Chapter 6—Part A
It Is Scriptural.
In May, 1900, I delivered twelve lectures, by request, on "Distinctive Baptist Doctrines," at the Southwestern University. Ten of these, by request of the class, were published in book form, by Folk & Browder, Nashville, Tenn. The book closes with these words: "My two lectures on Church Perpetuity, which, with the others, were requested for publication, are withheld for the present; but I trust soon to give them with good measure. To all who heard or may read, fare ye well."
In the following pages I try to fulfill that promise. I have added much to the matter of these two lectures. There is a strange and strong effort to discourage and suppress investigation along this line. My conviction that the subject is of immense importance and profit, compels the venture of "what I have written." Let those who object, inspect.
There are three words used almost indiscriminately in the discussion of Church History, viz.: "Succession," "Continuity" and "Perpetuity." Not one of these words expresses the whole idea, but each one is nearly right, and sufficient for honest inquiry. In the sense of popes and kings succeeding each other, the word is not to be used of church history, because one church does not take the place of another. Sometimes one church dies as an organization, and some of the members may constitute in the same, or another place, and thus one may succeed the other. But this is hardly involved in this discussion, except where churches may have been driven from place to place, or from one country to another. The church at Jerusalem was multiplied into the churches of Judea, Samaria, etc., but these did not succeed the church at Jerusalem, because that church had not died, as when popes and kings succeed each other by death. That particular idea of supplanting, or taking the place of another, must be eliminated.
"Continuity" is not far from the true idea, as these churches were a continuation and extension of the first church. So out of continuity there came perpetuity, as in human history. These other churches did not spring out of the ground, but came from the first church. There was continuity, but this is not what we are to prove in this discussion by history. If that was the principle of propagation, clearly established in the beginning, and is the principle yet, and has been as far as we know, then, as in Beehives, we can reach a satisfactory conclusion, unless the opposite is clearly proved. Perpetuity fits the kingdom better than the church, unless we use the church in the kingdom sense, a sense I wholly and heartily and holily discard. The kingdom "endureth forever," is "everlasting," but these terms don’t fit the church, which is an organized body within the kingdom. The exact relation of the church, or churches in the aggregate and kingdom, I may not clearly discern, nor can I clearly discern the exact relation of Father, Son and Holy Spirit; nor that of soul and spirit; nor the natural and spiritual, or day and night, or winter and summer. There is a blending, a place of meeting, but who can tell where? We don’t have to, thanks to goodness and mercy. We know the kingdom was first mentioned, and that the church did not supplant the kingdom. They both must be entered. It is not enough to be in the kingdom. Matthew mentions kingdom nearly as often after the church was mentioned as before; Mark, Luke and John never mentioned church, but kingdom often. The kingdom was before the church, as the church was composed of citizens of the kingdom, organized for work and worship. The Lord added those in the kingdom to the church.
There are many things predicated of the kingdom that can not be of the church, and vice versa. We know that when the church became the most frequent term in use, that the kingdom was not done away, but is often referred to even to the end of Revelation. We know the church and the kingdom are not the same, nor is the aggregation of churches commensurate with the kingdom, as many are in the kingdom who are not in a church, and many in the church, who are not in the kingdom; that discipline can put out of the church, but not out of the kingdom; that one can die out of the church, but not out of the kingdom; that many lose membership in the church by lapses, disintegration of the church; but none of these forfeits citizenship in the kingdom. There is room and need for both church and kingdom; they are not hostile, nor in competition, nor is either in the way of the other, but both helpers together. We can discern both, but we can not discern the exact difference, nor the exact relation of the two. Thus it is in many things closely related.
The exact relation of husband and wife is often perplexing, even to the parties themselves. The continuousness of the kingdom is not disputed—I mean the kingdom set up by Christ. But as to the continuousness of that institution that Christ called his church, which the gates of Hades should not prevail against, that shall be the aim of the following pages to establish. The rare, family and church have existed from their beginnings. As the kingdom and the church are so closely related, we will go over the ground covered by both. The same power that could perpetuate the kingdom, could preserve the church. Perpetuity of the kingdom, and continuity of the churches in the kingdom are both plainly and abundantly taught in the Scriptures. This ought to be enough for the faith of the saints, in the absence of all history. But history shall also testify. Let us go on to see:
1ST IF PERPETUITY IS SCRIPTURAL.
