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The Last Reformation by F. G. [Frederick George] Smith

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The Last Reformation

By F.G. Smith




God's true people everywhere are looking for light on the church
question. A deep undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the present
order of things exists in the ecclesiastical world. The historic
creeds are stationary and conservative, but religious thought can
not always be bound nor its progress permanently hindered. Honest
Christian men and women will think, and they are now thinking in the
terms of a universal Christianity. If I am able to discern the signs
of the times, the rising tide of Christian love and fellowship is
about to overflow the lines of sect and bring together in one common
hope and in one common brotherhood all those who love our Lord Jesus
Christ in sincerity.

What will constitute the leading characteristics of the church of
the future? This is the burning question. Spiritual-minded men are
conscious that things can not long continue as they now are, but what
and where is the remedy?

After this book was completed and in the hands of the printers,
I received a copy of "The Church and its Organization," by Walter
Lowrie, and was surprized to find in it much truth that I had
already received through independent investigation and embodied in my
manuscript. I refer particularly to the charismatic organization and
government of the church. It is gratifying to know that other minds
are being led to the same conclusions regarding a subject of such
vital importance to the future of Christianity.

In writing the present work I have endeavored to present the
Scriptural solution of this great problem, a solution which takes
into account, and gives due respect to, historic Christianity, the
prophecies respecting the church and its destiny, and the fundamental
characteristics of our holy religion as it emanated from the divine

If this work can be of service in pointing out Christ's plan and
purpose to "gather together in one the children of God which are
scattered abroad," and also be instrumental in helping to accomplish
this grand Christian ideal, I shall feel abundantly repaid. F.G.

Anderson, Indiana, May 6, 1919.


Introduction--"The Time of Reformation" 9

Part I--The Church in Apostolic Days

I The Church Defined 19
II The Universal Church 21
III The Local Church 33
IV The Organization and Government of the
Church 41

Part II--The Church in History

V Corruption of Evangelical Faith 73
VI Rise of Ecclesiasticism 87
VII The Reformation 101
VIII Modern Sects 111
IX The Church of the Future 125

Part III--The Church in Prophecy

X Interpretation of Prophetic Symbols 141
XI The Apostolic Period 149
XII The Medieval Period 169
XIII Era of Modern Sects 209
XIV The Last Reformation 223



In ecclesiastical history the term Reformation has been applied
specifically to the important religious movement of the sixteenth
century which resulted in the formation of the various Protestant
churches of that period. Since the sixteenth century there have been
other religious reformations, some of considerable importance and

[Sidenote: A present reformation]

There is a present reformation specially distinguished from all those
that have gone before. It is resulting from the particular operation
of the Spirit of God as predicted in the Word of God, and its
influences are being felt in varying degrees throughout all
Christendom. Many Christians are already stirred to action by the
conscious knowledge of Christ's message for these times, while
multiplied thousands of others who love the Lord Jesus are
experiencing within their own hearts the awakening of new aspirations
and impulses, the real meaning of which they do not as yet
understand, but which are, through the leadership of the Holy
Spirit, unconsciously fitting them for their true place in this great
world-wide movement which is destined to exceed in importance and
influence all other religious reformations since the days of primitive

Since, as we shall show, the present reformation is the work of the
Spirit affecting all true Christians, drawing them together for
the realization of a grand Scriptural ideal, it is evident that no
particular band of people enjoy its exclusive monopoly. May the same
Holy Spirit illuminate our hearts and minds in the contemplation of
the truths of the divine Word.

The term _reformation_ signifies "the act of reforming or the state of
being reformed; change from worse to better; correction or amendment
of life, manners, or of anything vicious or corrupt." In its
application to the religion of Christ, reformation means the
correction of abuses and corrupt practises that have become associated
with the Christian system; the elimination of all unworthy, foreign
elements. In other words, it implies _restoration_, a return to the
practises and ideals of primitive Christianity.

[Sidenote: What the final reformation must include]

If we inquire concerning the limits of true reformatory work, we see
at once that, if there is to be a final reformation, such a movement
must restore in its fundamental aspects _apostolic Christianity_--its
doctrines, its ordinances, its personal regenerating and sanctifying
experiences, its spiritual life, its holiness, its power, its purity,
its gifts of the Spirit, its unity of believers, and its fruits.
This assumes, of course, that during the centuries there has been a
departure from this standard.

[Sidenote: The church itself the real object of reformation]

No reformation since apostolic times has covered all this ground. All
the reformations taken together fall far short of this standard. They
have been reformations only in part, each movement simply placing
special emphasis on particular doctrines, or ordinances, or personal
experiences. Hence the need of further reformation. The present
movement embraces all the truth contained in all the previous
reformations of Protestantism. But it does not stop there. It stands
committed to all the truth of the Word of God. It goes straight to
the heart of the reformation subject and reveals the pure, holy,
_universal_ church of the apostolic times as made up of all those who
were regenerated, uniting them all IN CHRIST; in the "church of the
living God," which church was "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1
Tim. 3:15); the church that was graced with the gifts of the Spirit
and filled with holy power.

The true apostolic church has been largely lost to view since the
early Christian centuries, when a general apostasy dimmed the light
of truth and plunged the world into the darkness of papal night.
In modern times the term "church" as applied to a general body of
religious worshipers is usually employed in a restricted sense,
specifying some particular organization, as the hierarchy of Rome or
the aggregation of local congregations constituting a Protestant sect.
By a natural reaction from the Romish extreme, wherein the church and
church relationship are exalted above the personal relationship of
the individual with his God, many teachers now incline to an
opposite extreme, which makes little of the church as an institution,
substituting therefor a sort of "loyalty to Christ," _individualism_,
subversive of true New Testament standards.

[Sidenote: The true church Scripturally important]

The church is not to be exalted above the Christ, nor is it a
substitute for the Christ; but in the light of New Testament teaching
we must regard the true church as _the_ instrument--the divinely
appointed instrument used by the Holy Spirit in carrying forward the
work of Christ on earth. Jesus himself said, "Upon this rock I will
build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it"
(Matt. 16:18). At a later time we read, "And the Lord added to the
church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47).

If Paul were living today, he also might despise the "church" idea in
its narrow sectarian sense. But from the apostle's words, it is very
evident that he regarded the church as it existed in his day as an
institution crowned with glory and honor, the concrete expression
of Christ and his truth. "_God hath set some_ IN THE CHURCH, first
apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles,
then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues"
(1 Cor. 12:28). "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and
some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting
of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the _edifying of the
body of Christ_; till we all come in the unity of the faith ... that
we ... may _grow up into him in all things_, which is the head, [of
the body, _the church_, Col. 1:18] even Christ" (Eph. 4:11-15).

[Sidenote: The church as a divine institution]

Inasmuch as God set in the church apostles, prophets, evangelists,
gifts of miracles, of healings, etc., we must regard the church
as originally instituted as being more than a mere aggregate of
individuals associating themselves together for particular purposes.
We must recognize the divine element. This company was the host of
redeemed ones whom Christ had saved, in whom he dwelt, and through
whom he revealed God and accomplished his work on earth. It was his
body--the organism to which he gave spiritual life and through which
he manifested the fulness of his power and glory.

[Sidenote: Church relationship vs. individualism]

Any reformation that has not for its object the full restoration of
the New Testament church, can not be a complete reformation, but
must be succeeded by another. In this respect the church subject
is fundamental and all-inclusive. To emphasize a mere
"personal-union-with-Christ" theory to the disparagement of the divine
_ekklesia_, is to evade the real issue. Jesus declared, "I will build
my church," and that church was an objective reality, which was not
intended to be concealed under high-sounding theological verbiage nor
dissipated in glittering generalities. It is true that Christ himself
must be presented as the ground of our hope and salvation and as the
object of our personal faith, love, and devotion; as "the way, the
truth, and the life"; but we must not forget that there is also
a revelation of the way, the truth, and the life in the church of
Christ. The apostles preached Christ as the divine "way"; but when men
believed on him, he straightway "set the members every one of them
_in the body_"--the church (1 Cor. 12:18). "And the Lord added _to
the church_ daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47). They preached
Christ as the personification of "truth." But they also taught that
the gospel was a special "treasure" committed to the church for
dispensing to the nations. Paul said that God hath "committed _unto
us_ the word of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:19). Therefore he could
represent the church of God "as the pillar and ground of the
truth." They preached him as "life," but he was also the life of the
collective body of believers as well as of individuals. He dwelt in
his church. He was its life, and through it he manifested himself
in the only form in which, since the incarnation, he can be fully
exhibited to men.

[Sidenote: Avoiding extremes]

The fact that Romanism has stressed the "church" idea, parading before
the world as the church an organic body devoid of true spiritual life,
a mere corpse, is no reason justifying a view which, ignoring the
practical church relationship taught in the New Testament, talks
glibly of an ethereal, intangible, ghostly something which, without a
body, lacks all practical contact with men. The Bible standard is the
proper union of soul and body. It is certain that, as in apostolic
days, such union is necessary to the proper exhibition of the divine
life and absolutely essential to the full accomplishment of the divine
purposes in Christ's great redemptive plan.

Christ, the life of his spiritual body, and the life-giver, remains
the same in all ages. Hence the church _body_ is the part that has
been disrupted and corrupted by apostasy and sectarianism, and is
therefore the sphere of reformatory effort. And while reformation
pertains to historical Christianity, it implies, as we have already
shown, a return to the primitive standard. Therefore, before
proceeding to describe particularly the present reformation, we must
give attention to the constitution of the apostolic church, the divine


The Church in Apostolic Days

=The Last Reformation=



[Sidenote: The term "church"]

The word "church" as used in the New Testament is, in most cases,
derived from the Greek word _ekklesia_. The component parts of this
word literally mean to summon or call together in public convocation.
It was, therefore, used to designate any popular assembly which met
for the transaction of public business. As an example of the secular
use of the term, see Acts 19: 32, 39. This particular application of
the word, however, does not here concern us.

