To the Editor of the Chinese Recorder: Part 1

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 9
1It is evident that the ecclesiastical position in China is exercising the minds of not a few, and that some are dissatisfied with what surrounds them, not as to practice only but as to foundation principles. Mr. Hawks Pott says, “There is one thing about the church of apostolic times in sad contrast with the church in China to-day. Then the church was one; now it is divided and rent asunder.” I suppose he meant to say “There is one thing about the church in China [indeed everywhere] to-day in sad contrast with the church of apostolic times.” Undoubtedly the united church of apostolic times was as right, as the divided church of to-day is wrong. Do we gain anything by closing our eyes to so sure and sad a fact?
Mr. Hudson Taylor is reported to have said at the Kuling Conference, “Had he the power to make all flowers green, he would not care to use that power; or were he able to pierce the eye and make an ear of it, he did not think he could improve the present arrangement by so doing. Unity involves diversity, as shown by the diverse members of one body, though all animated by one spirit.” Is this serious? Is it not a self-excusing play of words? The application of such language as this to the present situation is an easy way of getting rid of positive departure from God's word and will.
Some cannot look at things thus lightly: God's truth and glory are too deeply concerned. Variety in the colors of flowers is from God. The different functions of the eye and the ear are from the first established by the Creator. So it is organically in the church, which man dislikes and dislocates. “In [the power of] one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” The scriptural principle of unity with diversity does apply to the body of Christ. “We being many are one bread, one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” Scripture recognizes but one communion. How then does this sanction distinct denominations, and separate communions? Is it not a bold misuse of the aim and argument of inspiration? God is not the author of confusion. We are not entitled to impute to Him the scattered condition of Christ's members to-day, to the ruin of expressing His one body. Does it not become us to confess and grieve over the existence of a manifest evil? It is always a spiritual loss when we close our eyes to facts as they are. Let us be assured that the safe ground to take is to read, not the word of God in the dark of our circumstances, but our circumstances in the light of the word. God is not mocked.
Is it further said that “the church at Jerusalem was the mother church, with whom all other churches were in communion?” Because of this fact and others, with principles still deeper, some of us cannot recognize a passing intercommunion of Christians from the various denominations, as adequately meeting God's will, or the due privilege of His children. It is a compromise, not a scriptural expression, of the one body of Christ. Denominationalism according to God's word is utterly bad; but pan-denominationalism is even worse, for it allows and maintains the guilty division, while the new device shows that division is not really approved. It teaches Christians to be habitually separated from other Christians; yet it occasionally proclaims that we ought not to be separated from them. Is it an open question left for us to answer as we please? Is it not most inconsistent, as the rule to tolerate separate communions, and yet to commune now and then with those from whom we are outwardly separated? What can one think of page 63? “I said an exact imitation of the apostolic church would be unwise; my reason for so saying is because the apostolic church was a time of germination; Christianity had not then, nor has it yet, reached its full and complete development. The more we study those early “days, the more we are led to see that nothing was as yet crystallized; doctrine, church government, and worship all were in the formative state.”
Such language as this is worthy of the author of “Apologia pro vita sua.” We may be quite sure that any “doctrine,” any “church government,” any “worship” not found in the apostolic writings is wrong now. May I suggest that this continuous development of “doctrine,” “church government,” and “worship,” which “has not reached its full development yet,” is the main cause of three-fourths of the division in the church to-day which all Christians should deplore? It is refreshing to turn to 2 Tim. 3:16, 1716All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16‑17), and read, “Every scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work.''
If the sound doctrine, the God-given system of church government, and the true character of Christian worship are not in the apostolic scriptures, where are they to be found? The same writer says, “The word apostle is used in a two-fold sense in the New Testament..... sometimes it refers to missionaries..... but it has also a narrower and more restricted use, that is, it is the name applied to the twelve and their successors.”
He believes then in apostolic succession! But he does not tell us who these successors were, or who they are, whether there were twelve lines, or only one. But we know that Peter did not expect one; for he tells us in his second and last Epistle, chap. 1:15, “I will give diligence that at every time ye may be able after my decease to call these things to remembrance.” Not a word is here about a personal successor, but everything to show that the apostle of the circumcision meant his writings to take that place. The apostle Paul too makes it quite clear, in Acts 20:2929For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. (Acts 20:29), what kind of persons were to be expected after him. “I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things.” Does this look like either apostolic succession, or desirable development of doctrine? The apostle adds, “And now I commend you to God (not to man), and to the word of His grace (not to developed doctrine), which (word of His grace) is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them that are sanctified.” Happily it is within easy reach of all in these days to know what rubbish the (so-called) early fathers taught.
(To be continued, D.V.)