1 Corinthians 11:22óDespise ye the
Church of God.
(Read Romans 12:4-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-28.)
What think you of the cross of Christ? may be the greatest question for us; but perhaps a question of equal importance to Christ is: "What think you of the Church of God?"ówhich is his church, and for which he gave his heartís blood, and his life, and which he loves as he loves himself. So I ask you: "What think you of the Church of Christ? "After defining two terms, I will try to help you answer this great question. "Despise "means to think down on, to look down on, to-subordinate, to lightly esteem. Hate is of the heart; despise is of the head. See the distinction in Matthew 6:24:ó"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye carrot serve God and mammon.
This means that if you donít go so far as to love one and hate the other, you must subordinate one to the other; esteem one better than the other. In 1 Corinthians 16:10-11, we read "10 Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do. 11 Let no man therefore despise him : but conduct him forth in peace, that he may come unto me: for I look for him with the brethren."
The church could not keep the world from hating Timothy, for that was appointed to all faithful ministers; but they could keep the world from thinking lightly of him. That is to say, the reputation of the preacher is in the hands of the church. Not his character, but the how he shall be rated. They hated Christ, but they could not destroy his character. In Jeremiah 4:30 we read: "Their lovers shall despise them." A mother may despise her son whom she loves, because she knows he is good-for-nothing. So a wife her husband. None of you have a cause for hating the church of God; but do you despise it? How do you rate it as compared to other things claiming your Loyalty? This I will help you to answer.
Next I must define "The Church of God," for nothing under heaven needs so much to be defined. Nine-tenths of the so-called Christian world think they do Godís service when they use the term in a bewildering or perverted sense. There is but one God, one Christ, one church, one body, one faith, one baptism, though there be many that are called such. All the world, in all the ages, could not change the meaning of the word of God, not even by universal usage and legislation. Nay, let them seal their perverted meanings with the blood of millions of martyrs, yet the true meanings are written in heaven, and were written from heaven, and they will judge us at the last day. As Christ is yesterday; today and forever, so is his word. "The word of the Lord abideth forever." Woe to him who perverts it. May we know what The Church of God is? The expression occurs twelve times, and there is no excuse for mistake.
In the test it means "The Church of God at Corinth," and of which the Corinthians were members; all of whom "came together in one place to eat the Lordís Supper," and they should have "tarried one for another" before eating. This was the one body unto which, in one spirit of love and fellowship, they had been baptized with the one baptism; and they were censurable for not keeping the faith and ordinances as they were delivered to them, for safe keeping. Both of these epistles were written to "THE CHURCH OF GOD AT CORINTH." Note that, "We have no such customs, neither the churches of God," means the churches of God in various places. In chapter 15:9, and Galatians 1:13, Paul says he "persecuted the church of God," which, in another place, he says, was "at Jerusalem." He persecuted no other. In 1 Thessalonians 2:14 he says: "The Churches of God which in Christ Jesus are in Judea." Not denominational churches, for there were none. In 2 Thessalonians 1:4 he says: "We glory in you in the Churches of God." In 1 Timothy 3:5 he speaks of a bishop, which always means the pastor of a single church, as "taking care of the Church of, God." In verse 15 he speaks of "behaving oneís self "in the house of God, which is the Church of the Living God. That means that the congregation that meets in a house is the church of the Living God. In Acts 20: 28, he tells of the flock, or church, at Ephesus, in which the Holy Spirit had made the Elders bishops, and that they "must feed the church of God which he had purchased with his own blood." But neither Paul, nor Christ, nor these elders, thought they were big enough to feed, or take care of a universal church of God. The Church of God, which Christ bought with his own blood, was, and is, a business-doing bodyóa called-out and called together assembly; and these churches, singly and collectively, in cooperation, constitute the sole agency for advancing the interests of the kingdom of churches. The Church of God in a city, means the whole Church of God is there, and if the whole Church of God is there, then none of it is anywhere else. See the 36 places where the church is used in the plural number, and the 75 places where it is used in the singular, and if you donít then know what the Church of God means, then God canít teach you.
The following figures are also used for the Church, and confirms the one meaning. They are all local, but it is tautological nonsense to say so. Whoever was so foolish as to put the word local before these figures? Try it in your mind: "Assembly," "building," "body," "bride," "city," "congregation," "company," "family," "flock," "fold," "field," "house," "household," "lump," "temple," "vine," "vineyard," "wife," "woman," "Mt. Zion," "New Jerusalem." Introduce your wife as your local wife, and see what will happen. She would think that she was the contemptible, little wife, while the big one was somewhere else. And, mind you, every time a man speaks of the "local church," he has in his mind a big church, compared with which the local is a contemptible, little thing. Hence, all such must despise The Church of God, because they subordinate it to another, which is not another. No error ever did more to destroy Church Loyalty.
