The following is a lengthy 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). It is the second part of this series from his pen. It is worthy of our consideration in this day and age. I hope you will continue to read the full article as it is offered.
THE BEGINNING CORNER: OR, THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IDENTIFIED
BY J. R. HOWARD
I.—ITS ORIGIN AND PERPETUITY.
The Church of Christ originated, as we have shown, in the days of the Apostles, and was founded by them; while all others began in after ages, and were founded by uninspired men. It was founded by the Apostle Peter, under a special commission from the Lord Jesus Christ—the other Apostles “standing up” and concurring with him—and began at Jerusalem on the first Pentecost after the resurrection and ascension of Christ; while all other churches were originated by other and uninspired men, without any Divine influence or authority, and began at other places, and in after ages, most of them in modern times, and some of them even in our own day. But such were the corruptions of the Christian religion for ages—such was the influence of false systems, pretending to derive their authority from the Bible— such the perversion, misapplication, suppression and obliteration of its truths—that these marks were well nigh lost sight of, particularly those by which the primitive Gospel is to be recognized and identified, as that preached and taught by the Apostles. These marks were faith, repentance and baptism in order to the remission of sins, in the original and scriptural import of these terms, and with their true object and design. But we can perhaps better illustrate this by the following anecdote of the “beginning corner:”
In early times, and before the settlement of the Western country, many thousands of acres of land were taken up in it under authority of Congress, by various individuals in compensation for services rendered the country. The manner of this was as follows: A corner was made, called the “beginning corner,” on some tree by making three chops through the bark with a hatchet, one above the other, facing some one of the four cardinal points, so as to be at right angles with the other row. If one faced east, for instance, the other must face north, or south, as might be desirable, so as to form a right angle. Or, if one faced north, the other must face east or west, and so on, so as to form the tract of land from the angle made. Lines were then run, in the directions facing these chops, to certain distances each way, and then right angles again made, called corners; and lines run again, facing these, so as to meet or “close” at another point called a corner, diagonally opposite the first or beginning corner—including within the angles or lines a tract of land of a given amount of acres, in a square or oblong, as might be most eligible. But none but the first, or “beginning corner” was marked as above, which was done in order to identify the tract at a future day. The survey or tract had always a call for a certain tree, with these marks or chops upon it, as the beginning corner; and to render the finding and identification of it certain, the trees around this “corner tree” were also marked with chops facing it, called “pointers,” because pointing to it, and the finding and identifying of this corner tree was necessary to the identification of the land and the consequent possession of it. Sometimes another tract of lands was run out, or called for, calling for this particular tract and its beginning corner; and then perhaps several others calling for this, or for each other as connected with that. These were called a chain or connection of grants or surveys; and the beginning corner of the first tract, the key corner, as when found, as it were, unlocking or opening to the whole, or as a key or clue by which to find and identify all the others. Sometimes, and in some cases, where many years had elapsed, the beginning corner was very difficult to find, and required much searching for, and close examination; and sometimes the aid of some one acquainted with it when made was necessary, in order to find and identify it is Such was the case before us, which we have selected for our illustration, and in order to understand which we have made the preceding remarks.
An old Revolutionary soldier in Virginia held a claim for one of these tracts of land, or “old surveys,” as usually termed, somewhere in the Western country. He had neglected it for a long time, until the country became settled up, and covered over with other claims and tracts, made by entries, when at length he came out West to search for, find it, and take possession. But it could nowhere be found! The whole country in which it lay was covered over by other tracts or claims—no room was found for his, and no one could inform him where it was. What was to be done? After searching long and in vain, he was about to sit down in despair, when he heard of a man who knew where the corner was, and could point it out to him. Joy and hope fill his bosom, and he immediately goes for him, engages his services to show it, and brings him to the section of country. They commence the search. A particular tree is called for in the grant, in a certain location; and a similar one is found in a corresponding situation. But vines and parasitical growth have so grown, and twined, and wound around the trunk and covered it over, that no marks can be found. They go to work and tear off and strip it of these, when, behold! there are the identical marks, the original chops in the bark, as made there at first; and joy springs up in the old soldier’s breast and animates his heart at the glad discovery. The beginning corner is found, the land identified, and his claim established. But his land is all covered over by other and subsequent claims. One man has made himself a beginning corner, and run off a tract—another had taken the first as a key corner and run him off one, and another and another, until the whole of the original survey was covered over! What is to be done? Here is the original and real claimant, his corner found, and his land clearly identified, but all claimed by others! Will they now surrender their claims as false and untenable, and purchase of the rightful owner and
settle, or live upon his tract? By no means. They will rise up in arms against him, call him all sorts of hard names, vilify, abuse and slander him, and contend against the clearest evidence that they are the rightful owners. There is a general combination against him to put him down and oust him! The cry is that he is trying to take our land from us, that his claim is a false one and ours the genuine, and all this. They say that he is mistaken about the beginning corner, that these marks on it won’t do, that they are not the same made there at first, etc. They all go to law with him, in the vain hope of gaining and establishing their own claims, by perversion, misrepresentation, or in any other way that will offer them, and their well-paid lawyers, any hope or chance. But the testimony is produced in court that these old chops are the true and genuine marks and this the original beginning corner; and suit after suit goes against them, their claims are invalidated, and the old grant is established to their complete discomfiture!
We come now to the application of this illustration to the restoration of the primitive Gospel and primitive Christianity. In that part of the commission recorded by Luke, we read: “Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name, among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Here, to use our illustration, is the BEGINNING CORNER of the Christian Dispensation. It was made by the Apostle Peter, at Jerusalem, on the first Pentecost after the resurrection and ascension of our Savior, by the authority of Christ, and in accordance with the general commission here quoted, given to all the Apostles, and the special one given to Peter to set up, or open the kingdom of heaven. He made the three marks necessary for a legal corner on the old Jerusalem trunk.
1. Faith, produced by his discourse, and evinced by his hearers being “cut to the heart” by the words of the Holy Spirit spoken by or through him, and the question, “What shall we do?”
2. Repentance, when he commanded them to “repent.”
3. Baptism, for remission of sins, when he commanded them to “be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.”
These marks were plainly and visibly made, so that all could see and understand them; and none then disputed them, or the validity of this beginning corner. But in the lapse of ages, they were well nigh lost sight of, and came near being entirely obliterated. The parasitical growth of error, superstition and mysticism, and the traditions, inventions and corruptions of men crept by slow degrees, and twined and wound around the old Jerusalem trunk and covered and matted it over, until the old marks were obscured and almost entirely lost sight of and forgotten.
Eric L. Padgett