Since the word _ekklesia_ conveys the idea of an assembly of "_called
ones_," it expresses beautifully the Christian's call to churchly
association. The divine call of believers is frequently expressed
in the New Testament: they are "called with an holy calling" (2 Tim.
1:9); "called in one body" (Col. 3:15); "called unto his kingdom and
glory" (1 Thess. 2:12); or, as Peter expresses it, "Ye are a chosen
generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people;
that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out
of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Pet. 2:9). While these texts
and many others describe the exalted rights and privileges accorded
the "called ones," there is distinctly implied the idea of their
organic association, and it was this association that constituted them
the Christian church.

[Sidenote: Its two Christian phases]

"The church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood" (Acts
20: 28), is Clearly set forth in the New Testament. And the term
"church" in its religious usage is given two significations. In its
largest and primary signification, the church of God is the entire
body of regenerated persons in all times and places, and is in this
respect identical with the spiritual kingdom of God, the divine
family. In a secondary sense, church designates an individual assembly
in which the universal church takes local and temporary form and in
which the idea of the general church is concretely exhibited. Besides
these two significations of the Christian term "church," there are,
properly speaking, no other in the New Testament. It is true that
_ekklesia_ is sometimes used as a collective term to denote the body
of local churches existing in a given region, but there is no evidence
that these churches were bound together in groups by any outward
organization which separated or distinguished them from other
congregations of the general church. Therefore this use of the term
"church" can not be regarded as adding any new sense to those of the
general church and the local church already referred to.



Matt. 16:18 introduces in the gospel history the subject of the
church. Jesus said, "I will build my church; and the gates of hell
shall not prevail against it." This text implies that the church as
an institution was not yet founded, and it also clearly implies that
Christ himself was to be the founder and builder of his church.

Jesus had already preached that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, and
when he sent forth his twelve apostles he commanded them to preach
and say, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." Jesus himself taught
the doctrines of the kingdom, but in the words of our text there is
implied deeper ideas of the kingdom of God yet to be revealed in all
their fulness of meaning.

[Sidenote: The body of Christ]

We should divest our minds, temporarily at least, of preconceived
ideas of formal church organization and earnestly seek to understand
the real signification of that church of which Christ was himself
personally the founder. A few texts make this point clear: "And hath
put all things under his [Christ's] feet, and given him to be the head
over all things to the church, _which is his body_, the fulness of him
that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1: 22, 23). The church, then, is the
body of Christ. Of this body Jesus himself is the head. "And he is the
head of the body, the church ... that in all things he might have the
preeminence" (Col. 1:18). "For his body's sake, which is the church"
(verse 24). Christ is head of but one body. "There is _one_
body" (Eph. 4:4). In these texts the body and the church are used
interchangeably, referring to one and the same thing. The body of
which Christ is the head is the church that he built, "the church of
God, which he hath purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20: 28).

[Sidenote: The atonement its procuring cause]

It is therefore to Calvary that we must look for the specific act by
virtue of which Christ personally became the founder of his church.
_There_ it was "purchased with his own blood." _There_ we find the
application of those sublime words of the Savior, "And I, if I be
lifted up from the earth, _will draw all men_ UNTO ME" (John 12: 32).
By virtue of that act, God "put all things under his feet, and gave
him to be the head over all things to the church." Yea, by virtue
of that act, "God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name
which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should
bow,... and that every tongue should confess" (Phil. 2:9-11).

The church, then, proceeds from Calvary: Pentecost was but its initial
manifestation to men and its dedication for service. Of this we shall
have more to say hereafter.

[Sidenote: Composed of true Christians]

Since through his death Christ proposed to draw all men unto him, it
is evident that all the members of Christ are therefore members of his
body, the church. To this agrees the words of the apostle Paul, "For
as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same
office: so we [true Christians], being many, are _one body in Christ_,
and every one members one of another" (Rom. 12: 4, 5). "Now hath God
set the members _every one of them_ in the body, as it hath pleased
him" (1 Cor. 12:18).

[Sidenote: Mode of admission]

Becoming a member of the spiritual body of Christ is necessarily
a spiritual operation. Men may admit members to a formal church
relationship, but only the Spirit of God can make us members of
Christ. "For by one Spirit are we all baptized [or inducted] into one
body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and
have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:13). This
text does not refer to literal water-baptism, but to the work of the
"Spirit," by whom we are inducted into Christ. "_God hath set the
members_ every one of them in the body" (verse 18). And since this
is the work of the Spirit, it is evident that none but the saved can
possibly find admittance into the spiritual body of Christ. Under a
different figure Jesus conveys the same truth. "I am the door: by me
if _any man_ enter in, _he shall be saved_" (John 10: 9). "And the
Lord added to them day by day those that _were being saved_" (Acts
2:47, R.V.). Salvation, then, is the condition of membership.

[Sidenote: Family relationship]

The members of Christ are members of God's family. How do we become
members of the divine family? "Except a man _be born again_, he can
not see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). "As many as received him, to
them gave he power to become the sons of God ... which were _born ...
of God_" (John 1:12, 13). "Beloved, now are we the sons of God" (1
John 3:2). Since this family, or church, is composed of the saved,
or those who are born again, and excludes all the unsaved, we can
understand Paul's reference to "a glorious church, not having spot,
or wrinkle, or any such thing," but "_holy and without blemish_" (Eph.

We have spoken of the union of all believers with Christ when he draws
them unto himself and becomes their spiritual life. But this unity of
all believers _with Christ_ is a spiritual relationship and experience
not to be confused with external things. The Bible speaks of
Christians as being "in Christ." What does this mean? It certainly
means to be "born again," for without that experience we "can not see
the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). "Therefore if any man be _in Christ_,
HE IS A NEW CREATURE: old things are passed away; behold, all things
are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). "Whosoever abideth _in him_ sinneth
not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him" (1 John

[Sidenote: Unity of believers]

But our union with Christ, by which we become members of the divine
family, necessarily fixes our relationship with all those who are
members of Christ. If, through salvation, we are brought into a sacred
unity with Christ, we are by the same act brought into essential unity
and fellowship with the members of Christ. This the Word distinctly
affirms: "We, being many, are one body in Christ, and _every one
members one of another_" (Rom. 12: 4, 5). "There should be no schism
in the body; but the members should have the same care one for
another" (1 Cor. 12:25). While this last text relates literally to the
physical body, the apostle applies it in an illustrative way to
the spiritual body. "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in
particular" (verse 27).

[Sidenote: Unity and uniformity]

Harmony in a normal physical body is not effected by external means,
but is organic. The members may be many and diverse, but they are all
necessary and have their respective places and work. So also with
the body of Christ. Union with Christ is not dependent upon absolute
uniformity except in the one thing--the fundamental experience by
which we are made members of Christ. In the apostolic period the
children of God who loved our Lord and were known of him were not all
of one age or size or nationality. They had not all enjoyed the same
social advantages, nor had they had the same intellectual attainments.
The act of receiving Christ and his salvation did not perfect their
knowledge; therefore they had to be patiently taught in order to bring
them into the "unity of the faith." And for this purpose divinely
chosen instructors were appointed, who must themselves "study" and
give careful attention to "doctrine" (Eph. 4:11-14; 1 Tim. 3:13-16).
But the gospel penetrates beneath the surface; it goes straight to the
heart and reaches fundamental things. "There is neither Jew nor Greek;
there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: _for
ye are all one_ IN CHRIST JESUS" (Gal. 3:28).

The unity of believers with Christ is, therefore, based on divine
relationship, and _this is the fundamental basis of the true
relationship of believers with each other_. In order to maintain
spiritual relationship with Christ and his people, the Christian must
have an obedient heart and "walk in the light of the Lord"; but we
should always be ready to extend our fellowship to those whom Christ
really receives and approves.

How prone men have ever been to ignore this simple, divine standard
and set up arbitrary rules of their own by which to measure others!
This wrong tendency combined with the carnal ambitions of men who
love to parade their own unscriptural ideas before the world and gain
adherents has been the real cause of the disunion of Christians. But
the Bible standard is what we are now considering. It teaches that
the saved people were "members one of another" as well as members of
Christ; that they were, in fact, "_all one in Christ Jesus_."

[Sidenote: Unity a practical reality]

According to the New Testament standard, unity of believers is more
than an invisible, intangible, spiritual fellowship. They are "members
one of another" as well as members of Christ. That unity was designed
to be visible and to form a convincing sign to the world of the mighty
power of Christ. This stands out prominently in that notable prayer
of our Lord recorded in John 17, which was uttered on the most
solemn night of his earthly life. First he prayed for his immediate
disciples, then for all believers, in these words: "Neither pray I
for these [twelve] alone, but for them also which shall believe on me
through their word; THAT THEY ALL MAY BE ONE; as thou, Father, art in
me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: THAT THE WORLD MAY
BELIEVE _that thou hast sent me_" (verses 20, 21).

Such unity is a real standard. It will convince the world. The
practical force of this last scripture can not be lessened by
reference to those other words of Jesus, "By this shall all men know
that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another" (John 13:
35), for Jesus taught the inseparable nature of love and unity. Love,
as an inward affection, produces deeds and results, and is measured
thereby. Jesus said, "If a man love me, he will _keep my words_; and
my Father will love him, and we will _come unto him_, and _make our
abode with him_" (John 14: 23). And just as love to God invariably
produces union with God, so also true love to man will result in
unity. "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in
tongue; but _in deed and in truth_" (1 John 3:18). Carnal divisions
can not exist where true love reigns.

[Sidenote: Christ died for unity]

For this visible unity Christ prayed--"That they all may be one,...
_that the world may believe_." More than this, he died that unity
might be effected. John 11:52 clearly shows that one purpose of
Christ's death was that "he should gather together _in one_ the
children of God that were scattered abroad." Therefore unity of
believers is a sacred truth resting on the solid basis of the
atonement. That this unity is more than that general union resulting
from the personal attachment of separate individuals to Christ as a
common center, is proved by the fact that it is designed to gather
together in one the scattered _children of God_. Jesus himself said,
"Other sheep I have [Gentiles], which are not of this [Jewish] fold:
_them also I must bring_, and they shall hear my voice; and THERE

[Sidenote: Jew and Gentile united]

Broadly speaking, there were at that time but two classified divisions
of men--Jews and Gentiles. Jesus predicted that his sheep from both
sections should be brought together into one flock. In the second
chapter of Ephesians, Paul tells us how this was accomplished.
Although "in times past" the Gentiles were "strangers from the
covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world," in
Christ they were "made nigh by the blood." "For he is our peace,
who hath made both [Jews and Gentiles] ONE, and hath broken down the
middle wall of partition between us ... that he might reconcile
both unto God _in one body_ by the cross" (verses 12-16). Since this
glorious reunion through Christ, the Gentiles "are no more strangers
and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the
household of God." They also "are built upon the foundation of
the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief
corner-stone ... in whom ye also are builded together for an
habitation of God through the Spirit" (verses 19-22).

