1908 Circular Letter of Virginia Annual Meeting

THE GOVERNMENT OF CHRIST’S CHURCH

Written by: Elder William M. Smoot, Dec. 1908

Very Dear Brethren in the Lord: – One year ago in the Circular Letter which we addressed you, we called attention to the organic life and character of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ; in our present Circular, we desire to call attention to the government of that Church. As a testimony for our guidance we direct attention to the Scripture recorded in Matthew v, 19: “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the Kingdom of heaven.”

As noticed in our last Circular, the Savior in this connection calls attention to the character of the Church of Christ, as separate and apart from the world of nature. The Church is spiritual, this world is natural; she is from heaven, this world is from beneath; she is eternal, this world is temporal: hence the Church is an organization whose organic life is essentially different from that of nature.

All of the provisions of this Church; all of her support, comfort, encouragement and enjoyment comes down from heaven her native clime. As she is spiritual her government must be spiritual. As she is the Bride of Christ; she must be under the government of the Bridegroom; as surely as she is the body of Christ, so surely is she under the government of Him whom God has given “to be the Head of all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.”

In the connection of our subject the dear Master calls attention to the accurate character of this government, not a jot or tittle of which is needless, but must all be fulfilled.

“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so. . .” In earthly governments how much there is which is superfluous, how much needless, uncalled for enactments; how much and constant infractions, and violations, that pass frequently unknown, and often unnoticed: but not so in the Kingdom of which we write. Things that might be regarded as small and insignificant are big with meaning, and essential in this perfect government; and he whose eagle, discerning eye can see, and whose faith can grasp as observing these least commandments is here called “great in the Kingdom of heaven.”

Whether the least or the larger, each in its place, and all in their observance, present and embody the necessary and essential Truth taught by the Master in this memorable sermon to a people called out from the multitude and “up into a mountain;” emphasizing the character of their life, the testimony which they were to observe, written in lines of living light, true to itself, in all of its developments, as the tiny rain drop is as truly water as the down pour; following the law of its nature in streams little or large downward to the seas.

The teacher in Israel who can trace the order in the larger, to be truly great, must trace that order in “these least commandments” as well. And the declaration is emphatic, that he must not break one of these. This surely does not excuse the careless, unconcerned and sloven teacher; who cares neither for diligence nor promptness: to whom any how or any way, especially if it be an easy or lazy path, recommends itself; and who appears unable to discern the importance of small things in the execution of the government of this Kingdom.

How often do we hear the remarks from such slip-shod, and sloven characters that there is no need of being so particular; no use for so much attention to small things; the matter is too small to cause trouble, &c.

The commandments alluded to embody the “faith which was once delivered unto the saints;” the doctrine taught by the dear Master, and so fully and clearly expressed in this sermon on the mountain. They are seen in the legal net-work which underlies the Gospel covenant, and what may be termed (Hebrews vi, 1,) “the principles of the doctrine of Christ;” hence Jesus says; “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

Do any regard it as a small thing to affirm or deny that the sinner is born over again, yet upon it hinges the entire economy of the Gospel? Do any regard it as a small thing to claim predestination as limited or unlimited? If so, here again rests a foundation principle of Gospel Truth, and so on through the entire economy. And as in the doctrine, so in the order. Do any claim that an identity in a secret society of this world is no bar to church membership, that such an error is too small to notice; do some claim that such as worldly sports, and things such as life insurance are not worth our notice? That the church of Christ must open her doors to the world, and has no right or obligation to withdraw herself from the multitude, (Matthew v, 1;) here again, as small and insignificant as such errors seem, the very essence of the Means and Measures doctrine appear in them.

When the Queen of Sheba came from a far country to King Solomon, to behold his glory, when she had seen “the house that he had built, and the meat on his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel; his cup-bearer’s also, and their apparel; and his ascent by which he went up into the house of the Lord; there was no more spirit in her.” – 2 Chronicles ix, 1-5. We have here a figure of our subject: a typical testimony of the church of Christ and her government. No little or large thing is left out in the embodiment of this figure. The meat of the table, the order in which the members sat; the manner in which the ministers attended upon their work; the garment of praise (Isaiah lxi, 3,) with which they were clothed, together with all else presented in the figure, assuredly shows the perfect travel of the Gospel Church.

