Overland Monthly / OV395 - Bishop-Apostles Costly Mistake
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OV395 Bishop-Apostles Costly Mistake
By C. T. Russell Pastor New York, Washington and Cleveland Temples and the Brooklyn and London Tabernacles
"Have I not chosen you Twelve?"—#Joh 6:70.
AS CHRISTIANS we have long lamented our differences and wondered at their number. As we have been getting rid of one after another of the doctrinal errors of the past, and see their foolishness, and learn that they are not supported by Bible testimony, we wonder how they originally got a foothold in Christian faith. But a glance backward is sufficient to explain the situation.
During the ministry of our Lord and the Apostles, the faith of the Church was kept pure; but as Jesus prophesied in the parable of the Wheat and Tares, all this changed as soon as the Apostles fell asleep. He says: "While men slept, the enemy came and sowed tares" amongst the wheat. The tares of error sown by Satan shortly after the death of the Apostles have yielded an abundant crop, and well nigh choked out the good seed of the Kingdom—Christ’s saintly followers. The nominal wheat-field might almost be called a tare-field, so greatly do the tares predominate.
But in the Harvest, the end of this Age, the dawning of the New Age of Messiah’s Kingdom, the Lord will favor such conditions as will effect a thorough separation between the "wheat" and the "tares." He will gather His wheat into the Garner. All imitation Christians will, by the fiery troubles of that Day, be reduced to the ranks of the world in general.
Judas’ Place Improperly Filled.
Whilst the eleven Apostles were waiting as directed for the Pentecostal blessing, they, contrary to direction, busied themselves by appointing a successor to Judas. They chose two men, and the two, selected one by lot, and then supposed that they had made an Apostle. Without reproving them, God ignored their choice; thenceforth we hear no more of Matthias. In His own time God brought forth the successor of Judas, and we all recognize at once St. Paul, of whom it is written that he was "not one whit behind the chiefest of the Apostles," and that he had visions and revelations more than they all.
St. Paul’s writings constitute the major portion of the New Testament, and are invaluable gifts of God to His people. There never were to be more than these twelve.
Jesus declares that He chose the twelve. Again He declares that God gave them to Him and that He lost none of them save Judas, whose disloyalty had already been foretold.
When Jesus prayed for these He differentiated them from His other followers, saying, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for all those also who shall believe in Me through their word." Their words are His words. They have been His mouthpieces to the Church. Of these twelve, and of none others, He declares, "Whatsoever things ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven," and whatsoever things ye shall declare loosed
OV396 all shall know are loosed and not binding in the sight of Heaven. So carefully did the Lord intend to supervise these in their utterances that their words would be infallible; and He wished all His followers to know this.
Furthermore, after our Lord had ascended to glory, He sent a message to the Church through St. John the Revelator. In that message He pictured the twelve apostles as a crown of twelve stars, upon the head of the Woman, the Church. Again, in the symbolical picture of the New Jerusalem, which represents the Church in glory beyond the veil, He pictures the twelve apostles as the twelve foundation stones. There never were to be any more, nor any less. From this standpoint we see that we are not to expect an additional revelation of any kind. God’s people are not to trust either in their own speculations and mental gymnastics, or in visions and dreams; for, as St. Paul declares, "If any man preach any other gospel than that which we have preached, let him be accursed." (#Ga 1:8,9.) So, too, he declares, "The Word of His grace is able to build you up," and to "make you wise unto salvation." Again he said, "The Word of God is sufficient, that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished." (#Ac 20:32; #2Ti 3:15-17.) We see, then, that the Church needed no more than the twelve Apostles, nor any further revelation of any kind than those given to her through this inspired Apostleship. But that there would be some who mistakenly would claim to be apostles, the Lord Jesus clearly indicated, declaring that there would be false apostles, "who say that they are apostles and are not."—#Re 2:2.
The First Pseudo-Apostles.
When we speak of pseudo-apostles—false apostles—we should not be understood as charging intentional fraud. Rather, sympathetically, let us suppose that the early bishops, in accepting the title of apostles and claiming for themselves succession to the Apostolic office, were honestly deluded, as much as were the people who thus acknowledged them. Let us remember, further, that the matter grew gradually, just as titles and dignities grow at this day.
Let us remember that the early Christians were not generally educated—that remarkably few people in olden times were able to read. Indeed, general ability to read belongs only to our generation, to those living in this our wonderful day—the dawning of the New Era of Messiah’s Kingdom. Let us remember, also, that at that time books were very scarce, because very expensive. The Jews did, indeed, endeavor to have a copy of the Holy Scriptures in every synagogue, there to be read once a week, in portions, from large and costly scrolls.