I desire to disseminate and perpetuate the following editorials in The Western Recorder, by Dr. T. T. Eaton. The one followed the other in The Recorder.
ECCLESIA IN MATTHEW 16:18.
"Editor of The Western Recorder: Will you not give, briefly and clearly, your reason for believing that the word ecclesia, in Matthew 16:18, means the local assembly?
A Constant Reader."
Most readily. We have seven reasons, but here we will take space for only three, either of which we believe to be decisive.
1st. It is conceded that, according to the usage of classic Greek, the word ecclesia means a local assembly. It is also conceded that it means the same thing according to the usage of the Septuagint, which is the Greek version of the Old Testament, in use in Palestine in the time of Christ. Can it be believed that our Lord, in using this word for the first time, would, without any explanation, give it a meaning entirely different from what it would be understood to mean by those to whom He spoke? It is not ingenuous for a teacher, without a word off explanation, to use words to his pupils with a meaning entirely different from what they understand the words to have. Christ knew that the Disciples would understand Him to mean a local assembly by His use of ecclesia. Knowing that, He used the word to them, without a word of explanation. To charge Him with using the word with an entirely different meaning is to charge Him with disingenuousness, and this is not to be considered for a moment.
2nd. The usage of our Lord Himself compels us to believe that He meant local assembly when He said: "On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Christ used the word ecclesia, so far as the record tells us, just 22 times. We will set aside, for the sake of the argument, this passage, Matthew 16:18, as doubtful, and look at the 21 passages, to determine our Lordís usage of the word. Whatever that usage is, must be applied to this passage. In Matthew 18:17, Jesus says: "Tell it to the church, but if he neglect to hear the church." This is the local assembly. In Revelation 1, 2 and 3 Christ uses the word ecclesia 18 times, e.g., "the seven churches," "to the angel of the church at Ephesus," etc., and in every one of these cases there can be no sort of question that He means the local assembly. It is Christ that says this, because the one who told John to write what is here recorded, says of Himself : "I am he that liveth and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell and of death." Again, in Revelation 22:16, we read: "I Jesus, hale sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches." Certainly here ecclesia means the local assembly.
Thus in every one of the 21 instances in which Christ uses the word ecclesia, there can be no question that He meant the local assembly. The probabilities, therefore, are twenty-one to nothing that He meant local assembly in Matthew 16:18óthe passage which, for the sake of the argument, we set aside as doubtful. A probability of twenty-one to nothing is a certainty. Hence, it is certain that Christ meant the local assembly when He said: "On this rock I will build my church."
3rd. Christ, in Matthew 16:18, promised to build His church, which certainly was very dear to His heart. He did not promise to build but the one. If He meant anything else than the local assembly, then we have this result, viz.: He promised to build His church and then never made the slightest reference to it afterwards; but in speaking on the subject of church twenty-one times, He, in every case, referred to something entirely different from what He promised to build. That He should speak twenty-one times about the church He did not promise to build, and never make the slightest allusion to the church He did promise to build, is simply incredible. Can there be a reasonable doubt that the church Christ spoke of twenty-one times, and the only one He did speak of, is the church He promised to build?
These are three of our reasons, each one of which, by itself, we think is decisive. We have four others we will not now give. "A three-fold cord is not easily broken."
After this comes the following:
Our neighbor arranges its "deadly parallel" on us, and claims to see a contradiction in the following quotations from the editorís tract, "Faith of the Baptists."
"Turning to the New Testament we find the word church used in two special senses, first as a local body of baptized believers, and second as including all the redeemed of all ages and lands."
These local churches, the only kind known to the New Testament, were independent bodies and were subject to no central authority."
It would have been amusing had our neighbor attempted to point out the alleged contradiction. The "two senses "are simply the literal and the figurative. "All the redeemed of all ages and lands "are conceived figuratively as a church, whet! they become a local assembly in Heaven. We reaffirm both those sentences. We will give a chromo to the man that will point out the contradiction.
This editorial was endorsed by the following:
Dr. Jesse B. Thomas writes: "I go farther than you in questioning whether the Ďchurchí is ever used in the New Testament as Ďuniversalíófor exegetic reasons assigned."
President B. I. Whitman: "I am bound to say that I see no flaw in your position."
President Henry G. Weston: "From your point of view you make out your case on the question you are discussing."
Dr. Wm. C. Wilkinson writes: "Your editorial is a good specimen of steel-chain logic."