Nor did this figure lack the life-breathing power of the living substance, for it is said that Solomon told the Queen “all her questions,” and “she communed with him of all that was in her heart.” And when she saw him mount his lofty throne, “his ascent by which he went up into the house of the Lord:” here indeed was a wonderful view of the mediatorial throne of our Lord. No wonder it is written that she said: “It was a true report which I heard in mine own land of thine acts, and of thy wisdom.” Again, “and behold, the half was not told me.” Cannot the dear children of grace who have beheld the travel of the Gospel Church clothed in Gospel order, and maintaining Gospel doctrine re-echo this same sentiment? These are figures of a glorious and an enduring substance.

The Gospel Church is the throne of God. His eye is upon her travel; His promises insure her absolute safety, and that she shall endure; that the light shall ever fall from off her holy altar; and that she shall bear witness to Truth eternal; not a stake shall be removed, not a cord shall be broken. – Isaiah xxxiii, 20.

Here is her glorious equipment, and her continual travel. Here is her beautiful doctrine and her precious order, and the perfection of her government. Well has the Lord by the prophet said, “Son of man, mark well, and behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears all that I say unto thee concerning all the ordinances of the house of the Lord, and all the laws thereof.” – Ezekiel xliv, 5.

In the perfection of this glorious government, gifts are bestowed, men are raised up as teachers to Israel. And no one can truly teach, or be considered great, who ignores or breaks one of “these least commandments;” looking away from the principles of the Gospel of Christ, failing to discern the legal framework, the typical covenant, as failing to grasp and understand the nature, travel, or end of the church, and the glorious perfection of her government.

“But whoever shall do, and teach them, the same shall be called great in the Kingdom of heaven.” The great teacher in spiritual Israel, the Savior here informs us, is the one who lives what he teaches; “shall do, and teach.” He is looked upon by “weak and beggarly elements,” as being entirely too exacting, “too particular about small things.” His faith grasps the government and travel of the church in its heavenly and accurate requirements, completely separate and apart from the natural and the world. Attention is paid to the smaller, and the larger things also are not overlooked. He understands the principles alluded to in Hebrews and hence necessarily understands their substance. He is not satisfied with the slip-shod way of weaker elements. His measurements are not from the stand-point of the weak and carnally-minded, but from that of Gospel grace. And thus indeed is he considered great.

Such an one may not be great in earthly wisdom, wealth or fame; but is great in the eye of that Holy Law, and among that Holy People whose God is the Lord; and whom the Lord has formed for Himself to show forth His praise.

Such gifts are assuredly the product of the Spirit. Ezekiel in chapter i, 4, describes the appearance of the glory of God, and says, “And out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures.” These living creatures (truly called ministers of Gospel grace) came from the sea of living light, and were the off-spring thereof. They are spiritual gifts, not natural. Their life is in their work; their interests centers there. They are divinely taught, sustained, and kept, and labor in the heavenly Kingdom, and unto a people “whose God is the Lord.”

Our Meeting this session has been a refreshing season, we sincerely hope, from the presence of God. Our churches have been well represented, reporting a peaceful and happy travel; may we hope, under the Guiding Hand. The weather has been good; and a large congregation has been in attendance with the churches. Peace and harmony have prevailed in our deliberations; and the order upon the ground has been all that we could desire. Under such circumstances we can well say, “Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord?”

Our next session is appointed to be held, if the Lord will, with the church in Washington, D. C., Thursday and Friday before the 3rd Sunday in October, 1909, when and where we hope to meet you in brotherly correspondence again, if God permit.

William M. Smoot, Moderator.
L. H. Potter, Clerk, 1908.