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by Dr. John Thomas
Lastly, the clergy and ministers of the age, being utterly ignorant of the gospel of the kingdom, are plainly not the persons referred to in the commission.
The Lord is not "with them"; and without his co-operation, were they as enlightened and faithful as the apostles themselves, they could do nothing.
They point to what is done among the heathen in proof of his being "with them".
But, there is nothing done there as it ought to be done; or, as things were done when the Lord worked with the apostles.
Their missionary societies are but so many institutions for the intellectual, moral, and social training of the heathen in the civilization of European and American religionists.
They make Protestants and Catholics of the natives; but beyond this they cannot go.
They may extend the civilization of Japheth into the tents of Shem, and compel Ham to be their servant; but to beget them in Christ Jesus through the gospel, and so to induct them into the heirship of the kingdom of God, is a thing they could as soon accomplish as to still the raging of the sea.
If by their labours they were to make all the earth like England and America, it would still need to be converted to the religion of Christ.
Ecclesiastics have done all they are able to do in "civilized" communities.
They are powerless for progress among these; and men of naturally strong minds are either indifferent to their ministrations, or have repudiated them altogether.
They lack one thing, namely, the knowledge of "the truth as it is in Jesus".
In default of this they occupy the minds of the people with foreign enterprises, benevolent institutions, public meetings, platform and pulpit oratory, fancy fairs, and all sorts of devices to raise the wind to keep the machine in motion.
But all will not do.
The people begin to flag.
The masses take no interest in their preaching.
Their churches are cold, formal, and deathlike.
Their "spirituality" is gone; and, unless the Lord come to raise the dead, both priests and people will be beyond the reach of cure.
Apostolic succession, then, especially through such a channel, is a mere figment of the carnal mind.
The only succession of which any scriptural idea can be formed is, the following in the steps of the apostles' faith; which no one who understands the word of the kingdom would affirm of the ecclesiastical guides of the people.
The power and authority of the apostles died with them.
Those who succeed to their faith are their successors only in this sense.
Their word, which is also the Lord's word, dwells in such richly in all wisdom; and where the word of the Lord is found, there, by the belief of it, he dwells in the hearts of men.
When they work according to this word, they and the Lord work together.