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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 48

The Unity of the Church of Christ Broken by Schism; and, Its Restoration by Apostles

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The Unity of the Church of Christ Broken by Schism; and, Its Restoration by Apostles.

The thought that will be uppermost with you who are present, and who do not belong to the handful of believers who worship here, I take to be this,—What need of another place of worship and another denomination? To this question, then, I address myself. And in the first place we say,—Yes; the multitude of Christian churches, having different names, different doctrines, and different modes of worshipping God, is a scandal to the cause of Christ Jesus our Lord. The seamless robe of Christ has been rent and torn into pieces; and it is because that it is so, we are here to testify that this is a grevious sin—the sin of schism in the body of Christ. It is the common sin of Christendom; the great sin of the baptized in all the Christian nations. We witness for the body of Christ, the Church of God. The Catholic Apostolic Church—that name which is common to all the baptized, as the ancient creed declares,—I believe one Holy Catholic Apostolic Church; but still the name with which none are content, but add to it some other name, as Greek, Roman, Potestant, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Independent, Wesleyan.

We also witness to the fact of the restoration of apostles and prophets, as the Lord's way of unity in His body—His way of bringing help to His Church, at the time of her sore need, as His answer to her cry to Him for help; to bring her out of the confusion into which she has fallen, back into the old paths, and the old way of unity, that she may be prepared to meet Him at His coming. The Prophet Jeremiah gives a picture of the present state of the baptized people of God,—"From the least of them even unto the greatest of them, every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest, every one dealeth falsely. They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace. Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein." And thus speaks the prophet Isaiah, "He will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it he will answer thee, and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand and when ye turn to the left." In the great intercessory prayer before His passion, Jesus then prayed that His people might be one: "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those thou hast given me, that they may be one as we page 4 are." "As thou, Father, art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us." That prayer, brethren, must be answered, must be manifestly fulfilled. And it is to prepare the way for His coming by restoring the unity that has been lost that the Lord bath given again apostles to His Church.

Before the first coming of the Lord, John Baptist was sent to prepare the way before Him. he was "the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord" and his cry was, Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. John was a prophet, sent by God at the close of the prophetic dispensation. Now at the close of this dispensation which is apostolic, apostles are sent in the spirit and power of Elias according to that saying of the Lord to the question by His disciples, "Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?" And Jesus said, "Elias truly shall first come and restore all things. But I say unto yon that Elias is come already, and they knew him not. Then understood they that He spake unto them of John the Baptist." Note, brethren, the remarkable saying that "Elias truly shall first come and restore all things." The Lord hath sent apostles to bring the baptized people of God to repentance, for the, coming of the Lord draweth nigh. We witness therefore also to the coming of the Lord. His instant coming to take unto Himself His own, those who sleep in Him and those who shall be changed.

Thus, brethren, I have named three great events which we witness to especially, viz.:
(1)The unity of the Church as the body of Christ, broken by schism and will-worship.
(2)The restoration of apostles and prophets to the Church that by them she may be brought back into unity under the Head of the body and so prepared for the coming of the Lord.
(3)And thirdly that the Lord is coming quickly according to His promise, Behold I come quickly. He that shall come, will come, and will not tarry.

No need to prove, brethren, that the Church of Christ ought to be one and shall yet be seen as one, and no need to prove that her unity has been broken. We know Christ's prayer for her unity, and we see with our eyes her shattered state, divided into Roman, Greek, and Protestant, and Protestant again subdivided into legion.

Some of you, brethren, may remember a certain preacher here named Wilson who testified in this city to the restoration of apostles many years ago, viz. in 1863 and 1864. His first address was given in the side room of the then Oddfellows' Hall, and some of you may remember bis using on that occasion a striking figure to describe the broken, divided page 5 state of Christ's Church. He described it first in its original state as built on the foundation of apostles and prophets, as a large mirror or looking-glass, and thus representing and containing the whole truth of God. But the mirror became broken into a thousand pieces; each sect in Christendom had picked up one of the pieces, and saw itself reflected in that one broken piece, and each sect believed itself to have the whole truth of God, instead of only that portion of the whole which its piece represents. That was the figure, and it is very expressive of the real slate of the case, as regards the existing state of the Churches. Who shall unite all the scattered fragments of the Truth of God, and build it into one harmonious whole, the perfect mirror, the whole Truth of God manifested in the Church—in the Church as the Body of Christ? None but the Lord Himself, and by His right hand His apostleship, the wise master builders by whom He first built her up. Thus Paul describes himself as a worker under God: "For we are labourers together with God; ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building, according to the grace of God given unto me, as a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation."

