Abbott's Hill and Principles; Bochim and Gilgal; Setting Up to Be Philadelphia; Testimony for These Days; the World and the Christian

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 8
I never felt the same distrust of myself as I do now in writing this, and I desire to speak to my own conscience as to you. I should not write at all, but as taking the lowest place, always the best, and now especially the only true and right one. He who is lowest and lowliest will be most blessed.
(*See below)
Let me say a word as to Bochim. Looked at merely as used for humiliation or sorrow where saints have failed, and voluntarily by grace place' themselves to own it before God, I heartily enter into it, but taken as it is really in scripture, there was nothing of the kind lit Bochim. The Lord declared in judgment that He would no longer drive out their enemies, and they wept when they heard the judgment. There was no sorrow for sin and failure, but for judgment, and they worshipped where they wept. Gilgal, that is circumcision, the removal of the reproach of Egypt, and the Lord's presence by His angel in it, was lost forever. There was no voluntary confession and humiliation at all. It is all a mistake. They had not faithfully put out the evil that was amongst them, and the Lord, though interfering from time to time in compassion, left them judicially in this state. I refer to this because the word became a kind of watchword with many. But God has wrought a great deliverance for us, much greater than most of those spared are aware of: some have felt it. And what I desire now is, that our consciences may turn and see where we had so failed as to bring this sorrow upon us. I am not going to turn back and charge any one or refer to any recent circumstances, but to weigh, where conscience is awake, how we brought ourselves into the strait place we were in. I hesitated a moment whether I should say anything, before the details which remain were set in order by God, as I am assured His grace will do; but they do not affect my object.
Is it not true for every thoughtful conscience that the spirit of the world had invaded us? We do not go to parties; if we meet, we meet to read the scriptures and edify one another. Discipline for any gross evil would be, I suppose, exercised with some measure of faithfulness where the evil was apparent: I make no exaggerated statement of evil: many, I doubt not, were walking christianly, I dare say better than myself. But as to the course of this world, had we not greatly fallen into its ways? not, as I have said, in open worldliness—but was not there that, current, and let pass, which grieved the Spirit of God, and hence weakened all spiritual energy, and spiritual discernment for discipline and for the Lord's mind in all our course—the loss of discerning things that are excellent "to be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ," "filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding... fruitful in every good work"? Have we been as purified to Himself for a peculiar people; not our own, bought with a price; as epistles of Christ known and read of all men; living by Him, and close to Him, and for Him; as is said, "Christ is all, and in all," so that whatsoever we should do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus? Were our sole and constant motives Christ, or the common motives of the world? Were buying and selling, our houses, our clothing, ordered on principles which Christ, if there, would approve? Did we walk even as once we walked? Was there devoted service among the poor and needy, visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and keeping ourselves unspotted from the world? We read, " Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." Were we yielding our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God as an intelligent service, proving what was that good and acceptable and perfect will of God, as Christ offered Himself for us a dying sacrifice? Ah! what place had He, has He in our hearts? Do we live to Him who died in love for us? If the testimony of God as to the truth was with brethren, was it the truth as it is in Jesus, the having put off the old man and put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness?
I had long dreaded: the Manchester meeting alarmed me. I was not there; but the discussion was whether we were Philadelphia, or who was Laodicea—and not at Manchester only. Brethren had got to think of themselves as a body of people, and to say the least, less of Christ and His body. Now God calls us, and that in love, to remember from whence we are fallen and repent and do the first works. He looks for consistency and devotedness. He always does, and I bless His name He does, but He does so call us now by special circumstances. Satan, long practically undermining as to devotedness and un-worldliness, had made a deadly effort to set brethren aside in their testimony to the truth. God in His sovereign mercy has broken his effort. It has been His doing only. Now comes the positive side. Is that which gave him entrance, and a handle, removed, and the Lord truly honored? If our consciences do not take notice of His ways, the next thing, though His patience is great and long, would be His judgment. Satan's efforts and power He can easily break, humbling us in the meantime; but His judgment who shall withstand? I ask myself, I ask you, how far can we say, "To me to live is Christ"? That is the grave question for us all now. I do not seek to discourage, quite the contrary. The Lord, in sovereign mercy, has not left us, though we have greatly failed. He has shown Himself most graciously with us, when we might have expected the contrary. How soon could the apostle say, "All seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ"! He has shown Himself full of mercy and grace: what I seek is that our hearts may turn to Him according to that grace.
I add, as the passage has been circulated, that Heb. 12:2727And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. (Hebrews 12:27) has no possible application. There God Himself yet once more shakes and removes what can be shaken, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. What man, when God shakes all things, can establish what cannot be shaken? One part of the passage does belong to us, to those to whom the warning of God's shaking all things yet once was addressed, namely, "We therefore receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire." Such is His government here, but with that we have boldness to enter into the holiest. May our thoughts be formed there: may we yet remember that He governs!
Your affectionate brother in Christ.