President G. M. Savage writes: "All that yon say on the church, I believe with all my heart. I accept what yon there accept, and repudiate what you there repudiates. . .There is but one thin in your article that I wish you had plainly said, additional; that is, that the rock (petra) foundation is Christ."
No doubt but nine-tenths of Southern Baptists would be glad to add their endorsement. The other definitions of "church "are full of deadly poison.
If a woman is to keep silence in the church, and the church is universal, then she must keep silent in the kitchen and the parlor, for she is everywhere in the universal church. Indeed, she must be silent in heaven, if she gets there, for it is claimed that the universal church will meet in heaven, to part no more.
So the first charge is made out: Those Despise the Church of God Who Subordinate the Real to the Unreal; the Congregational to the Universal; the Practical to the Theoretical. At the first, the Lord added the saved, who, it is claimed, were in the universal church by virtue of saving faith; these he added to the church which was at Jerusalem, and which he himself had built. If they were in the big church by faith, why add them to the little church? Were there two churches at Jerusalem?
(2) Those Despise the Church of God who subordinate it in matters of judgment. "Judgment begins at the house of God," "Which is the church of the living God." In 1 Corinthians chapter 5, we see that "The Church of God at Corinth "had judgment of those that were within; and in chapter 6, we read that they shall "judge the world," and even "angels." In Romans 16:17, the church is called on to judge doctrine, and to withdraw from those who cause offenses contrary to sound doctrine. In 2 Thessalonians 3:6, the church is charged to judge those who walk disorderly, and to withdraw from such. The same in verse 14: "Have no company with those who obey not the word." Read also Philippians 1:9-10:ó"9 And this I pray that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment 10 That ye may approve things that are excellent: that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ."
Only those who have exercised themselves in righteous judgment here, will be qualified to sit on Christís throne to judge the world and angels. Those who go to the courts of unbelievers for judgment, esteem them superior in judgment to the Church of God.
(3) Those despise the Church of God who appeal from her Authority. There is no higher court. Every appellant says by his actions, which speak louder than words, there is a higher court of Authority than the church of God. Christ says in Matthew 18:17: "Tell it to the church, and if he neglects to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican." That settles the case. There is no higher tribunal and no other tribunal. The Church of God is the Supreme Court of heaven on the earth; so that whatsoever it binds on earth has been bound in heaven; and whatsoever it looses on earth has been loosed in heaven. No king, or czar, or potentate ever had such authority as this. Christ left authorities on the earth to try earthly things; but the heavenly things belong to his church. I knew a man turned out of a church for selling whiskey, just before the meeting of the association, and he laughed at the church, saying he would appeal to the association. He tried it and found out for the first time that there was no authority in such matters in an associationónone of any kind outside of the church.
(4) Those Despise the Church of God who subordinate her peace and prosperity to their personal whims and family interests. Often this is a theological whim, or notion, or opinion, or hobby. How many pastors and churches have been sacrificed by one member because their doxy was not his doxy. If the pastor should be too loose or too strict on some moral or doctrinal question, as he holds it, then destruction sets in. He may be a very strong or very weak Baptist, and may believe that the majority should rule, but he considers himself the majority. The church is small compared with him. It is not quantity that he counts, but quality. If he is a drunkard or adulterer, or some such mishap has fallen on one of the family, then the church must not put her honor, or the honor of Christ, or his cause above his and his family. Such would be willing, yea, would insist on discipline of such cases on others, but not on him and his. Who has not seen churches wrecked and ruined because the church was put above the individual and his family. One such said to the visiting committee: "If I must choose between the church and the horse race, the church can go to hell." Others have put it in milder form about card playing, flinch, dancing, etc. Their whims are put above church honor and authority. They despise the church of God.
(5) Those Despise the Church of God who esteem Lodge Membership and Fellowship above that of the Church of God. Of course this is limited to those who profess to belong to Christ. I have seen them regularly at the lodge, and seldom at the church. In front in the lodge, and in the rear of the church. Early at the lodge, and late at the church. Forward at the lodge, and backward at the church. At home in the lodge, and a stranger at the church. Brothers those in the lodge, and misters those in the church. Proud of the lodge, and ashamed of the church. Gives to the lodge, and withholds from the church. By putting the lodge above the church, do they not Despise the Church of God?
Zelucas, king of the ancient Locri, made a law, and the penalty for first violation was the forfeiture of one eye, and for the second violation the penalty was the forfeiture of two eyes. His son was the first to deserve the double penalty. Will the king ignore his law? Then he is not worthy to be king. Will he ignore his son? Then he is not worthy to be a father. What will the king do? He will both vindicate his law, and have mercy on his son. So he required his son to forfeit one eye, and he forfeited the other. Thus justice and mercy met together and kissed each other. Thus it should be in the church. Principle before personal pleasure or profit; the church above self.
