« VorigeDoorgaan »
the importance and necessity for each one to read and study the sacred Word. This is clearly implied in such scriptures as may be found in John 5:39, I. John 2:20, 27, Acts 17:11, Galatians 1:8. The Book of Psalms contains many allusions to the oracles of God.
As an encouragement to read and study the Word of God, the help of the Holy Spirit is promised (Romans 8:9; I. John 2:20, 27). "A personal spiritual illumination by the power of the Holy Spirit," says Dr. Hodge, "is necessary in every case for the practical and saving knowledge of the truth embraced in the Scriptures. This necessity does not result from any want of either completeness or clearness in revelation, but from the fact that man in a state of nature is carnal and unable to discern the things of the Spirit." This article of our Confession says that "every true Christian is bound to acknowledge and receive it by the help of the Spirit of God as the only rule and guide in faith and practice."
The study of the Holy Scriptures is a most delightful employment. There is a majesty, beauty, and sublimity in the Bible not found in any other book. It is a "rock of diamonds and a chain of pearls." When Dr. Elliott, at seventy years of age, and very near the end of life, sat reading the Word of God, his daughter asked him what he was reading so diligently. He replied, "I am reading news." He had read the Bible through many times, and yet to him, sitting on the bank of the river of death, it was news,- news from that country to which he was soon going. It is a fountain of living water, a compass, a chart, and a guide. The heavens may pass away, the elements melt, and the earth be burned up, but the word of the Lord shall endure forever. Christians should not only feel that it is their duty to read the Holy Scriptures, but esteem it a very great privilege to do so. Rev. William Hamilton says, "The Word of God is solid; it will stand a thousand readings, and the man who has gone over it the most frequently and most carefully is the surest of finding new wonders there."
It is to be regretted that so many who profess to be the disciples of Christ devote so little time to reading and
studying God's Word. They seem not to know how rich and beautiful it is. There are promises like the most precious gems scattered all along the pathway of lifepromises for every day, for every hour, and for every condition of life. And the glory of it all is that not one of these promises will ever fail. Let all, therefore, that profess the name of Christ, thoughtfully and prayerfully read and study the Holy Scriptures "by the aid of the Spirit of God."
THE CONFESSION OF FAITH
OF THE CHURCH.
We believe in a holy Christian church, composed of true believers, in which the word of God is preached by men divinely called, and the ordinances are duly administered; that this divine institution is for the maintenance of worship, for the edification of believers, and the conversion of the world to Christ.
THIS article contains three leading propositions, each of which should be considered with great care: first, the holy Christian church; second, the divine call to the ministry; third, the purposes for which the church is organized.
THE HOLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
"We believe in a holy Christian church, composed of true believers." By this is meant the visible or collective body of Christians all over the face of the earth, who profess to believe in Christ as the Savior of the world"visible in all its parts and visible as a whole." The definition of a church as given in the nineteenth article of the Church of England is the one most generally accepted by Protestants. It is as follows: "A congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same." In a broader sense, it includes the whole body of believers, so that every Christian denomination is a part of this general church. "We speak of the visible church," says Dr. Bannerman, "as catholic (universal), because the bond of union between its members is a common public profession and an outward federal relationship to Christ." This is what is understood by the visible church of Christ. There is a clear and marked distinction between the visible and invisible church. The sacred writers, in speaking of the
spiritual substance of the church universal, use the words kingdom of God," or the "kingdom of heaven.”
By the "holy Christian church," as named in this article of our Confession, is meant the visible church of Christ on earth, "composed of true believers." It includes the whole body of believers in all lands. In becoming members of a local church or of a particular denomination, we thereby become members of the church general. We speak of the Apostolic Church, which was composed of all who professed faith in Christ, whether they lived at Jerusalem, Rome, or Ephesus, or whether they were Jews or Gentiles. So now we speak of the church of Christ in this general sense as including all who profess faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world.
The word church is applied to particular denominations; as Methodist, Presbyterian, or United Brethren. It is also applied to local congregations; as the church at Antioch, or the church at Corinth. It is often also applied to buildings in which local congregations meet to worship. "The church proper is composed of all true Christians, but in its organization, is divided either by names that have a local signification or by differences in points of doctrine or polity.
By the invisible church is meant all who are in very deed members of the spiritual family of Christ, whether in heaven or on the earth; those on earth, the church militant, those in heaven, the church triumphant. A person becomes a member of this general invisible church the moment he is regenerated; while he becomes a member of a visible, local church (or denomination) by consenting to be governed by certain rules and regulations. A person can only cease to be a member of the invisible church by ceasing to be a Christian; but he may for a time cease to be a member of a visible or local church by removal, as is frequently the case. So that while it is the duty of every Christian to unite with some visible, local church, yet he may be a member of the invisible church and not identified with any local, visible church. Paul, in Hebrews 12:22, 23, alludes to this general, invisible church when he says, "But ye are come unto
mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect."
While as a denomination we believe in a general, invisible church, composed only of persons who have been regenerated, and that this "church is one and indivisible; it is essentially a unit, and comprehends all the redeemed without distinction of periods, dispensations, races, nations, distance, or place"; we also believe in a visible organzation, with rules and regulations as nearly as possible in harmony with the general principles of church polity practiced in the apostolic church, no specific form of church government being given in the New Testament. Upon this Dr. Watson says, "The gospel only lays down general principles, and leaves the application of them to men as free agents."
Now, while no particular form of church government is insisted upon, it must appear to every thoughtful mind that some form is necessary. There must be combination and concert of action to attain the ends of Christianity as set forth in the New Testament.
THE DIVINE CALL TO THE MINISTRY.
One mark of the visible Christian church is, that the "word of God is preached by men divinely called." That men are called of God to preach the gospel is, and always has been, the belief of the United Brethren Church. Candidates for ordination are required to answer the following question in the affirmative: "Are you assured that you are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon you the office of the ministry, to serve God in the church. of Christ to the honor and glory of his holy name?" A candidate who could not answer this question in the affirmative would not receive ordination.
The Christian church is a divine institution; it was organized by divine authority, and is perpetual. It was not organized for an age, but for all ages to the end of time. Our Lord, in providing for the perpetuity of his