Why was the primitive church persecuted? Why were the first christians persecuted? Why is the true church now persecuted? Why are the christians now persecuted?
THE Head of the Church and the Leader of the first Christians "was despised and rejected by men." His enemies pursued him, pushed their malicious designs, and carried out their malignant purposes, and were never fully satisfied till they saw him breathe the last breath and expire on the cross. They hated him with a most cruel and vindictive hatred. Their hatred rose to madness and perfectly infuriated them. It blinded them to all reason, hardened them till they were past all feeling, and rendered them literally monstrous. Nor did their hatred cease when he died; it followed his innocent, inoffensive and humble adherents with the most virulent, vindictive and desperate madness, and, with the most obstinate, infuriated and determined purpose, compelled all where it was possible to recant, and put to death those who would not recant. No innocence, meekness, or loveliness; no goodness, benevolence, or gentleness to all men; no virtue, moral excellence, or attainments; no piety, purity, or holiness, on the part of the first Christians, could command any respect from their merciless and remorseless persecutors, or make any impression on them. Nothing would satisfy them but the most unreserved recantation. The requirement was simply to turn away from Christ, renounce and curse him, without any mental reservation, or die.
This was continued to such an unreasonable extent, in many instances, that accusations against the Christians, without even the names of their accusers, were received by the authorities, and they were required to prove themselves clear of the charge, deny and blaspheme Christ, or be put to death. Thousands died in this way, without ever knowing who their accusers were. What a terrible state of society it was when innocent people were hunted down, pursued and put to death, and that, too, when charged with no crime, only being a Christian! What a state of civil rule, too, when a charge, involving the lives of people, would be entertained by the rulers, without even the name of the accuser, and they called to answer to the charge, and prove themselves clear, or be put to death! It appears almost incredible that such a state of things ever could have obtained among intelligent beings!
Why was this hatred? There wore several sects among the Jews, and, though they were far from loving each other, or even hated each other, their hatred toward each other never rose so high as their hatred toward the first Christians did. There were also numerous sects among philosophers, statesmen and idolatrous worshipers, but their hatred toward each other in no instance was go intense, or extended so generally, as the hatred of all of them toward the first Christians. They had their differences, controversies and strifes among the sects of philosophers, statesmen and religionists; but none of these rose so high, were so intense, or general, as the hatred toward the "only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords," and those who followed him. When the question was in regard to the Nazarene, and those who adhered to him, their differences all fell to the ground, and vanished out of sight. They were all forgotten! They were all one in their opposition to the Christians! They were all united in persecuting the followers of Jesus!
Why was this persecution? Why were these people "everywhere spoken against?" This is now to be considered. It is accepted as a fact that they were "everywhere spoken against;" that they were persecuted, and no argument is here offered to prove it. It is accepted as a fact, and one of much importance and value. It caused the ground to be carefully considered and canvassed from side to side, and tried the integrity of the people thus persecuted. But now the question comes up, and the main one for this discourse, Why did their enemies persecute them? Why did they so hate them? Why did they hate them more than their ordinary opponents around them; sects in religion, philosophy and civil affairs? Why all unite against the Christians? Here is room for reflection. To us, who have a tolerable view of the real person and character of our Lord, their hatred, malignity and opposition appear strange indeed. But it should be remembered that this hatred, in his lifetime, or at least till near the close of his life, was by no means general. There were but few that participated in it. The masses of the people did not hate him. They followed him, listened to him, and admired him; but not with a true view, or in the true sense, but with the idea that he was a great prophet like David, and hoped that he would redeem Israel, according to the flesh; restore the nationality of the Jews; free them from their bondage to the Roman Government; ascend the throne of David, and be their king, in a temporal sense, as David or Solomon was, and give them a victory over all their enemies. With this view of things, the masses not only did not hate him, but loved him, followed him, and listened to him.