(6) Those Despise the Church of God who put Association with the world above that of the Church. They have professed to be saved, and they know their Lord wants the saved added the same day to his Church, but they prefer to be identified with the world. Everyone is identified in association either with the world or church. He takes his choice. He claims to belong to Christ, but he donít want to belong to his church. He is invited, urged, exhorted, and may be pulled and pushed and persuaded by a host of anxious friends, as well as church, pastor and the Holy Spirit, and impelled by an inwrought sense of duty, yet despite all this, he prefers so stay out and continue to be identified with the world. Of course, he will soon go back and walk with the world, and forget he was ever purged from his old sins. He is told he will walk in darkness, and soon in doubt. He cuts himself off from the means of spiritual life, and the result will be worse than cutting off from the means of physical life; but he persists, and WHY? Because he had rather be associated with the world than the Church of God. The archangel, with the most powerful telescope, or microscope, or any other kind of scope, canít detect a flaw in that verdict. If he is converted, it is far better for him, and the church, and the cause, and the world, to associate with the people of God, but he prefers to be numbered with the world. Did Christ say, come out from the world, and be separated from the world? Yes; but he prefers not to do it. Christís honor and authority, with individual and church pleasure and profit, are not enough to in duce him to break fellowship and membership with the world. He prefers to be in the devilís big church; in the kingdom of the world, which is soon to go down and come to an everlasting and ignominious end, than to be in the everlasting kingdom and dominion which is soon to fill the whole earth. Such will not be cast out, because they are already out. And when he comes and shuts the door, it will be too late to knock for admittance. Saved they may be, but so as by fire, and they suffer loss, and what a loss! Eternal loss! There will be no rewards for well-doing after the judgment. Great are the rewards of those who go in and labor in the vineyard. The same with Trunk, Lapsed or Excluded members. They ought to bleat, and bleat, and bleat until they get back into the fold. I was never lettered out of a church, and if I should be excluded, I will bleat to get back, and when I shall die out, I expect to join the general assembly as soon as I can. I beat my letter every time the letter gets behind. I join first opportunity if I can, letter or no letter. I belong to the company called saints, and that means the church of God.
If the devil can thus blind saints, and lead them contrary to their eternal interest, then what can he not do with sinners? I try to magnify Godís Saving Grace to sinners; but is not that amazing grace, indeed, that "keeps "those who have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, and who, it seems, try to fall away, or donít care if they do. It takes more grace, it seems to me, to preserve an enlightened, quickened, forgiven, justified, sanctified, saved saint, than it does to save a poor, blind, depraved sinner, led captive by the devil at his will. Think of a sinner saved by grace, and, in return, prefers to serve the devil. The Lord wants the service of no man until he is baptized and joins his church. I repeat: The Lord took to water before he took to service, and walked 65 miles to do it; and in the beginning the Lord added daily the saved to the church. Donít want to be associated with the saints? Rather be associated with sinners? Then see how they play with so called, but miss-called letters of dismission. Right here the churches are reaping the fruits of their own folly. A church canít dismiss a member by letter. It can only recommend him. Paul calls them, in 2 Corinthians 3:1, "Letters of commendation from you, or to you." He is dismissed from your membership, and you are no longer responsible for his conduct when he joins another church. But he thinks he is dismissed by the letter, and is out of the church, and back gain in the good old fold of the devil, and he feels good, and perfectly at home, and perfectly at peace with the world, the flesh, the devil, and may think he is at peace with God, but he has only to wait till the good shepherd comes feeling round with his rod. Yes, there are thousands who take their supposed letters of dismission, and put them down deep in the trunk, or far back in the drawer, to keep safely, that is, keep safely from the church. Others will put the letters or themselves in the church, and then hide themselves out. Thus they run from the service of the Lord into the service of the devil. They go about the streets begging the world to employ them, and the Lord to excuse them. What an easy prey for the devil! And if the devil donít use them, it will be because he doesnít want them. This scandalous conduct of Christians has called forth such designations and classifications as Regulars and Irregulars, Oncers and Noncers, Workers, Jerkers, Shirkers, Dirkers, Hired, Tired, Retired, Attired, Billy, Silly, Nilly, Lilly, Trunk, Spunk, Defunct, Skunk, Annual, Quarterly, Monthly, Weekly (spelled both ways). "And such are some of you."
