THIS IS THE CHURCH
By Alonzo T. Jones
Christian Unity is always among the Christian things that are of the greatest importance. Yet while Christian Unity is in itself of great importance, to know what it is, is of greater importance. This is because to desire, and to strive for, and to promote, as Christian Unity what is not Christian Unity at all is a most dangerous mistake and an immense loss. Much of just this has been done, and much of it is being done just now as a part of the several great “movements” in and by the churches that are now being urged.
In studying Christian Unity for what it really is, it will be helpful first of all plainly to state what it is not. One of the clearest expressions of what it is not is the following prodigiously false statement of what it is:
“1. Unity of doctrine and faith, which consists in the common accord of all the Faithful in admitting and believing all that the teaching church pro-poses to them as revealed or confirmed by Jesus Christ.
“2. Unity of government, which produces unity of communion, and which consists in the submission of all the Faithful to their respective bishops and in particular to the Roman Pontiff, supreme Head of the church.”
Yet utterly false and Romish as all of that is, take away from it only the part that pertains to “the Roman Pontiff,” and it fairly expresses the view of every denomination in the world as to what is Christian Unity. But Christian Unity is altogether another thing than is any of that; and is as far higher than all of that as Heaven is higher than the earth.
Uniting of Christians upon doctrine, is not Christian Unity. Agreement of Christians in belief, is not Christian Unity. Uniting or agreeing of Christians upon a platform or statement of belief, or of doctrine, or of principles, is not Christian Unity. Uniting of Christians in an agreed assent and sub-mission to an order of church organization or church-government, is not Christian Unity. Union of purpose or of effort of Christians or among Christians in promoting a cause, is not Christian Unity. Free and pleasant fraternal association of Christians, is not Christian Unity.
Christians might have all of these things in one combination, indeed many of them do, and yet not have Christian Unity at all. Christian Unity is far more and far higher than is any association or denomination or federation or council even of all the Christians in the world for any purpose or upon any platform or in any cause or in submission to any church-government.
And it is so well worth having that it is worth more than all other things put
Come then, let us know what it is in its pure truth and splendid worth, and then let us have it for all that it is worth.
THE CHURCH OF GOD
In entering upon the study of The Church of the Living God, there is an essential that should first be considered: and not only first, but first and last and all the time. That essential is, The Place of the Holy Spirit.
In the preceding study booklet, The Greater Purpose, it was related how that at the beginning of the building of The Church according to the new order of the eleven apostles, all of whom had been personally chosen, and called, and taught for three years, and ordained, and commissioned, by the Lord Himself, to go and preach the Gospel in all the world, were not al-lowed to go anywhere not to preach at all till they were endued with power from on high in the baptism with the Holy Spirit. And they must tarry in Jerusalem and wait for that baptism.
At Pentecost that Baptism came. The Holy Spirit took His place, which was the first place of all. Then they preached the Gospel and the work went on. And that work went on with always the Holy Spirit in His own place, and that the first place of all and over all and through all and in all. This is God’s way with His Church and in His Church, and it must be our way.
Let us trace for a little distance, this way of the Lord in and with His own Church: before man usurped the place of the Lord, and machinery the place of the Holy Spirit.
The second chapter of Acts is the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, Peter’s sermon telling that this was the fulfillment of the prophecy by Joel that God would pour out His Spirit “upon all flesh,” and the call to all to repent and be baptized, “and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
The third and fourth chapters tell of the healing of the lame man at the gate of the temple, of Peter’s sermon to the crowd that gathered and of Peter and John being arrested and imprisoned by the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees of the Sanhedrin, of the trial next day by the great council where “Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost,” made answer; and being let go, the two apostles went to their own company where they all
together prayed “and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.”
The fifth chapter tells of the trick of Ananias and Sapphira in the matter of their agreeing to deceive as to the sale and gift of their property. And this was “to lie to the Holy Ghost,” and “to tempt the Spirit of the Lord.” The consequences were immediate and dreadful.
Then the apostles were all arrested by the high priest and council and were imprisoned for trial again. “But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors and brought them forth, and said Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this Life.” Again they were arrested and brought before the council “and all the senate of the children of Israel,” where again Peter “and the other apostles” preached the Gospel and declared. “We are witnesses of these things, and so also is the Holy Ghost whom God hath given to them that obey Him.”
The sixth and seventh chapters tell of the choosing of men “full of the Holy Ghost and Wisdom” to have charge of the “business” in “the daily ministration;” and of Stephen “a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost” speaking before the council with his face shining “as it had been the face of an angel,” and of his “being full of the Holy Ghost” and looking up into heaven and seeing “the glory of God and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.”
The eighth chapter tells of the preaching by Philip in Samaria, and of their receiving “the Holy Ghost;” and of “the angel of the Lord” telling Philip to go from Samaria away down to the road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza, where, when he arrived a man in a chariot was just then passing and reading in the book of Isaiah what is now the fifty-third chapter, and “the Spirit said unto Philip Go near, join thyself to this chariot.” Philip did so, and preached to him Jesus in that same Scripture; the man believed and was baptized and went on his way rejoicing; and the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more.”
