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The Best Mode of Working a Parish
Considered in a Course of Lectures Delivered in Denver Cathedral, January and February, 1888,
and in Some Sermons Prepared for Various Occasions.

By John F. Spalding, S.T.D.,
Bishop of Colorado

Milwaukee: The Young Churchman, 1888.

Chapter XV. The Strength of the Church in Unity and Co-operation

S. Luke xi, 17: Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation.

OUR Lord announced this general principle for the purpose of putting to silence His enemies. They said that He cast out devils by Beelzebub. This could not be. The Prince of the Kingdom of Evil could not lend a part of his power to be wielded by Him Who came to destroy the works of the devil. To do this, would be to suffer his kingdom to be divided against itself, and thus to be brought to desolation.

There is, then, a Kingdom of the Prince of Evil. If the powers of wickedness were not organized, they would have little strength. Evil is essentially depraving, disintegrating and anarchical. It cannot create. It can only ruin and destroy. To do its work, it must be compacted into a system. It must have a unity, though opposition, antagonism only, can unite discordant elements. It must have its head, its subordinate officers, its gradations of powers and functions, working in loyal subjection and harmony for its [212/213] baneful purposes. Thus the forces of Satan, organized into a kingdom, in combined array and under discipline, confront Christ, and all who are His, and all the good of which He is the author.

The text declares a universal truth. Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation. If Christ has a kingdom, if He is really the Head of a kingdom, it must be applicable to this kingdom. There can be no impropriety in using the text as suggestive of the subject of the Kingdom of Christ and the strength it has in the harmonious adjustment of its ruling and working forces, the unity and co-operation of its members.

It was necessary that Christ should have a kingdom, if His religion was to be permanent and successful. There are Christian people, apparently not conversant with Scripture or history, who hold that Christianity, as promulgated by our Lord and His Apostles, had no fixed and definite polity, no regular organization; that it is only a revelation of Truth, a scheme of remedial agencies, a plan of salvation, and that its essence is in the adoption of this scheme or plan, the belief of its doctrines, and the living of the life which it requires. In other words, Christianity is a doctrinal system, an idea and a life. The idea, it is admitted, tends to take a concrete form. Those who believe will naturally associate themselves together. The forms of organization will be various, according to the preferences of believers, and the exigencies of times and circumstances. [213/214] According to this view there is, strictly speaking, no actual Kingdom of Christ among men, no divine polity and government of the Church, no pre-ordained form of the Ministry, no fixed principles of order, legislation and discipline, which were to be the same, essentially, from age to age.

If this had been the nature of Christianity, what would have been its future? How could it have succeeded in the world? It must be evident to thoughtful people, conversant with the conditions of its propagation, that it could not have survived in its integrity the second century. As a system of ideas or doctrines merely, it would have taken the forms of schools of thought, and would have shared the fate of other systems of like character. We can see what would have become of Christianity from what did actually occur. The Oriental mind, embracing parts of the Christian system, sought to mould it into its own forms of thought. The Heathen Philosophies became modified in the process. From the mixture of divine and human elements came forth the strangest systems. The divine Philosophy was corrupted into the most incongruous human theories. The result was the different schools of Gnosticism, and other forms of error and heresy, by which Christianity was subjected to greater peril than from persecution, or even from the false and antagonistic religions that confronted it.

How did Christianity overcome these oppositions, these [214/215] corrupting influences? By its compact organization, its unity under the Episcopate, its intense zeal and earnestness subordinated to discipline, and working in thorough harmony and co-operation.

We find through all the early conflicts of Christianity a complete, effective organization of all its forces in a kingdom, the Church of the living God. When the Church comes into view immediately after the Apostolic age, we find it as described by numerous authentic authors of those times, the same in all places, however widely separated, and it had extended itself throughout the civilized world. In every considerable city of every province of the widely extended Roman Empire, which embraced almost the whole world as then known, there was the Bishop with his Presbyters and Deacons, with his Deaconesses, readers and other orders of the laity, and all the brethren, each and all in their appointed places, working under direction and so in harmony, with the intensest zeal rightly directed, with a unity which gave irresistible strength and efficiency. Christianity was thoroughly organized. It was embodied in the Kingdom, the Church of Christ. All were baptized into the profession of the one Faith, the universal Creed of the Apostles, the watchword of Christians throughout the world. The same sacraments, rites and worship held all in loyal devotion to Christ. Corruption of doctrines and of life were repressed with promptness. The unworthy could find no place. Discipline was [215/216] maintained. Persecution from without helped to maintain purity and to promote that zeal and earnestness of Christian life of which martyrdom was the frequent crown.

