Sermon 839. The Head of the Church (No. 839)
Delivered on Lord's-Day Morning, November 1, 1868, by C. H. SPURGEON, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
"He is the head of the body, the church." Colossians 1:18.
As if to show us that this title of "Head of the Church" is to be held in highest esteem, it is here placed in connectionwith the loftiest honors of our Lord Jesus. In the same breath the Son of God is styled "the image of the invisible God,""the first-born of every creature," the Creator of all existence, and then, "the head of the body, the church." We dare not,therefore, think slightly of this title, nor do we hesitate to assert that any levity with regard to it would be as disgracefulas the profane use of any other name of our Divine Lord. For any mortal to assume it to himself, we conceive would be equalin blasphemy to the assumption of the mediatorial office-and we should be no more shocked to hear a man claim to be "the Creatorof all things," than we are now when a mortal is designated, "Head of the Church."
What is the Church? The word signifies an assembly. The Church of Jesus Christ is an assembly of faithful men, the whole companyof God's chosen, His called out ones, the entire community of true followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Wherever true Believersare, there is a part of the Church. Wherever such men are not, whatever organization may be in existence, there is no Churchof Jesus Christ. The Church is no corporation of priests, or confederacy of unconverted men-it is the assembly of those whosenames are written in Heaven. Any assembly of faithful men is a Church.
The aggregate of all these assemblies of faithful men make up the one Church which Jesus Christ has redeemed with His mostprecious blood, and of which HE is the sole and only Head. Part of that Church is in Heaven, triumphant! Part on earth, militant-butthese differences of place make no division as to real unity. There is but one Church above, beneath. Time creates no separation-theChurch is always one-one Church of the Apostles, one Church of the Reformers, one Church of the first century, one churchof the latter days, and of this one, only Church, and Jesus Christ is the one only Head.
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY OUR LORD'S HEADSHIP OF THE CHURCH? That shall be very briefly our first subject of thought. We understandthis headship to be the representation of the Church as a body. We speak of counting heads, meaning thereby persons-the headrepresents the whole body. God has been pleased to deal with mankind as a community and His great Covenant transactions havebeen with men in a body-not with separate individuals. That is to say, at the first creation God did not so much deal witheach particular person of the human race as with the whole race represented in one man, namely, the first Adam.
It was so ordained that the race should be bound up in his loins, to stand if he stood, to fall if he fell. Therefore, myBrethren, the Fall, hence original sin, hence the sorrows of this life. In order to salvation, which, perhaps, was only possiblebecause we did not fall singly (for the devils falling singly and separately are reserved without hope of mercy unto everlastingfire), God instituted a second federation, of which Jesus Christ is the Head. The Apostle calls Him the second Adam. He isthe Head of that company of mankind who are His chosen-His redeemed who are known in this world by being led to believe inHim, and are ultimately gathered into His rest.
Now, Jesus Christ stands to His Church in the same position as Adam stood to his posterity. They are chosen in Him, acceptedin Him and preserved in Him-"Saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation." As His own words declare it, "Because I live,you shall live also." In the following chapters of the Epistle before us, the Apostle shows that the saints are buried withJesus, risen with Him and quickened with Him. Even more explicit is he in the fifth of Romans, where the headship of Adamand of Jesus are compared and contrasted.
Our Lord is Head in a mystical sense, explained in Colossians 2:19: "The Head, from which all the body by joints and hands having nourishment ministered, and knit together increases with theincrease of God." The head is to the body indispensable to life-it is the seat of mental life, the temple of the soul. Evenso Jesus Christ is the vitalizing Head of allHis people. "He is our life." "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men." The life of every member of the mysticalbody depends upon the life of the mystical Head. Through Jesus Christ every living child of God derives his spiritual life.Not one true member of the Church lives by a life of his own. "For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."Separation from Christ is spiritual death, "If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered."
The head mystically is not merely the source of life and the seat of sensation, but it is the throne of supreme government.It is from the brain that the mandate is issued which uplifts the hand or bids it fall by the side. Man walks or speaks, orsleeps, or rises from his couch according to the dictate of that mysterious royal something which finds a place for itselfwithin the head. Thus in the true Church of God, Jesus Christ is the great directing Head. From Him the only binding commandsgo forth. To Him all the really spiritual yield a cheerful homage. His members delight to do the will of their Head.
