A Glance at Various Ecclesiastical Principles

 •  2.7 hr. read  •  grade level: 10
WHOEVER prays much for the Church will feel little disposition to let his desires evaporate pen in hand. Nevertheless, these prayers will give to him who perseveres in them a spiritual impulse, by virtue of which (far from letting himself be hindered by things which might have the appearance of meeting the need of souls, but which in reality would serve only to seduce and lead them aside) he will be constrained to manifest, as far as in him lies, the true character of that which, while clothing itself with this specious garb, might draw souls far away from the truth and from the Lord's blessing.
The controversy on the subject of the views put forth for some years past, as to the Church and the presence in it of the Holy Ghost, has assumed an entirely new phase. We no longer hear people say much of Korah, or hold similar language -language which a spiritual activity, that does not enter into the framework of that which exists, has always to endure. It is now agreed that it is a question of serious principles. Events, and the imperious wants of the children of God, have brought all who reflect, no matter how little, to recognize as solemn and, so to speak, prophetic warnings-warnings which God has verified by the sequel-what had at first been taken for enmity against that which exists, and for a desire to upset an order and an authority which people loved to consider the assured channels of blessing.
Far more than this, the principles put forth as to ministry are recognized as being of all importance and essential to the existence as well as to the well-being of the Church. I do not mean that, on that account, those who have put them forth are the more loved; nor, by the fact of persons being obliged at last to recognize it, is a disagreeable truth the more loved for that. We find moreover, that when such truth cannot be denied, it is suddenly discovered that all the world knew it already, and that the one who has insisted on it has done nothing but exaggerate and thus spoil it. It little matters, if, by the goodness of God, the truth makes its way. The grace of Him who has given it to us will do the rest; and if this does not fall to the lot of those who have blamed the testimony rendered to this truth, I hope it will at least do so on behalf of him who has borne the burden of it.
I desire to take matters up at the point at which they are actually found, and that as briefly as possible.
The universal priesthood of the children of God, a truth so precious-what do I say?-a relationship with their God and Father essential to their happiness and to that of the Church itself-this priesthood is now admitted without contestation; but, in exchange, it is sought to carry on the combat with more success on another ground. We will follow our adversaries to the field which they have themselves chosen, namely, the question of ministry: that of the sufficiency of the word and the Spirit to lead Christians in every respect; finally, that of a formal organization, the great idol of the day, what is called a Free Church.
What had been refused to the testimony of the word is yielded to the force of circumstances. Wherever there is a little light, the clergy are absolutely unable to maintain themselves in the position they took pleasure in keeping. Spiritual activity is too great; eyes are too much opened to abuses; the position in which the clergy themselves find themselves is too false. By the goodness of God the attention of Christians is too much awakened as to these questions. But the exterior evil is more threatening than even this movement of minds in the midst of the flocks; and the ecclesiastical functionaries feel that they must leave it an undisputed field, or that still worse would come to them. They feel, besides, that what constituted their support is becoming a clog to them, and that they are obliged to leave in freer hands the work which they would like to direct, and which nevertheless they dare not undertake.
Read what is said in " The Archives of Christendom," vol. 14, p. 74, " This immense privilege [that of priesthood], to which the mercy of God has exalted poor sinners, imposes sacred duties on all Christians, confers on them also all the spiritual rights which the Church is in possession of. I say all: government, the preaching of the word, the administration of the sacraments, the power to remit or retain sins." " If this be objected to," adds the author of this article, " the protestant dogma on this point is not known."
There is certainly great confusion in this; but the establishment of such a principle is of the greatest importance. The author, it is true, makes a restriction-a restriction which he presents not at all as flowing from divine right, but purely from human right. It is that for good order. The Church entrusts1 these rights to men whom she sets up, to a Clergy.
" Such is, in particular," continues this same article, " the evangelistic ministry. The minister receives his gifts from God only; his office from men. It is not a character which distinguishes him from other Christians, which makes of him and his colleagues a separate order, a caste, a clergy, according to the proudly pretentious word of the catholic hierarchy, which thus calls itself alone the heritage of the Lord, while it sees in the rest of the Church only the laos [the people], the laity."
Besides this, the article we are citing complains, because the author of the " Examination of the Darbyite Views on the Sacred Ministry " believes he finds in scripture a hierarchical government for each flock, concentrated in the person of the pastor alone, however right it may be, that he should " endeavor to utilize the religious elements he meets with among the faithful." And he fears this monarch soon becoming a pope, " without reckoning that here again universal priesthood is found pitiably banished in the cloudy region of abstractions." Here is the language of " The Reformation." " For our part, we readily acknowledge the services which Plymouthism has rendered to the gospel.... Everything in Plymouthism may be reduced to two points, the idea of the action of the Holy Spirit, and the idea of the authority of the scriptures.... Plymouthism wishes to substitute for human organization the action of the Holy Spirit.... We also have long thought that, on the ground of conformity to primitive usages, there can be no successful defense of present usages. We must take our stand boldly on that of evangelical liberty and of human order." That is, boldly saying that we must arrange the things of God according as we think proper.
The same journal adds, " Perhaps Plymouthism owes its existence not so much to such views on scripture and the Spirit, as to an anti-clerical tendency to which these views have served as a scaffolding, as materials, and as weapons. If this be so, we might find ourselves not so far severed as might appear. It is thus that we find ourselves entirely agreed as to the principal point of the controversy on the subject of ministry that is to say, as to sacerdotal notions of every sort-apostolical succession, the efficacy of ordination, the conferring of an indelible character, the distinction between laity and ecclesiastics, the inherent capacity of the one or the inherent incapacity of the other to exhort, to teach, and to administer baptism or the Lord's supper. Upon all these points we pass condemnation, because nothing of all that is found in the New Testament, but especially because it is contrary to its spirit and tends to alter it gravely. It is yet needful to extirpate from our thoughts the preconceived notion of a distinction between ecclesiastics and laymen."
Let us listen to M. Henri Martin, in his pamphlet on " The resignation of the Vaudois clergy."
" The whole Church," says he, " is the clergy. There is, in the New Testament, no other high priest than Jesus Christ. Every Christian is nevertheless a priest, as sharing the priesthood of the Lord.... If all are priests and offerers of sacrifice, there are in the Church no laity in the vulgar sense of the word, and all are the laity in the sense of being the people that God has acquired for Himself."
The " Examination of the Darbyite views,2 by a minister of Neufchatel, also acknowledges that spiritual gifts are allotted to all the faithful without exception; and the author, speaking of what he calls the Darbyite system as to ministry, agrees3 " that the greater part of the blows by which it is, in general, thought possible to vanquish this enemy, in reality do not touch it"; that instead of " rejecting ministry," it " on the contrary pretends to re-establish the only true, the only scriptural one "... that " received with charity, this adversary will certainly be changed into a friend who will contribute to awaken in the bosom of the Church the consciousness of several important truths." And the author cites this one among others: " that true Christian ministry, the ministry of spirit and of life... cannot be conferred by a mere human consecration, but must rest upon a call and a living gift of the Spirit." Moreover, he declares that he gives his " full assent to all that the system of Mr. Darby contains really true and salutary to the Church in the present day," and he recognizes " the necessity of raising ministry to, and maintaining it at, the height of these eternal truths."4
Here are testimonies drawn from pamphlets and journalistic articles written with the intention of condemning the system brought of late under the notice of Christians-testimonies which perfectly justify what I have advanced, namely: that the battle-field is entirely changed. By the avowal of our adversaries4 the great principles which have been put forth are eternal truths. The most decided among them agree with me on the principal point. If the Reformers recognized these eternal truths, so much the better for them and for us. I have given the preceding extracts with a view to establish that In saying " adversaries," I mean to refer only to views and the position taken with regard to them. I am not the adversary of the persons who have taken this position. The author of an " Examination of the Darbyite Views," a pamphlet written in a gentle and amiable spirit, is, to my knowledge, a brother who would not like to be an adversary of the children of God. He has, in general, represented my views with uprightness, with sincerity, and ordinarily with justness. Nevertheless, in the point which constitutes the thesis of the pamphlet, he has made me say precisely the contrary of what I have really said. Preoccupied with his subject (I only attribute this mistake to preoccupation), he has made me, from the distinction established between gifts and local charges, conclude their incompatibility-a conclusion contrary to what I have written, of which he would have done well to these truths are recognized. There is no longer any possibility of drawing back from this recognition.
We shall see, nevertheless, that it is quite possible to seek to render null the force of this concession, made under the constraint of facts, rather than dictated by faith.
I shall begin by rectifying some errors into which the author of the " Examination " has fallen, and to which I have alluded in the last note.
The author of the " Examination " says (p. 21), " The entire doctrine of Mr. Darby on ministry rests, as we have seen, on the separation he establishes between the ministry of gifts, and charges. Charges, which appear to be characterized, according to him, by the absence of any special gift, by election through human intervention and employment for secular uses, are the diaconate and episcopate, or the office of elder."
Next, after having quoted from the epistles various passages containing lists of gifts, the author adds (p. 24), " Mr. Darby cites especially, with confidence, four lists or enumerations of the ministries of the Spirit... lists which do not contain the denominations of elder or deacon, and which prove thus the decided separation established by the primitive Church between ministry and charges."
" This is assuredly the decisive point. If we find, as Mr. Darby contends, in the apostolic Church, on the one hand, gifts exercised in free ministrations for the edification of the take a little more account. The examination which, on this occasion, I have made of my previous publications, has convinced me of the justness of what I said, and has shown me that God has given me grace to keep, with much more exactness than this brother, within the limits of truth on the subject in question, a subject on which I agree with him. The controversy bears upon the points which he has avoided; among others, that as to whether the Church's fall has not altered the position of the children of God. A system which prefers the Church of Neufchatel to the apostolic times exposes itself to be received with some distrust.
Church; on the other, charges, the result of a human election for an external administration, and this, as two series without points of contact, the case is decided in favor of Mr. Darby. If, on the contrary, we can demonstrate, that these two series are two currents proceeding originally from the same source, and which, after having separated for a moment, tended more and more, from the apostolic times, to re-approach one another and to be lost in one single stream, the future instrument of the fruitfulness of the Church; then we are on the road towards justifying the present institution, which is, in its principle, nothing else than the fusion of the divine gift and the human charge in one and the same ministry."
This, then, is the point to which the author has directed all his arguments. He affirms that I contend that gifts and charges are " two series with no points of contact." Let us see how far my writings bear this out.
I take the liberty of citing a passage from my pamphlet entitled, " On the Presence and Action of the Holy Ghost in the Church " (p. 35), where I say: " That the bishop may be engaged in feeding the flock, I do not deny. But, from the fact that such a gift is useful in the episcopal office, it does not follow that all who possessed it were in this office, and still less that the office was the same thing as the gift. I may engage my clerk to write well and be a good accountant, and he must know these things in order to be clerk, but it does not follow that every scribe and keeper of accounts should be a clerk. This office supposes a confidence which extends to many other things, to the management of money and goods, to dealing with customers, etc. Thus, a man may be a pastor and lack many things necessary to a bishop, and never have been invested with this office. A man may lack the power of rule, discernment needed in order to watch over souls, gravity to have influence over light spirits in the details of life,5 personal acquaintance with souls, and, at the same time, be capable of feeding the flock with great success, without being clothed with the office of a bishop. This gift, namely, of pastorship, may, among other qualities, fit him for the office of a bishop; but an office which one is invested with, is not a gift given by Christ ascended up on high.
" Bishops, and not a bishop, for there were always several, were local officers, who only acted in the midst of the particular church in which they were found. A bishop was not a gift, nor a joint in the body according to the measure of the gift of Christ; but a local office, for which the possession of pastoral capacity was suitable among many other things. Pastorship is never presented as an office established by men, although bishops, who were, according to God, established by men, with a special object of watching over souls locally, may have possessed this gift and used it in their locality. These things are linked on one side, as the authority conferred on the apostles by Christ was linked with what had been given to them. For apostleship, although directly from God, was also an office, and that, we may say, from Christ as man, acting with authority in the government of the Church; and authoritative charges flowed from thence.
" The bishop may be called to pastoral care and teaching also, as qualities of his office. I do not doubt, historically speaking, that as man has continually more and more eclipsed the action of the Spirit of God in the Church, the gift became gradually lost in the office; but that makes no change in the word, and we live in times in which we must come either to the word or to Popery," pp. 4o, 41, 42.
How the author of the " Examination," after having read the pages I have just recalled to notice, can have been able to affirm that all my system depends on the incompatibility6 of gifts and offices, as on the incompatibility of two series without points of contact, is to me a puzzle. I even have said that, historically, gift was gradually lost in office. And when, in speaking of these two series, the author compares them to two streams which, from the times of the apostles, tended more and more to approach one another and to merge in one river, it might be said his ideas were borrowed from mine. Whether this brings him nearer the justification of the present institution, is another question. However this may be, in the very pages of my pamphlet quoted above, I treat the particular point on which the author of the " Examination " insists. And how, having carefully7 read these pages, he could present my views in such a manner, I know not. What is certain is, that the point which he views as decisive, cannot be so, since, with regard to the pastorate and episcopate, far from destroying what I have advanced, he only repeats it, attributing to me and combating as though it were my system, precisely the opposite of what I have said, and presenting triumphantly to upset me precisely what I had myself established. Such blows can take no effect; besides, how can one answer a writing, which, while I have affirmed positively that gifts and offices are connected on one side, seeks to show that I make of these two things " two series with no points of contact," and presents this mistake into which he has fallen, as the foundation of my system?
Let me be permitted to make another quotation from my " Remarks on the condition of the Church "; and it will be seen to what a degree the way in which, on this " decisive point," the author of the " Examination " presents my views, is devoid of foundation.
" As to what concerns the difference which exists between the elder and the pastor, I say that pastorship was a gift of the Holy Spirit, which the office of elder was not. This office was established by men in the Church, according to God no doubt; but it was a governmental institution, and not a gift from on high, although certain gifts and qualities were necessary to the one who was named elder. I have said that the gift of feeding the flock of God in one way or other was necessary or suitable to him, because it appears, by the Epistle to Timothy, that the elders who labored in the word and doctrine are distinguished from other elders."
I am sorry to be obliged to reproduce these extracts from my own writings, but the subiect, at bottom, connects itself with that which acts powerfully on the walk of Christians; and it is important it should at least be understood what is the real question.
In sum, here is what I have said, and what the author of the " Examination " has made me say.
I have said: gifts and offices are connected on one side. He has made me say that there is no point of contact between them.
I have said that in certain cases gifts were necessary to office- he makes me say that there is incompatibility between the two.
I say that gifts have been gradually lost in office-he says the same. Where then is the difference between us? Here it is. He considers it as a good thing that we are deprived of apostles and prophets; more: he affirms the Church to be in a better state than in the time of the apostles. I say, on the contrary, that the Church has lost much, that it is in a fallen state. The author of the " Examination " announces, from the outset, that he will leave aside this question. He apparently has not seen that here is the essential point. As to the points he touches on, we have seen he does not refute them; but that, however, is what he assumed to do.
Among the points which the author of the " Examination " has left aside, I will mention the ruin of the Church; next, the doctrine of the return of Christ; finally, that which relates to the conflict with the Catholic hierarchy. It may be very convenient not to be occupied with it; but how form a sound judgment as to ministry and the Church in relation to it, if we put aside the question of the ruin of the Church?
I have insisted that ministry is a divine thing, an institution of God, all the energy of which comes from on high; that man having been unfaithful, the Church, in whose midst ministry was exercised, is in ruin, and that the external order which is connected with ministry has fallen with her. It is attempted to answer me by putting aside the subject of the ruin of the Church. That is nevertheless the very root of the question.
We insist on the fact that the house has been ruined, its ordinances perverted, its order and all its arrangements forsaken or destroyed; that human ordinances, a human order, have been substituted for them; and, what merits all the attention of faith, we insist that the Lord, the Master of the house, is coming soon in His power and glory to judge all this state of things. And here we have a disciple who, when this Master is rousing the attention of His own to the real state of things, when He is directing it to the house which He had been the one to build at the beginning, and to the judgment He intends to execute on account of the unfaithfulness which has suffered His house to fall to ruin, here, I say, is a disciple who, though he is responsible, is not occupied with these things. The one who holds this language is a member of a system; he gives out this system as the house, and those who act in it as servants of the Master.
No, no, nothing of the kind! The house is in ruin, and you are bad imitators acting from your own leading, and wrongly.
How avoid the question of the ruin of the Church? How judge of the state of the Church without entering upon the question of its ruin, the question of the abandonment of the principles on which God established it, and the position in which He had placed it?
