The Church in History
CORRUPTION OF EVANGELICAL FAITH
It is not my purpose to write an ecclesiastical history, but in order to make clear the work of final reformation, it will be necessary to present at least a brief sketch of historic Christianity, outlining particularly those leading features which show a radical departure from the true church as originally constituted by our Lord and his apostles.
[Sidenote: “The faith”]
In the days of primitive Christianity there was something called “the gospel,” “the truth,” “the form of sound words,” “the faith." To understand its fundamental nature is not difficult, for it has been preserved and handed down to us in the writings of the New Testament. According to this record, the gospel message, or “the faith,” centered in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, who died and rose again that he might be a “Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31). “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). Around this central fact of salvation from sin through faith in Christ clustered those other truths and facts which either necessarily resulted from the new relationship of redeemed humanity with God or were essential to its visible manifestation and propagation. Prominent among these features were the entire sanctification of believers, holy life and conduct, the baptism, gifts, and leadership of the Holy Spirit, and the visible unity and relationship of believers in one body, the church.
[Sidenote: An apostasy foretold]
I need not take time or space to describe the wonderful successes of Christianity as long as the primitive purity and power of the gospel message was sustained and its results realized in a living, Spirit-filled church. But facts compel me to record a change from that happy condition. This transition was foreseen by those who “spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Paul declared: “Some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1); “Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). Peter predicted, “There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies” (2 Pet. 2:1). Jesus himself declared, “Many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matt. 24:11, 12).