Overland Monthly / OV243 - Episcopalian - Catholic - Lutheran - What These Creeds Surrender to Enter the Church Federation
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OV243 Episcopalian, Catholic, Lutheran What These Creeds Surrender to Enter the Church Federation
Proposed By C. T. Russell, Pastor Brooklyn and London Tabernacles
"Say ye not, A Federation, to all them to whom this people shall say, a Federation; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid."—#Isa 8:12.
OF THE THREE oldest denominations of Christendom Episcopalians, Catholics and Lutherans—the latter have least to surrender. Their tenacity for the Word of God they may still maintain, even though others of the federated bodies might more and more abandon the Holy Scriptures, under leadership of the Universities, Colleges and Seminaries teaching Higher-Criticism-Infidelity and the Evolution theory.
Some Things in Common.
The Federation nevertheless would still permit Lutherans and others to love and reverence the Word of God and yet be in fellowship. Almighty God, the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit, firmly believed in by Lutherans, would all be acknowledged with more or less of mental reservation by all the denominations associated in the Federation. Nothing along these lines would need to be abandoned. Even Luther’s plea of consubstantiation in the Eucharist may be held without objection. Even the honor of being the first denomination of the Reformation might still be held. We conclude, then, that Lutherans would not be required to sacrifice anything.
Episcopalians and Catholics have some things in common. They each claim to represent the original apostolic Church. They each claim (through their bishops in the laying on of hands) apostolic authority. Their common claim is that all other denominations of Christians whatsoever, are false churches without Divine authority, and hence not to be recognized or tolerated. Accordingly no minister of another denomination would be permitted to preach either in a Catholic or an Episcopalian pulpit. And if by mischance such a circumstance should occur it would be considered necessary to purge the sacred spot by a kind of re-consecration. From the standpoint of these denominations all others are heretics; but, they say, not willingly so, but ignorantly so.
Here note the fact that a cleavage is in process among Episcopalians. A minority, termed high-churchmen, are gradually separating Romeward, while the majority are sharing the sentiments of other Protestants, to the effect that the matter of "apostolic succession" is probably less important than their forefathers supposed.
For the purposes of this discussion we may without offense ignore the high-church minority and say that the Scriptures which plainly foretell the perfecting of Church Federation indicate that it will include Episcopalians, but will not include Catholics.
Nevertheless the intimation is that while
OV244 the Federation will be a Protestant one, it will not be anti-Catholic. On the contrary, the two great systems, Catholic and Protestant, will fraternize and co-operate along various lines—especially in the manipulation of social and political influences.
Episcopals Sacrifice a Little Pride.
The breadth of the Episcopal creed will not call for particular sacrifices in Federation, if only their pride on the subject of apostolic succession can be satisfied. They are all prepared to admit that no particular wisdom or holiness has been communicated from generation to generation, from bishop to bishop and from bishop to lower clergy through the laying on of hands.
They are willing to admit that there have been men as wise and others as foolish outside as inside their Communion. They are willing to admit that no greater light upon the Word of God and its meaning has come down to humanity through its channels than through outside channels. They are willing to admit that their clergy have no more of Divine Grace and Truth, Wisdom and Power than have others of God’s people, both clergy and laity, outside their boundaries.
Hence they are willing, nay, anxious for Federation, and ask only that their "face be saved," by some acknowledgment of the long idolized thought that ability to expound the Scriptures and the Grace of God in expounding them could be had only through their channel. They have no desire to prove their claim to superior grace and truth by measuring swords of the Spirit with other ministers.
Up to the present time Episcopalians decline to be parties to the Federation unless their special claim be in some sense or degree recognized. Pride says it would never do to retract now all that the denomination has stood for in separation for centuries. They would urge Christians of the other denominations, especially the clergy, to consider the advantage which would accrue to the Federation by having all Protestant ministers accept their ordination. They do not claim that it would make them wiser or better men, nor more efficient teachers, either of truth or error. But they do claim that it would give them an authority in the eyes of the people, and give color and reasonableness to the Federation of many churches with discordant creeds posing as one church in the Federation arrangement.
The Common People Thinking More.
The argument is, "The common people, the laity," are disposed more than ever to think for themselves on religious subjects, and to study the Bible for themselves. If, therefore, as ministers, you desire to hold the people in check so that they shall not think for themselves you would do well to concede the claim of apostolic succession—that no one is permitted to interpret or teach the Bible except those who have received apostolic benediction.
It was disregard of this claim of apostolic benediction which led to freedom of thought on religious subjects and ultimately led to the formation of the various sects. You should now seek to restrict further investigation of the Bible and further interpretation of it by accepting our theory, by permitting us to grant you recognition in some simple form of the rights of apostolic authority through our bishops. If you do not do so, you will more and more lose your hold on the people, for we are coming more and more to a time of individual thought on every topic.