But there was another class, much smaller in number, but greater in power and influence, that did not participate in this view. He did not meet their expectations, did not glory in the things in which they gloried; he did not move, in the circle to their taste, nor appear in the style to their liking; he wore no robes, with broad tufts to their mantles, with scraps of the law tacked on to them, thus making a show of devotion to the law, though he strictly observed the law; be uttered no words of flattery to the priests, the rabbis, the scribes, or the Pharisees; he patronized none of their pretensions, of disfiguring the face, making long prayers on the streets, to be seen of men; he did not identify himself with the priests, the doctors of the law, the scribes, or Pharisees, but stood aloof from them all, and rebuked them all alike. Had he been an impostor, he would have bowed to these influential classes, and courted their favor; but instead of anything of this kind, he gave them the most withering rebukes. Let us hear him:
"Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: all, therefore, whatever they bid you observe, that observe and do: but do not you after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. be not you called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even the Christ; and all you are brethren. And call no man your father on the earth: for one is your Father, who is in heaven. Neither be you called masters: for one is your Master, even the Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and whoever shall humble himself shall be exalted."
This kind of teaching did not suit the taste of scribes and Pharisees; those gentlemen who bound heavy burdens on the people, but would not move one of them with their fingers; who loved to be called, Rabbi, Rabbi; and who loved the preferable seats at feasts and in the synagogues, and whose works were all done to be seen of men. With these his teaching was not orthodox. But we must hear him again:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for you neither go in yourselves, neither suffer you them that are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore you shall receive the greater damnation. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves."--See Matthew xxiii. 1-15.
Here we find the trouble. These were the men that did not believe on him. They were the men that said he ate with unwashed hands, and ate with publicans and sinners, and did not observe the traditions of the elders. They would not enter the kingdom of God themselves, nor permit those who would to enter. They were the men that hated the Lord of glory! But let us hear him further, to the same men:
Woe to you, blind guides, who say, Whoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! You fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifies the gold? And whoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. You fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifies the gift? Whoever therefore, shall swear by the altar, swears by it, and by all things thereon. And whoever shall swear by the temple, swears by it, and by Him that dwells therein. And he who shall swear by heaven, swears by the throne of God, and by Him who sits on the throne. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith: these you ought to have done, and not to leave the other undone. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess."
Here we can see the ground of their hatred. They would not repent and turn from their wickedness, and hated him whom the Father had sent to warn them. But we must stilt hear him further, for here is the foundation of the settled hatred that culminated in the crucifixion:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore you are witnesses to yourselves, that you are the children of them who killed the prophets. You fill up the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you generation of vipers, how can you escape the damnation of hell?
"Wherefore, behold, I send you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them you shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall you scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom you slew between the temple and the altar."--See Matthew xxiii. 15-35.
This was the kind of teaching that insulted their dignity, offended them, and filled them with hatred. They never forgot these things, never repented or improved by them, but cherished a settled hatred. He charged, that, for a pretense, they made long prayers, and devoured widows' houses, and said, "These shall receive greater damnation." See Mark xii. 40. He even criticised their prayers, and gave an example of the prayer of the self-righteous Pharisee, and contrasted it with a poor publican's, and said that the publican was justified rather than the Pharisee. This was terribly offensive to the Pharisees.
But this was not all. He not only offended the doctors of the law, the rabbis, the priests, the scribes and Pharisees, the most popular people, but he offended the rich people. "And he sat over opposite the treasury, and saw the people throw money into the treasury: and many who were rich threw in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called to him his disciples, and said to them, This poor widow has thrown more in than all they who have thrown into the treasury: for all they threw in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all she had, even all her living." This was unpopular teaching. He did not extol or flatter the rich, and overlook the poor widow. See Mark xii. 41-44. See also the case of the rich man and Lazarus, Luke xvi. 19-21, and you find anything else than flatteries of the rich. In the roundest terms he said, You can not serve God and mammon."--Luke xvi. 13.
