Authority And The Pulpit -- By: Charles H. Oliphant

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 061:242 (Apr 1904)
Article: Authority And The Pulpit
Author: Charles H. Oliphant


Authority And The Pulpit

Reverend Charles H. Oliphant

“I hung my verses in the wind,—
Time and tide their faults should find!
All were winnowed through and through.
Five lines lasted sound and true!
Sunshine cannot bleach the snow,
Nor time unmake what Poets know.
Have you eyes to find the five
Which five hundred did survive? “

R. W. Emerson, The Test.

“The final form of truth may come to be simply a summing-up of the experience of mankind as it has affected human destiny through the history of the world.”—Carl Hilty, Happiness, p. 135.

The design of this article is a plea for authoritative preaching. Lest its position be misunderstood, a few preliminary propositions may be stated.

Truth is everywhere and always sacred. Congregationalism is the denomination which can afford to make all truth its ally and to be frank about it. From its rise in Brownism, our churches have stood squarely for intellectual freedom and spiritual fellowship. “If I am bound to believe what they say who are in authority, then my conscience is subject to error.”1 Thomas Goodwin somewhere averred that “Errors maintained against knowledge are alone vital.”

We of the new century are done with the ancient device of setting the sun by the dial of our creed. Denominationally it is our pride that we are “authors of liberty,” and walk

not only in God’s ways made known, but also to be made known, to us. A leader in another communion has said, “The Congregational Church is the foremost intellectual power on this continent.” The denomination should aim still to deserve this reputation. Among the sects, our witness is to the perpetual reasonableness of faith, to the unfettered mind, to the enlightening office of Christ. According to Justin Martyr, “All pagans who live reasonably, or by the word of wisdom, have the Son” (Logos). Never was it more evident than it is to-day, that “truth is the daughter of time, not of authority.”

By the logic of her birth and bringing-up, Congregationalism is committed to the principle of intellectual liberty. It is a dangerous denomination, and we love it. There is freedom to err in it; therefore, there is freedom to know the truth. In such a communion the errors that move for adoption have perpetual leave to withdraw; the evil humors that arise, liberty to come to a head, and cure themselves.

That the age we live in is religious, none will doubt. Yet its religiousness shows a greater diversity...

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