(7) Those Despise the Church of God Who Subordinate her Worship and Decline Attendance on her Meetings. They are bound by covenant to do so if God permit. They are all bound alike, and it is as much the duty of one as an other. But see how they put the church on trial, perhaps before they arise in the morning. The devil suggests something for their attention and attendance instead of the church meeting. If it is business, the devil wants them to decide that their business is of more importance than the church. He may do this even on the Lordís day. Or, he may tempt with a diversion, such as a visit, an excursion, lounging at home, loafing with another of the same stripe, or sponging on a church-going member, to keep him away. One of these, or such like things they put up against the church early in the morning. Reason is the attorney, comparing this with that; judgment is the court that decides the case; and the will is the sheriff that executes the decree of the court. Thus the church is put on trial perhaps early every Sabbath morning. Which will win? One must go up and the other down. WHICH? Why of course the one you think is of the most importance will win. You canít put any of these things above the worship or service of the church without subordinating or despising the Church of God. You attend to the most important things, of course. Better read Zechariah 14:16-19; Hebrews 10:25; John 20:19, 26; Acts 2:1; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, and many such like.
If the Church of God is the most important institution in the world, then its meetings are the most important in the world.
"I love thy church, O God,
Her walls before thee stand,
Dear as the apple of thine eye!
And graven on thy hand;
For her my tears shall fall,
For her my prayers ascend,
To her my toils and cares be given,
Till cares and toils shall end.
Beyond my highest joy
I prize her heavenly ways,
Her sweet communion solemn vows,
Her hymns of love and praise.
Sure as thy truth shall stand,
To Zion shall be given
The greatest glories earth can give,
And brighter bliss of heaven."
Where the church is, there Christ is in the midst. Some had rather be where Christ is not, and where the devil is. All who despise the church meeting despise the church.
(8) Those Despise the Church of God Who Subordinate her Service. We profess to be servants of the church, as that is the way we serve Christ. But God and angels and men know that we are the servants of those whom we serve, and of that which we serve. We are all servants. The Church must be served. The world also demands our service. When these seem to conflict, then which? Why the one we esteem the highest and most important. Even a fool knows that much. These need not conflict, but when they do, the best comes first.
Let a pastor work his garden at the Saturday hour of meeting, and let the passing member ask him if he is not going to church, and he replies that his garden needs his attention more than the church; and it would be no plainer from the conversation than from the silent action. Of course, it would be too ugly in the pastor, but how does it look to the pastor when the member does the same thing. But you say the pastor is paid to serve. But the members promised to serve without pay. This was the way Christ ordained it. Then is not the obligation of both equally binding. You obligate yourself to render your little service without financial compensation, because it requires but little of your time. The pastor gives his whole time to service, and, of course, his temporal wants must be provided for. But the obligation to serve the church in these respective ways is equally binding on both. "Go in my vineyard and work today," is spoken to every saved man and woman. "To every one his own worm." They are all rewarded according to their works, and all chastened for unfaithfulness. Read here Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. Read the whole chapters. Also Ephesians 6:10-18. Also Matthew 6:24; John 8:23; Romans 6:16, etc. Nothing must be put above the Worship or the Service of the Church.
(9) Those Despise the Church of God Who Withhold Their Support. There are many things needing and deserving our support, and there should be no conflict; but when there is conflict, which is neglected most? The least esteemed, of course. The devil would hardly deny it, liar as he is. It is a principle of universal application. We support those things most we like best and deem the most important. Which gets the most of your supportóthe lodge or the church? The theater or the church? The circus or the church? I have seen a whole wagonload of church members come in 10 to 20 miles, in bad weather; and stand and freeze and starve waiting for the show; and they pay more to the show than they pay to the church in a whole year. They go to the races, now called Fairs, to catch the silly saints, and they will stand around all day for days, and thus give more sacrifice to that than the church of the living God. Some give more for whiskey and tobacco than they give to the church. Christ paid his way through the world, and he wants his people and his church to do the same. He never wrought but one miracle for himself, and that was to pay a doubtful debt for him and Peter. The Church must live, and the world is not expected to support it. We support a thing as we esteem it. How does the church stand this test?