The whole fabric of the Church, actuated by His life and being filled with His Spirit, most readily concedes to Him that inall things He shall have the preeminence. In proportion as Christians are truly united to Jesus they are perfectly governedby Him, and it is only because of the old nature which abides in separation from Christ that Believers offend and transgress.In so far as they are spiritual men, so far does Jesus rule them as the Head governs all the members of the body. The Headis also the glory of the body. There the chief beauty of manhood dwells. The Divine image is best seen in the countenance-theface is the distinguishing glory of man.
Man holds his head erect-his countenance is not turned towards the earth like the beast-it glows with intelligence. It isthe index of an immortal mind. Beauty chooses as her favored seat the features of the countenance. Majesty and tenderness,wisdom and love, courage and compassion here hang out their ensigns-all the Graces choose the head as their favored dwellingplace. In this sense, right well is our Lord saluted as the "Head." He is fairer than the children of men-Divine Grace ispoured into His lips. In Jesus Christ all the beauty of the Church is summed up. What were His Church without Him? A carcass-aghastly corpse bereft of all its glory-because divided from its Head.
What were all the good, and great, and excellent men who have ever lived without Christ? So many ciphers upon a writing table-theycount for nothing until their Lord, as the great Unit-is put before them to give them power and value! Then, indeed, theyswell to a mighty sum-but without Him they are less than nothing and vanity! An uncomely thing would be the Church of Godif she were not comely with the comeliness which Jesus imparts to her! His head is as the most fine gold! His Countenanceis as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars! He is the chief among 10,000, and the altogether lovely-glorious is that body of whichHe is the crown and excellence! Well may the Church be called the fairest among women when her Head thus excels all the beautiesof earth and Heaven!
Another figure which is used to describe the Headship of Christ to the Church is the conjugal. As the Lord made Eve out ofthe flesh of Adam, so has He taken the Church out of the side of Christ Jesus, and she is of Him as Eve was of Adam-she isof His flesh and of His bones. A mysterious union has been established between Christ and His Church which is constantly comparedto that of marriage: "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the Church: and He is the Saviorof the body." Jesus is the Bridegroom-His Church is His Bride. They are espoused, one to another. In bonds of love they arebound forever to each other and they are alike with sacred expectation waiting for the marriage day when shall be accomplishedthe eternal purpose of God and the desire of the Redeemer.
As the husband exercises a headship in the house-not at all (when the relationship is rightly carried out) tyrannical or magisterial,but a government founded upon the rule of nature and endorsed by the consent of love-even so Jesus Christ rules in His Church.Not as a despotic lord, compelling and constraining His subject bride against her will, but as a husband well-beloved, obtainingobedience voluntarily from the heart of the beloved one, being in all things so admired and had in esteem as to win an undisputedpreeminence! Such conjugal headship is illustrated by the Word of God in the old prophecy, "You shall call Me Ishi, and shallcall Me no more Baali." Baali and Ishi both mean lord, but the sense differs. The one is a mere ruler, the other a belovedhusband.
Jesus Christ's kingdom is no tyranny! His scepter is not made of iron. He rules not with blows and curses and threats, butHis scepter is of silver and His rule is love. The only chains He uses are the chains of His constraining Grace. His dominionis spiritual and extends over willing hearts who delight to bow before Him and to give Him the honor due unto His name. These,I think, are the senses in which this word, "headship," is used. But there remains one other, these former all qualifyingthis last, upon which I intend to dwell at some length this morning. Christ is the Head of HisChurch as King in Zion. In the midst of the Church of God the supreme government is vested in the Person of Christ. "One isyour Master, even Christ, and all you are brethren."
The Church is the kingdom of God among men. It is purely spiritual-comprehending only spiritual men-and existing only forspiritual objects. And who is its King? None but Jesus! We can truly say, as they did of old who proclaimed the Kingship ofthe Crucified, "We have another King, one Jesus." To Him the assemblies of the saints pay all regal honor and at His Thronethe entire Church bows itself, saluting Him as Master and Lord. To no other do we render spiritual obeisance. Christ onlyand solely is King upon Zion's hill, set there by eternal decree, maintained in that position by infinite power and appointedto remain upon the Throne till every enemy shall be made His footstool.
