Sermon Book / SM120 - The True Church

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"The Church of the First-borns, whose names are written in Heaven."#Heb 12:23.

This subject should be approached prayerfully and honestly, that all who see that there was but one Church in the beginning, established by our Lord, may also see that there will be but the one Church in the end, the Church Triumphant in glory, "the Bride, the Lamb’s Wife." For the same reason that there have been doctrines many amongst the followers of Jesus, there have been churches many, as representing those doctrines.

We have found the true Gospel more or less scattered in all the various creeds, and none of them the pure and unadulterated Gospel; so we should be prepared to find that the one true Church of Christ for the past eighteen centuries has been scattered here and there amongst various denominations, and that not one of these denominations is the true Church. Not one of them can claim to contain all the "wheat" and none of the "tares." Not one of them can claim to contain all of the saints and no hypocrites. The time was when the various divisions of the Christian Church severally laid claim to being the one and only Church. But that time has passed, as far as the people and the majority of the clergy are concerned.

"THAT THEY ALL MAY BE ONE"

I shall not charge intentional wrong-doing on the part of any of the divisions of the Christian Church. On the contrary, I shall assume that the framers of the various creeds were sincere, honest men; and that the original followers of those creeds were sincere, and that a few today may be equally sincere. I shall assume, however, that the majority of Christians, ministers and laymen, realize that the sectarian fences are largely composed of

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misconceptions of the Divine Word and Plan, and that the causes which originally led to Church divisions have considerably disappeared. If we can now recognize one true Gospel we may all reunite, in harmony with our Master’s prayer, that "All may be one, as Thou, Father, and I are one."—#Joh 17:21.

I remind you again of the simplicity of this Gospel which recognizes the broad outlines of the Divine Plan and allows each individual to see as many of the finer lines of the same as his spiritual development will permit.

On that broad basis of Christian union the early Christians were one and reprobated any division. St. Paul rebuked those who said, "I am of Paul; I am of Apollos; I am of Peter."(#1Co 1:12.) As only Christ died for us all, He alone must be recognized as our Savior.

As He is the Head of the Church and the only Head, He only must be recognized. As all ye are brethren, so the class distinction as between clergy and laity must be abrogated that we all may be one Church with one Lord, one Faith and one Baptism and one God and Father over all. —#Eph 4:5.

"BABYLON THE GREAT, MOTHER OF HARLOTS"

How the divided Church, with clashing creeds, appears to the Almighty, He tells us, calling it Babylon—which signifies confusion. And who can deny the appropriateness of the name? In times past Catholics have applied this name to the Protestant sects, and the Protestants in turn have applied it to the Church of Rome.

But when we come to examine the Scriptures on the subject they seem to include all—the Church of Rome being represented as the Mother Church and the various Protestant Churches as her daughters. The charge of harlotry which the Lord makes against mother and daughters must be acknowledged, although with some this harlotry is more pronounced than with others.

Using the Jewish marriage ceremony as the basis of the figure, all Christians, as members of the true Church,

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are declared to be "espoused to one husband, which is Christ." (#2Co 11:2.) Under the Jewish custom the espousal brought the woman under the same obligation of chastity as though the marriage had taken place. Thus the Church, by her vow to her Lord, is obligated to the full, although the marriage with the Heavenly Bridegroom will not take place until His Second Advent and the change of the espoused from earthly to Heavenly conditions; for "flesh and blood" cannot inherit the Kingdom of God."—#Re 19:7; #Joh 14:3; #1Co 15:50.

Spiritual harlotry is the condition in which the espoused of the Lord becomes affiliated with and joined to the world. Thus the Church of Rome became affiliated with or united to the civil government of Rome; and when the Roman Empire went to pieces, the Papal Church entered into covenant relationship with various divisions of the civil government; and some of these paramours she still has, while others have left her. France is gone, Portugal also, and Italy. Spain is moody; Austro-Hungary is her chief reliance at the present time. She is well treated in America, but not joined to the American Government.

She is well entertained and given every liberty in Germany and by many in Great Britain, but these countries are not her paramours.

