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    May 29, 1907

    “The Right of Individuality and of Conscience” The Medical Missionary, 16, 22, pp. 170, 171.



    IN the preceding article we studied the principles and the practice of the Church as illustrated in the Scripture instance of Diotrephes and the historical development of Diotrephes’s procedure in the making of the papacy.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 170.1

    There is another phase of that scripture account of Diotrephes that should be noticed. That is, the case as it relates to the membership of the Church, the domination of which was seized by Diotrephes. And that this may be studied to the best advantage, we set down here again the verses of Scripture that tell it:—MEDM May 29, 1907, page 170.2

    “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.” John 9, 10.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 170.3

    From the plain scripture record it is evident that not all of the members of that Church disregarded the arrogance and commands of Diotrephes. It is evident that some and apparently the majority, did yield to the will of Diotrephes. For if the whole church had disregarded his will and commands, it could not be said that he cast them out of the church; and even if the majority had disregarded him, it could then hardly be said that he “casteth them out of the church” for that would be, in effect, casting out the church itself, and not the casting of certain ones out of the church. Therefore, by the text, it seems that the majority of the church submitted to the arrogance and commands of Diotrephes. Yet it is perfectly plain that there were some who would not submit to this, but did disregard it; and to the extent that they were cast out of the church by him. And they were willing to be cast out of the church by him, rather than to submit to him in the position and authority which he had assumed.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 170.4

    Now it stands on the very face of the whole narrative that Diotrephes was wholly wrong.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 170.5

    1. He loved to “have the preeminence among them;” which, as we have seen, was at once to put himself in the place and position of Christ.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 170.6

    2. He refused to allow the Word of Christ through His apostle to come to the church.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 170.7

    3. He prated against the apostle “with malicious words.”MEDM May 29, 1907, page 170.8

    4. He refused to receive Christian brethren.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 170.9

    5. He assumed authority to command Christ’s servants and forbid them to receive other Christian brethren.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 170.10

    6. And when some disregarded his assumption, he cast them out of the church.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 170.11

    In every one of these things Diotrephes was wrong; and those who refused to recognize or submit to him in those things, were in the right and did right.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 170.12

    All this is plain. Therefore it is equally plain that those members of the church that submitted to Diotrephes in the course which he took, did wrong and committed themselves to the wrong thing. And in addition to this, by so doing—they put their endorsement upon the course of Diotrephes as the right thing and thus encouraged and supported him in that wrong course.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 170.13

    The issue that was there made by Diotrephes was the straight and plain issue of whether the brethren of the church should be loyal to Christ or loyal to Diotrephes. It was the straight and plain issue that for any member of that Church to be loyal to Christ was to be openly disloyal to Diotrephes; and to be loyal to Diotrephes was to be openly disloyal to Christ. And further the issue was so clear that even to submit to Diotrephes, not out of chosen loyalty, but only from policy, this itself was disloyalty to Christ.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 170.14

    But those who were loyal to Christ were by Diotrephes cast out of the church. Yet since these were loyal to Christ, when they were cast out of the church that was dominated by Diotrephes they were not by any means nor in any sense out of the Church of Christ—they were only out of the Church of Diotrephes. And to be out of that church was a good deal better than to be in it. And those who were out of it were a good deal better off than were those who were in it. Since by Diotrephes’s procedure that church could be composed only of those who were submissive to him, for all others must be cast out; and since his whole position and course was anti-christian, then that church was plainly a church of anti-christ instead of a church of Christ, and the only true place for Christians was outside of it. And indeed, Christians could not be in it for he cast them out.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 170.15

    By the fact that some submitted to Diotrephes while others would not, it is perfectly plain that there was division in that church. But who made the division? Beyond question a breach was made in the church. But who was responsible for that breach? Can it be laid to the charge of those who were in the right, who did the right thing, and who were loyal to Christ?MEDM May 29, 1907, page 170.16

    NO: the division, the breach,—the whole difficulty from beginning to end—was caused wholly by Diotrephes himself. He had assumed—usurped—position and authority that in no wise belonged to him, but only to Christ. Then in that position he chose to pursue a course that was the opposite of all the whole Spirit, and Word, and way, of Christ. Then when some would not consent nor submit to this, he would not permit any such thing as any right of dissent from his will and dictation; he would not recognize any such thing as the relationship and allegiance of the individual person to Christ direct; he would not allow any right of individual conscience and choice; all of which belongs by divine right forever to every Christian everywhere; yet none of this whatever would Diotrephes allow—he cast them out of the Church.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 170.17

    Diotrephes, therefore, and Diotrephes alone, was wholly responsible for the division and breach that was in that church. He made the division, he made the breach, himself alone.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 170.18

