I think it is profitable for us to be familiar with what our forefathers in the faith taught. This helps to refine our own thinking on particular issues and to understand how we got here. To be ignorant of our own history is to be unaware of how it continues to shape us. So, from time to time, I like to publish articles written in days gone by for our edification. This comes from F. D. Srygley, the front page editor of the “Gospel Advocate” from 1889 until his untimely death in 1900 at only 44 years old. His editorials were collected and published in book form as “The New Testament Church” by his brother in 1910, where we find this article. I submit it for your consideration on what it means to advocate for simple New Testament Christianity. BP
Some weeks ago the Christian Standard said those who are engaged in the current reformation and commonly known as “disciples of Christ,” or “Christians,” do not, in the aggregate, makeup, or constitute, the church of Christ. It is marvelous what a great commotion such an innocent-looking little statement has produced. The usually clear-headed editor of the “Texas Department” of the Apostolic Guiderepudiated the Standard, and seriously asks what are we, anyhow, if not the church of Christ. The Christian Leaderrants over about all the ground between Campbell’s baptism and Gabriel’s trumpet, pounding everything that will make a fuss by way of opposing the Standard on this question. True, the Leader does not, in so many words, say we are the church of Christ; but it says enough to show it has a small opinion of any man who says we are not.
Everybody seems to be either hurling theological missiles of an argumentative character at random, or shying around logical corners, to dodge those thrown by somebody else. Would it not relieve the situation considerably if somebody would explain: (1) Who are we? (2) What is the church of Christ? I have been thinking about the first of these questions, off and on, for years. I believe it was R. C. Cave who asked me, about six years ago, by what rules of measurement I located the lines and limitations of that we. I explained it to Brother Cave then-to my own satisfaction; but it is not so clear now. To get the exact “meets and bounds” of that we is a difficult problem. Suppose it is admitted that “we as a people constitute the church of Christ? What then? Am I one of the “we as a people?” Who is to decide that question? The Leader and the Standard could not settle it. They have never settled anything since I can remember.
As to the second question, the Standard holds substantially that all who have been scripturally baptized and are living godly lives are members of the church of Christ. There are many who have been scripturally baptized and are living godly lives who are not counted with us. There are such persons in the Baptist Church and the Methodist Church, and in many other churches. Therefore, the Standard concludes we are not the church of Christ. The reasoning is good, the definitions seem correct, and the Standard, I think, is right. The question of apostasy enters into this problem. Men and churches apostatize. We do not know exactly the point at which God ceases to recognize a man as a Christian because of apostasy. We know Christians can apostatize, and we know God does not recognize apostates as Christians. The same is true of churches. What was the church of Christ while Paul lived ceased to be the church of Christ because of apostasy in the centuries after. But to determine the exact time at which the Lord ceased to recognize it as the church of Christ because of apostasy would be impossible. God only knows that time. No church is at any time wholly free from apostasy. The mystery of iniquity is continually working in all churches. That God does bear with evil doers and continue to recognize a church as a church of Christ after it has committed some very grave errors, the Bible plainly teaches. That such errors, if persisted in and increased, will carry the church beyond the limits of God’s forbearance and cause him to cease to recognize it as a church of Christ, is also clearly taught. But the exact point at which it ceases to be a church of Christ because of apostasy no man can tell. From this point of view, therefore, it would be impossible to say “we as a people” compose the church of Christ. Many who yet remain among us as a people may have long since passed the limit of God’s forbearance by apostasy. The safer plan, therefore, is for every man to “fear God and keep his commandments.”