But it is this very relation of the church to Christ and his truth, which renders it needful to insist upon the right of each member of the church to his private judgment as to the meaning of Scripture. In other words, absolute monarchy, in this case, requires for its complement an absolute democracy. President Wayland: ?No individual Christian or number of individual Christians, no individual church or number of individual churches, has original authority or has power over the whole. None can add to or subtract from the laws of Christ or interfere with his direct and absolute sovereignty over the hearts and lives of his subjects.? Each member, as equal to every other, has right to a voice in the decisions of the whole body and no action of the majority can bind him against his conviction of duty to Christ.
John Cotton of Massachusetts Bay, 1643, Questions and Answers: ?The royal government of the churches is in Christ, the stewardly or ministerial in the churches themselves.? Cambridge Platform, 1648, 10th chapter ? ?So far as Christ is concerned, church government is a monarchy. So far as the brotherhood of the church is concerned, it resembles a democracy.? Unfortunately the Platform goes further and declares that, in respect of the Presbytery and the Elders? power, it is also an aristocracy.
Herbert Spencer and John Stuart Mill, who held diverse views in philosophy, were once engaged in controversy. While the discussion was running through the press, Mr. Spencer, forced by lack of funds, announced that he would be obliged to discontinue the publication of his promised books on science and philosophy. Mr. Mill wrote him at once, saying that, while he could not agree with him in some things, he realized that Mr. Spencer?s investigations on the whole made for the advance of truth, and so he himself would be glad to bear the expense of the remaining volumes. Here in the philosophical world is an example, which may well be taken to heart by theologians. All Christians indeed are bound to respect in others the right of private judgment while steadfastly adhering themselves to the truth as Christ has made it known to them.
Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, dug for each neophyte a grave, and buried him all but the head, asking him: ?Art thou dead?? When he said: ?Yes!? the General added: ?Rise, then and begin to serve for I want only dead men to serve me.? Jesus, on the other hand, wants only living men to serve him, for he gives life and gives it abundantly ( <431010>John 10:10). The Salvation Army, in like manner, violates the principle of sole allegiance to Christ and, like the Jesuits puts the individual conscience and will under bonds to a human master. Good intentions may at first prevent evil results but, since no man can be trusted with absolute power, the
<- Previous Table of Contents Next ->
Was this article helpful?