THE DIVISION OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST,

INTO SEVERAL BODIES, AND ITS RE-ORGANIZATION

INTO ONE GENERAL BODY.

by Rev. John Wesley

I will take for my text this sentiment from the New Testament: "I will draw all men unto me, and there shall be one church and one people."

The church which was organized by our Lord[A] Jesus Christ was designed to establish a feeling of brotherhood between separate and distinct classes of people, and to abolish the system of castes, which was the prevailing sin of the eastern nations.

[Footnote A: The word "Lord" is used in the sense of an earthly lord who cares for his people.]

Christ made no distinction between the Sadducee and the Pharisee, the publican and the saint, the high priest of the temple and the lowliest of his followers. He placed the affections above the intellect, truth and sincerity above wealth and worldly position.

The church which he originated for many years followed in his footsteps. But as it increased in numbers it accumulated wealth, and with wealth came power, and from that power issued discord and separation.

Thus, the church divided and subdivided, and split into a thousand pieces, formed new interests, created new beliefs, and sowed dissension and envy with a free hand.

Such has been the condition of the church for the past ten or twelve centuries. Meanwhile, in the Heaven of Heavens, has arisen a powerful movement directed towards restoring it to its original state of purity and simplicity. This great movement, like a mighty river seeking its outlet, has rushed on, diverging at several points, and at length found the reservoir it sought in what is termed Spiritualism.

The spiritualistic movement opened the gates for the expression of skepticism, which the formalism, the tyranny, bigotry, and externalism of the Church awakened in the minds of the people of every enlightened Christian nation; and the result has been a criticism so pungent, and an examination so thorough and direct, into the deformities of the Church, that she has been obliged to contemplate her own condition and the rottenness of her position, until she fairly trembles at the view of her disjointed parts.

On every hand now, at the present moment, efforts are being made to consolidate to rejoin. On one side you behold the Protestant Episcopal Church offering to unite with the Methodists, from whom, since my day, they have stood aloof, as an illegal and fanatical people whom they could not fellowship.

On the other side, you see them stretching to the Roman Church, forming a brotherly compact of forms and ceremonies with Papacy.

One branch of the Presbyterian Church wears the robes of the Roman
Church, and thus that is linked to Catholicism.

All these denominations which have stood apart so long, whose theology has been so antagonistic, are now merging into one Church.

In the face of the great danger which Spiritualism or Liberalism has brought to their sight, they endeavor to return to their first estate, but in returning they lose their identity.

This result is sure, though unperceived by them.

One by one, they will give up this point of difference and that point of difference, this creed and that creed, for the sake of harmony. This vestment they lay aside, and that form, until they will all be swallowed up, and neither Methodists nor Calvinists, Baptists nor Lutherans, Armenians, Jews, nor Gentiles, will remain. Then the primitive Church of Christ will be revived again upon earth, simple and unostentatious; its creed will be the creed of Jesus Christ:

"The brotherhood of man, and the love of God for his children."

This creed, you perceive, embraces the whole of the spiritualistic faith, which is causing these great changes throughout the Church of Christ on earth.

* * * * *

At this point it will not be inappropriate to make some allusion to the mysterious sounds which occurred in my house in Lincolnshire, England, at intervals within the space of three or more years during my earthly ministrations.

These mysterious sounds, even in that day, were supposed to have been caused by spirit agency. I have ascertained that that supposition was correct; and my attention has since been directed to the fact in Church history, that every separation from the Church body which has originated in a desire to return to the simplicity and purity of the primitive followers of Jesus, has been attended by similar mysterious demonstrations.

Luther and Mclancthon, Knox and Calvin, and the earnest dissenters and reformers of every age, have been haunted in like manner. I say haunted, for they generally have misunderstood the aim of these spiritual visitants.[A] It has devolved upon the scientific researches and the skeptical but investigating mind of the nineteenth century to form a process by which the spirit of the departed can communicate with the dwellers in Time.

[Footnote A: The spirit of Rev. Dr. John M. Krebbs, of New York, states through this clairvoyant that the cause of his mental aberration while on earth was a misinterpretation by him of a spiritual vision which he was permitted to receive. Thus misunderstanding the aim of his spiritual visitants, he became haunted with a fallacy which ultimated in his death. ED.]

To me this science was unknown. Had I been acquainted with the facts with which I am now familiar, I might have established a more liberal Church, but as it was, this daily association with an unseen spiritual presence enlarged my views of the condition attending the soul after death, and caused me to give utterance to thoughts which happily have aided in preparing the world for the Universal Church which ere long will lift its towering dome toward Heaven.