The ninth chapter tells of the apprehension and conversion of the raging Saul, by the appearing of the Lord Jesus Himself, of his being “filled with the Holy Ghost” by the laying on of the hands of Ananias who was sent to him for this purpose by the Lord Jesus “in a vision;” of “the churches walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Ghost;” and of the raising of Dorcas from the dead.
The tenth chapter tells of “an angel of God” speaking to Cornelius in a
vision and telling him to send men to Joppa to call Peter to him; of a vision given to Peter to prepare for the coming of the man; of the Spirit’s telling Peter that the men were seeking him and that he was to go with them; of his going and preaching in the house of Cornelius and “the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.”
The eleventh chapter tells of the rehearsal of the foregoing experience to the Pharisaic believer at Jerusalem who contended with him for what had been done; of the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles in Antioch, and of the sending of Barnabas over there “For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith.”
The twelfth chapter is the story of the deliverance of Peter from prison by the angel of the Lord; and Herod’s death from being smitten by the angel of the Lord.
The thirteenth and fourteenth chapters tell of “the Holy Ghost” saying to the church at Antioch, “Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work where-unto I have called them,” and of their “being sent forth by the Holy Ghost;” of Saul, “full of the Holy Ghost” rebuking the opposing sorcerer; of the preaching of the Gospel at Antioch in Pisidia and of the disciples being “filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost.”
The fifteenth chapter tells of the settlement by the Holy Spirit of the controversy as to circumcision and keeping the law for Salvation, and the sending forth of the letter saying, “It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.”
The sixteenth chapter tells us that Paul an apostle, and Silas a prophet “were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia.” and assaying to go into Bithynia “the Spirit suffered them not;” and thus traveling on, they were brought down to Troas where in a “vision to Paul in the night a man of Macedonia called them over there. And chapters seventeen and eighteen tell of their experiences there and in Greece.
Chapter nineteen tells that Paul found at Ephesus “certain disciples” to whom he said, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” They replied, “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” “Unto what then were ye baptized?” “Unto John’s baptism.” Then Paul preached Christ to them, and “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid his hands upon them the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues and prophesied.”
In the twentieth chapter Paul is on his way to Jerusalem, and he called the elders of the church at Ephesus to meet him at Miletus; and in his words to them he said, “the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me;” and “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers to feed the flock of God.”
In the twenty-first chapter, when Paul came to Tyre the disciples “said unto Paul through the Spirit that he should not go up to Jerusalem;” and when he came to Caesarea, the prophet Agabus met him and “took Paul’s girdle and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”
He went on to Jerusalem, and beginning in the twenty-first chapter and reaching to the end of the book there is one of the most remarkable chains of the direct providence and working of God that ever occurred in the world. And the last words of Paul in the book, begin with the great characteristic of the man and of the book, “Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the Prophet,” etc.
From only this mere sketch of the book of Acts it is perfectly plain that the one thing that stands out plain and clear and prominent above all other things in the whole book and throughout the whole book, is that the Holy Spirit was then the grand sovereign, reigning, and guiding power in the Church and of the Church.
And next to that one great thing there stands clear and plain and prominent throughout, the splendid corresponding truth that the Christians of the time constantly recognized and gladly yielded that sovereignty and reign and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Everywhere God’s Spirit is recognized as first. In all things He is considered first, and the first. If they had not done this, the record could not have been what it is; for then the experience would not have been what it was.
Let Christians again so recognize and yield the sovereignty and reign and guidance of the Holy Spirit over and in themselves and over all things in and to the Church, then again will experience of individuals of the Church prove to be what it was at the first; for Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Such only is the rightful place of the Holy Spirit in individuals and in the Church; and Christ needs only that Christians yield to Him that place and recognize Him in that place, to prove Himself to be all that He ever was in the place that is supremely His.
Thus in all things of The Church and to The Church and in The Church, the place of the Holy Spirit is the first place. No step can be taken and nothing can be done in the right way until the Holy Spirit is given His place.
And this must be so now with us in the study of this greatest of all things — The Church of the Living God. For it is the truth that, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which in The Church God hath prepared for them that love Him; but God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit, for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
CHURCH ORGANIZATION (1)
The editor of a church paper presents what is intended to be a strong incentive to “Organization” of the people of the “Church of God.” This presentation is worth studying: especially by the people to whom it is particularly addressed. It begins as follows:
“Organization is one of the great and fundamental laws of the Universe of God. The all-wise Creator has demonstrated this, on every hand, and it stands out visibly in all His creation, as a living witness of strength, and the accomplishment of a definite purpose in the earth. The trees of the forest, and the beasts of the field, are each one a definite and wonderful organism: a separate being made of many organs, all of which work together in harmony and system, perpetuating the life, growth, and increase, of those of its kind. The human body is a wonderful organized organism, each member of which works together as one, all having the same and supreme purpose, of perpetuating its own existence,” etc. . . .
