Here is the eighth in our monthly series of excerpts from Christian Standard, circa 1909, a year the magazine devoted an issue each month to articles of particular interest to our movement. This editorial from 1871 is a simple but eloquent primer (surely written by Isaac Errett) about what it means to be a New Testament Christian.
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Union of Christians
An editorial originally published Sept. 23, 1871;
republished on p. 12, Aug. 14, 1909
Our plea for union differs from all others. It knows nothing of human policy or human invention. It simply proposes to go back to Christianity as taught in the New Testament, and accept it as it is, “in letter and in spirit, in principle and in practice.” It regards all Protestant movements as more or less successful attempts to escape from the great apostasy of Romanism, but all of them partial and incomplete. Sympathizing with every step of reformation, and appropriating all of wisdom and practical good furnished in the history of these various movements, we still insist that in escaping from Babylon they have all stopped short of Jerusalem, and that there is crying need for further reformation. We repudiate all attempts to incorporate the Christianity of the New Testament with the forms and polity of any existing sect, and insist that names, phrases, creeds, doctrines, ordinances, and politics not found in the New Testament, shall be abandoned, and that nothing shall be regarded as a bond of union or test of fellowship that is not found clearly and unmistakably in the New Testament in express precept or approved precedent. We propose union in Christ, on Christ’s own teachings. Coming to the New Testament, we find
1. Christ Jesus, the Saviour, the Son of God, is himself the center of life, of faith, of hope; and the faith the Gospel requires is trust in a divine person, and not assent to doctrinal speculation.
2. Faith in the Christ, the Son of God, the sole requirement in order to admission, through baptism, to the fellowship of saints; a faith which reposes on Christ for salvation, and turns the heart from sin to the service of God.
3. The immersion of all such believers, by the authority of the Lord Jesus, into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, for the remission of sins.
4. A brotherhood of baptized believers, consisting a royal priesthood. No hierarchy, no priestly order, no lord of the conscience this side of the throne of God. In this brotherhood, such orderly arrangements for an efficient ministry in temporal and spiritual things, as would conduce to the edification of the body—namely, bishops and deacons, chosen from the people, and ordained to the work by fasting and prayer, and the laying on of hands.
5. Obedience to the law of Christ the only test of fellowship in this community. So that the terms of union may be very briefly summed up: 1. Faith in Christ. 2. Obedience to Christ.
6. Outside of this faith and obedience, perfect liberty restrained only by the law of love and dictates of expediency. Where Christ leaves us free to adopt such expedients as may be needful for carrying out the objects of piety or humanity, no conscience is bound, but all are free to adopt such measures as wisdom and experience may suggest, but without attempts to compel uniformity.
To place it in another form, we find
1. “One Lord”—Jesus, the Christ, to whom, and to home alone, we owe the trust of our souls, and the submission of conscience and life.
2. “One Faith”—faith in this divine Saviour—a reliance on his divine excellency and power, on his death for our sins and resurrection for our justification.
3. “One Baptism”—an immersion into Christ, and an immersion into a new life.
4. “One Body”—the church of God of which we become members by faith and baptism, in which all are members of Christ and of one another. No sects, no divisions, no party leaders.
5. “One Spirit”—of which all are made partakers who come into this body, and by which they are sealed as the children of God and heirs of heaven.
6. “One God and Father of all, who is above all and through all, and in all”[—]and as children of whom we are required to walk in love and preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
It will be seen that we are contending for that which is generally acknowledged among Protestants, and that union on this basis calls for no new faith, or creed, but simply for the surrender of that which is human, that we may all be “one in Christ Jesus.”
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In case you read over it too quickly, consider Errett’s terrific line from the middle of the first paragraph that shed light (and opinion) on the Protestant movement’s break from Roman Catholicism: “. . . We still insist that in escaping from Babylon they have all stopped short of Jerusalem.”
—Jim Nieman, managing editor, Christian Standard