The unity of the Church was in the Episcopate. There was no one Bishop invested with supremacy. Bishops, in all the essentials of their office, were everywhere equal. The Episcopate was one and undivided, and all the parts were held in perfect oneness, under the leadership and government of the Bishops, each with the advice and co-operation of his Crown of Presbyters.

The object was not self-enjoyment nor aggrandizement, but conquest and victory over sin, Satan and the world; the conversion of souls, and the incorporation of those converted into the Body. The missionary idea controlled the Church's development. To extend the Kingdom was the purpose that guided all. And thus it was that, after two centuries and more of persecution, the Christian Cross supplanted the Roman Eagle and the Church gave laws to the world.

Now, was this true and pure Christianity? That Christianity was such as we have described it, during the two centuries that followed the Apostolic age, we suppose no one will question. It was, in fact, a kingdom that was not divided against itself. And hence, instead of yielding to the powers that were arrayed against it, and which, had it not been what it was, would have destroyed it, it practically overcame all opposition. Heathenism vanished [216/217] before it. It carried the forces of social regeneration. It put an end to the demoralizing forms of wickedness. It was strong enough to make itself felt everywhere. It was a tremendous power for all that was good. It was able to compel recognition of its claims, as the Kingdom of Christ and of the Truth.

Now, was it part of Christ's plan that it should be so organized? Was it true that He did not intend to found a visible, spiritual kingdom, such as His Church was confessedly after His Apostles left it, and during the period of its sufferings and its greatest triumphs? Had it developed and taken on a form, such as was no part of the divine Idea? Strange as it may appear, there are some who so hold and teach. Indeed, such a view must of necessity be held by those who deny Episcopacy to be the Apostolic form of Church organization. For, if the Apostles, as instructed by Christ Himself, and guided in their action as in their teaching by His Spirit, left the Church organized imperfectly, or in some other manner, or left it to organize itself variously, or in whatever way might seem at any time expedient, and it did become from early in the second century onwards, as all admit that it did, a strong, consolidated kingdom with a gradation of orders, offices and active functions for all its members under Episcopal oversight and supervision, then, clearly, the design of Christ had been frustrated, and His religion almost at its beginning had been perverted.

[218] But let us see what is His own teaching concerning the manner and the means by which He would provide that His truth should be conserved, perpetuated and made victorious. There is the strongest presumption that He who had encountered Satan in the wilderness, and understood His enemy, would so organize His system that it should have the necessary strength to overcome Satan and his hosts, and to carry out its full purposes of blessing for all mankind. And we find, that no sooner did He begin to teach than He took up the message of the Baptist, "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." He proclaims His Gospel as "the Gospel of the Kingdom." Very much of His teaching was concerning this kingdom, and what it was to be like. His parables are, generally, parables of the Kingdom. He taught how we were to enter it, and how we were to grow into its spirit and life, and how it should grow from small beginnings to greatness, majesty and beneficence. He appointed its chief officers, prescribed the powers they were to exercise, and promised to them officially, His perpetual presence. He identified His Kingdom, as it should exist in this world, with His Church visible, and declared that the gates of Hell should not prevail against it. The last words He spoke to His Apostles, before He ascended into Heaven, must have been solemn words, of peculiar significancy, and they must have been treasured as a priceless legacy. They were the confirmation to the Apostles of the powers He had given them, [218/219] which they were to exercise by the Holy Ghost, they and their successors, in all times, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.