2ND IF IT IS REASONABLE.
3RD IF IT IS CREDIBLE.
4TH IF IT IS HISTORICAL.
CHURCH PERPETUITY IS SCRIPTURAL.
First let us notice a few scriptures concerning the Kingdom. Kingdom is a correlative term, like husband and wife, parent and child, master and servant; that is, it depends upon its correlative parts. No husband, no wife, no parent, no child, etc. So a kingdom must have a king, subjects, laws, territory. So of the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom ‘set up by Christ in the days of the Caesars was to endure for the age. See the following scriptures on the kingdom.
Psalm 145:13—Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.
Psalm 146:10—Jehovah will reign forever, Thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye Jehovah.
Daniel 2:44-45—44 And in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall the sovereignty thereof be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. 45 Forasmuch as thou rawest that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
Daniel 4:3—How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.
Daniel 4:34-35—34 And at the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored him that liveth forever; for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom from generation to generation; 35 and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?
Daniel 7:14—And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
Daniel 7:18—But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.
Daniel 7:21-22—21 I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; 22 until the ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High, and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.
Daniel 7:25-27—25 And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change time and laws; and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. 26 But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. 27 And the kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness-of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High: his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
Luke 1:31-33—31 And behold, thou shaft conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shaft call his name Jesus. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Hebrews 12:26-29—26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more will I make to tremble not the earth only, but also the heaven. 27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain. 28 Wherefore, receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken; let us have grace, whereby we may offer service well-pleasing to God with reverence and awe: 29 for our God is a consuming fire.
Revelation 11:15—And the seventh angel sounded; and there followed great voices in heaven, and they said, The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ: and he shall reign for ever and ever.
There was great effort to overthrow the kingdom, which, of course, was visible, and the same power that could preserve the kingdom could preserve the church, although the powers and authorities, visible and invisible, did their utmost against both, and all, as we will see.
THE THRONE ALSO EVERLASTING.
I quote these scriptures, not for the teachers of theology, but the learners, who might not turn to them.
Psalm 89:27-29; 34-37—27 I will also make him my first-born, The highest of the kings of the earth. 28 My loving kindness will I keep for him evermore; and my covenant shall stand fast with him. 29 His seed also will I make to endure forever, and his throne as the days of heaven. 34 My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. 35 Once have I sworn by my holiness: I will not lie unto David 36 His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before me. 37 It shall be established forever as the .moon, And as the faithful witness in the sky.
Isaiah 9:6-7—6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even forever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this.
Hebrews 1:8—But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.
Revelation 3:21-22—21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. 22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit with unto the churches.
So we see the Throne was not to be overthrown.
THE KING IS ALSO EVERLASTING.
Exodus 15:17-18—17 Thou wilt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of throe inheritance, The place, O Jehovah, which thou hast made for me to dwell in, The sanctuary, O Lord. which thy hands have .established. 18 Jehovah shall reign forever and ever.
Psalm 5:15-16—15 Break thou the arm of the wicked; And as for the evil man, seek out his wickedness till thou find none. 16 Jehovah is King forever and ever.
Jeremiah 9:10—Jehovah sat as King at the Flood; Yea, Jehovah sitteth as King forever. But Jehovah is the true God; he is the living God, and an everlasting King: at his wrath the earth trembleth, and the nations are not able to abide his indignation.
Micah 4:6-7—6 In that day, with Jehovah, will I assemble that which is lame, and I will gather that which is driven away, and that which I have afflicted; 7 and I will make that which was lame a remnant, and that which was cast far off a strong nation; and Jehovah will reign over them in Mount Zion from henceforth even forever.
John 12:32-34—32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself. 33 But this he said, signifying by what manner of death he should die. 34 The multitude therefore answered him, We have heard out of the law that the Christ abideth forever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?
1 Timothy 1:17—Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.
THE TERRITORY IS ALSO EVERLASTING.