I wish I had eloquence, this morning, that I might bear worthy witness to the crown-rights of King Jesus in His Church! Iknow no subject which is more necessary to insist upon in these eventful times. Let Jesus be acknowledged as the only Headof the Church and the way out of the present political debate which agitates our nation is clear enough. Ignorance of thisTruth of God blinds many! It makes them labor with all their heart for a bad cause, under the notion that they are doing Godservice. To know this Truth is to hold a most weighty trust with which we must not trifle.
Martyrs have bled for this Truth! Scotland's heather has been stained in 10,000 places, and her waters have been dyed crimsonfor the defense of this weighty doctrine. Let us not be slow with unshaken courage to declare, yet again, that kings and princesand parliaments have no lawful jurisdiction over the Church of Jesus Christ! That it beseems not the best of monarchs to claimthose royal prerogatives which God has given to His only begotten Son. Jesus alone is the Head of His spiritual kingdom, theChurch!
And all others who come within her pale to exercise power are but usurpers and Antichrist-and not for one moment to be respectedin their usurped authority by the true Church of the living God! Some Churches have not learned this lesson, but are heldin leash like dogs by their masters. They crouch down at the feet of the State to eat the crumbs which fall from Mammon'stable! And if they are cuffed and beaten by the powers that be, well do they deserve it-and I would almost pray that the whipmay fall upon them yet more heavily till they learn to appreciate liberty and are willing to take off the dog collar of theState and be free from human domination!
If they lose a little wealth they will win the solid gold of God's own favor, and the abiding power of His Spirit, which theycannot expect to have while they are traitors to King Jesus and own not the sole and only Headship of Immanuel in the Church.
II. We shall now, therefore, in the second place, come to look a little into this Headship of Jesus Christ in a regal sense,as to WHAT IT IMPLIES. Since Christ is the Head of His body, the Church, He alone can determine doctrines for her. Nothingis to be received as Divinely warranted except it comes with His stamp upon it. It is nothing, my Brethren, to the faithfulservant of Jesus Christ that a certain dogma comes down to him with the gray antiquity of the ages to make it venerable. Likea sensible man, the Christian respects antiquity, but like a loyal subject of his King, he does not so bow before antiquityas to let it become ruler in Zion instead of the living Christ!
A multitude of good men may meet together, and they may, in their judgment, propound a dogma and assert it to be essentialand undoubted. And they may even threaten perils most abundant to those who receive not their verdict! But if the dogma wasnot authorized long before they decided it-if it were not written in the Bible-the decision of the learned council amountsto nothing! All the fathers, and doctors, and divines, and confessors put together cannot add a word to the faith once deliveredunto the saints! Yes, I venture to say that the unanimous assent of all the saints in Heaven and earth would not suffice tomake a single doctrine binding upon conscience unless Jesus had so determined!
In vain do men say, "So did the early Church"-the early Church has no supremacy over us! It is to no purpose to quote Origenor Augustine! Quote the Inspired Apostles and the doctrine is established, but not otherwise! In the Church of God it is neversufficient to say, "So thinks Martin Luther." Who was Martin Luther? A servant of Jesus Christ and nothing more! It is notsufficient to say, "So teaches John Calvin," for who is John Calvin? Has he shed his blood for you, or is he your master?His opinion is to be respected as the opinion of your fellow servant, but in no respect as a doctor or authoritative teacherin the Church-for Christ alone is Rabbi, and we are to call no man Master upon earth!
Suppose I have received a Truth of God from the very man who was the means of my conversion? I am bound, in candor and affection,to give all respect to him because of the relationship which exists between us. But I must take heed lest this declines intoidolatry, and I, myself, become nothing more than a receiver of the Truth of God as the word ofman, instead of accepting it as the Word of God. I am, therefore, in the most candid manner, but none the less solicitously,to bring to the test every Truth of God which I have received-whether from my father or mother, or my minister, or from somegreat man of olden times whose name I have learned to respect-seeking all the while light from above to direct me aright.
