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Elpis Israel
by Dr. John Thomas

No member of this body is exempt from the obligation of co-operating in this work.

It is the duty and privilege of every one in his own sphere to endearour to turn men to righteousness; for there is no distinction of "clergy" and "laity" in the family of God.

In the days of the apostles, things were very different to what they are now.

There were many congregations, or churches, but they were all one flock, or "denomination," and men endowed with spiritual gifts were their rulers.

But even these were not distinguished from their brethren as "clergy," or priests; but as ministers, or servants.

Well knowing the presumption, pride, and arrogance of the flesh, the Spirit commanded them especially to feed the flock, and not to fleece it; to oversee it willingly and of a ready mind, but not for the sake of compensation; and to be examples to the flock, and not to lord it over the heritages.

The word "clergy," as the title of an order, is assumed by men who have no right to it.

It is a word which comes from the Greek klhro , a lot or portion; and is applied by the apostle in the text quoted to a single congregation of disciples; so that when he speaks of all the congregations of the flock, he styles them "the heritages," twn klhrwn But, in after years, the ministers of the heritages, or clergies, disregarded the commandment, and set themselves up as lords of the heritages, which they fleeced, and oppressed for lucre's sake.

They even made the clergies of God believe that they were nothing more than mere commoners; while they themselves, the usurpers of the believers' rights, were God's peculiar lot, or portion, as the tribe of Levi were among the Israelites; and the distinction was then set up of "clergy" and "laity," from oiJ laoiv, the multitude!

But the distinction belongs to the apostasy, and not to God's oppressed and scattered sheep.

When "clergy" get in among them, it is "as grievous wolves, not sparing the flock, but speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them" for their own worldly gain.

They have nothing to do with the word of reconciliation except to pervert it, and to bring it into disrepute.

The principles of the apostasy, and indeed of all false religion, are such as result from the thinking of the flesh when left to its own communings.

This is illustrated in the case of Adam and Eve.

They sought to cover their sin by a device of their own.

"They sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves aprons".

Their shame was covered, indeed; but their consciences were not healed.

But it was the best they could do in their ignorance.

They were as yet unacquainted with the great principle that without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin.

They were not aware of this necessity; for it had not been revealed: neither did they understand that as offenders they would not be permitted to devise a covering for themselves.

They had everything to learn as to the ground of reconciliation with God.

They had no idea of religion; for hitherto they had needed none.

It yet remained to be revealed as the divinely appointed means of healing the breach which sin had made between God and men.