The Ancient Faith

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Billy D. Dickinson

In the Sept. 1, 1985 issue of THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE an article by Fred Brown (Scripps Howard News Service) caught my attention and immediately aroused my interest. The caption read: ‘THEY SHALL TAKE UP SERPENTS’–EVANGELIST FACES FINAL ENEMY AFTER SUFFERING FATAL SNAKE BITE. The article reads in part: “Charles Herman Prince, a stocky, solid, smiling man, believed that taking up the serpent was a pronouncement of victory over evil. Evil won… Prince, 47, well-known and well-liked evangelist in the Holiness Church who crisscrossed the South delivering sermons to saints and sinners, died Aug. 19 after a rattlesnake bite in Greeneville, Tenn. He was a snake-handling preacher. He had been preaching to a floor-bouncing congregation in the Apostolic Church of God when a yellow timber rattler he was holding struck deeply into the second joint of his left thumb. Prince continued the sermon and even consumed some strychnine before he was carried away to Carl Reed’s house in Limestone, Tenn. He died in the house two days later.”

Jesus said in Mk 16:17-18, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” But why did this man die from a snake bite? Do I hear someone saying it was because of a lack of faith? No, I doubt he was lacking in faith. I would say, even as Curtis Porter once did, he had more faith than many Pentecostals have, because most won’t even attempt to take up serpents. As a matter of fact, the story says his friends said his faith was “as strong as blue steel”! No, it was miraculous power, not faith, he was lacking in. Pentecostals are always quoting Mk 16:17-18 in an attempt to prove that miraculous “signs” should follow believers today, but just a casual reading of these two verses expose Pentecostals of their inconsistency, and according to their own explanation of these two verses, they are unbelievers!

If any of these signs are following believers today, ALL OF THEM ARE! There is no ground for claiming that some are for us today, but the others have ceased. Not everyone would have all the gifts of the Spirit or be able to demonstrate every sign mentioned in Mk. 16, but all of them should be manifested in their movement. Who today among them can be bitten by a viper without harm, as with the case of Paul (Acts 28:3-6)? No, when they are bitten, they either get sick or die!

Who among them can drink poison and it not hurt them? If speaking with “new tongues” must follow believers today, why mustn’t these other signs follow believers today? Why place all the emphasis on speaking in tongues and ignore the fact that Jesus said “they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them”?

The truth of the matter is that the Bible teaches that the miraculous manifestations of the Spirit were to be temporary in duration and not permanent in the church! In I Cor 13:8-10, Paul said tongues were to cease, the gift of prophecy was to fail, and supernatural knowledge was to vanish away, “when that which is perfect is come.” “Perfect” means complete and is used in contrast to what is “in part.” Verse 9 says “For we KNOW in part, and we PROPHESY in part.” This has to do with REVELATION and the impartation of revelation. So, Paul is teaching that when the complete revelation of God’s will was finally given, the miraculous gifts of the Spirit were “done away”! That’s why Mr. Prince took up a serpent and DIED !!

[This was published in the April 1, 1986 issue of the OPA]

 Recommended articles:

Introducing the Church of Christ – Ronny Wade

God’s Sevenfold Unity – Jerry Cutter

Repentance – J. W. McGarvey


The Ancient Faith website is a thematic collection of scholarly yet simple Bible essays and sermons, many of which were composed by Restoration preachers such as J.W. McGarvey, Moses Lard, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Campbell. These courageous men of faith through hours of Bible investigation studied themselves out of denominationalism, asking for “the old paths” (Jer. 6:16) and seeking to return to “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We hope you will join with these men in their fervent plea to restore “the ancient order,” “the ancient gospel” or, as it was sometimes called, “the ancient faith.”