Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 10, 1951
NUMBER 2, PAGE 14-15b

The Simplicity Of The Divine Economy

Benjamin Franklin

(Editor's Note: Seventy-five years ago, brother Benjamin Franklin brought forth the second volume of his "Gospel Preacher." The last sermon in that book bore the above title. It is a magnificent setting forth of the plain and simple truths concerning the government and work of God's church. In view of the very serious jeopardy in which God's plan seems now to be standing, we think it appropriate and timely to give our readers the full text of brother Franklin's sermon. It is much too long to be carried in one, or even two, issues of the Guardian; hence, we break it down into some five or six articles which we will run as a series.)


In the works of God everything is arranged in the best possible manner—no room is left for improvement.

No light, invented by man, or what is called artificial light, is as good as the light God has ordained for the day—the light of the sun. In the arrangement in nature, no human wisdom, or even angelic wisdom, can suggest a single improvement that would not result in failure. In the work of God everything is perfect. There can be no change without injury. This is true, not only in nature, but in all the works of God. No way can be invented to do anything better than the way God has ordained. It is preposterous and absurd to presume anything else, and worse to attempt it.

These men generally appear to know, in the whole range of temporal things. In the mechanic arts, natural powers, and all operations with material substances, the laws of nature, or the laws of God in nature, have to be strictly observed. If these laws are misapprehended, mistaken and violated, the consequences are certain. There can be no departure from them without disaster.

The Bodies — Human And Divine

The Lord has set the members of the human body in order, and ordained each one to perform its own part. There can be no change made in these members, or in their arrangement, or work, without disaster. The arrangement is simple, but it is perfect. It is the result of infinite wisdom. The body, as the Lord made it, with all the members, and the arrangement of the members, is complete and perfect. There is not a complication in the entire structure. Every emergency, or contingency, that can possibly occur in its operations, is provided for. The Creator did not make it and then wait to see how it would work, but he knew how it would work in every part. He did not create it, and leave somebody free to remodel it, organize it, as human wisdom might think best.

In the same way, the divine economy, in the New Institution, was perfect at the start. It cannot be improved—it is the perfection of infinite wisdom. The Lord's work, or the work he does himself, is simply right. The revelation he has made to man is perfect—complete. The gospel is perfect—complete. Nothing can be added, and nothing taken away, without bringing ruin to him who does it. The divine procedure, in the first promulgation of the gospel, and turning the people of the world from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, was right, and that procedure was a model for doing the same work in all time to come. The same gospel preached by the apostles must be preached now, and in all time to come, and preached in the same way. It must be heard and believed in all time to come, the same as it was then.

The same repentance must follow, now as then; the same confession of the Lord Jesus is required now, as was then; the same immersion, "into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," is required now to introduce a person into the kingdom of God, as was in the time of the apostles; the same promise of pardon, and the impartation of the Holy Spirit, stands as good today as it did in the time of the apostles. On all this we have stood as one man, and the united powers of all the parties around us have been unable to repel and resist us, or prevent our onward march. We have realized that the strength of the Lord was with us, and that our opposers could not stand before us.

The Congregations

When we immersed penitent believers into Christ, in any community, and brought them together, they were the congregation, assembly, or church, in that community. This was precisely the case in the procedure of the apostles. They preached the gospel to the people, and, hearing, the people believed and were immersed into Christ. Those thus turned to the Lord and gathered together, in any city, or section of the country, were the congregation of the Lord in that place, as in Jerusalem, Corinth, Ephesus, etc. After the apostles had called out people in this way, turned them to the Lord, and brought them into congregations, and time elapsed to prove them, the apostles visited them to see how they were doing, and "set them in order." In doing this work, they ordained overseers and deacons in every congregation.

But, though clothed with apostolic authority, they did not assume the right to select even the men who should "serve tables," but said, "Look you out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:3, 4) What humility is seen here, on the part of the apostles, in leaving it to the brethren to look out these men, and then the desire to commit "this business" into the hands of other men, and not to manage to get it into their own hands, and what devotion they manifested, in speaking of their desiring to give themselves "continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word."

Some men among us have talked much of the Bible being a book of principles. That it does contain principles —general principles—that ought to be observed, I doubt not, is one of the clear matters of divine revelation. In this Scripture we have from the apostles, a clear principle of procedure inculcated that is of immense value to the cause, and a great security against all usurpation in the congregations of the Lord. The apostles recognized the principle that the congregations have the right, and are commanded to look out men among them to perform any particular service, or attend to any particular "business," in or for the congregation. No man, nor set of men, came from abroad, looked out men among them, or brought men from abroad, and set them over "this business;" but the congregation itself "looked out these men." This is the first instance recognizing the right of the individual congregation to act, as a body, or a congregation of the Lord.

It is simply congregational action which the apostles commanded, and that, too, in a very important matter, selecting men to perform a certain function, or, in the plain style of Scripture—"attend to this business."

I am now ready to enter into a subject of vital interest to the cause—a matter involving, as I think, the safety and liberty of the people of God. To get into the subject fully and fairly, and to some extent by degrees, let some inquiries be instituted.

(Continued next week)