On account of the high standard of unity set forth in his epistles,
Paul has been branded an idealist. But what shall we say of Christ who
prayed for such visible unity and died for it? An idealist is one
who forms picturesque fancies, one given to romantic expectations
impossible of accomplishment. The idealist usually has but few
practical results. But Paul accomplished things. He broke away from
his Jewish prejudices, which brought down upon his head the wrath of
his fellows. He went into the synagogs of the Jews and brought out
those who were willing to become disciples of Jesus. To build up the
work of the Lord he labored night and day with tears; he laid broad
and deep the very foundations of the Christian faith in heathen lands.
Within a very few years he established Christian churches in four
provinces of the Roman Empire--churches in which Jew and Gentile met
together in common fellowship, _in one body_. If this is idealism,
Lord, give us many more such idealists.

[Sidenote: The burden of Paul's ministry]

But the unity described by Paul in the epistles which he wrote late in
life is not given as a mere ideal standard for the future toward which
men should strive. It is given as the record of a historic fact, the
accomplishment of which lay at the very foundation of Paul's call to
the ministry.

In the second chapter of Ephesians, already quoted, Paul declares
that both Jews and Gentiles were reconciled to God in one body _by the
cross_. In the next chapter he shows his part in the accomplishment of
that end. First, he was called of God as the apostle of the Gentiles;
then by revelation was made known unto him "the mystery of Christ
which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men ...
that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and OF THE SAME BODY, and
partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel" (Eph. 3:4-6). The
promise referred to was doubtless the "promise of the Father," the
gift of the Holy Ghost. "That the blessing of Abraham might come on
the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the _promise
of the Spirit through faith_" (Gal. 3:14). "For this cause," says
Paul, "I was made a minister ... that I should preach among the
Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and _to make all men see_
what is the fellowship of the mystery ... to the intent that now unto
the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known BY THE
CHURCH the manifold wisdom of God" (Eph. 3: 1-10).

[Sidenote: Was divinely attested]

Paul was given a tremendous task--"TO MAKE ALL MEN SEE" that mystery.
This task required from God "the effectual working of his power"
(verse 7). And in another place he also shows that this power was not
lacking: "For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which
Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word
and deed, through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit
of God" (Rom. 15: 18, 19).

Paul, then, was divinely commissioned "_to make all men see_" the
mystery of this union of all classes of men "_in one body_ by the
cross" (Eph. 2: 16), all in "the SAME body, and partakers of his
promise in Christ by the gospel" (Eph. 3: 6). And when Paul's career
was finished, the same mystery was given over to others that it might
be "known BY THE CHURCH" (verse 10), "the church, which is his body"
(Eph. 1: 22, 23). The ministry, then, should have held the ground
already attained, the actual union of all the saved in one body, and
have labored earnestly "to make all men see" that that body only is
the church.



The words of Christ, "I will build my church; and the gates of hell
shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16: 18), convey a deeper meaning
than the simple preaching of the kingdom. As we have already shown,
the one specific personal act by virtue of which Christ became the
founder of the church was his atonement on Calvary, where the church
was "purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20: 28). The church, then,
as an institution, resulted from the atonement. Paul, describing the
union of Jews and Gentiles in one body, the church, declares that it
was effected "by the cross" (Eph. 2: 16).

There was power in redemption. It brought into the lives of believers
forces that could not but unite them in social compact. It threw them
together in living sympathy and united their hearts firmly in the
strong bonds of brotherly love. Their outward organic union as a
church was the natural and inevitable result of this inward life and

[Sidenote: Local church defined]

By the impartation of spiritual life to believers and by the agency of
the Holy Spirit operating in the apostles as special agents appointed
to do his work, Christ built his church on earth. There was a building
of the church, then, which pertained specifically to its _local_
and _visible_ development among men. The expression "_I_ will build"
indicates the transcendent element, the divine element, in church
organization. This being true, it follows that the local church was
not merely an aggregate of individuals accidently gathered together,
but was the local, concrete embodiment of the spiritual body of
Christ; the unified company of regenerated persons who, as a body,
were dedicated to Christ, acknowledged of Christ, and used by Christ
through the Holy Spirit for the accomplishment of his work. Jerusalem
furnishes the first example, dating from Pentecost (Acts 2).

[Sidenote: Particular example: Corinth]

That this is, generally speaking, the Scriptural definition of a local
church of God, is further shown by another particular example. Paul
addressed two of his epistles "to the church of God which is at
Corinth" (1 Cor. 1: 2; 2 Cor. 1: 1). As individuals they are called
"saints" and "brethren," but collectively as a church they are called
"the church of God" and referred to as "God's building" (1 Cor. 3:
9). And the apostle says to them, "Know ye not that ye are a temple of
God, and that the _Spirit of God dwelleth in you_?" (verse 16, R.V.).
They had been inducted by the Spirit into the "_one body_," and they
were filled with the gifts of the Spirit--wisdom, knowledge, faith,
healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, and tongues (chap. 12). In
fact, the apostle said, "Ye come behind in no gift" (chap. 1: 7). And
he said particularly, "_Ye are the body of Christ_" (chap. 12: 27).

A true local church, then, was the concrete embodiment of the
spiritual body of Christ in a given place. It was the body of Christ
because it was made up of the people of God, manifested the power of
God, was the repository of the truth of God, was filled with the
gifts of the Spirit of God, and was actually used by the Spirit in
performing the works of God. Such characteristics made it "_the church
of God_."

[Sidenote: Local membership]

Membership in the general body of Christ was conditioned solely on
the new birth, or salvation. Since the individual church was the local
embodiment of the general church, none but the saved could properly
become members thereof, and all who were truly saved (in the same
locality) belonged to it by divine right. At this point, however, the
human element in the constitution of the local church became manifest.
We have pointed out the divine element in the true church--the element
that particularly distinguished it as the church of God, but the
bringing together of many individuals in one assembly involved also a
social element and required the principle of _recognition_. There
is, however, no evidence that such recognition was given by a formal,
official act of the church in its corporate capacity. And since
salvation is of the heart, it was possible for human recognition to
temporarily miss its true purpose. Thus, in the church at Jerusalem
we find recognized as a constituent part of the assembly two false
members--Ananias and Sapphira. On the other hand, when the converted
Saul "was come to Jerusalem, he essayed to join himself to the
disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he
was a disciple" (Acts 9: 26). The church at Corinth, already referred
to, had some false members at the time the Pauline epistles were
written. The church at Samaria also tolerated for a time one whose
"heart was not right in the sight of God" (Acts 8).

[Sidenote: A holy church]

Since the local church was designed to exhibit concretely the
spiritual body of Christ, none but saved persons could _properly_
hold membership therein; therefore the local church when in its normal
condition was free from sin and sinners. The physical body, which
Paul uses to illustrate the spiritual body, is normal only when every
member possesses the life of the body and functions properly. So also
was the body of Christ. It was not God's will that there should be
(as recognized members) "sinners in the congregation of the righteous"
(Psa. 1: 5). It was his will to purge Jerusalem "by the spirit of
judgment and by the spirit of burning" until "_he that is left_ in
Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called _holy_,
even _every one_ that is written among the living in Jerusalem" (Isa.

[Sidenote: Discernment and judgement necessary]

The local congregation in Jerusalem did not cease to be the church
of God because two unworthy persons obtained recognition in it. This
incident gave occasion for the church to manifest its inherent _life_
by its ability to discern and then cast off the secret offenders just
as a healthy physical body casts off effete matter. As a result of the
judgment pronounced on Ananias and Sapphira, "great fear came upon all
the church ... and of the rest _durst no man join himself to them_;
but the people magnified them" (Acts 5:11, 13). The fiery judgments
of God put an end to formal church-joining there, as a result of which
"believers were the more _added to the Lord_, multitudes both of men
and women" (verse 14). "And the Lord added to them day by day those
that were being saved" (Acts 2:47, R.V.).

A clean, pure local church was the divine standard. It is evident that
such could never be obtained and maintained except by the power of the
Holy Spirit, who discerned evil and prompted its elimination. Peter
discerned the condition of the two false members in the church at
Jerusalem and removed that blemish. He also exposed the hypocrisy
of Simon at Samaria, and Paul pointed out the evil affection in the
church at Corinth and directed its removal. Chief responsibility
for the maintenance of the normal condition of the church will be
considered in our discussion of the particular features of church
organization and government.

[Sidenote: Apostasy possible]

We have shown the characteristic, spiritual features of a New
Testament congregation in its normal condition; also the possibility
of deviation from that standard. A practical question is, How far
could such a congregation lapse into an abnormal state and still be
a church of God? Or, Can a church as a body backslide? The church at
Ephesus evidently was on the verge of such an apostasy. Therefore in
the special message addressed to it in Revelation the Lord said: "I
have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the
first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and _will remove
thy candlestick_ out of his place" (Rev. 2: 4, 5). So also the church
at Laodicea. "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I
would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art luke warm, and
neither cold nor hot, _I will spew thee out of my mouth_" (Rev. 3: 15,

[Sidenote: The line of distinction]

The physical body may experience the mutilation of some of its members
and still survive, but there is a limit beyond which death will ensue.
So also the spiritual body may survive the encumbrance of a few
false members. From the general facts and principles already adduced,
however, we may safely assert that a local church is a church of God
only so long as it is able to function properly _as a body_. As long
as the Spirit of God is in the ascendency, so that the people of God
as a body manifest the power of God, maintain the truth of God, are
filled with the Spirit of God, and are actually used by the Spirit
in performing the works of God, so long they are the church of God.
Whenever another spirit gains the ascendency and the divine, spiritual
characteristics are lost to view, then is brought to pass the saying
that is written, "_I will spew thee out of my mouth_." Beyond that
time they may continue their formal services, singing hymns, saying
prayers, and making speeches; but the real message of God describing
their condition is, as was true of Sardis, "Thou hast a name that thou
livest, _and art dead_" (Rev. 3: 1). Such dead congregations are no
longer a part of the true church and are unworthy of the recognition
of spiritual congregations.



[Sidenote: The fact of organization]

We have already shown that the words of Christ "I will build my
church" have a deeper meaning than the simple preaching of the
kingdom. They imply the formation of an organized structure against
which even the gates of hell should not prevail. They can signify
nothing less than the visible establishment of the church among men as
the concrete embodiment of the divine kingdom or family. The church,
then, as made up of local congregations, is an institution of divine
appointment. This is shown by the words of Christ in Matt. 18: 17,
according to which it sometimes becomes necessary in admonishing
and disciplining trespassers to "_tell it unto the church_"; and the
appellation "church of _God_" is frequently applied to individual
congregations (1 Cor. 1: 2, et al.).

Many teachers hold that Christ did not build a church and that the
"form of church organization is not definitely prescribed in the New
Testament, but is a matter of expediency, every body of believers
being permitted to adopt that method of organization which best suits
its circumstances and condition." Such is the Protestant view
put forth by those who seek an excuse for the modern system of
sect-building. The incorrectness of this theory is easily shown.
First, as we shall see, it underestimates the need of divine direction
in church relationship and ignores well-established facts in the New
Testament history. Secondly, if it proves anything, it proves too
much; for to admit such a principle of "church powers" is to admit
that the papacy and every other human system of church control is
justified--systems which can be historically shown to be subversive of
the church as a spiritual body.

That the church was actually organized into local assemblies in
apostolic days is abundantly shown by the New Testament record. They
had regular meetings at stated times (Heb. 10:25; Acts 20:7; I Cor.
16:12); officers (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2; Eph. 4:11, 12); recognized
authority (1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:17); discipline (1 Cor. 5:13; 2 Thess.
3:6, 10-14); a system of contributions (1 Cor. 16:1, 2); ordinances
(Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 10:16; 11: 23-29); a common work, etc. On one
occasion Paul instructed Titus to "_set in order_ the things that are
wanting, and ordain elders in every city" (Tit. 1:5).

[Sidenote: By whom effected]

The words of Jesus "I will build my church" point us to the Christ
as its real founder. Since the life and genius of the church is
the superhuman element, which element must at all times be given
precedence over mere outward forms and human characteristics, and
since this life proceeds from Christ as the Redeemer of men, therefore
in all fundamental aspects he is the personal founder of the church.
But more than this, working by proxy, Jesus gave even external form to
his church, employing for this purpose his chosen apostles, to whom
he gave special instruction and authority. Even during his personal
ministry Jesus performed some of his work by proxy. It is expressly
stated that he baptized many (John 3: 22; 4: 1), and yet explanation
is made that "Jesus himself baptized not, _but his disciples_" (John
4: 2).

So also in the organization of the church. The germ of that
organization existed during Christ's personal ministry. Doctrine
was given, ministers preached, baptism was administered, and people
believed, but this embryonic organization could not be completely
established as a church before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore provision was made for its progressive development under the
tutelage of specially inspired apostles. Doctrine was given gradually,
yet invariably through the oral and written teaching of these inspired
apostles. Therefore we can not but believe that the same invariable
guidance of the Holy Spirit also perfected through them God's own plan
of church organization and work. The gradual development of church
organization under the labors of the apostles, therefore, no more
proves the theory of a constant historic development than does the
fact of a gradual unfolding of the Christian faith and doctrine by
the apostles prove a constant and unending revelation of the gospel
through all succeeding ages. One writer has well said, "The same
promise of the Spirit which renders the New Testament an unerring and
sufficient rule of faith renders it also an unerring and sufficient
_rule of practise_ for the church in all places and times." We
must therefore regard the organization of the church, as we do the
unfolding of the gospel message, as complete in all its fundamental
and essential aspects before the close of the sacred canon.

[Sidenote: Apostolic agency]

There is no doubt that the apostles occupied a special place in the
divine establishment of the church and its message. Regarded as a
temple, the church is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and
prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone" (Eph. 2:
20). The Old Testament Scripture "came not in old time by the will of
man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost"
(2 Pet. 1: 21). But now we read, "God, who at sundry times and in
divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
hath in these last days _spoken unto us_ BY HIS SON" (Heb. 1: 1, 2).
Moses, representative of the law, and Elias, representative of the
prophets, appeared in glory on the Mount of Transfiguration; but
when Peter suggested that they be accorded equal honors with Jesus,
immediately a cloud overshadowed the company and a voice out of the
cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; HEAR
YE HIM." "And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man,
save _Jesus only_" (Matt. 17:1-8).

[Sidenote: Model for all ages]

The revelation of divine truth, therefore, as the foundation of our
faith, reached its highest level in the Son. We need not look for
another gospel--_hear him_. He has also said, "I will build my
church"; hence we need not look for another church--HEAR HIM! Paul
declares that the gospel with its revelation of the "mystery" of the
union of the saved in one body, the church, was in his day "_made
manifest_," and, "according to the commandment of the everlasting God,
made known to all nations _for the obedience of faith_" (Rom. 16:25,
26). See Eph. 2; 3:1-10. While therefore Christ was the author of
the truth in its highest form of revelation, also the founder of his
church, both reached their fulness of perfection under the inspired
apostles and was by them "made known to all nations _for the obedience
of faith_." The unity of all believers for which Christ solemnly
prayed was to be accomplished through the direct agency of the
apostles, the result of believing on Christ "_through_ THEIR _Word_"
(John 17:20).

In describing how both Jews and Gentiles were reconciled in one body
by the cross, Paul says that God "hath raised us up together, and made
us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: _that in the ages
to come_ he might show the exceeding riches of his grace" (Eph. 2: 6,
7). The unified church of the apostolic day is therefore the divine
model for all succeeding ages.

[Sidenote: Paul's relation thereto]

Since the first apostles were employed as special agents in
establishing the perfected New Testament church, Paul's connection
therewith is of particular importance. Paul was not one of the
original twelve, yet he exerted a tremendous influence in that period
and was undoubtedly one of the chief agents used in establishing the
church and fixing its external form and character.

Many believe that Paul belonged among the twelve as the real successor
of Judas. According to this view, the election of Matthias to the
apostleship was without divine sanction, being proposed by the
impetuous Peter, who, before the descent of the Holy Ghost, often
proposed inadvised things. Strength is given this view by the
oft-repeated assertion of Paul that he was an apostle, "not of men,
neither by men, but by Jesus Christ" (Gal. 1: 1). We are not forced to
that conclusion concerning Matthias, however. In writing the Acts of
the Apostles, Luke the companion of Paul, records the appointment of
Matthias without intimating that it was a mistake. In Scripture usage
a certain parallelism is maintained between the twelve apostles of the
Lamb and the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. When we recall
that there were literally thirteen tribes in Israel, Ephriam and
Manasseh standing for Joseph, we need not be surprized that there
should be literally thirteen foundational apostles in the Christian
church, Matthias and Paul standing, as it were, in the place of Judas.

There can be no doubt that Paul really ranked with the Twelve. He
was a "chosen vessel," the "apostle of the Gentiles." Although as one
"born out of due time," he himself saw Jesus and from him received the
entire gospel by direct revelation. Consequently the other apostles
possessed no advantage over him. He himself says, "The gospel which
was preached of me was not after man. For I neither received it of
man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ"
(Gal. 1:11, 12). He "was not a whit behind the very chiefest
apostles" (2 Cor. 11:5). And it was through Paul particularly that
the revelation of the "mystery" was made complete--"that both Jews and
Gentiles should be fellow heirs and of _the_ SAME _body_," and he was
commissioned "_to make all men see_" it.

The general church was, therefore, made up of various local
congregations, which were "set in order" by apostolic authority. The
essential nature of this organization is determined by the object for
which these congregations were formed, the conditions of membership
therein, and the kind of laws by which they were governed.

[Sidenote: Nature of its organization]

The primary object for which the local church was formed was the
establishment and extension of the kingdom of God among men. A
secondary object was the encouragement and mutual edification of the
believers themselves, which was best obtained by united worship in
prayer, exhortation, praise, thanksgiving, and religious instruction.

We have already noted the conditions of membership in the local
church. None but those who were already members of the body of Christ
could properly be recognized as members in a congregation which was
designed by Christ to exhibit in local and temporary form the
true idea of the church universal. According to this standard of
membership, every individual owed allegiance directly to Christ
himself as the great head of the church. Christ was the only lawgiver.
The relation of the individual to the local church, then, did not
in any sense supersede his personal relations to Christ, but simply
strengthened and further expressed this higher relationship.

In this standard of church-membership is found the secret of the union
in one body of all apostolic Christians. The standard was _personal
relationship to Christ_, and this relationship could be obtained
only by an experience of salvation and humble obedience to the law
of Christ. Therefore all the truly saved were members of Christ and
members of each other. This standard being the same for all, it led
to absolute equality among members. Hence Paul could say, "There
is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is
neither male nor female: for ye are all one _in Christ Jesus_" (Gal.

The law of the church, as already stated, was simply "the law of
Christ"; first as delivered orally by specially inspired apostles, and
afterwards expressed by them in the Christian Scriptures.

[Sidenote: Organization and government]

The closest relationship necessarily existed between the organization
of the church and its method of government. It is impossible for us
to get a clear conception of either independently of the other; and
in order to understand the subject at all, we must bear in mind the
fundamental nature of the church itself, what it was and what it was
designed to accomplish. The church was not, as we have seen, a mere
aggregate of individuals that happened to gather or that assembled for
ordinary purposes. A social club or a business organization would have
possessed all those features. The church was the body of Christ, the
body to which he gave spiritual life and through which he designed
to manifest his power and glory. Hence its visible organization was
secondary, merely incidental as the means for the accomplishment
of those higher ends involved in the transcendental element of the
church. The relation of the divine and the human characteristics was,
therefore, the relation of _soul and body_--Christ, the soul; redeemed
humanity, the body. The establishment of this relationship was
the manifestation to the world of the "body of Christ." It was
organization of the church.

