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Christ and Baha'u'llah

by George Townshend

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Chapter 15

THE WILL AND TESTAMENT OF 'ABDU'L-BAHÁ

      JESUS CHRIST said, "My kingdom is not of this world.” and Christian people have been inclined to think that pure religion is subjective and mystical only and has little or no connection with the organization of institutions  or the making of laws or ordinances. This idea is quite alien to the New and the Old Testaments. The Kingdom of God is indeed a Kingdom, the ruler of which is not a philosopher nor a teacher, but a King with laws and subjects. The New Jerusalem which comes down from heaven and becomes the centre of the Kingdom represents the Law of God, while the distinctive function of the Lord of Hosts on earth is that "the government shall be upon his shoulder" and that He will administer "judgment and justice from henceforth, even forever."

      The Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá sets forth the administrative order by which this is to be accomplished, and, fathered by Bahá'u'lláh, provides the Bahá'í Faith with its historically unique feature — an administrative system based on the inviolable written Scripture, establishing and clearly defining the institutions, conferring authority, preventing schism, guarding the Revealed Word from adulteration, providing for its authoritative interpretation, and perpetuating the Divine guidance of the Lord of Hosts Himself.

      "The creative energies released by the Law of


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Bahá'u'lláh, permeating and evolving within the mind of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, have, by their very impact and close interaction, given birth to an Instrument which may be viewed as the Charter of the New World Order which is at once the glory and the promise of this most great Dispensation."[1]

      The administrative institutions of the Kingdom, revealed by Bahá'u'lláh and defined and supplemented by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, include Houses of Justice at local, national and International levels. These bodies apply the Laws and Principles of Bahá'u'lláh to daily life, but the International House of Justice is specifically empowered to legislate on matters not provided for in the "Book," and is clearly stated by Abdu'l-Bahá to be "under the care and protection of the Abhá Beauty, under the shelter and unerring guidance of . . . the Exalted One . . ." Bahá'u'lláh Himself says of this institution, "God will verily inspire them with whatsoever He willeth . . ." This is the legislative channel through which the rule of God will be perpetuated.

      Nothing in the Will and Testament is more striking or more important than the immensity of the power conferred by 'Abdu'l-Bahá on the Guardian, and the note of personal admiration and affection with which the appointment of Shoghi Effendi, to be the Guardian, is characterized. Bahá'u'lláh had already foreshadowed this institution, but it was left to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Centre of the Covenant, to define it and establish it.

      'Abdu'l-Bahá invokes “salutation and praise, blessing and glory" upon Shoghi Effendi, in whom is preserved the precious life blood of the two Prophets, the Báb and

1. Shoghi Effendi, The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh.


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Bahá'u'lláh, and describes him as "the most wondrous, unique and priceless pearl that doth gleam from out the twin surging seas," for he is "after my passing "the Dayspring of Divine guidance." "He is the expounder of the Words of God and after him will succeed the first-born of his lineal descendants." All must "turn unto Shoghi Effendi," "For he is, after 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the guardian of the Cause of God. . ..” "He that obeyeth him not, hath not obeyed God; he that turneth away from him, hath turned away from God and he that denieth him hath denied the True One." "All must seek guidance and turn unto the Centre of the Cause and the House of Justice."

      Interpretation of the Word, which has always been the fertile source of schism in the past, is thus taken once and for all time, into His own hands by Bahá'u'lláh, and none other but His appointed Guardian, whom He guides, can fulfil this function. This is the secret of the unbreakable unity of the Bahá'í Faith and its entire and blessed lack of sects. "The mighty stronghold shall remain impregnable and safe through obedience to him who is the guardian of the Cause of God."

      The erect of this appointment is to make the Guardian the source of continuing Divine guidance, and in such a way as to make it clear that although he would be the object of challenge, enmity and opposition, even of repudiation and denial, he would yet remain on the unassailable height of sure authority. The Guardian, in company with the Universal House of Justice, is under the express care and protection of Bahá'u'lláh and the unfailing guidance of the Báb . He thus must be taken as representing, while distinctly a human being, the nearest approach on earth to the Divine exaltation. When it is


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written that "the government shall be upon his shoulder" the reference can only be to the devolution by Bahá'u'lláh of supreme authority upon His divinely guided institutions, which thus embody His Covenant. This is the means — the Covenant — which the Lord of Hosts has designed to discharge His supreme mission, and the way in which God himself shall rule His people.