But, Who is the Organizer of each and all of these wonderful organisms? Who organizes each tree of the forest, each beast of the field, and each human body? Is not this Organizer, in each and every case, just God and only God by His Spirit? Who ever knew or thought of the branches of a tree, organizing a tree? or the members of a beast, organizing that beast? or the members of any human body organizing that body? There never was anything of the kind, and there never could be anything of the kind. So it is
not a question of Organization, but of whose Organization. The sole question always and in every case is, Whose shall be the Organization? Who is properly and originally the Organizer, and who shall continue the organizing, and whose shall be the Organization?
The human body is indeed a wonderful organism: “fearfully and wonder-fully made; “ and made only by God through Christ by His Spirit. Genesis 1:26-27; Job 33:4. Not all the collective individual Christians and all the delegates and all the preachers and all the bishops and all the conferences and all the Councils that ever were in the world, all put together at once, could organize the human body. They would not know, and could not know, how to make the first movement, or even to think the first thought, toward it. It is all infinitely beyond all their reach or realm; and stands only within the realm and comprehension of God. And anybody ever to undertake it, would have to be equal with God, and God of God.
So, in this it is not any question of Organization. The sole question is, Who is the Organizer? and whose is the Organization?
Now the Divine Body — “the Body of Christ which is The Church” — is a much more wonderful organism than is the human body: as much more as the supremely Spiritual is more than the human and natural. And just as none but God, through Christ by His Spirit could possibly organize the Divine and Spiritual Body which is The Church. And just so much the more would anybody who would undertake to organize this Body have to be equal with God, and God of God. And that is just where the Scripture places the one who first “thought” of it and undertook to do it: “he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” That is not safe ground, for Christians.
And still it is not any question of Organization. The sole and only ground for question, is, Who is and who shall be, the Organizer? and who is, and whose shall be, the Organization? For the members of the body to under-take to organize the body, in order to have a fully organized body they must necessarily “organize” a head as well as any other part of the body. There-fore in their “organizing” the “Body of Christ, which is The Church” they must “organize” a head of and for that body. But Christ is the Head of that true body which is The Church: and will any of these “organizers” say that they will “organize” Christ as the Head of the body that they are organiz-ing? Oh! no, of course not that. He is already organized, in God’s Organi-zation. Christ is the Invisible Head. We “organize” with “a visible head”
and “organize” only “a visible head.”
And that is all that the church of Rome ever claimed. And all that the church of Rome is or ever was, is in that theory.
Yes, “the trees of the forest are, each one a definite and wonderful organ-ism.” And by the Lord, His true children are called “trees” — “trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3. And while it is true, as before stated, that no such thing was ever known as the branches of any tree undertaking to organize the tree: yet, sad to say, it is also true that once upon a time the trees themselves did actually do the unreasonable thing of organizing themselves into proposed “harmony and system” in which “to work together.” The account of it is as follows:
“The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness where with by me they honor God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou and reign over us. But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?
Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou and reign over us. And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?”
Since they could not get any tree that was good for anything, to be the head of their “organization” — because those were all busy honoring God and blessing men — they then appealed to the one that was good for nothing but to be burned — “the bramble,” the thorn-bush.
“Then said all the trees to the bramble, Come thou and reign over us. And the bramble said unto the trees, if in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust under my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.” Judges 9: 8-15.
Did anybody ever with either safety or comfort sit down in the shade of a thorn-bush? Yet that they do this very thing, or else be burnt, were the only terms of the bargain. That is, they were to put themselves in an arrange-
ment where they were certain to be pricked; and if they refused that, then they were certain to be burnt. And they were so taken with the idea of their own “organization” instead of God’s that they deliberately entered into that unreasonable arrangement. They did make that bramble king over them, when by every right and every sober consideration God was king over them. They rejected God and chose the bramble; and in that they rejected God’s Organization, and set up a structure of their own choice, “like all the nations,” and called it “organization.”
They asked Gideon with his son and his son’s son to rule over them. But Gideon promptly replied, “I will not rule over you. Neither shall my sons rule over you. The Lord shall rule over you. Judges 8:23. But Gideon had a wild son, named Abimelech: and after the death of Gideon this one killed sixty-nine of the sons of Gideon — all of his sons but one — and was made king by the people of Shechem and of the house of Millo, And at the end of three years dissatisfaction entered and contentions arose, with the result that Abimelech and his men slew all the people of Shechem and of the house of Millo, and beat down to a total ruin the city of Shechem, and next was himself slain.
But in spite of this frightful outcome, to both sides of the attempt at “organization,” there still lingered the wish to have a king. And in the days of Samuel, again the demand was openly made. “Make us a king to judge us, like all the nations.” 1 Samuel 8:5. The Lord by Samuel protested solemnly against it all: and outlined before them what would be the evil and the oppressions of their king and their kingdom and their “organization.” But they would not listen, and still insisted, “Nay, but we will have a king over us.” Verse 19.