From the foregoing considerations, we are certain that in the
apostolic church the real emphasis was placed on _life_ and that the
governmental power and authority of the church was derived from its
divine life in Christ and not from its organization. Apostolic church
government was, therefore, more than the adoption of some particular
form of external organization and administration.

[Sidenote: Divine administration]

The origin of the church was divine. Jesus said, "I will build my
church." And though, as we have seen, he employed human agents in its
completion, these agents were so specially inspired and directed by
Christ through the Holy Spirit that it was in reality _his_ work.
Jesus was not only the initial founder of the church, but he was its
permanent head and governor. Isaiah, predicting the coming of Christ,
declares that "the government _shall be upon_ HIS _shoulder_" (Isa.
9:6). And again, we read that "HE _is the head of the body, the church
... that in all things he might have the preeminence_" (Col. 1:18). He
it was who called and commissioned Paul and then personally directed
his ministerial labors (Acts 26:13-19; 16:6-9). He it was who
walked in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, encouraging or
reproving the congregations of Asia (Rev. 1:17, et seq.). He is
"alive forever more" (Rev. 1:18); "the same yesterday, and today, and
forever" (Heb. 13: 8); "upholding all things by the word of his power"
(Heb. 1:3). "To him be glory _in the church_ ... throughout all ages,
world without end. Amen" (Eph. 3:21).

[Sidenote: Christ the living head]

Thus, the general nature of church government was an absolute
monarchy, or, to use a better term, a theocracy. Christ was king and
lawgiver, governor and administrator. Whoever the instruments employed
in carrying out his purposes, whatever the scope of their particular
activities, all were governed directly by Christ through the Holy
Spirit. It was _his_ church. He was its living head. No other church
was known in those days. It was only when the living, vital union of
Christ with his church was lost to view that men began endeavoring
to strengthen the bonds of external union by unscriptural human
organization, just as when life is departed from the physical body we
seek by an embalming process to prevent its speedy dissolution.

[Sidenote: Delegated authority]

In order to understand church government, therefore, we must begin
at the central source of authority and proceed to its varied
manifestations. We have seen that Christ employed human agents in
accomplishing his work; hence, in thus performing the work of Christ
as commanded by Christ, and as personally directed by the Spirit of
Christ, these men possessed the _authority of Christ_. Any church
governmental authority that does not proceed directly from Christ
through his Holy Spirit is but human authority, an usurped authority,
and has no place in the real church of Christ.

[Sidenote: Ministerial oversight]

The apostles were the first to whom Christ delegated authority. They
became his special representatives. They established the church and
became responsible for its general direction and oversight, "the Lord
working with them, and confirming the word with signs following" (Mark
16:20). But these twelve did not stand alone in the government of
the church. Soon a host of ministers were raised up, and these also
possessed divine authority for their representative lines of work.
To the elders of Ephesus, Paul said, "Take heed therefore unto
yourselves, and to all the flock, over which _the Holy Ghost hath made
you overseers_, to feed the church of God" (Acts 20:28). Peter also
writes: "The elders which are among you I exhort ... feed the flock of
God which is among you, _taking the oversight thereof_" (1 Pet. 5:1,
2). "The Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work
whereunto _I have called them_ ... so they, _being sent forth by the
Holy Ghost_, departed" (Acts 13: 2-4). "AND HE GAVE some, apostles;
and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and
teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the
ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:11, 12). In
accordance with this standard, we read, "Obey them that have the rule
over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, _as
they that must give account_" to him who is "that great shepherd
of the sheep" (Heb. 13:17, 20). The ministers were under-shepherds
appointed to feed the flock of God, for which service they had to give
account to the great Shepherd.

The foregoing scriptures and many others show conclusively that, while
in the apostolic church spiritual oversight was, in general, vested in
the ministry, it did not originate with them; that it did not proceed
from the general body of believers by a majority vote or by conference
appointment; but that it came by the Holy Spirit direct from the great
head of the church, who alone determined the general bounds of that
authority and responsibility. This ministry, or presbytery, consisted
of two classes--local ministers and general ministers. Before
proceeding from this general classification to a discussion of the
more specific duties and responsibilities of the individual ministers
comprising this presbytery, I shall call attention briefly to the
geographical distribution of their work as a body.

[Sidenote: Local and general phase]

We have already shown that the church in its visible phase was made up
of various local congregations "set in order" by apostolic authority.
So far as their own local affairs were concerned, these congregations
were autonomous. When a matter was purely local, such as the financial
oversight and ministration in the church at Jerusalem, the local
congregation itself determined the course of action and (excepting
that class of officials who were divinely chosen) who should be
appointed to oversee it. In the Jerusalem example cited, the apostles
suggested, "_Look ye out among you_ seven men," etc., "and the saying
pleased the whole multitude: _and they chose_" the proper persons for
that work (Acts 6:1-5).

But while these congregations possessed such autonomy and were
distributed over a wide territory, they were not in all respects
independent, isolated units. As members of Christ sharing in a common
life and engaged in a common cause, they were bound together in one
brotherhood by ties of fellowship and love. In addition to the union
of separate individuals in one locality under the care of the local
presbytery, the local congregations themselves were brought into
close, sympathetic relationship with one another through the labors
and influence of those general ministers who were not attached to
particular churches, but whose gifts, callings, and qualifications
fitted them for general service throughout the various congregations.
The responsibility and authority of these general ministers varied in
accordance with their own gifts and qualifications and the degree of
development attained by the churches among which they labored. In
the case of infant churches, it is evident that oversight was of
the apostolic kind--direct and immediate. But whenever they became
thoroughly established, the principle of local autonomy was recognized
and the relation of the general ministers to such congregations
was evangelistic rather than apostolic--helpers and advisors, not
administrative directors.

[Sidenote: Geographical distribution]

That the foregoing analysis is correct is abundantly proved by the
history of events in the Acts respecting the geographical distribution
of the churches and their relation to one another. Jerusalem was the
original seat of Christianity. Isaiah prophesied, "Out of Zion shall
go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isa. 2:3).
Jesus told the apostles "that repentance and remission of sins should
be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem"
(Luke 24:47). And again, "Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in
Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost
part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Philip went from Jerusalem to Samaria
and there preached Christ with great success. "Now when the apostles
which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of
God, _they sent unto them Peter and John_" (Acts 8:14). Later we
read that when churches had been established throughout all Judea and
Galilee and Samaria, "it came to pass, _as Peter passed throughout all
quarters_, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda" (Acts
9: 31, 32). It was while he was on this general tour visiting the
churches that he came to Joppa and there received the vision which led
him to the household of Cornelius, after which he came to Jerusalem
and was there called to account for his action in visiting the
uncircumcised Gentiles.

There is no doubt that there was exerted from Jerusalem a general
care over the surrounding churches. Some of the disciples who were
scattered from Jerusalem at the time of persecution, went as far as
Cyprus and Antioch, preaching the word, and many believed and turned
to the Lord. "Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the
church which was in Jerusalem: _and they sent forth Barnabas_ that
he should go as far as Antioch" (Acts 11: 19-22). Barnabas went to
Antioch and there found such a splendid work that he departed at once
for Tarsus seeking Saul, and together they returned to Antioch and
preached for a whole year.

[Sidenote: Operative centers]

While this principle of general superintendence of infant churches
originated with the apostles themselves, it was extended to others who
were not of the first apostles. Barnabas and Saul were successful at
Antioch and there established the first Christian community outside
the confines of Judaism, as the result of which Antioch became the
seat of Gentile Christianity. Shortly afterwards "certain prophets and
teachers" in the church at Antioch, men who were not of the original
apostles, were directed by the Holy Ghost to send forth Barnabas
and Saul on their first missionary journey, and they went forth
establishing local churches and afterwards setting them in order by
ordaining elders, after which these ministers returned to Antioch,
gathered the church together, and gave them a report of their work.
Antioch was, therefore, an operative center.

At a later time Paul established the truth in Ephesus, the chief city
of Proconsular Asia. As might naturally be expected from the strategic
position and political importance of that city, Ephesus also became
an operative center for Christianity, "so that all they which dwelt
in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks" (Acts
19:10). Thessalonica in Macedonia and Corinth in Achaia are other
examples of the kind.

[Sidenote: Regional units]

The work of the church naturally fell into these geographical units;
therefore the word "church" is sometimes used as a collective term
designating a body of regional congregations. The church "throughout
all Judea and Galilee and Samaria" (Acts 9:31), "the seven churches
which are in Asia" (Rev. 1:11), "the churches of Macedonia" (2 Cor.
8:1), "the churches of Galatia" (1 Cor. 16:1).

We must bear in mind, however, that this regional concept of the
church was not an integral part of fundamental apostolic church
government, but was merely incidental, the result of geographical
location. In fundamental analysis distinctions are always drawn
between things that are _different_, not between things of the same
kind. These regional churches were not different kinds of churches;
they were not bound together in separate groups by an external
organization which placed a wall between them and other congregations
of the saints. There was no authority here for the national-church
theory nor for the sectarian church idea. Geographical separation
there was, but not denominationalism.

[Sidenote: Common bond of unity]

We have already shown from Paul's writings that under his ministry
both Jews and Gentiles were united in one body, "the _same_ body."
That these regional units to which we have referred were no denial of
this clear truth, but that collectively they constituted one body, is
further shown by the indications we have of their _operative unity_.
Notwithstanding the poor facilities for communication and travel
in those days, which made general cooperation very difficult, and
notwithstanding the fact that the record of historic Christianity in
the Acts is exceedingly brief, we have, nevertheless, clear proof that
there was cooperation throughout the apostolic church. Two instances,
one of a business nature, the other ecclesiastical, establish
this point. The churches of at least three provinces of the Roman
Empire--Galatia, Macedonia, and Achaia--united under Paul's direction
in establishing a weekly financial system, the immediate object of
which was to assist in accomplishing a particular object in which they
were all interested (2 Cor. 8:9; 1 Cor. 16:1-3). The ecclesiastical
example is the council of the apostles and elders held in Jerusalem
and recorded in Acts 15. A question of doctrine and practise arose in
Antioch; the church there was not able to settle it; therefore it
was "determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other with them,
should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this
question" (verse 2).

