Essential Parley P. Pratt
Foreword by Peter L. Crawley
“The Kingdom of God”
(from A Voice of Warning and Instruction to All People, Containing a Declaration of the Faith and Doctrine of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, Commonly Called Mormons [New York: Printed by W. Sandford, 1837])
[p.1]”Seek first the Kingdom of God,” was the command of the Saviour while on the earth, teaching the children of men.
Having taken a general view of the Prophesies Past and Future-we will now proceed to fulfil this command, and search out the kingdom of God. But before we proceed, I would again caution the reader not to proceed with me in this research, unless he is prepared to sacrifice every thing, even to his good name, and his life itself, if necessary, as a sacrifice for the truth; for if he should once get a view of the kingdom of God, he will be so delighted as never to rest satisfied short of becoming a citizen of the same. And yet it will be so unlike every other system of religion now on earth, that he will be astonished that any person with the Bible in his hand, should ever have mistaken any of the systems of men, for the kingdom of God. Now there are certain powers, privileges, and blessings, pertaining to the kingdom of God, which are found in no other kingdom, nor enjoyed by any other people. And by these things it was ever distinguished from all other kingdoms and systems, insomuch that the inquiring mind, who is seeking the kingdom of God, being once acquainted with these peculiarities concerning it, need never mistake or be at a loss to know when he has found it. But before we proceed any farther in our research, let us agree upon the meaning of the term, or the sense in which we will use it; for some apply this term to the kingdom of Glory above, and some to the individual enjoyments of their own souls, while others apply it to his organized government on the earth. Now, when we speak of the kingdom of God, we wish it to be understood as speaking of his organized government on the earth.
Now reader, we launch forth into the wide field before us, in search of a kingdom. But stop, let us consider what is a kingdom? I reply that four things are required in order to constitute any kingdom, in Heaven or on earth: Namely, first, a king; second, commissioned officers duly qualified to execute his ordinances and laws; thirdly, a code of laws, by which the citizens are governed; and fourthly, subjects who are governed. Now, where these exist in their proper order and regular author-[p.2]ity, there is a kingdom, but where either of these cease to exist, there is a disorganization of the kingdom; consequently an end of it, until re-organized after the same manner as before. Now in this respect, the kingdom of God is like all other kingdoms: wherever we find officers duly commissioned and qualified by the Lord Jesus, together with his ordinances and laws existing in purity, unmixed with any precepts or commandments of men; there the kingdom of God exists, and there his power is manifest, and his blessings enjoyed as in days of old.
We shall now take a view of the commencement of the setting up of the kingdom of God in the days of the Apostles. The first intimation of its near approach was by an angel to Zachariah, promising him a Son, who should go before the king to prepare his way. The next manifestation was to Mary, and finally to Joseph, by an holy angel, promising the birth of the Messiah; while at the same time the Holy Ghost manifested unto Simeon in the temple, that he should not die until he had seen the Saviour. Thus, all these, together with the shepherds and the wise men from the east, began to rejoice with a joy unspeakable and full of glory, while the world around them knew not the occasion of their joy. After these things, all seemed to rest in silent expectation, until John had grown to manhood, when he came bounding from the wilderness of Judea with a proclamation strange and new; crying, repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, baptizing unto repentance, telling them plainly that their king was already standing among them on the point of setting up his kingdom. And while he yet ministered, the Messiah came, and was baptized and sealed with the Spirit of God, which rested upon him in the form of a dove; and soon after, he began the same proclamation as John, saying, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And soon, after choosing twelve disciples, he sent them forth into all the cities of Judea, with the same proclamation–the kingdom of heaven is at hand; and after them he sent seventy, and still another seventy, with the same news, so that all might be well warned and prepared for a kingdom, which was soon to be organized among them. But when these things had produced the desired effect, in causing a general expectation, more especially in the hearts of his disciples, who daily expected to triumph over their persecutors, by the coronation of this glorious personage, while they themselves were hoping for a reward of all their toil and sacrifices made for his sake, by being exalted to dignity near his person–what must have been their disappointment, when they saw their king taken and crucified, being mocked, derided, ridiculed, and finally, overcame and triumphed over both by Jew and Gentile? They would gladly have died in battle, to have placed him upon the throne. But tamely to submit without a struggle, to give up all their expectations, and sink in despair, from the highest pitch of enthu-[p.3]siasm to the lowest degradation, was more than they could well endure. They shrunk back in sorrow, and turned every man to his net, or to their several occupations, supposing all was over; probably with reflections like these: is this the result of all our labours? was it for this we forsook all worldly objects, our friends, our houses, and lands, suffering persecution, hunger, fatigue, and disgrace?