Bible Treasury: Volume 6

Table of Contents

1. Remarks and Thoughts on 1 Corinthians 12
2. 1 John 1
3. 1 Timothy
4. Brief Thoughts on 2 Corinthians 3
5. The Absolute
6. The Achill Herald Recollections: Part 1
7. The Achill Herald Recollections: Part 2
8. Acts 7
9. Advertisement
10. Advertisement
11. Advertisement
12. Advertisement
13. Advertisement
14. Advertisement
15. Advertisement
16. Advertisement
17. Advertising
18. Advocate
19. Apostolic Succession
20. Are You Brought to God?
21. As It Was at the Beginning? and What Is Its Present State? What Is the Church?
22. The Assimilating Power of Christ
23. The Atoning Death of Christ: Correction
24. Babylon
25. Belshazzar's Feast in Its Application to the Great Exhibition
26. Blessing and Giving Thanks
27. Christ Alone
28. Christ Dwelling in Us
29. The Christian Observer: Part 1
30. The Christian Observer: Part 2
31. Thoughts on the Church
32. Notes on Colossians 1:1-8
33. Notes on Colossians 1:19-23
34. Notes on Colossians 1:24-29 and 2:1-3
35. Notes on Colossians 1:9-18
36. Notes on Colossians 2:13-19
37. Notes on Colossians 2:20-23
38. Notes on Colossians 2:4-12
39. Notes on Colossians 3:1-11
40. Notes on Colossians 3:12-17
41. Notes on Colossians 3:18-25,4:1
42. Notes on Colossians 4:2-18
43. Confederacies of Men and Judgments of God
44. Conquerors
45. Death of Lazarus
46. What Is Death to the Believer?
47. Discipline: 19. Job, Part 1.
48. Discipline: 20. Job, Part 2
49. Discipline: 21. Hezekiah
50. Distrust of God
51. Dorman's Appeal
52. Dr. Capadose and the Dutch Reformed Church
53. Ecclesiastes
54. On Ecclesiastical Independency
55. The Elohistic and Jehovistic Notion
56. Letter on Eternal Punishment
57. Evangelical Organs of 1866 Christian Observer
58. Extracts From Correspondence: Christ in Gethsemane and on the Cross
59. Extracts From Correspondence: Dependence
60. Extracts From Correspondence: Exercise of Gifts
61. Extracts From Correspondence: God's Presence Is Power
62. Faith and Righteousness of God
63. Faith's Ivory Palaces
64. Thoughts on First Corinthians 15:47-49
65. "Follow Thou Me"
