Not To The Church
We hear much said in many quarters about “loyalty to the church,” but it pains us to hear very little said about loyalty to Jesus Christ. We do not believe in “Come-out-ism.” God has blessed organized effort all through the ages, while “Come-out-ism” has ruined many souls. This ism pretends to disbelieve in sects, but is really one of the most intolerant and bigoted of all the sects. For it is a little partially organized sect of its own, that devotes itself to chastisement of the churches, to whom it owes all the religious light and life that it possesses. Had the world been dependent for its moral and spiritual light upon this absurd principle, it would have perished in ignorance of the gospel. The Bible, the Sabbath, the sanctuary and vital religion have come down to us through regular organized efforts of the people of God, banded together for this purpose. If the church is not all it should be, instead of drawing off from it we should remain in it and live a holy life and seek to make it better. “Ye are the salt of the earth,” said Jesus, concerning his true people. Salt can accomplish its purpose best by remaining in contact with that which needs to be purified. “Ye are the light of the world,” said Jesus. And again he says, “Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” God wants all that are in his house — the church — to receive the benefit of every experience given by him to individuals. We have said this because we do not wish to be misunderstood when we say that there is great danger in these days in being consecrated to the church more than to the Lord. While church organization is a necessity and membership in it a privilege and a duty, there is great danger of being consecrated to the organization more than to God. There are strange ideas in vogue as to Christian work. We have been astonished to hear certain people called great Christian workers. When we came to investigate their special work it was the preparation of church suppers, the piecing of quilts and dressing dolls for the church bazaar. Many a so-called Christian worker is dumb in the social means of grace, knows little of the word of God and would not know how to pray with a dying man or how to point a sinner to Christ. It has come to pass that a person can be “a devoted Christian worker” and have no salvation at all, or if there is salvation in the heart there is no way of finding it out. Much that passes for Christian work is “serving tables” to keep alive five or six little denominations in a community where one could do all the work of God if it were “filled with the Spirit.” We knew of a sister who was relating her experience of restoration to health. She declared that in her gratitude to God, she was now working specially for Him. Being questioned as to the special work she was now doing, she replied, “I am going around soliciting articles for a fishpond to be held at the parsonage next Thursday night.” For the benefit of those of our readers who do not know what a fishpond is, we would say it is a kind of pious gambling. We have known of men who were very liberal to the church as long as they could have their way, but when things did not go to suit them, they backslid and left the church and went into the service of Satan. Their excuse was that they were “not appreciated” after all they had done for the church. They were laboring only for self or the applause of the people. Had they been consecrated to God, they would not have much that passes for Christian work that has no more of the spirit of Christ than of Mohammed. Many churches are run like a political machine, just to keep up with the others in the community without regard to the glory of God. Churches may be managed with such a spirit as to hinder true Christianity. Much so-called religious work may be done without one spark of spiritual life. We were pressing the claims of God upon a worldly professor of Christianity who was candid enough to acknowledge, “If I were as good a Christian as I am a Methodist, I would be getting along all right.” Not that we would have people one whit the less devoted to building up the cause of God, we insist that consecration is to be to God first and then to his visible church. Soldiers are consecrated to the cause of their country first, then to their individual regiment. Otherwise petty quarrels and jealousies would destroy any army. Jesus first, then our denomination as the best method of building up the cause of Jesus upon earth. Paul says, “He is the head of the body, the church: that in all things he might have the preeminence.” This being true, a man may be consecrated to God and be misunderstood by the visible church. In fact the visible church has not usually in the past understood many of its best members, who were living for God. Sometimes they have been cast out because not comprehended nor appreciated. A fully consecrated man is like Jesus, willing to suffer reproaches even from those he is endeavoring to benefit. But being thoroughly consecrated to God, he does not waver. Here is where some weaken, they let their fear of man or desire for human applause weaken and nullify the voice of conscience. Instead of being consecrated to God they let other people control their consciences and mark out their duty and then wonder why they have so little religious joy and comfort. The difficulty is, they are not consecrated to God, but to the people. Here is where many draw back today. They have not given their reputations to God. They fear what people may say of them, especially good people. Sometimes we have to be misunderstood by good people. The church may misunderstand us. But our first duty is to God. We must be what he wishes us to be; not what the church wishes always. Jesus and many of the best of the saints have been misunderstood by the church. The churchmen of His day clamored for his crucifixion. And if they clamor for our crucifixion, we need not be astonished. A hymn is very popular that contains the lines:
“Let the world despise and leave me:
They have left my Saviour, too.”
But it may be equally true:”Let the church despise and leave me:
They have left my Saviour, too.”
Good men, sincere men, may, through prejudice, misunderstand us, but we must go with Jesus just the same and keep sweet towards them. We are following a master who made himself of no reputation. Here is the point where many draw back and do not go through to God. They are trying to save their reputation. John Wesley was bitterly attacked by his enemies. His brother Charles told him that he had better write a tract showing the falsity of the charges, which he could easily do. He replied that he had made a series of daily appointments to preach the gospel in the north of England and in Scotland, and if he stopped at home to repel the attacks of his enemies, the people would not hear the gospel. “I gave my reputation to the Lord many years ago and he will have to take care of it now.” He went right away and left his reputation in the hands of God and it has kept well for over a hundred years, because it had a good keeper. Would the reader dare to do that? Those who are so fearful about their reputation usually do not have a reputation worth worrying about.
Right here may be mentioned the reason so many have a weak faith in God. Jesus states it. He preached the most systematic of all his discourses, clearly proving his divinity. His Unitarian hearers said they did not believe it. He replied, “How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?” It is impossible to trust God when we care more for the opinions of men than for his opinion. Here is the point where self centers, but if we get the consent of our hearts to die to the opinions of those who would hinder our supreme loyalty to God, we shall surely get great victory. Have you given your reputation to God or are you concerned about it when the question of loyalty to God presents itself?