This was not a general council of the church. No other sections or
provinces were represented. Nor did it meet as a legislative body,
even though there were present specially inspired apostles, to whom
had been given the commission to unfold the gospel as an authoritative
revelation. It is clear that the ministers of this council even sought
to avoid the legislative function. "For it seemed good to the Holy
Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these
necessary things" (verse 28). While this incident does not prove
an administrative human headship of the whole church centralized at
Jerusalem, it does prove that the individual congregations were not
isolated units, but that they had respect for, and sought the advice
and counsel of, older established congregations, and particularly of
those general ministers whose gifts, qualifications, and reputation
fitted them for general care of all the churches.

When we consider the divine nature of the church's organization,
with the ever-living Christ working mightily in all his ministers and
through them in particular administering its government, we can see
that the entire church was necessarily one body joined together in a
common fellowship and actually laboring together in the performance of
common tasks.

[Sidenote: Bishop and elder]

The presbytery, to whom was given particular oversight and government
of the church, was set apart by the Holy Ghost for this special work.
Different terms, such as "elder" and "bishop," were used to designate
this office. The term "bishop," which literally means _overseer_,
implies the duties of the office, while "elder" denotes its rank. That
these terms were used interchangeably and applied to the same order
of persons is proved by Acts 20:28 (cf. 17); Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1, 8;
Tit. 1:5, 7; 1 Pet. 5:1, 2. This was admitted by many early writers,
as Jerome, Augustine, Urban II, Petrus Lombardus, Chrysostom,
Theodoret, and others.

From the general classification already given, let us proceed to the
specific. This body was made up of elders or bishops. The fact that
the terms "elder" and "bishop" were applied to all the presbyters
shows equality of rank; that the office was one. We find, however,
that these elders as individuals were diversified in their gifts and
callings in accordance with the specific work which the Holy Ghost
designed them to perform. Under one classification there were, broadly
speaking, two kinds of elders--local and general; that is, those whose
sphere of operation was particularly local and those whose influence,
work, and responsibility extended beyond any congregational
limitation. This distinction was not made arbitrarily, however; for
it was essential to the performance of the twofold class of work to be
done and was the inevitable result of that operation of the Spirit
in individual ministers which fitted them particularly for these
distinctive lines of activity.

[Sidenote: Divine gifts]

To be still more specific, we must go a step farther and consider the
reason why and the process by which ministers became differentiated
from other saints. In this we shall find the inner secret, both of
particular spiritual organization and of divine church government. The
apostle says, "By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body" and
"God hath set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath
pleased him" (1 Cor. 12:13, 18). These texts suggest more than a mere
attachment to the body: they imply _functional activity in the body_.
The functions of the body as described by Paul means the exercise of
spiritual gifts. "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same
Spirit ... there are diversities of operations, but it is the same
God _which worketh all in all_. But the manifestation of the Spirit is
given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit
the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same
Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of
healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to
another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers
kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues; but all
these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man
severally as he will" (1 Cor. 12: 4-11).

[Sidenote: Basis of ministerial authority]

The foregoing scripture is a mere enumeration of the gifts that God
implanted in the church as a body. The more particular application of
these gifts and their relation to church organization and government
are given further on in the same chapter. "Now ye are the body of
Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the
church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after
that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities
of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are
all workers of miracles? have all the gifts of healing? do all speak
with tongues? do all interpret? _But covet earnestly the best gifts_"
(verses 27-31).

Comparison of verses 4 to 11 with verses 27 to 31 of the chapter just
quoted shows conclusively that one is the counterpart of the other,
the latter merely amplifying and explaining the former. From this
clear teaching it is evident that the work of apostleship, of
teaching, of governing, etc., were all based upon and grew out of
divine gifts implanted in the heart by the Holy Spirit.

The same truth is taught by Paul in another place. Speaking of Christ,
the apostle says, "When he ascended up on high, he ... _gave gifts
unto men_ ... and he gave some, _apostles_; and some, _prophets_;
and some, _evangelists_; and some, _pastors_ and _teachers_; for
the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the
edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4: 8-12).

According to these scriptures, the very governmental positions of the
church with their authority and responsibility were the product of
those gifts and qualifications bestowed upon certain individuals in
particular. Such gifts could be legitimately coveted with a view to
spiritual edification of the body (1 Cor. 12:31; 14:12). "If a man
desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work" (1 Tim. 3:1).
"Helps" doubtless included that class of assistants commonly called
deacons (1 Tim. 3:8-11).

Since in the primitive church organization and government were
determined by the divine gifts and callings possessed by individuals,
it is evident that we have in this something totally different
from that later conception of church government as a mere human
arrangement. At a subsequent time, as we shall show, church government
was patterned after the forms of political government in that it was
vested inherently in men. Four such forms have been developed--the
imperial, or papal; the episcopal; the presbyterial; and the
congregational. While these four differ in external form, they are all
alike in fundamental character, in that they assume that the governing
power rests inherently in _men_.

None of these forms of government represent the New Testament church.
The organization and government of that church was based upon the
_charisma_, or divine gifts and callings, of individuals composing the
church. The power and authority of an apostle or of an evangelist, for
example, did not rest upon any selection or appointment made by
men. The church did not act in a corporate capacity and confer
ecclesiastical power and authority upon any one. All such power and
authority came direct from God through the Holy Spirit, and it was
in God's name and by his authority alone that they acted. The
organization of the church was therefore charismatic. If, for example,
the gifts of an apostle were conferred by the Holy Spirit upon an
individual, he possessed apostolic responsibility and authority. The
brethren recognized such gifts when these were evident, and submitted
themselves voluntarily to such spiritual leadership and oversight; for
at this period there had not been developed that ecclesiastical system
by which human election and appointment gave positions and authority
to men. In fact, we shall clearly show later that the true church can
not be _legally_ organized. Every attempt of men to assume the reins
of authority and give governmental form and administrative direction
to the church has been denominational and sectarian.

[Sidenote: Ordination]

The true church was the whole family of God directed by his
Holy Spirit. Ministerial appointment, with its authority and
responsibility, was therefore divine. We have seen that through the
spiritual operation called the new birth, one became a member of
Christ, and hence by divine right belonged to whichever congregation
of the church he might be able to associate with; but that in
practical experience, such local membership involved recognition on
the part of the other members. So it was with the divine appointment
to the ministry. The only other essential to its practical operation
was simply recognition of that call. Such recognition, in the last
analysis, belonged to the whole church (1 Tim. 3: 2-7; Tit. 1:
6-9), but was given formally by the laying on of the hands of the

[Sidenote: Plurality of local elders]

The development of ministers in an apostolic church was a divine,
natural process, the inevitable result of the emphasis placed on the
gifts and callings of the Spirit. This free exercise of the Spirit's
gifts working in the members doubtless accounts for the plurality of
ruling elders found in those local churches. See Acts 14:23; 20:17;
Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 5:16, 17; Tit. 1:5. It could not be otherwise as
long as the churches were Spirit-filled, working congregations and
the Spirit of God had his way. The system that limited local church
government to a one-man rule originated in the apostasy, after the
gifts of the Spirit had died out. It is simply one part of that great
system of human organization that developed the full-grown papacy. Of
this we shall learn more hereafter.

The same principles that developed local ministers produced also
ministers of the general class. While some naturally became "pastors,"
"teachers," and "helpers" in the local church, particular gifts and
qualifications fitted others for "apostles" and "evangelists," whose
particular sphere was general oversight and work in the churches. The
prophet was not limited to either class.

[Sidenote: Apostolic oversight]

As it is not germane to my present purpose, I shall not here attempt
to define the various phases of ministerial work designated by various
terms but all included under the one generic term "elder." The work
described by the term "apostle," however, requires brief notice, on
account of its bearing on the subject of church government. The fact
that Paul had particular "care of all the churches" (2 Cor. 11:28)
and that he gave special instructions to Timothy and Titus, other
ministers (1 Tim. 5: 21; Tit. 1:5), forms the basis for the episcopacy
argument--church rule by a superior order of clergy called bishops.

"Apostle" literally signifies "a planter." The term belongs
specifically to the first founders of the Christian faith, but is
loosely applied in a more general sense to any minister who plants
Christianity in a new territory. It is clear that the first apostles
were especially inspired for a particular work in laying the
foundations of the Christian church and in writing the New Testament
Scriptures. Hence the apostolic office in this special sense passed
away with them. But there was, nevertheless, an apostolic work such
as planting and overseeing the infant work in a new field, and in this
sense Barnabas also was an apostle (Acts 13:46 with 14:4).

That the word "apostle" really signified a planter and was therefore
descriptive of the kind of work done is shown by the words of Paul
himself: "For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship
of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles"
(Gal. 2:8). And again, he says to the Corinthians, "If I be not an
apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am _to you_; for _the seal of
mine apostleship are ye in the Lord_" (1 Cor. 9:2). In another place
he says to the same church, "Though ye have ten thousand instructors
in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have
begotten you through the gospel" (1 Cor. 4:15).

The special, personal relation that the apostle, or planter, sustained
to the work which he had founded and over which he exercised general
jurisdiction, was but temporary, a sort of fatherly care. He was
obliged to oversee the work as a whole, including young ministers,
until it became thoroughly established. After others were able for the
work and the apostle's special oversight was withdrawn, there might be
ten thousand other instructors, but _no more fathers_. This disproves
entirely the episcopal idea as an essential feature of church
government. The apostle Peter even classes himself simply as an elder
in common with other elders (1 Pet. 5:1). But with the exception of
the original apostles, who were specially commissioned to reveal the
doctrine and message of the gospel and to establish the Christian
faith, the difference existing between elders in the primitive
church was not a difference in kind, but in degree only, varying in
accordance with their ability to put forth some portion of that moral
and spiritual power by which alone Christ governs his church.