The Apostles, when they were duly empowered for their work by the Holy Spirit, began their labors, in the sublime confidence of men who held a divine commission, and full authority and complete instructions for their guidance. As when the Tabernacle was to be built by Moses, the dwelling place of Jehovah, the place of meeting between God and His people, the design of which was afterwards to be more fully carried out in the Temple on Mount Zion, the antetype of the Christian Church, the construction proceeded in precise accordance with the pattern shown before in the Mount, so the Apostles builded, on a plan expressly given them by their Risen Lord, when for forty days He remained with them and "spake of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God." This accounts for the manner in which they went forward in their work. They baptized all believers with their children, adding to the Church daily such as should be saved. They bound them to the profession of their doctrine, the Creed which they taught, long before they wrote the Gospels or the Epistles. They required all to abide in unity in what was called the Apostles' fellowship. They ensured this by frequent celebrations of the Holy Communion, called the Breaking of Bread, and the unvarying principles of a common ritual, the public prayers, the liturgy.

[220] All the Apostles remained for some years in Jerusalem until this Mother Church was fully constituted, with James as its Bishop, with its Presbyters and Deacons, and its lay workers, its beneficence to the poor, its entire devotion to Christ and His cause, the model Church for the whole world. The Apostolic College was enlarged by S. Paul's admission into the number, and his fellow-helpers, Barnabas, Andronicus, Timothy and Titus, and many others. And wherever the Church was planted, it was unquestionably the same Church with its Apostle-Bishops, Elders and Deacons, its doctrines, sacraments, ritual and discipline. There was nothing tentative in their methods of organization. They made no mistakes to be afterwards corrected. Proceeding upon a plan which the Lord had given them, and guided by the Holy Spirit in its execution, the Church was the same as planted among Jewish and Gentile Christians, by Apostles to the Jews and to the Gentiles. It is very strange that all do not see the necessary inference to be drawn from what all writers of highest competency and authority admit, that James, the Lord's brother, was Bishop of Jerusalem, and that the Church took Episcopal form under the eyes of the Apostles. Were these Christ's Apostles? Were they inspired? Was, then, the Church, whose earliest development these divinely guided men were guiding, but a human scheme, of such orders of Ministry and such form of polity, as chance circumstances, or the caprice or judgment of men in any place might give it?

[221] Not such was it, as a matter of fact. As modeled by the Apostles, it was a strong Episcopal organization. It was, as adapted to be in its constitution, powerfully aggressive everywhere. Clergy and laity, with perfect loyalty and devotion, worked together for the salvation of souls, for the spread of the Gospel under Apostolic leadership and oversight. The combined efforts of all in whatever was to be done, as decided by those in chief authority, made the Kingdom of Christ resistless in its strength. And so the Word of God grew mightily and prevailed. And no wonder. So it would now, if we could get rid of our Congregationalism, if we would realize that we are an host marching and fighting under orders, and work together with the loyalty, earnestness and zeal of the Apostolic age.

You can now see clearly enough why it was that the Church of the second and third centuries was what we found it to be, and everybody knows it to have been. Unity does not grow out of heterogeneity. Varient and discordant forms of government do not easily coalesce. The Church was founded as One, and was so constituted that it should be a kingdom, with its regularly appointed officers, rulers, constitution, principles and fundamental laws--a kingdom not divided against itself.

If Jesus Christ did found in the world a kingdom, if His Church was that kingdom, and if, as He declared, it was to be perpetuated in all the essential elements which [221/222] made it what it was, until it should be, in fact, universal, and the design of the Gospel should be realized in the proclamation of the Gospel everywhere, and to all mankind, then it follows that that same Institution is in the world to-day. It is not difficult to trace it down through history, for its records are by no means obscure. I need but refer to the Greek, Oriental and Russian branches, nor to the Latin or Roman. Christianity was planted in Britain in the Apostolic, or immediately subsequent age. The Church of England has its independent succession not derived from the Roman See. The Roman usurpation maintained itself for a time over Church and State alike, but always against protest. The protest became effectual in the sixteenth century, and the foreign influence was terminated, while the Church, as the State, preserved its identity unbroken, its intregrity unimpaired. The Church was the same through all in its Ministry of Bishops, Priests and Deacons, its Scriptures, Creeds and Sacraments, its laws and ritual in all essential features. Nothing that was primitive was destroyed. All that was primitive was restored and preserved. There was no essential change in polity, doctrine, worship or discipline. This identity and unbroken succession and continuity is acknowledged by well informed students and writers of the Greeks, the old Catholics and even Romanists, like Courayer and Lingard, who have given dispassionate examination to the subject. In fact, no Church, Greek, Roman, or Protestant, has ever [222/223] formally denied the validity of our Orders as preserved through and since the Reformation.