"LIKE MOTHER, LIKE DAUGHTERS"

The Greek Church is joined to the Russian Government; the Church of England to the British Government.

The Lutheran Church is married to several European governments. Others of our Protestant Churches, having no opportunity for affiliation with earthly governments, have become united to worldly systems, worldly organizations of their own, in which, as a rule, Wealth, Mammon, sits at the head of the table. "Like mother, like daughters" is an old saying. Instead of charging this whole matter upon others, let us each recognize and take to heart our own share, for which we are responsible.

As the doctrinal errors which caused our divisions

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gradually developed during a long period of darkness, so our development along the lines of spiritual harlotry were gradual. It is not for us to quarrel with the facts, which are undeniable, but to sincerely repent of the wrong condition and renounce it. Coming back to the one faith, we should come back also to the one Lord. So doing He will graciously receive us and thenceforth His name alone will be quite sufficient. We shall no longer need to style ourselves Roman Christians, English Christians, Lutheran Christians, Calvinistic Christians—but all such names will be abhorred as reminders of the unfaithfulness which we now deplore. As the name Christian was sufficient for the early Church it is sufficient today for all heartily glad to abandon errors of the past and to come together as the one "Church of the Living God."

As for the one baptism, let us concede what the Scriptures claim and declare, namely, that the water immersion is merely a symbol or picture of the burial of the individual’s will and interests in death—like unto and in fellowship with our Lord’s self-renouncement, even unto death. Thus all of the consecrated, of whatever denomination, can be recognized as members of the one true Church if they are dead with Christ to the world, its hopes and aims—buried with Him by baptism into His death, which death to the flesh (accepted by the Father) constitutes us members of the one Body of Christ, the true Church. If thus baptized into His death, we shall share also in His resurrection.—#Ro 6:4,5.

THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS

Is it asked, Where has the true Church been during all the eighteen centuries since the Apostles died? We answer that the Scriptures picture her as going into the wilderness condition, out of public view, for twelve hundred and sixty years of this time. As pride, pomp, arrogance and error came into prominence, meekness, gentleness, love, simplicity, gradually retired. Through the long period of the Dark Ages no history of the true

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Church was written, just as no such history or record of her can be written today.—#Re 12:6,14.

Since none of the various denominations is the true Church, therefore the history of none of these gives her history. As her members are Scripturally declared to contain not many wise, not many learned, therefore scattered amongst all the various creeds and churches, and some outside of them all, the espoused, chaste "virgin" of the Lord is not a prominent feature in church affairs and is wholly unknown to the world. Indeed, these, while in the world, are not of it and usually are disesteemed.

As the Master said, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own."—#Joh 15:18,19.

If, then, the spirit-begotten ones, constituting the Lord’s betrothed virgin Church, are few, and if that few be scattered amongst the four hundred millions nominally styled Christendom, it follows that they are greatly in the minority and could have comparatively little influence today even if they were ever so determined and energetic. The masses and classes rule. Wealth, learning, earthly interests and earthly power are better pleased with present conditions than with those which God’s Word promises will be established when Messiah shall take to Himself His great power and begin His Reign.

Babylon, as the Scriptures declare, is great, influential, powerful—mother and daughters. She will never consent to a recognition of the saintly few in her midst, whom she considers foolish in claiming to be "the Elect" and true Church. To apply the Apostle’s words, She esteems the saintly class "fools all the day long," "the filth and off-scouring" of the earth. To her they are the impracticables. To her they are insurrectionists always crying out for the simplicities of the Gospel, the rights and liberties of the individual in person and conscience, for holiness unto the Lord, not merely in name, but in deed and in truth. For this true Church class, so small

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a minority in Babylon, to wait for the conversion of the worldly masses of the various systems to see "eye to eye" with them in this matter and to reform all these various systems would be to confess folly and to be led of unreason.

