Chapter 6—Part B
It Is Reasonable
Reason and Revelation Confirmed by Analogy and History.
Some things are of the earth earthy, and some are of heaven. The heavenly things all bear the marks of their divine origin. "Every house is built by some man," and since it is man’s work, man may build at any place and time that necessities may require. This, like all human works, bears the marks of human origin. The mordant tooth of time will devour it, will bring it to an everlasting end, because it has no reproducing power in itself, and it has not this power because man, the builder, could not impart it. No house, or watch, or work of man’s hand, ever contained life or seed in itself. Nor need they, since men are always, and everywhere, and when their work is needed they are generally glad to perform it. And this is the very best man can do. But God is one, and creation’s day having passed, his works have. come down through the journey of ages, through the self-perpetuating power which he put within them; otherwise he could not have "rested from his labors." When he made the grass, and herbs, and trees after their kind; fishes, fowls, beasts after their kind, he only made one or one pair of each, and then put in them the self-propagating principle; and if you can bear it, each one of all these species on earth today is the legitimate product of its predecessor, and thus has some down by succession from the original. Mules and mongrels and hybrids don’t propagate their species. The line may be long, and impossible to trace, but this we know—God finished his works of creation in the beginning, and stamped them with perpetuity, and put the law within. We see this law in operation today, and so far as history testifies, this law of self-propagation has ever operated; hence the conclusion in favor of succession is irresistible.
So of the church, if it is of God’s building, and designed for perpetuity. Let us study the principle from Reason and Analogy.
This is true of our own species. I know I am in the succession, not because I can trace it, but because God originated the race with this law of self-propagation—a law we see in operation now, and so far as history testifies, it has thus ever operated; hence the proof and conclusion are irresistible. You may tell me I can’t trace it. You way urge variety of complexion and countenance, and customs, as unfavorable to one origin; I may concede these differences from each other, and from the original, and then point out sufficient marks of unity to establish the identity. We may possess many marks in common with other species—such as two eyes, two ears, one nose, etc., and many marks dissimilar to our original, yet who is troubled in establishing the fact, that "of one blood he has made all nations that dwell upon the fare of the whole earth?"
None but God could originate a race like ours. He made the first pair, gave them self-propagating power, and commanded them to multiply and fill the earth, and we are right sure the race was not overthrown in the long wilderness journey. It was often wasted, but never exterminated. The gates of Hades did not prevail. I claim to be in the succession. Men may challenge the historical proof, and it may never be furnished, yet the proof, the right kind of proof, is abundant, and the succession is sure.
God, who made man, and who undertook to provide for him, promised that seed-time and harvests should not fail to the end of time. God gave the first harvest to begin with, and put is it this law of progenitor, and promised perpetuity. We know that our last harvest came out of its predecessor, and that may be as far as we can trace it, yet, from principles previously laid down, we assert the succession with dogmatic assurance.
Wasting and decay have continually operated, but have not prevailed, and the law of propagation has never changed. There have been many and sore famines, but harvests have continued by the only law of propagation. One harvest must furnish seed for the neat. Man can’t make seed. Degenerate seed may be improved, but can’t be made better than the original, and man can’t originate seed with life, though he is an expert at counterfeiting.
This is a divine institution. So is the church. It has constitution and government. So has the church. The father is the head, and the mother the heart. So Christ is the head of the church, and the Holy Spirit the heart. Natural children have an instinctive disposition to love and obey the parents, and the parents are naturally disposed to love and care for the .children. So of the church. God ordained the family for a perpetual institution. So of the church. God intended for every natural man to be a member of a natural family. So of the spiritual church. God intended that all natural increase should be by the family. So of the church. All have not been, as there have been many unlawful marriages and births. Yet the general rule has prevailed, and families have in the main absorbed by adoption, and other social methods, the many who, without culpability of their own, have been born bastards, or of unholy wedlock. But the family has not been overthrown. So many spiritual children have been born out of spiritual wedlock, but as they have a spiritual disposition, they have generally turned into the fellowship of supposed "lawful assemblies." Neither the family nor the church has been overturned by these lawless proceedings. In the beginning of families there was one family in Eden. In the beginning of churches there was one church in Jerusalem. The first family increased in numbers and multiplied in families. So of the first church. The devil caused the first family to be cast out of Eden. So he did with the first church out of Jerusalem. The scattered members from Eden increased, and multiplied the families. So of the first church. Every family was called after its head, as the family of Abraham. So all the churches are called after their head—"the churches of Christ." All the families that came out of the family of Abraham, are never called the family of Abraham. So all the churches of Christ are never called the Church of Christ. The word family occurs nearly 300 times. The word ecclesia occurs over 200 times. Both are often used in the singular and plural numbers. Each is distinct and complete in itself. The singular is never extended beyond its bounds. ("The whole family in heaven and earth" is a mistranslation; it should be every family or fatherhood.) The families have succession, though it can’t be traced. So of the churches. Proof is sufficient, but not historical proof. Then why doubt the continuity of churches, since they have tenfold more and better proof than the other, and that in the face of the hell-defying fiat of all authority in heaven and in earth; yea, the keys of Hades and hell were in his possession. Ah, the multitude of irregulars say it must not be. So we have this cowardly, conciliating, compromising, conforming conservation of error with truth. What is needed is more courage to testify to what truth we have.