"The earth is the Lords, and the fullness thereof. He made it and redeemed it for an eternal possession." The meek shall inherit the earth, and dwell therein forever. Read Genesis 13:15; 17:8; 48:4; Psalm 2:8-9; 37:9-11, 18, 22, 29, 34; 72:7, 8; Proverbs 2:21, 22; Isaiah 2:2-4; 60:21, 22; Ezekiel 37:21-28; Amos 9:11-15; Micah 4:1-7; Matthew 5:5; Romans 4:13; Galatians 3:18, 29; Revelation 11:15; 21:1-3, etc. The Hebrew erets occurs six times in Psalm 37, three times translated "land," and three times "earth." The late revisionists say, in margin, they all should be earth. Christ says, in Matthew 5:5, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth;" and Paul, in Romans 4:13, says the promise to Abraham was the "WORLD." So read:
Psalm 37:9-11; 18, 22, 28-29; 34—9 For evil-doers shall be cut off; But those that wait for Jehovah, they shall inherit the (earth) 10 For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: Yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and he shall not be. 11 But the meek shall inherit the (earth) and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. 18 Jehovah knoweth the days of the perfect; and their inheritance shall be forever. 22 For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cutoff. 28 For Jehovah loveth justice, and forsaketh not his saints; They are preserved forever; but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off. 29 The righteous shall inherit the land (earth), and dwell therein forever. 34 Wait for Jehovah, and keep his way, and he will exalt thee to inherit the land (earth): when the wicked are cut off, thou shaft see it.
Ephesians 1:13-14—13 In whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 which is an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God’s own possession, unto the praise of his glory.
Revelation 5:9-10—9 For thou roast slain, and hast redeemed men to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. 10 And halt made them unto our God kings and priests: and they shall reign on the earth.
So the earth is to be redeemed from the curse of sin, and will become a "new earth," wherein the righteous are to dwell forever with the Lord. At last the Father will come down also out of heaven to tabernacle with men, and the kingdom will be given back to him. See Revelation 21st chapter and 1 Corinthians 15:23-28.
"THE STATUTES," "BOOK OF THE LAW" OR "WORD OF GOD" WAS ALSO TO CONTINUE, OR "ENDURE FOREVER."
"The Word of the Lord liveth and abideth forever." It was thought to be lost in the Babylonian captivity, but see Nehemiah, chapter 8, what interest is taken in the reading of the blessed book. Since the days of Christ what diabolical efforts have been made by Pagan emperors and Papal popes to utterly destroy the Word of the Lord; but He who preserves all things was watching The Laws of His Kingdom. It was hidden in the dens and caves of the earth and buried in the graves of Papal archives with the rubbish of relics, but God brought it out of both. It has been counterfeited, and interpolated, and misinterpreted, and wrested, and reviled, and spit upon, but it still lives and abides, shining the brighter by the rubbing off of the rust and rubbish. Now He who could preserve the Law of the Kingdom could also preserve his subjects. It was prophesied of them that they should be persecuted as He was, by men and devils, but they should not prevail. Remember, the church is not a house, but a household, composed of "Living Stones." Read
Matthew 6:11-12—11 Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you.
Matthew 10:21-23—21 And brother shall deliver up brother to death, and the father his child: and children shall rise up against parents, and cause them to be put to death. 22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. 23 But when they persecute you in this city, flee into the next: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone through the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.
Mark 10:29-30—29 There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or lands, for my sake, and for the gospel’s sake, 30 but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions: and in the world to come eternal life.
Luke 6:22-23—22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for, the Son of man’s sake. 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy: for behold your reward is great in- heaven; for in the same manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
Luke 21:12-13; 16-19—12 But before all these things, they shall lay their hands on you, and shall persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13 It shall turn out unto you for a testimony. 16 But ye shall be delivered up even by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolk, and friends: and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. 17 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. 18 And not a hair of your head shall perish. 19 In your patience ye shall win your souls.
John 15:18-21—18 If the world hateth you, ye know that it hath hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20 Remember the word that I said unto you, A servant is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.