66. Fragment: 2 Corinthians 12
67. Fragment: Abraham and the World
68. Fragment: Abraham the First Object of a Promise
69. Fragment: Christianity of the Busy Life
70. Fragment: Difference Between Love and Self
71. Fragment: God in the Book of Job
72. Fragment: God's Word
73. Fragment: Hooker's Doctrine
74. Fragment: Hope an Inheritance
75. Fragment: John 3:13-14
76. Fragment: Justification: Washed and Accepted
77. Fragment: Matthew 26
78. Fragment: Participles in 1 John
79. Fragment: Pictures From Abraham and Joseph
80. Fragment: Psalm 102
81. Fragment: Psalm 69
82. Fragment: Resurrection of Christ
83. Fragment: Romans 6
84. Fragment: Romans 6:4-8
85. Fragment: The Grand Blunder of Schleiermacher
86. Fragment: The Sanctuary of God
87. Fragment: The Whole Truth
88. Fragment: Without Christ We Have Nothing
89. Fragment: Worldly Religions
90. Fragments Gathered Up: Abel's Sacrifice
91. Fragments Gathered Up: Christ Not Law-Transgressing
92. Fragments Gathered Up: Distinguishing Between Sins and Sorrows
93. Fragments Gathered Up: Hooker's Doctrine
94. Fragments Gathered Up: Joel 2:30
95. Fragments Gathered Up: Not Alive Under Sin or Law
96. Fragments Gathered Up: Presence of God
97. Galatians
98. Thoughts on Galatians 3
99. Genesis 3
100. Gethsemane
101. The Glory in the Cloud
102. God Manifested in the Flesh
103. God Seeing Us and Our Seeing God
104. What Proves There Is a God
105. Grace and Law
106. Hints on the Greek Article
107. He Will Swallow up Death in Victory
108. Hebrews
109. Hooker and the Law
110. Hosea 14:9
111. The House of God at Jerusalem
112. Thoughts on the House of God
113. Notes on Isaiah 33
114. Notes on Isaiah 34-35
115. Notes on Isaiah 36-37
116. Notes on Isaiah 38-39
117. Notes on Isaiah 40
118. Notes on Isaiah 41
119. Notes on Isaiah 44-45
120. Notes on Isaiah 46-48
121. Notes on Isaiah 49
122. Notes on Isaiah 50
123. Notes on Isaiah 51-52
124. Notes on Isaiah 52:13-15 and Isaiah 53
125. Notes on Isaiah 54-55
126. Notes on Isaiah 56-57
127. Notes on Isaiah 58-59
128. Notes on Isaiah 60
129. Notes on Isaiah 63:1-6
130. Notes on Isaiah 63:7-19 and Isaiah 64
131. Notes on Isaiah 65
132. Notes on Isaiah 66
133. Jesus Christ Come in the Flesh
134. Jesus Led of the Spirit
135. Jesus the Willing Captive
136. The Jews
137. John 1
138. On John 11
139. John 14
140. John 17:17 and 19
141. The Character of John 6
142. Kingdom of Heaven and of God
143. The Knowledge of Good and Evil
144. The Law
145. Leviticus 25:1-25
146. Life and Death
147. A Living God and a Living People
148. Love and Purpose in God's Revelations
149. Love in 1 Corinthians 13
150. Notes on Luke 1:1-4
151. Notes on Luke 1:26-80
152. Notes on Luke 1:5-25
153. Notes on Luke 2:1-20
154. Notes on Luke 2:21-38
155. Notes on Luke 2:39-52
156. Notes on Luke 3:1-14
157. Notes on Luke 4:1-13
158. Notes on Luke 4:14-29
159. Notes on Luke 4:30-44
160. Notes on Luke 5:1-11
161. Remarks on Mark 10:46-52
162. Remarks on Mark 11:1-14
163. Remarks on Mark 11:15-33
164. Remarks on Mark 12:1-17
165. Remarks on Mark 12:18-44
166. Remarks on Mark 13
167. Remarks on Mark 14:1-25
168. Remarks on Mark 14:26-73
169. Remarks on Mark 15:1-26
170. Remarks on Mark 15:27-47
171. Remarks on Mark 16
172. Mark 4:1-34
173. On Mark 4:14-29
174. Matthew 11
175. Matthew 27:51-52
176. Earlier Days of Moses
177. On Mysticism: Letter 1
178. On Mysticism: Letter 2
179. Nicodemus, the Samaritan, the People, the Jews
180. Notes on Isaiah. (Chap. 42, 43.)
181. Notes on Isaiah. (Chaps. 61, 62)
182. Notes on Luke 3:15-38
183. Notes on Romans 2:1-8
184. Notice: Reprint of "The Sufferings of Christ"
185. Patriarchal Longevity and the Deluge
186. Paul With the Romans and at Rome
187. Paul's Doctrine
188. Philippians 3:9-10
189. Our Pilgrimage, Priesthood, and Suffering
190. The Place of Faith, the Work of Faith, and the Present Reward of Faith
191. Pool of Bethesda
192. A Thought on Preaching
193. Thoughts on the Presence of the Holy Ghost in the Church
194. Printed
195. On Prophecy
196. Prospect and Retrospect
197. Practical Reflections on Proverbs 1-2
198. Practical Reflections on Proverbs 3-4
199. Practical Reflections on Proverbs 4
200. Practical Reflections on Proverbs 5
201. Practical Reflections on Proverbs 6
202. Psalm 102
203. Psalm 17
204. Psalm 40
205. Psalm 42-43
206. A Note on Psalm 68
207. Psalm 72
208. The Psalms and Christ
209. Published
210. Published
211. Published
212. Published
213. Published
214. Published
215. Published
216. Published
217. Published
218. Published
219. Published
220. Published
221. Published
222. Published
223. Published
224. Published
225. On Reconciliation
226. Thoughts on Revelation 10-11
227. Revelation 8
228. Revelation 9
229. Suggestions on the Revelation
230. Thoughts on Righteousness
231. Notes on Romans 1:1-7
232. Notes on Romans 1:17
233. Notes on Romans 1:18
234. Notes on Romans 1:19-23
235. Notes on Romans 1:24-32
236. Notes on Romans 1:8-16
237. Notes on Romans 2:17-29
238. Notes on Romans 2:9-16
239. Notes on Romans 3:1-20
240. Notes on Romans 3:21-31
241. Outline of Romans
242. Ruth's History
243. Scripture Queries and Answers
244. Scripture Queries and Answers: 1 Peter 3:18-20
245. Scripture Queries and Answers: 2 Peter 1:19
246. Scripture Queries and Answers: Apocalyptic Beasts
247. Scripture Queries and Answers: Caught Up Before the Lord Comes
248. Scripture Queries and Answers: Child Raised Against Faith of Parent
249. Scripture Queries and Answers: Difference Between Saints and Believers
250. Scripture Queries and Answers: Dispensational Teachings
251. Scripture Queries and Answers: How to Look for and Love His Appearing
252. Scripture Queries and Answers: Kingdom of Heaven Vs. Kingdom of God
253. Scripture Queries and Answers: New Birth
254. Scripture Queries and Answers: Question on Greek
255. Scripture Queries and Answers: Rev. 5:9-10; 2 Thess. 1:7; Matt. 16:18
256. Scripture Queries and Answers: Revelation 4, 6 and 12
257. Scripture Query and Answer: 2 Corinthians 13:4
258. Scripture Query and Answer: All of One
259. Scripture Query and Answer: Day Star and Morning Star
260. Scripture Query and Answer: Day-Star?
261. Scripture Query and Answer: "dying"
262. Scripture Query and Answer: Judgment Seat of Christ
263. Scripture Query and Answer: Spirit of Christ and of Him That Raised
264. Scripture Query and Answer: The Lord's Supper and the Breaking of Bread
265. Self-Judgment
266. Our Sorrows and Christ
267. Sufferings of Christ
