O Church of God, thou
On Jesus' breast secure!
No stains of
sin in thee abide.
Thy garments all are pure;
Thy gentle voice doth sing,
Of purity and
Thy songs of triumph ring.
A number of years had
passed since Edwin began preaching, and in the suburbs of a
large city where the houses were numbered in groups of twos
and threes, there was a certain quiet dwelling that could not
help attracting the notice of the passerby; for the place,
surrounded as it was by a pretty grassy lawn with a few choice
flowers scattered here and there, disclosed the fact that the
occupants of the cottage were lovers of the beautiful.
Through an open window a
song of praise was floating, and upon the face of the fair and
noble young woman within could be read happiness, contentment,
and love. She was busying herself about the stove, for she was
Edwin's wife, and she was preparing her husband's evening
meal. God not only had raised the poorhouse waif above his
difficulties, but had given him in addition a good Christian
companion to comfort and encourage him.
A smile and a cheerful
word were Edwin's greeting when he returned from the
post-office. Seating himself in the large comfortable chair
that had been placed by loving hands close beside the window,
he began at once to examine the mail. There were several
letters, which were each read in turn; but when Edwin came to
the paper, his face wore a puzzled expression, for the latter
was not his own.
"I guess a mistake has
been made somehow at the post-office," he said, "for this
paper belongs to another person; but I see that the wrapper is
loose, and I suppose it will be all right for me to slip it
off and look the paper over, for that's what I hope the other
fellow will do with mine." Then as he proceeded to unfold the
large religious periodical, he remarked, "I haven't yet found
a paper that can come up to our own, and we can rejoice
tonight because whoever has it will have something good to
At the very beginning of
their home life, Edwin, feeling that some good religious paper
ought to come regularly to their home, had chosen from a
bundle of sample copies the paper he considered best suited
for their purpose, and for some time it had been making its
weekly visits to their home. Since then it had been his custom
to read aloud either from it or the Bible while his wife was
busy about her household duties. In this way they could talk
over together the subjects that puzzled them while these were
still fresh in their minds.
As Edwin's eyes fell upon
the title of the new paper that he had just brought and found
that the name of the paper contained three words and that the
middle word was Gospel, he said, "Well, it at least has a good
name, and now we'll see if it teaches what its title
The heading of an article
that read, "God's Word as Our Guide," next attracted his
attention; and when he began reading, his wife left her partly
prepared supper to come and look over his shoulder.
"As trusting children of
God, we naturally look to him for guidance; for he has said,
'I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way that thou
shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.' When two paths lie
before us and we know not which one to take, we ask God to
make known to us the way that he would have us take. God is
willing to do this. He is glad to have us follow where he
"That is very good,"
Edwin's wife remarked.
Drawing a chair beside his
own for her, Edwin said:
"Never mind the supper.
Sit down, and we will eat later."
Then he read: "In Exod.
19:5 God says that his people will be a peculiar treasure unto
him above all people. This great favor is bestowed upon all
those who obey his voice. When we see how much people have
cost him, we can comprehend, in a measure, how precious we
must be in his sight. Naturally we value anything by its cost.
If this rule be applied here, truly God must place great value
upon his people; for he spared not his own Son, but delivered
him up for us all. He must therefore estimate our value by his
Next he read under the
heading God's Church: "No one thing on earth is complete
enough in its nature to fully represent the church of God.
Neither is the human mind able to grasp singly a name that
would express every feature of the church. For this reason God
has made use of many relative names, such as kingdom, Zion,
holy city, house, body of Christ, bride of Christ, family,
sheepfold, vine and its branches, and other similar
"First, let us consider
the word 'church.' It means a congregation of people separated
from the world (John 15:19). Next, God's church is
characterized by being separate from the world and all its
evils (2 Cor. 6:14), and Christ is the head (Eph. 1:22), the
door (John 10:9), the foundation (1 Cor. 3:11), and the chief
corner-stone (Eph. 2:19,20)."
For a moment the paper
dropped idly in Edwin's hands, for the truth of God was
streaming down into his heart. Ever since his talk in the
summer-kitchen with Mrs. Miller, when she said that she was
converted at the time when she joined church and in answer to
Edwin's question as to what the church was replied that the
church was the little building where the roads met, he had
felt that there was such a thing as "the church," but he could
not get it settled that it was the building on the corner, as
Mrs. Miller had told him that it was. But whenever so situated
that he could do so, he had continued to be a regular
attendant of every religious service either at that place or
in some adjoining community. In his heart he felt that as the
meaning of eternity, prayer, and conversion had been revealed
to his entire satisfaction, God would in his own good time
help him to discover the true meaning of the word "church."
Presently he read under
another heading: "The gospel of salvation that Christ preached
penetrated the dark places of sin and idolatry like sun rays
driving back the darkness of night. Wickedness in the hearts
and lives of men gave way to grace and truth. Christ then
established his church. True holiness adorned her fair brow.
