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6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
...there is no ecclesiastical organization extant like that which we see existed in the apostolic age, and that of the elders who outlived the apostles. And, furthermore, that however intelligent and excellent of purpose and character certain Christian professors may be, they could not by any unanimity establish one. The reason of this is, that the gift of the Holy Spirit is a wanting: then, the Spirit called believers, and qualified them for the eldership, and through it instructed and ruled the body; but now, the Holy Spirit is neither in elderships nor people; at all events, neither of them afford any evidence of the fact, being more conspicuous for want of wisdom, and knowledge, and understanding, than for the possession of them.
But, because we cannot have the ancient order which existed in the infancy and childhood of Christianity, (for which, indeed, it was specially designed,) is that any reason why, when "a measure of an age of the fulness of Christ" has been attained, and the ancient order discontinued, believers in society should have no order at all; but that A. B. and C., however incompetent in the estimation of all but themselves, should be at unrestrained liberty to violate all the principles embodied in that ancient order, and to set all the rules of courtesy and good breeding at defiance?
Certainly not. This is anarchy, and utterly disruptive and subversive of the social state. Men cannot live in society, literary, political, domestic, or Christian, where such licentiousness prevails. There must be system, and such an one, too, as shall be a restraint upon the presumptuous, and a praise to them that do well.
Seeing, then, that the divinely constituted order of things is not attainable, and some organization must be established if believers are to coöperate in society, it evidently follows, that the God of wisdom, knowledge and love, has left it to the most intelligent wisest, and best dispositioned of His sons, to devise a system embodying the principles of His ancient order, through which may be carried out most effectually His benevolence to His children and the world.
The case of Moses and his father-in-law establishes this. God had said nothing to Moses respecting the daily judging of the people, which all rested upon his shoulders, to the certain injury of his health. Jethro perceived this, and, though not an Israelite, suggested a division of labour, in the appointment of "able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness," who should be rulers with him, to judge the people at all seasons.
"If thou do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure."
Moses took the advice; and though it is not written that God approved it, yet, as Moses was faithful in all his house as a servant, we are justified in concluding that he did; for Moses would have established nothing contrary to His will, nor, if established, would it have been permitted to continue.
We are in the wilderness state, and in a somewhat similar position. God has removed the divinely constituted elderships, or branched candlesticks, and permitted his heritages to be despoiled and scattered. We are endeavoring to gather the dispersed together in divers places; but, in doing so, we find the times vastly changed. We are here and there companies, who profess to believe the same gospel as Paul preached, and, like him and his associates, to have obeyed it.
We desire to be organized, but the Holy Spirit neither calls any of us to office, nor bestows on us any special gifts. If he prescribe to us no organization for modern times, and he have cut us off from access to the ancient one, it is manifest that, if we are to organize at all, we must do as Moses did at Jethro's suggestion, and organize ourselves, if God command us so; and we infer he does, as he has not told us how to organize, yet exhorts through the apostle "not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is."
It might be objected here that this reasoning would sanctify all the ecclesiastical organizations of Christendom. But I say, no; because, in the first place, they are not organizations of Christians, their members never having obeyed the gospel, so that they are not Christian organizations; and, in the next place, the organizations do not embody the principles of the apostolic one.
No organization can be acceptable to God which is not comprehensive of his children; while, on the other hand, I believe he would not be displeased at any system of rule and order they might devise promotive of their own improvement of heart and understanding, and growth in faith, humbleness of mind, brotherly kindness and love; and which would enable them to support the truth, and sound it out effectively in the world; all of which premises that their system embody the principles inculcated in the word.
Who then should initiate the organization of unassociated believers I should ànswer, in view of Paul's instructions to Titus, He or they who have been instrumental in opening their eyes, and in turning them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. It is reasonable that he who has been able to do this, is more competent to "set in order the things that are not done, and to ordain elders," than any one or all of the proselytes put together. He has in the nature of things more scriptural intelligence than they, seeing that they had been blind until he happily enabled them to see.
The democratic mode of setting things in order, and ordaining elders, has been abundantly tried, and found wanting. It results in every evil work, and in all presumption and confusion. The vote of the majority puts men into office who are unqualified in every particular; and history shows that wherever this principle has rule in ecclesia or world, it invariably introduces turbulence, contempt of authority, and corruption; so that at length reäction necessarily supervenes for the prevention of the disruption of society which would otherwise certainly ensue.The Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Jan 1854
Answers to Correspondents...
As to shot pheasants and pigeons, you probably class them with "things strangled," and therefore have a scruple as to eating under Acts xv. 20. Well, there is no hardship in abstaining, though probably if Paul were alive he would say you might eat. The forbidding of blood had reference to blood drained out as a liquid - a common thing for the heathen to eat. Paul makes light of what we eat and drink, provided it all be done in wisdom and gratitude and to the glory of God.TC 10/1894
29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
Prostitution, and eating the sacrifices offered to the idol-representations of the dead, whose souls were said to be alive, were institutions of Baal-Religion. When Israel were seduced by the Moabitish women to worship Baal, at the suggestion of Balaam, they committed whoredom with them, and ate the sacrifices of their gods. The Balaamite clergy were guilty of the same thing. They privily introduced idolatrous practices among christians. They taught them to eat of the sacrifices sold as holy meat, by which they became partakers of the idol-altars, and propitiated the heathen, for in so doing, they contributed to the support of the pagan priesthood. But Paul objected to this sort of compromise in toto.
His argument was, that the things the Gentiles sacrificed they sacrificed to demons, to the ghosts of dead men, and not to God; and that in eating of them knowingly, they had fellowship with their imaginary demons. He told them that when they went to the butcher's they should ask no question, but just buy whatever came to hand. They would then buy in ignorance, having no knowledge whether there was sacrificial meat or not. But if any one said, "this is offered in sacrifice to idols," he told them not to eat it, for the eating then involved a principle of fellowship with deified ghosts, in the judgment of him who invited to eat.
Paul's anxiety was that the Corinthian brethren should "not have fellowship with demons," or deified imaginary ghosts, called "immortal souls." These demons had a table and a cup, as well as the Lord; and Paul taught that they could not partake of both without sin. The same demons have a table and a cup now, modified, however, in this, that bread cut up into pieces, emblematic of the divisions of antichristendom, is substituted for meats offered to the demons.
The table spread by the clergy, and called by them "the sacrament," is the modern table of the demons. It is the table of those who believe in deified immortal souls, who are the gods of the clerical system. It is Jezebel's table, at which a saint cannot eat without having fellowship with the demons she funeralizes to glory, which is sin. Her churches are a synagogue of unbaptized "miserable sinners," as they proclaim themselves to be in their prayers, and consequently, her table cannot be the Lord's, for his teaching has no place for such there -- the miserable patrons of demons belong to Jezebel, not to the spouse of Christ.