268. Sufferings of Christ
269. The House and the Body
270. The Joyful Sound
271. Thoughts on 2 Cor. 12
272. The Throne of God and the Son of Man
273. To Correspondents
274. To Correspondents
275. To Correspondents: He Endured the Forsaking of God for Sin
276. To Correspondents: The Smiting of Christ
277. To Correspondents: University Education
278. A Few Words on the Trinity
279. Truth and Error
280. Understanding O. T. Scriptures
281. Unity and Christ
282. The Vine
283. The Ways of God: 7. The Glory or Kingdom
284. The Ways of God: 8. Satan Loosed for a Little Season
285. A Well of Springing Water
286. What the Grace of God Does
287. Why Should We Think We Possess a Perfect Mind?
288. Woolen and Linen: Part 1
289. Woolen and Linen: Part 2
290. Woolen and Linen: Part 3

Remarks and Thoughts on 1 Corinthians 12

“Now concerning spiritual operations (or, manifestations).” This word is preferable to that of “gifts,” because here it includes diabolical operations, as well as operations of the Spirit, and we do not like to call that which is really the working of the devil a “gift.” Such is the meaning of desiring the “best gifts.” “Desire spiritual manifestations.” Paul wished them to be able to discern, when any one had spoken with power among them, whether it was the devil or the Holy Ghost speaking by him. No man can say, Lord Jesus, unless in the Holy Spirit; and no one calls Him “Anathema” if he speaks in the Spirit of God. It seems strange for us to think a person speaking with power should speak by the evil spirit; but it was a common thing with them. There were false prophets, we read. They took the form of teachers, instead of utterances. No doubt the devil has been thus working among Mormonites and Irvingites. “Every spirit that confesseth Jesus Christ come in the flesh, is of God.” The great Truth is Himself come in the flesh. The Gnostics said matter was a bad thing made by the devil. It is in 2 John, Jesus Christ coming in the flesh, not speaking as to the time, but of the character of His coming. Again, “This is he that came by water and blood.” There was moral power, but atonement also. He was real man; and came for the shedding of blood as well as for purifying.
“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” The great thing here insisted on is the unity of the Spirit, as opposed to many demons, creatures working by creatures. “He shall not speak of Himself.” (Chap. 14:29, 30) “Let the prophets speak two or three.... if anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.” The power of the Holy Ghost acts morally on the individual. “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” If we see a carriage movable by steam, the moment the steam is put on, there is the power; but it wants one to guide. If the one prophet went on speaking, it was not according to the order of the Spirit, though it was by the Spirit. The gift is committed to men who are responsible for the use of it. It is not impulse merely, though there be an impulse given; but then there must be the control over it. If two get up at the same moment to pray, both may have what is of the Spirit to utter, but one is not subject, at the moment, to the Spirit's order.
“The difference of ministries”, &c. The gifts are through the Holy Ghost, the service is to Christ the Head; but the Spirit is the power. In the exercise of the gift one is the servant of Christ the Lord, the Spirit is the energy by which one serves, but God is He that works all in all, doing everything. Though several should speak together, still it is all by one divine Spirit (not several spirits of demons). While I am Christ's servant and not man's, still I could not exercise my gift in spite of all my brethren say against it without despising Christ's authority in the body. “Be ye subject one to another.” It is God that is working; and therefore let all be silent before Him.
The thought of the family, which sometimes prevails, is not sufficiently reverential to Christ as the Head. Service to Christ as the Head is something more than service in the family. For instance, I feel a difference in going to my Father, and going to God. Thus, if I go to my father in the house, I go up to him at once, and jump upon his knee; but if he is in court, sitting in public in his official capacity, I do not use such familiarity; I treat him with more respect than that. We are set as servants and as members (lower down in the chapter) of one body, of which Christ is the Head. It makes an amazing difference in this way. If I have the thought of the Holy Ghost only present to my mind, self comes in, and I almost necessarily attach a certain importance to self, because I am expecting to be used. I am to speak, or I am to pray. But when Christ is looked to and realized, it is entirely different. Self does not come in, because I am looking to another—to Christ as personally present to faith; and thus the affections are drawn forth to a person—to Him who has died for me. The whole tone of a meeting will be affected by this.
There are many members, not heads. Again, no one is to go beyond his measure. Each is to wait on his ministry, whatever it may be; lot him stick to that one thing, and not attend to everything else. He that gives, let him do it with simplicity; he that ministers is to wait on his ministry—to do the work he has to do (and do not you attempt anything else): He that exhorteth on exhortation. God may give one person half a dozen gifts. One may be an evangelist only; one may exhort and move the conscience; and another may teach. The manifestation of the Spirit is given to profit withal.
At the first, in preaching the Gospel, there was the broad statement of the fact that the Son of God was come. Now it has to be applied, because it is admitted in common as a fact, though the more it is stated again and again the better. Where there is a gift, if the saints are not in a spiritual state, the gift is but little manifested, and not so easily discerned. What marks the gift of an evangelist is love for souls, not love of preaching. Where the gospel is preached and God blesses it, there is fruit, which gives His servant confidence to go on; but when he is beginning, there may be very little development of the gift and no fruit seen, but still there will be love for souls and the endeavor to get at them. He must work by faith, therefore, until he gets proof in result.
The confession of Christ must not be confounded with the preaching of the gospel. Every one ought to confess Christ in one sense, though he may not be able to preach Christ. We have to act as having received the talent from the Lord, and there should be full confidence in Him and a desire to trade for His advantage. It is sweet to see love for souls in seeking to speak to them, but this does not prove there is a gift for preaching.
He, moreover, that is always speaking of Christ in his intercourse with his brethren and others, is more useful in the Church than he who speaks with tongues.
We are in a defective condition if we are not in principle taking in every member of Christ. There is one body—the whole Church; there can be only those who are inside and those who are outside.
Some have spoken of a gift of prayer. It is, I think, a wrong expression. Prayer is not the exercise of gift. Preaching is the Levite service, if you please; but prayer is priestly. Levite service is to end in this world: priestly service is to go on through eternity. One who has a gift comes into a meeting of saints where the Holy Ghost is, and that which is in him is pressed out by the power of the Spirit in the assembly.
The spiritual man, again, “judgeth all things.” If I am not spiritual, I shall make a mistake. A man's saying a thing was done in the Spirit or not in the Spirit, must depend on his grace to act, and has nothing to do with his power to judge. Of course, it is assumed we are in the Spirit or spiritual. If a man is spiritual, he judgeth all things, and he must be spiritual to judge. If he is not spiritual, he cannot judge; but if he is spiritual, he first judges himself.
When the Holy Ghost is present in power and ungrieved, the simplest speaking of the love of Christ will be enjoyed by the whole assembly. The affections will be lively and fresh towards Him, though the truth spoken may be familiar to all. “Let all things be done to edification.” You may get in one train of thought a happy flow of unity; but you must remember it is the power of the Holy Ghost which produces it.

1 John 1

1 John 1 “That which was from the beginning,” denotes that the life, though in its source eternal, was looked at as in man, a new and absolutely original thing. This is very important. As to its nature, the life, which is our life [as Christians], is an entirely new original thing as regards man; for it was with the Father from all eternity. But it began in itself in Jesus as shown down here. It is no modification of the first Adam.

1 Timothy

In 1 Timothy there is nothing of privileged relationship. The Father is not spoken of, nor children, nor the Bride, the Lamb's wife. It is God in His own nature and being, a Savior, but God as such in nature. Hence also law and Judaism are left behind, useful in their place; but the truth is God with man by a Mediator between God and men. The other point is by the by—the public order of the Church in the world, guarding against false doctrines. The Church is the witness of truth in the world, the display of that truth having been in Christ.

Brief Thoughts on 2 Corinthians 3

2 Corinthians 3
This chapter brings out the way in which the power of the truth works on our souls to bring us into the presence of the Lord. It begins with the effect of this in testimony to others; and then lets us know how the effect is produced—what a Christian, and so what the Church, really is.
The Corinthians had been calling in question the apostolic authority of Paul. How does he meet this? He appeals to themselves, to their own calling of Gad when they were turned to Him from idols, “as the seal of his apostleship.” It is as though he said, “If Christ has not spoken by me, how is it that you are Christians?”
So chapter 13:3-5 is not at all a precept to doubt, to examine and call in question their own Christianity. The apostle is showing the absurdity of their doubt of him. “If you want, to examine me, examine yourselves: you commend my ministry, because you commend Christ.”
Then he goes on to tell us what a Christian is. He is a representative of Christ, just as much as the tables of stone were the representation of the law. Only in that case the writing being with the Spirit of the living God, not with ink, Christ is engraven on the heart by the power of the Holy Ghost, and they known and read of all men. The world ought to see Christ engraved on the heart of a Christian, just as much as Israel could see the letter of the law on the tables.
It is written on the “tables of the heart,” by the “Spirit of the living God.” Thus merely outward conduct (though there must be that for the world to see) will not do, but Christ within, as the motive and end of all we do.
There is a certain external respect for right and wrong as the result of the Bible and professed Christianity in these countries, which we do not find among the heathen. But a man may be following lawful pursuits, and be all that is correct outwardly and moral, yet if Christ is not the motive, it is all good for nothing. God did not send His Son into the world to bring in a negative Christianity. There must be that result which is worthy of the work. It must be evident through the power of the Holy Ghost. There will be failure, for we are poor, feeble creatures; but the world will see where we are going by the road we are taking. A man may get on slowly or stumble, but it is evident what road he is going.
We have to look to ourselves and see how far we are devotedly following Christ, with full purpose of heart—how far we can say, “This one thing I do;” but we must take care at the same time not to get into legal bondage by this standard. If I say, “Here is a rule of conduct: follow it,” this cannot reach the heart, the affections. The ministration of the letter brings only failure, condemnation, and death; for it prescribes a rule which man, being a sinner, can never follow. It does not change man, but it puts him under death; it proves him “ungodly and without strength.”