Here is another illustration of our principle. Matthew begun with Abraham, and traced the succession up to Jesus. Is that to be laughed at? Does it make no difference whether he descended from Abraham and David? Luke begins at the other end, and traces the genealogy or succession backward. He takes a different route, but they both get there. If this succession fails then Christ fails. If he is not the seed of Abraham, and the offspring of David, and of the tribe of Judah, he is not the Christ. So an inspired man now could give more than one route in the genealogy of Christ’s churches. It might take an inspired man after the wholesale destruction of historic evidence, as it did with the other. Luke was bold enough to trace the succession on up to Adam, who he said was the son of God. Let those who laugh at succession, laugh here. Read the first chapter of Matthew, and the third of Luke, and the second of Ezra, and the seventh of Nehemiah, and especially the 78th and 105th Psalm, and Acts 7th and 13th, and if you are disposed to laugh at succession, you can exercise your risibles (laughter) to satiety.
In Abraham’s day, God separated the Jews for a peculiar people, and promised perpetuity, and though the nations tried to exterminate them, and often earned them into wasting bondage, the first over 400 years and the last over 2,000 years, yet they are preserved a peculiar people, and they will, in due time, receive all the promises to the letter, with good measure, heaped up, pressed down and running over. Yea, they often tried to exterminate themselves. They intermarried with Gentiles and conformed to their religions. Nevertheless God forgot not his promises nor his oath to their fathers. God did not promise to perpetuate their kingdom, but them. Not for their sakes, nor the father’s sake, but that he purposed, promised, and predestinated, therefore he had mercy on them, and "led them according to the integrity of his own heart and guided them by the skillfulness of his hand" (Ps. 78:72). "When he slew them, they sought him; and they returned and enquired after God. They remembered that God was their sock, and the high God their redeemer" (Ps. 78:34, 35). While wars without and within, and intermarriages, and conformity to other religions, did not help God to fulfill his promises, yet all of these and all else did not frustrate the promise of God. He made them put away their wives, and in due time brought them to repentance. If God could feed those millions for forty years with bread from heaven, and give them water out of the rock, and give them all the countries before them; if all this and more for national Israel, what could he not do for the spiritual bride of his son? As the Samaritans were not counted for Jews, neither are half-breeds counted today. The Jew who is not in the succession today is not a Jew, either outwardly or inwardly. Satan got into Eden through the serpent, and into the apostolic church through that serpent, Judas Iscariot, and he has gotten into all churches, and sometimes set them on each other, and the world on them also, yet the gates of hell shall not prevail against God’s churches. Here is a lesson from Analogy that greatly confirms my faith. I know he is able to perform what he promised.
All we know about the propagation of bees is that hives swarm out of hives. Until some one can prove that at some time, and for some time, this law was violated, then we must believe that there has been continuity, as all the knowledge we have is that way. The want of proof has nothing to do with it. There must be certain infallible disproof of the right kind. The want of historical proof cuts no figure in it. As we see the law in operation today, and all history testifies to the same, the conclusion is safe, viz., Beehives have continued to swarm out of beehives. Or, if you could prove that for a long time there was no honey, or honey but no bees, or honey and bees but no beehives, then I would be under no obligation to believe that cinch-bugs, or house-flies, or other insects, or several at or about the same time, and some at distant times, resolved themselves into bees, and hived themselves, and went to making honey, in order to keep up the honey business. That would be a great strain on my credulity, and I know that I would not invest very much in the honey. Great swelling words of flattery might be spoken concerning the new bees, so-called, that they had no stings, were more sociable, etc., yet I would be compelled to question their right or ability to make the genuine article. I would greatly prefer the original, yea, would avoid the substitute. "This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church."
Lodges and societies have adopted the divine method of propagation, but their origin is not of divine authority. Prayer-meetings, Sunday schools, social and benevolent gatherings are of divine permission, but not of divine organization. They are not the appointed guardians of laws, doctrines and ordinances, and they have nothing to do with them, having no authority in the kingdom of Christ. Privilege, permission and authority are very different things. When men mete out authority, they must meet with authority, and that means by authority. Authority does not spring out of the ground, but comes down from heaven. "The baptism of John, was it from heaven or of men? "This answers the question of authority. Any unauthorized gathering, even of good men, to execute judgment and justice, even with the best of motives, would be a mob. Such a gathering we find in the 19th of Acts, but it was unlawful, and they were told that they were amenable for their assumed authority. There was a lawful assembly to which they were referred for the execution of the law. Good men might organize to release an innocent prisoner, or to punish the guilty, and in either case the ends of justice might be subserved, but it would be lawlessness, and if it involved killing it would be murder, though the person might deserve to die. And why? Because God has authorized only "the authorities that be" to take the life of the guilty. God ordained these authorities for the punishment of transgressors. Private citizens have no authority in such cases. They may meet and take counsel, but not council, as they can’t execute. Any other view runs into lawlessness and anarchy. "By what authority doest thou these things?" "This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church." That is where the authority resides, and to this all agree, though they differ as to what the church is.
THE HIGH PRIEST.
There was a period of about 1370 years, with about 80 High Priests mentioned in the genealogy. It may be impossible for us to trace the succession of those named, even with so much inspired history. But who will say that there was no succession because we can’t trace it? Does the existence of things depend on our knowledge? Many things have been long in existence of which men know nothing. But this we know, God planned the succession of the High Priests; therefore succession is pleasing to God, and men should not laugh at God. Melchisedec was out of the succession, and in this he typified our Great High Priest, "who sprang out of Judah, of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning the priesthood." This made it necessary to change the law of induction. God ordained Aaron to begin the succession, as he did John the Baptist to begin another, and Christ honored this last appointment by walking 65 miles to John, to be baptized of him. Korah, Dathan and Abiram, with 250 others, thought this succession unnecessary, "as all the people were holy and God was with them." If the people had gone to some other than John to be baptized, they would have deserved the same fate of these intruders. "This was written for our admonition, upon whom the end of the age has come." We may ridicule the idea of a "successional juice," but God is pleased with all the succession he requireth, and we know he was pleased with this priestly succession, and also with church succession. Otherwise let every church be a bastard, and not a legitimate child of any mother church. Churches legitimately multiplied, as far as we know, in the beginning. There was continuity of churches; so when this is ridiculed now, the same ridicule belongs to the other end of the line. If God had said: On this rock I will build my High Priesthood, and it shall continue, then we know he is pleased with continuity; and if it failed, the fault was his, and the obligation to continue as at first is unaltered. If I knew that millions have been wrongly baptized during the centuries, thus obscuring the way, that would not relieve me in the least from being baptized according to the law of baptism, one item of which is, that the administrator must have authority to baptize. As sure as there were qualifications and ceremonies required in the one case, so in the other. Suppose there were no restrictions to the priesthood, or church, or ordinances, what would have become of them? I plead for order, the others for anarchy. "This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church."
Now let us bring our illustrations nearer the subject. I have before me a Bible. I now refer to all the books as one. These scriptures of divine truth had their divine origin back yonder, when "holy men of old wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. With their writings inspiration ceased, and perpetuity was stamped upon the sacred writings. "The word of the Lord endureth forever"—"abideth forever." Now, if this is indeed and in truth the very word of God, it is in the succession. It came down from the first. It may be in many respects like human books; it may be in some respects unlike the original, and unlike other espies and versions, yet the divine marks are on it. We may improve on it as it is; but not as it was. Any change from the original would be a corruption. Its preservation and purity depend on its succession. If you bring me a copy, and claim for it a subsequent yet divine origin, I will try it by this, and if it contradicts any of its statements or doctrines, I will reject it and pronounce it spurious. Many have been thus produced, and tried, and spurned. Bibles don’t spring out of the ground, nor do they come up out of the wilderness of man’s consciousness, unless inbreathed by the Holy Spirit, who always puts the divine marks upon it. Have men presumed to make Bibles, do you ask? Yes. Their presumption has been displayed in this as well as in church making. And what has man not presumed to do ? He has presumed to be the Christ (many will come, saying, I am Christ); to be God—"yea, he has exalted himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped." These christs, and gods and bible-makers, and church builders are not only presumptuous, but impious. I want neither Bible nor church of man’s devising.
This is another illustration. The religion we profess is of divine origin. It includes regeneration, recreation and resurrection from a state of moral death. It produces such a change of mind, heart and life as to make all things new. Its origin is divine—the work is of God. The thousand human religions are destitute of the divine marks. They may be imitations, but they are counterfeits. They have other and subsequent origins. God is the author of his own religion, and, like all his works, it is stamped with perpetuity. It is destined to smite the Image and to cover the earth. The law of spiritual propagation is within itself. In the operation of this law, in later times, John—a man "full of the Holy Ghost from his birth, "and "sent of God"—says, "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world." Andrew heard and followed him. He then found his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus. Philip also followed him, and when he found Nathaniel, he said, "Come and see." Then the twelve were sent out, then the seventy. Then he organized his regenerated church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. To this institution he gave the commission to disciple or convert all the nations, immersing them, etc., and the saved through this law of propagation and multiplication "were added to the church;" and when the church was scattered and could not assemble as a church in Jerusalem, the scattered material of the first church, with the converts they made "as they went everywhere preaching the word," were congregated into other churches, and thus "churches were multiplied." But note well: all those churches came out of the first church, at Jerusalem, "which is the mother of us all." Thus we see this first church, "built by the God of heaven," contained seed within itself, and had the command to multiply, to perpetuate itself, by power inherent in its regenerated self, and it had the promise of divine cooperation to the end of time. This law of spiritual propagation we see as clearly as in any of our illustrations. We see this in the law of spiritual genesis today, and, so far as history testifies, it has ever been the law. This church, with these divine marks, is of heaven. Its builder and maker is God. I will build, says the first and the last, and who has all power in heaven and on earth. With omnipotent fiat he stamps his workmanship with perpetuity. He had the keys of death and Hades, could shut and none could open, could open and none could shut, and, as a triumphant victor, he declared that the gates that would close on all other institutions should not prevail against his regenerated church. This little stone should ultimately fill the whole earth. So precious did this purchase of his blood appear to his loving eyes, that he calls it his bride, to which he was betrothed with the indissoluble bonds of a divine oath. He calls it his body, of which spiritual connection he is the head. I don’t believe he was ever robbed of his body or bereft of his bride. For, if so, the stars would forever have shut their eyes, the moon withheld her light, and the sun turned black as sackcloth of hair. They would have mourned for the bride as they did for the bridegroom who died that she might live forever. He loved his church, and gave himself for it. I am bold to say that every regenerated church of Christ on earth today is in the succession, and all that have not come down this ancestral line are bastards and not sons—are human and not divine. There are many that have not this succession, but many have, or his Word is broken.
But let us revert to the law of spiritual genesis. Romans 10:13, 15: "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. But how shall they call on him in whom they have not believed, and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher, and how shall they preach except they be sent?"
Now, pray, who will do the sending but previous possessors? Did boards of trade, railroad corporations or turf rings ever send a man to preach the gospel ?
Was the commission given to such? The "go ye" was to a special class, to do these things preach, baptize and teach. They were given all at once, and only once, and that to an elect, called-out and trained body. It was the beginning of authority, to be transmitted; and for anyone to presume to assume such a work is "despising authority."
But, said one, if God had failed to fulfill his promise (and the whole discussion proceeds on this supposition); if he had failed to keep his church in the wilderness, and the world left for a long time without this witness; might we not fall back on chance and accidents? Suppose, says one, that from a passing vessel a few leave of holy writ should float to a heathen island; might not the idolaters read, and understand, and believe, and obey, and be saved, and start a church?
Begone, ye miserable comforters! Ye would ask me to suck comfort out of God’s failure. If God’s appointed custodian, whom he solemnly declared he would be with in this work "in all the days," even to the "end of the age," and who, he declared, should testify "to the uttermost parts of the earth;" if this divine scheme had failed, not a floating vessel on all the seas would contain the sacred leaves to float; or, if so, they might spoil in floating; or, if not, the heathen inhabitants might not understand the language; or, if they did, like all natural men, they might not understand the sense; or, if they did, as usual, they might despise the meaning, for it would first convict them of sin; and so, after all, they might reject, since the carnal mind is enmity; or, if not this, they might and probably would "neglect this great salvation." After all that could be said, supposing they would search and enquire for the meaning, to the inquiry, "Understandest thou what thou readest?" the answer would likely be, "How can I except some man guide me?" Then how could he guide except he be sent? And who are to do the sending ? If he has put offices "in the church" for its upbuilding, and propagation, and multiplication, and perfection, and if he did this "to the intent that unto principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purposes which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord," then my hope is fixed on this.
If God’s word, and oath, and promise, and purpose, which from eternity he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord, have failed, then tell me not of accidents and chances. If the church of Christ has failed, then why start another out of heathen, self-taught, on an island, with a few leaves?
If Christ’s church has not continued; if these promises have all failed, then tell me not about your island, man made—accident churches. I would not join one of them though it had a thousand bibles to teach it and a million gods to back it. If this Bible, with its triune God has failed, then have I failed, now and forever, world without hope and without end. But should a Bible, by providence, fall into the hands of a poor wayfaring man on an island, or elsewhere, and, by reading, he should see in it the Christ a Savior, and should believe on him to the saving of his soul, that same book would show him the great Savior and exemplar, walking all the way from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized of the only man sent of God to baptize. He would see where this same Lord, long after he ascended to heaven, told the first heathen converts in the house of Cornelius, to send all the way to Joppa for one Simon Peter. He would see, in another place, where this same Christ told another convert, Saul of Tarsus, to go into Damascus and inquire for a certain disciple. He would read where this same Jesus—the Almighty—walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, girt about the paps with a golden girdle, his hair white as snow, his eyes a flame of fire, his feet like fine brass burning in a furnace, his countenance like lightning—like the sun shining in his strength, in his right hand the seven stars, his voice like many thunders, saying, "I am alive forevermore, and have the keys of death and Hades," —"He that hath ears to hear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."
Revelation 22:16—"I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches."
If Christ left his churches in charge of his earthly affairs, and if his mind underwent a change in regard to church order, or ordinances, or doctrines, of course he would have affected the change through the churches instead of individuals like Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Campbell, Fox, Joe Smith, etc.
These words were intended for all generations, and especially for the seventh, tenth, sixteenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when so many presumed to assume authority to set up churches of their own inventions. If these came from the church of God, did he authorize them to divide it into schisms? If not from the church of God, what church authority had they? Can one have church authority without church membership? If Rome was the church of God, then these were schismatic, and if not, they are only the daughters of the woman of Revelation 17:5.
This never-changing Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever, together with this word that liveth and abideth forever, requires every new convert in every place and at every time, to be baptized, which forbids his baptizing himself. Not only so, but it would command him to be baptized at the hands of one authorized to administer it. He who loves righteousness and hates iniquity, could not authorize one to administer it contrary to his faith, and creed, and practice, for that would be sin. No man can get baptism except from one who has received it, who believes it, and who is authorized to administer it; and all of such, after baptism, are taught to be added to the church, a pattern of which was given in Jerusalem. Thus, taught by this book, they would be legitimately connected to another.
I would not belong to a church that is not connected with the wilderness journey, leading through dens and caves of the earth, and through fiery and bloody baptisms of persecution. A. church invented by a man and of recent origin could not hold me.
May man invent a church? Then any man may; and if any man may, all men may; and if church invention is a good work, as is supposed, then all men ought.
When Paul was converted he was divinely directed to be baptized by a certain disciple. He afterwards joined the church. He then proceeded to beget others through the gospel-God working with him-and these joined the church at Corinth, and other places where he labored. Felix, nor Festus, Agrippa, nor Tertullus ever made a convert to Christ.
Christianity is not sporadic, or indigenous, but exotic. It must come into a man through channels that are sanctified. It did not spring out of me, nor could I have gotten it from an unconverted companion. A believing companion may sanctify the unbelieving one, but the reverse never. We can only give as we have received. What do you think of the idea of God sending a man to beget others through the gospel while he had never been begotten himself; of sending a man, to baptize who refused to be baptized himself; of sending a man to put another into the church when he was never in himself? All of this is going on, but not of divine origin or sanction. What of a man taking starch, soda, magnesia, etc., and going out to start a corn crop? He must either begin it, or get seed out of the succession. A man can no more start genuine corn than he can start a genuine church. Reason, religion and revelation shut us up to the stream that from the great fountain flowed, and since a stream can not rise above the fountain, what must be the true status of those churches called out of Babylon—the vilest of the vile? God called them out of Rome, but he did not call on them to invent new churches.