Unity and purity were her chief characteristics. Of her it is
said, 'Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee'
(S. of Sol. 4:7). And again, 'My dove, my undefiled, is but
one' (S. of Sol. 6:9). 'He [Christ] is the head of the body,
the church ... that in all things he might have preeminence'
founded, and built the church, God claims exclusive right to
the government. She is not 'our church,' but 'God's building,'
owned by God alone. All her members are the sons of God and
bear his holy image. 'God hath set the members every one of
them in the body, as it hath pleased him' (1 Cor. 12:18), for
'ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.'"
For a moment Edwin paused
to meditate upon what he had read; then he continued:
"It is God himself that
assigns each member his place in the church, or the body of
Christ, and makes known to him what his line of spiritual work
is to be--'Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in
particular. And God hath set some in the church, first
apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that
miracles, then gifts of healing,' etc. (1 Cor. 12:27,28).
"The origin of the church
is the immediate result of conversion and is inseparable from
it. 'I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast
given me; for they are thine. Neither pray I for these alone,
but for them also which shall believe on me through their
word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me ...
that the world may believe that thou hast sent me' (John 17:9,
20, 21). 'As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the
word, that ye may grow thereby ... ye also, as lively stones,
are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer
up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy
nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the
praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his
marvelous light: which in time past were not a people, but are
now the people of God.' (1 Pet. 2:2, 5, 9, 10)."
Again Edwin paused, and as
the wonderful beauty and completeness of God's plan concerning
his people dawned upon his mind, his large brown eyes were
brightened with tears of joy, and he said to his wife:
"I believe I understand at
last what is meant by 'the church.' All converted souls, both
dead and alive, and of every nation or race of people in the
world, make up God's church, and to become a member of the
church is to be converted, or born into God's family."
"Read on," his wife said
eagerly, and Edwin continued:
"God's people are not to
forsake the assembling of themselves together to worship him
(Heb. 10:25); 'for where two or three are gathered together in
my name there am I in the midst of them.' (Matt. 18:20).
"It may be a mystery in
the mind of some why we read in the Bible of churches, when
God has but one church. A little attention to the word will
convince any honest mind that the church of God is plural only
in regard to its geographical location. The people in the
different communities could not go up to Jerusalem in order to
assemble themselves together in worship, for the distance in
some instances would have been too great. Thus, it became
necessary for many to form home congregations. But although
they were often widely separated, the same sweet fellowship
was flowing in the hearts of all, and God looked upon them all
together as his church, or the body of his beloved Son. The
idea in referring to the church, or the divine congregation,
as a bride and wife in relation to Christ was to teach their
close relationship. 'And I will betroth thee unto me forever;
yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in
judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies. I will even
betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the
Lord' (Hosea 2:19, 20). 'For I am jealous over you with godly
jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may
present you as a chaste virgin to Christ' (2 Cor. 11:2). 'He
that hath the bride is the bridegroom' (John 3:29). 'For thy
maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy
Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth
shall he be called' (Isa. 54:5). 'Let us be glad and rejoice,
and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come,
and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted
that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for
the fine linen is the righteousness of saints' (Rev. 19:7, 8).
Since no man can rightly have more than one wife, God has but
one church, and Christ is her husband."
"Wife," Edwin said, "this
truly is wonderful. I see it all clearly now. God has had a
purpose in keeping me from joining the little church on the
corner, for I was already born into God's church when I was
converted. He understood my ignorance; and although they have
long since changed their minds concerning me, the ten years
that I requested to prove my sincerity have shielded me from
making a mistake, and my name has long ago been enrolled in
As they continued to
glance over the pages of the paper, they came to a large
advertisement of a camp-meeting to be held in an adjoining
State. After reading the urgent invitation to all who could to
come to the spiritual feast, Edwin said that he would like
very much to attend that meeting. It was impossible for them
to both leave at the same time, but Edwin's wife urged him to
go while she remained to take care of things at home.
Before retiring that night
Edwin told his companion about the first camp-meeting that he
ever attended. "I know," he said, "that I was looked upon by
many as a lunatic, but I'm glad that God realized and
understood all about the difficulties that had surrounded my
early life. And, Wife, if I had it all to do over again, I
could never know more perfectly how to consecrate myself to
God and to realize the completeness of his love within my
heart." And thus their talk continued long into the night.
Their supper had been forgotten, for they were feasting on
When the time for the
meeting arrived, Edwin bade his wife farewell at the station;
and as it was but a few hours' ride, he was soon at his
destination. His general appearance as well as his
understanding of the three languages helped him to make a far
better impression than he had made at the time of him
conversion, but his same innocence regarding sinful pleasures
was still very noticeable. From his earliest recollections in
the poorhouse his desire to do right for principle's sake had
never left him. This desire and God's wonderful protection had
guarded him against many evils that might in later years have
entangled his feet and obstructed his pathway.
What he saw and heard in
the meeting was in such harmony with all that God had taught
him and with what he had read in the Bible that he said, "Of a
truth I have found God's church, and his people shall
henceforth be my people."
He was still of the same
humble, teachable spirit, and when he returned to his home, he
carried many rich morsels of truth to his loving and faithful
"One God and Father of
all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Eph.
4: 6). "He will guide you into all truth" (John 16: