One Flock, Not Many Folds.

1881 373 [Address given at the Conference held at Portadown, on the 24th of August, 1881, by Charles Parsons Reichel, D.D., Arch-deacon of Meath, and Professor of Ecclesiastical History in the University of Dublin, President of the Irish Church Methodist Society.]

There is no thought of meddling in these pages with the Irish Church, or its handmaid the Irish Methodist Society, any more than with any other denomination in particular. But it is serious to find a grave man calmly seeking a sanction of the principle and fact of different denominations in scripture, when it never speaks even of the tendency toward them save with reprobation. There were churches of course in different localities. But scripture only knows of the church on earth. "There is one body and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling." "In (or By) one Spirit were we all baptized into one body." The house of God in which we (like Timothy) have to learn how we ought to behave ourselves is "the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." A late evangelical dignitary used to speak of churches on earth, and the church in heaven. The Archdeacon of Meath goes farther apparently, and hints at something like distinct niches in heaven itself. "The one flock under the one Shepherd, as it will dwell in many mansions hereafter (John xiv. 2), so it sojourns here in many folds (John x. 16, Revised Version)." (Page 4.) This principle is a key (he adds), unlocking difficulties to which a more stringent theory of ecclesiasticism affords no outlet; and so he proceeds to draw from it a measure of consolation at the sight of disunited Christendom.

But the principle is false, the encouragement illusive, and the interpretation of scripture absolutely unsound. The Revised Version lends no more countenance than the Authorised Version to this mild justification of sects. There is not a trace of "many folds" as Dr. R. rashly infers. "Other sheep I have," said the Saviour, "which are not of this fold." They were Gentiles, outside the chosen nation whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the divine service, and the promises. The Jews alone composed the fold to which Messiah came. Rejected by the Jews, He becomes the door of salvation to sinners of the Gentiles as much as to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But as of old there were no folds recognised by Him among the heathen, so now He forms, not many folds, but "one flock," whether of the Jewish sheep led out of the fold (or enclosure of the circumcision), or of His wandering sheep among the nations. Both He not only saves, but gathers into one by virtue of His death (John xi. 52), and pleads with the Father that they all may be one, that the world may believe that the Father sent the Son: not yet perfected oneness in glory, that the world may know; but responsible oneness in grace, as a testimony for the world to believe.

No, Dr. R., this will not do. "Schisms" (or divisions within) are evil; "heresies" (sects or parties without) are yet worse. But worst of all is the effort to make one part of scripture, through an erroneous exposition, reverse the positive testimony throughout the epistles, which condemns (root, branch and fruit) all denominationalism (or many folds), as directly contrary to the will of God, the word of the Lord, and the operation of the Holy Ghost for and in the church. "Be it far from Thee, Lord," said Peter in all amiable feeling, shocked at the announcement of His coming shame and suffering unto death. But such language, such feeling, was of the enemy: Peter was minding not the things of God, but the things of men. Let us see to it that we have our senses exercised to discern good and evil.

"For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." (1 Cor. xii. 12, 13.)