—and we trusted it should have been he, who would have delivered Israel ; but alas, they have killed him, and all is over. for three years we have awakened a general expectaion through all Judea, by telling them the kingdom of heaven was at hand, but now our king is dead, how shall we dare to look the people in the face. With these reflections, each pursuing his own course, all was again turned to silence, and the voice had ceased to be heard in Judea, crying, repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Jesus slept in the arms of death; a great stone with the seal of state secured the tomb where he lay, while the Roman guard stood in watchful silence, to see that all was kept secure; when suddenly from the regions of glory, a mighty angel descended, at whose presence the soldiers fell back as dead men, while he rolled the stone from the door of the sepulchre, and the Son of God awoke from his slumbers, burst the bonds of death, and soon after appearing to Mary, he sent her to the disciples, with the joyful news of resurrection, and appointing a place to meet them. When after seeing him, all their sorrow was turned into joy, and all their former hopes were suddenly revived, they were no longer to cry, the kingdom of heaven is at hand, but were to tarry at Jerusalem, until the kindgom was established, and they prepared to unlock the door of the kingdom, and to adopt strangers and foreigners into it as legal citizens, by administering certain laws and ordinances, which were invariably the laws of adoption; without which no man could ever become a citizen. Having ascended up on high, and having been crowned with all powers in heaven and on earth, he again comes to his disciples and gives them their authority, saying unto them, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature; he that beleiveth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe: in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.”—Mark xvi., 15, 16, 17, 18. Now, I wish the reader never to pass this commission, until he understands it, because, when once understood, he never need mistake the kingdom of God, but will at once discover those peculiarities, which were forever to distinguish it from all other kingdoms or religious systems on earth: and lest he should misunderstand, we will analyze it, and look at each part carefully in its own proper light:–first, they were to preach the gospel, (or in other [p.4]words, the glad tidings of a crucified and risen Redeemer) to all the world; second, he that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; third, he that did not believe what they preached, should be damned; and fourth, these signs shall follow them that believe—first, they are to cast out devils; second, to speak with new tongues; third, to take up serpents; fourth, if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; fifth, they were to lay hands on the sick, and they should recover.
Now, it is wilful blindness, or ignorance of the English language, that has ever caused any misunderstanding here. For some do tell us that those signs were only to follow the apostles; and others tell us that they were only to follow believers in that age. But Christ places the preaching, the believing, the salvation, and the signs that were to follow, all on an equal footing; where one was limited, the other must be; where one ceased, the other died. And if the language limits these signs to the apostles, it limits faith and salvation also to them. And if no others were to have these signs follow them, then no others were to believe, and no others were to be saved: again, if the language limits these signs to the first age or ages of Christianity; then it limits salvation to the first ages of Christianity; for one is precisely as much limited as the other; and where one is in force, the other is—and where one ends, the other must stop. And as well might we say preaching the gospel is no longer needed; faith is no longer needed; salvation is no longer needed; they were only given at first to establish the gospel: as to say these signs are no longer necessary, they were only given to establish the gospel. But says the astonished reader, have not these signs ceased from among men? I reply, prove that they have ceased, and it will prove that the gospel has ceased to be preached, and that men have ceased to believe and be saved, and the world without the kingdom of God; or else it will prove that Jesus Christ was an impostor, and his promises of no effect.