Christians, expelled from the synagogue, had no longer the opportunity of the Jews for studying the Old Testament Scriptures. And the New Testament, written in fragmentary manner, was costly also, and not brought together as a collection for a long time after the death of the Apostles. The sacred writings soon became relics, remembrancers of the dead Apostles and of Jesus, worshipped by all, but not studied. Their value for instruction was considered at an end, because the theory in the meantime had sprung up that the living bishops were the representatives of the Apostolic office and inspirations.
The people, therefore, unable to read, asked not, What say the Apostles? but received their theological instructions from the bishops, who they believed to be the living Apostles.
When we reflect that very few ministers in one city, even of one denomination, are to-day fully agreed as respects Divine Truth, we must not be surprised that during the two.centuries following the death of the Apostles, these supposed "successors" got into all kinds of false doctrines, each leading a company of believers and holding the pre-eminence of his own views, few thinking to measure their presentations by those of the twelve divinely appointed Apostles.
OV397 Apostolic Councils" Next.
The doctrinal strife between the bishops grew. Gradually the people of God, about A.D.250, began to be separated into two classes—the clergy and the laity. The bishops, instead of being chosen by the vote of the people, publicly claimed the divine right, as the superiors in the Church, to ordain for them their clerical teachers. The clergy, under the lead of the bishops as supposed successors to the Apostles, lorded it over God’s heritage. Later, in the sixth century, the Bishop of Rome began to be considered superior to all other bishops, and finally was declared to be the chief father, or papa, or Pope.
About the Fourth Century creed-making began. The Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed and the Apostle’s Creed, all were formulated in the fourth century. It was discovered that more than a thousand bishops—pseudo apostles—were teaching very contrary doctrines on many subjects. The Emperor Constantine accepted Christianity, and was perplexed by the variety of teaching. He convened the "Apostolic Council" of Nice. But although he provided expense money for all bishops attending, only about one-third obeyed the command.
These bishops disputed and wrangled over differences for days and weeks and months.
Finally they reached a conclusion satisfactory to the emperor. It was promulgated with governmental sanction and with the declaration that any persons or teachings to the contrary were to be expelled. Thus a small minority of men who mistakenly thought themselves inspired, under the leading of an emperor who had not even been baptized, set up a theological standard which since has served well to fetter religious thought in many, and to make others believe that there is nothing in religion but superstition.
Creed-making along these lines progressed for twelve hundred years, while the Bible was neglected. It was not even thought necessary, as a text book in theological seminaries. Luther, then a devout Catholic, had taught and preached for years without ever seeing a Bible. The explanation is that the bishops, esteemed to be living apostles in full authority, were thought to have more up-to-date knowledge than the original twelve. In so-called Apostolic councils, they formulated creeds which they declared were alone necessary to be believed. Can we wonder that in all those fifteen centuries the real nuggets of Truth which had been delivered by Jesus and the Apostles and the Prophets, became sadly incrusted with human tradition, superstition, misunderstanding, etc.?
Groping for the Light.
Our Catholic friends do not agree that a great Reformation movement started in the sixteenth century. None of us will claim that Luther and his friends were infallible, and that in one step they passed from the confusion of fifteen centuries into the full blaze of religious knowledge. All, however, Catholics and Protestants, can surely agree that some kind of creed impetus to righteousness came to the Protestant movement of the Sixteenth Century. We have proof of it all about us.
No longer are Protestants and Catholics warring with each other, burning each other at the stake, etc. Each may feel free to investigate for himself and to accept or reject such doctrines and creeds as he may please.
All true Christian people deplore the division of Christ’s followers into numerous sects.
Nevertheless we may surely feel a great sympathy for all of them when we remember that each separate sect represents an additional effort on the part of honest minds to grope out of darkness toward the light. All who are awake are conscious that some terrible nightmare of error rested upon Christendom for long, long centuries.
The Torch of Civilization.
Well has the Bible been called the Torch of Civilization and Progress.
OV398 The Bible, not men, was the great Reformer and leader into civilization. When the Bible was placed in the hands of the people, they began to see that God’s message came from Jesus and the Apostles and the Prophets of old, and that clericism and sacerdotal functions were man-made. A desire to know what the Bible teaches became more and more prevalent. The first effort of the clerics was to tell the masses that the priesthood had the Bible and would read it in their hearing—but it was read in Latin, to those who could not understand Latin.