But, you ask, was not the church of Christ constituted out of material once bad, such as publicans and harlots? Yes, the God of heaven can set up a perpetuating kingdom out of such material recreated. He did this once, but he did it only once, and if he failed in that, I am sure he would not start another; and I know he never did start but one. Only man is vain and presumptuous enough to attempt a thing that the God of heaven failed in. He also started a perpetuating race out of vivified dust. He did this once, and if this should fail, I don’t think the devil would presume to try his hand after God had failed.
But all believe in succession—Catholics, Protestants and Baptists. There is not an ecclesiastical history, we venture to say, in all the world, that does not start out with the ostensible purpose of proving it. The history of the church in the first century, and in the second, third, etc., is the index of all. The only exception to this, outside of infidels, is to be found, and that only recently, among our own people; who, strange to say, have all at once become timid through habits of affiliation. These amphibious, ambidextrous, ambiguous, equivocating brethren display poor skill in trying to dodge the question.
The latest dodge is that Principles have been perpetuated—and if there were none present to make them afraid, they might perhaps, provided you didn’t tell anybody, say that Baptist principles have been perpetuated.
I am afraid to ask how kept, lest through fear of being "put out of the synagogue" they answer "in archives." But if they have been kept by men, I will contend that men, keeping Baptist principles, are themselves Baptists, and if Baptists they were church members, hence baptized.
Oh yes, say they, we believe in the perpetuity of the church, but the "invisible church." Now ask them about the invisible church. When was it started? They can’t say. What sort of government has it? They can’t say. They suppose none. How many ordinances? None. What are its doctrines? It has none. What sort of body is it? It is no body. Where does it meet? Nowhere. Is this the church he built on a rock, and bought with his blood, and that constitutes his body, holding to nothing and meeting nowhere? Then it is invisible. Surely the gates of Hades can’t prevail against nobody—nothing and nowhere, no, never. This makes the words of Christ true, but why the words?
Our fearful brethren declare that the principles of the gospel have come down, and not the church, and, in saying this, they flatly deny the word of Christ, who said, the gates of Hades should not prevail against his church.
Now we propose, in the fear of God, to take a position, to define it, and then, by divine help, to establish it.
The God of heaven set up his kingdom subsequent to Daniel’s prophecy. It’s nigh approach was announced by John, its presence repeatedly asserted by Christ. Men and women entered it during Christ’s ministry, and the violent tried to take it by force. This is the kingdom that should "stand forever," and that should "not be left to other people." It was the Father’s good pleasure to give to the little flock this kingdom, and Christ delivered it to them in solemn trust. Daniel had said that, in the end, "the saints of the Most High should take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever. The kingdom and dominion and greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven should be given to the saints of the Most High," and this kingdom was never to pass away. The dream "was certain and the interpretation of it sure."
This means both perpetuity and continuity. Houses, watches, and the works of men’s hands, have perpetuity, but not continuity, and need not. But God’s works have both—i.e., perpetuity through continuity—or he could not cease from his labors. God put perpetuating power in his works. Man can not.
This kingdom was to be spread by human effort, by making disciples and baptizing them. These baptized disciples were to cooperate in the extension of this kingdom. Hence, they were to be organized in different places into ecclesiae. These called-out and assembled people must be governed by right principles, for Christ constituted them his executors, or business-doing bodies. The bodies were local, because they were assemblies, and visible because composed of real saints. Christ organized one after which all others were to be patterned. This business-doing body he called his church, and these churches were to multiply themselves, and thus spread the kingdom. Each congregation was complete in itself, and independent of the others, and of civil government. These assemblies were and are distinguishable from all other congregations of men by their divine marks.
This spiritual house was to be made up of spiritual stones, to offer up spiritual sacrifices holy and acceptable unto God. No one, however rich, or learned, or honored, could join it until he was born again—must be saved before added to the church; hence they were called saints or holy ones—having been washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and that by the Spirit of our God. All other congregations, assemblies, bodies, churches (?) admit the unsanctified, the unsaved, and hence they are unholy.
The second divine mark is the polity of fraternal equality. No one exercising authority upon, or lording it over the others.
Christ emphatically declared that this should not be so with his disciples. The world never produced such a body, with such a polity, and it never saw but one, and that it hates. Those so-called Congregationalists are counterfeits. They violate the very principle their name indicates, and thus they make void the commandment of Christ by their tradition—infant rantism (bombastic talk).
