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Introduction to Miller’s Church History

By Andrew Miller

Many have neither time nor opportunity for reading the voluminous works that have been written from time to time on the history of the Church. Still, that which has been the dwelling place of God for the last nineteen hundred years must be a subject of deepest interest to all His children. We speak not now of the Church as it is often represented in history, but as it is spoken of in scripture. There it is seen in its true spiritual character, as the body of Christ, and as the “habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph 2.22).

We must always bear in mind, when reading what is called a history of the Church, that from the days of the apostles until now, there have been two distinct and widely different classes of persons in the professing Church: the merely nominal and the real – the true, and the false. This was predicted. “For I know this,” says the apostle, “that after my departure shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them”(Acts 20). His Second Epistle to Timothy is also full of warnings and directions as to the various forms of evil which were then but too plainly manifest. A rapid change for the worse had taken place from the time that his First Epistle was written.

It is interesting to mark the difference on this point between the First and the Second Epistles to Timothy. In the first, the Church is spoken of according to its true character and blessed position on the earth. There it is seen as the house of God – the depository and display of truth to man. In the Second Epistle, it is spoken of as what it had become through the failure of those into whose hands it had been entrusted.

Take one passage from each Epistle in illustration.

  1. “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly. But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house God, the pillar in ground of the truth” (1Tim. 3.15).
  2. “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and dishonour” (2 Tim. 2. 20).

Here all is changed – sadly changed. In place of Devine order, there is hopeless confusion.  In place of the house being kept according to the will of God and suitable for Him, it was arranged and ordered according to the will of man, and for his own personal advantage and exaltation. Thus early had the evils, which have been the sin and the disgrace of Christendom ever since, made there appearance. But this was overruled for good. The Spirit of God, in great mercy has supplied us with the plainest directions for the darkest day of the Church’s history, and has pointed out the way of truth for the worst times; so that we are left without excuse. Times and circumstances change, not the truth of God.

The Mistakes Of Historians

Some historians have not taken into account this sad mixture of evil vessels with the good – of true Christians and false. They have not themselves been spiritually minded men. Hence they have rather made it their chief object to record many unchristian and wicked ways of mere professors. They have dwelt at great length, and with great minuteness, on the heresies that have troubled the church – on the abuses that have disgraced it, and on the controversies that have distracted it. Much rather would we endeavour to trace, all down through the long dark pages of history, the silver line of Gods grace in true Christians; though at times the alloy so predominates that the pure or is scarcely perceptible.

God has never left Himself without a witness. He has had His loved and cherished, though hidden, ones, in all age and in all places. No eye but His could see the seven thousand in Israel who had not bowed the knee to the image of Baal, in the days of Ahab and Jezebel. And tens of thousands, we doubt not, even from the darkest ages of Christianity, will be found at last in the “glorious Church,” which Christ will present to Himself, on the long –looked –for day of His nuptial glory. Many precious stones from the rubbish of the “middle ages” will reflect His grace and glory on that crowning day. Blessed thought! even now it fills the soul with ecstasy and delight. Lord, hasten that happy day for Thine own Name`s sake!

The truly godly are instinctively humble. They are generally retiring, and for the most part but little known. There is no humility so deep and real as that which the knowledge of grace produces. Such lowly and hidden ones find but a small place on the historic page.