    No Christian can ever be rightly charged with any responsibility for any division, or breach, or difficulty of any kind whatever, that arises because of his being a Christian, or because of his acting on Christian principle, or because of his standing loyal to Christ above all.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 171.1

    Ah! and just here there was raised that subtle and arrogant—that Diotrephesian—question: Who shall decide just when and whether the individual church member is acting really on Christian principle, and is in reality standing loyal to Christ? Might he not mistake just what is Christian principle? and just what is loyalty to Christ? Therefore, should not he allow in favor of Diotrephes, the official, the weight of authority, safety, and certainty?MEDM May 29, 1907, page 171.2

    But the official himself is only an individual; and that would be nothing else than one individual;—Diotrephes, deciding for another individual—the private church member. It would also be nothing else than one individual’s consenting that another individual should decide for him. And that would be nothing else than the one individual’s surrendering to the other individual, his own individuality, so that that other individual would then be deciding for both himself and the other. But what guaranty would there be that Diotrephes could decide for himself and the other man, any more safely or certainly than the other man could decide for himself. Any such guaranty could be only because of his being an official and occupying a position. The guaranty, then, would attach not to the individual—Diotrephes—but to the office, to the position, to the chair! And there you have the whole principle of papal infallibility in an instant.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 171.3

    Again: the official is himself only an individual. And if the individual church-member is not capable of deciding for himself, then is not the individual official equally incapable of deciding for himself—even as an official? If the individual church-member must have the individual official to decide for him, then who shall decide for the individual official? Must there not be some higher and more official official to decide for this one? and so on back———how far? Yet somewhere in that course you must come at last to the farthest one back: to the highest possible and most official of all officials, who decides for himself and the other man. But wherever this limit shall be set, and this final official found, when he is found, he is found to be nothing else than simply an individual, and an individual deciding for himself.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 171.4

    Thus in this Diotrephesian course, there is no escape from finally an individual who decides for himself. And with this, there is no escape from the danger and possibility of that individual’s mistaking just what is Christian principle and exactly what is loyalty to Christ. But that is only where you started. And there stands the original question, How can there be any more safety and certainty in one individual’s deciding for himself and the other man too, than in the other man’s deciding for himself; especially when the one has to decide for himself anyhow? And when you land at last where the individual of your own choosing does decide for himself, why not accept the truth and principle of the thing, and land there at first, and recognize freely before God, and as from God, the divine right of individuality and of conscience everywhere and always?MEDM May 29, 1907, page 171.5

    But it may be asked, Does it not equally involve the claim of infallibility—the infallibility of the private individual, when the private individual claims the right and the capability of deciding for himself in disregard of the will and command of Diotrephes?—Not at all. Because the private individual is not depending upon any figment of office or position, nor is he even depending upon himself, to decide it; but upon the Holy Spirit and the promise of Christ that the Spirit will guide him into all truth. And the infallibility is in the Holy Spirit where it justly and only belongs.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 171.6

    Still the query may be raised, Might he not mistake even the way of the Spirit? Yes, even that is possible. But still beyond that he has ever the sure promise of Christ that the Holy Spirit “Will guide you into all truth.” That is to say, the Holy Spirit is able to guide a man even out of his mistakes as to the guidance of the Spirit. And He will do this for every one who trusts him; for He is divine, and there alone is infallibility. And the divine Spirit of promise is infinitely more capable of showing to a man his mistake, and of guiding him out of it, than ten thousand Diotrepheses could possibly be.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 171.7

    It comes, then, simply to this, that the Holy Spirit is the sole source of appeal and of judgment among Christians. And whosoever among Christians takes upon him to judge or to decide for another, usurps the place of the Holy Spirit, and asserts for himself the divine prerogative of infallibility.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 171.8

    Therefore, in all matters of difference between individual Christians, even though it be between a “preeminent” official and a private member of the church, there must be recognized the right of individuality and of conscience before God; each and all must, in the fear and honor of God, bow to that right of individuality and conscience; and in brotherly love and mutual forbearance, each commit the other and the whole matter to the Holy Spirit, trusting His infallible guidance, judgment, and decision. Thus there will ever be maintained, “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace;” for “He will guide you into all truth.”MEDM May 29, 1907, page 171.9

    All this will always be perfectly plain and easy to every Christian, to every one who will honor the Holy Spirit in the place that is His in the Church. But to Diotrephes, never: Diotrephes must have “the preeminence;” Diotrephes must go beyond his office; Diotrephes must usurp authority; Diotrephes must ascend the throne; Diotrephes must take the seat of judgment and decision; Diotrephes must pronounce the decree; and to all this all must bown or be cast ouf of the church.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 171.10

    And there is no middle ground. Everywhere, always, and with all in the church, it is the Holy Spirit or Diotrephes; in other words, Christianity or the Papacy.MEDM May 29, 1907, page 171.11

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