The next mark is—this body is divided into three classes; saints, bishops and deacons, with the saints first in authority, because in majority, and the officers are the servants of the saints by virtue of their office. There is only one business-doing body in this world possessing this peculiarity—the greatest, the slave of all. Equal as a member, but subordinate as an officer.
The mission of this church constitutes another divine mark. Her work is—make disciples—immerse them—teach them all things whatsoever Christ has commanded. There is only one body observing this order, and doing this work, and the work can not be done except in order. The commission of some—most all—reads: Go into all the world, and sprinkle all the babies, and teach the catechism, discipline, etc., and thus disciple them (to our leaders).
Another divine mark of this heavenly kingdom, and hence of the business-doing bodies composing it, is that, like its founder, it disdains all alliance with the kingdoms of this world. The god of this world offered all the kingdoms to Christ, but he spurned the offer. So his kingdom, while in the world, is not to be of the world, but separate from the world. Among all the aspirants to these honors, mark well the one who, in the faith, has steadfastly refused every such overture.
But the golden mark of all marks is the principle that underlies the actions, and all the actions, of all her subjects. The underlying principle is a vital one, so much so, that no action destitute of it can be acceptable to God. The principle is seen in the following: "First make the tree good, and the fruit will be good." "A corrupt tree can not bring forth good fruit, neither can a good tree bring forth evil fruit." "If ye love me, keep my commandments," "He that loveth is born of God." "Everyone that doeth righteousness is born of God." "Whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God." "Whether ye eat or drink (or be baptized or eat the Lord’s Supper), or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples."
This divine principle is implanted in regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and is necessary to acceptable obedience. All so-called outward obedience, rendered with a view to obtain forgiveness, salvation, or acceptance with God, is obedience to "another gospel which is not another." It is antipodal to the gospel, and infinitely worse than no gospel. Hence we may expect, under this mark, to find the true church through the past ages denouncing the rite of infant rantism and other acts under the false principle as "inventions of the devil "and subversive of the gospel of Christ.
There are other distinguishing marks, but these are sufficient to identify the true church whenever and wherever found.
Are these marks Scriptural? That has been answered? Are they Reasonable? Let this much suffice. Next, are they Credible and Historical? Read on and see. Have the gates of Hades prevailed against it? We will see.
WE ARE GOING ON A CHURCH HUNT.
All writers on Church History of which we have any knowledge; whether Catholic, Protestant or Baptist, have maintained the doctrine of Church perpetuity: but the new phase, bringing the new issue, in this new era, and maintained by a comparatively few of the wise and popular, is Principle perpetuity. That is to say, Baptist principles have been perpetuated, but not by men; or if by men, not Baptist men; or if by Baptist men, not necessarily church men. In this case, Baptist men holding Baptist principles, are not necessarily church members; as if Baptist principles do not, and have not, required church membership. To support this Principle theory, this Scripture is quoted: "Whoso abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God; he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son. If any man cometh to you and bring not this teaching, receive him not." And to this is added: [Armittage’s History of Baptists] "Pure doctrine, as it is found uncorrupted in the word of God, is the only unbroken line of succession which can be traced in Christianity. God has never confided his truth to the personal succession of any body of men; man was not to be trusted with the custody of this very precious charge; but the King of the truth has kept the keys of the truth in his own hand."
How such a conclusion could have been suggested by such a Scripture is marvelous indeed. Read the Scripture again and see if man is not as prominent in the text as is teaching. Man is the actor, agent, nominative to every verb, and then it is added: "If any man come to you and bring not this teaching." Baptist principles were committed to Baptist men, to be kept by them. The commission converts men to principles. Make disciples (of men), baptize THEM, teach THEM to keep safely all things whatsoever I have commanded You, and lo! I am with You always, even to the end of the world. This is all we claim, but this much we demand. Here is perpetuity of principles, held by MEN in organic capacity, for in no other sense has he, or could he have been with THEM to the end of the world. Evil powers prevailed against individual saints, but the gates of Hades have not against his church. Christ came not only to teach principles, but he also built a church. You may boast of blood-bought principles, or blood-bought men, but the word of God tells also of the blood-bought church. For the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry and the perpetuity of principles, he puts officers in the church. He is the Savior of the body—the church. The manifold wisdom of God is to be made known unto principalities and powers through the church of God, who had power to raise Christ from the dead and set him at his own right hand, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but in that which is to. come, not only gave him to be head over all things to his church, which is his body—the fullness of him that filleth all in all, but he first put all things in subjection under his feet. He is the image of the invisible God, the begotten or Primal cause of all creation; for in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and unto him; and he is before all things, and, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church, that in all things he might have the preeminence. For the whole fullness of God was pleased to dwell in him.
With this almighty Christ at the head, and with all things in subjection at his feet, we are persuaded that he is able, not only to keep and present us, as individuals, holy and unblameable in his sight, but that, having loved the church, and having sanctified and cleansed it with the washing of water in the word, he is also able to present it to himself, a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it even as the Lord the church. For we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones. For this .cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. "This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the church." Wherefore we having received a kingdom which can not be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and Godly fear. The Kingdom which Christ, the God of heaven, set up in the days of the Caesars, was never to be destroyed, nor left to other people, but it was to stand forever. His dominion was to be an everlasting dominion, which should not pass away, and his kingdom was not to be destroyed.
In this visible, organic kingdom, the good and the bad were to grow together until the harvest, or end of the world. This is not true of the in visible, for there are none of the bad in that. This visible kingdom, like the net in the sea, is to drag until it is full, and then be brought to shore, and the shore is the end of the world, at which time the wicked are to be severed from among the just, for the kingdom in this state was to gather of every kind, hence, not the invisible. Its perpetuity is also seen in the parable of the leaven, which worked till the whole was leavened; or the mustard seed, which grew to a large tree, or like the stone which the prophet saw till it filled the whole earth.
This infidelity on church perpetuity, which seems to come of the belief, that at one time anti-Christ was greater than Christ, is becoming a serious matter. If Christ can save his principles, he can save his people, and if he can save his people, he can save his church; and this is just what is so particularly promised and prophesied. This we would believe in the absence of all history. But histories corroborate the fulfillment of the prophecies and the promises, not in historic detail, but in a fullness and generalness of statement, that confirms the faith in the promises and prophecies. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away, says the almighty Head.
A succession of principles assures the succession of Pure Religion. The regenerated beget others.
Dr. T. T. Eaton said:
"If Baptist succession be the bad thing some brethren say, then certainly it ought to be given up. There should be no more of it. The churches now in existence ought to have no succession. When a new church is organized, it should have no sort of connection with other churches, or relations to them. Let churches be organized anywhere, anyhow, by anybody. Just let the people be believers, and let them baptize each other, and start a church. This does away with Baptist succession. And if it be the bad thing that is charged, it ought to be done away with at the earliest moment. Those who oppose Baptist succession have no logical ground to stand on in organizing a church out of material furnished by other churches and with those baptized by regularly ordained ministers. If Baptist succession be sacerdotalism and sacramentalism, then surely we ought not to think of practicing it, and thus keeping up the dreadful isms."
Have not Protestants been instrumental in saving men? Yes, but that is as far as they go, and if not for Baptist influence, all would be christened by a sacrament of damnation. They won’t work under the commission as given by Matthew, but against it. Instead of immersing the saved, they aim to sprinkle the unsaved. Instead of teaching all things whatsoever Christ commanded, they would depose and exclude any preacher who did. As soon as Judson and Carey began to follow the commission they were deposed: None of them would allow any of their preachers to preach as Baptists do. I am glad they save some, but sorry they lead all their saved ones astray. They hold enough truth for salvation, but not enough for service.
Any Baptist preacher would be deposed and excluded from any Baptist church if it be known that he believes what preachers of other denominations believe. Other denominations would do the same with their preachers if it were known that they believe as Baptists believe. It was because of these doctrinal differences that they all divided from us and set up churches of their own liking. These are facts. Then on what principle can all be considered as in any sense members of one church? "Is Christ divided?" Paul said that is what the divisions at Corinth meant. Neither Christ nor his church can be divided. "Certain" may go out, but that proves that they were not of us. When this division takes place, it is not the church divided into two or more churches, but those who crept in privily and unawares, and who are in (nominally), but not of the church, .going out, make it manifest that they were not all the church. So there must be schisms to make manifest those who are approved. This is true when doctrines fatal to orthodoxy and vital to church life are involved. So those differing and divided can in no sense be thought of as all members of the church of Christ. Schisms may be composed of converted people, but a schism can’t be a church, but a cutting off from the church. Among these many claimants, which is the tried and true church?