The Church in History



It is not my purpose to write an ecclesiastical history, but in order
to make clear the work of final reformation, it will be necessary to
present at least a brief sketch of historic Christianity, outlining
particularly those leading features which show a radical departure
from the true church as originally constituted by our Lord and his

[Sidenote: "The faith"]

In the days of primitive Christianity there was something called "the
gospel," "the truth," "the form of sound words," "_the faith."_ To
understand its fundamental nature is not difficult, for it has been
preserved and handed down to us in the writings of the New Testament.
According to this record, the gospel message, or "the faith," centered
in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, who died and rose again that
he might be a "Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel,
and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:31). "And that repentance and
remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations,
beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47). Around this central fact of
salvation from sin through faith in Christ clustered those other
truths and facts which either necessarily resulted from the new
relationship of redeemed humanity with God or were essential to its
visible manifestation and propagation. Prominent among these features
were the entire sanctification of believers, holy life and conduct,
the baptism, gifts, and leadership of the Holy Spirit, and the visible
unity and relationship of believers in one body, the church.

[Sidenote: An apostasy foretold]

I need not take time or space to describe the wonderful successes of
Christianity as long as the primitive purity and power of the
gospel message was sustained and its results realized in a living,
Spirit-filled church. But facts compel me to record a change from that
happy condition. This transition was foreseen by those who "spake as
they were moved by the Holy Ghost." Paul declared: "Some shall depart
from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of
devils" (1 Tim. 4:1); "Also of your own selves shall men arise,
speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts
20:30). Peter predicted, "There shall be false teachers among you, who
privily shall bring in damnable heresies" (2 Pet. 2:1). Jesus himself
declared, "Many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many.
And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold"
(Matt. 24:11, 12).

Paul gives a more particular description of the coming apostasy in
the second chapter of Second Thessalonians. Asserting that the second
coming of Christ was not at that time imminent, he says: "Let no man
deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there
come a _falling away_ first, and that man of sin be revealed, the
son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that
is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the
temple of God, showing himself that he is God" (verses 3, 4).

The development of the "man of sin," which was occasioned by the
"falling away," was to be gradual, but should finally assume great
proportions, "so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God showing
himself that _he_ is God." The apostle further states: "For the
mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will
let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that wicked be
revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth,
and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming" (verses 7, 8). We
should not seek for the fulfilment of this prediction in those minor
sects and heresies which at an early date arose and soon passed away:
the description refers to some great power occupying the greatest
prominence, making the most pretentious claims, a power that is to
endure until the second advent of Christ. We must, therefore, look
for its fulfilment in what we may term the main line of historic

[Sidenote: First evidences of decline]

The "falling away" from the simple truths and standards of the gospel
began at a very early date. The mystery of iniquity was already
working in the apostles' day. Before the close of the first century
we find in the churches of Asia Minor a sad deflection from their
primitive condition. The church at Ephesus had left its first love
(Rev. 2:4); the church at Pergamos was tolerating false teachers and
being ruined by false doctrines (2:14, 15); Thyatira had lost the
spirit of holy judgment against wrong-doing and was therefore affected
by a shocking degree of immorality (2: 20-23); the message to Sardis
was, "Thou hast a name that thou livest, _and art dead_ (3:1);
Laodicea had become so lukewarm that the Lord said, "I will spew thee
out of my mouth" (3:15, 16).

[Sidenote: The apostolic fathers]

The transition from the apostles to the age of the early church
fathers is involved in considerable darkness. Not until the middle of
the second century, when Justin Martyr appears on the scene, does the
church emerge from its obscurity into the clear light of history. The
apostolic fathers--Clement of Rome, Ignatius, the Pastor of Hermas,
Papias, and the unknown author of the Epistle to Diognetus--all these
lived and wrote during that transitional period, and they could have
told us much, but they have told us little. We can not but admire the
beautiful spirit in which they wrote, and their style is earnest and
vital. Nevertheless, we discern in these works two leading tendencies
which stand, so to speak, as prophecies of what was to predominate in
the ecclesiastical thought of succeeding centuries.

In the mind of the author of the Epistle to Diognetus, the grand
central thought is the incarnation and the spiritual presence of
Christ in redeemed humanity, by which they are led to the "free
imitation of God," as a result of which they become to the world
what the soul is to the body--its life and the means of holding it
together. This teaching is an epitome of the Greek theology developed
later by Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Athanasius. But in Papias,
who attaches much importance to oral traditions that "came from the
living and abiding voice"; in Ignatius, who exalts the bishop
above other presbyters; and in Clement, who, writing as a Roman,
is concerned with matters of administration and subordination to
authority--in these we discern the beginnings of the Latin theology
developed later by Tertullian, Irenaeus, Cyprian, and Augustine,
which produced the papacy, and which, as we shall show, has in a great
measure dominated the ecclesiastical thought of the world until the
present day.

[Sidenote: The Ante-Nicene age]

After emerging into the clear field of historic Christianity in the
time of Justin Martyr, we find everywhere evidences of a rapidly
developing apostasy. In one respect we approach an examination of the
Ante-Nicene church with feelings of admiration. This was a heroic age,
an age of Christian martyrs. The struggles of Christianity against the
powers of heathenism enthroned in the Roman Empire and throughout
the world form a bright chapter in the annals of historic deeds and
supreme loyalty to lofty ideals. When we view the subject from
this angle, it would almost seem to be an act of irreverence or of
sacrilege to call in question the doctrines and practises of that
period when the church was baptized by fire and waded through rivers
of blood. Reverence for the martyrs and for their noble efforts to
extend the cause of Christ is praiseworthy, but in justice to truth,
we must remember that even the martyrs were not inspired teachers
commissioned to build a model for all succeeding ages. That they
were heroic does not prove them infallible. We should never hesitate,
therefore, to compare their teaching with the pure doctrines of the
Word of God, and wherein there is any lack of harmony, we should be
guided by the truth as it is in Jesus.

However much we may admire the early church fathers, we can not help
noticing the sharp contrast between them and the first apostles;
between their writings and the sublime, inspired teaching of the
divine Word. If, after reading Paul, Peter, or John, we turn to
Tertullian, Irenaeus, or Cyprian, we instinctively realize that
we have, so to speak, been transferred from sunny Italy to frigid
Siberia. We are conscious of a change to another era, and to another
country. Notwithstanding the fact that we find numerous familiar
objects, we know that we are moving in another atmosphere amid foreign

[Sidenote: Growth of ritualism]

The church of the Middle Ages was the natural fruitage of the seeds
planted during the second and third centuries. There we began to
notice particularly foreign elements which stand out in bold
contrast to the simple forms of primitive Christianity. One of these
innovations was the development of the ritualistic spirit, according
to which undue importance was attached to particular forms of worship,
such as time, place, positions of the body, and ceremonial observances
in general. Take baptism for an example. Apart from erroneous notions
concerning the efficacy of baptism, which will be referred to under
another head, the writings of the church fathers abound with the
most minute and puerile details concerning how the act is to be
performed--details of catechism, of consecration of waters, of
dressing and undressing, exorcism, anointing from head to foot with
oil, the laying on of hands, etc., all of which were to be carried out
in the most exacting and solemn manner.

[Sidenote: Example from Tertullian]

As an example of the ritualistic character of Christian worship at the
beginning of the third century, I will cite a passage from Tertullian.
In the third chapter of his work De Corona, this celebrated Latin
father undertakes to defend customs and practises that he confesses
were received "on the ground of tradition alone." He says: "I shall
begin with baptism. When we are going to enter the water, but a little
before, in the presence of the congregation and under the hand of the
president, we solemnly profess that we disown the devil, and his pomp,
and his angels. Whereupon we are thrice immersed, making a somewhat
ampler pledge than the Lord has appointed in the gospel.[A] Then
when we are taken up (as new-born children) we taste, first of all, a
mixture of milk and honey, and from that day we abstain from the daily
bath for a whole week. We take also, in congregations before daybreak,
and from the hand of none but the president, the sacrament of the
Eucharist, which the Lord both commanded to be done at mealtimes and
enjoined to be taken by all alike. As often as the anniversary comes
round, we make offerings for the dead as birthday honors. We count
shouting or kneeling in worship on the Lord's day to be unlawful. We
rejoice in the same privilege also from Easter to Whitsunday. We feel
pained should any wine or bread, even though our own, be cast upon the
ground. At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out,
when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at
table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary
actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign of the

In words immediately following, at the beginning of Chapter 4,
Tertullian says: "If for these and other such rules you insist upon
having positive Scriptural injunction, you will find none. Tradition
will be held forth to you as the originator of them, custom as their
strengthener, and faith as their observer."

According to this confession, all the ceremonial observances here
set forth are without Scriptural authority. When we read in the
New Testament concerning the simple act of baptizing believers, and
compare it with the customs and practises that had grown up in the
Ante-Nicene church, we do not wonder that evangelical faith was soon
afterwards almost entirely lost in ritualistic forms; that, like the
Pharisees of old, men made the faith of God of none effect by their

[Sidenote: False doctrines and heresies]

Another evidence of the decline of evangelical faith is found in
the presence of many false doctrines among the leaders of so-called
orthodox Christianity in that period of which I now write. Paul not
only taught that at a later time some should "depart from the faith,
giving heed to seducing spirits and devils" (1 Tim. 4:1), but he
referred to some who had already "erred concerning the faith" (1 Tim.
6:21), and named two persons, 'who, concerning the truth, had erred,
saying that the resurrection was past already, and overthrew the faith
of some' (2 Tim. 2:18). After the death of the apostles, error made
deeper inroads, and its baneful influence cast a shadow over the
church, which rapidly deepened into the darkness of spiritual night.