Nothing is doctrine to the Church of God-nothing which has not been taught in the Scriptures. To Christians it is nothingto say that certain doctrines are taught in books of common prayer, or of conference discipline, or of systematic theology.To us it is of small account that either Presbytery, or the Episcopacy, or Independency have put their stamp upon a certainform of teaching. Authority is no more to us than the snap of a man's finger unless the Truth thus commended derives certaintyfrom the testimony of Jesus Christ Himself, who is the Head of His body the Church!
So next, since He is the Head, He only can legislate as to the Church. In a State, if any knot of persons should profess tomake laws for the kingdom, they would be laughed at! And if they should for a moment attempt to enforce their own rules andregulations in defiance of the laws of the country, they would be amenable to punishment. Now the Church of God has no powerwhatever to make laws for herself, since she is not her own Head-and no one has any right to make laws for her, for no oneis her Head but Christ. Christ alone is the Law-maker of the Church and no rule or regulation in the Christian Church standsfor anything unless in its spirit, at least, it has the mind of Christ to support and back it up.
Such-and-such a thing has been thought to be right in the Church, and therefore it has been laid down and made prescriptive-thetradition of the fathers has established a certain custom. What then? Why this-that if we can distinctly see that the customand prescription are not according to the tenor of Holy Scripture and the Spirit of Christ, neither of them are anything tous! But what if the custom is supported by all the good men of every age? I say that matters nothing if the Lord has not taughtit! Our conscience is not to be bound! If a law were backed up by 50,000 times as many as all the saints it would have noauthority upon the conscience even of the weakest Christian if not laid down by our King Himself! And the violation of sucha commandment of men would be no sin but might, indeed, become a Christian duty in order to let men see that we are not theservants of men, but the servants of Jesus Christ the Lord!
In spiritual things it is of the utmost importance to keep this fact clear-that nonconformity is only sinful when it refusesto conform to the will of Christ-and conformity itself is a great sin when it obeys a rule which is not of the Lord's ordaining!When we meet together in Church Meetings we cannot make laws for the Lord's kingdom! We dare not attempt it! Such necessaryregulations as may be made for carrying out our Lord's commands-to meet for worship and to proclaim the Gospel-are commendablebecause they are acts necessary to obedience to His highest laws. But even these minor details are not tolerable if they clearlyviolate the spirit and mind of Jesus Christ.
He has given us spiritual guides rather than legal rubrics and fettering liturgies! And He has left us at liberty to followthe directions of His own free Spirit. But if we make a regulation, thinking it to be very wise-if it is contrary to the Spiritof our Lord-the rule is itself evil and is not to be borne with! In such a case the Church has trenched upon the rights ofher Head, and has done what she ought not to have done. She has, in effect, snatched from His hand the scepter and set upa schism. Law-making in the Church was finished in that day when the curse was pronounced on him who should take from or addto the Word of God! Christ alone is the legislator of His Church-none but He!
But I go further and venture to say that Christ is not only the Legislator of the Church, and has left to us His Statute-book,sufficient to guide us in every dilemma, but He is also the living Administrator in the Church. He is not here, it is true,but as monarchs often administrate through lieutenants, so the Lord Jesus administers through His ever-living Spirit who dwellsin the hearts of His people. You are not to think of Christ as of One who is dead and buried. If He were here on earth I supposenobody would claim to be the Head of the Church but Himself. His Presence would at once overawe every pretender-and now, thoughHe is not here in Person-yet He is not dead!
He lives! He sits on the Throne prepared for Him at the right hand of the Father! In Spirit He is here. "Lo! I am with youalways, even unto the end of the world." And what must the true Head of the Church think when He sees another put up intoHis Throne and impiously called by His title? What must the living Head moving in the midst of the Church feel in regard tosuch a blasphemous intrusion as that? He, the Holy Spirit, is the Vicegerent of Christ, the Representative of the absent Sonof Man!
And how does this Spirit administer the Laws of God? I answer, through His people, for the Holy Spirit dwells in true Believers!And when they meet together as the Lord's servants and humbly ask His guidance, they may expect tohave it-and opening the Statute-Book and seeing plain directions as to their course of action, they may be quite sure thatwhat they do has their Master's sanction! If they look, first of all, for the direction in their Lord's Law-Book and nextseek to be instructed as to its meaning by the Holy Spirit-though they are many minds-they shall be led as one man to choosethat course of action which shall be after the mind of Christ.