Let us glance at the divisions among Protestants, which keep them from the unity of the Body of Christ. The Church of England has retained government by Bishops, but has lost the Presbytery, while the Presbyterian Churches have preserved the Presbytery but have rejected the presiding Bishop. The Church of England retains the name of the Deacon, but has lost the substance of that office, and also the right of the congregation to elect them. As a general rule, the various denominations are right in that especial thing which they stand up for and witness unto, but are wrong in regard to those things which they deny. Thus dissenters from Episcopacy disclaim the standing of priesthood for their ministers, but they stand for the election of their ministers by the congregations, which is a right tiling for Deacons, for that is the standing which their ministers assume when they disclaim being Priests. The Quakers are also right, in that they witness for the truth, that the light of prophecy ought always to be in the Church, by means of men and women speaking in the power of the Holy Ghost; but on the other hand, they are wrong in set ng the spoken word above the written word, and also in denying all ministry and sacraments.

Now, how shall all this division and disorder be done away, and Christ's order be brought in instead? There has been a craving for unity for these forty years past. Apostles labouring in the midst of the baptized have caused this longing, and other things also, such as the revived hope of the coming of the Lord. Many have been the attempts at unity. High Church men have fondly thought that the Patriarch of the Greek Church, page 6 the Pope of Rome, and the Archbishop of Canterbury might be brought to embrace each other and thus be brought to agreement, while Evangelical Alliances have sought it in another way; but all such attempts have failed, and must still fail. The Lord only can do it, and His way is to restore His Apostleship. And how shall Apostles do this great work? Only by teaching an I guiding those who will receive them as Apostles of the Lord; those who are meek and lowly in heart; those who become teachable as little children, and thus become able to receive God's truth, even as Jesus said—"Whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child, shall in nowise enter therein." This was the stumbling block to the proud Scribes and Pharisees of old, they would not condescend to be taught by Jesus; they did not allow that they had anything to learn of Him. It is just the same with the would-be wise ones of this day, of whom it may be said, as Jesus said to the Pharisees, when they asked Him, Are we blind also? "If ye were blind, ye should have no sin But now ye say, We see—therefore your sin remaineth." Isaiah describes the painful process of this teaching in his 28th chapter—this is part of it—9-13, but read the whole chapter for yourselves, brethren; it bears on this work I tell you of, and on this time.

Let us look at the statement I have made, that Apostles are sent to restore the unity of the Church. Apostles are not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead. In the mystery of the Church as the body of Christ, Jesus Christ Himself being the Head, we have been taught that the apostle is the right hand of the body; thus in the 1st ch. of Revelation the Lord is seen holding in His right hand seven stars, and the seven stars are interpreted to be the seven angels of the seven Churches; that is to say angels or bishops. This is Christ's way of holding the Church in unity. By apostles the Lord holds together all the churches as in His right hand.

All the priests, deacons, and flock of every congregation are under the guidance of the angel or bishop. All the angels are under the apostles and receive doctrine and guidance direct from then; and the apostles themselves receive direct from the Lord.

As Jesus was the apostle of the Father, and knew His mind, so the apostles of the Lord know the mind of Christ. Did He not say, "As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you?"

But you will say, to what end is all this theory? Is anything practical to come of it? Yes, brethren, much every way. It is the Lord's way to bring peace to his troubled people; it is His ark of refuge for this present time, and for that time of trouble which is looming over the Christian page 7 nations and by fleeing into it you shall find deliverance in the groat tribulation from the persecution of the Antichrist.

Is it nothing to find certainty in doctrine and teaching in this time of unbelief and unsettling of all things? Is it nothing to find the wisdom of God available for direction in all your conduct? for the specialty of the apostolic gift is wisdom and discernment. Is it nothing to feel sure that yon are at peace with God, that you are acting under His direction, being fellow workers with Him in this His work, for making ready a people for His coming? Is it nothing that you are helping the Lord in this time of His necessity, in this day of trouble, of rebuke and blasphemy?

But, you will say, how shall we know it to be true when there are so many delusions abroad? Ah, yes, brethren, that is the difficulty, indeed. How shall you receive it? It sounds very good, but how shall you know that it is of God? It is God-given faith alone that will enable you to receive it. You must pray to God for that. It was so with John Baptist's teaching; it was so with the teaching of the Son of God Himself. "No man," said he, "cometh unto me except the Father draw him." When the Lord said, "There is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist," all the people that heard Him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the pharisees and the lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him. That is the danger this generation is in, viz., of rejecting the counsel of God against themselves. There is a test, brethren, by which you can try yourselves, and that is, Do you desire that it may be true? Does it seem such good news that for the sake of it you can cast all else behind and press forward into it to make it your own? Nobody can hinder you if you make it your will to do so. This work is like all God's best gifts—free as the air: Come, buy wine, yea, milk and honey without money and without price. If, I say, you desire that this message may be true, that it is of God, then have good hope that the Lord may help you to see it. But it will require you to be in thorough earnest, not for to-day only but for many days. The world and your acquaintances will all pull you the other way. It is not a work to please the flesh. It exalts no names; it praises no man's gifts. The Lord's name is the only name; it will be no worldly advantage to any to belong to the Lord's work, for men will look on you with suspicion as being certainly peculiar and perhaps fanatical.