Let us hear him again: "How hardly shall a rich man enter into the kingdom of God! And his disciples were astonished at his words." But Jesus answers again, and says to them, "Children, how hard it is for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." This was by no means flattering to the rich! He thus lost their good will. This procedure would have been considered very unwise by many of our great men now. It lost the sympathy of the rich; certainly did not draw out their money, but turned them away from him. But this did not turn away the multitude. They still followed him; and when he rode into Jerusalem they cut down branches of the trees, and spread down their garments, that he might ride over them, and shouted as he passed along, "Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest." The multitude said: "This is Jesus, the prophet of Nazareth." All appeared to be popular so far. But now we are at the turning-point.
"He went into the temple of God, and cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said to them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves."--See Matthew xxi. 8-12. This offended them. It touched their schemes of making money, and condemned the whole affair. They had turned the house of God into a "den of thieves," and were in traffic, instead of being there to worship. The priests now only wanted a pretext, and soon found one for carrying out their malicious designs. "The lame and the blind came to him and he healed them. And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased, and said to him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus said to them, Yea; have you never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?"
The way was now opened for the people to turn away from him. He had condemned their popular procedure in the temple; he had predicted the overthrow of their city and people, and their captivity among all nations, and that Jerusalem should be trodden down of the Gentiles till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. This was enough--the people turned away and left him, with, only a few disciples. He inquired of them, affectionately, "Will you also leave me?" They responded, "To whom shall we go? for thou alone hast the words of eternal life." This was enough. These men that had been in the rear all the time, and charging that "he had an unclean spirit," and the like, had nothing in their way now, as the people had forsaken him. They never ceased their malignant purposes till they saw him expire on the cross.
We have now seen what it was, to some extent, that called forth the hatred of the leaders toward the Lord himself, that culminated in his crucifixion. What was it that called forth the hatred of the people toward the apostles and first Christians? 'Why were the people so enraged and infuriated?
About the time our Lord appeared, some before and some after, there arose some twenty-four impostors, attempting to impose on the credulity of the people, in view of the general expectation that prevailed throughout the principal portions of the world, that some great personage was to appear about that time. Among the Jews the expectation was general that their Messiah would soon appear. Among the other nations the expectation was quite general that sortie great personage was about to appear, but their idea was much less definite in regard to it than among the Jews. The impostors that arose took advantage of this general expectation among the Jews, and each one claimed to be the Messiah. The Jews ferreted out and exposed every one of these that appeared before Christ, and overthrow his pretensions. This led them to look out for impostors. When Jesus made his appearance, their wise men were on the lookout, made every effort to expose him and set aside his claims. When they crucified him, they thought they had accomplished their work. Still, it occurred to them that he said he would rise again, and that something might come out of it after he was dead, and said, "We remember that this deceivers, when he was alive, said he would rise again the third day," and made arrangements to prevent his disciples from stealing his dead body, and raising a report that he had risen. This precautionary arrangement was of great value to the truth; for if nothing of the kind had been done, the way would have been open for almost any kind of idle reports. But, as it was, there was no ground for the report that the disciples stole the body of Jesus.
But now, some fifty days after his death, a new and powerful element appears among the people; an element that no outside influence could oppose successfully. It is all founded on the report that the Lord had risen from the dead. The report is not about something that had occurred at a distance, or among other people, but an occurrence in their own country and among their own people; an occurrence that did not take place in a corner, nor in private, but openly. The men at the head of this wonderful affair are without learning, money, or any important natural gifts, and without popularity or influence. They take their stand on the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and announce that he had gone into heaven and been crowned Lord of all. The first day this proclamation was clearly and fully made openly, three thousand people received it and banded themselves together in a new and distinct body.
Now we come to inquire why this body was hated, despised and persecuted.
