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of kings and taught that civil rulers derive their right to rule not immediately from God, but mediately. But it did not teach that doctrine in its true and Christian form, that the civil ruler derives his power from God mediately through the people, for whose good they are God's ministers; but through the church, which derives its authority immediately from God. For another example, the church insisted on its own independence of the civil ruler; it denied that the spiritual power is subject to the civil, or can rightfully be coerced by the sword; it taught the separation of the church from the state. The world owes the union of church and state, not to the papacy, but to Henry VIII. and the English Reformation. The pope, it is true, became a temporal sovereign. But the function of civil ruler was distinct from the function of the papal supremacy; and in theory his temporal sovereignty was always for the very purpose that the head of the church might be independent of all civil rulers, and the church be always separate from the state and independent of it. At the same time the church asserted its supremacy over the state, and compelled the use of the sword of the magistrate to suppress heresy; it repudiated liberty of conscience, and subjected not the actions only, but the very thoughts of men to spiritual inquisition and despotism. For another example, the church taught that the subjects of a king who was a usurper, or of a legitimate monarch who issued unjust commands, were not bound to obey him; but in such cases it alone, by its divine supremacy, could absolve the subjects from their allegiance. Again, the church opened an asylum for the oppressed, and took their part against the violence of the red-handed baron or king; but it subjected them to itself in a worse tyranny. Thus the imperishable principles of Christianity were asserted in the darkest ages, but in perverted and monstrous forms. The pure milk of the word was changed into the gall of bitterness. The church, the legitimate mother and nurse of human liberty, became the harlot-mother and nurse of monsters. This world-wide organization claimed to be the
mediator, not only between God and the individual sinner, but between God and society itself, determining all political and social action and organization.
IV. The Unity of the Churches is the Unity or Fellowship of the Spirit.
1. The church is local or congregational, not national or ecumenical. It is an association of Christians by their own covenant in fellowship in Christ for their mutual edification in the Christian life and co-operation in the Christian work. If the maxim with which I started and the principles already evolved from it are correct, every such association is a Christian church. Whatever larger associations, national or ecumenial, may be formed, they cannot take away the churchcharacter of these local churches.
2. A church has no authority to govern. Government implies authority to enact laws and to enforce obedience to them. In the proper sense of the word, there is no such thing as church-government. The authority of the church is exhausted in giving or withholding fellowship. A church must determine whether it will give fellowship to any person as a Christian or to any association as a church.1 Beyond this it has no governmental power whatever, neither legislative, judicial, nor executive. It cannot make laws nor enforce obedience.
Accordingly our Saviour gives to the church the power of the keys, but withholds the power of the sword. But the power of the keys, the power of opening and shutting, is simply the power of giving or withholding fellowship. On the other hand, the New Testament explicitly gives to the state the power of the sword, but withholds from it the
1 Some insist that the determination of fellowship must be left to the conscience of the individual claiming it; and that every person who claims to be a Christian and every association claiming to be a church, must be received to fellowship as such. But the teaching of the New Testament that the responsibility of determining who shall be received to fellowship is imposed on the church, is explicit. See Matt. xviii. 15-18; 1 Cor. v. 4-13; 2 Thess. iii. 6, 14, 15; Titus iii. 10; Rom. xiv. 1-3; xv. 7.
power of the keys. The magistrate "beareth not the sword in vain." The civil government exists to maintain the peace and order of society, to protect the people in their rights, and to enforce justice by penalty. For these ends it is intrusted with the sword. But it is not intrusted with the keys. It has not authority to determine who are entitled to fellowship as Christians, or to enact any law which presupposes that the state has determined that question, or which in its execution necessitates an official discrimination between Christians and unbelievers.