You must be content to be counted as fools for Christ's sake, even as it was in St. Paul's days. No work of God has ever been acceptable to men at the time when He does it; it is always of such a character as to be against the spirit of the age—as this work is now, as it was with John page 8 the Baptist, as it was with the Lord Himself and with his apostles, Remember Paul's account of his own experiences. "Of the Jews," he says, "five times received I forty stripes save one; thrice was I beaten with rods; once was I stoned." You know the painful list of his sufferings while laboring as an apostle of the Lord. This was the way in which God's work was received in those days by the people of God, even by His Israel, the seed, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. John Baptist was slain in prison at the suit of a dancing girl and her wicked mother. Jesus was crucified as a blasphemer, and all the apostles met with more or less violent deaths. Is human nature so changed now, that men will gladly receive apostles and submit to their discipline? Surely not; men are the same now as then; they will not accept men as teachers or guides who offend all their pride and prejudices. So it has been in the experience of the apostles of the Lord in these days; true, they have not been beaten with rods, or put to death, but they have been rejected (as to their mission and office), they have been rejected by every nation in Europe through their heads and representatives in Church and State.

A remnant in each of the Christian nations, has received them as apostles of the Lord, and they have been built up into churches after the Lord's more perfect way, and this especially in England and Scotland, out of which the Lord has taken His twelve apostles and in which He has set the centre of His work for the whole Church. In Germany also, and Switzerland, Denmark and Sweden, the Lord's work has been comparatively well received, and in other countries more sparingly. But shall this general unbelief and rejection of the Lord in the persons of his ambassadors, frustrate the purpose of God? Surely not, any more than His rejection by the Jewish Church, and His crucifixion did in that case. A faithful remnant of Israel was found, by which Christ built his Church. And now by a faithful remnant in these days Christ will restore his Church.

Need we wonder, brethren, that the Christian nations and Church should reject apostles? Jesus their Lord and master was rejected before them and did He not say, "the servant is not greater than his Lord; if they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you."

This is no new thing, brethren, that I am telling you about; it is now forty-five years ago that the twelve apostles were separated to the work unto which God had called them, and they have done their work, and they all sleep in the Lord except one, and the result as to the baptized people of God, as I said before, is that they have been rejected. And what remains as the consequence for rejecting the mercy and favor of God? Why, as it was with Jerusalem, so it will be with Christendom They will be cast off page 9 from Him, from being His people; hear Paul to the Romans, ch. xi. 11-13, and 18-21. That was Paul's warning to the Romans, and to us all; that if our faith is gone, then we shall be cut off as the Jews were.

But you may say, how is it that we have not heard of this work before, if it has been going on for forty-five years? Well, brethren, some of you may have heard of it in the old country, and may recal the stir it made when you were children, about speaking in unknown tongues—as such I remember it myself. And some may have heard the good news of it in this City, preached in the Odd Fellows' Hall and in the Athenæum—first in 1863 and 1864 by Mr. Wilson from the Mother Church in Melbourne, then in 1867 by Mr. Whitestone and again by him in 1873: lastly by Mr. Wilkinson the evangelist from New South Wales who delivered a testimony to this work of the Lord in 1876, in all the chief towns from Dunedin in the South to Auckland in the North, which gave him two months' hard work. The Lord hath guided His work as it pleased him, but He forces no man's will. In this work there is nothing new, but the restoration of the original Christian economy—It disdains all novelty, denies no Catholic truth, causes no schism, recognizes all existing authority, and aims at strengthening the things which remain that are ready to die. Its truth is the surest evidence of its heavenly birth, which will commend it to the honest heart more powerfully than signs and wonders.

As, in the first dispensation, Noah was raised up to warn the world lying in wickedness of coming judgment and to point out the way of salvation, so, we are told, shall it also be before the coming of the Son of Man. As it was foretold that Elias should come to prepare a people to stand in the great and terrible day of the Lord, calling them to remember the words of His servant Moses, (being the last words of the Old Testament) and which prophecy John the Baptist fulfilled in the letter when he preached repentance to Israel; so shall a spiritual ministry in the spirit and power of Elias rouse men to a sense of their having forsaken the right ways of the Lord, and endeavour to persuade them to return before He shall be revealed from heaven.

And as each dispensation has hitherto been closed by a ministry of the same character as that by which it was commenced; as in a patriarchal dispensation the last messenger sent by a merciful God was a Patriarch and in a prophetic dispensation a prophet; so it may reasonably be expected that in an apostolic dispensation, the final mission of grace will be committed to apostles. With the loss of unity, there has followed sickness and decay of the Divine life in the Church. It is to restore that Divine life to health and strength that apostles are needed. Without that restoration the Church cannot be made ready to meet the Lord at His page 10 coming. I propose on Sunday next to go into the subject of the restoration of apostles, and to show by the analogy of the Lord's dealing with Paul and Barnabas, in calling them to be His apostles, how He has also called men to be His apostles now.