(Part of the Collection, Kersey's Essays)

Jesse Kersey

Taken From  A Narrative of the Early Life, Travels, and Gospel Labors of Jessey Kersey, Late of Chester County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: T. Ellwood Chapman, 1851, pages 229-237.

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[P. 229] In the origin of religious society it is reasonable to suspect that there should be a cause or a motive to justify a new establishment, and where such cause or motive is well founded the society may be considered as coming forth on a justifiable ground. To form sects or parties merely out of respect to a popular individual has more the appearance of an evil than a good in it. There has been at different periods of the world such state of religious sentiment and such conditions of society as have no doubt furnished just occasion for [P. 230] dissension and for becoming organized under a different name and with different views. Such was the fact when Martin Luther dissented from the Romish church. It was impossible for him to prevail upon that church to give up the doctrine of a purgatory or the faith it entertained in the Host and various other particulars which might be mentioned. It remained therefore for him to establish a separate society. Luther was acting in agreement with his judgment when he opposed the superstition of the Romish Church. In his labors to improve the profession of religion; all that he could do was to enlighten others as far as he had been enlightened himself. His establishment though separated from many of the useless forms of those that preceded him was not perfect or at least it embraced for its government forms and duties which subsequent reformers have deemed incompatible with the spirituality of the gospel. From this cause the way remained open for the gathering new societies. But when in the progress of the light of the gospel individuals were raised up who banished all unnecessary formalities and had embraced and cultivated the true Christian doctrines a foundation was gained incapable of reform. All subsequent divisions of Christian professors into sects and parties seem to have risen out of motives that are doubtful, and there is reason to doubt the soundness of their origin. Especially if it be true that the only justifiable cause for forming a new sect is that of arriving at a perfect society and a correct profession of Christian doctrine. There is, however, reason to believe that there have been many sects established upon the mere preference given to a popular preacher. If establishments upon such motives are to obtain credit we  [P. 231] shall look in vain for stability in the Christian world. One will continue to say I am of Paul, another, I am of Apollos, and I of Cephas. But upon such preferences it was never desired that religious communities should be formed; because were such a foundation countenanced or admitted it would open the way for every ambitious preacher to become the head of a party, and by this means the name of Christianity would be brought into contempt. So far therefore as the professors of the name of Christ have been divided from one another by following men rather than principles of faith to the same extent the cause of universal righteousness has been injured. To restore the church of Christ to harmony and t0 produce that oneness which was in the beginning must be the ardent desire of every true disciple. Or in other words to produce unanimity among the professors of religion; for as to the living members of the church they must at all times be as the multitude of the believers were in the beginning, "of one heart and of one soul, because the same mind that was in Christ is always to live in his followers and as this is experienced it takes away all division and they are one, even as He and the Father are one. With a view to bring about this oneness the present essay has been attempted. It has been clear to the writer that the divided state of mankind on the great subject of the soul's redemption is not a consequence of true religion but that it must be owing to a want of it. Whatever causes have contributed to produce this state of things, or remain in support of the divided state of the professors of religion he believes when all agree to lay down every degree of sectarian pride and prejudice, union of mind and judgment [P. 232] will follow and the sincere disciples of Christ finding that they are all possessed of the same mind that they are governed by the same spirit that dwell in Christ, and knowing that if any man have not the spirit of Christ he is none of his. They will necessarily be one even as He and his Father are one. To promote this great and blessed union that might extend from sea to sea and from the rivers to the ends of the earth must be to advance an object of the greatest value to mankind. Why then are we divided as at present? Is the religion of Jesus Christ who came to put an end to sin to finish transgression and in the room thereof to bring in everlasting righteousness of such a mysterious and hidden nature that its duties are not to be comprehended? How then did the Prophet Isaiah fall into so great a mistake as to say that the wayfaring man though a fool shall not err therein? Let all men think for themselves and examine what tends to produce in their own minds the greatest confidence, the most~perfect peace and happiness, and when they find this they will find the same thing in which the multitude of believers were united in the beginning. They will find that light that makes manifest all the unfruitful works of darkness a light which according to St. John enlightens every man that comes into the world. The same that gives man to see the error of his way and convinces the understanding of what there is occasion to repent of, what must he forsaken and given up in order to have fellowship with it. In this state it will be easy to see that the object of our devotion is the same. That the church of Christ has always been composed of members in unity one with another and that however religious professors may divide from [P. 233] one another. This church is made up of those that live in the light and walk in the light even as he is: in the light and therefore they necessarily have fellowship with each other. It was this same light which the apostle Paul calls the spirit, a measure whereof is given to every man to profit withal. The Spirit of Truth: the same which the blessed Jesus promised to his disciples and which was to teach them all things and bring all things to their remembrance. Accordingly we find his promise fulfilled to them on the memorable day of Pentecost,--when the Holy Ghost was sent down from heaven and rested on each of them, concerning which the apostle Peter bore testimony to the multitude and informed them. This is that which was spoken by the Prophet Joel saying it shall come to pass in the latter days that I will pour forth of my spirit upon all flesh and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy &c. To this gift of the spirit this light to enlighten the Gentiles, and for God's salvation to the ends of the earth the Holy Scriptures give ample testimony. In the early