Jesus laid a foundation for friendly organizations and families of love, who, being united in the possession, and living under the power and influence of, his Gospel, might be acted by a friendly and brotherly affection, and from thence be led to be helpers to, and watch over each other for their good.
They are to bear one another's burdens, sympathize with and comfort one another under the various afflictions and persecutions they might meet with in, and from the world; and by a good example provoke one another to love and good works.
Christian societies are intended to be a specimen of the blessed effects of the Gospel of Jesus, when it is received as it ought to be ; that is, when it becomes a principle of action in men, which rightly directs and governs their minds and lives.
Christianity is not a name, but a thing; and therefore it is not the professing, but living, according to the Gospel which truly represents it to the world. Christians are known to be such, not by their name, or by their profession, but by their lives. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35.)
The banner of a Christian is not the picture of a cross hung upon a pole, or made upon a man's forehead; but it is a virtuous and blameless conversation, or a mind and life conformed to the Gospel of Jesus. These are the purposes which Christian associations are intended to serve, and thus Jesus intended that such associations should be subservient to the furtherance of the Gospel, and should recommend it to a general acceptance.
Jesus did not lay the foundation of friendly organizations to answer the purposes of pomp, or wealth, or power.
He never intended that among his disciples and followers, some should be singled out from their brethren to be possessed of great revenues, live in stately palaces, wallow in luxury and ease, or sordidly heap up riches to raise a family; nor that they should lord it over those by whose labors they are maintained, clothed in pompous and elaborate dresses, placed on thrones or garnished stalls and feats of honor, assuming and exercising dominion over their brethren; and that others should labor to maintain them, be subject to them, bow down before them, and call them Rabbi, Rabbi.
Jesus was so far from giving any approval to anything of this kind, that on the contrary he has strictly forbade it.
"But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve," (Matt: 20:25-28)
And also, “But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' because you have only one teacher, and all of you are brothers. And don't call anyone on earth 'Father,' because you have only one Father, the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'Teachers,' because you have only one teacher, the Anointed One! The person who is greatest among you must be your servant.” (Matt. 23:9-11.)
Here we see Jesus has taken all possible care that no authority or dominion, superiority or pre-eminence, dignifying or distinguishing should take place among his disciples and followers considered as such. He has not only forbidden it, but repeated that prohibition over, and over, and over.
This is the charge which Jesus has given; and therefore Reverend, Right Reverend, and Most Reverend Fathers in God, and all other badges of distinction, and marks of honor pre-eminence, superiority, or dominion, which take place in Christian organizations considered as such, and which serve to introduce a groundless respect and veneration for the persons of men, and a groundless submission to their pretended authority, are not only not Christian, but the most gross Anti-Christianism. They are set up in opposition to, and in defiance of Jesus’ authority, and his special charge and command to the contrary.
This is not to say that Christians are not to render to their fellow Christians honor to whom it is due, (that is, to such of their fellow Christians who, by their virtue and good works, have rendered themselves worthy of it), and by showing decent marks of respect to them.
But if, in a Christian organization, a person seeks to be greater than others, it must be, not by his having greater possessions, or greater marks of honor conferred upon him, or by exercising dominion over his brethren (these being Anti-Christian) but it must be in his greater services and in his being more useful than others, in imitation of his Master, who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.
(Adapted from sermons by Rev. Thomas Chubb)