      Commenting on the station of the Guardian and of Divine guidance which is so prominent a feature of the administrative order of Bahá'u'lláh, Shoghi Effendi writes:

      "Exalted as is the position and vital as is the function of the institution of the Guardianship in the Administrative Order of Bahá'u'lláh, and staggering as must be the weight of responsibility which it carries, its importance must, whatever be the language of the Will, be in no wise over-emphasized. The Guardian of the Faith must not under any circumstances, and whatever his merits or his achievements, be exalted to the rank that will make him a co-sharer with 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the unique position which the Centre of the Covenant occupies — much less to the station exclusively ordained for the Manifestation of God. So grave a departure from the established tenets of our Faith is nothing short of open blasphemy. . . ."[1]

      "No Guardian of the Faith, I feel it my solemn duty to place on record, can ever claim to be the perfect exemplar of the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh or the stainless mirror that reflects His light. Though overshadowed by the unfailing, the unerring protection of Bahá'u'lláh and of the Báb, and however much he may share with 'Abdu'l-Bahá the right and obligation to interpret the Bahá'í teachings, he

1. The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh.


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remains essentially human and cannot, if he wishes to remain faithful to his trust, arrogate to himself, under any pretense whatsoever, the rights, the privileges and prerogatives which Bahá'u'lláh has chosen to confer upon His Son. In the light of this truth to pray to the Guardian of the Faith, to address him as lord and master, to designate him as his holiness, to seek his benediction, to cerebrate his birthday, or to commemorate any event associated with his life would be tantamount to a departure from those established truths that are enshrined within our beloved Faith. The fact that the Guardian has been specifically endowed with such power as he may need to reveal the purport and dispose the implications of the utterances of Bahá'u'lláh and of 'Abdu'l-Bahá does not necessarily confer upon him a station co-equal with those Whose words he is called upon to interpret."[1]

      "Nor can the Bahá'í Administrative Order be dismissed as a hard and rigid system of unmitigated autocracy or as an idle imitation of any form of absolutistic ecclesiastical government, whether it be the Papacy, the Imamate or any other similar institution, for the obvious reason that upon the international elected representatives of the followers of Bahá'u'lláh has been conferred the exclusive right of legislation on matters not expressly revealed in the Bahá'í writings. Neither the Guardian of the Faith nor any institution apart from the International House of Justice can ever usurp this vital and essential power or encroach upon that sacred right. The abolition of professional priesthood with its accompanying sacraments of baptism, of communion and of confession of sins, the laws requiring the election by universal suffrage of all local, national, and international Houses

1. ibid.


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of Justice, the total absence of episcopal authority with its attendant privileges, corruptions and bureaucratic tendencies, are further evidences of the non-autocratic character of the Bahá'í Administrative Order and of its inclination to democratic methods in the administration of its affairs."[1]

      These "twin pillars" of the Kingdom, unique in the religious history of the world, provide mankind with the fullest opportunity of ordering its own affairs through its elected representatives, whilst conferring upon it the supreme benefit, through the Divine guidance of the Guardian, of an inviolable constitution, the house built upon the rock of the unimpeachable, incorruptible Word of God Himself.

      The close relationship between these two Divinely-guided institutions — the Guardianship and the International House of Justice — and the consultative method of Bahá'í administration are fully dealt with by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in His Will and Testament and elsewhere, though they form no part of this book. Suffice it to say that the guidance bestowed upon the House of Justice does not descend to the personal members, while the guidance bestowed upon the Guardian is personal to the holder of the office, the "Sign of God," the "Dayspring  of Divine guidance," the "Interpreter of the Word of God."

      Thus does the Prophetic cycle come to its end with the appearance of the Kingdom, conceived, established and governed by God. The age of fulfillment now opens when countess generations, never bereft of Divine guidance, upraised and loved by those Prophets Whom the Most High will, in His mercy, eternally send down, will pursue an ever-advancing civilization to the full development of man and the greater glory of God.

1. ibid.


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