John 16:2—They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you shall think that he offereth service unto God.
2 Timothy 3:12-13—12 Yea, and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors shall wag worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
Revelation 12:17—And the dragon waged wroth with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, that keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus.
Revelation 17:4-6—4 And. the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations, even the unclean things of her fornication, 5 and upon her forehead a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF THE HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. 6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
Also Matthew 13:21; 23:34; Acts 8:1; 22:4-8; 26: 11-15; 2 Thessalonians 1:4; Revelation 6:9-11; 7:13, 14; also Daniel 8:12, 24-25, etc.
This part of the prophecy has been verified by history. The true witnesses have been thus persecuted. Have the Promises been fulfilled? Then the true church is in the world today. Notice some of the Promises of Preservation and Perpetuity
Matthew 16:18—And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 28:18-20—18 All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
Romans 8:35-39—35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Even as it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we were accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:24-26—24 Then cometh the end, when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be abolished is death.
Ephesians 1:19-23—19 That ye may know what the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might 20 which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 and he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
Ephesians 3:20-21—20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 5:23-33—23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the saviour of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; 26 that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, 27 that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his own wife loveth himself: 29 For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as Christ also the church; 30 because we are members of his body. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great: but I speak in regard of Christ and of the church. 33 Nevertheless do ye also severally love each one his own wife even as himself: and let the wife see that she fear her husband.
Be sure to read Daniel 7:21-26 and Revelation 11:15-18; 19:1-21. I would like to comment on these scriptures, but any comment, I think, would weaken the scriptures. If in the face of these Words of God, one should doubt the perpetuity of the church, then reason would be useless. And don’t forget that this discussion is made, necessary by such doubts, yea denials, and, that of late by some of our own people, who have apostatized from the faith of our fathers. They laugh and mock at this, as the higher critics do at Inspiration, etc. How could an invisible church provoke opposition and persecution? How could they persecute what they could not see, or touch, or handle? "Has reason fled to brutish beasts?" The church that started has continued through persecutions. Is that true of your "church," dear reader? Why was yours started? Did Christ start it, and has it come down through floods and flames? if not, you don’t belong to the church of Christ. It is the church of him who started it, whether Henry, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Campbell, J. Smith, Mrs. Eddy, etc.
PERPETUITY IN PARABLES.
There are seven of these in the 13th of Matthew. The first, the seed of the kingdom, represents the word, falling on four classes of hearers, three of which it seems was wasted, but the fourth brought forth 30, 60, 100 fold. So the sowing was not a failure. In the next the seed represents good and bad men. Christ and the devil are the cowers. The tares came up with the wheat, but did not choke out the wheat, nor root it up, but itself was routed out in the time of harvest, at the end of the age. The tares greatly damaged, but did not destroy. The tares did not turn to wheat, nor did the wheat turn to tares. The field endured both to the end. So the gates did not prevail. Again, the kingdom of heaven was likened to a grain of mustard, the least of all seeds, yet it grew to be the greatest of all herbs. That means success. In the next it is like to leaven, which operated till the whole was leavened. In the next it is like a treasure hid in a field which a man bought. The field is the world; the man, the son of man; the treasure, the hidden people of God. Christ sold all he had and bought the field containing the hidden treasure, and the treasure was "sealed until the redemption of this purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." The devil would take this field if he could, but if Christ’s word is true, then the devil and his forces are to be cast out at the last day, and he will reign with his saints on the earth forever. So that will not be a failure. So of the pearl of great price. A man who would sell all he has, and give it for one pearl, will very likely look after the pearl, and keep and defend it if he can. Christ would die for that pearl. Yea, it is hid with Christ in God. So the devil must first take God and Christ before he can get the pearl. "Kept by the power of God."
In the next we see that the gospel net that was cast into the sea, did not break, though it gathered of every kind, but was drawn to the shore, which is the end of the age, when the separation will take place. The bad fish did not turn to good fish, nor did the good turn to bad.