state of the Christian Church the Holy Spirit was received, believed in and obeyed. It was in their estimation, Christ within, the hope of Glory, the Power of God, and the Wisdom of God the same that was in the beginning of his creation and by which the worlds were made, the Alpha and the Omega. By the manifestation whereof the Gospel was preached in every creature. To which angels, principalities and powers, things in Heaven and in earth were to be subject. Under the immediate teaching whereof the Holy Scriptures were written. While the members considered this heavenly gift paramount to all other guides or means of Faith  [P. 234] they were a united body and their preaching and their example had a powerful influence upon mankind and the reason was this that they that heard them had the witness in themselves. But when the testimonies of those who were witnesses of the spirit were received by subsequent believers and held in preference to the spirit itself, then disagreement followed; one class urging one thing, and another urging another, one saying I am of Paul and another I am of Apollos, &.c. Some contending for circumcision, some for a respect to the Jewish restrictions upon the articles of food and others for regarding one day above another; others again esteeming every day alike. By such division and excuses of division the professors in process of time were separated and different doctrines obtained credit. Hence a door was opened for controversy and for the exercise of the wisdom, will and talents of men to take the lead in ordering and managing the plain simple concerns of the Church. Under these circumstances the fathers of one period were found at variance with those of another and contradictory systems and opinions obtained credit and were supported by their several parties and friends and that which in its rise gave the occasion of division, though it was viewed no doubt by the sincere followers as an occasion of regret and as likely to produce weakness and disorder, in the end became at length common, and apparently as at this day without remedy. Thus we may easily find the origin of the multiplicity of sects and parties among the professors of the name of Christ. While the sincere mind is taking a view of this progressive decline in the standing and character of the professed friends of Christianity,  [P. 235] it is impossible not to deplore the melancholy change, and the same spirit which leads to mourn over the many divisions and parties Which now exists will necessarily lead to the desire that they should become again united. If we believe that the doctrines of Christianity are plain and simple, and that which it is necessary for a man to believe in order to be a Christian may be readily attained, may we not conclude that a union might be perfected and a restoration gained to the primitive standing of the followers of Christ. To accomplish this great object it appears to the author there is but one way, and that is to go hack to the ground from whence we have departed. If we do so we shall not depend on the externals-of religion, but come under the guidance of the same Spirit as believed in in the beginning. We shall admit of the same liberties in obedience to this spirit which obtained among the prophets and apostles. Those liberties were not calculated to weaken the ties of moral obligation or in any degree to separate man from his fellow man. Our first enquiry with a view to return to the primitive state of the Church will be made into the duties which were deemed of positive obligation: these we shall attempt to separate from those of less weight and importance--and first as to ministers. Those of this class or character were, to he gifted by the Divine Spirit for the service. It was not thought possible that a man would be made a minister by any human means. This qualification was purely the of the Spirit, and woe rested upon such if they did not preach the gospel. Paul informs us that the gospel which he preached he received not from man neither was he taught but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. [P. 236] And for this cause the Most High made choice of him to make of him both a minister and a witness, delivering him from the people and from the Gentiles "to whom now I send thee to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God that they might receive forgiveness of their sins" and thus be united to the church of Christ. This apostle having freely received thought it was his duty freely to give, laboring with his own hands that he might not make the gospel chargeable to any. He did not preach by contracts or attempt after this manner to abuse his power in the gospel--nor did he ever alledge that his qualifications for the ministry were gained by outward or literary means. The same is the fact in relation to alt his companions in the work both male and female. They were all spiritually called and all bound by him that called them freely to minister what they had freely received. It may be remarked too that they did not believe the gospel stood in word only, but in power. Of this they gave ample testimony, and appear dearly to demonstrate that in their opinion the Gospel of Jesus Christ was the Power of God unto Salvation to all them that believe. To men and women who had this kind of understanding of the ministry of the gospel nothing could appear more preposterous than an attempt to sell it for money; I say to men and women because that women took part in the ministry is evident as acknowledged by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures. On this subject there has been among the professors of Christianity a melancholy change. They who now claim the character of ministers seem to think that they are entitled to it because they have acquired a knowledge  [P. 237] of the Oriental languages; they understand the Greek and the Hebrew and are therefore prepared in their own estimation to stand in the solemn office of ministers. But although those attainments may be supposed to have their advantages in a literary point of view, it is impossible that they should prepare any to turn a dark and deluded world from darkness to Light and from the power of Satan unto God. Of course they cannot prepare an individual to fulfil the important work of the ministry from all which we may surely believe that the numerous theological seminaries instead of producing union among the professors of Christianity will be instrumental in separating them if possible still wider one from another. Those schools will receive for ministerial education young persons who when they complete their studies will take it for granted that they must be clothed with the title of Doctors in Divinity--at the same time the truly enlightened Christian will think of them very differently--because such must always believe that it is not for man to select the officers in the church of Christ, any more than it is for him to furnish the requisite gifts or talents. Hence the Divines of human ordinations will always he estimated as having taken the presumed ground of worldly wisdom: in consequence of which it will be impossible for them to be the instruments of anion in the church of Christ.