It is not possible. It is even so impossible, that while desirous of avoiding this question, the author of the " Examination," treats it in his fashion; for he constructs a system entirely opposed to the fact of the ruin of the Church. According to him, there has always been a real progress; the suppression of the apostles was a benefit, their presence hindering the development of the Church (pp. 77, 78); blossoms fell, in order that excellent fruits should be produced.8
Thus, far from seeing the Church in ruin, the author of the " Examination " finds it in a state of youth... of which faith, hope, and love form the imperishable crown."9 Far from finding in clerical ministry a human institution substituted for the ministry of the Spirit, he surpasses even Popery, in the judgment of the " Archives," in the position he gives to the Protestant clergy.
We are then led, in following the author of the " Examination," to consider the question of the ruin of the Church, not directly and in itself, but to take cognizance of the system which is set against it, and to judge, according to the scriptures, of the foundations on which it is endeavored to base it.
It is more convenient than safe to put aside the question of the Catholic hierarchism, when one is oneself accused of acting according to the same principles; and, even according to the " Archives of Christianity," the system of the author rests on those principles. In a very laudatory notice of the " Examination," the " Archives of Christianity,"10 after having given assent to what is said by the author on " universal priesthood," expresses itself in these terms: " But, as often happens, it seems to us that he (the author of the " Examination ") recalls with one hand what he has yielded with the other, and shows himself in some respects inconsistent with the great and beautiful principles he has just laid down. Thus, taking his stand on a passage of Paul (2 Tim. 2:22And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2)), of which he evidently exaggerates the bearing, he claims for the evangelical ministry, neither more nor less than the character of apostolical succession, and that, if we have rightly understood him, in a sense with which the bishops of Rome and of Canterbury ought to show themselves equally very well satisfied. Now this principle, which, forgetting that the Spirit of God blows where it lists, traces for Him, through all the ages of the Church, one only channel (often a very impure one), in which He must ever flow; this principle, the creator of an aristocracy whose erring ways are known, a flagrant denial of the privileges of the Church of Jesus Christ, which we have just been proving; this principle, which has recently produced the fruit of Puseyism, contains in germ the whole Catholic establishment, which, for that very reason, claims for itself the exclusive title of Christian Church.... It has already produced in the ideas of the author a strange, though very logical, result. I speak of a veritable divine right which he claims, not only for the spiritual gifts of the ministry, but for the office. He supposes the case in which the ministry, ' wandering from the right way, instead of transmitting the sound apostolic doctrine, makes itself the instrument of a pernicious and poisonous doctrine, and from being a means becomes a hindrance....' What is then to be done? Then reappears in all its dignity that ministry, that imperishable priesthood of all the faithful, of which mention is so often made in the Holy Scriptures.' And what is the right and the power of this priesthood? To withdraw from an unfaithful ministry the office which has been entrusted to it? No, it is to God alone that it belongs to overturn that which He alone has set up! ' The priesthood of all the faithful will be able, ought, to render testimony to the truth, but, at the same time, to suffer this scourge to rest upon the whole Church, to suffer this pernicious and poisonous doctrine to flow in great waves into souls, ' and then wait for the right hand of the Lord to act in power.' ("Examination," pp. 82, 83.)
" For there would be needed, in order to renew this ministry, ' a divine act, a creative act, similar to that by which it was in the first instance founded.' Behold, then, a christian church crushed under the weight of a divine and always inviolable right, without authority to exercise any discipline upon an unfaithful ministry, although she is invested with an imperishable priesthood. But Catholicism has not gone so far; it has suspended priests, bishops, popes. Besides, have you well considered? This divine right of the office, you recognize it even in your hypothesis of an unworthy ministry! This ' instrument of a pernicious and poisonous doctrine,' it is God who has set it up! Therefore, it remains inviolable! It is exactly the principle on which an Alexander Borgia could be, by his office, as infallible a pontiff as if he had been a saint, and I am not unaware that something of this superstitious regard for a lying title has been perpetuated even in the bosom of Protestantism."
" Finally, there is another consequence of these views which we should be unwilling to admit. The author, resting on a more than doubtful interpretation of some passages of scripture, believes he finds there a monarchical government for each flock, concentrated in the person of the pastor alone, though he ought to endeavor to utilize the religious elements which he meets with among the faithful. Monarchy, absolute monarchy!... I greatly fear it would soon be a mere pope. The poor heart of man and experience are at hand, let them be interrogated! I need no other proof, without reckoning that here again universal priesthood is found pitiably banished in ' the cloudy regions of abstractions.' "
Such is the language of an article which does its best to praise the "Examination."
The author of the " Examination," acknowledging as " eternal truths " the principles I have put forth; the connection between gifts and offices in apostolic times having already been clearly established in my previous writings; the " Archives " having taken care to give warning that, in his ecclesiastical principle, the author of the " Examination " went farther than Catholicism itself; the application of this principle to justify the present institution being founded on a more than doubtful interpretation of some passages of scripture; universal priesthood being again, in the judgment of the " Archives," pitiably banished in the cloudy regions of abstraction, I might think myself absolved, as far as concerns the theses of the " Examination," from the fatigues of controversy. But, as these views are used as a support in the endeavor to embarrass the path of faith, it is good that the sheep of Jesus should not be seduced; and, in order to spare them the dangers of a wrong path, charity demands that these things should be carefully passed under judgment.
In order to show the progress of the Church, the author of the " Examination " constructs a history of ministry of which the result is precisely, as the " Archives " remark, " to find for each flock a monarchical government, concentrated in the person of the pastor alone," etc., and it is precisely this historical result, which is still, according to the judgment of the " Archives," founded on " a more than doubtful interpretation of some scripture passages." And, in fact, all this pretended history is full of inexactitudes. True as it is that there exists a point of contact between gifts and offices, and that, historically, gifts have become lost in offices, equally untrue is it to present, as does the " Examination," this absorption of gifts by offices as a dismemberment of the apostolate effected by the apostles themselves, and as a progress of the Church.
The " Examination "11 marks out a first phase of ministry, a phase specially apostolic. On account of the external growth of the Church, " the apostles soon feel the necessity of relieving themselves of a part of their functions... of the least important, the distribution of alms. Hence the institution of deacons.... This help does not seem to have long sufficed. The continual growth of the Church, above all, its propagation outside Jerusalem, and the duty... of carrying out their special mission and the proper duty of their office, oblige the apostles to abandon by degrees the pastoral position which they had taken... in relation to the church of Jerusalem, and to take the apostolic position to which they are called in relation to the entire Church. The void thus formed (at Jerusalem) is filled up by a new office, that of elder, or bishop, the institution of which is not recounted to us.... The office of elder was naturally superior to that of deacon: its later origin indicates this to us; for it is only in proportion as the apostolate retires, if I may venture so to speak, from a lower to a higher place, into the sphere of action which is proper to it, that offices successively arise."
This false principle of the dismemberment of the apostolate, a principle which serves also as the basis of the system of the " Esperance," has no foundation in the word of God. Quite the contrary; it is in contradiction with the origin and the very nature of ministry. This principle, which makes the apostles the source of ministry, in the place of Christ, Head of the body, is as abominable as can be. It is on Christ immediately that each ministry depended in its function. There was a diversity of gifts, but one Spirit; diversity of administrations, but one Lord; (1 Cor. 13:44Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, (1 Corinthians 13:4), etc.) Christ is the "head of the body " (Eph. 4:15, 1615But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:15‑16)); and it is from Him that " the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edification of itself in love." It is Christ ascended on high, who gave pastors, just as He gave apostles, grace being given to each according to the measure of the gift of Christ. " He gave some apostles, some," etc. (Eph. 4:1; 11I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, (Ephesians 4:1)). " To one is given, by the Spirit, the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge, by the same Spirit; etc.... but all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every one severally as he will," 1 Cor. 12. The apostles might be the means by which the Holy Spirit was received; but the communication of the Spirit by their means was not a dismemberment of the apostolate. The apostles would have had no right to carry out such a dismemberment. They were bound to keep themselves in the position of servants, according to the talents which had been imparted to them. And this is what they did. Far from dismembering the apostolate, it is precisely because they would not abandon, for another work, that of apostleship, that, according to the will of God, they confided a work, which was being carried on without order to persons specially marked out for it.
Nothing is more unfounded than to assert that the apostles relieve themselves of a part of their functions, to form, of that part of it which they put aside, the office of deacon. Was it the apostles who, by partiality, preferred the Hebrew widows? And what confusion of ideas to say that the gift of wisdom, formed into an office, became the diaconate!12 Besides, it is entirely false to suppose that a word (as here that of wisdom), which has a general meaning, and which also designates a gift, always signifies this gift. Nothing of the kind is true.
Many other assertions of the author are no less devoid of proof.
When he says,13 that Jesus " had left to His apostles no positive direction as to the constitution of the Church " he seems to attribute to Christ on earth the office of founding and organizing the Church. This is to confound entirely the work of Christ while He was on earth, and the constitution of the Church. The Church only began after the departure of Jesus, and the author himself acknowledges this truth, when he says14 that Pentecost gave birth to the Church.
He says, in speaking of the apostles:15 " It is they who go from house to house, breaking bread." It was neither the apostles, nor any one else, in my opinion. Those who broke bread were those of whom it is said that all those who believed were together in one place, and had all things in common, sold their possessions, distributed them, and continued with one accord in the temple. The expression kat oikon signifies, not from house to house, but at home in contrast with the temple. They broke bread in private houses and not in the temple.
When he says that the apostles abandon " by degrees the pastoral position," in order to take, relatively to the entire Church, an apostolical position, he affirms a thing of which scripture says not one word. Scripture says rather the contrary. It was agreed, as Gal. 2:99And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. (Galatians 2:9) teaches us, that Paul and Barnabas should go to the Gentiles, and that Peter, James, and John should go to the Jews. Here, then, the " Examination " rests its system on an invented fact.
When, moreover, he establishes two categories of gifts: namely, gifts arranged into office, and " in some degree mediatized " (that is to say, gifts which, no longer depending immediately on the Lord from whom they proceed, and to be exercised under His immediate authority, are placed under the authority of an office conferred by men and exercised mediately); and " other gifts which appear to have always preserved their independence, as those of prophecy, of tongues, of contemplative knowledge, the exercise of which does not seem ever to have been put in regular order by an external consecration ";16-when, we say, the " Examination " establishes, as one of the proofs of the development of the Church, and puts in distinction with and almost in opposition to each other " a regular ministry of offices," and " irregular ministries," gifts not arranged into office order;17 when it adds,18 that the posterior origin of an office (that of elders), indicates that it was naturally superior to an office of more ancient institution," the " Examination " does but multiply assertions entirely devoid of foundation and of proofs. Was the apostleship, the most ancient of offices, naturally inferior to the others? Besides, apostleship was an office before it was a gift; what then is a gift brought into the regular order of office? The gift of tongues dates from Pentecost itself. Miracles, healings, prophesyings, all sorts of gifts, which have no connection with offices, are found in the Church from the beginning. The whole system of the " Examination " is nothing but a system.
When, in speaking of the church in Corinth,19 the " Examination " takes the liberty of affirming that there was " a marked distinction between free ministries, to which the edification of the Church is entrusted, and the offices of elders and bishops, the place of which would perhaps have been encroached upon by the gifts, if the apostleship had not come to occupy it, and to fulfill for the moment its functions," whence did he draw this? There may perhaps have been more gifts in one church than in another; but who says that, in the epistle to the Corinthians, Paul fulfills for the moment the duties of elder or deacon? Can pastors and elders of the Canton of Neufchatel say, with Paul, in this epistle, " If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord? "
Moreover, the manner in which the ministry of Paul, " as of one born out of due time," began, overturns the whole system of the " Examination." Nor does the author say anything at all about it. He speaks indeed of his consecration; but that is quite a different question. The fact is, that Paul, who was an apostle, " not of men, nor by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead " (Gal. 1:11Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) (Galatians 1:1)), could not possibly figure in any development of " human order." And it is on this that Paul insists absolutely in the epistle to the Galatians. And it is worth remarking, that after that this apostleship, which is neither of men nor by man, is shown us in activity,. the other apostles disappear entirely from the biblical history of the Acts.
These last are but observations concerning details. Let us come to facts-that is to say, to what concerns the National Presbyterian Church as at present established. However ingenious theories may appear on paper, what have the two orders of things, I am about to present, in common?
The one, that an apostle, who is neither of men nor by man, chooses men, some of whom were already prophets, and the others distinguished for piety, and, as to the latter, confers a gift on them by the imposition of hands.
The other, that in a certain geographical circumscription there is found established, as a sort of monarchical government, a pastor, who may even not be converted (as happens in the immense majority of cases), but who is established according to a system limited to a nation, and established over an unconverted flock or still worse, pretends to feed those who are really the sheep of the Lord; who (what an apostle made no pretense to, for it is to put oneself above God, instead of being His servant) pretends to have the right to refuse and to reject those whom the Lord Himself might send for the blessing of His true sheep, and who, perhaps, raises the police against them.20 And do not say that I have not the right to suppose this pastor established according to a human order, to be unconverted.
I have this right, and justly so, since the " Examination " will have it that the national institution is of God; still more since it will have it that, even in the case in which the pastor, established according to this system, might propagate mischievous and poisonous doctrine," the thing should be left to God, and the poor sheep to the care of the wolf. I am bound to inquire whence the right which makes this pastor a monarch derives its source. It is not derived from God, assuredly; for it is not God who has chosen him. It is either a Council of State, or, save an appeal to the Minister of Public Worship, a Consistory composed of the principal tax-payers, or a king, or a patron who has purchased this right for money. This is what is said by pious ministers, who thereby show the judgment they pass on systems they themselves have long defended, accusing of schism and radicalism, those who, their hearts broken by such a state of things, had judged it their duty to abandon it. The force of circumstances has constrained them to acknowledge as an institution not only human, but injurious to the rights of Christ,21 that which the " Examination " still defends and maintains as being an institution of Christ; and, as defenders of the slighted rights of Christ over His Church, the ministers of whom we speak have stood forward to vindicate them against the same institution whose cause the " Examination" endeavors to plead.
Think, Christians, think of such a system, in presence of the love of Christ for His Church!
Another question presents itself. According to the " Examination,"22 the present ministerial order, a fusion of divine gifts and human office, concentrates the guidance of the flock in one office, that of elders, and this office in one man. It adds, " This ministry of one man ought to seek to reinforce and multiply itself through the gifts which the Spirit of God grants to the members of the flock, whether by associating these gifts with himself officiously, as the present office of elders offers him the means of doing, or by encouraging and directing these gifts in their private exercise."
What is, at bottom, this liberality, this generosity? Nothing but, without perhaps the consciousness of it, the usurpation of the place of Christ in the exercise of His sovereignty over His Church.
Let us even suppose, to give the "Examination" the greatest possible advantage as to its ground-let us suppose these concentrating ministers to be in every place converted and truly elders, here is our question:-Who is it that has given them the right to accept or refuse the gifts which are exercised freely? What passage of scripture can afford any presumption that Christ has conferred such a right upon them?
We go farther still and concede still more. Let us suppose for an instant that these ministers, each of whom is one man, invested with one office, which concentrates in itself the guidance of the flock, and which is the fusion of a gift and an office, were in a true position: are not the evangelists, teachers, pastors, prophets, who are not " mediatized," the servants of Christ responsible to Christ, and to Christ alone? Are they perchance responsible to those who hold office? Nothing approaching to such a thought is found in the word. Has Christ the right to give such ministries? And, if He gives them, to whom are they responsible?
Alas! in the system which is sought to be sustained, but which the word of God does not sustain, it is a question, in fact, neither of the Church of God, nor of ministry, in the Church of God.
That which is in question is a geographical district, under the dominion of such and such a sovereign, or in the territory of such and such a state. This district is a parish. All the inhabitants are made Christians of; in certain countries23 civil rights even are attached to this qualification of being a member of the established church. According to the system, all spiritual movement outside this arrangement is prohibited. At a determined age, persons take the sacrament for the first time; and there are countries where it is only after the accomplishment of this act, that custom permits young people to go and drink and dance. When, by sacrament first taking, they have become completely Christians, they may then go. But for this parish a minister is necessary. And if it is in this manner that Christians are made, it is not astonishing that ministers are made at the university.
And let not people cry out that these are only abuses. No, this is the system. According to the system, in fact, according to the principle described in the " Examination," and according to that which exists as a fact in the national churches, one must recognize a Socinian minister, or, if you will, an unconverted minister, as well as a pious minister. He has the same rights in the church; and the minister of Christ, whom the national establishment may have placed in either the same parish or a neighboring one, is bound to recognize him and to leave the sheep of Jesus in the hands of such a man.