We, brethren, are a branch of this Apostolic Church, planted here in colonial times, organized fully with the Episcopate, after the Revolution, when we became a nation, with a strong foothold in every important center of influence in all the states and territories, ready everywhere for aggressive warfare against the hosts of sin and Satan, pledged to the accomplishment of the same work for which the Saviour called, and sent, and empowered His Apostles. Never was a branch of the Apostolic Church in a better position to do the Apostolic and catholic work for which the Church was founded.

With a brief statement of some of the requisites for doing that work, we may appropriately conclude this discourse.

First, it is obvious that we must believe in the Church as divine. So our Creed compels us. Man did not make it. It is made for him. It is founded by and upon Jesus Christ. It was all first in Him, as sent by the Father. He conferred of His powers upon His Apostles. By them the powers of the Ministry were distributed in the three Orders. But Christ Himself is the King. His Ministers are His ambassadors. He retains to Himself His intransmissible Headship as the Shepherd and Bishop of souls. Our first duty is loyalty to Him. Loyalty involves the most unwavering faith and undivided fealty. We must do [223/224] whatever He commands us. We must receive those whom He sends to us and obey them as those who are appointed to watch for our souls. The Word, the Faith, the Sacraments, the Worship, are ours from Christ to receive, to use, to profit by, to extend. Everything essential in the Church, everything given it by the first Apostles of Christ, taught of Him personally and by the Holy Ghost, must be believed and acted on by us as a vital part of Christian faith and duty.

The Church being divine, and for the great end of preserving and extending the Faith whereby we are saved, it follows that we must believe in this instrumentality. The Gospel is to be made known by the Church. We ought to have, if we expect success, the most undoubting confidence in the Church as the agency of Christ Himself, His own institution for the conversion, the moral elevation, the sanctification and salvation of mea. Let the Church call forth all her latent forces. Let her use her functions. Let her put forth her divinely given powers. Let her wield aright the sword of the Spirit which is in her hands, and we shall see such results as were witnessed in the early ages. Christ is in her of a truth. Believe this, and let your works accompany and prove your faith.

It is necessary also, for such success as we are taught to pray for, when we rightly say "Thy Kingdom come," that we do what we can that Christ's Kingdom may stand in its integrity. On the one hand, the officers must fulfil [224/225] the work for which they are responsible; and on the other, the brethren, all, men and women, must sustain them, work for and with them, as faithful soldiers under command, not dictating their policy, not complaining and finding fault, and giving themselves to detraction, not destroying unity of effect, which depends upon a headship, not dividing the kingdom against itself, but co-operating, helping to save souls and edify the Body, and thus working out their own salvation. If, when Timothy was sent to Ephesus and Titus to Crete, to set in order the things that were wanting, to ordain Elders and Deacons, and to administer discipline, and whatever else belonged to the Episcopal office, their people had replied, as they would have done had they been Independents or Congregationalists, we can ordain our own Elders, we can set things in order, we want none of your interference, the Gospel would have had but poor success in these populous communities. Not guided by a head, their action would have been narrow, selfish, individualistic, obstructive. There would have been no unity. The kingdom divided against itself would have been brought to desolation. And so also a like result of failure would have followed all sinful indulgencies, conformity to the world in its excesses and its vices, all lack of earnestness in working, liberality in giving, holiness in life, on the part of the members of the Church of Christ.

Finally, my brethren, remember that in your baptism, [225/226] when you were entered into Christ's Kingdom, you were sworn to fight manfully against the world, the flesh, and the Devil, and to continue Christ's faithful soldiers and servants unto your lives' end. Glorious will be your reward if you fulfil this your oath of allegiance and of loyalty. Your King and Lord needs this service from you. The Church needs it. When all the hosts of Satan are arrayed in deadly hostility against Christ and His Church, and the world and sin are his powerful allies, and every power and every subtlety are used to thwart our King and to overturn, or divide, or prevent the progress of His Kingdom, it is a shame that any should be seen fighting in Satan's ranks, with the sign of the Cross not obliterated from their foreheads! In whose ranks are you marching? Are you with Christ? Do you belong in heart and life to His embattled hosts, fighting manfully against His enemies? Or are you only professedly with Him, really against Him? God grant to us all fidelity in the station appointed for us.

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