The following is an extract of an article written by J. R. Howard and originally published in the American Christian Review, edited then by elder Benjamin Franklin (not the statesman). I will present more of this article at a later time. It would behoove us to have more of this kind of plain preaching in the Lord’s church today concerning the church!
THE BEGINNING CORNER: OR, THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IDENTIFIED
BY J. R. HOWARD
Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God…Upon this rock I will build My Church; and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it.—Matt, xvi, 16, 18.
SUCH were the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, in reference to the foundation and perpetuity of His Church…These words of Christ, above quoted, were spoken by Him in reference to the reply of the Apostle Peter, who had anticipated the other Apostles in assenting and confessing the great cardinal truth, that JESUS CHRIST is THE SON OF GOD. It was upon this grand, comprehensive truth that Jesus declared He would build His Church; and that the powers of the unseen world should not prevail over it; but that it should continue to exist through all future time, amid the origin, progress and decay of all other systems and organizations, whether civil, ecclesiastical, political or philosophical; and amid the rise, existence and fall of republics, kingdoms and empires.
In accordance with this prophetic declaration of the Messiah, His Church was founded upon this ROCK by His Apostles—His inspired and divinely authorized ambassadors and ministers plenipotentiary to the world; and they left it pure, uncorrupted, undivided, and in unity. It was at first a unit—but one; one body,” animated by “one spirit”—the Holy Spirit; and of which body Christ was the great head, and “Lord of the Spirit,” and His disciples the members. But how is it now? Corruption and disunion have been doing their sad work for thirteen long centuries or more, and reverse and disastrous change, schism and division have been the lamentable result! Instead of the one Church of Christ, there have been and are now more nearly a thousand and one sectarian Churches!
This is indeed an age of “Churches,” all claiming to be orthodox, founded on the Bible, and appealing to its authority; and all busily engaged in making proselytes to their different systems, and in rivaling each other in power, influence and numbers. The sincere inquirer after truth is frequently perplexed and at a loss to know to what Church or denomination to attach himself; and generally aims to find the Church which he conceives to be nearest to the Bible. Why not endeavor to find the true Church at once—the one founded on the Bible—and enter into that? since there must be a true Church somewhere, as Jesus declared that “the gates of hades should never prevail against it;” and as that alone is to triumph, and all others are destined to be utterly destroyed and annihilated! But a question of great importance may arise here, one involving a most interesting inquiry, and that is—where is the true Church now to be found? and how shall we be enabled to know it, to identify and recognize it?
Now, there were certain marks by which that Church could be known and identified in the days of the Apostles. These marks are now to be found in the New Testament as plain and distinct as they were then; and where they will apply, that is the true Church of Christ, and all other Churches are spurious, mere counterfeits of the genuine, and not to be found in the Bible, or only predicted there as emanations from the great apostasy, the harlot “mother and mistress of all” apostate “Churches,” and as her daughters, granddaughters and their progeny. It is impossible for all the different sects, or even the self-styled “evangelical denominations,” to be the Church of Christ, as they are many—” their name is legion”—and that is a unit, but one; nor are they “branches” of it, for it never had, and can not have, any of these sectarian branches. Branches they may be, and no doubt are, but not of the Church of Christ— branches of some other body from which they have originated, of the parent trunk that sprung up at Rome, or at least the most of them. But let us examine the different marks of the Church of Christ, in order that we may identify it, and ascertain where it is now to be found. There are several of these, and among them we will begin with…
To Be Continued….
Eric L. Padgett