The Lord let them have their persistent way. Yet He declared, “They have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.” Verse 7. They rejected God, to be “like all the nations.” And speedily they became “Like all the nations” that rejected God: and finally sealed it all, and their doom, with the wild and desperate exclamation, “We have no king but Caesar!”
What is the Meaning of all this? Is there in it any warning, or any lesson, for God’s people in this time or in any time? Or is it true that that part of the word of God is empty, void, and dead? Where is any difference in principle between then their call for a king, that they might be “like all the nations,” and now the like call for a king, that they might be like all the denominations?
CHURCH ORGANIZATION (2)
There has never been a system of what is called “church organization” that has not demonstrated itself to be as cruel as the devil. The theory is that such “church,” having the true church organization, is “the true church,” which to be in is the surety of eternal salvation, and which to be separated from is the guarantee of forfeiture of eternal life.
Now it is certain that in the true Christian Church, only the true Christian Spirit must be found and only this Spirit the prevailing one. Without this it is impossible that any church can be true, and much less be the true. What then is the true and genuine Christian Spirit?
First of all it is only the Holy Spirit of God: for the Lord would not allow His own chosen and ordained and commissioned apostles to make a single move toward anything of The Church until they had been “baptized with the Holy Ghost.” Luke 24:49; Acts 1: 4-5. And of this the inevitable “fruit” is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance;” and “Liberty;” for “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty” — liberty of thought, liberty of speech, and liberty of action. Galatians 3:22; 2 Corinthians 3:17. This is the Christian Spirit. And this is the Spirit that rules and is manifested in every church that is Christian. And the manifestation of this Spirit is definitely defined as —
“The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without par-tiality, and without hypocrisy.” James 3:17.
Now in what is called “church organization,” one man, or two men, or three men, or a few men invent and form a “plan of organization,” and persuade people to accept it and to submit to it: which is in fact to submit to the rule of the men who hold the “offices,” and thereby hold “the keys” to open or shut heaven. And when the “organization” is completed and in working order, then any member who is not conforming to the will and workings of the officialdom is required to do so. And if in obedience to Christ in His Spirit and in His truth, or is in his Christian liberty to think and speak and act, he does not do so, he is separated from the “organization” and ostracized from all recognition of the “church” and “the brethren” and thus is completely excluded from “the church.” And if any of the brethren disregard the exclusion of the Christian brother and fellowship him and receive him into their houses, then they immediately become subject to suspicion and to being “eyed:” and if this does not prove corrective
then they must also be separated. And the theory is that exclusion from that “church” means the loss of eternal life.
That is, for a man’s disagreement with a man or a few men who “represent the church,” by these men in their “representing the church,” and in that their “representing God,” that man is deliberately deprived of eternal life! Now could the devil himself be more cruel than that — to put such a penalty as that upon such an “offence” as that, which in truth is no offence either to God or man? Eternal death, for disagreement with a man! Yet, in brief, that is exactly the process in and of the first such “church organization” — the false Catholic church — and of every other structure that is called “church organization.”
The Roman “organization” is proud of it and boasts of it as proof of her divinity. Others repudiate that “church” with her “organization” as “the man of sin,” “the mystery of iniquity,” “the son of perdition,” and “the beast;” and yet build one of their own on the same principle and after the same pattern; and with it do the same thing. Some of these others, indeed, have enough discernment to see the enormity of it, and compunction enough to try to evade it with the claim that in their case it does not affect the loss of eternal life to the one cast out; but is only his separation from the “organization” and its “fellowship:” because “we believe in religious liberty!”
But that is only a dodge and camouflage. For, if that be true, it is a plain confession that their “organization” and “fellowship” is not the true Church, but is no more than is any other mere club. But they do not mean anything of the kind. They do not mean to abate an iota of the claim that theirs is the true Church indeed with all that this involves or implies: that to be in it means eternal life, and that separation from it means eternal death.
And by this claim it is that they hold their power over the people. Does anybody think for a moment that for a moment any of the people would endure what they do endure there, or would stand in awe of that “church” authority or power, if they understood that all that the “organization” and association amounts to is only that of a mere human society or club? Yet in truth and in fact and in effect, just that is all that it is. It is only the superstition that in some mysteriously ineffable way the officialdom and hierarchy of the “organization” are possessed of a spiritual power that can affect the standing of the souls of men before God — it is only this superstition that causes the people against their own conviction and their own common sense of the right, to endure or sanction the “church” procedure in many and
What else than superstition could it be that could cause people to think that some men in the “church” through election by other men or by themselves are partakers or possessors of spiritual authority or power to which all the other people of the “church” must unquestioningly defer, or else jeopardize their soul with God? That is precisely the principle, and the superstition, of the infallibility of the pope.
