…because if organized Christianity be not of God, then the obvious conclusion is that it must be of men. Usually, the object of such a paper as the one that I read, is to expose the defects and abuses of all existing organized Christian denominations, and then to endeavour to prove from these observations that all Church organizations are wrong. This case was no exception, the writing was a personal creedal statement, commenting on the writer’s views, desires, and endeavors of a class of Christian brethren, who assume for themselves the possession of superior piety,larger zeal, broader charity,and deeper acquaintance with Scripture, especially its prophetic portions, than that enjoyed by others. As such it requires a careful notice, and we will endeavour to examine it from the stand-points of Nature and Revelation.
The question resolves itself into two: Is Christianity of God? ” And, is Organization of God?” For, if both be of God we may expect to find organization, one of God’s methods, in Christianity, one of God’s works. In reference to the former question, I think that most Christians are agreed. We all believe alike in the Divine origin of Christianity. That is why we are here. Only the second question, therefore, requires consideration ” Is organization of God?
And here replies come crowding in from all quarters of the universe of matter.
The fact is that the illustrative evidences are so numerous and diversified as to be appreciable only by their Divine Author Himself. Their cumulative force is incalculable. The study of them might well occupy a lifetime,- and then leave the subject unexhausted, as in the case of our own great philosopher,who felt that he had only picked up a few specimens on the shores of truth while the great ocean lay unexplored before him.
Organization is the arrangement of parts with a view to use or service…
…and wherever we look into the Divine operations we meet with examples of it. It is evidently a principle very precious to the Divine mind. It is impossible to refer to anything which God has ever said or done upon any other principle. Every word He has spoken was spoken at the right time and occupied the right place in the complete Revelation; and every creature which He has formed occupies its proper place in relation to every other creature and to the universe. Even the smallest atom is so arranged as to fulfil its service, by the laws of cohesion, to other atoms, and by the laws of gravitation, to the near and distant masses of the Creation.
The construction of the leaf is such that the arrangement of its parts serves the life, beauty, and fragrance of the whole, so that it forms a suitable home for the microscopic multitudes which dwell upon it. The organism of the minutest protoplasm is perfect; and everywhere, as we pass upward through the various walks of animal life, we see that “Circumstances are adapted to Being,” and “Being to Circumstances.”
Every observation of creative effect constrains us to say “this also comes forth from the Lord of Hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working.”
In the great realm of Providence though a much more difficult subject for research, we meet with innumerable illustrations of the same principle in the histories of individuals and of the race. Events are manifestly related to each other, and to the great plan of the invisible Designer; and all the minor circumstances from which they happen are necessarily,although less perceptibly, under the same law. Many events whose meaning long remained an unsearchable mystery have been explained by the great Interpreter, and now appear, like some apparent exceptional phenomena in nature, in their beneficent relation to the Divine purpose.
And now may we venture to draw aside the veil from the Holy of Holies? Or rather, may we venture to gaze upon the glories which our Saviour has revealed, and dare to gather principles from the facts which He has declared? Assuredly we may. And as we look into the heavenly world, we find all most distantly removed from anything like confusion or disorder. The “King of Kings” is “Lord of Hosts:” “He doeth according to His will in the armies of heaven.” In that “general assembly and Church of the firstborn,” “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all Churches of the saints.” “The angels that excel in strength do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His Word.” The archangel Michael has his office, and the angel Gabriel has his duty. There are “thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers.” And even the mystic symbols of the Apocalypse curiously illustrate the same great principle. The “living creatures” are four; “the elders,” twice twelve; the numbers of the sealed, twelve times twelve thousand; and each angel has his work assigned. And the most luminous description in the whole book, that of the glorified Church, Paradise regained, the bridal Jerusalem, is full of organization.
Even the heavenly Jerusalem, like the earthly, “is built as a city that is fitted together.” Most singular imagery is made use of, to represent its perfect relation of parts. “The city is shaped four-square, and the length is as large as the breadth. The length, and the breadth, and the height of it are equal.” Taken literally, this description of a city as a cube; but, even taken figuratively, according to the spirit and purpose of the whole book, it gives the idea of perfect symmetrical arrangement. It rests on twelve foundations; its walls which face the quarters of the heavens have each of them three gates; and each pearly gate is kept by a guardian angel. The street of the city, which is pure gold, as if it were transparent glass,” as it receives no alloy, reflects no disorder. Our Saviour has taught us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.” There is a world where organization does not prevail, but that is a world of woe, where the will of the Creator is constantly violated, where they are “hateful and hating one another.”
We contend that organization is a universal principle in the Divine operations: and that,as Christianity is of God, we shall infallibly meet with organization in Christianity. Further, Christianity displays more of the wisdom of God than any of God’s His other works.
