John Bailey Adger on living in imperfect churches

John Bailey Adger (1810-1899) was a 19th c. Southern Presbyterian missionary, pastor, and seminary professor. His classic work, My Life and Times, tells the story of 19th century Presbyterianism in the South through the eyes of one who lived in nearly every year of the century. In this wonderful passage from a sermon entitled, “Church Power,” Adger explains that in this world we will always be members of imperfect churches:

“The one plain and simple mark of a true Church is true doctrine. Still, of course, there is often a true Church where much imperfection prevails, both of doctrine and of practice. And no uninspired man more fully and beautifully than John Calvin has expounded how we must adhere to the Church, howsoever imperfect, so long as she maintains fundamental truth. A perfect Church has never existed on the earth. Such a Church does not now exist, and never will
exist, till the final consummation. We must be tolerant of the Church’s minor imperfections. We must be submissive to the authority of imperfect churches.”

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