Acting humbly and obediently-not on their own authority but in the authority of Jesus Christ, who, by His Spirit still rulesin His Church-Believers practically show Christ, still, to be the only Head of His Church as to actual administration as wellas to legislation. The sole authority of Jesus Christ in all respects must be maintained rigorously, but Churches are veryapt to be guided by something else. Some would have us guided by results. We have heard a discussion upon the question whetheror not we should continue missionary operations, since there are so few converted! How can the question ever be raised whilethe Master's orders run thus-"Go you into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature"?
Spoken by the mouth of Jesus, our Ruler, that command stands good, and the results of missions can have no effect upon loyalminds either one way or the other as to their prosecution! If from this day for the next 10,000 years not a single soul shouldbe converted to God by foreign missions-if there still remained a Church of Christ, it would be her duty with increasing vigorto thrust her sons forward into the mission field because her duty is not measured by the result, but by the imperial authorityof Christ!
Equally so the Church is not to be regulated by the times. We are told by some that this age requires a different kind ofpreaching from that of a hundred years ago-and that 200 years ago, in Puritan times, doctrines were suitable which are explodednow. We are told the minister must keep abreast of the age-this is a thoughtful and philosophic period and the preacher musttherefore philosophize and bring forth his own thinking rather than "mere declamation"-which is the learned name for a plaindeclaration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! But, Sirs, it is not so! Our King is the same and the doctrines He has given ushave not been changed by His authority, nor the rules He has laid down reversed by His proclamation!
He is the same yesterday, today, and forever! Let the times be polished or uncouth. Let them become philosophical or sinkinto barbarism-our duty is still the same, in solemn loyalty to Jesus Christ, to know nothing among men save Jesus Christand Him Crucified! But the discoveries of science, we are told, have materially affected belief and therefore we should changeour ways accordingly as philosophy changes. No, it must not be so! This is a stumbling stone and a rock of offense againstwhich he who stumbles shall be broken. We still have the same King, still the same laws, still the same teaching of the Word-andwe are to deliver this teaching after the same sort and in the same spirit!
Semper idem must be our motto-always the same, always keeping close to Jesus Christ and glorifying Him-for He and not thetimes, not the philosophy and not the wit of man must rule and govern the Church of God! If we shall do this, if any Churchshall do this-namely, take its Truth from Jesus' lips, live according to Jesus' Word, and go forward in His name-such a Churchcannot, by any possibility, fail, for the failure of such a Church would be the failure of the Master's own authority! Brothersand Sisters, He has told us if we keep His commandments we shall abide in His love!
He will be with us always, even to the end of the world! And He has given to His Church His Holy Spirit according to the fullnessof those words which He uttered when He breathed on His Apostles, "Whoever sins you remit, they are remitted unto them; andwhoever sins you retain, they are retained." So then, a Church acting for Christ, with His authority denouncing the judgmentsof God upon sin, shall find those judgments follow. And opening the treasure house of God's mercy to those who seek JesusChrist by faith, those treasures shall be freely given according to the Church's declaration, which she made in her Master'sname.
Go in her own name, and she fails! Go in her Lord's name, and she succeeds! Take with her His sign manual. Walk in obedienceto His Statute-Book, and deliver herself from the lordship of men-and the Church's history shall be written in some such linesas these, "Fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners." I have in these words, I am afraid,rather confusedly stated what I believe Scripture teaches with regard to the Headship of Christ, namely, that He is the onlyteacher of doctrine, the only maker of spiritual laws. That He is the living Administrator of the laws of His own spiritualkingdom and therefore no authority is to be yielded unto the Church but that of Christ- and when we have that authority, andare obedient to it-we need entertain no fear as to the result.
III. Thirdly, ON WHAT DOES THIS HEADSHIP REST? Very briefly, it rests on the natural supremacy of Christ'sNature. Who could be Head but Jesus? He is a perfect Man, which we are not. He is the first-born among many Brethren, andwe are but the younger and weaker. He is God over all, blessed forever and ever. Surely, none but He should be King in Zionsince there is no part of the Church which is Divine except its glorious Head!
