THE CHURCH'S FAILURE
church knows that the eyes of all the world are turned upon her;
that somehow it has been discovered that, while she has claimed
her commission to be to convert the world, the time has arrived
when, if that be her mission, that work should be almost, if not
fully, accomplished, and that really she differs little from the
world, except in profession.
assumed this to be her present mission, she has lost sight of
the real purpose of this Gospel age; viz., to "preach this
gospel of the Kingdom in all the world for a witness to all nations,"
and to aid in the calling and preparing of a "little flock"
to constitute (with the Lord) that Millennial Kingdom which shall
then bless all the families of the earth. (`Matt. 24:14`; `Acts
15:14-17`) She is confronted with the fact that after nineteen
centuries she is further from the results which her claims would
demand than she was at the close of the first century. Consequently
apologies, excuses, a figuring over and re-examining of accounts,
the re-dressing of facts, and extravagant prognostications of
great achievements in the very near future, are now the order
of the day, as, forced by the spirit of inquiry and cross-questioning
of these times, she endeavors to speak in self-defense before
her numerous accusers.
meet the charge of inconsistency of doctrine with her recognized
standard, the Bible, we see her in great perplexity; for she cannot
deny the conflict of her creeds. So, various methods are resorted
to, which thinking people are not slow to mark as evidences of
her great confusion. There is much anxiety on the part of each
denomination to hold on to the old creeds because they are the
cords by which they have been bound together in distinct organizations;
and to destroy these suddenly would be to dissolve the organizations;
yet the clergy specially are quite content to say as little about
them as possible, for they are heartily ashamed of them in the
searching light of this day of judgment.
are so ashamed of them that, forgetting their worldly prudence,
they favor discarding them altogether. Others are more conservative,
and think it more prudent to let them go gradually, and in their
place, by degrees, to insert new doctrines, to amend, revise,
etc. With the long discussions on Presbyterian creed-revision
every one is familiar. So also the attempts of self-styled high
critics to undermine the authority and inspiration of the sacred
Scriptures, and to suggest a twentieth-century-inspiration, and
a theory of evolution wholly subversive of the divine plan of
salvation from an Adamic fall which the Bible affirms, but which
they deny. Then there is another and a large class of clergymen
who favor an eclectic, or compromise, theology, which must of
necessity be very brief and very liberal, its object being to
waive all objections of all religionists, Christian and heathen,
and, if possible, to "bring them all into one camp,"
as some have expressed it. There is a general boasting on the
part of a large class, of the great things about to be accomplished
through instrumentalities recently set in operation, of which
Christian union or cooperation is the central idea; and when this
is secured--as we are assured it soon will be--then the world's
conversion to Christianity, it is assumed, will quickly follow.
charge of lack of piety and godly living is also met with boastings--boasting
of "many wonderful works," which often suggest the reproving
words of the Lord recorded in `Matt. 7:22,23`. But these boastings
avail very little to her interests, because the lack of the spirit
of God's law of love is too painfully manifest to be concealed.
The defense, on the whole, only makes the more manifest the deplorable
condition of the fallen church. If this great ecclesiasticism
were really the true Church of God, how manifest would be the
failure of the divine plan to choose out a people for his name!
while these various excuses, apologies, promises and boasts are
made by the church, her leaders see very clearly that they will
not long serve to preserve her in her present divided, distracted
and confused condition. They see that disintegration and overthrow
are sure to follow soon unless some mighty effort shall unite
her sects and thus give her not only a better standing before
the world, but also increased power to enforce her authority.
We therefore hear much talk of Christian Union; and every step
in the direction of its accomplishment is proclaimed as evidence
of growth in the spirit of love and Christian fellowship. The
movement, however, is not begotten of increasing love and Christian
fellowship, but of fear. The foretold storm of indignation and
wrath is seen to be fast approaching, and the various sects seriously
doubt their ability to stand alone in the tempest shock.