The Scriptures intimate that this argument will ultimately prevail and great Protestant denominations be thus vitalized and in cooperation with Catholicism, for a short while dominate Christendom socially and politically, crushing out individual thought and negativing and black-listing all religious teachers outside the Federation and its Catholic ally. From this standpoint, the Episcopal system will lose
OV245 nothing, but even be a gainer of prestige through the Federation.
For Catholics to join the Federation would signify the surrender of a great deal, and yet in the light of the Twentieth Century, surely much could be surrendered without any sacrifice of manhood—merely with the sacrifice of a little pride. For the Church at Rome to federate with the Protestant churches would mean that they ceased to protest and that she relinquished her peculiar claims:
What Catholics Would Surrender.
1. That she alone is the Church of Christ and has authority to instruct.
2. That she is more than a Church or prospective Kingdom—that to her has been committed by God the rulership of the world in respect to all matters temporal and spiritual, hence that she is the reigning Kingdom of God.
3. That her Pope is the authorized representative of Christ, anointed and commissioned of God to fulfill all the prophecies of the Scriptures respecting the reign of Christ, his Mediatorial Kingdom, etc. This claim of Papacy that the Pope’s reign is de facto the reign of Christ is expressed in the declaration that he is the Vice-gerent of Christ—the one reigning instead of Christ.
4. The doctrine of trans-substantiation—that by the blessing of a priest the ordinary bread and wine are transmuted into the actual soul of Christ—(his flesh and his blood) for sacrifice afresh in each celebration of the Mass.
Whatever may have been true in the remote past, assuredly our Catholic friends can no longer claim that all the purity, all the faithfulness to God, all the sanctity of life amongst believers in Christ are to be found in her communion. St. Paul declares, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His." Surely all Christians admit this standard and the correctness of the Apostle’s teaching.
Hence the ignoring and setting aside of all creeds and barriers which have heretofore hindered the Unity of the Church of Christ might be possible. Thus the first Catholic objection might easily be removed in favor of Federation, or, still better, in favor of Union. As our Episcopalian friends fail to prove that the apostolic succession to ordination gave either greater wisdom or more grace to their clergy than to other ministers of the Gospel, might not our Catholic friends reasonably admit the same?
The second claim that Papacy is God’s Kingdom, that the Popes reign successively as Christ’s Vice-gerent, should not be difficult for Catholics of our day to lay aside.
However strongly it was held in the dark past, it is surely little appreciated by Catholics to-day. No longer do the Popes dominate the civil rulers in Christendom. And no longer do the people consider it wise that they should do so.
A Claim Now Easy to Lay Aside.
More and more the masses appreciate the fact that the original kingdom of earth was given to Father Adam and that mankind as his children are the natural heirs of the inheritance. More and more the people are disposed to consider popes, czars, emperors and kings as merely figureheads, without any real title or authority from heaven to rule or to coerce the people. More and more the masses demand Congresses, Parliaments, Reichstags and Doumas. And more and more do they demand that these shall reflect the sentiments of the people in civil and religious matters.
The day of darkness and ignorance in which the people believed that popes and kings were Divinely appointed to rule them with Divine authority has gone by. General intelligence has taught mankind that it is a mistake to suppose that one God-appointed king and kingdom were Divinely appointed to wipe another Divinely appointed king and kingdom off the face of the earth. Hence popes and kings now admit that they reign by a popular sufferance, and their appeals for money, for armies and navies
OV246 is no longer on the score that they were Divinely instructed to obliterate each other, but on the score of self-defense.
Divine Appointment Not Believed.
This claim, however, wholly destroys the argument that we are now or ever in the past have been under Christ’s Kingdom, either direct or through the popes. Neither now nor at any other time in the world’s history has there been a reign of righteousness such as the Scriptures declare Christ’s Kingdom shall inaugurate. May we not, then, with good grace—Catholics and Protestants—admit that neither our Catholic popes, emperors and.kings, nor our Protestant kings, emperors and heads of Churches are reigning with any Divine authority manifest to human judgment?
Let us humbly admit the nonsense of the legends on our coins, Catholic and Protestant, to the effect that kings and popes reign by the grace of God—by Divine appointment.
Let us rather say that they came into power through the exercise of brute force and in a time of common public ignorance. Nor by this do we mean any disrespect to the governments of to-day—rather we have shown that to-day the people are ruling through their Congresses, Parliaments, Reichstags, etc., and that the kings and emperors are mere figureheads of power, more or less useful and dependent upon the good-will of their people.
