September 6, 1894
LAMST week we showed the absurdity of any suggestion of a “regency of God” as is not only suggested but claimed by the head of the Catholic Church, “Leo XIII., Pope.”
THIS claim of a regency of God, however, is of the same piece with the suggestions, and claim that man is head of the body of Christ, which is his church, as is claimed by, and in behalf of, the pope of Rome; and which is indeed the foundation claim of the papacy.
IN the Scriptures the Church of Christ is described under the figure of the human body as God made it. The relationship between Christ and his church is shown and illustrated by the relationship that exists between the human body and its head; and the relationship between Christ and the members of his church is illustrated by the relationship between the members of the human body and the head of that body as God has placed it.
“THE church is his body.” Ephesians 1:22. “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” 1 Corinthians 12:27. The members of his church are “members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones.” Ephesians 5:30. As with the members of the human body, the members of his church are also “members one of another” (Romans 12:5); therefore “the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” “For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? … But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body as it hath pleased him.” 1 Corinthians 12:14. These scriptures all speak of the Church of Christ.
NOW, Christ is the head of this body, which is his church. He is the head of this church, which is his body. For “He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead.” Colossians 1:18. “God raised him from the dead … and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body.” Ephesians 1:19-23. And it is Christ himself, too, who is head of this church. Not Christ by a representative; not Christ by a substitute, a vicar, or a regent; but Christ himself, in his own proper person. This is certainly true, because in stating this same thought under the figure of a building, the Word declares that Christ himself is the chief corner stone, “the head-stone of the corner.” And here are the words: “Ye are God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 3:9. In Christ “All the building fitly framed together growth unto an holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation [a dwelling-place] of God through the Spirit.” “Now, therefore, ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” Ephesians 2:21, 22, 19, 20. “This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:11, 12. Thus it is as certain as that the Scripture is true, that the head of the Church of Christ is “Jesus Christ himself.” Not Christ by a representative; not Christ by a substitute, a vicar, or a regent; but Christ himself in his own proper person.
YET the claim of the papacy is, that a man is head of the Church of Christ. The claim of the Catholic Church is, that the head of that church is the head of the Church of Christ. The claim of the church of Rome is, that the bishop of Rome is head of the Church of Christ—in the place of Christ—as the “representative,” the “substitute,” the “vicar,” the “regent,” of Christ. Here is the authoritative statement, if any were needed in proof of a thing that is so notorious and undenied as is this. It is well to set it down here, however, for the sake of the contrast between this absurd claim and the truth as it is in Jesus Christ and his written word. So we quote from Cardinal Gibbons:—
Says the Council of Florence (1439), at which also were present the bishops of the Greek and the Latin Church, “We define that the Roman pontiff is the successor of blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, and the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole church, the father and doctor of all Christians; and we declare that to him, in the person of blessed Peter, was given by Jesus Christ our Saviour, full power to feed, rule and govern, the universal church.”
The pope is here called the true vicar or representative of Christ in this lower kingdom of his church militant; that is, the pope is the organ of our Saviour, and speaks his sentiments in faith and morals.—The Faith of Our Fathers, pp. 154, 155.
It was the Council of Chalcedon, 451, that first addressed the bishop of Rome as “the head, of whom we are the members.”
LET us look at this claim of the Catholic Church in view of the statements made in the Scriptures on this point. As we have seen, the Church of Christ is his body in this world, and he is its head. God is the builder of this body, the Church of Christ, as he was the builder of the human body in the beginning; for “God hath set the members every one of them in the body as it hath pleased him.” Now, take a human body as God made it, with the head in its place as God set it. In the place of that head, which God gave to that body, you put a “representative” head—a substitute head. In the place of the true head, which God set to that body, you put a “regency” head—another head to occupy the place in the absence of the true head—then what have you? Take away the head from a human body, and you have left only a dead body. This is the very first and the only result of taking away the head. And even though you set another head on this headless body, it is still only a dead body.
NOW this is precisely the case of the church of Rome. It was once the Church of Christ; its members were members of the body of Christ; and Christ was its head. It had life from Christ its living  head, the life which is by faith, so that its “faith was spoken of throughout the whole world.” Romans 1:8. But, there came “a falling away.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3. The bishops and councils of the church put away Christ, the true head whom God had set, and put another, a man, in his place, as head of that church. The putting away of Christ, its living head, left it only a lifeless body; and the putting of another head in his place did not, and could not, give life to that lifeless body. So far as spiritual life is concerned—the real life of the Church of Christ—the church of Rome is as destitute of it as is a human body with its own head cut off and another head put on in its place. Thus the church of Rome is destitute of the life that vivifies the Church of Christ, and partakes only of the elements of death. The only hope for it, or for those that are connected with it, is to recognize that it is indeed spiritually dead, and have Christ the life-giver raise them from the dead, and connect them with himself as their living head, that thus they may live indeed.
WARNING was given against this very course of that church in the first days of the Church of Christ, and the same warning is yet given. In the second chapter of Colossians it is written: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power…. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshiping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind; and not holding the head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, are ye subject to ordinances after the doctrines and commandments of men? Which things indeed have a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and neglecting [punishing, margin] of the body; not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh.”—Verses 7-10, 18-23. This is the divine warning against the spirit that made the papacy, against the papacy itself, against all its workings, and against its very nature. Men, fleshly-minded men, ambitious men, in the church, not being dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, holding the rudiments of the world and not holding the head—these were the men who put away from the people of Christ the true and living head, and put a man, one of their own sort, in his place. And to supply the lack of Him and his life they imposed upon the people a host of forms and ordinances, and commandments and doctrines of men, and voluntary humilities, and will-worshiping, and punishings of the body in penances and pilgrimages, and worshiping of angels, and saints, and dead people called saints. And this is the body of which “Leo XIII., Pope,” is the head. This is the church of Rome, with a man as its head, in the place of Christ. This is the Catholic Church. And this is how the bishop of Rome obtained his “regency of God on earth.”
THERE is another figure used in the Scriptures that forcibly illustrates the absurdity and iniquity of the claim of the church of Rome in this matter of the headship of the church. It is the relationship that exists between husband and wife in the marriage bond. In the fifth chapter of Ephesians, in speaking “concerning Christ and the Church,” it is done under the figure of the marriage relation, with Christ in the place of the husband, and the church in the place of the wife. And the Word says, “The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Saviour of the body. Therefore, as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything…. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”—Verses 23, 24-32. The relationship of the church to Christ is thus plainly shown to be the same as that of the wife to her own husband. As the husband himself, and not another man, is the head of the wife; so Christ himself, and not another, is head of the church.
NOW, suppose another man should propose to put himself in between a husband and his wife, to speak to her the sentiments of her husband in faith and morals (?), what would the loyal wife do?—Everybody knows that she would resent such an intrusion, and would promptly repudiate all such proffers. But, suppose another man should not only propose to put himself in the place of the husband to the wife, but that the wife should agree to the proposal and actually accept this other man in the place of her husband to speak to her the sentiments of her husband in faith and morals, then what is that but treason to her own husband, apostasy from her marriage vows, and adultery with this other man? And what kind of faith and morals have you in that case?—Everybody knows that that would be nothing but unfaithfulness and immorality.
NOW, upon her own showing, upon her own claim, this is precisely the case of the Catholic Church. She claims to be “the bride of Christ.” She claims that she is “the spouse of Christ.” And yet she has accepted another, a man, as the “representative” of her husband, as the “substitute” for her husband, to occupy the place of her husband in his absence, to speak to her “his sentiments in faith and morals.” She not only has accepted another in the place of her husband, but she openly boasts of it and actually proclaims it as the chiefest evidence of her faithfulness, her morality, and her purity. How could the unfaithfulness, the apostasy, the immorality, and the impurity, of that church be more plainly shown than in this which is her boast?
HOW could the complete abandon, and the essential wantonness, of a wife, be more clearly demonstrated than in citing the confirmed fact of another man’s occupying the place of her husband to her, as evidence of her faithfulness and purity? Would not such a boast, and for such a purpose, be the strongest possible evidence that that woman’s native modesty and moral sense had become absolutely deadened? Yet this is precisely the case of the Catholic Church. She has accepted another to occupy the place of her husband to her. She constantly boasts before the world that this fact is evidence of her faithfulness, her morality, and her purity; and insists that all the world shall fall in with her in this course, in order that they may all be faithful and moral and pure! How could she more clearly demonstrate that all true sense of faithfulness, of morality, and of purity, has become completely obliterated from her consciousness? That a confirmed adulteress and harlot should boast of her iniquity as being the only way to righteousness, is certainly nothing else than the very mystery of iniquity itself. And such is the church of Rome.
SUCH is the merit, all that it has, of the claim that the Catholic Church is the true church; and that the bishop of Rome, the head of the church, is the head of the Church of Christ and “holds the regency of God on earth.”