Now, having analyzed and understood this commission, let us pursue the subject of the organization of the kingdom of God, in the days of the apostles. The Saviour having given them their authority, commands them to tarry, and not undertake their mission, until they were endowed with power from on high. But why this delay? because no man was ever qualified, or ever will be, to preach that gospel, and teach all things whatsoever Jesus commanded them, without the Holy Ghost; and a very different Holy Ghost too, from the one now enjoyed by men who are not inspired: for the Holy Ghost of which Jesus spake, would guide into all truth, bring all things to remembrance, whatsoever he had said unto them, and show them things to come—not to mention that it would enable them to speak in all the languages of the earth—Now a man who preaches needs that Holy Ghost very much; first, to guide into all truth, that he may know what to teach; second, to [p.5]strengthen his memory, lest he might neglect to teach some of the things which was so commanded them; and third, he needs to know things to come, and that would constitute him a prophet, that he might forewarn his hearers of approaching danger. From this, the reader may see how careful Jesus was, that none should preach his gospel without the Holy Ghost. And he may also learn how different the Spirit of Truth is, from the spirits now abroad in the earth, deceiving the world, under the name of the Holy Ghost. If the churches of the present day have the Holy Ghost, why are they so much at a loss to understand truth? why do they walk in so many different ways and doctrines? And I inquire, why do they need whole libraries of sermons, tracts, divinities, debates, arguments and opinions, all written by the wisdom of men, without even professing to be inspired? Well doth the Lord complain, saying, “their fear towards me is taught by the precepts of men.” But to return—the apostles tarried at Jerusalem, until endowed with the power, and then they commenced to proclaim the gospel.
Here we have discovered several things towards a kingdom; 1st. we have found a king, crowned at the right hand of God; to whom is committed all power in heaven and on earth; 2nd. we have found officers commissioned, and duly qualified to administer the laws and ordinances of that Kingdom; 3rd. the laws by which they were to be governed, were, all things whatsoever Jesus had commanded his disciples to teach them.
And now if we can find how men became citizens of that kingdom, I mean as to the rules of adoption, then we have found the kingdom of God in that age, and shall be very much dissatisfied with every thing in our own age, professing to be the kingdom of God, which is not according to the pattern.
It happened that there were no natural born subjects of that kingdom; for both Jew and Gentile were included in sin and unbelief; and none could be citizens without the law of adoption, and all that believed on the name of the king, had power to be adopted; but there was but one invariable rule or plan by which they were adopted; and all that undertook to claim citizenship in any other way whatever, were counted thieves and robbers, and could never obtain the seal of adoption. This rule was laid down in the Saviour’s teaching to Nicodemus, namely, “Except a man be born of water (that is, baptized in water) and of the Spirit, (that is, baptized with the Spirit,) he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
Now to Peter were given the keys of the kingdom; therefore it was his duty to open the kingdom to Jew, and also to Gentile. We will therefore carefully examine the manner in which he did adopt the Jews into the kingdom, at the day of Pentecost.