"COME OUT OF HER, MY PEOPLE"

In such a matter we need the wisdom which comes from above and the faith and courage to follow it. The Lord’s prayer must be our guide respecting His will concerning us—us who have by faith and consecration and begetting of the Holy Spirit been adopted into the One True Church "whose names are written in Heaven." He prayed for us and not for the nominal mass, who are really parts of the world and thoroughly deceiving themselves in supposing that they have either part or lot or inheritance with the Church. Thank God that we now see that this does not mean that all except the saintly will be eternally tormented, but merely that none except the saintly, "copies of God’s dear Son," can be members of the glorious "little flock," which God predestined to gather from every nation, people, kindred and tongue.

Of this faithful Church the Lord declares, "My sheep know My Voice and they follow Me." We hear His Voice assuring us that it is His will that we who belong to His chaste, espoused virgin class should all be one—should no longer be separated into sects and parties by creedal fences. The Lord declares that He gave Babylon time for repentance and she repented not. He declares that His sentence against the Babylonian system has already gone forth—that, from the Divine standpoint, already "Babylon is fallen! is fallen!" from Divine favor. What would be the wish of our Beloved, to whom we are betrothed? What is His message to us? It is written, "Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins and that ye receive not of her plagues"—her troubles—#Re 18:4; #Joh 10:27.

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Since the nominal systems are not in that consecrated condition of heart, hungering and thirsting for the Truth and for righteousness, and dead to self-will, therefore it is hopeless to think of their surrender of their interests, theories, etc. The very most they could think of doing would be to federate—to agree not to war with each other. Far better would it be to have some theological battles and air their inconsistencies before the wiser public of today. But whatever Babylon may do, mother and daughters, the course of the saintly few, the real Church, which is shortly to come from the "wilderness" leaning upon the arm of her Beloved Bridegroom, is clearly set forth. The saintly should unite in heart on the principles and doctrines of God’s Word, and should stand free in the liberty wherewith Christ has made them free from all human bondage and sectarianism.

Why should the Lord permit the formation of these great wards and divisions in Mystic Babylon? He has permitted only such things as He is able to make work out blessings for His Very Elect, His "little flock," who soon shall be joint-heirs with Christ in His Kingdom.

Babylon’s strong sectarian walls, styled "orthodoxy," and the great brazen gates of worldliness will afford the saintly few the very test they need to demonstrate themselves "overcomers"—"more than conquerors"; for such overcomers only will constitute the members of the Bride class. All the promises are made to the "overcomers," and there must needs be permitted subtle evils for their testing, that those approved of God may be manifested.

UNION OF THE ONE TRUE CHURCH

In a word, our Lord’s prayer will be realized by the "overcomers." They will be one with Himself and with the Father; there will be "one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God, the Father." But as for the nominal systems their future will be destruction as systems, though many of God’s dear people in them, failing to overcome, will be "saved so as by fire" in a great Time of Trouble

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with which this Age will terminate and the New Age will be ushered in.—#1Co 3:15; #Eph 4:4-6.

You have my plea, Christian brethren, for the fulfilment of the Master’s prayer in the union of "the Church which is the Body of Christ," "the Church of the First-borns whose names are written in heaven." This union will not necessitate any reorganization as a new sect or new Church. It is the true Church, the only one which God has ever recognized. Babylon, without it, would not be in any sense of the word recognized of God; and as soon as the "overcomers" shall have escaped from Babylon, Babylon will come in remembrance before God that He may give to her the cup of the wine of His wrath, and suddenly, in one hour, her fall will occur.

(#Re 16:19,18,10.) To the true Church the Lord all along intimated that their oneness is as members of Christ, and not in earthly organizations. We do not read, Gather together unto Calvin, Luther, Wesley, Paul, Apollos or Peter, but, "Gather together My saints unto Me, saith the Lord, those who have made a Covenant with Me by sacrifice." "They shall be Mine, saith the Lord, in that day when I come to make up My jewels."—#Mal 3:17.

When all of the sanctified shall have been delivered, the clock of the Universe will strike the hour which closes the present Dispensation and opens the New; and "the salt of the earth" having been removed from Babylon, corruption will swiftly ensue. Flee out of Babylon! Deliver every man his soul! Let us use the light of "Present Truth" to the extent that each enjoys it. It will guide us in respect to all the affairs of life—into closer fellowship with God and the Savior and the brethren; and into separateness of mind and heart and service from Babylon.