So in all of these trials through which the kingdom and church were to pass, defeat was threatened, but the success was final. All the organizations of so-called churches, is on the theory that there was a failure; that the kingdom or church did come to an end, and that it is the pretense for the starting of others. The King had a hard time of it in this wicked world. They got him on the cross, and in the grave, with a stone sealed, and a guard, "but he was not holden of it," (Acts 2:24) or them, but triumphed gloriously. The Word of the kingdom also has had a hard time of it. It has been imprisoned, tortured, and burned, but here it is, "living and abiding forever." The Subjects of the kingdom have also received the same treatment 2 Corinthians 4:8-11: "[We are] troubled on every side, yet not distressed; [we are] perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 11 For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh."
Some one said "that Baptist succession has not yet been proven, and we very humbly add that nothing vital depends on proving it."
Perhaps not. Yet the honor, power, majesty, glory and dominion of Jesus Christ depends on the fact. If succession is not a fact, then those who have fallen asleep in Jesus have perished. He promised to keep his church, and if he has not, either his power or veracity has failed, and, in either case, we are without hope in the world. If he did not keep his bride in exile, when all the world persecuted her, and when she counted not even life itself dear unto her, but left all and clung to him, and trusted him, if he did not keep her then, it was either because he would not, or could not—either of which would be fatal to our hopes. Yet nothing may depend on proving it.
Why this catering and pandering to infidels about ability to prove an acknowledged fact, I know not. It stuns reason, defies judgment, imagination refuses to conjecture. Let us leave it to the barred and bolted vault of God’s hidden mysteries, hoping that in eternity it will be explained, and we will be advanced enough in knowledge to understand it.
Comparing my faith with that of Abraham, the father of the faithful, I find his faith characterized as follows: Romans 4:20-22. "He staggered not at the PROMISE of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being FULLY PERSUADED that what HE HAD PROMISED, HE WAS ABLE ALSO TO PERFORM, AND THEREFORE it was counted to him for righteousness." Now this is a parallel case. Did HE promise to keep his church? "That’s the question." Then I stagger not at the promise of God through unbelief, but am strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully persuaded that what HE had promised HE is also able to perform, and therefore walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham.
That Christ made the promise, and spoke the fiat concerning the perpetuity of his church, no one is reckless enough to deny.
If the church of Christ died in the wilderness, or anywhere else, during the persecution, or any other time, show us the place and time in history. Who or what was it that prevailed against it? Show us "where they laid it, and we will take it away." In what mortuary report can we find a record of its death? Where is the historian that has chanted its obsequies? The body of Christ dead! ! ! Where is the place of its inhumation? Tell us, that we may go and weep there.
Who saw the dismal glare of the funeral pyres?
And sung the requiem by the sullen fires?
Had it funeral rite or curfew’s tolling dirge?
Produce the supposed dead body of Christ, and grant us an autopsy, and we are ready to lift up our hand toward heaven and swear by him that liveth forever and ever, that it is neither dead nor sleepeth. For he himself, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us: which hope we have an anchor to the soul both sure and steadfast and which interreth into that within the veil; whether the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made a high priest FOREVER after the order of Melchisedec.
Could Christ take care of his church? If he could and did not, it was because he would not. Then he forsook it, and broke his promises and oath. Yea, the Father also, and also the Spirit.
Then where are we? What are we? What hope have we? But you say it can’t be proved. That means, it has not been proved to you. Like doubting Thomas, do you demand the utmost demand of your natural senses? Thomas got it and surrendered. Christ’s word and others should have satisfied him, and it ought to satisfy you. Don’t fail to read on, for who knows but you, even you, may not yet say: "My Lord and my God:" If His word is not true, then let us all go a-fishing. But we are not through with the subject yet. See this whole subject foreshadowed in the following illustration:
Matthew 7:21-27—Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. 24 Everyone therefore that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man, who built his house upon the rock (petra): 25 and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house and it fell not; for it was founded upon the rock (petra). 26 And everyone that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand: 27 and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and smote upon that house: and it fell: and great was the fall thereof.
Would Christ be so foolish as to build his house on sand? No; He built it on the petra or firm foundation. Let us study this Church foundation.