It was a formidable element, that could not be controlled, turned aside from its native course, nor stopped in its onward march. We hardly can conceive of a power that would turn three thousand sturdy Jews, in one day, from their former course of life, religion, standing and associations, and band them together in a new and formidable association so firmly that they would die before they would give up the new position! This, in itself, would rouse the people. In a few days we read of five thousand. The very circumstance of its being such a powerful element would rouse the people. This demanded attention. It could not be regarded as an insignificant affair; it could not be treated as unworthy of notice; it demanded attention; it stood upon a level with no sect among the Jews, or any party that had arisen. The very things that had been done to destroy it only turned out to its furtherance. They feared it, as a powerful and uncontrollable element.
It was carrying away Jews by the thousand from the established religion of their fathers--turning them over from the old Church to the new. This roused the leaders. They had done all they could to prevent its rise and had failed. It had succeeded in spite of their precautionary movements, and established itself, and now was carrying away their members by thousands. This was a cause of offense, and called out their most vindictive feelings. Had it been only an insignificant sect, with but little power, the feeling in opposition would not have risen so high. But, instead of this, it appeared as if it would carry everything before it. This was a great cause of opposition.
It did not make its appearance as another rival sect among Jewish sects; but it came as an absolute authority. Its Head claimed to be "the Way, the Truth, and the Life," and said, "No man comes to the Father but by me." Peter said to the Jews, concerning Christ: "This is the stone which was set at naught by you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."--Acts iv. 11, 12. This was exclusive in the extreme. It narrows the whole matter of salvation down to the one name--the name of Jesus. Paul says, "Who in his times shall show who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords."--1 Timothy vi. 15, 16. "He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, the First and the Last." He says, "There shall be one fold and one Shepherd."--John x. 16. After his resurrection, the Lord said to the apostles, "All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me." This covers the whole ground, and claims for the religion of Christ, "all authority in heaven and on earth."
But this was all affirmative. Was there anything negative? Where did it put the Jews' religion? It declared that Christ was "the end of the law;" that he "took the handwriting of its ordinances out of the way, nailing it to his cross;" that the law was abolished; that by the deeds of the law no flesh could be justified; that "by works of law no one could be saved;" that it contained a "better covenant on better promises." In one word, the religion of Christ set aside all the priests, altars, and victims; the temple worship, the synagogues; the entire system of Judaism as abolished and done away. It declared that Christ had come in the end of the ages, and made the one offering for sin--offered himself, without spot, to God, and that there is no more sin-offering. He made all end of sin-offering. This was exclusive in the extreme.
The religion of Christ, then, turned on the Pagan religions, and pronounced their gods, idols--no gods; and declared their temples, altars, victims and priests all nothing--null and void--that there was no salvation in them. They carried this so triumphantly that it desolated the Pagan temples, brought their gods into disrepute, and in many places cleared the country of Pagan worship. This roused the devout Pagans, and called forth their indignation. In one word, it set itself up as the only true religion; the only religion from God, or that could save man. It claimed to be the supreme and the absolute authority, and required the homage of the whole race of man, and pronounced all the other religions of the world null and void. This naturally brought all other religions into antagonism with it.
It was utterly uncompromising, exclusive and distinct. There is not the least intimation of its offering the slightest fraternity with any religion on the face of the earth. Not an account is found of any church ever inviting a Jewish rabbi or Pagan doctor to officiate, participate, or take any part in the worship, or that any one ever did. Such a thing was utterly unknown and unheard of. The first followers of Christ had the law of their King, their absolute authority, and that was their rule of action. They never professed to be more liberal than their Master, the Lord himself. They held up their King to all the world, and their religion; the whole kingdom of God and all that was in it, and offered the whole to all men, on the same terms as they had themselves received it--without money and without price--and pressed all men to come and receive it. The entire system of grace was offered to all the world on the same terms and free to all. It was offered to all, given to all, and accepted by all who came to the Lord precisely alike. But all who receive it have to receive the Head of the Institution, the Institution itself, and all that is in it. None can come to the Lord, and be accepted by him, on receiving some part of the Institution, and not receive the whole of it. The whole person, must come, body, soul and spirit, and be given up to God; and the whole, system of grace, the entire New Institution, must be accepted, in order to acceptance with the Lord. There must be no half-way work.