The pope is elected by the cardinals, from among themselves, or by him-self. No cardinal possesses or even claims any scintilla of infallibility. Yet when these cardinals who have none of it, elect one of themselves, who have none of it, and thus occupies the office and seat of pope, immediately he has all of it. How does he get it? Where does it come from? Oh, from the office, from the seat, of course: for it is only when he speaks ex cathedra, that is “from the chair,” that he is infallible.
And every other officialdom of “church organization” is of the same stripe and the same superstition.
WHICH ONE IS THE TRUE?
One of the livest questions of the day is, What is the Church? And this is the most important question that there ever could be in any day. All know that there are so many things each one of which is claimed to be not only a church but The Church, that everybody all the time is forced to the question of not only which is the true Church, but what is the true Church? Each one of them claims and asserts that it is the true Church: and yet in so many things and ways each one is conducted and managed so unlike what is Christian, that its own members as well as other people are kept perpetually under the question, Is that the true Church?
All of them but the first one of them, are perfectly sure that the first one of them is not the true Church: while that first one of them is just as perfectly sure that it is the only true Church. And if the first one of them, the oldest one of them, the one that has the advantage of far the longest time and the most and fullest experience, the one that has had the benefit of “the ingenuity and patient care of forty generations of statesmen” that have made it “the very masterpiece of human wisdom” — if that one of them is not the true one of them, then how can any other one of them be the true? Or in behalf of all the others must it be the acknowledged principle of this sub-
ject, that the first one of them, the one with the most experience of them all, is, and is certain to be the worst of them all.
If this be the principle of the thing, then is it not inevitable that as certainly as each or all of the others shall be given time and experience, they will go the same way? And in the like length of time will be each one just as bad as the first one? And if that be not the principle of the thing, if age and experience have not made the first one of them to be the worst one of them, then what ground or reason of existence have all or any of the others, apart from that first one?
This inevitable dilemma is sought to be avoided by the plea, invariably adopted, that, The difficulty is not in or with the principle: the principle is correct: the difficulty is in the application of the principle: not the principle but the men. But that is not any way of escape. For the application of the principle was, and must be always by men. And these men were always just men — plain human beings — like all other men. Always that principle will, and will have to be, applied by men — just plain human beings
— like all other men.
Yet more that this: that is exactly the plea of that first one of these claimed churches. All the deviltry of the church of Rome, all the way, has been protested by members of that church within that church. The enormities of iniquity practiced by and in that church have been recorded and condemned and denounced by even the high ones of that church — bishops, archbishops, even cardinals — and who still remained orthodox members of that church because they held that the evils were not of the church nor from the church, but of the men, and only from the men who conducted the affairs of the church. Long before The Reformation, men in that church had said harder things of the Pope and of the conduct of that church than the reformers ever said: yet these still held that it was still and ever the true church.
The standard annalist of that church itself, Cardinal Baronius, says of the papacy in the tenth century:
“In this century the abomination of desolation was seen in the temple of the Lord: and in the See of St. Peter, reverenced by angels, were placed the most wicked of men: not pontiffs but monsters.”
And Bishop Robert of Lincoln, in England, in the very presence of Pope Innocent IV and his cardinals, A. D. 1250, spoke out plainly to them:
“The clergy are a source of pollution in the whole earth: they are anti-christs and devils masquerading as angels of light, who make the house of prayer a den of robbers: and the Roman curia is the source of all the vileness which renders the priesthood a hissing and a reproach to Christianity.”
They denounced the men and the activities of the men, even of the popes and the papal court, and still apologized and pleaded for “the church” — for the machine — that alone gave to the men their power and their opportunity. They condemned the evil practices but justified the system by which alone it was possible that these practices could not only be perpetuated, but could even exist.
Church-men were bad; but “the church,” whose members and the expression of whose life those church-men essentially were, was “the good!”
Customs were pernicious; but “the church,” whose the customs essentially were, was “the abode of sanctity!”
Practices were abominable: but “the church,” which invented many and profited by all and corrected none of the practices, was “holy!”
Popes were demonic; but “the church,” of which the popes were “the head”
— the acting will, the guiding mind — was “divine!”
See the grand churches and magnificent cathedrals! Hear the “heavenly” music of the “divine” chants! Catch the impressive odor of the “holy” in-cense! Feel the awe of the “solemn” service, as the richly-robed ecclesiastics minister at the “altar,” kneel before the “host,” and move in “holy” procession! Think of the wide extent of her “missions!” Behold her “perfect organization,” by which she executes as by one man the wonders of her will, holds empires in awe, and rules the world! Is not that the true and only “holy church?”
The church was “the ark of God,” the “ship of Salvation.” The pilot, the captain, and the crew, might all be pirates, and use every motion of the ship only for piratical purposes, and load her to the sinking point with piratical plunder, and keep her headed ever straight toward perdition, yet “the grand old ship” herself was all right and would come safely to the heavenly port. Therefore, “cling to the ark,” “stand by the old ship,” and you will be safe and will land at last on the heavenly shore.