"On this Rock I will build my church." Is this Rock Peter, or Christ, or Peter’s Confession, or God’s Revelation of the Divinity of Christ to Peter? Or the inner Revelation and Confession? Some things plausible may be said of any one of these positions. The Catholics and some modern Baptists hold the first; Protestants and most Baptists hold the second. I have almost been convinced that the third is the true interpretation ; then I shifted to the fourth, and then fell back to the second. Plausible arguments can be made on most any position, even the first. But this is the way I now view it, and the reasons therefor. God is called a Rock in the following places: Deut. 32:4, 15, 30 , 1 Sam. 2:2; 2 Sam. 22:2, 3, 32, 47; Ps. 18:2, 31, 46; 28:1; 31:2, 3; 42:9; 61:2; 62:2, 7; 71:3; 78:35; 89:15; 94:22; 95:1; Isa. 8:14; 17:10, etc.
Petra is found in the new Scriptures sixteen times: Matthew 7:24, 25; 16:18; 27:51, 60; Mark 15:46; Luke 6:48; 8:6, 13; Romans 9:33; 1 Cor. 10:4; 1 Peter 2 :8, etc.
Thayer says the distinction between Petra, the massive living rock, and Petros, a detached fragment, is generally observed in classic Greek. Petra is never used of a man, and God is never called a petros. Christ is called Petra more than once, and Peter is called petros over 160 times. 1 Corinthians 10:4: "They drank of that spiritual Rock (petra) that followed them, and that rock (Petra) was Christ." Again I am confirmed in this by what was said of the foundation, and that was what Christ was talking about—building his church upon a firm foundation, so that because of the foundation; the winds, rains, floods, etc., of persecution, beating upon it, and furiously assailing it, should not overthrow it. The stability is not predicated of the building, but of the foundation. So the church can not be overthrown, not because Christ built it, but because he built it on Peter (?). Its stability is in the foundation—Peter, a boulder(?). In Matthew 7:24 it is petra, not petros. Peter was the personification of unstableness, as we will see. I believe Christ was the petra, because Isaiah 28:16 says: "Therefore thus saith the Lord God—I will lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation, and he that believeth shall not make haste" (See also Gen. 49:24; Ps. 118:22; Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11, 12; Romans 9:33; 10:11; 1 Cor. 3:10, 12; Eph. 2:20; 1 Peter 2:48). In all these we know that Christ, and not Peter, is the foundation stone. 1 Corinthians 3:11: "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus." If this does not prove it, then what need have we of proof.
This is further confirmed by a change of gender. Thou art Peter, and on this petra. He did not say, thou art Peter, and on that rock, but on this rock, a very different kind. Nor did he say, thou art Peter, and on Thee I will build. That would have been so plain. Petros is explained in John 1:42 as signifying a stone, not petra, but Kephas. He is thus called in 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Galatians 2:9. Christ is the foundation, the chief corner-stone, the head of the corner, the cap-stone, etc. Petros and lithos go into the building, but petra never, for the building, with its foundation, is on the petra. The idea of building Christ, the apostles, prophets and saints to the end of time on Peter! That road certainly leads to Rome. Christ is the foundation, and petra supports the foundation, therefore Peter supports Christ (?). Was Christ and his church built on Peter? Did he say on that petros or on this petra ? If Peter could support Christ and his church, then he could have built the church on himself. Christ, and not Peter, is the petra, the foundation, the chief corner-stone, the capstone, "the all and in all."