It was entirely uncompromising with all sin and folly of every description, and demanded a full and complete surrender to the Lord, and turning away from all evil. It did not compromise with the world, nor worldliness, but required those who came to Christ to come out from the world; to forsake the world, and be not conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of the mind. This caused the world to hate it.
This is summary enough for our present purpose. The matter may be summed up in a few words. It was a most powerful and wonderful element, taking vast masses of the people, from Judaism and Paganism, and literally revolutionizing the country, striking down and setting aside the popular religions of the world, and condemning them as all wrong. It had yet another characteristic that made it unpopular. It condemned all the world, and pronounced all under sin, in unbelief, lost, and made the mercy and grace of God necessary to all to save them. The people soon lost sight of their little differences among themselves, when a new system came, claiming absolute authority, that set aside all the religions in the world, and pronounced the people all sinners, and required an unreserved surrender of all to its authority in order to be saved! Nor were they ready to admit generally that its claims were to be regarded. Thousands never waited to examine its claims, to reason on the matter at all, but rose against it, and in defense of their accustomed religion and life.
But now, it is a fact that the same religion is as unpopular now as it was then. There is nothing a man can preach now so unpopular as the gospel itself; simply the gospel of Christ, as found on the pages of Scripture. A man now may travel from one side of this continent to the other, and preach Unitarianism, Universalism, Spiritualism, Materialism, Infidelity, or even Free Love, and not excite the people particularly. The people will not unite against him. A man may preach Shakerism, Quakerism, or Swedenborgianism, and nobody is excited, and the people never think of uniting against him. But let him walk out and declare the gospel of Christ itself, the power of God to salvation to every one that believes, and enforce its requirements, and the old parties around will soon begin to make friends. They will soon come up side by side, and stand shoulder to shoulder against the common enemy. No matter if they have said a thousand times, that "whatever a man thinks is right, that is right to him," they do not say it now of the man who thinks the gospel of Christ is right. They do not admit that the gospel of Christ is right, even if a man does think it is right! They do not say the religion of Christ is right, even if a man does think it is right!
Why do the people of this generation oppose the gospel of Christ, or the religion of Christ itself? Why are they not willing that men shall return to the Lord and to the apostles, and learn precisely what they preached, preach the same now; let the people hear and believe the same now that those did who heard the apostles, and do the same now as those who turned to the Lord did under the preaching of the apostles? Why are men not willing that the Bible shall be advocated now as the only rule of faith and practice? The people generally profess to believe it, and regard it as divine--from God. Why are they not all willing, that this glorious volume shall be urged on all the world, as the only perfect system, among men? This must now be inquired into.
The religion of Christ is exclusive in its character. It claims not to be a form of Christianity, as good as any other form, or even better; but it claims to be Christianity itself. It claims not to be a system of Christianity, as good as any other, or even better; or a system of religion, as good as any other, or even better; but to be the very Christianity itself; the very religion itself, ordained by the Lord. It comes not, claiming to be as near the truth as any other, or even nearer, but to be the truth itself; not to be as near the right way as any other, or even nearer, but to be the right way of the Lord. It comes not, claiming to have as much authority as any other religion, or even more, but to have the supreme and absolute authority. Its Divine Author says, "All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me." Again he says, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh to the Father but by me." The command of the Almighty Father is, "Hear you him." We are not to see who can come the nearest hearing him; but to "hear him." We must be led by him.
All parties talk about "the religion of Christ;" of being nearly like it, or being far from it, or not like it. How can we tell what is like it, or not like it, unless we know what it is? If we know what it is, why not accept it, and not something like it? All talk of the truth, and that which is nearest the truth; but how do we know anything about which is the nearest the truth, unless we know what the truth itself is? If we know what the truth itself is, why not accept it, and not something like it, or a mere imitation? All talk about the right way, and that which is nearest the right way; but how can we know which is the nearest the right way, unless we know the right way itself? If we know the right way itself, why not accept it and walk in it? There is no reason in not walking in the right way, or in walking in a way like it, and not in it, if we know the right way itself.
