“Let all things be done decently and in order.” - 1 Cor. xiv. 40.
The great contests that have prevailed among us during the past few years over vital points of doctrine may have led us to overlook, for the time, equally important points of Gospel order. The order of the Gospel is as essential as the doctrine. We are unable to separate them, but regard one as inseparably linked with the other; and in some respects, but its outward exhibition. For instance, the order of baptism exhibits the doctrine of salvation. The doctrine of the death, burial, and resurrection of the dear Redeemer is set forth in the order of this ordinance. We are careful of the order of baptism, a deviation from the perfect pattern would not declare the glorious testimony that it embodies, and thus we might trace the grand principles of doctrinal truth in all the order of the Gospel.
By the term “gospel order,” we mean that which the Holy Scriptures teach, which the King in Zion has commanded. Through a manifestation of this Divine order the church, in her travel, is separated from all religious and worldly organizations. “Holiness to the Lord,” is written upon her.
Through it she stands as a visible witness to the truth of God, and the order of His house. Composed of individuals who, in a religious sense, have been called out from the world, it is said of them, “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” - Romans xii, 2. “Israel then shall dwell in safety alone.” The order of the Gospel is as much a revelation as the doctrine; and as absolutely requires a “Thus saith the Lord.” It matters greatly if the heavenly pattern is followed. As in the case with some points of the doctrine, some points of order may shine more conspicuously at one time than another, but in every case it is the same testimony that He gave of old, the copy that He has been pleased to set for our guidance in His holy, Gospel mountain.
We must look to that copy; we must not stop this side of it. No hand but the Divine could write the copy. Our eye must be alone upon it to rightly follow it. Baptist custom and usage is not the copy that we are to follow, only so far as it conforms to the original standard. What the Baptist did, or did not do a few; or many years ago, is of no moment only as it corresponds with the heavenly copy.
“Let all things be done decently and in order,” is the Divine injunction. The Apostle in the connection is speaking of the order of worship in the churches of the saints; an order to be observed as well as the doctrine to be preached.
He speaks of this worship as to show the invisible presence of the eternal King, who presides over this heavenly, spiritual worship. “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” He is the inspiration of this heavenly order of worship. He is the true Moderator. The “all things,” pertaining to it; the exercise of the various gifts in its ministration, are of God; and marked by an order at once becoming Him, and redounding to His praise. But this worship would not be to His glory only in the order that He has established.
And we can not question but what He who thus presides over the church in her travel will secure to her the priceless heritage of steadfastness in the heavenly order. It is worshiping God to obey His commandments. Embodied in the heavenly commandment is not only the thing to be done, but the manner in which the offering is to be made; it is to be done, “decently and in order.” A thing is not done decently, if done different from the manner in which it is ordered. It will look better to carnal reason, but will not fill the Divine testimony. It is for instance extremely indecent to substitute sprinkling for immersion in the order of baptism. In the glorious equipment of Solomon’s court every thing was in its place, an order reigned from the sitting of the king upon his throne, to every part of his court.
In the worship at the tabernacle, and the temple, order reigned supreme, and so it must be in the Gospel church; and the glory and beauty of the order of worship here far excels that of other days; for “if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away; how shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious; . . For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.” And thus the children of God realize when maintaining the doctrine, and walking in the order of the Gospel; when gathered together in the spirit of holy, gospel worship, maintaining inviolable the doctrine, and walking in the order of the gospel; testimonies that are at once “one and inseparable.” “Son of man, mark well, * * * all that I say unto thee concerning all the ordinances of the house of the Lord, and all the laws thereof.” - Ezekiel xliii.
Elder William Smoot