[p.6]Now, when the multitude came running together on the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter standing up with the eleven, lifted his voice and reasoned with them from the Scriptures, testifying of Jesus Christ, and his resurrection and ascension up on high—insomuch that many became convinced of the truth, and inquired what they should do. Now understand, these were not Christians; but they were people who were that moment convinced that Jesus was the Christ, and because they were convinced of this fact, they inquired, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, “repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; for the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” But, kind reader, do you understand this proclamation? if you do, you will see that this gospel is not preached by any of the priests of this day. Let us therefore analyze and examine it, sentence by sentence. You recollect they already believed, and the next thing was for them to repent: first, faith, second, repentance, third, baptism, fourth, remission of sins, fifth, the Holy Ghost, was the order of the gospel. Faith gave the power to become sons or citizens; repentance and baptism in his name, was the obedience through which they were adopted; and the Holy Spirit of promise was the seal of their adoption, and this they were sure to receive if they would obey. Now, reader, where do you hear such preaching in our day? Who teaches that those who believe and repent, should be baptized, and none others? Perhaps the reader may say the baptists do; but do they call upon men to be baptized as soon as they believe and repent? Be assured, kind reader, they do not: and moreover, do they promise them the remission of sins, with the gift of the Holy Ghost? Recollect now, what effect the Holy Ghost has upon people who receive it. It will guide them into all truth, strengthen the memory, and show them things to come. And Joel said, it would cause them to dream dreams, to see visions, and prophesy. O! my reader, where do you find a gospel like this preached among men? Would men go mourning for weeks upon weeks, without the forgiveness of sins, or the comfort of the Holy Spirit, if Peter stood among us, to tell precisely how to get such blessings? Now what would you think of a camp-meeting, where three thousand men should come forward to be prayed for? and one of the ministers should (Peter-like,) command them every one to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins, promising that all who obeyed, should receive the remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, which should cause them to dream dreams and prophesy; and then should arise with his brethren of the same calling, and the same hour commence baptizing, and continue until they had baptized them all; and the Holy Ghost should fall upon them, and they begin to see vi-[p.7]sions, speak in tongues, and prophesy. Would not the news go abroad far and wide, that a new doctrine had made its appearance, quite different from any thing now practiced among men? O yes, says the reader, this to be sure would be something new, and very strange to all of us. Well, strange as it may seem, it is the gospel, as preached by Peter on the day of Pentecost: and Paul declares that he preached the same gospel that Peter did; and he has also said, “though we, or an angel from Heaven, preach any other gospel, let him be accursed.” now, the reader need no longer be astonished to see that these signs do not follow them that believe some other gospel or doctrine, different from that preached by the apostles.
But now let us return to the kingdom of God organized in the days of the apostles; you discover that three thousand persons were adopted into the kingdom the first day the door was opened. These, together with the numerous additions which were afterwards made, were the subjects of this kingdom; which being fitly framed together, grew unto a holy temple in the Lord. Thus we have cleared away the rubbish of sectarian tradition and superstition, which arose in heaps around us; and having searched carefully, we have at length discovered the kingdom of God, as it existed at its first organization, in the days of the apostles; and we have seen that it differs widely from all modern systems of religion, both in its officers, ordinances, powers, and privileges, insomuch, that no man need ever mistake the one for the other.
Having made this discovery, we shall proceed to examine the progress of that kingdom, among Jew and Gentile; and what were its fruits, and what were its gifts, and blessings enjoyed by its citizens–soon after the organization of the kingdom of God at Jerusalem?–Philip came to Samaria, and there preached the gospel; and when they believed Philip, they were baptized both men and women, and had great joy. And afterwards Peter and John came from Jerusalem, and prayed, and laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. Mark here, they first believed, and then were baptized, having great joy, and yet had not received the Holy Ghost. But that was given afterwards, by the laying on of hands and prayer, in the name of Jesus. Oh, how different from the systems of men! Witness Paul’s conversion while on his journey to Damascus; the Lord Jesus appeared to him in the way; but instead of telling him, his sins were forgiven, and pouring the Holy Ghost upon him, he sent him to Damascus, telling him that it should there be told him what he should do. And coming to Damascus, Ananias being sent, commanded him not to tarry, but said unto him, “arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord:” then he arose, and was baptized, and was even filled with the Holy Ghost–and straightway preached that Jesus was the Christ.
[p.8]Again, witness Peter going to Cornelius, a gentile of great piety, whose prayers were heard, whose alms were remembered, and who had even attained to the ministering of an angel; yet with all his piety, and the Holy Ghost poured out upon him, and his friends, before they were baptized, yet they must be baptized, or they could not be saved. Why? because the Lord had commanded the apostles to preach to every creature, and every creature who would not believe, and be baptized, should be damned, without one exception. Witness the words of the angel to Cornelius. “He, (Peter) shall tell you words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.” Now, query, could Cornelius have been saved without obeying the words of Peter? if so, the angel’s errand was in vain. Recollect, Peter commanded them to be baptized. Now methinks that a minister who should find a man as good as Cornelius was, would say to him, go on brother, you can be saved, you have experienced religion, you may indeed be baptized to answer a good conscience, if you feel it your duty, or if not it is no matter, a new heart is all that is really necessary to salvation, &c. As much as to say, that the commandments of Jesus are not absolutely necessary to salvation; a man may call him Lord, Lord, and be saved, just as well as to keep his commandments. O vain and foolish doctrine; O ye children of men, how have you perverted the Gospel; in vain do ye call him Lord, Lord, and do not obey his commandments.
Next, we call to mind the Jailor, and his household, who were baptized the same hour they believed, without waiting for the day. And Lydia and her household, who attended to the ordinance, the first sermon they heard on the subject.
Also, Philip and the Eunuch, who stopped the chariot, at the first water they came to, in order to attend to the ordinance, while a few minutes before was the first he had heard of Jesus. Now, I gather from all those examples of ancient days, and from the precepts laid down in them, that baptism was the initiating ordinance, by which all those who believed and repented were received and adopted into the church or kingdom of God, so as to be entitled to the remission of sins, and the blessings of the Holy Ghost; indeed it was the ordinance through which they became sons and daughters; and because they were sons, the Lord shed forth the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, crying Abba, Father. It is true, the Lord poured out the Holy Ghost upon Cornelius and his friends, before they were baptized; but it seemed necessary in order to convince the believing Jews, that the Gentiles also had part in this salvation. And I believe, this is the only instance in the whole record, of the people receiving the Holy Ghost, without first obeying the laws of adoption. But, mark! Obeying the laws of adoption would not constitute a man, an heir of the kingdom, a citizen entitled to the blessings, [p.9]and gifts, of the Spirit, unless these laws, and ordinances, were administered, by one who had proper authority, and was duly commissioned from the King; and a commission given to one individual, could never authorize another, to act in his stead. This is one of the most important points to be understood, as it brings to the test every minister in Christendom; and questions the organization of every church on earth, and all that have existed since direct inspiration ceased. Now, in order to come at this subject in plainness; let us examine the constitution of earthly governments, in regard to the authority and laws of adoption. We will say, for instance, the President of the United States writes a commission to A. B.; duly authorizing him, to act in some office in the government, and during his administration; two gentlemen from Europe, came to reside in this country, and being strangers, and foreigners, wishing to become citizens, they go before A. B., and he administers the oath of allegiance in due form, and certifies the same, and this constitutes them legal citizens, entitled to all the privileges of those of natural-born citizens, or subjects.
After these things, A. B. is taken away by death, and C. D. in looking over his papers, happens to find the commission given to A. B., and applying it to his own use, assumes the vacant office; mean time, two foreigners arrive and apply for citizenship, and being informed by persons ignorant of the affairs of government, that C. D. could administer the laws of adoption, they submit to be administered unto by C. D., without once examining his authority; C. D. certifies of their citizenship, and they suppose they have been legally adopted, the same as the others, and are entitled to all the privileges of citizenship. But by and by, their citizenship is called in question, and they produce the certificate of C. D.; the President inquires who is C. D., I never gave him a commission to act in any office, I know him not, and you are strangers and foreigners to the commonwealth, until you go before the legally appointed successor of A. B., or some other of like authority, who has a commission from the President, direct in his own name. In the mean time, C. D. is taken and punished according to law, for practising imposition, and usurping authority, which was never conferred upon him. And so it is with the kingdom of God.
