CONFEDERATION is a principle upon which success is commonly sought in business enterprises. Especially is it a marked feature of successful business policy at the present time. “In union there is strength;” and men who excel in business acumen have discovered how to apply the principle with the greatest profit to themselves in business transactions. The result is vast monopolies and trusts, which gradually absorb to themselves the whole or a large part of the field of the business in which they engage; and become oppressive to the people and dangerous to the nation.
But what is especially significant in this connection is that the same principle is being employed as the basis of important operations by the church.
But it is worldly policy, and, because it is such, has no proper place in the church. The church’s strength is to be derived in a different way. For the work to which she is ordained, her strength must come alone from God. The unity which is designed to be hers is altogether superior in kind to any that can be possible in a worldly enterprise.
No one will question this who believes the testimony of Scripture upon this point. It will be necessary only to call to mind a few texts bearing on the relation of the church to Christ, to see the nature of Christian unity, and that upon which it depends.
The Christian church is united to Christ. He is the “true vine,” and Christians are the branches. John 14:1. He is the head; his church is the body. Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 5:23. Just prior to his ascension the Saviour said to his followers, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18), and this was made the basis of his great commission to them, “Go ye therefore into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” United to Christ, the invisible head, the church is to be pervaded by that harmony which exists between the various members of the human body in doing that which is dictated by the head, and endued with all power to perform the mission with which she has been entrusted. The means by which this connection with the visible head is maintained, is faith in the word of God. The agency which works in the body to manifest the divine power and wisdom of the Head, is the Holy Spirit. Such an arrangement leaves nothing to be desired.
This is God’s plan of work for his church. There is another plan of church work, which embodies the wisdom and power of man. Under the latter plan unity is to a certain degree secured by confederation and the spiritual subordination of man to his fellowman. When the former system is abandoned the inevitable tendency is toward the latter. Without the unity of the Spirit, which makes the individuals whom it leads one in heart and purpose with Jesus Christ, and thus in harmony with one anther, there must come an attempt at unity by binding men together through means that are merely human. By such means only the outward semblance of Christian unity is produced, and not the unity itself. A visible confederacy, with a visible earthly head, takes the place of the invisible organization whose bond is that of the Spirit, united to the invisible head—Christ. It is but a very poor counterfeit of the divine system, yet it suffices to deceive many souls.
This is the light in which must be viewed the present marked movement within the church toward confederation. The divine unity has been lost. The power which the Saviour declared to be given unto him for his church, is not in the professedly Christian church to-day. The church realizes this fact, and realizes that she is not making headway against the world. And now she is seeking for greater power by the means and methods which are in vogue among worldly organizations.
The church has set herself to the task of improving upon the methods designed by God. “There is,” it has been truthfully observed, “a constant tendency among men to say, or at any rate to feel, that the church, as God has left it to us, leaves something to be desired; and so men set themselves to supply this want. They get up schemes, associations, doctrines, which are confessedly without direct authority of Scripture.” The church does not realize that, as she is to-day, she is not the church as designed and placed in the world by God.
The natural result of the effort to supply what the church feels to be lacking to her effectiveness in religious work, is the adoption of worldly methods and the seizure of worldly power. The worldly method subordinates man to his fellowman, and the worldly power, which is the power of the State, is employed to make this subordination effective. Out of this system arose the papacy in earlier times, and out of it nothing less than the living likeness of the papacy can come to-day.
We live in a time of multiplying organizations; and nowhere is this phenomenon more marked than in the field of religion. It would be needless to enumerate the many religious societies which have sprung not only into existence but into prominence within the last decade. They are societies which unite the members of antagonistic sects, and seem to present to the church the long-sought basis of Christian union. These societies have found in the movement for “Christian Citizenship” a common basis for action. In this movement therefore lies the greatest danger now, to the nation. Through this they are determined to seize the temporal power. Thus another mighty papal power is rising in this professedly Christian land.
In view of this remarkable movement, as of every marked development in the religious world, it is well to inquire, What saith the Scripture? The answer is to be found in the language of Isaiah 8:12, 13: “Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” The Lord will not conduct his work through confederacies. He will oppose these agencies, and work now as he ever has worked with that people, be they many or few, who are bound to him and to one another in the unity which he himself has instituted for his followers—the unity of the Spirit.