See this movable, changeable, contemptible Petros in several places. In Matthew 14:28-31 he starts to walk on the water, but soon turns coward, and cries like a baby for help. In Matthew 15:15 Christ rebukes his want of understanding. In Matthew 16:22 Peter opposes his Master (pope like), and in reply Christ rebukes him, saying: "Get thou behind me, Satan, for thou art an offense to me." (Infallible pope?) In Matthew 17:4, we find him talking foolishness, on the mount of transfiguration. See him in Matthew 26:33, "following afar off." Hear him lying to a little maid; cursing and swearing. What a stable foundation (?) In verse 40, Christ begs Peter to stay awake and watch with him just one hour. Begged him three times, while in that awful agony, but the sleepy head slept on. Hear him in John 13:8, saying: "Thou shaft never wash my feet," and then, with the fallibility of a pope, changes to: "Not my feet only, but my hands and my head." See this rash pope (?) cutting off the ear of Ma1chus, the High Priest’s servant, and the Lord had to undo his work. He raced with John to the sepulchre and got beat. John had sense enough to stop on the outside, but Peter ran into the tomb, where there was no Lord. Hear him, disheartened, saying: "I go a-fishing" —back to his old trade. When the Lord asked him: "Lovest thou me?" he cowardly dodged the question three times. In Acts 10:13-14, the voice from heaven said: "Rise, Peter, slay and eat." But he said he would not do it. In Acts 15, James beats him making a speech in solution of the vexing question. In Galatians 2:11-14, Paul rebukes him for acting the hypocrite. In his first epistle, 5:1, he calls himself not pope; not the foundation of the church, nor the petra supporting the foundation, but simply elder; and in his second epistle, chapter 1, he calls himself a slave. Peter was in the foundation, but so were the other apostles and prophets, and Christ only in a special sense—"the chief corner-stone."
Peter knew that the twelve were addressed through him as their representative, just as the "angels" were in the second and third chapters of Revelation; that the binding and loosing power was not in him, but in the church, as is infallibly taught in Matthew 18:17-18. We know that the great power conferred in John 20:22, 23 was on all the apostles alike. Peter knew that in the council at Jerusalem, when a great question was to be decided for all time, that he had no authority to decide it, for when James made the speech that "pleased the apostles, elders and the whole church," that the settlement came in the appointed way. He knew that he had no power to appoint a successor to Judas, or to appoint deacons in the sixth chapter of Acts. That was also done by the whole church. In Acts 8:14, the other apostles sent Peter and John into Samaria. Did Christ built the Kingdom on Peter? Is Christ the foundation of the kingdom, and Peter the foundation of the church? Now, those who try to put the church on Peter must have a kingdom-church in their minds. Catholics say the Visible, the others say the Invisible church. I wonder if the devil can see the invisible church, and what he wants to destroy it for. It never did anything.
Our Sunday-school literature of 1907 has the church built on Peter. I quote as follows "There can be no reasonable doubt that Jesus’ words, fairly interpreted, mean that the "rock" on which the church is to be built is not Peter’s faith, nor the Messiahship and divinity to which his confession referred, but Peter himself."
From another: "Peter" means rock, and it was as if Jesus said, "Thou art stone, and upon this stone I will build my church." The "church" includes those who believe in Jesus Christ and make the confession that Peter had just made, being taught, as he was, by the Holy Spirit.
From Western Recorder: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock"—evidently referring to Peter as spokesman for the apostles. The apostles and the prophets are the foundation. (Eph. 2:20). The new Jerusalem has the twelve apostles for its twelve foundation-stones. (Rev. 21:14).
But Christ said, Luke 6:46-48, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? 47 Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: 48 He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock."
In both places the rock is petra. Better put your foundation on sand than a petros-boulder.
But read further from the Recorder: "My church"— his elect people, and no "visible" organization. When such are spoken of, it is the church in Rome, the churches of Galatia, etc. "The gates of hell"—the gates of death. "There shall never be a time when some of that elect people shall not be living upon the earth."
Then Christ did not build a church. He has always had an "elect people." Did he build them into a disorganization, or an invisible organization? Then it is a sin to have a visible organization. Where is his building? Were these 12 foundation-stones, with Christ the chief corner-stone, laid on Peter? Forgive the thought.
Here is another scripture that fits this subject: Luke 14:28-32, "For which of you, desiring to build a tower, doth not first sit down and count the cost, whether he have wherewith to complete it? 29 Lest haply, when he bath laid a foundation, and is notable to finish, all that behold begin to mock him, 30 saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31 Or what king, as he goeth to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and asketh conditions of peace."
Did Christ begin to build and was not able to finish? Did he fail to reckon the strength of the opposition to his church? Did he make peace with the adversaries, or did he surrender? Will you "mock" him with a failure to do what he started out to do?