Christ is said to be given as Head over all things to the church. He is head of the church as the husband is head of the wife. Colossians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 1:22, 4:15, 5:23. We learn clearly from the messages in Revelation to the seven churches that the local churches were separate, independent bodies (independent of each other), having no common head in this world, but each one looking to Christ as her head. The wisdom of this is manifest when we view the sad havoc which has resulted from departing from this God-ordained church independence.
It was the first departure which brought woe, persecution and the blood of the martyrs in its trail. Had church independence never been violated, had there never been a temporal head established, and under that a combination of churches, the unholy union of church and State could never have been effected. There must first be established a head of the churches with whom the head of the State could negotiate. This mystery of iniquity began to be made manifest under Constantine. When it was accomplished, then and there the churches which went into the combination and acknowledged another head ceased to be the churches of Christ, for he is head of the church. The great apostasy, with all its long train of evils, was, and is, the result. The entering wedge of this great evil was, too much regard for church and too little regard for Christ. Until they disowned Christ by acknowledging another head they were churches of Christ; when they disowned him they were no longer his bride, but as a woman who has left her husband and borne allegiance to another man.
Before this departure they were separate, independent bodies, as Baptist churches are to-day. In a short space of time the whole scene was changed and the great bulk of them had cut the cords that bound them to their head, and the few who were loyal to him, the remnant whose names were written in the book of life, who would be true to Christ though the dearest earthly ties must be severed, were denounced as heretics, and the scenes of bloody persecution began. Now, if such changes could be wrought in so short a space of time, among those that, up to the time of their working, were the churches of Christ, is there not danger that we may repeat their history? Are we more infallible than they were? Though we may be right to-day, ecclesiastically and doctrinally, is there any guarantee that, as a whole, we will so continue? If we were right fifty years ago, does that prove that we are right to-day, in those matters in which there may have been slight changes in the last fifty years? If there be tendencies, slight though they may be, to drift from apostolic landmarks, would it not be well to look after the "little foxes?"
We believe that there are such tendencies, and it is the purpose of this journal to call attention to them. We believe that they exist in doctrine and in practical operations and polity, and be it understood that no denominational lash nor public frown, fear, favor or affection shall deter us from speaking out our views, in loyalty to Christ, on these points as they may arise for discussion in our columns.
Christ is said to be, not only the head of the church, but the head of every man; on which account Paul taught that the brethren should follow him only as he followed Christ. Here we have INDIVIDUAL independence. Each man must be loyal to Christ, independent of every other man. Is this un-Baptistic? If so, let it be so. It is scriptural and that is enough. But we claim that this is eminently Baptistic. It is a Baptist's boasted freedom under Christ. It is the freedom for which the priest-ridden, fettered souls of earth are longing, and if we would encourage them to throw off the yoke, let us not throttle freedom of thought and speech as to the teachings of God's word, and let us bind no man's conscience and thereby defeat our own aims and dispute that which we ourselves teach. It is ours to teach the world loyalty to Christ, and independence of the dogmas of priest or church. Let us be consistent. Thai, man is not fit to be a member of a true Baptist church who would not sacrifice his church relationship before he would surrender one syllable of his honest convictions. When we lose sight of church and church teachings, when we lose sight of Paul, Apollos and Cephas, and all are for Christ, then will we be one in all matters essential. To-day, if church teachings were lost sight of, and all denominations, or rather, the individuals of all denominations, should assert the right of Jesus Christ's freemen, then would the Christian world be one; believing in one Lord, holding one faith and one baptism. God speed the day. Yet there is a responsibility upon each individual member to the church of which he is a member. This responsibility is clearly defined by the Word of God. If the individual and the church should differ in matters vital to church fellowship, of course the church cannot surrender, nor can the individual surrender if it is a matter of conscience. If it is a matter in which conscience is not involved, he should surrender. In other words, each individual member of a church should be loyal to his church, so long as he can do so without being disloyal to Christ. It is not often that a Baptist church can be found which would lord it over an individual's conscience.
[From M. T. Martin, Theological and Doctrinal Views as Found in his Editorials, 1894. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall
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