We may turn even Christ into that letter of condemnation; we may take His life, for instance, and make it our law. Nay, we may turn even the love of Christ into our law, we may say “He has loved me, and done all this for me—I ought to love Him, and do so much for Him, in return for this love,” &c., and thus turning His love into a rule of life, it becomes the ministration of death—for the only thing a rule can do is to condemn. With the children of Israel, Moses put a veil upon his face, for they could not bear the sight of the glory—it condemned them. Man tries either to hide his condemnation from God, or his conscience from His condemnation. He excludes himself from God—from the glory of His holiness and from His glory as seen in Jesus; and when His glory shall be revealed in the end, it will only bring out condemnation more fully.
In contrast with this ministration of death and condemnation, we see the ministration of the Spirit and of righteousness. Now have we this? It is not Christ down here. The Holy Ghost here supposes Christ to be gone; and now it is the power of the Spirit of God revealing the glory of Christ to the soul, What has the Holy Ghost to tell us of Christ? He reveals Him not only as the pattern of godliness, but as always manifesting grace. The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of vile, miserable sinners: and Christ says “him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” “They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.”
The whole life of” Jesus was a manifestation of grace: He laid Himself aside for others. He gave Himself to all who came to Him. He “had no time so much as to eat;” in the midst of a world of wickedness He was the perfect manifestation of the goodness of God. And this was not all. He died for sin; put Himself under the whole power of God’s wrath for sin—He was laid in the grave—He ascended into heaven; and sent down the Holy Ghost as a witness to His glory, and as the minister of righteousness. So it is now God ministering, not requiring.
If I am brought to look to Jesus, I can say, He bore my sins—I did them, but He bore them—He gave His soul an offering for my sins; He has taken the whole charge of my sin. I trace my sins up to the cross and there I have done with them. They are all gone.
Where, then, do I see the glory? Is it on Sinai; or in the face of Jesus Christ who has put away all those sins which were revealed and condemned at Sinai? He has entered into heaven, because they are put away. In Phil. 2 we see Christ in heaven, not only in virtue of the glory of His person, but because of the work He has accomplished. “Wherefore also God hath highly exalted him,” &c.
We are thus able not only to bear the sight of that glory of God, but to rejoice in it. Our souls rest in it. We do not ask to have it veiled, but that we may see every ray of it. Our hearts can satiate themselves there, because it is the testimony to the love of God, and the perfect putting away of sin.
There is also the ministration of righteousness. “Seeing then we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech.” It is not a little hope here and a little despair there, but it is a message of perfect righteousness to the vilest. “By the obedience of One many were made righteous.” Now, it is God putting in fruit, and not requiring righteousness.
What is the practical effect of this work of Christ received in the heart? Not, to make a man careless about sin. Not to give him liberty to sin because Christ has borne the wrath due to it. The last verse shows how we are made this living epistle. Contemplating Christ we become like Him. If the Spirit takes of the things of Christ and shows them to me, I can say, “What a Christ I have!” and there is the spirit of holiness at once. I long for Christ, and look at Christ, and thus I get like Him. The very thing which brings an accomplished righteousness to my conscience makes me like Him. Then, mark, there is no veil on the heart or on the glory. The Holy Ghost dwelling in us has taken it away. And it is said of Israel, “When they shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.” When Moses went in to the Lord, he always took off the veil; but the children of Israel could not bear the sight of the glory: so he put it on when he appeared to them.
For believers, there is no veil anywhere. They can look at the glory because it tells of salvation, not of judgment—accomplished salvation and effectual righteousness. What perfect liberty to be in the presence of God and enjoy Christ in all His fullness! (Ver. 17.) “The Lord is that spirit” (i.e., the mind of the Spirit in all these Old Testament things).
Then what is the consequence of this ministration of the Spirit? What follows my knowing that I am the righteousness of God in Christ? that God delights in me? I have a constraint upon my heart to serve Him and follow Him. If I think of His love, have I any fear? I fail constantly: has God any afterthought about me, or about my sins? There is no uncertainty: nothing is between me and God but the love which has placed me there; without spot and in perfect freedom, for He has given Christ for me. It is now, not God requiring anything from me, but God giving things to me; and this that His Son may be glorified in me: not that man may be glorified, but His Son Jesus glorified. God is making a marriage for His Son. We have to be the epistle of Christ. We have this privilege—to glorify and manifest Christ. We should be delighted to be this epistle, cost what it may. Christ died for me, and I have to represent Him. Of course I shall fail, often and again; but the heart at liberty before God will run in the way of His commandments; and this because the affections are set upon God and the glory of Christ. My life, my daily path, must be an answer to the love of God. I am debtor to Christ, for He loved me and gave Himself for me. What an amazing privilege to be permitted to glorify Him in any little way in our path down here!

The Absolute

There can be no absolute knowledge in man by his own reason, but only relative. God only is absolute; all other existences can be only relative, because there is only God absolute.