Gradually the desire sprang up for the Bible in the English language. Dr. Tyndale was amongst the first to recognize the need and to supply it to the British. Later on Luther, with assistants, supplied the Germans. But not many were able to read. A partisan spirit arose. Seeing that the Bible was popular, all acclaimed it as the Divine Revelation. But each party condemned the translation made by the other, when in reality there was no particular difference between them. It was all the bishops could do to keep the people from studying God’s Word themselves and to make them satisfied with the presentations already given them by their teachers.
Therefore the Bishop of London bought up a lot of Tyndale’s Testaments and burned them in public. But more were printed and the demand increased. People hungered for God’s word, and felt suspicious of the creeds, as well they might. Then came the Catholic Bible in the English language, and later, our Common Version English Bible, and many others. Still the claim is made that Protestants could not read the Catholic Bible, and that Catholic could not read the Protestant Bible, when in reality the two are practically the same—good translations.
It would appear that there are many religious teachers of all denominations who outwardly extol the Bible for popularity’s sake, but who in reality inwardly wish the people would never read it, for they realize that the Bible is the greatest foe in the world to ecclesiastical hypocrisies and superstitions.
Back to the Bible, Says Pope!
Pope Leo, with a clear vision beheld the drifting of our day away from all faith and religion. Viewing the attitude of the Protestant college, universities and theological seminaries, he realized that nearly all the educated young men of Protestant lands are being taught Higher Criticism, which is the modern name for infidelity. He perceived that Protestantism, which originally boasted of its fidelity to the Bible, and protested against the acceptance of the teachings of the bishops instead of the Divine Word, has cut loose from the Bible as an inspired authority and is drifting upon the rocks of Higher Criticism, rationalism, atheism.
The Pope then bethought himself of the Catholic colleges, and found the same Higher Criticism intruding itself there. He perceived that this general trend away from God has already crushed all religion in ninety-six per cent of the French, and in ninety per cent of the Germans. The awfulness of this situation greatly impressed the holy father. He realized that our increase of education and decrease in religious faith must speedily spell anarchy. At the risk of condemnation from both Catholics and Protestants as narrow-minded and bigoted, the Pope instituted heroic measures. He gave orders that all Roman Catholic ecclesiastics and teachers must be examined as to their faith, and must solemnly swear to it, and that all books along the lines of Higher Criticism should be banned.
Pius X took another bold, courageous step. Perceiving that the masses would no longer recognize the Bishops as Divine authority—as successors to the Apostles—he directed through the Papal bull that the Catholic masses no longer look to the successors of the Apostles for instruction, but to the Bible itself. He urged upon the Bishops that Catholics everywhere
OV399 be encouraged to read the Bible. This is a move in the right direction. If Catholics should get to reading the Bible (I care not whether they use the Catholic version or the Protestant version—I use both), Protestants may be shamed into real Bible study, instead of the sham make-believe so much practiced.
May we not, then, hope that all true Christians, Catholic and Protestant, of every shade, might through the honest study of the one great book of authority, come back to the "one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism," and the one "Church of the Living God," whose names "are written in Heaven?" Toward this end let us labor. Let us all be students of the Bible, and let us be honest and loyal, not handling the Word of God deceitfully. So shall we have the blessing for which Jesus prayed: "Sanctify them through Thy Truth; Thy Word is Truth."
SOME GLAD, SWEET DAY
SOME day, some glad, sweet day We shall be like our blessed Lord And see Him as He is.
Soon we shall strain our Weary eyes no more To catch, beyond this earthly House of fettering clay, A gleam of heavenly glory From His radiant face.
Some day, some fair, sweet day His loving hand will wipe Away our tears. His tender Voice will thrill our souls With rapture, when we Hear Him say, "Well done, Dear heart, well done, My joy is thine; for thee The victor’s crown is won.
"Thou hast been faithful, Thou hast borne the cross, The thorns have pierced thy feet; But now the Night is past—The Day hath come—bright, Glorious Day of endless joy and love.
The trial time hath proved thee true, And thou art safe, beloved, In thy Father’s home."
O, glorious Day, for thee we long!
We will be faithful, will the Burdens bear, sustained by grace Divine.
In meek submission to Thy holy will, Dear Lord, by faith we clasp Thy hand As side by side we tread the Narrow Way And wait—for it will surely come—Some day, some dear, sweet day, O, tarry not too long!