If it be asked how we shall account for the period of the Dark Ages and autocratic and devilish misrule, our reply would be to point to the Apostle’s words. He declares that Satan is the god or ruler of this world, who now operates through the disobedient—through those not in harmony with God, who constitute the vast majority in Christendom and elsewhere. And we remind you that our Lord Jesus also spoke of Satan as being the Prince of this world or age (#Joh 12:31), and of himself as the Prince or Ruler of the coming Age, the Millennial Age (#Joh 18:36).
Ah, yes! the sooner both Catholics and Protestants admit what they and all the world now see, the better—namely, that for a long time our great Adversary held us in a bondage of ignorance and superstition, in getting free from which many bright minds have reacted towards infidelity, because they did not see that many of the teachings of the past, both Catholic and Protestant, were not only irrational, but most positively unscriptural teachings of men, and, as St. Paul declared, "doctrines of demons" (#1Ti 4:1).
Not Vice-gerent Christ.
In view of the foregoing—in view of the fact that the Divine titles of all kings and emperors are now abrogated, papacy need feel no special disgrace to her cause in similarly abrogating the claim that the popes reign as representatives of Christ or have authority so to do. Indeed, such a claim is more safely denied than held, for in the light of our day papacy’s best friends cannot look into the past and point with pride to any achievements as properly representing the reign of the Prince of Peace—Immanuel. In the light of the present all of God’s people, Catholics and Protestants of every shade, should rejoice to join in the Lord’s Prayer—"Thy Kingdom come; Thy Will be done on earth as it is done in Heaven." Surely this is what all saints of all denominations should desire and pray for and labor for.
Not that we can hope to bring it to pass of ourselves, however. Nearly nineteen centuries of efforts show to the contrary. Even our last century of great missionary endeavor, Catholic and Protestant, proves this. United States statistics show that in the year 1800 there were six hundred millions of heathens, and that in the year 1900 their numbers had doubled—there were twelve hundred millions of heathens. While continuing our exertions
OV247 on behalf of the heathens abroad and at home, let us tie our faith to the Apostle’s words and "wait for God’s Son from Heaven" (#1Th 1:10).
Trans-substantiation, Masses, Purgatory.
At the second coming of Christ and the glorification of His Church, "His elect," "His saints," gathered from all denominations, Catholic and Protestant (and some from outside of all of them)—only then will the glorious reign of Christ and the Church begin. Only then will the spiritual Seed of Abraham be complete and the work of blessing the unregenerate world begin—the Messianic Kingdom work—the overthrow of Satan and his empire—the scattering of darkness, ignorance and superstition which he fostered—the flooding of the earth with the light of the knowledge of the glory of God—the restoration of natural Israel to Divine favor—the bringing in of everlasting righteousness through a mental, physical and moral uplift. Whoever, then, shall refuse all those blessings and privileges will be destroyed from amongst the people. Thus eventually in the close of the new dispensation God’s will shall be "done on earth even as it is done in heaven"—as fully, as completely. This is the "Kingdom of God’s dear Son," for which we wait and pray. And however good or bad other kingdoms, temporal or spiritual, have been, we need no longer consider them substitutes for this one which shall be the "desire of all nations" (#Hag 2:7).
We are free to admit that the Catholic doctrines of Trans-substantiation, Masses and Purgatory would be difficult for our Catholic friends to abandon for the sake of Federation or for any other reason. Nevertheless we believe that in the light of our day there is more to be learned upon these important doctrines.
Without agreeing with these doctrines—without claiming Catholic affiliation, let us here say that the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory, which lies at the foundation of these three, is in many respects more rational than our Protestant doctrine of eternal torture.
It would surely be more God-like to provide some way of escape for the millions of humanity than to leave thousands of millions uselessly in untellable anguish to all eternity.
Summing up, then, we find that Lutherans would have nothing to lose by Federation—nothing to surrender, except a little pride. Episcopalians likewise will find Federation to cost them little. They can well afford to join the Federation, especially on terms upon which they insist—the recognition of the apostolic succession. And this they can afford to concede in its very mildest form, realizing that it has never specially advantaged them anyway and is impossible of demonstration, in view of the fact that the Scriptures declare that there are but twelve apostles of the Lamb and symbolically show only a twelve-star crown to the Church during this Age and only twelve foundations to the New Jerusalem—the Church in glory. How, then, could bishops either possess or give apostolic blessings? (#Re 12:1, 21:14.)
Do Not Federate—Unite.
Reminding all that our text opposes Federation, we conclude by advising the Protestant Christian Communions discussed foregoing not to be content with Federation, but to go the entire length of Union—dropping all their pet ideas and acknowledging as fellow-Christians and fellow-members of the Body of Christ, the Church, all who acknowledge Jesus as their Savior, their Redeemer, and who turn from the ways of sin and to the best of their ability walk in the path of righteousness, and who make full consecration of themselves to the Lord. These are and ever should be ONE in the most absolute sense possible, both now and beyond the veil.