The True Church
“Men fancy if they join this Church or that Church, and become communicants, and go through certain forms, that all must be right with their souls. It is an utter delusion. It is a gross mistake. All were not Israel who were called Israel, and all are not members of Christ’s body who profess themselves Christians. Take notice, you may be a staunch member of what you deem the Church, Episcopal or otherwise, and yet not belong to the true Church. And if you do not, it will be better at last if you had never been born.”
– J. C. Ryle (1816 – 1900)
‘The Devil’s Mission of Amusement’
“An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross, so brazen in its impudence, that the most short-sighted of spiritual men can hardly fail to notice it. During the past few years it has developed at an abnormal rate, ever for evil. It has worked like leaven until now the whole lump ferments. Look which way you may, its presence makes itself manifest.
It is only during the past few years that “amusement” has become a recognized weapon of our warfare and developed into a mission. There has been a steady “down grade” in this respect. From “speaking out,” as the Puritans did, the Church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she has tolerated them in her borders, and now she has adopted them and provided a home for them under the plea of “reaching the masses and getting the ear of the people.” The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the Church of Christ that part of her mission is to provide entertainment for the people with a view to winning them into her ranks. The human nature that lies in every heart has risen to the bait. Here, now, is an opportunity of gratifying the flesh and yet retaining a comfortable conscience. We can now please ourselves in order to do good to others. The rough old cross can be exchanged for a “costume,” and the exchange can be made with the benevolent purpose of elevating the people.
All this is terribly sad, and the more so because truly gracious souls are being led away by the specious pretext that it is a form of Christian work. They forget that a seemingly beautiful angel may be the devil himself, “for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14).
Now, surely, if our Lord had intended His Church to be the caterer of entertainment, and so counteract the god of this world, He would hardly have left so important a branch of service unmentioned. If it is Christian work, why did not Christ at least hint it? “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every Nation,” is clear enough. So would it have been if He had added, “and provide amusement for those who do not relish the Gospel.” No such addendum, however, is to be found, nor even an equivalent for such, in any one of our Lord’s utterances. This style of work did not seem to occur to His mind. Then again, Christ, as an ascended Lord, gives to His Church specially qualified men for the carrying on of His work, but no mention of any gift for this branch of service occurs in the list. “He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers – for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Where do the “public entertainers” come in? The Holy Ghost is silent concerning them, and His silence is eloquence.
If “providing recreation” be a part of the Church’s work, surely we may look for some promise to encourage her in the toilsome task. Where is it? There is a promise for “my Word”; it “shall not return unto me void.” There is the heart-rejoicing declaration concerning the Gospel: “it is the power of God.” There is the sweet assurance for the preacher of Christ that, whether he be successful or not as the world judges success – he is “sweet savour unto God.” There is the glorious benediction for those whose testimony, so far from amusing the world, rouses its wrath: “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people, or because they refused to? The Gospel of amusement has no martyrology. In vain does one look for a promise from God for providing recreation for a godless world. That which has no authority from Christ, no provision made for it by the Spirit, no promise attached to it by God, can only be a lying hypocrite when it lays claim to be “a branch of the work of the Lord.”
But again, providing amusement for the people is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all His apostles. What is to be the attitude of the Church towards the world according to our Lord’s teaching? Strict separation and uncompromising hostility. While no hint ever passed His lips of winning the world by pleasing it, or accommodating methods to its taste, His demand for unworldliness was constant and emphatic. He sets forth in one short sentence what He would have His disciples to be: “Ye are the salt of the earth.” Yes, the salt: not the sugar-candy nor a “lump of delight.” Something the world will be more inclined to spit out than swallow with a smile. Something more calculated to bring water to the eye than laughter to the lip.