The religion of Christ itself is right, and no other religion is right. No matter what any set of people are, or whether they live up to it or not--the religion itself is right. If those who profess it come short, they are not right; but the religion itself is right. It will stand, but they will fall. This religion is exclusive; it recognizes no other, and asks recognition of no other; it covers the whole ground, and leaves no room for any other religion; it has "all authority in heaven and on earth" in its favor. No other religion has any authority from heaven; or any but human authority. God is in this religion; Christ is in it; the Eternal Spirit is in it--why may it not fill the earth?
This religion is exclusive in its creed. It has but one book--the Bible is its book. The Bible itself is an exclusive book. It admits no rival. "All Scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable for doctrine." Here is the doctrine; not something like it; not an imitation, but the doctrine; not simply good doctrine, better doctrine, than any other, or nearer the true doctrine, but the doctrine itself; the true doctrine, and the only true doctrine. This is one of the grounds of offense. This book--the Bible--claims to be the supreme and the absolute authority. It admits of no rival, no comparison, and comes on no common ground with any other, but claims the whole ground. It comes to all countries and all peoples on the face of the earth, and is for all time. It is not a national book, but the one book of God. It requires all men to accept it and walk by it; to it all are required to come; all others sink into the dust before it. It comes not, claiming to be as near right as any other book, or even nearer right, but to be right. In every sense, those books that differ from it, and in every item wherein they differ from it, they are wrong. If they contain more than it, they contain too much, and are therein wrong. If they contain less than it, they contain too little, and are therein wrong. If they differ from it, in every particular wherein they differ from it, they are wrong. If they are precisely like it; differ from it in nothing; they are useless--for then we can find all in the Bible that is in them. So, that taking any possible view of it, they are all set aside by it. This is another item of its offensiveness.
There is no excuse for a living man for not receiving the Bible and following its instructions, if it is what it claims to be. If it is true; from God; the absolute authority, receive it and walk by it. If it is not true, reject it at once, and no mincing of the matter. There is no half-way ground. Either be for the Bible or against it. "He that is not for us is against us," says the great King. We want none of this half-way work; something like the Bible, or nearer like it than something else; but we want the, Bible itself; not merely in our houses, but in our hearts, on our lips, and in our lives.
It is exclusive for a church to refuse to bear any name except what may be found in Scripture. If it would adopt some human name, like others, and come on a level with them, the offense would cease largely, and it would be a tolerable body. But for one body of people to exist among us that will wear no unscriptural name, but refer to itself as "the Church," "the body," "the body of Christ," the "Church of God," "the kingdom of God," and refer to the individual members as "Christians," "members of his body," "saints," "disciples of Christ," "disciples of the Lord," etc., is offensive to sectarian ears. Such language is exclusive, and not like "our church" and "your church," "our doctrine" and "your doctrine." Many in our day can not, or, if they can, they will not see that the Lord gave this one book for them as much as for us; and this one Church, and that we are trying all the time to get them to receive it. It is their privilege to have it as much as it is ours. We are pleading them to enjoy this privilege. He gave the Bible to them for doctrine as much as he did to us, and if they will not take and walk by it, the fault is not ours, for we are continually laboring with them to got them to accept it. The designations given in the Bible to the body of Christ, and the people of God, are for them as much as for us, if they will be members of his body and be his people. If they will not be members of his body, or will not be his people, the fault is not ours, for we are persuading them to do this with all our power. They can not, of course, have what they will not have.
The Bible teaching of unity is offensive to those determined on maintaining partyism. For all to be one, as our Lord and his Father are one, as he prayed, John xvii. 21, would sweep away the present parties from the face of the earth, and leave nothing but the body of Christ. The command of Paul, that "there be no divisions among you," would reduce all to simply the body of Christ, if carried out practically. The statement of Paul, that "there is one body," shows that the Lord has but one body. The statement of Paul, that "we are all baptized into one body," sweeps away all those parties. The prophetic statement of the Lord, "There shall be one fold and one Shepherd," leaves no room for parties or sects. These, and many other Scriptures, are at war with all these parties, and the war must go on till these parties or the Bible are put down. These parties have one common cause--that cause is partyism. When that cause is assailed, they all become one in resisting the assailant. The time has come for men to show which side they are on. Will they join in defense of partyism against the Bible, or in defense of the Bible against partyism?
The Bible has a clear plan of salvation, not held nor set forth by any sectarian party in the world. The sectarian parties, or the unevangelical alliance, are united, combined and determined, to keep the way of salvation, as set forth by the apostles and first evangelists, from the people. Here is a clear issue, between the Bible and the principal parties in this country, in a practical matter, and there is no avoiding it. Shall the way of salvation, as set forth in the New Testament, be maintained, or shall it be ignored, kept out of view, and put down by these popular parties? We shall see. The Lord has some friends yet, and they do not intend to let the matter slumber, nor permit the way of salvation, as set forth in the New Testament, to be ignored, blurred over, kept out of view, nor put down. They are determined that the apostles shall be heard, that their words shall be regarded and brought before the people. This is a grand point of offense. Their way way of of salvation, or, rather, their want of any salvation, is one thing, and the clear way pointed out by the apostles is another, as different as day and night.
The sectarian parties generally, and we may say from heaven will prevail, and the men who walk in it will stand forever and ever. The Lord's way will stand forever and ever--the ways of men will all come to nothing.
The Church of the living God does not stand on a succession of popes, clergy, ordinances, officers, or churches, but on having the same God- of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God of the prophets; the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, above all, through all and in all; one Lord Jesus the Christ, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Deity substantially; the resurrection and the life; Head over all things to the Church, and blessed forever and ever; one Eternal Spirit, the Spirit of all truth and all revelation; one book, the Bible; one gospel, the gospel of Christ and the teaching of Christ and the apostles--in one word, on having everything the first Church had, being everything it was, and hoping for all that was promised to it. If it believes the same the first Church did, practices the same, and hopes for the same, it is the same. If it has the same word of truth, and believes it; has the same commands, and obeys them; has the same promises, and hopes for them, it has the same faith, obedience and hope; if it has precisely the same book, and follows it, unquestionably it is the same Church.
This Church covers the whole ground, and is the Church of the living God. Churches not named in the book of God at all, not named in history at all till the Church of God has been in existence more than a thousand years, and whose own historians give them a modern date, with another name, another creed, and separated from thousands whom it admits to be saints, has no claim to being the Church of God at all. It is a modern invention, and whatever it has in common with Bible people is not peculiar to it, and did not originate with it; and whatever it has not in common with Bible people, and that did originate with it, but peculiar to it, is human and ought to be rejected. This must all be thrown aside. This will do away all its peculiarities, and it will be no longer a sect. This must all be abolished and cleared away, and the kingdom of God must have the whole territory. This, again, is offensive.
To restore the gospel to the people of this country, in the true sense, and not merely nominally; to restore the Church and the original order, in faith and practice, in worship and everything, is a revolutionary work. The existing bodies are not willing to have this. They love their parties and hold on to them. They will resist all revolutionary movements while they have strength. But their strength is already broken, and the columns for the restoration of the ancient order in all things, as they were in the time of the apostles, are filling up, extending, and becoming stronger and stronger. Men are becoming convinced that the truth is the Lords, and that it will stand forever; that the truth and the true ground can be maintained; that the right way of the Lord can be defended against all odds. In the name, then, of the God of Israel, and with the faith of the true Israel of God, let those who trust not in horses, nor men, nor in money, but in the Lord of hosts, in the right against might, in the truth against error, the doctrine of the Lord against the doctrines of men, stand together and push on their work; and when the Chief-Shepherd shall appear he will take them to himself to dwell with him forever and ever.