And the Bible is quoted to justify this institution! And it is quoted, because it shows us that there were over churches elders, and, as is also said, angels! Separation is complained of. Separation from what? From a system which, according to the new light of a part of the clergy themselves, denies the rights of Christ over His Church, compels the sheep of Jesus to remain in poisonous pastures, and places the Church, bound hand and foot, in the hands of men. And why not separate from it? Is it the Church of Christ? I think not; it is not what I have found in the word. And if it is not the Church of Christ, why then be of it? Truly pious ministers will answer, " We do not ask you to acknowledge unconverted ministers." In that case, why do they acknowledge them themselves? And how do they think that we can acknowledge, in their person, a system which they condemn as to others?
To say that the principle of the existing ministry is only the fusion of gift and office, while, in the greater number of cases, there are, on the part of those who are invested with it, neither gifts, nor even conversion, is only to deceive oneself about words in a very serious matter. That which is practiced in the national institution in order to prepare and to make ministers, is not, as is pretended, what Paul commends to Timothy, when he says, " The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also," 2 Tim. 2:22And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2). No. To instruct young men at a university with a view to ordain them afterward, be they or be they not gifted or converted, is not to commit certain truths to faithful men; it is to instruct and train for a profession young men whose faithfulness has not yet been able to be proved, and who have not one of the qualities requisite for an elder. In certain cases there was a union of gifts and offices. That which is now in vogue is a vast system which has no reference to either the one or the other.
No, the inhabitants of a geographical district do not form the Church of Christ. No, a ministry which joins together and confounds in one mass and with the same rights the converted and the unconverted, unbelievers and believers, gifted and ungifted, is not the true ministry, but a confusion established by man.
It is in vain for the author of the " Examination " to connect and fuse together gifts and offices. I defy him to bring forward, in the biblical history of ministry, anything similar to the system in which he acts and which he maintains. And if the body of Christ is one, how can these geographical districts be that body? That in one particular town the children of God should all unite together and form a body, can be understood; the Bible has made me understand it: but that in the constitution of the Church there should be anything like nationalism, anything like nationality in the matter of the Church, is what is not found in the word of God.
No, the word of God does not speak to us of the fusion of gifts and offices; it does not at all justify the system of the " Examination." It shows us, outside all human order, the extraordinary call of Paul, a call which the " Examination " leaves entirely aside. It is to Paul that had been committed the revelation of a mystery hidden from ages and from generations (Col. 1:2626Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: (Colossians 1:26)), a revelation, observe, precisely of this truth of the Church of God, one body, united to Christ on high; and Paul particularly insists that the ministry which was entrusted to him has no relation with that which went before.
In his preoccupation relative to the progress of the Church, or more especially the progress of ministry in the Church, the author of the " Examination " discovers three epochs, three periods in the history of christian ministry.24 He takes as a starting point pure apostolic ministry: as his second period simultaneous ministry of gifts exercised freely, and of offices.
" But soon," adds the " Examination," " the extraordinary abundance of gifts diminishes, and the time arrives, when to the flowers of the early season more durable fruits are to succeed.... The apostleship comes to an end.... The office of elder is appointed of God as a provision in each flock for the maintenance of order and discipline.... This third phase... may be called the epoch of episcopal or presbyterian ministry."
Apostleship and gifts, flowers of the early season, give place to more durable fruits. Is it possible to fall into such an illusion? Are we to put among the number of these durable fruits the encroachment of popery, the universal worship of the Virgin, and the torturing of those rare and precious witnesses of the Lord, who came at long intervals, during many ages, to be put to death by those whom the " Examination " calls durable fruits, in comparison with the spring flowers of gifts and apostleship?
Is Protestant rationalism one of these durable fruits? Does the author think that his church of Neufchatel has lasted from the time of Jesus?
Has all sense of the affection of Christ for His Church and all memory disappeared at the same time?
This presbyterian phase, how long did it last in the primitive Church? Not even a century. And even, if we are to refer to the opinions of men, this phase, which the " Examination " considers as the third, has the anteriority in the eyes of many others, who consider the apostolic or episcopal phase the primitive one.
Just see to what degree the idea of the progress of the Church has misled the " Examination."
Making mention of 1 Cor. 13, where Paul shows us that our present knowledge is far from being comparable• to that which we shall have when we see face to face, the author is carried away so far as to say:25 " St. Paul then evidently distinguishes in this chapter three states of the Church; that of infancy, during which God grants it these extraordinary gifts, like the flowers with which a father adorns the cradle of his new-born child; the age of youth, which embraces all the earthly pilgrimage of the Church since the termination of the apostolic age, and of which faith, hope, and love form the imperishable crown; finally, the full age or the heavenly state into which love alone enters and dwells without changing its nature, because then God is all in all, and God is love."
"The cessation of the apostleship should itself, however strange this may appear, be looked at as progress.... The apostles were for the Church, in its state of infancy, tutors and guardians. But, when the divine child had begun to grow, when the hour of its coming of age, of free and spontaneous development, had sounded for it, as God had given apostles in His grace, He also withdrew them in His grace."26
It is sufficient to read the chapter in question, to assure oneself that Paul makes no mention in it of the state of the Church, but of the nature of the knowledge we possess. This is so certain that the author of the " Examination " himself has felt that he was misinterpreting this passage, and has sought to answer the objections which he foresees.
Here is the reasoning of the apostle: " We know in part... when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." There is a partial knowledge which belongs to the Church here below. This knowledge will be perfect above.
The " Examination " says, on the contrary, that knowledge itself disappears entirely, to make way for faith, hope, and love, an imperishable crown which serves as an intermediate term between gifts, or the state of infancy, and heaven. Thus, for the author, the loss of knowledge, of apostleship, of prophecy, is in reality progress. For him, again, it is not when that which is perfect is come, that knowledge is done away; it is during the entire period between the apostles and the return of Christ.
It is impossible not to see that he is, entirely mistaken.
What a thought! The Church superior now to the state in which it was in the times of the apostles! Does the author see that around him? That the Canton of Neufchatel enjoys many of the blessings of Providence, that its clergy even contain in their midst pious men, I have neither any interest in contesting, nor desire to do so; but to say that the state of this church, the great mass of which lies, on the author's confession, in the darkness of nature, is superior to the apostolic state, is what, I am sure, even the " Class "27 would be ashamed of. And do you know, reader, what is the foundation for saying this? On this, that there is more faith, hope, and love: and that the spring flowers of apostles, prophets, gifts, and knowledge have given place to love, faith, and hope, which now exist and which have, in fact, existed since we have had the apparent misfortune, but real blessing, of losing these ephemeral gifts of infancy.
" If people wish to prove a fall of the Church," says the " Examination,"28 " let them point out the cessation of faith, love, and hope; but let them beware of adducing in proof a fact such as that of the cessation of gifts."
The author is mistaken in thinking that it is in the loss of gifts that I find the ruin of the Church. In some respects this loss may be a symptom, a mark of this ruin. The ruin is another thing. I shall beware of seeking to establish the cessation of faith, love, and hope. To say that these things have ceased, would be to say that there is no longer a Christian in the world. Let him who is contented on that account to deny the ruin of the Church, be contented! But I will answer in a more explicit manner.
As concerning love, we see in Acts 2 and 4 what the Holy Ghost produced. " And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine, and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.... And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people." " And great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: as many as were possessors of lands or houses, sold them," etc.
Here are the flowers (we were in the habit of calling them fruits) which, alas, were too quickly lost; and we should have trouble to find them in the church which the " Examination " boasts of as being an advance on the apostolic state of things. Can the author of the " Examination," with his hand on his heart, say that there is real progress since the times of the apostles-that love has not ceased? Ceased! No, it will never cease. But where will the author show me anything to compare with what we read of in the Acts? If it is answered, that this did not last, then it is acknowledged that the fruits of the Spirit in love have not lasted.
There are things yet far more precise. In the epistle to the Philippians, the epistle in which the author says we have the proof of the progress and development of the Church, because in it the apostle addresses himself to the bishops and deacons- here is what Paul says as to the state of Christians, when referring to Timothy: " For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's." Were faith, hope, and love progressing?
In the second epistle to Timothy, which the author also quotes in proof of his system, we see the heart of the apostle broken because of the state of the Church. He is, as it were, astonished that a Christian should not be ashamed of him, and, on account of this, prays for a special blessing on his house; 2 Timothy 1:1616The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: (2 Timothy 1:16). Compare this epistle with that which we have quoted from the Acts, and see what was the state of the Church as to faith, love, and hope. The author may endeavor to make us think that the existence of his parochial monarchy compensates us for it; but how sad to see a brother undertake such a task.
One thing, perfectly certain, is that, in writing to Timothy, the apostle did not look for a progressive development of good. He had the foreknowledge of just the contrary. " This know also," says he, " that in the last days perilous times shall dome," 2 Tim. 3: 1. God had been preparing the heart of His imprisoned servant by making him feel the miseries of the Church. " At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge," 2 Tim. 4: 16. Where were then faith, hope, and love? Let this touching and last appeal of the apostle, who was ready to be offered (chap. 4: 6), serve as an answer.
Perhaps Paul elsewhere renders a different testimony to the real progress of the Church, through the means of his departure?
What does he say to those elders who, according to the system, ought to have replaced him, and even more? " I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them," Acts 20:29, 3029For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:29‑30).
Does Peter give a different testimony? No. For him, what fills up the picture of the last times are mockers and false teachers, who will privily bring in damnable heresies; 2 Peter 2 I.
And were these last times slow in arriving? No. John, the last of the apostles, John, who, perhaps, gives us to see " angels," but at the same time the Church in decay, and ready at the end to be spued out of the Lord's mouth, this John makes us know that in his time these things were not delayed. " Little children, it is the last time; and as ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists, WHEREBY we know that it is the last time," 1 John 2:1818Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. (1 John 2:18). Why whereby, if there had been real progress other than in evil?
However amiable and sincere he may be, I pity the man who, in presence of such testimonies, can believe in a real progress of the Church in good through the absence of the apostles. I pity still more a body of pastors who, comparing themselves with the apostolic work and condition, can put themselves forward as the proof of a true progress.
The revelation which, according to the divine knowledge, is given us, of the period of this real progress, only confirms the prophetic previsions and touching lamentations of the hearts of the apostles. Paul says to the Thessalonians, " Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.... For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming," 2 Thess. 2:3-83Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. 5Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: (2 Thessalonians 2:3‑8). And the Apocalypse, which, according to the " Examination " itself, " closes so admirably the New Testament," shows us that the Church ends by being spued out of the mouth of the Lord, having already, in its first phase, left its first love. And when the things which are (the seven golden candlesticks, the seven churches, the state of the Church) have come to an end, the apostle speaks of the future, of " the things which shall be hereafter," when the Church is no longer seen on the earth, and it is the progress of an apostate world towards its ruin and final judgment. The salt is removed from the earth, and all becomes corrupt. Little matters it. For the " Examination " it is real progress due to the disappearance, to the withdrawal of the apostles and of the care which they had over the Church.
The " Examination " speaks, it is true, of the precautions which Paul takes, before leaving this world, for the future of the Church. In fact, conscious by divine revelation that they were about to depart, the apostles, whose hearts were devoted to the welfare of the Church of Christ, exhort and conjure those who remained to watch, because evil was about to enter. Nothing more natural. But these elders, in whom people wish to see the successors and in some sort the heirs of the apostolate, already existed at the same time as the apostles. Paul died more than thirty years, and John more than sixty, after the Lord's departure. There were then elders existing at the same time as the apostles, during a period of thirty or even sixty years. The elders therefore were neither the successors of, nor still less the substitutes for, the apostles, at the time of the departure of the latter. And that which, in his thesis of the progress of the Church, the author of the " Examination " had to show, is that the elders were to walk better without the apostles than with their help; for, says the " Examination," " the continuation of an authority such as the apostolic would have had a disproportionate weight in the scale of the destinies of the Church, and hindered its development, instead of forwarding it."
After the elders had exercised superintendence and wrought energetically for nearly half a century, that the apostles press upon them that they should be faithful, and that they should watch with so much the more care when they themselves should be no longer present, is easily understood. And it is this which Paul says, in general, to the Philippians: " not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you." Paul exhorts the elders as he exhorts the Church, for he addresses himself to all. But, in fact, have these exhortations had as their result the establishment of the safety of the Church upon the faithfulness of its leaders? Let ecclesiastical history-and this history is that of the clergy- let ecclesiastical history answer the question. It is this history which has led infidels to say that the annals of the Church were those of hell.
To speak of durable fruits, as proof of the progress of the Church and of the gain it has found through the cessation of apostleship, to speak of a " shining covering " which vanishes while " the solid groundwork, the real and permanent elements of the life of the Church, remain and are developed,"29 is what none but a member of the clergy would have dreamed of. That the system of the clergy has been developed, on that point there is no doubt; that the blessing of the Church has been the result, is what history does not testify.
If the cessation of apostleship is a progress, why does the apostle say (Eph. 4) that the Lord has given some apostles, some, etc., until we all come in the unity of the faith, that we be no more children? That, in His grace and faithfulness, God has taken care that, spite of the unfaithfulness of man, there should be enough for those who rely on Him, is true. Blessed be His name for it! But this is not the question. The author affirms that what God had given (so that we should all come, in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ) was an " obstacle," a hindrance to this end being attained, and that this obstacle needed to be removed to enable us to arrive at it. The apostle says that it was given to lead us there;-the author says it was removed with this object. Let faith in the word, the history of the Church, and the spiritual man, decide the question.
When leaving the Church, the last apostle might have said (adds the " Examination "), it is expedient for you that I go away.30 Not only did he not say so, but, on the contrary, Paul said: " Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you," Phil. 1:2424Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. (Philippians 1:24). And he says this in that epistle to the Philippians cited by the author31 to show that the apostle represented the elders and deacons as an advance before which he himself was to disappear. And when Paul must needs depart, he conjures Timothy to watch and to continue faithful, because everything would go wrong after his departure.
Let it not be thought that I exaggerate the bearing of the views of the " Examination." We have seen it: he says expressly that it was in His grace God withdrew apostleship, the continuation of which would have weighed with a disproportionate weight in the scale of the destinies of the Church, and have hindered its development.
That (the foundation once laid) God should have seen fit to leave the Church to its responsibility, can be understood; but it is entirely false to say that the apostles did no more than lay the foundation, and to present them as an obstacle to the development of the Church; while they themselves, more than any others, labored in the Church for its development, for its government, and sought to keep it in safety against the wiles of the enemy.
As to the question of knowing whether the Church has been faithful to the responsibility which devolved on her-and this would be the true question to resolve in order to establish the progress or the failure of the Church-the author refuses to treat it. Here is again a fragment of that which he gives us instead!32
" The Church (after the apostolate) had nothing more to receive.... From a child it had become a young man. The Lord opened to it a long and glorious career, that of external independence, in order to realize the internal and voluntary dependence which is the only true dependence. For that, apostleship, necessary as a beginning, would no longer have been of any use-would on the contrary have been a restraint."
In fact, apostleship would have been an excessive restraint upon the Church in the career it has followed. When such thoughts are cherished-thoughts contradicted for the conscience and heart by all the history of the Church, there is good reason for setting aside the truth which closes the entire word: " Surely I come quickly; Amen. Even so come, Lord Jesus." A long career was not in the thoughts of those who insisted on the personal coming of Jesus, as putting an end to their tribulations, nor of those who, after the Lord Himself, insisted among the brethren that they should constantly wait for the coming of Jesus, nor in the mind of Him who made it a sin to think, " My lord delayeth his coming." And (without dwelling longer on this truth, infinitely precious and important though it be) we will ask why, if the cessation of apostleship was necessary, in order to " realize internal and voluntary dependence," the absence of the monarch of a parish would not be equally a benefit? For the dependence is to be internal and voluntary. And when you say internal dependence, you do not mean in the interior of the Church, for the apostles were there no less than the elders. And if it ii a question of individuals and of their internal dependence, the elders would not be less hurtful to it than the apostles. If the care of the one was useful, the care of the others would have been still more useful. What is perfectly certain, is that there were neither parishes nor monarchs; and what is still more so, is that at that time the Church was not made up of a mass of unconverted people circumscribed in given geographical limits.33
The most serious evil that there is in all these reasonings, by the help of which it is sought to discredit the views put forth on the ruin of the Church, is that the relationships and very existence of the Church are thereby denied.
This denial of the Church, Messrs. Rochat and Olivier have formally made in their writings. Wolf has acted in the same manner; it is, moreover, what I meet with in private every day.
The idea of the Church has no existence in the mind of the greater part of those who oppose my views. Others have such an idea of it as makes them take the fruits of the sin of man for those of the grace of God.
If it were felt that there is a Church, the bride of Christ, a holy body formed down here on earth by the presence of the Holy Spirit, the reasonings by which it is sought to deny the ruin of the Church would be, for the greater part, impossible; and it would not even be attempted to deny the ruin in the midst of which we find ourselves.
I will explain myself as to what I mean by the Church. The Church is a body subsisting in unity here below, formed by the power of God by the gathering together of His children in union with Christ who is its Head; a body which derives its existence and its unity from the work and the presence of the Holy Spirit come down from heaven, consequently on the ascension of Jesus the Son of God, and of His sitting at the right hand of the Father after having accomplished redemption.
This Church, united by the Spirit, as the body to the Head, to this Jesus seated at the Father's right hand, will, no doubt, be manifested in its totality, when Christ shall be manifested in His 'glory; but, meanwhile, as being formed by the presence of the Holy Ghost come down from heaven, it is essentially looked at, in the word of God, as subsisting in its unity on the earth. It is the habitation of God by the Spirit, essentially heavenly in its relationships, but having an earthly pilgrimage, as to the scene in which it is actually found and in which it ought to manifest the nature of the glory of Christ, as His epistle of commendation to the world, for it represents Him and is in His place. It is the bride of the Lamb, in its privileges and calling. It is presented as a chaste virgin to Christ for the day of the marriage of the Lamb. Evidently this last thought will have its accomplishment in resurrection; but, what characterizes the Church, as being quickened according to the power which has raised Christ from among the dead and set Him at the right hand of God, is the realization and manifestation of the glory of its Head by the power of the Holy Ghost, before Jesus its Head is revealed in Person.
Those who compose the Church have other relationships besides. They are children of Abraham. They are the house of God over which Christ is head as Son. But these last characters do not detract from what we have been saying; still less do they annul it.
At the beginning, the truth of the Church, powerfully set forth by the apostle Paul, was as the center of the spiritual movement; and those who were not perfect, still attached themselves to this center, though at a greater distance. The Church is, rather, the circle nearest to the only true center, Christ Himself. It was His body, His bride. This truth, lost now for the generality of Christians, (and it is a ground of shame), has become a means of separation, like the tabernacle of Moses, set up outside the unfaithful camp (Ex. 33); because, if, according to the principle of the unity of the body taught by the apostle, one acts outside the world, most Christians are unwilling to follow, and, while keeping up worldliness, they cannot do so. How, indeed, could they gather outside of that which they are keeping up?
This lack of faith has a sorrowful consequence. Relationships with God are taken up, belonging, it is true, to those of which the Church is composed, but inferior to those of the Church itself, and they are taken in order to form with them a system which is put in opposition to the most precious of all the relationships of the Church with God. People insist that the children of God are Abraham's children, which is true; but they wish to place them at this level, in order to deny the position of the bride of Christ. They will have it that they are branches grafted in, in place of the Jews, so as to reduce them to the level of the blessing and principles of the Old Testament, and this, in order to avoid the responsibility of the position in which God has set us, and, thereby, the necessity of a confession of our fall. They allow, in a general sense, that we are the house of God, which is true; a house in which there are vessels to dishonor: and they make use of this truth to justify a state of things which has left outside everything that can belong to the affections and the heart of a bride.
Let Christians give heed to it!
Hence, the postponement of the return of Christ to epochs which are connected with the judgment He will execute on an unfaithful house and a rebellious world. Hence also, the loss of the desire for His coming, a desire peculiar to the bride and inspired by the Spirit who dwells in and animates her.
The proofs of the existence of such a Church are beyond all contradiction, and, although I have already produced them elsewhere, it is good, even if it were but for one soul, to recall some of them, so that they may act on the conscience.
1 Cor. 12 is positive on this subject.
" By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body " (v. 13), one body in which the gifts are exercised; the exercise of these gifts, as well as the baptism itself of the Spirit, demonstrates that it is a question of a body on the earth.
" God hath set some in the church; first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers, after that, miracles; then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues," Cor. 12: 28. He had set them neither in such and such a church, nor in the Church gathered to heaven.
The epistle to the Ephesians, almost entirely, treats this subject. Christ is the Head of His body which is the Church; chap. 1: 22, 23. There is one body and one Spirit; chap. 4: 4. This body grows by the ministry of that which every joint supplies: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers; chap. 4: 16, II. It is very certain that it is on earth that this takes place.
Paul wrote to Timothy, that he might know how to behave himself in the " house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth," 1 Tim. 3:14, 1514These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: 15But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:14‑15). There was then a Church, which was one, the pillar and ground of the truth, a body manifested in unity upon the earth, a bride who desired the coming of her Bridegroom in order to the accomplishment of her blessing; who, meanwhile, sought to glorify her Bridegroom, and who, by the power of the Spirit who was in her, manifested the glory in which her Head was, at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens. And if Jesus, her Bridegroom, was in heaven, invisible to the natural sight, she it was who was visible on earth for the manifestation of Christ's glory; and she was on earth Christ's epistle of commendation, known and read of all men; 2 Cor. 3.
That God makes sure to this Church, seen in His eternal counsels of grace, an unfailing portion of glory in heaven, is certain. That, in consequence, the gates of Hades cannot prevail against that which Christ has founded on the confession of the Son of the living God, nothing again more certain. But to employ such precious truths to set aside the responsibility under which the Church is laid that she should be down here a Witness to the glory of Jesus, is to use the certainty of grace to destroy the necessity of a life answering to it.
Christ asks that we may be one, so that the world may believe; John 17:2121That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (John 17:21). That which Christ asks for, is a visible unity, a unity which witnesses to the nature, the love, and the holiness of Christ, and even to His power; and that, in order that the world which knows not Christ, neither can see Him, may learn, by the effects which it sees, what is the real source of grace which is hidden from it and beyond its reach.
But a world church, visible, and a spiritual church, invisible, there is what, on the one side as well as on the other, destroys completely the thought and counsel of God, not, assuredly, in their eternal accomplishment, but where God has always placed, in the first instance, that accomplishment, that is to say, in the responsibility of man. God has always first entrusted to man as responsible, that which He intends to accomplish later, according to the efficacy of His own power.
The world church is a denial of the nature, the love, the holiness, and the affections of Christ, as it is of the nature, the love, the holiness, and the affections of the bride, while it pretends to realize her unity. The invisible Church is null as a witness in this world, by the very fact of its invisibility. Rather would it serve as a witness of the powerlessness of the Spirit and the powerlessness of Christ Himself, to disengage His own from this world which has rejected Him, and to gather them in oneness by virtue of His Spirit, and as an evident demonstration of His glory-to gather them, as the faithful bride of His heart who belongs to Him alone.
The world church is founded on the compatibility of Christ and evil in the most intimate relations; it denies thus the character of Christ. The invisible Church, as such, is null in testimony. It is the denial of the power of Christ to gather His own, to gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad, and to manifest in them, thus gathered, His power and glory.
That the Church, alas! is invisible, is but too true. And if it is so, it is in a fallen condition, it is unfaithful to the glory of its Head, it has failed of the object of its establishment on the earth.
To own such a truth as this, to confess it as a fearful sin, a sin perhaps irremissible as to the integral re-establishment of God's system, to confess in this respect our sin and our iniquity, this is what places us in our true position on this point.
To justify such a state of things, to put it forward as regular and providential, as that which ought to be, is to show hardness in sin; it is to lack the heart and affections which seek the glory of Christ, and which show that we have the consciousness of our relationship with Him as His bride. How afflicting is this!
If the Church ought to have manifested on the earth the glory of Christ, it is very certain that a visible church, worldly and corrupted, does not do so; and that, just the contrary, by the very avowal of those who sustain it and plead its cause, it only hides those who are Christ's. It is not less evident that no more does an invisible church, by the very fact of being invisible, manifest on the earth the glory of Christ.
Let those then who seek to justify such a state of things say openly that the Church was never responsible, by its faithfulness upon earth, to manifest the glory of Christ; if not, let them own that we have fallen.
I appeal to the whole of the New Testament, to all the principles of the word of God, to the history of the Acts, to the testimony of the epistles, and to the consciences of saints, to judge whether the Church has maintained the testimony to the glory, the holiness, the love of her Bridegroom, and whether she has maintained it as a faithful bride, who ought to be occupied with it during the absence of her Bridegroom, who knows but her Bridegroom, who is watchful for His glory and continues faithful to Him, all the more because He is absent.
We have finished with the system of the " Examination " as to the progress of the Church.
We have had opportunity to remark, more than once, in passing, that the apostleship of Paul is entirely opposed to the system of a human ministry. Before finally bidding farewell to the " Examination " it remains for us to glance at the history it gives us of the apostleship of Paul.34 This history exhibits a boldness which, truly, can only be found with the clergy.
Let us leave the " Examination " to speak.
" From his mother's womb St. Paul had been chosen to become a distinguished instrument as a preacher of the gospel. Nevertheless, when the decisive hour has arrived at which his ministry is to begin, how is he called to it? "
" How, in this passage, both the action of God and the action of man, far from excluding each other, admirably unite to produce, first, the ministry of an evangelist, and by and by the apostleship of St. Paul. St. Paul, though long ago an apostle in the plan of God, appears here at first only as a prophet and teacher; he becomes an evangelist by the imposition of hands.... It is only by degrees that he acquires in the eyes of the Church that apostolical position and authority which, for a long time, he has possessed in the divine thought. Long before, both he and Barnabas have been called to this work by the Holy Spirit; nevertheless, it is by the intermediate agency of their colleagues that their definitive vocation is effected. They are certainly filled with a special gift for this ministry; nevertheless, this gift is not removed from, but submitted to the recognition of the Church and to the imposition of hands. It is men who send them away, and yet it is the Holy Ghost who sends them."
Thus, according to man's idea, it is by degrees that Paul acquires, in the eyes of the Church, this apostolic position and authority, which he has long possessed in the divine thought; it is by the intervention of their colleagues that the definitive calling of Paul and Barnabas is operated; their gift is submitted to the recognition of the Church and the imposition of hands; it is men who send them away; and the system of the " Examination " is considered as justified.
Let us now listen to the word of God, and to Paul himself, for Paul also has given us a history of his call to the ministry.
" Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father.... But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to those which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.... Afterward I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.... But of those who seemed to be somewhat, whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me... for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me.... And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision," Gal. 1:1, 15-211Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) (Galatians 1:1)
15But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, 16To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. 18Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. 19But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. 20Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. 21Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; (Galatians 1:15‑21)
; chap. 2:6-10.35
Paul thus absolutely denies a commission from his colleagues, the apostles. As to the colleagues whom the " Examination " gives him, they do not even enter into his thoughts. And even if it were so, it would not be the less singular for teachers to call to the apostleship one of their colleagues, while there were apostles at Jerusalem. But we know that Paul takes care to deny it in principle.
Let us also remember that, according to the " Examination," the work of the apostle was not an apostolic work. He was only an evangelist. It is true that, in this same journey, the Holy Spirit calls him an apostle; Acts 14:44But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles. (Acts 14:4). Little matters it, the " Examination " affirms that, by the imposition of hands, he only became an evangelist. And nevertheless, according still to the " Examination," it is man who produces, in conjunction with God, his apostleship. When? The " Examination " does not say; it only says " soon " and " by degrees."
According to the " Examination," God effects the calling of Paul by the intervention of his colleagues. What does this mean? " The HOLY GHOST said, SEPARATE ME Barnabas and Saul," and those to whom He says it, commend them to the grace of God (such are the very words of Scripture, Acts 14:2626And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. (Acts 14:26)) by the imposition of hands. And Paul is again a second time recommended by the brethren to the grace of God (Acts 15:4040And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. (Acts 15:40)), when he undertakes a fresh journey.
Men, says the " Examination," send them away. From what may not a system be drawn? Martin translates: " laisserent partir " (" let them depart "); the Lausanne version says: " ils les laisserent aller " (" they let them go "). It is not a question of anything but of that feeling of affection and harmony which, while letting him go, accompanies with its holy desires the one who departs and perhaps goes with him a little way on his road, as a witness of the heart accompanying him. There is not the least idea of a mission being given.36 The same expression is found in Acts 15:3030So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: (Acts 15:30) and 33. The brethren, sent to Antioch, take leave of those in Jerusalem; and after having passed some time at Antioch, take leave of the brethren there in peace, in order to return to the apostles at Jerusalem.
THE VOICE OF GOD calls prophets to separate Paul and Barnabas for the work, and these prophets recommend them to the grace of God. And the " Examination " sees in this man joining himself to God to authorize ministry! and, in order still to maintain the honor of man, Paul is represented as being, in his work, but an evangelist. And all apostolic commission is denied to him. Paul becomes by degrees an apostle in the eyes of the Church, according to that which he was in the thoughts of God.
It is thus that the " Examination " gives the history. I trust that those who labor will become by degrees, in the eyes of those who blame them, what they are in the thoughts of God, and that " soon."
Christians attached to the word of God have shown not only that the clerical system is not found in it, but also that it is contrary to the principles which it contains, and in fine, that the national system is in opposition to all that is there said of the Church.
All this is now admitted by the Evangelical Christians who exercise the most influence in the religious movements of ecclesiastical bodies. We have already seen that, in the eyes of the " Archives of Christianity " and of the " Reformation," clericalism is an evil, and it is anti-scriptural. Not long ago brethren who separated from this state of things, were schismatics. But now, what was then maintained in opposition to these brethren, and which was maintained as being according to God, is by their avowal a system which denies all the rights of Christ. This is rapid progress.
People therefore substitute for this system which they no longer dare to present as resting on a divine foundation, other principles upon which they raise a new edifice, principles which we are about to examine.
These principles are summed up in a few words:
The complete, entire, and often even avowed abandonment of the word of God. The denial of the action of the Holy Spirit.
The Christians of whom we speak are quite willing to be freed from the yoke of the state. That one can understand. But it is in order to establish over the flock, without being held in check by the state, the still heavier yoke of ministry. Now the ecclesiastical yoke, the yoke of the clergy, is of all the most intolerable. It is the weight of the name of God attached, and attached without restraint, to the will and the iniquity of man, because evil is clothed with the authority which ought to have laid hold of the conscience. The world has seen the effects of it.37
People are in error on the continent, on the subject of the Scotch movement. This movement has been essentially popular. The king of England and the great noblemen, episcopal for the most part, had the right to nominate to a very large number of parishes, which, for a century past, had been a subject of contestation in the Church of Scotland.
As to the clergy, whence does their power come, when they have any? Who would put confidence in it? However, I confess, I have no fear that the Free Church, such as it has manifested itself in these countries, will come to that.
The people wished to name their pastors. Attempts at accommodation were made; they failed. The ministers and the evangelical elders put themselves at the head of the movement. The civil tribunals having constrained certain parishes to receive ministers named by the patrons, the separation took place. The evangelical ministers left the synod; the people of the parishes left the churches. The mass of the population found thus a means of escaping from the ancient rights of patronage of the episcopalian aristocracy, which the tribunals and the whole civil order maintained in these rights.
In the Canton de Vaud, the inverse of this is the case. The popular cause is nationalism subjected to the state. In Scotland, the nationals are the ministers without the people. On what side is that found in Switzerland?
Churches are not made on paper-they are formed by faith. A church of the multitude can only be the result of a powerful principle acting upon the masses. This principle is found either in superstition, or, as at the Reformation, in the remarkable intervention of Providence, which, favoring the movement of faith, where abuses disgust natural conscience or clash with the will of man, throws the mass on the side of the good which is acting by the grace of God. It is this which explains, on the one hand, the history of all false religions; on the other hand, the history of the Reformation, and, finally, on a smaller scale, the Scottish movement.
There exists nothing that answers to this in the dreams of a free church, in which those minds take pleasure, who, at the present day, while opening for themselves a way in which the nation does not follow them, seek to unite, the nation being wanting in this combination, popularity with the preservation of existing institutions. In order to popularize their cause and their church, they grant it certain rights and certain privileges, preserving, all the while, for themselves the consecrated system, the citadel of the clergy. Let them, however, understand this: if there are popular rights in the church, the people themselves will be judges of them. Such is the popular principle-the principle of the age. The people will exercise their rights themselves, in fact as well as in title. That will be their affair. The ministers will have the task of protecting, if they can, the rights they have given to themselves, so far as these rights are compatible with the will and action of the people. Their business will be to watch over the preservation of their clericalism. The people will dispose of the rest, and the ministers will be, if they can, their clergy. There will result from this, under whatever variety of form, independent dissenting churches, with a clergy whose efforts will tend to bind the whole into a Presbyterian bundle, in order to give it, if it can, harmony and strength.
This is, I venture to predict, the future of the Free Church of the Canton de Vaud. This is what will happen wherever ministers seek to organize a free-church system, by contriving beforehand its mechanism.
On a larger theater than the Canton de Vaud, the ministers would probably succeed in acquiring a stronger link among themselves and a more decided clerical position; but, at bottom, each of them, in his locality, would find himself to be the pastor of a dissenting church with a congregation of the people as his flock. Their part would be purely to preserve clericalism. Sad task! A task to which, nevertheless, where this attempt has taken place, their operations and reasonings are reduced.
The Free Church lacks a first principle of power. There is found in it neither the principle of God, nor the principle of the man of the age. That there may be found, on the part of certain individuals, a vital principle, true faith, I do not doubt. But, evidently, that is not the question. Powerful principles act noiselessly, but cause themselves to be spoken of. The Free Church speaks a great deal about itself, before even having taken its rise.
Let us, however, examine its principles, as far as it has put them forth.
In entering upon the constitution of the Free Church of the Canton de Vaud, the only one which has hitherto been formed on this side of the Rhine,38 I desire to express my sincere respect for many of the persons who form part of this association, and to testify to many among them, whom I have more or less known, the cordial affection which flows from the sweet conviction of our meeting one another again in the heavenly kingdom. This makes me all the more feel how grievous it is that such brethren should have thought it their duty to ally themselves, or at least should have appeared to ally themselves to any political party, and to falsify thereby, in the eyes of the world, a religious principle and a walk which, with the sacrifices by which it was accompanied, made them respected by good men, even of opinions contrary to their own. United, alas! to persons who do not share their faith, these brethren, by the very attacks to which they are exposed, figure as a political party, and appear rather to undergo the consequences of this, than to bear the cross for the sake of Jesus. This position has had the effect of causing Christianity and the blessed name of Jesus to sustain the reproach of serving as a cloak to a party which was seeking to clothe itself with the influence of that name. How much happier would it have been for these brethren to preach that name without alloy, in the beauty and purity which are proper to it, in the midst of the irritation of passions, on whatever side they might have been shown! If we suffer, let it be only for the name of Jesus; and let adversaries find no occasion of complaint against those who profess to serve the Lord, except concerning the law of their God.
Without doubt, it is a sincere conviction which has determined and impelled in the course they have followed, a large number of the brethren of whom we speak. But (and their opponents themselves have said this) conscience does not act by masses, but individually. In order to increase the influence of the movement, those who had decided convictions thought it their duty, as it appears, to wait for those who had not, or who had less fixed ones. This weakened the idea of a personal conviction. By that very means, conscience evidently was the loser.
The members of the Vaudois clergy were already under the necessity of raising these questions. Events had constrained them to do so. At the demand of the government, prolonged discussions had taken place amongst the clergy upon the change of the fundamental law of the Cantonal church. For a long while past, the clergy had supported and defended against all dissent the principles of nationalism. When, therefore, the greater part was seen to detach itself from the state and unite itself in an ecclesiastical body in order to maintain in concert, according to the very expressions of the constitution of the Free Church, the rights of Jesus Christ over His Church and the purity of evangelical ministry, people might have been astonished that never before had the rights of Christ presented themselves to the minds of these men as disowned by the system which they had previously extolled and justified, not scrupling, moreover, to blame severely, those who, judging as they themselves now judge, were acting individually according to this conviction, and were separating themselves from a system guilty of such a slighting of the rights of the Lord.
Evidently, it is the system which, in their conviction, disregarded the rights of Jesus, and destroyed the purity of evangelical ministry. The act of the government, which served as an occasion for the retreat of a part of the clergy, is the proof of this. Moreover, the ministers who have resigned have not confined themselves to protesting by their resignation against this act, nor to going outside while waiting for its recall, nor to complaining against an isolated act of oppression, while still approving the system. They have done more. By the establishment of a new system, they have protested against the one which up to that time they had justified, and which, by their acknowledgment, denies the rights of Christ over His Church.
How does it happen that the new system, founded on such a declaration, should be the object of admiration to Christians who remain attached to the one to which this declaration applies? That does not belong to me to decide. It is good to remember [for fas est et ab hoste doceri] that conscience is an individual thing.
Let us now examine the system of the Free Church of the Canton de Vaud, such as it is set forth in its Constitution, the acceptance of which is obligatory upon every one who wishes to be a member of it.
While setting aside the state, rejecting all alliance with it, and while refusing at the same time to take the position of the Christians who had previously separated from nationalism, the founders of the Free Church wished, in constituting themselves as a body, to preserve some bond which these did not possess and which the state did not furnish. This bond is the clergy, the clerical body.
Plainly, the churches whose association composes the Free Church have no other according to its constitution. The unity subsists in the body of the clergy and there solely. This principle, the importance of which cannot be overestimated, was that of the Church as fallen in the first ages, that which ended in popery in contrast with the Church of God.
In the Protestant or Reformed Churches, the state serves as a link, as a principle of unity; they are, consequently, national churches. The Romish system has another center of unity, which I need not stop to notice here. The dissenters, whatever may be additionally the unity of ideas and of habit of association with which analogous principles furnish them, are in general independents or congregationalists; that is to say, their churches, as churches, acknowledge no bond of unity among themselves.
There remains then to the Free Church but one principle which can and does really make of it a body; it is the clerical principle. Little matters it whether the clergy is composed of pastors or elders. It is they, a body of officials, distinct from the mass of believers, who alone give a character of unity to this bundle of churches. The details of the Constitution show it. General Church assemblies, church councils do not produce a shadow of unity! This unity resides in the synod; the synod is the principle of it. Everything which concerns the clergy is carefully kept in the hands of the clergy. The veto without a statement of motives is alone permitted to a flock to which a pastor is proposed. As to their internal matters, the assemblies may be consulted and may express their wishes when the church council calls them together; but all action whatever is reserved to the clergy.
The true unity of the Church of God, that is to say, the unity of the body of Christ on the earth, is completely excluded from the Free Church. There are " constituted bodies," but the idea of the body is lost.
The confusion of these two things is striking in the Sixth Article of the Constitution. " The Free Church is governed by constituted bodies who are to employ themselves, each according to the function assigned to it, in procuring the spiritual good of the Church and its members, so that the whole well proportioned and well joined together in all its parts should derive its increase from Christ, according to the power He distributes to each member," Eph. 4:1616From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:16). Now, it is perfectly certain that this passage of the epistle to the Ephesians applies solely to the body of Christ, one upon earth, to the functions of its members, and to that body looked at on earth, insisting particularly on its unity flowing from its being the habitation of one Spirit (chap. 4: 4)-an idea impossible here, because the Free Church of the Canton de Vaud has no pretensions to be the body of Christ, and its four constituted bodies are not members of the body of Christ.
It is sad, to say nothing more, to use the word of God, and that in its most precious and profound teachings, to apply it to that which is a creation of man, and to that which has no right to pretend to be what the passage cited speaks of. It is sad to seek to clothe a purely human system with the luster of the blessing which is connected with the work of God. The Free Church of the Canton de Vaud is not, and still less are its constituted bodies, the body of Christ, nor the bride of Christ, however it may clothe itself with these beautiful names by debasing their meaning and force. " She is resolved," say the authors of her Constitution, " to yield obedience (to Jesus Christ) as a faithful wife to her husband." Wife! She is not a wife. There exists neither a Vaudois bride, nor a French bride, nor an English bride. By attaching such a name to bodies constituted by men, the idea of the unity of the body of Christ is falsified and lost, an idea of which the importance cannot be exaggerated.
The grand principles of the Free Church are then:
The establishment of a body of clergy, the only agent and bond of unity;
And the denial of the unity of the body of Christ, of that truth of which true Christians feel very particularly the need and importance.
In fact, it cannot be otherwise in a church of the multitude. How seek, how find, in an unconverted mass a principle of spiritual union? There is needed for this mass, a body in which, in theory, because of its public character, piety should be reputed to reside; a body which may act on it and give it a center by maintaining religion in the midst of it. Let the action of the flocks, set aside by the " Constitution," be introduced into the general assemblies, and the Free Church will present the spectacle of the miseries of dissent, without having like it either separation from the world, or the safeguard of the conversion of its members.
Several details of the " Constitution of the Free Church " afford us a striking proof of the preoccupation of its authors, as to the maintenance of the clerical principle.
First, the nature of the quotations which are made from the word of God. Except the faulty application of a passage of Ephesians referred to above, the word of God, cited very carefully in order to support the authority of the clergy, is only quoted four times on other subjects, and these four quotations, have no reference to the principles of the Free Church, but solely to general principles of piety, and they might have been equally met with in the first religious book that might be taken up. If it is a question, on the other hand, of exhibiting all the passages which appear suited to exalt the authority and importance of the clergy, the New Testament is rummaged through and through.
Here are further proofs of this preoccupation.
The laity may elect deputies to the synod. They have, besides, the power of refusing a minister, without having in addition the permission to express the motives of this refusal. To this is limited all the action which is granted them.
All discipline belongs exclusively to the clerical bodies.
All ministry has its source and direction in the synod. No one can act in the ministry of the word unless he be sent by the synod. People can neither receive nor open the door to a minister whom the synod has not sent or sanctioned. " The synod occupies itself with evangelization and with all work that has for its object the advancement of the kingdom of God."
In sum, it all comes to this: the clergy govern without being themselves under the authority of a government.
There is another thing which is more serious. In the whole of the organization of the Free Church the Holy Spirit is not even named; and, with the exception of the profession of faith contained in the second article of the " Constitution," it mentions it nowhere. It could not do so. The Spirit of God is the power of the unity of the body of Christ. " There is one body and one Spirit," Eph. 4:44There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; (Ephesians 4:4). Now the Free Church of the Canton de Vaud has an altogether different unity, a bond of quite another nature. For it, such as it has constituted itself, there is one body, and it is that one body: " The churches which have been formed since the year of grace 1845, in the Canton de Vaud, are, by the present act, united into one body." There is the unity of the Free Church. It is not that of the body of Christ, it is such as leaves this on one side. The Spirit of God is not, consequently, nor can He be, recognized nor sought as the One whose presence forms, characterizes, and establishes unity, and gives it as a banner the name of Jesus alone. One Spirit and one body is what does not enter into the framework of the unity of the Free Church. Its unity denies the other. " One body " excludes everything which is not itself.
The consequence of this is, that, uniting the defects of the corrupt church of the middle ages and of present nationalism, the synod or the clergy which is substituted for the presence of the Holy Spirit, sets aside equally the action of the Holy Ghost in ministry. " The synod occupies itself with all work that has for its object the advancement of the kingdom of God." That does not at all suppose the free action of the Holy Spirit nor does it permit the individual activity which is its fruit. There may be, if you will, instruments sent by the synod; but liberty of action, independently of a mission received from it, there is not.
As to what concerns the unity of the Church the body of Christ, as well as the free development of the work of the Spirit of God in the ministry of the word, the constitution of the Free Church is in complete antagonism with the most precious instructions of the word, with those which, for the days in which we live, are the most important that God has given us. Instead of maintaining, as it says, the rights of Jesus, it wars against the rights of the Holy Spirit. It gives itself liberty as regards the government, to take it entirely away from the Holy Spirit and the faithful led by Him.
One could not, in fact, deceive oneself to the extent of treating a church of the multitude, as a body dwelt in, animated and directed by the Holy Spirit. Neither its unity nor its action could be those of the Spirit. The Spirit is therefore set aside in order to substitute the clergy. Alas! the constitution of the Free Church equally sets aside the word of God.
What injustice! I shall be told. " It proclaims the divine inspiration, the authority and entire sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures, of the Old and New Testament." Entire sufficiency for what? Tell me a single article of the " Constitution " which professes to be drawn from it. If the scriptures are sufficient for the ordering of the Church, what must be thought of a constitution drawn from sources entirely outside it-a constitution which has not even expressed the intention or the desire to take the word of God as a foundation? It is, at least, a kind of sincerity, for there is not a single article of the " Constitution " which has emanated from it. This " Constitution " establishes a purely human organization, which has no relation whatever to the principles of the word of God. Those who have taken part in it have owned that the word of God has served them neither as a starting point, nor as the foundation of their work. Where, indeed, should we find, in the word of God, that it is a question of church members of the age of twenty-one years, or of electoral rights, or of votes counted by number of heads, of elders elected for six years, and other similar things? An ingenious, and no doubt pious mind has conceived an ecclesiastical system according to its own will; this system, modified by the difficulties or by the light of others, has found its formula in the " Constitution " of the Free Church.
The Spirit and the word have, then, been left out no less than the unity of the body of Christ.
The doctrine of the Free Church is found, alas! as defective as all the rest of it.
Nothing in it, perhaps, seriously wounds orthodoxy. One even sees in it the desire for piety. Nevertheless, its profession of faith, the doctrines of which the " Constitution " presents as being the " center and foundation of christian truth," is a meager and even false confession, and its orthodoxy is of a very pale hue. The work of redemption is put in it in the last line, and would disappear almost entirely save for the enumeration of the facts on which it is founded.
What is, according to the " Constitution," the only means of salvation? The gift of Christ? The death of Christ?
The eternal redemption which Christ has obtained for us? No: it is something in man, it is " living faith." And why " living "? True faith is no doubt living. Why then draw attention to this word? Because the tendency of this expression is to connect salvation with the qualification of a grace in us, instead of making it depend solely on the perfect work of Christ, on the righteousness of God, in which one partakes and to which one submits oneself by faith. I repeat it, the work of Christ, the redemption He has accomplished, are completely hidden behind the state of the soul which has embraced it. It is faith, and not the object of faith, which is put forward.
Here is something which is really nonsense: " Christ communicates to the faithful and to the Church all the graces necessary for regeneration." How can they be called " faithful " and " the Church " if they are not yet regenerated? What does that mean: " the graces necessary to regeneration "? The Holy Spirit then does not regenerate! He communicates to unconverted man certain graces necessary for regeneration, graces which man makes use of to regenerate himself. Is that the obligatory doctrine, to which a formal assent must be given in order to become a member of the Free Church?
It is added: " It is by the Holy Spirit whom He sends on the part of His Father." This is not according to the truth. Jesus has sent this Comforter who shall abide forever with the Church, as also it may be said that the Father has sent Him in Christ's name. As to what concerns the Holy Spirit, one finds thus, at the bottom of all the system of the Free Church, an unbelief and ignorance, involuntary no doubt, but not the less real.
Again: " He will return to put his own in possession of eternal life." One may, it is true, speak of eternal life to designate the power of the glory; but, met with thus by itself here, this expression only adds a little more vagueness to all the rest. The word of God teaches us and repeats to us that he who believes in the Son HAS eternal life.
The work of redemption and the work of life are, alas! carefully lessened in this confession of faith. It is defective enough to be false, for a defective faith established as a rule is false. It is besides positively false in many of its assertions.
The Free Church admits discipline in principle and in fact.
The manner in which it orders the exercise of it, the formula of its doctrines on this subject, betrays in a somewhat curious way the conflict between the need of pious souls and the difficulty which a church of the multitude puts in the way of it. The 31st Article of the " Constitution " lays down in principle that all discipline shall be in the hands of the pastor assisted by the church council. Next, if all gentle means fail, what will the council do? What rule will it follow? After having consulted the word of God, " it will follow the course which shall seem marked out thereby." There would have been in any case this faculty or this latitude without an article of Constitution. This is but a declaration of incompetence, by which the assemblies will escape the organization intended by the " Constitution ": for, suppose the church council saw in the word of God that the conscience of all the body ought to be concerned in discipline, the Free Church would see its constitution violated in its fundamental principle, and an independent authority established. Evidently, a church which should exercise this discipline in a regular manner, could not receive every member of a church not disciplined, even were he an elder, although he might belong to the Free Church; and, in fact, a church exercising this discipline would cease to form an integral part of the body, and would become a dissenting church. How, too, exercise this discipline by means of the conscience of the whole body, if the body is a church of the multitude? The presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church becomes here an essential question.
It will be on this point, and on the question of the nomination of pastors, that as a system the Free Church will be broken. Its " Constitution " will remain as a memorial of the powerlessness of man to constitute by human means that which is only of God. That which proceeds from faith on the part of the individuals who have taken part in it, whatever there is of conscience (and there is this), will remain as a precious proof of the goodness and patience of God.
I should not have deemed it necessary to pass this work in review, if I had only had in view the Free Church of the Canton de Vaud. The work of God in that country will bear its fruit, according to the measure of the power which acts in it. If there is found there a testimony superior to that of the Free Church, accompanied by a power which God can put honor upon, this testimony will attract those who are truly spiritual.
If there be not, the Free Church will pursue its course and will take the form which will result not from its " Constitution," but from the elements of life, of good or of evil existing in the midst of the assemblies that compose it. The " Constitution " is neither the expression nor the form of the efficacious principle which has brought this work into existence. It is the form which the clergy have wished to give it, and that will not last. I speak of it because elsewhere people are deluding themselves with the hope that a similar clerical movement will bring in a deliverance that they are waiting for.
This is not faith. Let those who have faith take it as a warning and cling afresh to the truth. They will please God so far as faith acts in them and they act by faith, according to the conscience which they have as to things, according to the light that God has set in their consciences His word understood by faith. One has only to follow the word of God. Is one alone in following it? That is so much the more honorable, as demanding all the more faith. Seen from outside, the path of faith appears very painful; it is, for every one who walks in it, full of sweetness and peace. The mountains, on which God communed with Abraham and Abraham with God, were the object of terror to Lot. He thought he should perish there; Gen. 19:1919Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast showed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: (Genesis 19:19).
We have already seen some citations from the Journal the " Reformation," proving the state of opinion on ministry among those who still support the clergy. I shall now give, on the question of worship, other extracts from this journal, which I give, not as a recognized authority, but as ideas which are current and show certain sides of the phase through which the Church of God is now passing. We shall see also what is lacking, what the children of God ought to desire, and desire ardently in these times, as well as the rocks they have to avoid. I read in the " Reformation " of April 8th, 1847: " To our mind, spiritual and true worship consists essentially, not in the preaching of Protestants, nor in the false sacrifices of Papists, but in the singing of praise to God by the whole assembly, in the celebration of the Lord's supper taken in common, in prayer offered by several in the name of all, in the reading of the Bible on the part of such as know how to read, and in words of exhortation offered by whoever feels himself able to exhort his brethren. Along with this, there will be preachings and teachings, of which teachers will have the responsibility."
I have no objection to make to the details given by the " Reformation " as to what ought to be done; but there is entirely wanting to them a principle, that of the action of the Holy Spirit, whether as a power, the source of the activity of man and acting to produce this activity; or as discernment as to that activity and as power for discipline with regard to it. The form is good-God is not presented as being the power of it.
I could not admit that " whoever feels himself able to exhort " has the right to do so, unless two things be added: on the one hand, the responsibility of the one who exhorts to know that he is led of the Holy Spirit; on the other hand, the discernment by spiritual men of this action of the Holy Spirit, or it may be of the absence of it, and the discipline which flows from it, if there be occasion for it. It is God whom I seek in the assembly.
Such a system of worship, proposed in such a journal as the " Reformation," ought, at least, to strike every attentive reader. All that I ask is, that persons should act thus, depending upon the help of God.
Here is, on the other hand, the description given by the same journal of the services of the churches. I beg the reader to bear in mind that it is not I who speak.
" The bells are rung; the church is filled. During this time, a chapter of the Bible has been read; next, the ten commandments; but few persons have been listening. To this reading succeeds that of a liturgy, which many have followed with their lips, and to which, perhaps, no one has really added his Amen. A sermon is heard which people agree to find admirable, but that is all. Three verses of Psalms have been twice sung, to which the organ alone has imparted any feeling, and people leave, saying they have been worshipping God, and worshipping Him in spirit and in truth. But, no; we must be just. Language is here less false than facts. They say they have been to sermon. Every one seems to acknowledge that it was not worship."
And, again:
" More guilty, perhaps, and not less absurd, the greater number of protestant churches, with their inevitable men in black, their imposed liturgies, and their everlasting sermons, boast of having replaced forms by the Spirit, while they have substituted for forms, which at least act on the imagination, and sometimes on the heart, a withering and lifeless formalism. People begin to understand the error of the clerical system. The Church is no longer the body of pastors; it is the body of the faithful, it is the christian people. There is in this a great revolution."
Let us also hear M. Napoleon Roussel, in a postscript, on " Sunday Worship."
" I confine myself then to saying here that the sermon is as heavy as false, as dull as the black gown with which people dress themselves out to preach it; that it ought, in short, to be given up, in order to speak, in a style intelligible to all the world, things not only fundamentally true, but true in the means which serve to establish them. I would that people mounted the pulpit, not to set themselves up above the audience, but solely in order to be better heard by it.... I would... alas! many other things, which neither I, nor others, do."39
" Another day, we find an obstacle in our way, when accompanying the holy ark, when conducting a christian work, when laboring in whatever manner for the advancement of the kingdom of God. As it is in acting with uprightness and simplicity that we have been foiled by the malice of men, we almost reproach ourselves for this uprightness and simplicity, and this time we wish to try adroitness and cunning. Under the pretext of making ourselves all things to all men, so as to gain some, we make ourselves all things to all men in such a way as to ruin ourselves with others. Nor is this enough. To gain worldly people, we employ worldly people themselves to draw the gospel chariot. Because such an one is rich, we place him in the front; because such another is clever, we make him a charioteer. We employ the crowd to push behind, and end by being lost in the herd of unbelievers whom we purposed to direct. In the midst of such a retinue, we ourselves lose faith, and we copy those who ought to imitate us. Can we then be astonished, if God allow our work to perish? Is it not more wonderful, that we are still spared by Him who punished Uzzah for bringing an unbelieving arm to the help of the holy ark? "
I prefer simply to pursue good and to link myself with the power which alone can produce it, by walking in peace with the word of God as a guide, rather than to publish journalistic articles intended to point out evil. But, indeed, when journals and men of influence in the evangelical world hold such language, an immense revolution is accomplished. It is not that all accept these thoughts, nor that all have definitely stated them; but the movement of which they are the expression exists in persons' ideas. The germ of them is in people's minds, and is being there developed; if not, such language would not be heard. The journals only verify certain moral facts, state them precisely, and by publicity lend them force, importance, and give them a general circulation.
" At the present day," adds the " Reformation," the people of the Church have attained the consciousness of their rights. They are no longer willing that the pastor should be outside or above his flock, but one of its members. They renounce divine right, apostolical succession. They substitute popular election to the election of the clergy by the clergy."
However much the writings above cited may reproduce facts more or less established, could I be pleased with the tone of them? I am very far from it. If I cite them, it is not only to show the state of opinion in the class to which these writers belong, but also to put brethren on their guard against such thoughts and such language. Even though it were true, it is a human way of speaking, which only tends to replace man by man; that is to say, clerical man by radical man armed with the consciousness of his rights.
Faith does nothing of the kind. It judges the pretensions of the clergy because they are not according to God. It does not own them. It owns a divine right and never gives it up. It owns that this divine right is the only one which can exist, and that the Christian's part is to have the enjoyment of and to submit to it. The divine right is the joy of the heart which loves God and knows He is grace. Faith has rights in the presence of God, the right of owning that all belongs to Him, that every excellent gift comes from Him. The right of man is death and condemnation. If he desires blessing, it is in the divine right, as well with regard to ministry as to everything else. No blessing elsewhere, absolutely none. Let us proclaim it loudly, my brethren, let us always remember it. If people come and speak to you of your rights, do not listen to this language. The flesh can thus readily be flattered; but you, Christians, who know that all is grace, you know that it does not belong to you to speak of rights; that the sinner has only one-that of being lost; that the saint owns that all right resides in God; that the rights of man and election by man never puts us in possession either of salvation or of any blessing whatever.
The Holy Spirit, the thought of the Holy Spirit, does not appear in that which we have above transcribed. If it were said that the Holy Spirit is in the Church; that consequently He acts not only in the clergy, but in the body of the faithful, as well for what concerns the action of this body as in the ministration of each member, according to that which God sees good to confer, this would make itself understood by a serious man established in grace; but, that which manifests itself in the fragments above quoted is radicalism in the Church. The rights of man, the rights of the masses, popular election to the exclusion of the divine right, is the very definition of modern radicalism. Ministry in its least gifts is but the expression of the energy of the Holy Ghost acting in us, energy given by God, from whom comes every good gift and every perfect gift.
This brings me to two other points which I shall again present in the very terms of the " Reformation."
I read in the " Reformation " of January 28th, 1849 Everything in Plymouthism may be reduced to two points- the idea of the action of the Holy Spirit and the idea of the authority of the scriptures.
Plymouthism wishes to substitute for human organization the action of the Spirit. This is the reason for their principal objection to ecclesiastical ministry.
Next, remarking on the following words of Mr. Recordon, " God only blesses the labors of the workmen; He is sovereign and He acts in grace by the instruments which it pleases Him to choose " (words that accompany a reproach addressed to the faculties of theology which venture to call, to choose, to designate, to send, to displace at their pleasure, the Lord's workman), the " Reformation " thus expresses itself:
" We see how it is: it is always a dualism set up between the action of God and means, between the Spirit and man, as if the divine work could be accomplished otherwise than in and by man."
The " Reformation " says again, under date of the 29th November, 1846:
" The religion and ecclesiastical system, which is set forth by Mr. Vermont, rests, it seems to us, on two principles: the authority of the Bible and the aid of the Holy Spirit. It is not, of course, against those two principles, considered in themselves, that we desire to protest, but against the use made of them. Thus the action of the Holy Spirit is taken in the point of view of a gross supranaturalism. The divine action is not conceived of in its dynamic harmony with human action, but rather as a purely objective and constantly miraculous power. It seems that God is to intervene in a way which excludes man; and that where calculation, the use of means, and well considered activity, come in, the Holy Spirit can find no place. The expectation of the faithful is to be entirely passive. It must await the unfolding of divine graces and abstain from action as much as possible, so as to leave them more liberty. In a word, spiritual graces are always brought back to the supernatural form they assumed in the apostolic age."
Alas! there is in this way of thinking and this way of speaking of the presence of God, and of the action of His Spirit, a lightness, a spirit of jesting, and a tone of petty philosophy, on the subject of holy things, extremely painful to those who feel how serious a thing it is to put oneself forward, to have to do with that which is so precious to Christ as His Church, and how solemn a thing to call oneself a workman together with God, to occupy ourselves with His work, and to say that He acts in us.
As we shall see, the author of these articles has, moreover, entirely misplaced the question.
He is not mistaken in presenting, as the foundations of what people are pleased to call Plymouthism, the authority of the scriptures and the action of the Holy Ghost. It is on these, in very truth, that I desire that my own work and that of my brethren should rest.
What is this dualism between God and man, this singular rivalry of which we are said to be guilty? A rivalry singular truly, on the part of a wretched creature, a worm, with Him who has created man. Such a thought enters not, either to affirm or deny it, the mind of one who knows what God is and what man.
But the author of these articles is mistaken in every respect. In order to get rid of the action of the Holy Spirit, such as he finds it put forward as one of our fundamental principles, he falls into a strange excess. According to our views, as he affirms, " spiritual graces are always brought back to the supernatural form which they assumed in the apostolic age "; and he had before affirmed with no less assurance that, according to our views, " the action of the Holy Spirit is understood in the sense of a tolerably gross supranaturalism." The heart revolts in copying it. Does there really exist such a contempt for the action of the Holy Spirit? Alas! that at least betrays the thought of the author. He wants man to appear, man to act. The action and manifestation of the Spirit is for him a gross idea.
And again, the author is mistaken as to the facts of the apostolic age and as to the principles he condemns. The form which the work of the apostolic age assumed did not tend, in general, to a dualism of any kind-very far from it. There was, in certain cases, a sort of dualism. For example, tongues were spoken, and the one who spoke them did not always understand what he said. When that was the case, the apostle declares that this action of the Holy Ghost was of a lower order; " for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret; that the church may receive edifying." " He that speaketh in an unknown tongue, speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him, howbeit in the Spirit he speaketh mysteries.... He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church... wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue, pray that he may interpret.... But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church," 1 Cor. 4:5, 2-4, 13, 285Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. (1 Corinthians 4:5)
2Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 3But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 4For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. (1 Corinthians 4:2‑4)
13Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. (1 Corinthians 4:13)
. And Paul adds, as to himself (v. 19), " I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue." He will have, in speaking, his intelligence to have some part, not as if to produce in any sort another source of truth, but as a vessel blessed for himself and for others with what the grace of God communicated. By this means, there was blessing for himself and communion with others. The power of God by itself was something, no doubt; but the edification of the Church was the object which the love of God proposed to itself. The heart entered into it, spiritual intelligence submitted to it and rejoiced in it. It is thus that, in promising the gift of the Spirit, the Lord Himself says, of the one who should receive it, that " out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water " (John 7:3838He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (John 7:38)); out of his belly, that is to say, from his innermost affections, according to the well known use of this expression in the scriptures.
This dualism, of which the " Reformation " accuses us, is so little in my thought, that, on the contrary, in my eyes, it is precisely, save in the case we have just seen, the absence of it which distinguishes (a general, but not absolute distinction) the revelations of the New Testament from those of the Old. As a general rule, there was, in the prophets of old, this separation between the intelligence of man and the communication of the Spirit. It is otherwise in the revelations of the New Testament. The prophets, serving as channels of the Spirit of God, said, " Thus saith the Lord." Their hearts felt morally the state of the people, but the prophetic answer of God was communicated without the full intelligence of the prophet. This is why we find in the New Testament, that they " searched diligently... what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow: unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves but unto us they did minister the things which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven," 1 Peter 1:11, 1211Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. 12Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. (1 Peter 1:11‑12).
Thus, the ancient prophets themselves studied their prophecies; and there was a further action of the Holy Spirit to make them understand the meaning of them. They then found that it was not for themselves, but for us, that they ministered these things.
We, on the contrary, know that these things are ours. Christ, this precious Savior, has accomplished the work of eternal redemption. He has entered into His glory at the right hand of God, and the Holy Ghost has come down to be the revealer of this glory of the man Christ, the revealer of the Father's love, the seal of God upon us, as upon those who are to participate in it, and the earnest of all these blessings in our hearts: for the Head is there, and we are united to that Head; and the Spirit, come down from Him and from the Father, is in us a divine link with Christ. This Spirit, acting in the realization of the relationship of Christ to the Church,40 can reveal nothing to us which is not ours. The understanding rejoices in it. The affections of the heart attach themselves to it. There is a difference of gifts, no doubt, according to the sovereignty and wisdom of God, in order to communicate to the rest that which He has made us understand; but there is nothing to understand and to communicate but that which, by the same Spirit who renders us capable of it, we know also belongs to us. These rivers of living water flow from the heart which rejoices in the grace and the glory of which He has given us to partake, and from its communion with the Lord who has loved it.
Throughout their whole extent, then, my thoughts (and I doubt not they are, in substance, given by my God) are precisely the contrary of the dualism in question.
But there is still something to add here upon the difference people wish to make between the past and present.
At the beginning of the Church there was not only the action of the Holy Ghost, but, besides this, new revelations. Now, in the communication of these divine truths for the Church of that age and of all ages, God preserved the mouth of those whom He employed for this work, so that no error should fall from it, where He saw good to give that which was to serve as an authority. It is not that this took away spiritual intelligence from the others. Even when an apostle spoke, they searched the word to see " whether these things were so," Acts 17:1111These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:11). If prophets addressed the assembly, the rest judged; 1 Cor. 14:2929Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. (1 Corinthians 14:29). There were, however, divine revelations entrusted to those who were chosen of God to be the vessel of those revelations and organs of communicating them. Perhaps some of these communications were only for the moment; but those which were for every age of the Church are preserved for us in the written word. It is true also that, at that time, one was called upon to study that which the word of God reveals, so that one's profiting might be known to the whole Church; 1 Tim. 4:13-1613Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. 15Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. 16Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. (1 Timothy 4:13‑16).
Where is dualism, save in the mind of the author, who, as regards the apostolic age, makes everything proceed from the Spirit outside the intelligence of man, and, at the present time, makes everything be derived from man without the Spirit?
In order that there may be any good, it is needful for the Spirit of God to act in man and enable him to receive, communicate, understand, either a revelation,41 or even spiritual communications of things already revealed in the word. Blessing cannot come from man; man receives it by the Spirit. He has, in order to communicate it, neither wisdom, nor power, nor direction, save by the Holy Spirit. If he acts from himself, he abandons his christian position before God. As to one who listens to him, he understands by the Spirit, and the thing is applied to his soul by the Holy Spirit alone. I do not deny that the soul and understanding of the one who speaks are the vessel of this action, this power. I know they are; that the soul, the conscience, the understanding of him who listens are so likewise; but I say that it is the Holy Ghost who acts, if there is blessing, and wherever there is.