The Lord authorized the apostles and others by direct Revelation, and by the spirit of Prophecy; to preach and baptize, and build up his church and kingdom; but after a while they died, and a long time passed away, and men reading over their commission, where it says to the eleven apostles; “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, &c.”–they have had the presumption to apply these sayings as their authority, and without any other commission, have gone forth professing to preach the Gospel, and baptize, and build up the church and [p.10]kingdom of God; but those whom they baptize never receive the same blessings, and gifts, which characterized a saint or citizen of the kingdom, in the days of the apostles. Why? Because they are yet foreigners and strangers, for the commission given to the apostles, never commissioned any other man to act in their stead. This was a prerogative the Lord reserved unto himself. No man has a right to take this ministry upon himself, but him that is called by Revelation, and duly qualified to act in his calling, by the Holy Ghost. But the reader inquires with astonishment–what! is none of all the ministers of the present day called to the ministry, and legally commissioned? Well, my reader, I will tell you how you may ascertain from their own mouths, and that will be far better than for me to answer; go to the clergy and ask them if God has given any direct Revelation, since the New Testament was finished; inquire of them whether the gift of prophesy ceased with the early age of the church; and in short ask them if revelations prophets the ministering of angels, &c.; are needed or expected in these days, or whether they believe that these things are done away, no more to return to the earth; and their answer will be, the Bible contains sufficient, and since the Canon of Scripture was full, Revelation has ceased, the Spirit of Prophecy has ceased, and the ministering of angels have ceased, because, no longer needed; and in short they will denounce every man as an impostor who pretends to any such thing and when you have obtained this answer, ask them, how they themselves were called and commissioned to preach the gospel, and they will be at a loss to answer you, and will finally tell you the Bible commissioned them; saying, go ye into all the world, &c. Thus you see, all who have no direct revelation from the King of Heaven to themselves, neither by angels, nor by the voice of God, nor by the Spirit of Prophesy: are acting under authority which was given to others, who are dead, and their commission stolen, and their authority usurped; and the king will say, Peter I know, and Paul I know, I commissioned them, but who are you? I know you not, I never spoke to you in my life, indeed you believed it was not necessary for me to speak in your day. Therefore you never sought in faith for any Revelation, and I never gave you any, and even when I spoke to others you mocked them, and called them imposters, and persecuted them, because they testified of the things I had said unto them; “Therefore depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels, for I was an hungered, and ye fed me not, I was naked, and ye clothed me not, I was a stranger, and ye took me not in, sick and in prison, and ye visited me not.” Ah! Lord, when did we fail in any of these things? Inasmuch as you have not done it unto the least of these, my brethren (taking them for imposters, because they testified of the things which I had revealed unto them,) ye have not done it unto me. [p.11]But to return; having examined the kingdom of God, as to its offices, authorities, laws and ordinances, and having discovered the only means of being adopted into it, let us examine more fully, what are the blesings, privileges, and enjoyments of its citizens. You have already seen, by the laying on of hands in the name of Jesus, as well as to see visions, dreams dreams, prophesy, &c.
But let us look at the kingdom in its organized state, and see whether these promises were verified to Jew and Gentile, wherever the kingdom of God was found in all ages of the world.
Paul, writing, first, to the church of God at Corinth; second, To them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus; third, To them who are called to be saints; and fourth, To all that in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord both theirs and ours.–He says to them all, in 1 Cor. xii. 1.; “Now, concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.” And then continuing his instructions a few verses farther on, he says, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another, the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another, faith by the same Spirit; to another, the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, discerning of spirits; to another, divers kinds of tongues; to another, the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he (Christ) will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member where were the body?” I reply it would not exist. “But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again, the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body [p.12]together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles; secondarily prophets; thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts. And yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.” From the 13th verse of the above chapter, we learn that the Apostle is still speaking to the whole church in all ages, whether Jew or Gentile, bond or free, even all who should ever compose the body of Christ, and showing that Christ’s body, possessing all these different gifts, some one gift, should not say to another member possessing another gift, we have no need of thee.
