March 25, 1897
THE Church to-day wants power. That is evident enough from her own testimony. She realizes that she is not making that stand against the world’s tide of sin and corruption that she should, and in various ways she makes confession of this truth.
But no less than this is it that there is unlimited power in readiness for her use. To deny this is to deny the very foundation of Christianity.
This power is the power of God. To his disciples Jesus said, as he commissioned them for their divine work among mankind: “All power is given unto me in heaven and earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…. And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:18-20. “All power” is certainly as much power as the Church can want.
There is no necessity, then, that the Church should scheme to get possession of more power. She has but to take the power that God provides. And as God has provided “all power” for his Church, it is certain that the Church needs nothing less than this. And it is equally certain that when the Church schemes and bargains for power from earthly sources, she gets only that which is infinitely less than the power she must have to be successful.
But God does not grant his power as an unconditional gift. He cannot allow his own omnipotence to be exercised independently of omniscient wisdom. To allow the Church to use omnipotent power as she might herself think best to employ it, would produce the worst state of affairs that could be imagined. Finite wisdom directing infinite power would be a thing fearful to contemplate.
The possession of this power, therefore, depends upon the connection of the Church with God. And this is indicated by the words of Christ, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” He is the Head of the Church, and by the head all the body is directed. The power which operates through the body is also his. But it is possible for the Church to disconnect herself from her divine Head, and substitute another head in His place, even as has been done by the Papacy. It is possible for the Church to become united to the world and thus separated from Christ. But as decapitation means death, the Church in such a case becomes a dead Church, so far as concerns the purposes of Christianity, and being dead she is without the power of Christ.
It is Christ, the Head of the Church, who works in the Church when it is united to him. But Christ is God; and Christ in the individual, or in his Church, means godliness. The divine power of the Church is the “power of godliness.” But there is a “form of godliness” which the Church may have, separate from the power of godliness. This is as the Apostle Paul said it would be “in the last days.” See 2 Timothy 3:1-5. All the sins enumerated in this text may go with a “form of godliness;” in other words, may exist in the professedly Christian Church; but with them the Church cannot but deny the power of godliness. Like Peter denying his Lord, she says of this power, I know it not. And she says this by her failure to manifest this power to the world. Claiming to be the Church of Christ, yet having not the power of Christ, she virtually says to the world, that no such power exists.
If, then, the Church finds herself lacking in power, what is the reason? There can be no other reason than that, having become worldly, she has separated herself from Christ. For it is certain that so long as he is with the Church, she has “all power” “in heaven and in earth.”
The Church is now seeking political power; but political power is not the power of God. In a sense, all power is of God; but the power of God in His Church must be manifested in godliness. To be seeking for political power is a denial of the power of godliness.
But why will the Church seek for political power? Why will the Christian seek for such power? The Church and the individual Christian are commission to preach the gospel, which is “the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth.” Romans 1:16. Nothing but the power of godliness can suffice for the Church in any undertaking pursuant to her divine calling; and nothing but the “power of God unto salvation” can suffice to save any individual from sin. There is no lack of this divine power: and God is no less willing to bestow it now than he was to pour it out on his Church at Pentecost. The only question is, Will the Church give Him the opportunity?