For instance, in direct connection with the very passage already quoted from Cardinal Beronius, in which he describes the fearful conditions of that church in the ninth century, there stand the Cardinal’s words as fol-lows:
“Christ was then assuredly sleeping a profound sleep in the bottom of His vessel whilst the winds buffeted it on all sides and covered it with the waves of the sea. And what was more unfortunate still, the dis-ciples of the Lord slept more profoundly than He, and could not awaken Him either by their cries or clamors.”
And in the General Council of Blase, 1432, the pope’s legate exhorted the Bohemian Christians:
“In the time of Noah’s flood, as many as were without the ark per-ished.”
All of this evil in that church and of that church was so chronic, and so well known that time and again when a pope died, all Europe was searched as with candles to find “a good man” to be pope. And when one was at last found who was well known and universally accepted as of model character, when he had been installed and was actually pope he was indeed the pope: and all were caused to lament that “he always would have been universally considered to be the best man for pope, if he had never become pope.”
Thus the plea utterly falls in every way that would hold that the badness of the church of Rome is because of the men and not because of the principle. It is essentially in the principle: and the principle only manifests itself in and through the men who become identified with it.
And what of the Scriptures? What say they of it? This: “the man of sin,” “the mystery of iniquity,” “the synagogue of Satan,” “the son of perdition,” “the great harlot,” “Mystery, Babylon the Great,” “the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth,” “the mistress of witchcrafts and mother of abominations,” “the abomination of desolation.”
Does God say all of that of a thing in which there is any possible trace of good, of purity, or of truth? Do the Scriptures deal with men, or with principles? With principles only. The whole Bible is a Book of principles only. And as certainly as the Scriptures deal with principles and not with men, so certainly the Scriptures deal with and define and denounce the church of
Rome in its principle, and not merely in its men.
The sin, the perdition, the mystery of the iniquity, the harlotry, the witch-craft, the sorcery, the abomination, of the church of Rome is in the principle of the thing: is in the essence of the thing, and not in the management of the thing: is in the essence of that thing as the church, and not in the management of it as the church. And what is the principle of the church of Rome as the “church?” According to that principle and idea, what is the “church?” It is this:
“The society of the validly baptized faithful united together in one body by the profession of the same faith, by the participation of the same sacraments, and by obedience to the same authority, Christ, its invisible head in Heaven, and the Roman Pontiff, the successor of St. Peter, Christ’s visible representative and vicegerent on earth.” — Christian Apologetics, Sec. 200.
Take out of that definition the words “Roman Pontiff, the successor of St. Peter,” and “vicegerent,” and in their place insert the name of the man, or of the Board, or of the Committee, or of the Conference or Diocese, in the case, and in principle and largely in expression, it equally defines “the church” as held and manifested in every other “church organization” in the world.
And what is the principle in it and of it? It is the visible crowded into the place of the invisible: the human into the place of the divine: the spiritual attention and obedience of souls centered in, and held under, the dominion of men instead of that of God Himself in Christ under the Holy Spirit.
The Reformers cut to the root of that whole thing at the one stroke of de-claring that in truth it is not in any sense The Church. That is what made them “heretics.” They said that it is “the abomination of self-deification in the holy place:” “the Pope is Anti-Christ and his See is that of Satan him-self:” “the papacy is a general chase, by command of the Roman Pontiff, for the purpose of running down and destroying souls.”
Were they wrong? Was The Reformation a mistake in its fundamental principle and contention? Rome claims that it was: and that as she now has eliminated the bad elements from the church, there is no longer any grounds for Protestant contention: but that all should and can now work in harmony as one. And the professed Protestant churches, holding as tenaciously as does Rome herself the Romish principle of “the church,” and refusing the
Christian principle of The Church, are ready for co-operation with Rome. And every “church” that holds that principle of “the church” is cooperating with Rome.
Now what is the principle of The Church of the Living God? According to this principle and idea, What is The Church? It is this: “The Church is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.” Ephesians 1: 22-23. It is “the House of God” “built upon . . . Jesus Christ Himself . . . in Whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord . . .
for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Ephesians 2: 19-22. And what is the principle in this and of this? It is more than a principle, it is a Person — the Personal God, all in all, in Christ, building His own House, for His own habitation through His own Spirit.
And the difference between these two ideas and these two realms as to The Church, is as wide as is the difference between man and God. It is just the difference that there is between man and God: between sly and designing and ambitious and deceitful men, and the open and frank and honest and meek and lowly Jesus in Whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
It is the truth that the long experience of that first one of these “churches,” and the ingenuity and patient care of the more than “forty generations of statesmen” have made it “the very masterpiece of human wisdom:” and have so made it that, that “among the contrivances that have been devised for deceiving and oppressing mankind it occupies the highest place.”