It has more of God in it. Christianity has, that is, the Church has, God in it personally; not bodily, it is true, but spiritually; which is of infinitely greater importance. Christ is the head of the Church, which is His Body,” the fulness of Him that filleth all in all,” i.e., that without which He who filleth all in all, would not, in His mediatorial relation, be complete.
Unspeakably grand are the words of the Apostle; “He created all things by Jesus Christ, to the intent that now, unto the principalities and powers, in heavenly places, might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God.” We therefore feel confident, that, as organization is a universal principle with God, and as the Church is the chief work of His Divine Wisdom, we shall see the principle distinctly exhibited in it.
For the Great Head of the Church has Himself given to His people, by Inspiration, a complete record that is historical, doctrinal, practical and ecclesiastical. The New Testament is the Divine Church-Manual; the perfect book of ready reference for the Christian community. We therefore look to it, with the confident assurance that all shall find sufficient directions for church organization,nor are we disinterested. For, in addition to all the important scattered statements, from which we learn that our Saviour’s wisdom is not of this world,” and therefore not to be added to, supported by, or directed by, the earthly wisdom. We also find that the church consists of regenerated persons, banded together in fellowship by common consent, authorized in each case, to direct their own affairs,and elect their own officers –we have three epistles given le special purpose of guiding in choice of suitable men, and using them when chosen, in the discharge of their duty.
Unfortunately, by some of brethren the epistles to Timothy and that to Titus appear to have entirely forgotten. These important apostolical epistles are especially devoted to Church organization. These epistles indicate the two kinds of offices held in the Church, and presents the duties of one of them in the most detailed and elaborate manner, that the “man of God*’ might know how he ought to behave himself in the house of God, which is church of the living God.” Look deeply into these epistles, and you find, not only that there are offices in the Church, but also what are ” that of the Bishop and of the Deacon. These two are carefully presented, and no other is named. Now, with regard to office of Deacon, as stated in the sixth chapter of the Acts they to serve the secular of the Church. Only the office Bishop has to be considered, and the meaning is immediately clear, –that bis work is strictly spiritual. Another thing is equally evident, is that he is not an officer set over a number of subordinates; he stands alone. His name denotes his duty –to oversee; to superintend. He is elsewhere described as a pastor, or shepherd, and the term is sometimes used interchangeably with presbyter or elder, as in Acts 20:17, 28, where the elders of the Church are admonished as the overseers of the flock to feed the Church of God. See also 1 Peter 5:1-4, where the elders are exhorted to feed the flock of God, “taking the oversight.”
Some kind spirit will,no doubt, suggest –Why do you not read the remainder of the verse last quoted? “and that disagreeable clause about “filthy lucre;” for our brethren whose manifesto has called forth these remarks, are very fond of denying, and, many of them, very much given to maligning an ordained, educated, and paid ministry. “To the law and to the testimony; for if we speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in us.” Let our brethren kindly remember that, if they speak not according to it,they are under the same condemnation. Refer to the Church-Manual then, and you find Ordination in 1 Timothy 4:14; and in Titus 1:5. Education you find in 1 Timothy 4:13; and 2 Timothy, 4:13. Consider also the fact that Paul was highly educated both in Hebrew and Classic literature, that he possessed a highly cultivated logical faculty,and that these attainments were eminently made use of by the great Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, himself.
Perhaps we could use the greatest example of an organized, ordained, educated, and paid ministry, and that is that of the poor fishermen apostles who were supernaturally educated by the Holy Ghost, at least in Languages, Sacred Literature, and Composition, all to counterbalance the deficient training of their early life.
And now as it regards to “filthy lucre;” Remuneration is found in 1 Timothy 5:17, 18 ; and 2 Timothy 2:4. It is rather cruel, and certainly not in accordance with their boasted charity, that a sweeping charge of mercenariness should be brought forward by a body of Christians who have every opportunity of increasing their income, many of whom have already made or inherited their fortunes, and who are not, as a body, remarkable for the largeness of their liberality, against a body of men, many of whom have given up all worldly prospects, that they may serve the cause of Christ, and almost all of whom would have realized more of this world’s goods had they followed other walks in life. “And truly had they been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.”
Enough, we think, has been said to prove that the Organized Christianity of the New Testament is of God. With other organizations than are found in the Divine Church Manual, we have nothing to do. While we mourn over the human imperfections which often mar the working of even Christ’s own method, we cannot charge the Divine method itself. Instead, we thank God that He has not left us without the pattern showed to us in the Sermon on Mount, and we pray for the time when the spirit of the Church shall better exemplify the skill and beauty of the model.
We close these thoughts by asking ourselves, in all charity but in all faithfulness, another question, “Disorganized Christianity” –Is it of God?”
Taken, and largely edited from, “The Christian Witness,” written sometime near 1867.