[Sidenote: Baptismal regeneration]

One of the earliest corruptions of apostolic truth concerned the
design and purpose of baptism. It was not long until unscriptural
significance was attached to the literal rite itself, so that what was
originally a mere sign, was substituted for the thing signified, and
thus baptism took the place of spiritual regeneration. In several
places in the writings of Justin Martyr, who lived about the middle of
the second century, his language seems to attach undue importance to
the literal rite; but other passages from the same author indicate
that he had not as yet entirely lost sight of the apostolic standard.
In his Dialog with Trypho, chapter 14, he says: "We have believed and
testify that that very baptism which he [Isaiah] announced is alone
able to purify those who have repented ... and what is the use of that
baptism which cleanses the flesh and body alone? Baptize the soul from
wrath and covetousness, from envy and from hatred, and lo, the body is

In his First Apology, chapter 61, the same writer draws a clear
Biblical distinction between spiritual regeneration secured through
repentance and faith, and ritual regeneration in baptism as a mere
outward sign of the inward work. He says: "I will also relate the
manner in which we dedicated ourselves to God when we had been made
new through Christ ... as many as are persuaded and believe that
what we teach and say is truth, and undertake to be able to live
accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting
for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting
with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water and are
regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated.
For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the Universe, and of
our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the
washing with water."

Other writers of the period under consideration, however, praise the
saving efficacy of baptism in the most exalted terms. According to
their minds, it is the actual means of the redemption of sins, not
a mere literal rite expressing ceremonially the work of God's Spirit
within the heart; it is an illumination; it extinguishes the fire
of sin; it removes the unclean spirits from men and seals them for
heaven. Tertullian wrote extensively on this subject. In his work
On Baptism, chapters 3 to 8, he maintains the doctrine of baptismal
regeneration "by which we are washed from the sins of our former
blindness and set free for eternal life." He declares that by this act
men are prepared to receive the Holy Ghost; that in the literal act,
"the spirit is corporeally washed in the waters, and the flesh is, in
the same, spiritually cleansed." Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (third
century), in his treatise concerning the Baptism of Heretics, teaches
the same doctrine in no uncertain terms.

[Sidenote: Other erroneous doctrines and practises]

The limits of this work preclude the historic treatment of the rise
and development of the host of false doctrines and practises that
finally bound the people in the thralldom of superstition and plunged
the world into the darkness of spiritual night. One who is free from
such influences can scarcely read without feelings of disgust the
elaborate treatises of these church fathers wherein they extol the
virtues of virginity as forming a new order of life, as an evidence of
divinity, as making virgins while in this world "equal to the angels
of God," and as a certain surety of special rewards in heaven. From
this false standard proceeded at length the celibacy of the clergy and
monkery with all their attendant evils. And the time would fail me to
tell of the introduction of images and image-worship in the Western
Church and of that superstitious regard for miserable relics of every
description and kind. True evangelical faith was at length lost to
view, buried beneath the rubbish of men's traditions. The treatment
of such matters, however, belongs to the church historian, and as the
general facts are well-known, it is unnecessary here to make more than
a brief reference to them so as to prepare the mind for that treatment
of the reformation which is a special object of the present work.

[Footnote A: Tertullian is the earliest writer that clearly and
unmistakably teaches trine immersion, or records its practise. But
here he honestly confesses that it is a "somewhat ampler pledge than
the Lord has appointed in the gospel."]



[Sidenote: Two phases of apostacy]

In order to understand the place which the work of reformation has in
the plan and purpose of God respecting his church, we must carefully
observe the twofold character of the apostasy. Both these phases
are clearly outlined in that remarkable prediction of Paul to which
reference has already been made, recorded in the second chapter
of Second Thessalonians. The first phase, described as "_a falling
away_," was that decline from true Christianity which we have
considered in the preceding chapter as the Corruption of Evangelical
Faith. The second phase was the rise and development of a foreign
element which was from its beginning "the mystery of iniquity" and
which in certain respects usurped the true place of Jehovah himself
in spiritual worship in the temple of God. This phase now demands our
special attention.

Since the sixteenth century reformation a large part of the Christian
world has renounced the right of the pope to sit as the supreme
earthly head of the church, but we shall show later that these same
modern Christians who have sought the restoration of the evangelical
_faith_ have not discarded the essential elements of the papal
hierarchical system, but have perpetuated them in their own
ecclesiastical constitutions, and that this relic of medievalism is
the chief barrier to a reunited Christendom and the restoration of
pure apostolic Christianity. It is highly essential, therefore, that
this phase of the apostasy be carefully considered. It is not enough
to reject the pope and his college of cardinals. If that tree, as
judged by its fruits, is an "evil" tree, we should seek to know where,
when, and by whom the evil seed from which it grew was first planted,
and then _reject it from the roots up_. Then, and not until then, can
the work of reformation be made complete. We have, therefore, to trace
the rise and development of what may be forcibly expressed by the
apparently pleonastic phrase _human ecclesiasticism_.

[Sidenote: Divine authority vs. positional authority]

We have already seen that in the church, as originally constituted,
organization, authority, and government proceeded from the divine and
not from the human. The agents whom Christ used in performing his
work and in overseeing his church were called and endowed by the
Holy Spirit, and this divine endowment was the real basis of their
authority and responsibility. Paul's authority and responsibility as
an apostle, for example, was not positional authority, or authority
proceeding from a certain position to which he had been appointed or
elected. His authority was divine, and out of that divine authority
grew his positional responsibility as the "apostle of the Gentiles."
Over and over he affirmed that he was an apostle, "not of men, neither
by man, but by Jesus Christ" (Gal. 1:1). On the same principle the
position, work, and responsibility of all the members of the body of
Christ grew out of the gifts and qualifications possessed by them, and
thus the church was divinely organized and divinely governed.

[Sidenote: Original bond of union]

The bonds which united primitive Christians in one body were
essentially moral and spiritual. Christ was their ever-living and
ever-acting head. Their life proceeded from him, and they were all
one in him. While those living in widely separated districts
consulted together concerning matters of general concern, or united
in cooperative efforts to accomplish common tasks, there is not the
slightest evidence that there was an external human organization
of the primitive church--either sectionally, nationally, or
universally--centralized under a human headship of the administrative,
legislative, and judicial kind. Christ was the head of the general
church, the head of all the local churches, the head of all the
individual members of the church. In him, the source of their common
life, the primitive Christians were essentially one, and by his Spirit
he operated in all hearts, in all the individual churches, and in all
the ministers whose particular gifts and qualifications fitted them
for divinely appointed oversight, both local and general. By this
means the primitive church was able to perform the work of Christ
harmoniously and present to the world the grand spectacle of one body.

[Sidenote: First steps to ecclesiasticism]

Jesus taught the humble equality of the New Testament ministry. "All
ye are brethren" (Matt. 23:8). According to the New Testament they
were all of one general order or rank, although greatly diversified
in gifts and qualifications and the kind of work accomplished by each.
The first example we have in Scripture of _positional authority_ in
the ministry as distinguished from the authority of the Holy Spirit,
is the case of Diotrephes, of whom the apostle John wrote in his
third epistle. We are also informed as to the nature of the authority
exercised by him and the direction in which it led. It was _human
authority_, something additional and foreign to the authority and
government through the Holy Spirit, and the first example of church
government by a single man. It proceeded from the evil root of pride
and ambition, the love of "preeminence" among the brethren; and
this usurped power and authority led to a judicial process by which
innocent brethren were 'cast out of the church.'

What a contrast this presents to that New Testament picture of the
divine ecclesia, exhibiting the highest form of human society known
to history, a body in which every member had his gift and use for it.
Among these many activities, oversight and preaching had their place,
but did not constitute the whole sum of Christian service. Paul
describes Christ as the living head "from whom the whole body fitly
joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth,
according to the _effectual working in the measure of every part_,
maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Eph.
4:16). The object of the ministerial function was "the perfecting of
the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the
body of Christ" (verse 12, R.V.).

In his early epistle to the Philippians, Paul makes reference to
the officers that guided that church. He sends greetings "to all the
saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and
deacons" (Phil. 1:1). Polycarp, writing to the same church in the
next century, addresses the "presbyters and deacons," showing that the
apostolic order was still preserved there.

[Sidenote: Bishops vs. Presbyters]

In the Ignatian epistles, however, written early in the second
century, there appears positional authority of a new order. In place
of the New Testament standard of a plurality of elders, or bishops,
jointly teaching and guiding the local church, we find recognition of
an office which was superior to that of the presbyters and to whose
incumbents alone the term "bishop" was applied. A few extracts from
his writings will make clear this recognition of a threefold order of
the ministry--bishops, elders, and deacons. "Wherefore, it is fitting
that ye should run together in accordance with the will of your
bishop, which thing also ye do. For your justly renowned presbytery,
worthy of God, is fitted exactly to the bishop as the strings are to
the harp" (To the Ephesians, chap. 4). "He is subject to the bishop
as to the grace of God, and to the presbytery as to the will of Jesus
Christ" (To the Magnesians, chap. 2). And again, in the same epistle
he says, "I exhort you to study to do all things with a divine
harmony, while your bishop presides in the place of God, and your
presbytery in the place of the assembly of the apostles" (chap. 6).
"In like manner, let all reverence the deacons as the appointment of
Jesus Christ, and the bishop as Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the
Father, and the presbyters as the Sanhedrin of God, and assembly of
the apostles. Apart from these there is no church" (To the Trallians,
chap. 3). To the Smyrnaeans he writes: "See that ye all follow
the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father.... Let no man do
anything connected with the church without the bishop" (chap. 8). "It
is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a
love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing
to God" (chap. 8). "It is well to reverence both God and the bishop.
He who honors the bishop has been honored of God; but he who does
anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve
the devil" (chap. 9).

That this early recognition of a superior order of ministers was a
distinct innovation is also shown from the literature of that period.
In the Shepherd of Hermas, dating from the first part of the second
century, elders and presbyters are distinctly named but no bishop
in contrast therewith. In the so-called "Teaching of the Twelve
Apostles," also dating from the first part of the second century,
bishops and deacons only are named as teachers and leaders of the
church, showing that the original signification of the term "bishop"
is here retained. Clement of Rome, in his first epistle to the
Corinthians, speaks of the ministry as an institution of the apostles,
but he mentions, nevertheless, only a twofold order--elders and
deacons, presbyters and deacons, or bishops and deacons. The same
classification is made in the second epistle of Clement to the
Corinthians, a work which is generally ascribed to another author; so
also in the epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians.

[Sidenote: Innovation becomes general]

The superior office of _the_ bishop as distinguished from the local
presbytery was, therefore, an innovation, but in process of time its

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