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THE CHURCH OF THE FUTURE What about the church of the future? Is the modern sect system the ultimate goal of Christian attainment in this world? While the sects contain much truth and many of the people of God, their ecclesiastical constitutions are foreign to the true church of Jesus Christ, and it is inconceivable that the great Founder would make no provision either in his Word or in his plan for the correction of the evils which have grown up around the Christian system during the dark ages of the world and which have in a great measure perverted the gospel itself and lessened its wholesome efficiency as the universal remedy for human ills.
Since no sect can make good a claim to being exclusively the church of God, a general feeling of toleration at least (if not in all cases of sincere respect) has come to prevail respecting the different denominational churches. Men have come to look upon the sects as a mere matter of fact, not to be seriously questioned, and we are supposed to cover the whole scene with the mantle of patience and charity and make the best of a bad situation.
Dr. J. M. Sturtevant has expressed this general attitude so well that I shall quote his own words: “It has long been true in this country that no Protestant can freely expose the errors and super
stitions of the papal church, especially from the pulpit, without incurring the charge of intolerThe Protest ance, bigotry, and uncharitableant truco
ness. Religious controversy itself has been placed under the ban, as in its own natture uncharitable. When once any religious opinion has organized itself into a sect, it is thought to have acquired a sacredness which, in the name of Christian charity and in the interest of the tranquility of the community, defends it from any open assault. We have come into the condition in which Rome was when she had extended her conquests from the British Isles to the Euphrates and had transferred to Rome the divinities of all the countries conquered. People of every nationality might worship their own divinities, but must respectfully tolerate the worship of every other. In this way only could religious conflict be avoided. The chief reason why Christianity was persecuted was that from its very nature it could accept no such truce. It is either a universal religion or no religion at all. It is, like all other systems which claim to be the true, in its own nature exclusive."
It is because of its universal character that truth can accept no such truce as has been declared by the modern sects. Truth is exclusive, and hence can make no compromises. The church of God is universal or it is no church at all. The whole truth concerning the church question must and will come out. The times demand it; the people of
God demand it; the Spirit of God demands it; and, as we shall show, the Scriptures declare it.
It is very evident that the people of God are not satisfied with the present sectarian situation.
Everywhere there is manifested a ening
restlessness and uneasiness respecting the arbitrary lines of sect which separate between those who have a recognized spiritual affinity-recognized except formally by the ecclesiastical powers that be. The Christian consciousness is becoming awakened. Men are coming to see that Christianity is to be measured, not by sect lines, but by that broader, Scriptural rule of the divine family embracing all true disciples of Jesus -those who possess his life and bear the appropriate fruits of righteousness. This awakening, with its logical consequences, is what I have termed THE LAST REFORMATION. It will give form and character to the Church of the Future.
Sectarianism still has its defenders, however. In the midst of the rising tide of spiritual felApologies
lowship and love, there are those for sects who bring forward a few sickly apologies for sects, apologies which generally impress the earnest student of the Scriptures with the thought that the apologist has a hard case to make out. The excuse most commonly advanced is that the sect system is a useful arrangement for accommodating the variety of tastes and feelings found among Christian people. It is assumed
that some are natural-born Episcopalians, with an innate fondness for formal liturgies and ecclesiastical vestments, and that others are so constituted by nature as to require certain other particular forms of worship.
If there is any such fundamental demand in human nature for a variety of sects, as different Diversity of taste climates are required to suit difand culture ferent orders of life on our planet, it is strange indeed that the apostles overlooked such an important point and failed to provide for it. Why was not the primitive church constructed so as to bring into existence at once a variety of human sects to accommodate the different classes of people then existing? From the modern point of view they had an excellent excuse for starting with at least two churches-one for the Jews and another for the Gentiles; and if these had not been sufficient, before the end of their personal ministry they could have brought into existence a whole brood of sects.
Now, the student of the Scriptures knows that the apostles proceeded exactly in the opposite direction. They labored earnestly to bring all classes into love and fellowship in one body. This course was not in accordance with the wisdom of the world, but the twentieth century is beginning to see that it was “the wisdom of God.”.
The reason why men have a liking for formal liturgies, stately ceremonies, and ecclesiastical