He was in awful earnestness, and His ministry was like Himself. Had He been less uncompromising, and introduced more of the “bright and pleasant” element into His mission, He would have been more popular. Yet, when many of His disciples went back. because of the searching nature of His preaching, I do not find there was any attempt to increase a diminished congregation by resorting to something more pleasant to the flesh. I do not hear Him saying, “We must keep up the gatherings anyway: so run after those friends, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow. Something very short and attractive, with little, if any, preaching. Today was a service for God, but tomorrow we will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it, and have a happy hour. Be quick, Peter; we must get the public somehow, – if not by Gospel, then by nonsense.” No, this was not how He argued. Gazing in sorrow on those who would not hear the Word, He simply turns to the twelve, and asks, “Will ye also go away?”
Jesus pitied sinners, pleaded with them, sighed over them, warned them, and wept over them; but never sought to amuse them. When the evening shadows of His consecrated life were deepening into the night of death, He reviewed His holy ministry, and found comfort and sweet solace in the thought, “I have given them thy Word.” As with the Master, so with His apostles – their teaching is the echo of His. In vain will the epistles be searched to discover any trace of a gospel of amusement.
What a contrast to all the rot and nonsense now being perpetrated in the holy name of Christ! The Lord clear the Church of all the rubbish that the devil has imposed upon her, and bring us back again to apostolic methods!
“Come out!” is the call for today. Sanctify yourselves. Put away the evil from among you. Cast down the world’s altars and cut down her groves. Spurn her offered assistance. Decline her help, as your Master did the testimony of devils, for “He suffered them not to speak, because they knew Him.” Renounce all the policy of the age. Trample upon Saul’s armour. Grasp the Book of God. Trust the Spirit who wrote its pages. Fight with this weapon only and always. Cease to amuse and seek to arouse. Shun the clap of a delighted audience, and listen for the sobs of a convicted one. Give up trying to “please” men who have only the thickness of the ribs between their souls and hell; and warn, and plead, and entreat, as those who feel the waters of eternity creeping upon them.
Let the Church again confront the world; testify against it; meet it only behind the cross; and, like her Lord, she shall overcome, and with Him share the victory.”
– Archibald G. Brown, ‘The Devil’s Mission of Amusement’ (1889)
“For the Christian it [compromise] means that he concedes something that God has given, or sets aside something that God has revealed, for the sake of coming to terms with the situation that he faces. It may mean bowing to some convention, clinging to some prejudice or defending some tradition. It may be an attempt to accommodate someone else’s wishes or to curry someone’s favour. Or it may be to preserve reputation or earn ‘respectability’. When we are dealing with truth, if there is concession there is compromise.”
“Compromise is that inner whisper of the self-life that would turn us from the path of total, unswerving obedience to the will of God.”
– Arthur Wallis, ‘The Radical Christian’ (1981)
A true radical of the Kingdom
“A true radical of the Kingdom is a man who stands on clear ground in relation to truth. He cannot compromise his conscience, tamper with his convictions, or bend biblical principles for the sake of status or security. Though he does not court unpopularity for its own sake, he is not afraid of it if it comes. His concern is to obey God, and leave the consequences with him. All forms of unreality or pretence are an anathema to him. In words and actions he is captive to principle rather than expedience. This means that he will not hesitate to speak the truth in love for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. Nor is he happy to ignore matters which need to be raised, in order to avoid an unpleasant confrontation. In the Kingdom of God radicalism means unswerving righteousness.
The clarity and courage of the radical Christian enables him to cut through the hypocrisy, unreality and trivia that often conceal root issues, as Jesus did with the scribes and Pharisees, and expose the truth for all to see: He has learned to discern between human enthusiasm and the zeal of the Spirit, between soft-heartedness (which is basically selfish) and spiritual compassion (which is sacrificial), between easy-going tolerance and true forbearance. On the other side of the coin, he is not stampeded into compromise for fear of people viewing him as narrow-minded, exclusive, uncooperative, or superior.
In his convictions the radical is a black-and-white man. Greys don’t figure in his colour scheme. Or to put it differently, when it comes to important issues he refuses to sit on the fence or adopt a ‘wait-and-see policy’. It’s right or it’s wrong. It’s true or it’s false. It’s light or it’s darkness. He cannot go along with those who, for personal considerations, are content to live in the twilight.”
– Arthur Wallis, ‘The Radical Christian’ (1981)Test yourselves
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?
(2 Corinthians 13:5)