions which are unmeaning, or without effect in regard to the subject in debate, should be strictly avoided.
4. Personal reflections on an adversary should, in no instance, be indulged.
5. The consequences of any doctrine are not to be charged on him who maintains it, unless he expressly avows them.
6. As truth, and not victory, is the professed object of controversy, whatever proofs may be advanced on either side should be examined with fairness and candor; and any attempt to answer an adversary by arts of sophistry, or to lessen the force of his reasoning by wit, caviling, or ridicule, is a violation of the rules of honorable controversy.
In perfect keeping with the spirit of these regulations the debate proceeded from day today, the audiences augmenting until the close. As the debaters maintained the most cordial and agreeable relations with each other, so did their friends on either side. Not only did no “root of bitterness” spring up in consequence, but the members of the respective denominations seemed to be drawn closer together in feeling and spirit. Another gratifying result of the discussion is the earnest investigation that has been given to the subject throughout the entire community, and wherever its influence has extended.
What was said on this occasion now goes forth to a larger audience, accompanied with the earnest prayer that its publication may be for the glory of God, and that he would honor it among the means which he employs for the advancement of his kingdom on the earth.