(10) Those Despise the Church of God Who Fail in its ASSISTANCE. The Church must not only be supported, but Assisted. It must not only live, but it must work. It has the greatest mission of any institution on earth. More good and everlasting results will come from its mission than all others. The Church must not only support itself, and the cause at home, but it must assist other churches in evangelizing the whole world. Those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death must have the light. Those under the dominion of Satan must be delivered. The Church is the divine human instrumentality in saving men. Every man engaged lawfully in this work must be member or an officer of the Church, and all things must be done by her direction, or sanction, or authority. None others have any authority in these things. Not only the first part of the commission, but the middle and the last were committed to the church, so that all engaged in this important and responsible work must be under subjection to the wisdom and counsel of the brethren, and even then corruption of doctrine and practice creep in. To turn every fanatic loose with his ambitious, ambiguous, ambidextrous, amaurosious, amorous, amphibious, amble, amiable amenities to deceive the very elect, would have wrecked the object and purposes of the gospel. Christ had too much common sense to have inaugurated such a perilous policy. In the multitude of counselors there is wisdom. Let all things be done decently and in order, and let nothing be done without the consent of the brethren. Not only must individuals combine in churches for the nearer and smaller matters, but the churches must combine in the greater and more distant matters. Educational institutions, publication societies, orphan asylums, and many such like things are essential to the progress of these great interests. These are the greatest works in the world. The Church of God needs the assistance of all its members. Other interests also need our assistance, and when there is to be discrimination, which will get the advantage? Of course, that which we most highly esteem. There can be no other answer. Did you ever know a church member to pay the merchants, doctors, lawyers, teachers, laborers, etc., and put the Church of God last? I have, for I was a deacon for many years. Religious papers are a great help to the cause of truth, yea, a necessity in these times. The truth must be printed and read. Paul wrote letters to the churches, and asked that they be read (Col. 4:16). That was the best that could be done in those days. The devil has his printing presses; so has the world; so have errorists; so must the Church of God make occasions to cut off these other damaging and damning occasions to injure the cause of truth. The greatest work in the world is in the church. It needs assistance. "Help, Lord! "Ye men of Israel, help!" "Curse Meroz, because they come not up to the help of the Lord against the mighty." Which will you help most? That, that you think is the most deserving. If you think down on the church; if you subordinate its interests and work, then you Despise the Church of God. A great secretary said, that if the Baptists would send him all the bones that rot on their lands, that he would have more missionary money than was ever put in his hands for the work. A wise man, Dr. Solomon, said, that if he had all the money that go to buy feathers for the womenís hats, that he could burn and rebuild all the churches in Kentucky, and give all of them pastors for every Sunday, and at a good salary. O, Godís "people will not consider." "They are perishing for lack of knowledge." A woman who gives more for a hat than for the Church of God, puts her hat above the Church of God. I donít ask you to give more than you give, but to give more wisely. Give less to the little things, and more to the great things, and it will be better for you, for others, and for the cause of Christ. Prophecies, tongues, and the getting of knowledge will come to an end; but there are eternal interests, and those who spend their all on things that are temporal, and that perish with the using, to the neglect of the things that are eternal, are doing themselves and the cause irreparable and eternal wrong. If you would see the great mission of the church, read the epistle to the Ephesians. What is to be compared to that? "To the intent, that now unto principalities and authorities in the heavenlies, might be made known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose, which he purpose in Christ Jesus, our Lord." O, that we knew how to "behave ourselves in the house of God, which is the Church of the Living God." Perhaps we all work enough and give enough to other things, but we donít Assist the Church of God enough. Peach one is honor bound, yea, with double honor, to do and to give according to his ability. If all were thus honorable, the Church of God would not be so poor as to beg bread and live on the cold charities of the world. "Let there be equality, and not the few burdened, and the many eased." Here is where the trouble comes. Our financial system, if we have any, is contrary to the word of God, and, of course, we suffer.
God directed the building of one house for his glory, and that was the costliest house ever built. Neither David nor Solomon would live in a finer house than Godís. I donít believe any blood bought man or woman should spend more on themselves than they spend for the Church of God. I believe we would all have more to spend on ourselves, and enjoy it more, and get more out of it, if we did not rob God by withholding what is his due. Duty means debt, and we are all indebted to God more than we can pay. So he asks only a small proportion of our income. If Judaism owed God one-tenth, what does Christianity owe him? Certainly not less. But being now no longer under the law, but having the liberty to .purpose in our own heart what we shall give, let us not abuse this liberty, for God loves a liberal and cheerful giver. If we sow sparingly, we shall reap sparingly; and if we sow bountifully, we shall also reap bountifully. Give, and it shill be given to you, good measure, heaped up, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. Now, fathers and mothers, will you continue to spend your money for that which is not bread? Will you continue to give your children stones for bread, and scorpions for eggs? Yea, poison for food? This you do when you feed them on the secular, fictitious and filthy trash of the day.
