The Trail Of Blood
"Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee" (Deut. 32:7).
1. What we know today as "Christianity" or the Christian Religion, began with Christ, A.D. 25-30 in the days and within the bounds of the Roman Empire. One of the greatest empires the world has ever known in all its history.
2. This Empire at that period embraced nearly all of the then known inhabited world. Tiberius Caesar was its Emperor.
3. In its religion, the Roman Empire, at that time, was pagan. A religion of many gods. Some material and some imaginary. There were many devout believers and worshipers. It was a religion not simply of the people, but of the empire. It was an established religion. Established by law and supported by the government. (Mosheim Vol. 1, Chap. 1.)
4. The Jewish people, at that period, no longer a separate nation, were scattered throughout the Roman Empire. They yet had their temple in Jerusalem, and the Jews yet went there to worship, and they were yet jealous of their religion. But it, like the pagan, had long since drifted into formalism and had lost its power. (Mosheim Vol. 1, Chap. 2.)
5. The religion of Christ being a religion not of this world, its founder gave it no earthly head and no temporal power. It sought no establishment, no state or governmental support. It sought no dethronement of Caesar. "Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way" (Matt. 22:19-22); "And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marvelled at him" (Mark 12:17). Being a spiritual religion it was a rival of no earthly government. Its adherents, however, were taught to respect all civil law and government. "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour" (Rom. 13:1-7); "Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work" (Titus 3:1). "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God" (I Pet. 2:13-16).
6. I want now to call your attention to some of the landmarks or earmarks of this religion, the Christian Religion. If you and I are to trace it down through twenty long centuries, and especially down through 1,200 years of midnight darkness, darkened by rivers and seas of martyr blood, then we will need to know well these marks. They will be many times terribly disfigured. But there will always be some indelible mark. But let us carefully and prayerfully beware. We will encounter many shams and make-believes. If possible, the very elect will be betrayed and deceived. We want, if possible, to trace it down through credible history. But more especially through the unerring, infallible, words and marks of Divine truth.
Some Unerring, Infallible Marks
If in going down through the centuries we run upon a group or groups of people bearing not these distinguishing marks and teaching other things for fundamental doctrines, let us beware.
1. Christ, the author of this religion, organized His followers or disciples into a Church. And the disciples were to organize other churches as this religion spread and other disciples were "made." (Bapt. Succession-Ray-Revised Edition, 1st Chap.)
2. This organization or church, according to the Scriptures and according to the practice of the Apostles and early churches was given two kinds of officers and only two, pastors and deacons. The pastor was called "Bishop." Both pastor and deacons to be selected by the church and to be servants of the church.
3. The churches in their government and discipline to be entirely separate and independent of each other. Jerusalem to have no authority over Antioch; nor Antioch over Ephesus; nor Ephesus over Corinth, and so forth. And their government to be congregational, democratic. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
4. To the church were given two ordinances and only two, Baptism and the Lord's Supper. These to be perpetual and memorial.
5. Only the "saved" were to be received as members of the church. "Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47.) These saved ones to be saved by grace alone without any works of the law. "Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)...For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:5,8,9). These saved ones and they only, to be immersed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matt. 28:19.) And only those thus received and baptized, to partake of the Lord's Supper, and the supper to be celebrated only by the church, in church capacity.
6. The inspired scriptures, and they only, in fact, the New Testament and that only, to be the rule and guide of faith and life, not only for the church as an organization, but for each individual member of that organization.
7. Christ Jesus, the founder of this organization and the savior of its members, to be their only priest and kin, their only Lord and Lawgiver, and the only head of the churches. The churches to be executive only in carrying out their Lord's will and completed laws, never legislative, to amend or abrogate old laws or to make new ones.
8. This religion of Christ to be individual, personal, and purely voluntary or through persuasion. No physical or governmental compulsion. A matter of distinct individual and personal choice. "Choose you" is the scriptural injunction. It could be neither accepted nor rejected nor lived by proxy nor under compulsion.
9. Mark well! That neither Christ nor His apostles, ever gave to His followers, what is know today as a denominational name, such as "Catholic," "Lutheran," "Presbyterian," "Episcopal," and so forth-unless the name given by Christ to John was intended for such, "The Baptist," "John the Baptist." "Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist" (Matt. 11:11), and ten or twelve other times. Christ called the individual follower "disciple." Two or more were called "disciples." The organization of disciples, whether at Jerusalem or Antioch or elsewhere, was called Church. If more than one of these separate organizations were referred to, they were called Churches. The word church in the singular was never used when referring to more than one of these organizations. Nor even when referring to them all.
10. I venture to give one more distinguishing mark. We will call it--Complete separation of Church and State. No combination, no mixture of this spiritual religion with a tempor "Religious Liberty," for everybody.
And now, before proceeding with the history itself, let me call your attention to: