Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 5, 1955

Institutionalism And The Apostate Church

George P. Estes, Maplewood, Missouri

Following are some quotations from Philip Schaff's church histories which have direct bearing on the present controversy:

"It is a remarkable fact that after the days of the apostles no names of great missionaries are mentioned till the opening of the Middle Ages." . . . "There were no missionary societies, no missionary institutions, no organized efforts in the Ante-Nicene Age."

"Christianity, once established, became its own best missionary. It grew naturally from within. It attracted people by its very presence. It was a light shining in darkness and illuminating the darkness."

"Every congregation was a missionary society, and every Christian believer a missionary, inflamed with the love of Christ to convert his fellow-men. The example had been set by Jerusalem and Antioch, and by those brethren who, after the martyrdom of Stephen, 'were scattered abroad and went about preaching the word'."

"The gospel was propagated chiefly by living, preaching, and by personal intercourse; to a considerable extent also through the sacred scriptures, which were early propagated and translated into various tongues." (Vol. II, pp. 19-21.)


"The episcopate (bishops over elders) grew out of the presidency of the presbytery (elders). The rise of the episcopate as distinct from the presbyterate came to view in the second century as the supreme spiritual office, and is retained to this day by all Roman and Greek churches ... A form of government so ancient and so widely adopted, can be satisfactorily accounted for only on the supposition of a religious need of a tangible outward representation and centralization to illustrate and embody to the people their relation to Christ and to God, and the visible unity of the church. It is therefore, inseparable from the Catholic principle of authority and mediation." (Vol. II, p. 133.)

"The episcopate was formed, not out of the apostolic order by localization, but out of the presbyterial by elevation; and the title, which originally was common to all, came at length to be appropriated to be the chief among them." (Vol. II, p. 494.)

"The reason why the chief title bishop (and not presbyter) was given afterward to the superior officer may be explained from the fact that it signified, according to monumental inscriptions recently discovered, financial officers of the temples, and that the bishops had charge of all the funds of the churches, which were largely charitable institutions for the support of widows and orphans, strangers and travelers, aged and infirm people in an age of extreme riches and extreme poverty." (Vol. II, pp. 494-5.)

"The institution of episcopacy proper cannot be traced to the apostolic age, so far as documentary evidence is concerned, but is very evident and well nigh universal about the middle of the second century." (Vol. II, p. 498.)


"Every congregation was a charitable society, and in its public worship took regular contributions for its needy members." (Vol. II, p. 374.)

"The organized congregational charity of the Ante-Nicene Age (before 325 A.D.) provided for all immediate wants. When the state professed Christianity (313 A.D.) there sprang up permanent charitable institutions for the poor,the sick, for strangers, widows, orphans, and helpless old men. The first clear proof of such institutions we find in the age of Julian the Apostate, who tried to check the progress of Christianity, and to revive paganism by directing the high priest of Galatia, Arsacius, to establish in every town a Xenodochium (institution) to be supported by the state and also by private contributions . . . . A few years afterward (370 AD.) we hear of a celebrated hospital at Caesarea, founded by St. Basilius, and called after him "Basilias" and similar institutions all over the province of Cappadocia. In the West, the institutions spread rapidly." (Vol. II, p. 876- 377.)

"The church at Rome had under its care a great multitude of widows, orphans, blind, lame, and sick." (Vol. II, p. 374.) church histories which have direct bearing on the present controversy:

From these foregoing statements of Philip Schaff, we find the Missionary Society, the "Sponsoring Church" cooperation, big "brotherhood projects" and orphan home institutions all arose out of the apostate church rather than the apostolic church. The following facts are evident:

(1) The gospel was spread by each Christian and each congregation in the early years of the church. The "centralized" method, and churches working con-jointly under one eldership or one group of men was a development of the apostate church, but did not originate with apostolic sanction.

(2) Each congregation took care of its own needy prior to the year 325 A.D. The first permanent institutions for the care of needy Christians were begun by Julian the Apostate, who was an outspoken critic of the church — and has come down through 1500 years of history as "the Apostate." His method or plan for institutional homes was adopted by the Roman Church. The church at Rome, leading in the apostasy, made benevolence its chief work; but the apostolic church placed chief emphasis on preaching the gospel.

(3) That "centralization of authority" which inevitably brought the full-grown Catholic apostasy began when one church (or several) handed over funds for benevolence into the hands of another church or eldership to be administered by them in some general program of benevolence. This is identical with the practice being followed today in the "sponsoring church" cooperation as it is exemplified in various brotherhood benevolences and the Herald of Truth.

(4) Present practices along these lines are simply a modern practice of old, old errors. In the past these errors lead directly to the Roman Catholic apostasy. Why do brethren in our day think they can follow the same road and reach a different terminal point?