The headship of Christ is the inevitable and necessary result of His work. Hear how His members sing-
"You have redeemed our souls with blood,
Have set the prisoners free.
Have made us kings and priests to God,
And we shall reign with You."
Who could be head but He to whom such praise can be awarded? He has washed us in His blood-He must be Head! He has loved usfrom before the foundation of the world-He must be Chief. His right hand and His holy arm have gotten Him the victory-letHim be crowned King of kings and Lord of lords! That winepress in which He trod His enemies, till His garments were dyed withblood, was the guarantee to Him that He should sit on His Father's Throne and reign forever and ever!
Moreover, the decree of God has decided this beyond dispute. Read the second Psalm and learn that when the kings of the earthstood up and the rulers took counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, the Lord sitting in the heavens laughedat their conspiracy and scorned the gathering of His foes! "Yet," says He, "have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion."I will declare the decree-"The Lord has said unto Me, You are My Son; this day have I begotten You." How gloriously the promisereads: "Ask of Me, and I shall give You the heathen for Your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Your possession.You shall break them with a rod of iron. You shall dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." It is part of the eternalpurpose which constituted the Church that Christ should be made its Head. And if there is a Church of the living God, it isalso inevitable that of that Church Christ should be the sole Head.
Moreover, Brethren, and but once more-is not our Lord the Head of the Church by universal acclamation and consent of all themembers of that Church? We have never set up a rival candidate! No heart renewed by His Grace can desire any other king!-
"Let Him be crowned with majesty
Who bowed His head to death!
And be His honors sounded high
By all things that have breath."
Rivals in His blood-bought dominion? Rivals against the Son of David?! Let them be swept away as the smoke! Let them be asdriven stubble to His bow!
King Jesus! All hail! Long live the King! Bring forth the royal diadem! See you not how the angels crown Him? Hark you notto the songs of cherubim and seraphim, "For You are worthy, You are worthy to take the book, and loose the seven seals thereof?Hear you not the everlasting chant of those who have overcome through His blood, "You are worthy, You are worthy, for Youwere slain and have redeemed us unto God by Your blood"? While the Church on earth joins in the same solemn canticle, "CrownHim, crown Him, crown Him Lord of all, for worthy is the Lamb that wasslain."
By the supremacy of His Nature. By the necessity of His accomplished work. By the decree of the Father. By the universal assentof all the blood-washed, He is the only Head of His own Church!
IV. What then, Brethren, WHAT THEN, DOES THIS CONDEMN? What does it condemn? It condemns thevillainous pretense of a Papal headship! A priest at Rome is the head of the Church of Jesus Christ, indeed! Well, if thePope is head of the Church-if he is so-then see what, according to Scripture, he is. This Pio Nono is this-he is the headof the body, the Church "who is the beginning.''" There was nothing, then, before this aforesaid Pius IX?
"The first-born from the dead"? Does he claim to have risen from the dead? "That in all things He might have the preeminence"-isthis also the old Italian's right? "For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell"- blasphemy dares notapply this to the tottering prince whose treasury needs replenishing with Peter's pence. Yet this is the description of thePerson who is the Head of the Church, and, if Pius IX is not all that, he is no head of the Church! But perhaps he is thesecond head? Then Christ's Church is a monstrous being with two heads!
They may make it out to be three one day, perhaps, and then we will call the thing Cerberus, and Hell Dog, and we shall notbe far off from the true idea of Popery. No, but he is the delegated head. What for? Why should Christ delegate authoritywhich He can wield Himself? But we need a delegation, for Christ is absent. But the Holy Spirit is that delegation, and ishere. Of all the dreams that ever deluded men, and probably of all blasphemies that ever were uttered, there has never beenone which is more absurd and which is more fruitful in all manner of mischief than the idea that the Bishop of Rome can bethe head of the Church of Jesus Christ!
No, these popes die, and are not! And how could the Church live if its head were dead? The true Head ever lives and the Churchever lives in Him! But it is affirmed that there must needs be a visible headship, and just now we are told every day thatwe must choose in church matters between the headship of the monarch of England and the headship of the pope at Rome. I begthe gentlemen's pardon-we have no such choice, for when we are asked which we will have to rule us in spiritual things, wesay, "Neither-neither for a single moment!" We make no bones about the matter, kings and queens are no heads of the Churchto us.
We will no more brook spiritual domination from an English premier than from a Romish pope! We are equally opposed to both-allhuman headship must go down! To our well-beloved queen all honor and reverence as to one of the best of rulers in civil affairs.But in spiritual affairs in the Church of Christ she has no ruling power-what she may have in the Church of England is anotherquestion. To us it makes no matter whether it is man or woman-whether it is prince or priest-we will have neither czar, emperor,queen, pope, seraph or angel to reign in the Church of Jesus Christ!
The Church has no lawful governor or supreme Lord but Jesus Christ Himself. Our Lord, as it seems to me, puts this so plainlyin the Word of God that I marvel men who believe in the Bible should think the State could be at the head of the Church! TheState-Church party has placed a Bible with a crown and a scepter upon their posters! It is suggestive that the Bible is closed-forif Englishmen were once to read it, it would be fatal to the cause which now claims it-since one of the Truths of God theywould read would be this-"My kingdom is not of this world." And they would hear Christ say, "Render unto Caesar the thingswhich are Caesar's"-that is, yield all civil obedience to the civil authority, "but unto God the things that are God's."
Leave the Lord to rule in the kingdom of mind and spirit, and let Caesar keep his kingdom of civil government! Let the Statedo its work and never interfere with the Church! And let the Church do her work and never interfere with, or be interferedwith, by the State! The two kingdoms are separate and distinct. Broad lines of demarcation are always drawn, throughout thewhole of the New Testament, between the spiritual and the temporal power-and the mischief is when men cannot see this.
Christ is the Head of the Church, not anyone who represents the State. Brethren, just think for a minute what mischief thisdoctrine of the headship of the State has done. Time was when men could hardly be parish ushers without coming to take theSacrament at the established Church. Oh, the multiplied hypocrisies which were perpetrated every day by graceless men whocame to qualify themselves for office by taking the emblems of our holy faith when they knew not Christ! Such things are moreor less inevitable to the system. Think, again, what persecutions have risen out of this error. You cannot put any sect intoa position of ascendancy but it falls into persecution-all sects have persecuted, in turn, when so tempted.
There is not a pin to choose between one and the other, except, as I sometimes say, the Baptists have never persecuted becausethey have never had an opportunity. But I will not insist even upon that. It is in human nature to do ill when the civil armis ready to crush conscience, and therefore Christ has taken the temptation out of the way and put it out of the possibilityof His people, if they keep close to His rule, so much as to touch the carnal weapon. The weapons of their warfare, He tellsthem, are not carnal but spiritual and therefore mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. What a degradationto the Church of Christ to think of having any other Head but Christ!
Ah, Brothers and Sisters, if the monarch were the most holy and godly person that ever lived, I should tremble for him exceedinglythat such a person should in any sense be styled the Head of the Church! How could such a person pray? How could a poor sinner-andsuch the best man still is-come before Christ and pray to Him and say, "Lord, You know I am the head of Your Church"? It seemsto me to be such an atrocious claim, such a horrible profanity! I would not, for twice 10,000 worlds, touch that title withso much as the tip of my finger if I hoped to be saved! I dare not expose my friend, or even my enemy, to the awful risk hemust make assuming such a title!
I judge no one, God forbid I should! But if I saw in this world a man absolutely perfect, full of Divine knowledge and light,and I were asked by him, "Shall I assume that title?" I should go down on my knees and say, "For God's sake, and for yourown soul's sake, touch it not, for how can you, with your light, and knowledge and love to Christ, take from Him one of Hisgrandest names?" But what shall I say when the monarch is the opposite? And such cases have occurred. I need not take youfar back in history. The name of George IV has no remarkable odor of sanctity about it-and the same may be said of CharlesII-I never heard historians say that he was eminent in godliness.
