The church is a city, state, and empire, or a world of fallen humanity and as such MUST have an organization that has the power of abstracting from the mass of mankind materials to promote its healthful growth as a community. The power consists mainly in such an organization as brings to bear upon that community its whole moral and spiritual force. Salvation itself is attainable only in virtue of this institution. Jesus Himself commenced His kingdom, and those who attached themselves to Him became its citizens. Jesus Himself made known the great moral principles which were to regulate His subjects. The church did not begin until after the descent of the Holy Spirit signaled the completion of Christ’s marriage vows on Pentecost. The church was mentioned, briefly in prospect, before it came. Men could be admitted into the kingdom of Christ as soon as they were willing to submit to His authority, and to conform to the life which He lived and taught; but they could not be formed into a church until they believed in Him as the Son of God, the Savior of those who received Him by the justifying righteousness of His life and the atoning sacrifice of His death, and the impartation of the Holy Spirit. The future judge of man gave no indication as to the government of His “chosen race” before He ascended. Changes, however slight, are the most dangerous, for they creep in unnoticed and without debate and before they are noticed are woven deep into her fabric.
The church of the apostolic period is the only church in which there is found an authority justly claiming the power to set up and regulate Christ new bride. And such authority is found in this church, not because it was possessed of a truer or purer constitution, or a more primitive antiquity than belong to succeeding ages, for neither antiquity, nor purity of form, nor catholicity confers right to govern or command; but because it was under the immediate rule and guidance of the apostles, and it is their infallible judgment alone, as exhibited in this church, we find a legitimate claim to our submission. At first, the entire government of the church was in the apostles, and their personal supervision continued while they lived. They made provision, however, for a continual personal supervision of the affairs of the church after their demise. The government of the church is still under the rule and guidance of the apostles, as their directions are embodied in the teaching of the New Testament, and affairs of the church are now to be managed in harmony with their instructions.
Christians are placed under a Christocracy. The rights of God and rights of man are safely lodged in the hands of our King, who is the peer of the eternal God and the peer of glorified man. His spiritual kingdom is the church. He is head over all things for its sake. He claims only the regenerated, sanctified and redeemed sons of men as His holy nation. They are spread over all nations but united in one God, one Lord, one Holy Spirit, one faith, one baptism, one hope, and one church!! No social system can perpetuate itself, extend its influence, or make its means and instrumentalities available, without a confederative organization. There is always need for government and discipline in the church of Christ. These are indispensable to good order and usefulness.
The supremacy of the Holy Scripture, the main current of church opinion on all questions of polity and practice, has for a very considerable time been setting strongly towards the ecclesiastical system of the third and fourth centuries, to the neglect strongly the work of the evangelist which carried the church quietly along the tide of years knowing only Christ revealed of the shore to which it was wafting them.