False Doctrines and Fanaticism Exposed- by E.E. Shelhamer
7. Sects And No-Sects
All the deplorable splits in this age of splits has resulted from the fallacy which permitted graceless leaders to lord it over God’s heritage. Dear reader, this may shock you, and you may say it is not true of your church; but you would change your mind greatly if you saw the wire pulling that exists in the general gatherings of your own denomination.
This unsanctified spirit is almost universal, and ever ready to assert its usurped authority, as in the case when God poured out His Spirit on two of the emancipated Jewish slaves; a young sectarian ran to Moses and declared; “Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp” and which Joshua said; “My lord Moses, forbid them.”
But Moses had been in close communion with God and had learned that humanity had no authority to forbid the unauthorized prophets. He also manifested the divine magnanimity of his mind by his words of rebuke: “Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people did prophesy.”
Again, when the disciples told Jesus: “We saw one casting out devils in thy name, and we forbade him for he followeth not us,” Jesus rebuked their sectarian ecclesiasticism by the words: “Forbid him not, for he that is not against us is for us.”
In consequence of the divine government of the church, no man or company of men can impart or withhold “authority” to preach the gospel; at most they can but recognize or refuse to recognize God’s authoritative call.
They can advise, and leave sterner measures for God to apply. But though the above is all true and the church of Christ is a divinely organized and controlled body with whose polity no one has the right to tamper, that does not prove that any company of Christians have no right, if they desire, to form themselves into an organization or society for evangelistic, educational, philanthropic or any humane purpose, with rules, regulations and conditions of membership.
Of late years many have seen the formality of ecclesiasticism, and in their unwise efforts to correct it have swung to the other extreme, and advocate the abolition of government, or anarchy in religion, rather than an experience in divine grace sufficiently deep to deliver from this carnal principle and method.
The remedy has proved as bad as the disease, and thinking Christian people are looking for God’s original plan, which is found between these two extremes, yet at a safe distance from either. This body that contra-distinguishes itself from the sectarian churches has, in the few short years of its existence, been ruptured into more than a dozen warring sects, each calling itself the only true church.
But while doing this, it has failed to recognize the fact that all who are saved from known sin and have the Spirit of Jesus are its members. It has therefore, by excluding some of the Lord’s real people, made itself a sect in the strictest sense of the word, and by withholding recognition and fellowship from some who have the Spirit because of their real or supposed lack of light, it has made its leaders to be ecclesiastics of the more unmerciful sort.
Though the Scriptures is declared to be of no private interpretation, yet the private interpretation of some passages of scripture, as given by the leaders, forms the discipline of these people; and that discipline has been so changeable, erratic and inconsistent, that division and Babylonish confusion of the worst sort have been the result.
Some factions of them use the common ordinances and declare that all who discard them will be damned; others discard all the ordinances and unchristianize all who use them. Still others add feed washing and assert that its omission is a sin punishable with eternal death, while the anti-feet washers declare the opposite.
Again the private interpretation of scripture as discipline and government has led to internal wars even among the members of the various factions: and the supremacy of the elders in opposition to the authority of the laity causes division, and the bolting party is called “seceders”, even though it is declared that there was no organization to secede from.
Sanctification cannot be the basis of membership as some assert it is, for several reasons. It were more proper to say it was the end for which church membership was established. The emancipated Jews were the people of God, and under his especial care and guidance, before they crossed the Jordan into Canaan.
Many persons think that they are sanctified that are not, hence would be taken into fellowship on a false basis. The apostolic converts were “added to the church” the same day they were saved.
Meaning of the Word ‘Sect’
Webster defines a sect as “A body or number of persons united in tenets, chiefly in philosophy or religion, but constituting a distinct party by holding sentiments different from those of other men.”
A good and holy man once said, “Are you acting in harmony with others in endeavoring to promote the cause of Christ? Do you not act with them instead of with others because you agree in your views of what a Christian should be and do? Are there any Christians in the world besides yourself and those with whom you are associated? Then you constitute a sect.”
This is exactly the position of those who espouse no-sectism; and, although they claim to belong to no sect, yet, as they are separated by this doctrine from everyone else who does not accept it, they are as much a sect as any other combination can be.