It was devised for the sole purpose of deceiving and oppressing mankind; for it was devised by the arch-deceiver of mankind. The men had little to do with it beyond being the instruments of the arch-deceiver to extend his purpose and to fulfill his will. His has been always the purpose, and his the moving will, to put his church — “the synagogue of Satan” — in the place of The Church of God.
That is why the Wisdom of God in the Scriptures sets it forth as He does in the terms “the mystery of iniquity,” “the son of perdition,” etc., with never a single intimation of anything respectable or even decent: much less any-thing good. That Wisdom penetrates to the seat of the life of the thing, and reveals the inherent principle of it. And what that Wisdom says that it is, that is what it is. And no ingenuity of argument, no trick to remove from the thing to the men of the thing, from the principle to the application of it, can
escape or elude the inherent and essential deviltry of the thing. The thing is simply and only Satanic. It is Satanic in its principle, it was Satanic in the beginning of its working — “the mystery of iniquity doth already work;” it has always been Satanic in its working; and it cannot be anything else, whatever may be said or done to have it be something else.
The principle, being Satanic, makes more corrupt the men who espouse it and identify themselves with it. It makes the best men bad and makes bad men worse. That is the secret of the papacy.
Error — error in the inward parts — corrupts the passions.
Truth — truth in the inward parts — sanctifies the soul.
What is The Church? What does the Word of God say that The Church is.’ It is by the Word of God only, and by the study of the Word of God only, that anybody can ever know what The Church is. It is The Church of God, not the church of men. And it being The Church of God, only He can possibly know or tell what it is. And the church, being only of the thought and conception of God, when He expresses that thought in telling what The Church is, then that thought in telling what The Church is, then that thought as expressed in His Word, will be as far above any conception or thought of man’s, as God is above man, and as the mind of God is greater than any mind of man.
Therefore, in the study of this subject, as well as any other subject of the thought and Word of God, the first thing for every person to do is to accept and follow implicitly the following instruction:
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
. . . for My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55: 7-9.
This being so, and “the things of God no man knowing but the Spirit of God,” plainly it is only by the revelation of the Spirit of God that these things can be known by any man: by the Spirit of God taking these high and deep things of God and making them plain to us and putting them upon our minds and thus giving them to us as really our own. John 14: 26; 16:
13-15; 1 Corinthians 2: 9-12. In this way, then, let us study the word and thought of God on what is The Church. What, then, does He say that The Church is?
“The Church is His body, the fulness of Him Who filleth all in all.” Ephesians 1: 22-23.
The Church is the fulness of Him. Who is He, the fulness of Whom The Church is? Plainly only God, for it is “The Church of the Living God.” What is the fulness of Him, whose fulness The Church is? What is the fulness of God, for The Church is the fulness of Him?
I might with profit to every one, stop right here in this study, and let each reader spend a whole month in thinking and meditating and studying on this one question only, What is the fulness of the Living God? For whoever gets the fullest and best view of what is the fulness of the Living God, will have the fullest and best view of what is The Church of the Living God: for The Church is the fulness of Him.
What then is fulness of Him? First of all, it is the fulness “of all in all;” for The Church is “the fulness of Him who filleth all in all.” The fulness of all in all is simply the fulness of infinity. And the fulness of Him Who filleth all in all, is only the fulness of the Infinite One — “all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” And again:
“Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance . . . All nations before Him are as nothing: and are counted to Him as less than nothing and vanity.” Isaiah 40: 15-17.
How near to the fulness of all the oceans and seas is “a drop of a bucket?” And yet that is the measure of “all the nations” to the fulness of God — to the fulness of Him who filleth the all in all, whose fulness is The Church.
Please read Genesis 13:16 and get the suggestion there of what is the fulness that is the Church.
Now please think on that “fulness of God” which The Church is, and then ask yourself When The Church is all the fulness of God, then what kind of an idea of either God or The Church can any men have who think that they can “organize The Church” or “organize a church?” or who think that a structure of the pinhead conception of finite-minded, blunder-thinking, man can be The Church of the Living God, “the fulness of Him Who filleth all
in all!!” Is it not perfectly evident that any man who ever proposed, or thought of, “organizing a church” or of “organizing The Church,” by that very thing shows absolutely that he has no possible correct or true thought of what The Church is or What God is?
The Church is the fulness of God: and the fulness of God manifest is The Church: so that the idea of The Church is the idea of God. A person’s comprehension of The Church is his comprehension of God. In the nature of the case, whoever thinks that he can “organize The Church,” in that implies that he thinks that he can organize the fulness of God: and so that he is above God. And that is exactly where the word of God places the one who first attempted it — “the man of sin, who opposeth and exalteth him-self above all that is called God.”
Such ones as that can organize the fulness of their god: and this very easily, for it so small. And thus every man-organized church in the world, is the manifestation of the god of that man, just like any other heathen idol.
