THE CHURCH I FOUND

 

By R. H. H. BOLL

 

 

When I became a Christian - simply a Christian - it meant to me the surrender of the faith and teaching which was instilled in me from infancy, in which I grew up, and which I still held when I turned my twentieth year.  It was a tremendous step for me.  If to any such a change would seem easy, with me it came hard.  I never would or could have made that turn had not the grace of God wrought wonderfully toward me.  Even as it was I was a long time in coming.

 

But the idea of being simply and only a Christian of the New Testament sort attracted me greatly.  I was revolving the problem in my mind; and despite my limited understanding, I saw that I had at least the same opportunity of being a simple Christian as had the people of whom I read in the New Testament, and an equal right to the Church of Christ in that original and universal sense in which the apostles and all the earliest Christians belonged to it.  I also began to understand that such a simple Christian stood responsible to his Lord alone for all his faith and practice; and that therefore the Word of God, all of it, and it only, must be his guidance - no man having the right either to limit him therein or to impose on him anything besides; that he was free from all men and from every human yoke.  With that conception more or less clearly in my mind, and understanding little else, I confessed Christ as my Lord and was buried with Him in baptism, April 14, 1895. To this day I take it that no man or set of men, however learned, venerable, and good, can be authority to a simple Christian.  If any man is so scholarly or so deeply versed in the Scriptures, it ought to enable him to point out and set forth much more clearly what the Scriptures say on any matter in question.  If he cannot do that his reputation is vain.  It is certain that, for all his reputed knowledge and ability we will not take his word.  When he can point out Godís Word on the matter, so that I myself can see that it is Godís Word, I accept it - not because that able brother pointed it out, but because it is Godís Word.  By this is not meant that Christians are to show no deference and consideration to the able and worthy teachers among them.  Far from it.  There are men whose ability and long faithfulness commands our fullest respect; whose positions on matters of faith deserve to be weighed and examined with more than common care and thought.  Yet, after all that is said, nothing is to be accepted, held, believed, practised, simply because any man, however good or great, so taught.  The simple Christian knows absolutely no father on the earth; nor any Rabbi, Master, or Teacher, save the Lord Jesus Christ alone (Matt. 23: 8 - 10).

 

As I would not subscribe to a human creed that contained error, or any tenet or article of faith contrary in my judgment to the Word of God - so neither would I subscribe to any manís creed even if that creed contained to the dot all I now believe, and all I understand the Bible to teach.  I can accept no human creed, good or bad. The moment a Christian bows to a human creed he ceases to be a simple follower of Christ.  An alien authority has intruded between him and his Lord; and his claim to be a member of the Church of Christ requires the explanation that he belongs to that particular party which holds to such and such a creed as the authoritative expression of its faith.  If a man thus bound to a creed should see occasion (as any living, growing, thinking man must) to correct past views, or to enlarge past conceptions, and to take in new truths from the storehouse of God, he would either have to shut his eyes to the light, or break away from the old creed, and formulate a new one every time he made a step forward.  Thus comes the multiplication of sects.  But the true Christian is committed simply to the Word of God in the sight of the Lord - all of it, and it alone; and that is his ultimate and only standard of truth and doctrine, in which lies boundless scope for his growth and progress, and correction.

 

Unity is precious.  And it is not possible for us to have unity and fellowship in the Lord, except we be agreed in Scripture teaching of the things that make a man a Christian  - the all-inclusive confession; the gospel of Christ; the obedience of faith.  In order to worship we must be at one as to congregational practice, and must therefore stand together upon the simplest New Testament ground.  In order to live and work together we must all stand upon the supreme and sole authority of the Word of God.  But within these limits there may be - nay, inevitably there will be, much, variation in our conception of things - differences due to stages of growth, diligence in study, temperament, development, personal aptitudes - for the truth of God is many-sided and inexhaustible; no man has ever taken in all of it, and it takes all the Church to get the manifold truth.  So long, then, as a man among us stands upon the Rock foundation, holding himself subject to the verdict of the Scriptures, and leaving his teaching subject to each manís individual judgment and Bible-taught conscience in the sight of God, no line may be drawn against him.  Those who do draw a line against such a man, draw it against themselves.

 

Nor could any teaching put forth by such a Christian upon these principles justly cause division in the church of Christ.  To call in question, to voice dissent, to discuss, to correct one another, if all be done in love, is perfectly good and in order; and indeed by this the Church grows in knowledge of the truth.  But it would be an indictment against a church that any part of the Word of God should have to be suppressed.  The sectarian spirit only, not the Christian spirit, fears the effect of the truth, or dreads an interference with its creed; and the sectarian spirit alone is unwilling to think, search, weigh, learn, correct and be corrected.  Unity based upon such concession and suppression, is worthless.  If we comply with the demand to conformity once - is it peace then and unity?  No - only till the next time a man should and or teach something distasteful to the leaders.  Then the same trouble would arise again, and another demand for silence and submission would have to be yielded to - and so on till in all points the creed of those human authorities is established.  Then we would be united, alas!

 

As for myself - in the fear of God, in the love of the Lord and the brethren, I beg the privilege to study and teach and preach, as God may give me ability and opportunity, and as faithfully as by His grace I may, the whole counsel of God.  For this is my fundamental portion and birthright as a child of God in Godís house, the one and only Church which the Lord established, the only Church of which I am a member and to which ever I intend to belong.*

 

[* From The Church I Found and How I Found It.  Word and Work, Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.A.]