(11) Those Despise the Church of God Who Usurp her Functions. The Church is the Stewardóthe custodian of the Faith. The doctrines and ordinances were committed to her. All authority was left with her. She judges of the qualifications of those seeking her membership, or the unworthy would rush in to destroy her peace and prosperity. The devil would want no wider door than to allow any one to judge of his own fitness. The unworthy often think they are too fit for the really worthy. The Church judges those that are within, so as to put away such as she deems unfit. The Church imposes and deposes official obligations. The Church judges of the qualifications of deacons and preachers and pastors. The Church must call its own pastor. Now, when some Diotrephes presumes to take these functions from the church, and to officiate on his own responsibility; that is, decide who should become members, or who excluded; or to appoint deacons, and to depose them; or to appoint or disappoint pastors, or to impose, oppose or depose them; or authoritatively decide doctrine; or to ordain preachers, or to locate them; or to administer ordinances, either baptism or the Supper; and all these have been done by usurpers of authority, and I charge all such with despising the Church of God by thus putting themselves above the church in such functions.
They may think they are big-hearted by thus relieving the church of such responsibilities, but such usurpation never came out of a big heart, but always out of a big head, and the definite article might be the one to use in all such cases. The eleven inspired apostles would not dare to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Judas without submitting the matter, both the nomination, and the election, to the whole 120 disciples. Nor would these twelve appoint deacons without submitting the matter to the whole multitude of disciples. Acts 6:5: "And the saying pleased the whole multitude; and THEY chose the seven." One of our greatest men was baptized without church authority, and another ordained without church authority, and another said before a ministerís state meeting that the commission was not given to the church, but to disciples as such, and he meant unbaptized disciples. If that is not anarchy, then I donít know what that means. Who begun the execution of the commission on the day of Pentecost? Were they left unbaptized, and out of the church? Were the 120 an unorganized mass? If God put in the church first the apostles, then prophets, teachers, miracles, gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues, then where was the church, for all of these were there, before and on that day? Did they work as a mass and not as a church? Then why a church?
If the mess of a mass in a muss would be more effectual than organization, why did Christ do so foolish a thing as to build a church? If the whole divided Christian world is the Church of God, then how could the church at Corinth be the Church of God? And if there were "churches of God "in those early days, even in a province, were they the same as we have now in the de nominations? Are the denominations as such churches of God? If so, are they the same as we read of in the Scriptures ? Is the sum total of the churches of God the Church of God? Why this dogged effort to break down all the scripture characteristics of a church, if not to destroy church functions, and turn them over to any fanatic and free booter, who, Diotrephes like, would love the preeminence, and take in and cast out of the church whom he would. It is those who love to have the preeminence that usurp church functions. They first try to get everybody in the church; then the church, of course, canít operate by reason of the multitude, and multitudinous disagreements; so Mr. Diotrephes can have the pre-eminence. The same authority that administers one ordinance administers the other. They begin to usurp baptism and ordination, and the rest will come in time. All these roads lead to Rome. When messengers are made delegates, and anybody can be delegate, then the gates of Hades have prevailed against the church. God forbid!
(12) Those Despise the Church of God Who prefer the churches (?) of men. As there have been gods many, and lords many, and christs many, and bibles many, so are there churches many. Any one who has sense enough to choose, and a few have been allowed that privilege, or rather have that privilege because they escaped conscription; and millions have been conscripted with the sword; and millions by the sword of the, mouth; and millions. have been kidnapped in infancy; yet millions escaped all these, and deliberately chose a church which they knew was started in modern times, and by uninspired men, and some of these church founders were the wickedest men the world ever saw, and the rest the most presumptuous the world ever saw; and yet they prefer that to an institution of God, set up by Christ himself, who called it: MY CHURCH, and said the gates of Hades should not prevail against it. These gates will surely prevail against all other institutions, including these churches of men. These all say, no salvation out of the Church of God, and they are certainly out, and if judged out of their own mouths, as Christ says he will do, and also out of his word, which we know he will do, then what will they say in the judgment? Every member of such organizations either went in by choice, or they stay in by choice, and in either case they prefer that to the Church of God.
The Church of God is over 1800 years old, and has come down through persecutions, even baptisms of fire and blood, all of which did not and can not prevail. It is in the world today, doing business for its Lord as in the beginning, having the same government, officers, constitution, ordinances and doctrines, differing however as at first, because each has the right to think and decide for himself. But freedom to differ, and even to fight for the supposed right, is a thousand times better than enslavement of mind and soul to usurpation of popes and bishops, such as the Bible knows only to condemn. But those made free to differ, are as united as the others, and they have the only agreement that counts for anything in the kingdom of Christ and of God. The agreement is intelligent and voluntary, and not slavish, for that kind is an abomination to God, and ought to be to all men. If one can be in the Church of God and will not; if he can be free with that freedom that comes from a knowledge of the truth, and will not; then the consequences are of his own choosing, and that without excuse, unless God requires us to know things we can't know, and perish such a thought l Everyone can know where his church (?) started, and when, and who started it, and he takes his choice between that and the one that has come down through 1260 years of opposition and persecution, according to prophecy. Was your church persecuted 1260 years? The true church was. But you may ask, can we tell which of all the so-called churches of today was this persecuted church? If you can't know, then you are under no obligation to know. But if you can know, then you must know, or suffer the consequences. Can it be both identified and traced. Read what follows in this book, and decide for yourself. The Lord has no denominational churches, nor can such be forced on him, for he decided in the beginning not to build such, and he is the same yesterday, today and forever. What account would such a thing be, if indeed such a thing could be? It never met, never did anything, and never will, and never can. Every thing that was ever done was done by individuals and organizations of individuals, called bodies, and a congregation is not a body unless it is organized for business. We read of an unofficial assembly in Acts, 19th chapter; but it was a mob, a mass, a mess, and all it could-do was to get up a muss. It was unlawful-not the congregation, but its presumption in undertaking the business of an ecclesia, which is always a lawful assembly. They were told that the lawful assembly, or ecclesia, would prosecute them for trying to do business; and so all lawful churches ought to prosecute the unlawful ones for trying to take business out of their hands, or into their hands, which is the same. So all unlawful assemblies today, which have taken the Lord's business in their hands, have and aim to take it out of the hands of lawful assemblies. If infant baptism prevail, and this is their aim, they believersí baptism is at an end. If Episcopacy, or Presbytery, or Papacy prevail, then that church government, given from heaven, and which has done more for this world than all the gold in its banks and bowels, will be overthrown. All liberty, and freedom, and individual responsibility, etc., that have come to natural and spiritual men, are the fruits of this heavenly democracy, united into congregationalism. There was no democracy in this old, tyrannical world till Christ brought it from heaven; for he came to lift up the lowly, to pull down those exalted, and "to make men free and equal." "There shall be no one in authority among you, for ye are all brethren." Now, why choose to belong to an unscriptural church, and that means unlawful, so far as Christís rule goes, and it will ultimately go all the way, as he is to uproot all the Father did not plant; why, I say, choose to belong to a so-called church, that Christ never organized or authorized, rather than the one that has Bible characteristics? If you put these above The Church of God, then you Despise the Church of God. But maybe you have not thought of these things. Then think of them now.
The body that exalts itself above the head is a "beast," and the "Beast" did this when it thought to "change times and ordinances." Then this beastly body must have seven heads and ten horns. So there is no end to this unholy ambition.
A human body is the likeness of Christís church. In this body we see unity in diversity among its members. Services differing, like those of the hands, feet, eyes and ears, yet all working together, "fitly joined together and compacted, by that of which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, malting increase of the body unto the building up of itself." This is inexplicable and inapplicable except to a congregation. These members of the human body are not only "joined together," and working together, but in full sympathy, "having the same care one for another," so no one can say to another, "I have no need of you." "Not one member, but many." "If all were one member [as bishops in the general conference], where were the body?" "But now are there many members but one body." The feeble and uncomely members are necessary, and ought to have more abundant honor, for God tempered the body together so there should be no schism. "Now ye [church of God at Corinth] are the body of Christ and members each in his part" (1 Cor. 12). Look a little at the likeness. "Joined together"ó congregation; one headóChrist; complete in itselfóa body, or the body. The eyes "oversee," but do not lord it over the others; the tongue speaks, but never against the members; the hands strike, but in defense of the members; the feet, the servant of all, and lowest of all-these all working together to execute, not the law of the hands or eyes, for these can make no laws, but in all their cooperative labor, they do the will of the head. When a body gets to making laws, it puts itself on an equality with the head, or exalts itself above the head, and thus shows itself the body of a beast. I would not belong to such a body. The figure of a human body is an argument in favor of congregationalism, so potent that flesh and blood, and principalities and powers, and rulers of the darkness of this world and spiritual wickedness in high places, canít answer. If all the human bodies were made into one body, and became a great image, like the one Nebuchadnezzar saw, some little stone might strike its toes and grind it to powder, or it might fall of its own weight; but organized as it is, on a small scale, each complete in itself, the human body becomes an institution which the gates of Hades can not prevail against. These gates may close on one every second, yet the multiplication is so rapid and widespread that the body, as an organization, is destined to ride the surging billows and land at last on the uttermost shores of time. "I speak concerning Christ and his Church."
Why belong to a church of manís devising? "Come out of her, my people!"