Luke 24:4949And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. (Luke 24:49). John 4; ch. 7; ch. 14:17-26; ch. 15:26; ch. 16:1-15. Acts 1:88But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8); ch. 2:38, 39; ch. 4:31; ch. 5:3; ch. 8:17; ch. 10:47; ch. 11:15; ch. 13:9; ch. 19:2. Rom. 8, almost the entire chapter (compare verse 9 and 7:5). 1 Cor. 2:9-169But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:9‑16); ch. 3:16; ch. 6:19; ch. 12; ch. 14. 2 Cor. 1:21, 2221Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; 22Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. (2 Corinthians 1:21‑22); ch. 3:8, 17, 18; ch. 6:6; ch. 11:4. Gal. 3:14, 3-514That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:14)
3Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? 4Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. 5He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:3‑5)
; ch. 4:6; ch. 5:16, 17, 25; ch. 6:8. Eph. 1:1313In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (Ephesians 1:13); ch. 2:18-22; ch. 3:16; ch. 4:3, 4; ch. 5:18; ch. 6:17. Phil. 1:1919For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, (Philippians 1:19); ch. 2:1. Col. 1:8. 1 Thessalonians 1: 6; ch. 4: 8; ch. 5: 19. 2 Tim. 1:1414That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us. (2 Timothy 1:14). Titus 3:66Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; (Titus 3:6). 1 Peter 1:1212Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. (1 Peter 1:12); ch. 4: 14. 1 John 2:2727But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. (1 John 2:27); ch. 3: 24; ch. 4: 13; ch. 5: 8. Jude 2020But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, (Jude 20).
The attentive reader must have observed, in following these passages, that I have not cited those which refer to regeneration, a universally recognized work of the Spirit; but only those which concern the reception of the Holy Spirit by believers, and this action in believers. (Compare John 7:3939(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:39); Gal. 4:66And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. (Galatians 4:6); ch. 3:24; Eph. 1:1313In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (Ephesians 1:13).) If we have lost all this, what becomes of the Church?
I beg the reader that he will go through all these passages in order- that which is not often done. He will not fail to find his reward in doing so. I think that will be worth all the rest of my pamphlet to him.
I always maintain, as the only true and possible meaning of the passage-1 Peter 4: 10, 11, that to speak as the oracles of God does not mean to speak according to the scriptures, though this be also necessarily the case, but to speak as announcing the oracles of God, as Martin translates it. For my part, if this be not done, I know not why I should listen. The reason given, namely, " that God may be glorified in all things," puts it beyond question that this is the meaning of the passage.)
If then any one objects, and says, No; it is he who introduces dualism; it is he who separates man from the Holy Ghost. That is indeed the dualism of incredulity, which makes of man a being capable of acting in the things of God without God's being with him, or acting in him. It is rationalism.
The movement is impressed on man and effectuated in man; but it comes from God: if not, it is evil. This is a point as capital as it is elementary. And, whatever may be the contempt with which the journalist treats these things, and accuses this system of meaning that the faithful should abstain from action as much as possible and take a more passive position, I boldly avow that I desire for all my brethren, as also for myself, that we should feel even more and more our entire dependence on God; that it is the Spirit which quickeneth and that the flesh profiteth nothing; yes, that we should feel our constant dependence, and that, if the Spirit does not lead us, we should not pretend, either in a smaller or a greater way, to meddle with the things of God. I believe, then, that the Spirit of God acts in man and by man, and in particular by the members of the body of Christ. He gives understanding, power, and energy. He is a Spirit of power and of liberty! But if He thus acts, His grace produces in the heart of man a spirit of humility and of entire dependence on God, a spirit which would be unwilling even to do a miracle if one could, unless the express will of God led one to do it. The life of the new man lives by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, and does not dare to act out of dependence on Him. That the Spirit should act in man and not outside man (an idea foreign to any system whatever), this is not, whatever may be said, what is intended.
What is intended is as follows: It is intended that people should calculate, reflect, employ means, arrange forms, without the Spirit and without the Bible, as we shall see; it is intended that all this should be done according to " human order," that is to say, of people's own will, yes, without the action of the Holy Spirit, without the direction of the Bible, which, say they, furnishes no rules as to church matters. And then, after all that, when man has acted without God, after his own counsels, people flatter themselves that God will put His hand to it. " I know," says the author, " that the Spirit of God can manifest His power, not only in spite of diverse forms, but even in these forms." That is to say, man will act alone, without the Spirit of God, without any direction from the Bible; then, God may come in and act, if He will.
I believe that in all systems, or rather, in spite of all systems, where there is faith, God will be found. But what a strange piety, to arrange things in the first place in one's own way, then to leave God to come in later, if He sees good! It is just man who wants to have man and the commandments of man.
As for me, I do not seek for " miracles "; but I do desire true dependence on God. I desire that man should not act without Him; that the presence of God in the midst of our assemblies should be our power and our blessing. Does the author of the article want God not to be present? Or does he want man to act without Him in His presence?
I have said that people wish to act without any direction from the Bible. They wish, in fact, as to all that concerns the Church, to set aside the Bible, as well as the Holy Spirit. Now, I say that man has nothing to do in the things of God without the Bible-that he has not to act without the Bible any more than without the Holy Ghost.
This is the second point I desire to treat.
To take the impulse of the Spirit without the word, is to expose oneself to take the flights of the imagination for a spiritual impulse.
To take the Bible without the Spirit, is to raise man to the level of God as to his capacity, and to make man do without God in his heart. It is rationalism.
To take the Spirit without the Bible, is to give a loose rein to all the follies of the human imagination, and to cover these extravagances with the name of God.
To do without the Spirit and the Bible, is what was reserved for the adversaries of the spiritual energy, which, in our days, is manifesting itself in the Church.
Is that true? the astonished reader asks. You shall see. The word of scorn, which, in order to shake, to weaken, to crush their faith, is flung at those who, taking the Bible as their rule, do not venture to act without its directions in the most precious and important things of God-this word by which it is thought to fix on them the stamp of error or of ridicule, is ' gospel-code' (l'Evangile-code). We are accused of making a code of the gospel.
In one sense, I do not make one; in another, the Bible is my rule in every particular; and, without it, I dare do nothing in the things of God. I know that the letter killeth and that the Spirit giveth life. I do not take the Bible, without the Holy Ghost, as a literal code.
If the Bible tells me to love my brother, I shall find a thousand things in which love will be shown, and of which the Bible does not speak, although, even in those things, I am directed by other instructions of the word. In many things, in which we have our senses exercised to discern good and evil, the word leaves liberty in order to put love to the proof. By our conduct in these things, it will judge, by the help of other passages, the thoughts and intents of the heart. The directions of the Bible suppose neither the imperfection which leaves man to himself in any particular whatever, nor a code which ties him to ceremonies and makes all his conduct a ceremony. And the Bible supposes neither the one nor the other, because the Spirit acts in a being become spiritual, who is to be directed by his affections and his conscience, but according to the word and according to the example of Christ; in a spiritual being who ought never to act of his own will (for that is what Christ never did, and what the word never allows).
To suppose that one must have either a code, or the calculation and will of man; to suppose that there is a category of things among the most important things, which most nearly concern God, in which man is to act at his pleasure, without the directions of God, is to show an entire ignorance of what is spiritual life and christian obedience. I should like to hear the author explain what is meant by the perfect law of liberty.
Ignorant and weak as I am (and I feel it), I venture to tell him that the more progress he makes in spiritual life, in the knowledge of the Bible and the knowledge of the Lord, the more also will he find that the word of God applies to everything in which man is found in relation with God, and withdraws him from everything in which he is out of relation with God, that it produces this effect not as a code, but as light and life, as direction which the Christian will understand by spiritual intelligence, by the mighty grace of the Holy Spirit; light, life, direction, in which he will seize the thoughts and wisdom of God, in which he will seize what is the will of God (and that is what constitutes his joy); when, in fine, he will find all the thoughts and intents of his own heart judged by this word which penetrates to the joints and marrow, to the soul and spirit.
Does the author think that the things relating to the Church, be they what they may, are not included among the relations between God and man? If they are included, if they have a place among them, the word will in them reveal God and judge man. It is in them that God and man are brought into the closest contact, that God will have nothing but what is of Himself, that He abhors the commandments and ordinances of man. He Himself is there. The Church is builded together to be the habitation of God by the Spirit. And, as to particular assemblies, where two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus, He is in their midst.
And the Bible gives us no direction as to these things! What then can the calculation and reflection of a journal be worth, with regard to those in whose midst the Lord is found?
When the existence of a Church, the body of Christ on earth, is denied, when what that Church is, is ignored, and every divine idea discarded, the Spirit and the word may easily enough be set aside. Indeed, in a system founded on such principles, the word and the Spirit would have nothing to do, unless to judge everything. And, if a system is to be established according to the wisdom of man, I undertake to demonstrate that, whatever it may be, it contradicts, in every way, the word of God: so little is it true that the word of God is silent as to all these things. If persons presume to say, that when the word of God has said one thing, we may just as well do another thing, we shall at least know what is the question at issue.
Let me quote the text which has given rise to all I have just been saying.
" The second principle of Plymouthism is its notion concerning the Holy Scriptures. We do not here speak of the inspiration or authority of the books of the Bible, but rather of the use that Plymouthism makes of this doctrine, that the New Testament is the word of God. It concludes from it that everything found there is to be a law.42 In vain is it alleged that the New Testament itself does not at all state this claim; that nowhere have the apostles given us their conduct in the direction of the Church, as a model which it was necessary to follow; that not one passage expresses the obligation of Christians to regard the ecclesiastical institutions of the first age as an absolute standard.. •. It must not be thought that the idea of the gospel-code is a Christian axiom, which can always be made our starting-point, and which one has never the need of examining."
And farther on, " We also, we have long thought that, on the ground of conformity to primitive usages, there is no successful defense of present usages. We must boldly place ourselves on that of evangelical liberty and human order. We have already said that there is the whole question" (The " Reformation," of January 28th, 1847).
Yes, in truth, there is the question. If we add the denial of the presence and action of the Holy Ghost, there is all the question.
Happy and bold emancipation from the Bible and from the restraint of the presence of God! Can one imagine anything setting aside more boldly the word of God, in all that relates to the Church?
As a general rule, it is wished that we should not seek in the word directions for the Church; and, as it must be confessed that there are many in it, it is said that those which are found there are not to be made a law of. That a Christian is saved, if you will, he may learn from the word; but as to directions for the Church on earth, it is insisted that the Bible furnishes us none. It cannot be denied that there are some in it; but we must take care not to see in them a law, and make use of evangelical liberty, and that boldly. The Spirit of God has not put them in the word in order that we might observe them. Would it be believed that it is come to this?
It is admitted that the present usages could not be justified by the Bible. Let us take note of this. And as people are not bound to follow the Bible, as everything that is found in the New Testament is not to be made a law, are directions to be entirely dispensed with? No. People are to use their liberty; they are to abandon what is found in the New Testament, since it condemns present usages, and they will betake themselves to human order; that is to say, they will fashion things according to their own will. They do not mean to say by this, that there are things which, because of our weakness, we cannot do; which we do not deny, and for which we humble ourselves. No; they want quite another principle, namely, to put aside the Bible and to follow human order.
If this is the principle which is opposed to what is called Plymouthism, while this decried Plymouthism recognizes the presence of the Spirit of God as a Spirit of union, power, and order, and recognizes the word of God, understood by the help of that Spirit, as a sufficient rule given by God for every case, and notably to lead ardent affections and subject consciences in a path pleasing to God, in the midst of the Church which that Spirit has gathered in its unity, in order to be the faithful spouse of Christ-all that is done, in throwing discredit on our views by the name of Plymouthism, is to cover us, in the eyes of simple souls, with a nickname given by the enemy to Christian faithfulness and obedience to the authority of God's word. Let people say what they will, provided that, for my part, I may realize that which they reject.
Let us again cite the " Reformation " of October 29th, 1846.
" This brings us to the other fundamental error of Plymouthism; we mean the use it makes of the word of God. The evangelical principle, that of the Reformation, is the exclusive authority of the holy scriptures, and consequently, the assertion that those scriptures are fully sufficient. At the same time it is taken for granted that, by this, the churches of the Reformation mean an authority in that sphere of things of which the Bible speaks,43 a sufficient light in those questions which tend to salvation. It has never otherwise been understood or explained... But... the sixteenth century itself was not always consistent.
" Scripture is sufficient for all that which pertains to salvation. Such is the Protestant maxim.
" But to appeal, in ecclesiastical questions, to the authority of scripture, to expect from scripture light upon these questions in the name of its dignity as the sole rule for Christians, is to comprise matters of form and organization among things necessary for salvation.44 Now, is not this the Catholic principle? Outside the Church, that is, of a particular form of the Church, no salvation? These so deeply anti-evangelical notions are much more widely spread than is generally believed."
The attention of Christians cannot be too much drawn to the slippery nature of the ground on which they have been set by the existing systems and by those who seek either to preserve them or modify them by introducing new life into them. It is impossible to maintain their systems, if the authority of the Bible be maintained. And hence the Bible is set aside to admit these systems or to keep them. Catholicism, to which people would assimilate us, does not seek its constitution in the Bible. It makes the Bible depend on the authority of the Church; that is to say, it takes away from God the right of Himself addressing the conscience and making man directly responsible for what he has heard, and it practically declares that what God has said and done in this respect is defective. For the Catholic, the Church and her forms precede the Bible, which he receives from the hands of the Church. For the Catholic, the forms must not be judged by the Bible, which is precisely the principle of our adversaries. There is, however, between the Catholics and them this difference: the Catholics call their system the divine order, respecting God in name; our adversaries call their's human order, having no other principle than their own will.
Here again, it is a question not of any form but of the power on which what is legitimate in this respect depends, and of the rule which is to direct the action and the effects of this power, so that we should not stray from it. We say, Christ is Son over His own house; the Holy Ghost is the One who acts in the Church to produce therein, by His divine presence, the order, liberty, and blessing which become the house of God's Son. And where the Spirit is, there is liberty.
Nevertheless, man, not inspired, cannot be trusted as the vessel of the thoughts of the Spirit; and God, in His grace, has taken the pains to give us written directions, enlightenment, warnings, for which we bless Him from the bottom of our hearts, while at the same time distrusting ourselves. We believe His word perfect with the instruction of His Spirit. We believe it to contain everything a Christian needs, and that according to the order and importance of the subject, according to His perfect grace, acting in respect of the wants of man; for eternal things, eternal truths; for the means to be employed, directions which are suitable to an inferior order of things, but which describe the existence on earth of what on earth is most precious to God. It is neither a law, nor a code, because man would not be capable of making use of it, and because God is not willing (and it is in grace that He is not willing) to expose us to the risk of departing either from continual dependence on Him, or from living relations with a Being, a living God. This God, infinite in His wisdom, has known how to give that which perfectly directs, in dependence on Himself, the spiritual man who, having the Spirit of the Lord, can understand the thought and will of that Spirit. He has known how to accommodate His written instructions to His own perfections and to man who has the Spirit; for he judgeth all things (1 Cor. 2:1515But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. (1 Corinthians 2:15), 16),45 so that for him,46 these instructions are perfect, complete, and divine; and because they are divine, they are beyond the reach of the natural man who would never profit by them through seeking a code in them, however truly they may comprehend everything which, at all times, governs the relations between God and man. But these relations are foreign to the natural man.
Besides, the instructions given to the Church, as well as those given to the Christian for his individual walk, are moral instructions for moral circumstances. They have not ceremonies in view and cannot be a code. In such or such an act of the Church, a thousand moral principles may exercise their influence; and, on the other hand, a thousand hearts and a thousand consciences will have to submit to them. Now these moral principles are in the Bible. In certain cases, the word being positive, the will of man has nothing to do but to submit. In others, with the intention that the heart should be exercised and faith put to the test, it only gives directions designed to act on the heart and on faith, and moreover perfectly sufficient to produce their effect in the case of those whose heart acts according to that which is said; for God, the living God, is ever there. It is this last truth which changes everything, and it is this which is entirely forgotten by the class of Christians to whom we are now replying.
But, the rules given for individual conduct are quite as much moral as those given for the Church. They nevertheless do not form a code. Sometimes there are rules and relations exact and positive; sometimes, principles; a code, never. If we read, for example, " Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also," this directs us personally and profoundly. The Lord, notwithstanding, did not do this: He answered peaceably. There is not a code which, by literal directions, decides every case which presents itself. Does then the word of God not furnish us with sufficient directions for practical walk? It is sufficient for salvation to believe that Jesus is the Christ; at all events, the one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.
Finally, the truth of the matter is this: " When thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light.... If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light," Luke 2:34-3634And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. 36And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; (Luke 2:34‑36). It is not the will of God that it should be otherwise. Now there is not in the Bible anything save what is necessary, when the case to which it applies presents itself. Man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God; and, if the word of God is not sufficient for every circumstance, and on every occasion, man, deprived of the wisdom of God, will stray in the desert wastes into which Satan and his own will will have led him.