And having shown that it required apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers; together with the gifts of Prophesy, miracles, healing, and all other gifts, to compose the church, or body of Christ, in any age, whether Jew or Gentile, bond or free; and having utterly forbidden any of the members ever to say, of any of these gifts; we have no need of thee; he declares the body never could be a perfect body, without all of them, and that if they were done away, there would be no body, that is, no church of Christ in existence. Having shown all these things clearly, he exhorts them to covet earnestly the best gifts. And in the 13th chapter exhorts them to faith, hope, and charity, without which all these gifts would avail them nothing; and in the 14th chapter repeats the exhortation,”Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may Prophesy.” Again, in the Ephesians, i. 17, Paul prays, that the Lord would give unto the church the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation, in the knowledge of God. Again, Ephesians iv. He tells, them, there is one body and one Lord, one Spirit, one Faith, and one Baptism; and that Christ ascended up on high, led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men. And he gave some Apostles, and some Prophets, and some Evangelists, and some Pastors, and Teachers. And if the reader inquire what their gift or offices were for, let him read the 12th verse; “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” And if we inquire how long these were to continue, the 13th verse says, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the mea-[p.13]sure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” And if he still inquires what further object Christ had in giving these gifts? let him read the 14th verse, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”
Now, without these gifts and offices, first, the saints cannot be perfected; second, the work of the ministry cannot proceed; third, the body of Christ cannot be edified; and fourth, there is nothing to prevent them from being carried about with every wind of doctrine. Now, I boldly declare that the cause of all the division, confusion, jars, discords, and animosities; and the reason of so many faiths, lords, baptisms, and spirits; yea, the reason the understanding being darkened; and of men being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts; is all because they have no Apostles, and Prophets, and other gifts, inspired from on high, to whom they give heed; for if they had such gifts and would give heed unto them, they would be built up in one body, in the pure doctrine of Christ, having one Lord, one Faith, and one Baptism, one hope of their calling; yea, they would be edified, perfected, built up unto Christ in all things, in whom the whole body fitly joined together, would grow into an holy temple in the Lord.
But so long as the cunning craftiness of men can persuade them that they have no need of these things, so long they can toss them about, with every wind of doctrine, just as they please.
Now reader, I have done our examination of the kingdom of God, as it existed in the apostles days; and we cannot look at it in any other age, for it never did, nor ever will exist, without Apostles and Prophets, and all the other gifts of the Spirit.
Were we to take a view of the churches, from the days that Inspiration ceased, until now, we should see nothing like the kingdom which we have been viewing with such admiration and delight. But instead of apostles and prophets, we should see false teachers whom men had heaped to themselves, and instead of the gifts of the Spirit, we should see the wisdom of men; and instead of the Holy Ghost, many false spirits; instead of the ordinances of God, commandments of man; instead of knowledge, opinion; guess work, instead of Revelation; division, instead of union; doubt, instead of faith; despair, instead of hope; hatred, instead of charity; a physician, instead of the laying on of hands for the healing of the sick; fables, instead of truth; evil for good, good for evil; darkness for light, light for darkness; and in a word, anti christ instead of Christ; the powers of earth, having made war with the saints and overcome them, until the words of God should be fulfilled. O my God, shut up the vision, for my heart sickens while I gaze; and let the day [p.14]hasten on when the earth shall be cleansed by fire, from such awful pollutions; but, first, let thy promise be fulfilled, which thou didst make by the mouth of thy servant John; that thou wouldst call thy people out of her; saying, come out of her my people, lest ye partake of her sins, and receive of her plagues; and then, O Lord, when thou hast called thy people out from the midst of her, by the fishers and hunters, which thou hast promised to send in the last days, just in time to gather Israel; yea, when thine everlasting covenant has been renewed and thy people established thereon; then let her plagues come in one day, death, mourning, and famine, and let her be burned with fire; that thy holy apostles and prophets, and all that fear thy name, small and great, may rejoice, because thou hast avenged the blood of thy saints upon her. I ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.