Here, through the Christian church, comes into human history a principle which has become a power in civilization: the separation of church and state. This principle was unknown in heathen civilization, in which was no religious organization analogous to the church, and the civil and religious functions were not entirely separate. In its application it does not mean that in making, adjudicating, and executing laws, government is exempt from obeying the law of God. Government has no right to shut out the light of Christianity, and to go back and take up heathen morality. It means that the sphere of government's action is secular. Whatever the laws or institutions through which it accomplishes its ends, it is absolutely precluded from deciding who are entitled to fellowship as Christians.
On the other hand, the authority of the church is limited to the determination of fellowship, with no power to inflict any penalty on those from whom it withholds its fellowship. The purity of the church is perpetuated from generation to generation by the spiritual life and the indwelling Spirit. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. Christ trusts to the spiritual mind always in his church to discern that which is spiritual, to unite by its own spiritual affinities with all which is spiritual, and to repel all that is "earthly, sensual, devilish." It is the only possible preservation of spiritual purity. The difference between the spiritual and its opposite can only be spiritually discerned. When the preservation of the purity of the church is intrusted to the sword suppressing
heresy, or to the weight of massive organization, or to ecumenical councils and standards of faith by them authoritatively decreed, these coarse and hard agencies do not discriminate between spiritual truth and life and the opposite, but only between outward organizations. If the Spirit always sustains the spiritual life, and the church is the outgrowth of the life, the spiritual church may be trusted in every generation to discern for itself that which is spiritual. It is because the church is spiritual that it is intrusted with the keys, and authorized to open and shut. Christ alone openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth. The act of the church in opening and shutting is Christ's act, only as Christ is in the church quickening its spiritual discernThe power of the keys is not given to the church of a particular generation, but to the church in all generations. We must confide in God's indwelling Spirit, and not imagine that we must see to everything, and bind everything fast for all coming time. The church of a former age had not power to settle all questions of fellowship so as to deprive the church of to-day of the power of the keys. The Comforter, " even the Spirit of Truth," is to "abide with you forever."
Because the unity of the church is the unity of the Spirit, and the authority of the church is limited to determining fellowship, the action expended in sustaining the organization and its machinery is reduced to a minimum, and the combined energies of the church have free course in beneficent service.
3. The national or ecumenical unity of the churches is the unity of the Spirit. It has been already said that Christians are spontaneously drawn into fellowship. It is also true that Christ requires them to be in fellowship. This fellowship is to extend through the world, that all Christian churches may work together in saving the world from sin. But this ecumenical union cannot be by an ecumenical organization, but only by fellowship in the Spirit. Any union by an ecumenical organization is incompatible with the fundamental principle of church organization. The
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Romish church is constituted as an ecumenical organization. Its entire history has demonstrated that the differences among men are so great that an organization can never become ecumenical. It has also demonstrated that such an organization, so far as it does extend, is necessarily a hierarchy. The same conclusions are necessary, from the nature of the case.
4. The method by which the fellowship of the churches shall be determined is not definitely and authoritatively prescribed in the New Testament.
The primitive churches seem to have determined their fellowship in the natural method by mutual acquaintance in Christian work. This knowledge was extended to remoter regions by apostles and messengers of the churches sent abroad on various errands of Christian work, or by Christians scattered by persecution. This must always be the primitive method, and it is always valid. If a church is not at its organization regularly brought into fellowship with other churches by a council, and yet, subsequently, by its faith and works, demonstrates its Christian character, it gradually acquires the confidence of the churches, and is recognized as a church. All determination of church-fellowship rests ultimately on this grouud - the knowledge of the Christian faith and practice of a church by the Christian churches in its neighborhood.
The next method is that of the Congregational council, growing immediately out of the primitive and natural method, giving formal and official declaration, after investigation, of the fellowship of the churches, and sometimes, also, rendering to a church in circumstances of embarrassment the advice and aid of sister churches. This is supplemented by the Congregational conference, which, assuming the question of fellowship to be already settled, and excluding all investigation of it, is a union of churches, already in acknowledged fellowship with each other, solely for mutual help and co-operation in the Christian life and work. This is a method of determining fellowship capable of uniting all