There is that which is next to it—the “I,” which is out of time and space, and by its nature as such precludes relation; but it does not make the “I” absolute. First, there is no consciousness of absoluteness in it, though it helps one to the idea from the negation of relationship, while a negation is not a notion of the thing contradictory of that denied. But, further, consciousness (or the “I”) is corrected by perception; for I perceive other things—not the “I.” Be they ideas or things, it is all one, they are not the “I,” and the “I.” becomes relative, is not absolute, existing in itself or infinite. The “I” is not “I am.” “Am” is affirming something about “I:” and as man I get into relativeness at once. When one says “I,” infiniteness is excluded as well as time; but when the “I” reflects on itself, there is (I do not doubt) the consciousness that it is not absolute but dependent, has a source or cause, cannot say “being,” though it can say “am” —not “becoming,” (that is false), but “am.” If I say “being” in any other sense than “am,” I make myself God, as “I am.” But, not being, I have to inquire what I am becoming, because what is not absolute has possibility of change: and what has possibility of change in becoming, has necessity of becoming to be, i.e., though existing, is not absolute, but flows from and depends on an absolute Being.
If it be inquired, if my relationship even with perceived things denies my absoluteness, has God not relationship with what exists, with me? None but what is the fruit of His own will. I am necessarily in relationship with what has caused me to be, by reason of which I have become, or with things which exist without my will. I am in relationship according to my being; I exist in that condition: God does not. He may form such relationships; but they are the fruit of His will; and His being remains in its own absoluteness. I have no doubt that man has an intuitive consciousness of relationship, and of relationship to a superior Being, independent of himself, with whom be is in relationship, though his ideas of that Being may be utterly false and corrupted; but that which is false and corrupted is in his natural intuition. Mind cannot know God, because relative cannot know Absolute. But if imagination works, it corrupts the intuition mythologically. If mind works, it shows by its efforts its incapacity to reach what it is; but both the mythology and the efforts show that there is the intuitive idea which sets the imagination and mind respectively in movement. But there is more than this. The immensely wider extent and preponderance of superstition, the rareness and short-livedness of mental rejection of God theoretically, prove the power and strength of the intuition above mere mind. This may despise in its pretentiousness the intuition of a Being above us on which we are dependent; but the intuition is master of it always. Indeed, in detail the strongest minds are therefore grossly superstitious, because the want of the soul has not through the mind its natural pabulum.
Hence Renan and Scherer are perfectly right when they say, “all is relative;” and perhaps even when they say, “all (save the ‘I’) is relation.” Even what the “I” is, is entirely relative. But it is because they are wholly ignorant of God, who alone is absolute.
That science is become history is true, because thought has run itself out to the conviction of its incompetency, and can only relate what it has been thinking with a partial point of truth in it, but not the truth, of which the mind is incapable and owns itself such by making history of science. That this is all that can be, it is incompetent to say. It can only say and does admit that this is all it is competent for; because it cannot go beyond itself, and, being only itself, cannot say of itself that there is nothing else which is competent, or that in some other way it cannot be arrived at or received. I admit and accept of its confession of incompetency.
Scherer reduces man to the lowest estimate of judgment of God and good. “Le vrai n’est plus vrai en soi” [the true is no more true in itself]: a ridiculous sentence, because “le vrai” then cannot be. “Le vrai, le beau, le juste meme se font perpetuellement,  ...  ... ils ne sont autre chose que l’esprit humain.” [The true, the beautiful, the just reproduce themselves perpetually they are nothing but the mind of man.]—(Revue des deux M., Feb. 15,1861.) Now this is a statement that no nature can be, in apprehension or being, above man; or else ‘le vrai, le beau, le juste,’ may be vrai, beau, juste en soi.’ Nor is this all. As to man they are relative, because he is so; yet, if there be a superior relation to One who is absolute, there is a fixed vrai, beau, juste’ morally in relation to Him, because He is the Absolute. It is simply a total denial of God or anything beyond the changing states or apprehensions of man; and makes man the end and beginning of himself; for if there be another thing or being to which he is in relation as end or beginning, there is as regards man a fixed measure of true, beautiful, just. So that this is merely the declaration that there is no relation beyond self; for if man is the measure and changes, it is simply self. This is philosophy.
Now I admit the partial truth (with a cloud of thoughts about it in philosophizing), of which modern philosophy can only give a history, being even as to this partial truth effoeta veri. But progress is questionable. One man reasons from perceptions and sensation to prove God, another from final causes, another from intuitions, another from an innate perception of the absolute. All are true as a subjective, intuitive, or intellectual necessity; but they never reach objective knowledge either way: and man vacillates between all of them and arrives at—concludes—nothing. But the want and the craving do prove the truth, not of what the object is, but that there is an object—an unknown one. It is the ἄγνωστος θεός. You cannot know, but you cannot dispersuade that there is something to know. Hunger is not food or the knowledge of food as possessed; but it is an irrecusable proof to the hungry (take it as reasoning or want) that there is food to be known. And this moral condition is because man, in whose nostrils was breathed the breath of life from God, is thus in nature formed for God, and has not God.
Thus, when men have made the λόγος the human mind or the human reason—the impersonal reason—with a vast system of philosophy to give it a body, there is a germ of truth; for there is that spirit in man which comes from the inbreathing of God originally. Yea, in wretched Pantheism there is a germ of truth; for God is above all and through all. All too live and move and have their being in Him. By Him all things consist. But where God is not known objectively, this centers in self: “Ils ne sont autre chose que l’esprit humain” (the most degraded of sentences); and centering in self is the perfection of degradation. But all these germs of truth, the truth (the word of God) gives us as certain truth in two words without the cobweb spinning of philosophy which proves its incompetency, the mind of man vacillating between systems formed from their germs without the true object of them; for that is philosophy.