But yet these men were heads of the Church! I shudder at being compelled to remember such an infamous fact. Men, whose characteris not to be thought of without a blush on the cheek of modesty, were heads of the Church of Jesus Christ! God have mercyon this land for having fallen so low as this, for I know not that heathen countries have ever blasphemed God more than wehave done in allowing heartless debauchers to take upon themselves the name of "Head of the Church of Christ"! No, my Brethren,this cannot be endured by us in any Church with which we commune! We repudiate it! We shake off the abomination as Paul shookoff the viper from his hand into the fire!
The same rebuke is due to that which has been tolerated in many Churches, namely, the headship of great religious teachers.Sometimes great teachers, while yet alive, have been practically regarded as the supreme arbiters of the Church. Their willwas law, apart from the Book. Their decree stood fast, apart from the Scripture. All this was evil! There are certain Churchesat this day which reverence extremely the names of dead men. "The Fathers"-are they not by some thought to be as great asthe Apostles? The names of John Wesley, and John Calvin and others, I fear, very often occupy the place which belongs to JesusChrist. Let every Church of Jesus Christ now declare that she follows not men but obeys her Master alone.
Mark you, Brothers and Sisters, the truth which I have brought out somewhat strongly equally applies to the Church itself,for the Church is not her own head-she has no right to act upon her own judgment apart from the statutes of her King! Shemust come to the Bible-everything is there for her. She has no right to use her own judgment apart from the Master. She mustgo to the Master. She is a servant and the Master is supreme. The Church's power is twofold. It is a power to testify to theworld what Christ has revealed. She is set as a witness and she must act as such. She has, next, a ministerial power by whichshe carries out the will of Christ, and does His bidding as Christ's servant and minister.
A certain number of servants meet in the servants' hall-they have an order given to do such work-and they have also ordersgiven them how to do it. They then consult with each other as to the minor details-how they can best observe the Master'srule and do His bidding. They are perfectly right in so doing. But suppose they began to consult about whether the objectsproposed by the Master were good, or whether the rules which He had laid down might not be altered! They would at once becomerebellious and be in danger of discharge. So a Church met together to consult how to carry out the Master's will and how toenforce His laws does rightly.
But a Church meeting to make new laws, or a Church meeting to rule according to its own judgment and opinion- imagining thatits decision will have weight-has made a mistake and placed itself in a false position. The one doctrine which I have soughtto bring forward is this-that He, alone, who bought the Church, and saved the Church is to rule the Church.
V. But if so, WHAT IS THE LESSON WHICH IT TEACHES TO EACH ONE HERE? Does not it make each of you enquire, "If the entire Churchis thus to yield obedience to Christ, and to no one else, am I yielding such obedience? I claim to be Christian, but am Ia Christian of that prejudiced sort who follows that which they are brought up to, and so acknowledge the rules of mothersand fathers instead of the rule of Christ? Have I brought what I avow to be the Truth of God to the touchstone of Scripture?Did I ever spend a quarter of an hour in weighing my cherished opinions?" I am afraid the great mass of Christians have neverdone this-but have sucked in their religion with their mother's milk and nothing further.
Again, if I am a Christian, am I in the habit of judging what I ought to do by my own whims and wishes, or do I judge by theStatute-Book of the King? Many say they do not like this and do not like that-as if that had anything to do with it! Whatare your likes and dislikes? You are a servant and bound to give up your will to the Master! If Christ gives a command whichyou imagine to be hard because it does not chime in with your love of ease-my Brothers and Sisters, will you not, as servantsof the Master, put your whims aside and endeavor to follow Him? Oh, it is a blessed lifeto live-to be no longer the servant of men and of self-but to go to Christ daily in prayer, and say, "What I know not, teachme, Lord."
Then you may laugh at Satan's rage and face a frowning world, for the Master will never leave those who cleave to Him! Ifa man loves the testimonies and commandments of the Most High, God shall be his buckler, his shield, and his high tower. Butif he turns aside to his own imaginings, his fall shall be certain! May the Lord keep the Church in this matter, and her dayof victory shall soon come. May Christ be her only Head and her triumph draws near! I can see the morning breaking-yonderare the first streaks of light upon the sky-the Master is coming because the Church begins to acknowledge Him-and then shallher happy days begin and the days of her mourning shall be ended forever and ever.