As to what concerns the administration of the Church, the great principles which are found in the word of God are the following.
For the calling, and for the spiritual wants of this Church, God has given certain gifts which act for the increase and the union of the body at all times. Forms have no place whatever. Order is always morally the will of God; now the word provides for it where it is needed (1 Cor. 14; Rom. 12; 1 Peter 4.) Through the corruption of man, the Church may be found in a state of dilapidation; but, if this be so, the word of God suffices in this case also to the spiritual man, to enable him to judge of it and to direct him in the circumstances in which he finds himself.
This is what our opponents deny. They say that at the beginning God gave rules and forms needful for the walk of the Church, but that these forms do not concern us.
They were, we must surely suppose, in that case, as necessary as they were good in those days, since God gave them by inspiration; but at the present day, although He had shown the necessity for such directions, God has abandoned His Church without leaving it any for its walk.
Let us then examine the positive testimony of scripture on this subject.
The word of God presents to us a Church formed on earth47 by the Holy Ghost come down from heaven when the Son of God took His seat there in glory, having accomplished the work of redemption. This Church is one with its Head. It is the body of which Christ, ascended to heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father, is the Head; Eph. 1:20-2320Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:20‑23).
This precious redemption has brought about the establishment of man in this glory in heaven, the manifestation of this glory, such as it is in Jesus, and the participation of poor sinners even in this glory.
In the name of Him who has accomplished redemption, and who is seated in the glory, the Spirit, come down as witness of these things, has called sinners to come out of the world which had rejected Him, and to enjoy the infinite grace which had thus called them according to the counsels of God and washed them in the blood of Him whom the world had crucified. This same Spirit (who, by means of those whom God had chosen, had thus called sinners, and had communicated life to them) has also united them in one body, of which this glorified Christ is the Head, of which the Spirit Himself is the link with Christ, and in which He is the link between the members, one with the other. But this link is a living and powerful link, and He acts by a divine operation in the members. The members individually and the body48 collectively are His temple.
The word shows that this is the basis and source of all true ministry.
Ministry is thus linked with the existence of the Church of God and the love of Christ for this body which He nourishes and cherishes as His own flesh. By his unfaithfulness, man has been able to spoil the development of this ministry and of the life of the Church down here, as well as the development of the life in the individual; but the existence of ministry is connected with the very existence of the Church, and the faithfulness of the Head with whom it is united.
Consequently, to affirm that the teaching of the apostles on the subject of ministry and its action does not apply to later ages, is to say that there is no longer either a body of Christ, or faithfulness in its Head to nourish it. That is impossible. Moreover the Comforter will abide with us forever.
Many things, indeed, are lost. Tongues are no longer spoken, miracles are no longer performed. That which was connected with the external testimony and established the authority of the word is no longer found in the present day; but that which is of the substance of the things, that is to say ministry which calls and which nourishes, exists at all times. 1 Cor. 4 and 14; Rom. 12; and 1 Peter 4:10, 1110As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10‑11), contain instructions the force of which will subsist as long as the Church shall be on earth. One ought to take account of other passages which reveal to the heart and conscience our actual position before God, and which, in various respects, modify the application of those I have named; but until we are come to the measure of the stature of Christ, He will nourish the Church for its increase, and the Church will make increase of itself by this means.
Now, it is this ministry, its action, the rules which apply to it, that are in question. As to organization, we are but little reproached with too much insisting upon it.
To my mind, it is evident that the coming of Christ was before the eyes of the apostles; and this, whilst at the same time caring for the Church in an indefatigable manner, and making provision that such care should not fail it. But the apostles could not cause that the power-and there was power-of their ministry should continue after their death. See what Paul says to the Ephesians (Acts 20:22-3022And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: 23Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. 24But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. 25And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. 26Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. 27For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. 28Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:22‑30)), and what Peter teaches; 1 Peter 1:14, 1514As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; (1 Peter 1:14‑15). Now, the kingdom of God is in power. The power of the ministry of the apostles has disappeared, and the consequence has gradually been the corruption of the Church and frightful disorder; so that one has seen what was called order and holy orders become the seat of the enemy's power, and what called itself the Church to be that which truth had to combat.
Now, in the perilous times of the last days, when there should be the form of godliness and its power denied, to what does the apostle (in view of everything which, before his prophetic eyes was springing up in the Church) direct his beloved Timothy, his son in the faith, this devoted heart into which he was pouring out his own? Here is the language he holds to him, " But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.... All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." Now, it is very certain that this goes much farther than direction for the walk of the Church, that it embraces everything. The man of God is not simply a Christian; he is a man acting in the work and Church of God. This was the case with Timothy, to whom the epistle is addressed, and to whom Paul says, " Thou, O man of God," 1 Tim. 6:1111But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. (1 Timothy 6:11). He needed to know how he ought to behave himself in the house of God; 1 Tim. 3:1515But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15).
Now for these times, after the departure of the apostle (times in which his immediate care would be wanting to the Church, and evil would go on increasing), to what does the apostle direct the faith of the man of God? Precisely to divinely inspired scripture, to that which we are told not to make a law of, to that which, if it must be said, is derided as a code, to what Timothy had learned from him (and where shall we learn from him, if not in the written word?); to the scriptures in fine, that he might be perfect and furnished unto every good work. Now I think that the work of the ministry and the care of the Church are a good work; at all events the apostle expressly says so to Timothy; 1 Tim. 3:11This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. (1 Timothy 3:1).
If, then, we cannot do certain things, it is not that the authority of the word is wanting to us as to these things, nor that it is not our blessing to possess these precious directions in which God has shown us that He has thought of the least wants of His Church; but we acknowledge our weakness; and we do not pretend to do what God has not committed to us. Thus, for example, I do not pretend to name either elders or deacons. If others pretend to have the spiritual discernment and the authority necessary for this, let them do it; but of this I have not discerned the proofs-very far from it. More than this: he who should make such a pretension seems to me not to understand at all either the state of the Church, or the thoughts of God, to act contrary to the will of God, and to lack precisely that which is necessary in order to direct the Church, namely, intelligence of the thoughts of God. Do I despise the functions of elders and deacons? Do I love disorder? Far from it. And if I do not pretend to establish anyone in these offices, I own (blessing God with all my heart for it) the qualities requisite for them when they are manifested. I lend them all the moral support which spiritual respect with regard to what God has given them can afford, and I associate myself with them as far as it belongs to me to do so. And the word furnishes me with directions on this subject. It calls on me to own those who labor, those who give themselves to the ministry (diaconate) of the saints and to submit myself to them; 1 Thess. 5:12, 1312And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 13And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves. (1 Thessalonians 5:12‑13); 1 Cor. 16:1515I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) (1 Corinthians 16:15); Heb. 13:7-177Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. 8Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. 9Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein. 10We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. 11For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. 12Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. 13Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. 14For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. 15By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. 16But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. 17Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:7‑17); 1 Peter 5:2-62Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. 5Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: (1 Peter 5:2‑6). I do not treat this subject at length, but only in its relation to the authority of the word, while blessing God in that itself furnishes the answer to all its adversaries, from whatever quarter they may arise.
You, Christians, who take the word for your guide, for counsel, who find in it a precious gift which God has bestowed on us and a perfect light in every case, do not be discouraged. If you meet with opposition, and if the number of those who are willing to follow this way is small, be not astonished. " All men have not faith," 2 Thess. 3:22And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith. (2 Thessalonians 3:2).
And where there is faith, how many things, alas! tend to obscure spiritual life, to hinder the eye from being single, to cause us to say: " Let me first go," etc. (Luke 9:5959And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. (Luke 9:59)).
But faith is always blessed. The single eye always enjoys the sweet and precious light of God. The word suffices to make every man perfect; and, if distinctions be wished, it suffices not only to save him, it suffices also to make him wise unto salvation, and, further, to make him perfect and throughly furnished unto all good works.
Whoever you may be, dear and well-beloved brethren, confide in this word. Only remember that, to profit from it, you need the help and teaching of the living God. You can learn from it neither grace nor truth, nor make use of it, unless the Spirit of God instruct you. All the language, all the ideas of faith- of Christian life are found in it; but you have the care of a living and divine Master. This word is the sword of the Spirit.
Whatever may be moreover the forms and ways of piety which are found in them, and the zeal which impels them, you will find that those who oppose a walk which claims the word of God as authority in all things, leave aside or reject and do not understand the following truths:
First, the doctrine of the Church of God, the body of Christ, one upon earth, the bride of the Lamb.
Secondly, the presence and power of the Spirit of God, acting in the children of God and directing them; especially, the presence49 of the Holy Ghost in the body, the Church down here, acting in it and directing it, as well as all its members, in the name of Him who is its Head.
Thirdly, the authority and sufficiency of the word of God.
These Christians evade, on one side or other, the authority of the word of God. They admit it as Protestants, to escape from it as believers, as members of the Church, as disciples; and what they organize in nowise flows from it, as the " Constitution of the Free Church of the Canton de Vaud " has given us a proof.
You will also see that in general, among the Christians of whom we are speaking, the clergy take the place of worship. There is, it is true, some change and some progress in this last respect. The Spirit of God is producing wants; but there will never be a true and blessed answer to these wants, save in admitting with faith the principles called to mind above. For you, dear brethren, who have understood these things, I will add a warning.
One may have this precious knowledge necessary in order to walk intelligently before God (Eph. 5:55For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:5)); but one may have it, boast of it, proclaim it, and with all this repel humble souls desirous of advancing, and throw them into the hands of those who have no wish that they should walk according to this knowledge. We ourselves must walk in seriousness, in humility, in the love which the presence of God produces. This supposes faith and life in the soul. Where it is found, blessing is not wanting to those who thus walk. Although this does not justify the unbelief or the opposition of others, if you present the truth in such a way as not to glorify God, you give them power and influence against it. Principles are not enough: we need God. Without this, mighty principles are but a sword in the hands of a child or of a drunken man; it were better to take it from him, or at least, that he use it not till he be sober. Let us show the fruits of our principles. Let us be firm in the truth. We must be firm. The more some oppose the truth, and others profess to wish to possess it, ar.cl accommodate themselves, without their conscience unreservedly submitting to it, to the wants it has produced in other persons (and both these cases present themselves), the more we have to keep in the narrow path it has marked out in the word for our souls, according to the grace and power of the Holy Ghost who has sanctified us to obey Christ. Let our hearts be large and our feet in the narrow path. Often, when people talk of charity, their hearts are narrow and their feet are following the path which suits them. It is this which makes the heart narrow, because the conscience is uneasy, and people do not like those who make this evident. The presence of God (and it is of this that we are speaking) gives firmness, practical submission to the word of God Himself, which tranquillizes the soul in the difficulties of the way, which causes one not to seek the prevalence of principles by crooked ways and human means; finally, it gives humility and uprightness. God will know how to enforce these principles, where He acts in His grace. Only let us manifest this power, He will do all the rest.
Yes, dear brethren, life, the presence of God, this is what (by the operation of the Holy Ghost in us and in others) gives force to the truths which are committed to us, whatever they may be. Better that these truths should not make way, than that we ourselves should get away from the presence of God to enforce them.
The need of unity and of spiritual action is making itself felt. You will see human efforts spring up, intended to produce things which answer to these wants. Do not trust them. The Church, the Spirit, the word, the practical expectation of Christ, these are the things of which you have now to realize the truth and power. While waiting for the coming of Jesus, as the immediate object of the spiritual affections of the heart, here is what we have to occupy ourselves with.
There are systems of every sort, the National, the Free, that of the Evangelical Alliance,50 and others. When the truth is firmly retained, all this is judged in the soul without violence or noise. Nothing of all this can accord with the things I have spoken of: only let us be sure that God will honor personal faith wherever He finds it. Let us thus have hearts large, ready to own God wherever He works; but let us not be deceived by appearances. Neither one nor other of these systems can be the bride of Christ, nor the habitation of the Spirit of which the word speaks; nor can they act simply according to the word.
The foundations of this Alliance are quite different from those which the Spirit of God would or could have laid, although the want which suggested this Alliance may have been, I doubt not, in great part produced by that Spirit. As usual, man has sought to arrange things in his own way. And, in the first place, the principle of clergy has been made fundamental. A second principle which has been established has been that, in becoming a member of the Affiance, no one was supposed, either to renounce the sect to which he belonged, or to renounce the putting forward of his own principles, a condition without which union would have been impossible. Dr. Chalmers strongly insisted on united action, saying that, without this, the " Alliance " would have no vitality and would not stand. People did not dare to follow this advice; and it was decided that the point should be left on one side! Later on, the English members of the " Alliance " decided not to admit any possessing slaves, a measure which excluded a certain number of Christians of the United States. People were thus led to subdivide the " Affiance " into a certain number of national districts, and to renounce a general union.
Can it be said that this is the unity of the Spirit?
As to the doctrines owned by the " Alliance," they comprise too much or too little to serve as a common ground for all those whom it is designed to unite. It is of little use to enter into other details; for, except a great annual meeting, a great deal of talk, and some local reading-meetings, from which are excluded the Quakers, those called Plymouth Brethren, and, through one cause or another, the greater part of Christians, this " Alliance " does next to nothing.
In France, under the name of " Union Evangelique," the " Alliance " is only an instrument of clericalism and exclusiveness, and even, it appears to me, without much good faith. I say this, because, if one pretends to seek the union of all Christians, and uses this pretension to make of it an instrument of exclusiveness, I cannot call that good faith. In proof of what I assert, I may mention the exclusive communications made to those who are thought to belong to the clergy; I may mention the fact that there is presented to those who wish to become members of the Alliance an engagement to sign, by which they bind themselves not to be present at a meeting held by any of the brethren professing what are called Plymouthist principles. Is this engagement required everywhere? I know not. What I do know is, that it is required; and it is certain that those who act in the " Union " and for the " Union," actively make use of the " Union " for the object indicated. That people should oppose views which they do not approve, is nothing surprising, and can readily be understood; but to set up the " Union," to attain this end under the pretext of union, is what I can understand but cannot honor.)
Now, dear brethren, God shakes everything except the kingdom which cannot be shaken. He will remove everything save that. Why build that which His coming will destroy? Let us keep ourselves firmly in the word of His patience. He did not possess, He possesses not yet, the fruit of the travail of His soul: all which is not that will perish; let us attach ourselves to that which will not perish. Every other thing will distract us. Impossible for me to enjoy fully the coming of Jesus as a promise, if I am seeking to build the things which His coming will destroy. His Church will be taken up to Him. His Spirit will be forever its power. His word abides forever. Let us abide by it. Neither will our labor be lost (1 Cor. 15:30-3230And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? 31I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die. (1 Corinthians 15:30‑32)), nor the work of faith, although this word be, no doubt, the word of His patience.
How many events since these pages were written have come to give force and reality to the truths revealed as to the Church, the Spirit, the word, and the practical expectation of Christ! How happy to have received in peace, by faith, that which these events give the demonstration of, and which becomes doubly precious in the midst of all that is being unfolded before our eyes! And what a confirmation for faith, to see events confirm, by providential actings, that which, by the teaching of the Spirit, we have believed and received as truths.
And, in presence of these events, how should Christians cherish and realize, more than ever, the coming of the Lord Jesus! It will be the daily joy of our souls and a powerful means of confirming us in peace and in a sure and Christian walk. Let us know how to apply its power to all our walk. Let us remember that an incorruptible inheritance, undefiled, is reserved in heaven for us who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time. And, meanwhile, let us remember that Christ said, " My kingdom is not of this world," and that we ourselves are not of this world, even as Christ was not of this world. We are dead and risen with Him. Let us apply these testimonies of the word to all our walk, remembering that our conversation is in heaven, from whence we look for the Lord Jesus as Savior, who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body. While walking tranquilly with Jesus, the God of peace will be with us. Nothing separates us from His love. He may let us be chastened if need be, but He never abandons the government of all things. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father. The Lord Jesus walks on the rough sea as on the calm: we could not, without Him, walk either on the one or on the other.
Kept in the communion of the Lord, far from diminishing in our hearts the value of the elementary truths of the gospel, the principles I have spoken of make them infinitely more precious, and at the same time much more clear. They will be proclaimed with more power and simplicity.
Thus the coming of Jesus will reanimate our zeal to call those who are His own, to address ourselves to sinners, to warn the world of the judgment which awaits it, and which awaits it such as it is down here; it will impel us, according to our measure, to a holy activity in the Church, to the end that the
Church may awake and may prepare itself, as also to a holy activity towards the world.
May God keep us near to Himself, and preserve us, you and myself, my brethren, whoever you are who love the Lord Jesus, in the faithful and patient waiting for Jesus, who has said to us, " Surely, I come quickly! " Amen.