Consequently illogical and inconsistent as it may appear, these deluded people, in denouncing other sects, denounce themselves. It is utterly impossible for them, with the least show of reason or common sense, to prove that they are not a sect.
More than this, they are divided into sects among themselves. Of all people in the world to denounce sects, the no-sectites should be the last.
From the Acts of the Apostles we learn that Christianity itself, in its origin, was called a sect. Nowhere have we the slightest intimation that the apostles resented but rather glorified in the imputation. Paul was called “ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” Acts XXIV:5.
The chief of the Jews at Rome said to him, “As concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” Paul never said in reply that he did not believe in sects, but admitted the charge that he belonged to one and gave the reason for so doing.
It is utterly impossible for anyone to bring the whole Christian body to his way of thinking and working on all subjects pertaining to the work of God.
It is alleged by no-sectites that the Bible does not say anything about having separate rules in a discipline, a creed, or articles of faith. Granted. But does that prove it wrong to have such a book?
“Must I be deprived of using my hoe to cut the weeds out of my corn simply because the Bible does not inform me so to do? We think it consistent to have church property, such as houses to worship in; but we can’t hold that property without being recognized as an organized body.”
We claim that certain passages which no-sectites use do not teach their doctrine. They take these same verses and give them an interpretation which seems to uphold their doctrine. This interpretation is their creed whether they name it and print it, or whether they teach it orally and without a name.
But, inquires one, “Do not these church organizations make divisions among the people of God?” We reply, nothing can divide two of God’s saints unless one or both of them backslide.
It is said by come-outers, “If all sects will disorganize, then there will be no division.” Very well. It is said by the Baptist brethren, “Drop sprinkling and pouring, and be immersed, and there will be no division.” It is said by the Methodist, “Stop your close communion, and believe in apostasy, and come to our terms, and there will be no division.”
There it is, brother, in a nutshell. It is easier to say “put away divisions and schisms,” than it is to get it done. And if all sects would obey your command to ‘come out,’ and be ‘one’, we would simply be one unorganized sect, with the same divisions and schisms as before, instead of several sects.
So, all there is of it, there are different understandings of the Bible that make different sects, and the come-outers simply offers another understanding, thus forming an unorganized sect. So, disorganizing would not destroy divisions.
Divisions come by different understandings of the Scriptures. These misunderstandings are caused, no doubt, largely by carnality, and thus divisions have sprang up, and multiplied, and organized into sects.
But shall God’s holy people undertake, contrary to God’s teaching, to do without organization, just because the devil uses organization for his work?
“But,” says one, “we do not have any such name as Presbyterian, Methodist, or Free Methodist. We are ‘Christians, we are ’saints’.” Well, it is not the name that makes the sect necessarily. You may renounce all the names to which you refer, and still you may be a sect.
We call a horse a horse. It is not the name that makes the animal what it is. A flock of geese is a flock, whether you call it a flock or not. Your sect is a sect, whether you call it a sect or not. You may not give it a name, but that does not destroy the sect quality.
Then you must remember that the members of the early church, in being called Christians, were thereby distinguished from other classes of persons. In their relation to the Pharisees, Saducees, and many other bodies, they were a sect, and the word Christian was used to designate them as such.
There is not an atom of evidence in the New Testament to prove that the followers of Christ should never be allowed to call themselves by any name other than those which are applied to them in the Bible. A church in a particular place many hold on to these words, and at the same time be utterly corrupt; as: ‘Church of God,’ ‘Church of Christ,’ ‘Christian Church,’ ‘Saints,’ etc., and it may be necessity for the real children of God to take another name.
Perversion of Scripture
In order to make anything like a fair show, no-sectites grossly pervert the word of God. Let us examine some of those passages which are thus pressed into their service.
It is asserted by no-secties that man has no part in the ordination of men for the offices of bishop (elder), or deacon — that the Holy Ghost only does this work. One plain statement of Scripture is sufficient to show the falseness of this theory: “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord on whom they believed.”–Acts 24:33.
[8 or more pages to come.]