But when The Church is the fulness of The Living God, it is perfectly plain and conclusive that nobody but God Himself can possibly organize it. And when He organizes and builds His own Church in and unto the fulness of Himself — “the fulness of Him Who filleth all in all” — then it is equally plain and conclusive that the Church will be truly The Church that is the manifestation only of the true and Living God.
The question of The Church and of the organization of The Church is just the same old world-old question of whether God shall be Himself in His own way and in His own place, or whether man-made idols shall be the respective gods of little cliques and coteries in men’s ways and in the place of God.
Before you start the next chapter please think and mediate and pray on the question, What is the fulness of God — “the fulness of Him who filleth all in all?” For thus you will be studying what The Church is.
WHAT IS THE CHURCH?
What is the Church?
“The House of God, is the Church of the Living God.” 1 Timothy
The Apostle and High Priest of our profession was faithful to Him that appointed Him, as also Moses was faithful in all His House.
“And Moses verily was faithful in all His House as a servant, for a testimony of those things that were to be spoken after. But Christ was faithful over His own House: whose House are we if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. Hebrews 3: 1-6.
“Ye, as lively stones are built up a spiritual House.” 1 Peter 2:5.
“Ye are no more strangers and foreigners but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God: and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.
“In whom, all the Building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an Holy Temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an Habitation of God through the Spirit.” Ephesians 2: 19-22.
“Ye are God’s Building.” 1 Corinthians 3:9.
“I will build My Church.” Matthew 16:18.
The Church of God, then, is the House of God, of His own building, through Christ His own named Builder. It is built “an holy Temple, in the Lord,” “for an Habitation of God, through the Spirit.”
Now what are the dimensions of this House of God? How extensive must be its capacity, to be such a Temple and such a Habitation of God that it shall reflect and express “all the fulness of God?” And who could be the Builder? What man or men could possibly build “The House of God which is The Church of the Living God,” that shall contain so as to express “all the fulness of God?” Were not men long ago challenged up on this very point? Please read:
“Who is able to build Him an house, seeing the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain Him?” 2 Chronicles 2:6.
“Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee, how much less this house that I have builded?” 2 Chronicles 6:18.
“The Heaven is My Throne and the earth is My footstool. Where is the house that ye will build unto Me? Isaiah 66:1.
And this challenge is carried over into the field of Christian thought and things; and is repeated to hold up all who would be “builders” of The Church or in The Church which is “The House of God” — “You builders:”
“The Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands, as saith the prophet: Heaven is My Throne, and earth My footstool, what house will ye build Me? saith the Lord?” Acts 7: 48-49; 4:11.
Accordingly men, who undertake to build or to “organize” The Church or a church, in that very thing show their own utter ignorance of all that is The Church in truth. And they never do build Him an house. Always they build to themselves an house where in the place of God, themselves shall sit and reign and rule utterly unlike God. No. The Church is the House of God, It is built only for the habitation of God, the place which He has made for Him who is equal with God, and therefore able and capable to compass and understand and truly express the thought of God in His “Eternal Purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
When this Eternal Purpose was purposed only in Christ Jesus, then it is utterly impossible for any other than Christ in person to be The Builder or the Organizer of The Church. And so only it is:
“He shall build The Temple of the Lord; even He shall build The Temple of the Lord; and He shall bear the glory,” Zechariah 6: 12-13.
And “He” came and earned the position, and, by divine merit as well as by divine right, took the position of that Builder: “I will build My Church.”
But “the man of sin,” “the son of perdition,” “the mystery of iniquity,” soon came in, and with its working supplanted Him as the builder, and became himself the builder of what is proposed as “the church,” but which these builders built only for themselves and for their own glory, in which always there has sat this “man of sin” above God, and “showing himself that he is God.” 2 Thessalonians 2:4.
And the wicked course of that mystery of iniquity has been followed in the building of more others than there are days in the year: each one of them presented as the true Temple and the true House of God, but which in truth is only the habitation of men, who sit and rule there in place of God.
But the time has come, and now is, when the Mystery of God is once more to have its place above the mystery of iniquity: and this unto its glorious
finishing. And this mystery is God manifest, “God manifest in the flesh,” “Christ in men the hop[e of glory.” And in this, again it will be, as at the first, that God only, in Christ only, by the Holy Spirit only, will be the Builder of His own House unto its finishing in its own native glory and beauty. Revelation 10:7; Ephesians 5:27.
And so it is written:
“Speaking the truth in love may grow up into Him in all things who is the Head even Christ, from whom” and “in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy Temple in the Lord . . . for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Ephesians 4: 15-6; 2: 21-22.
There is the Builder of The Church, the Organizer of The Church, and He is only Christ the Head.
There is the Building of The Church, the organizing of The Church, and it is all only from Him who is the Head, by the Holy Spirit.
And that is the House of God: a fit and becoming “House of habitation” for Him Who first “built all things,” and “Whom the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain.”
Where is the house that ye will build unto Me — “you builders” — saith the Lord?
The Word of God Abideth Forever