But the truth does more; it gives us their true object as beginning, present fullness, and end, with the assurance of knowing as we are known, knowledge being now in part. And it takes us out of self by an object. And now see the divine wisdom with which this is done. I want the absolute but cannot have it, because I am in a relative condition; yet, if I have it not, I am reduced to what “n’est qu’humain” —self occupied with self. In Christ I have the absolute become relative, giving me the absolute goodness in coming into relation perfect love and perfect light. But I have it more fully. I have the truth as to everything from the supreme God to sin, the world, the devil its prince, death itself and the dust of death with triumph over it. If I can see. I have the perfect vrai, beau, juste;’ and if not, I have it relatively to me—to man. But now I have it maintained to my soul in God, in Christ’s life as perfect man, relatively to God, and to the whole character of God in the atonement on the cross. I get absolute moral attributes glorified in God at the cost of abnegation of self in man (i.e., in man who was the Son of God), love, righteousness, majesty, and truth. God was glorified in Him.
Thus I have the absolute in qualities maintained for my mind—my moral mind—in the cross, and self absolutely gone in man; I have the absolute in good become relative, so that my heart can and does know and delight in it. Could God’s ways be more perfect or more wise?
Wise philosophy objects to this display of God’s absolute character at Christ’s expense, not seeing that it is the additional beauty and moral excellence of His giving Himself—the moral perfection of man, as absolute as what is relative can be, and absolute in Christ because He could give Himself. “Therefore Both my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again,” yet this, that it might be perfect in man, as obedience to His Father— “this commandment have I received of my Father.” But how can philosophy understand this? “Is ne sont autre chose que l’esprit humain;” that is, self varied in its hopeless efforts to enlarge but never getting out of self. We cannot but in a subordinate sense give ourselves, because we are relative; we are not our own; for what is relative is bound to conformity to that relation. But, God having revealed Himself and Christ in grace to us, the discovery of this supreme relationship in absolute claim does free us from all other and lead us to give up self in all things in which it is sought, while sanctioning the relationships in which God had originally placed man, or to which be is rightly subjected as being of God Himself, such as magistracy, &c. Yet these may be given up (I mean natural relationships as connected with self) by a superior motive, the divine object taking possession of the soul in active love to others.
How admirable and divine the whole scheme is! The very wants suit, taking man out of self by the absolute become relative and perfection in the relative toward God and toward man, while the absolute is maintained to our souls its every sense by the sacrifice of Christ and man’s perfect abnegation of self in the same to glorify God. The result is man dwelling in God (and God in him) and that in glory; this last known Only in hope through positive revelation, yet felt to be necessary because of the preparation laid for it (see beginning of John 17), the rest enjoyed now, though this could only have been by divine actings (and we have it by divine communication as to truth and power, which is another subject), but when known, enjoyed as known truth in itself. He that believes not has made God a liar; be has not believed the record or testimony; but he that believeth on the Son of God has the witness in himself.
But if all be relative and relation, according to logic by the doctrine of excluded middle, there must be an absolute. Not that this makes us know anything but that there is the thing. For the truth of excluded middle is, I suspect, always simply that the term is really a negative or involves one—that is, proves that there is an intuitive consciousness that there is the thing negated, not that we know it, and I suspect is never true but in the case of the absolute. Thus, if I say, It is good or bad, it is only if I view the term absolutely that I can say so. It is a color, therefore not white or black, both which negative absolutely all color. It is when a term implies that it embraces in its nature all but its opposite. Both need not (indeed cannot) be absolute, but one must be; and the reasoning is always from the non-absolute to the absolute, because the absolute can exist without anything else existing. Nothing else can; for not being absolute, it is in relation. It is simply therefore the proof of the intuition of the existence of the absolute.
It is a mistake to suppose that metaphysical skepticism denies the certainty of knowledge within the sphere of knowledge. It only affirms that the finite cannot know the infinite that no conclusion is the truth, because it is not the knowledge of God. Truth is what is told, not what is concluded, and hence, as to what is beyond physical fact, must be a revelation. Once God is admitted, certain abstract general conclusions can be drawn because they are involved in the meaning of the word; they are merely the expression of the relation. But they are not the truth, because this speaks of fact. Now it is not necessarily a fact that the relation subsists intact and that man has not denied it: Christianity teaches that he has. At any rate, it is not proved he has not—yea, it may be proved he has. For fatalism and the moral immutability of man are absurdities. Our will is at work. Nor does the unchangeableness of general laws as to facts or results touch the question of will. If it proves motives, it proves a will to be moved: of this I have spoken elsewhere. ‘Until a will be denied, it cannot be denied that a given state in relationship may be departed from. Hence even right conclusions as to the relationship are not necessarily the truth, though they be right. Indeed all the effort to insist on general laws is the revolt of man’s heart against the relation with God being according to what we are, and the unwillingness to admit we have broken it.
I do not enter on the proofs of general laws from without, because physical general laws do not touch the question. That man acts by a will, without contradicting them, is evident; yet as to him all depends on what his will was. He builds or does not build a house: gravity and every other law remains the same. But he may have been selfish, or unjust, or generous in doing it, whether they be or not. I think my nature as ideally abstract as most philosophers’; but this does not affect the question whether there are divine facts which meet these ideas, and whether they are not the just idea for which God formed man as so having them. Thus, supposing man God’s image in his constitution, the ideas flowing from this would not be the source or end. But God (or the revelation of God as being the truth) the cravings of a dependent creature sought after but heeded not. Yet it is equally true, whenever be pretended to have anything to meet the wants or to form a system by them without God, he was in open rebellion by independency. And this is what spews the fullness of simple Christianity (which totally rejected, as evil, heathenism and philosophy), and yet the measure of truth but real departure from God of the Clements and Origens, who accepted these cravings as part of the truth. They were not, though the truth met them when not simply lusts. Christ alone is the truth; His word is, because He is τὴν ἀρχὴν ὄτι καἰ λαλῶ ὑμῖν. I do not lose sight of the absolute in speaking of absolute qualities: if I have one, I have the other; and what is relative is, if simple, absolute as a quality. In common use it is found by negation of what is or of variety. Some words or qualities are only relative. Still, when truly known, they become absolute. Thus “heavy” is simply relative; but when I know it, it is attraction: if there were none, it is absolutely negative in respect of weight; and as weight is relative, I can conceive its absence, because its presence is not necessary; for it is a relative quality. Absolute Being is God alone. But, taking man as a center, we may speak practically of certain things as absolute when they are negative.
John Nelson Darby

The Achill Herald Recollections: Part 1

Nos. I., II., and III.
My attention having been drawn to these remarks, I will content myself with a very few words of comment. Can these good men, whether of the English Magazine or of the Irish Journal, be aware, first, that the writer of the tracts on “Darbyism” is thoroughly unsound, in one or more of these very tracts launching out against Brethren so-called because they refuse all fellowship with his denial of eternal punishment? He holds the notion of the annihilation of the wicked. Is it a dishonor to be the object of such men's attacks? Secondly, it is utterly false that Mr. Darby has fallen into Mr. Newton's heresy. In the January Number of the Bible Treasury for this year, page 205, a very recent document of Mr. N. was cited, which attacks those he too styles the “Darbyites,” instead of welcoming them as converts, and (what is more serious perhaps) coincides in doctrine with the late assaults on Mr. D. Like them, Mr. N. denies any sufferings of Christ besides atoning ones. Thirdly, the Collected Writings of Mr. D., now in course of publication, utterly disprove the statements of the Achill Herald as well as of the Rainbow; for they show that from the earliest days of the movement till now the same principles were asserted, the same object was avowed. Take the very first part as a witness, and the second article, “Considerations on the Nature and Unity of the Church of Christ.” (Dublin, 1828.) This is as fresh and distinct as possible, and in a practical point of view. It would be impossible for any godly soul who accepted that paper as a just application of divine truth to the actual state of Christendom, to continue a churchman or a dissenter. And in fact neither the writer nor those who felt with him as to this remained at that date in the denominations of which they had previously been members or ministers. Fourthly, the statement that one of the “Brethren's” leading characteristics from the commencement was to reject an ordained ministry hardly agrees with the preceding allegation. This must of itself separate them from all the denominations. But the most singular appendix to this is that these men seem to blame Brethren because, as a consequence of rejecting what they regard as an unscriptural innovation, it becomes a question of the best qualified men taking the lead in their assemblies. Is not this God's will? Would they think it wiser or more scriptural to own as guides the worst qualified? “Hoc Ithacus velit, et magno mercentur Atridae.” But we have learned that the Lord gives gifts to His servants, to every man according to his several ability.
I must add, however, that no brother of intelligence demurs to ordination by those who are really called to ordain. We own it as of God when a Paul or a Titus appointed elders; but not having the title of either, we refuse to go beyond our measure and only do what our power from God enables us to do according to His word, pretty much as the assemblies did in early days when they had not the advantage of being visited by an apostle or an apostolic man. Is not this a humbler and truer position than national or dissenting makeshifts for proper apostolic or equivalent appointment? Our friends have neither apostles nor their delegates one whit more than we; yet they assume to ordain without that due ordaining power. Who then are most right? Who are guilty of insubordination?
The great mistake made by our friends is their oversight of the fact that in the primitive state, according to scripture, there was an open door for the exercise of every gift from the Lord, both within and without the Christian assembly, whether or not there happened to be elders in this or that particular assembly. Modern practice, Established or Dissenting, forbids this free action of God's Spirit, which was certainly and confessedly the order even when apostolic order reigned.
“Brethren” believe that God has revealed this for action at all times; for this, unlike ordination, does not demand the presence or mission of an apostle. That is, we in this simply act as members of Christ's body; our friends (who are equally members with us) neglect this which is open to them and their duty, while they set up to ordain, which none can do legitimately but an apostle or his deputy. Which of the two courses then is most lowly and obedient?
As to the sorrowful divisions of “Brethren,” we grieve deeply over them and still more over the want of faith and spirituality which was, of course, their cause. But our brethren will agree with us, surely, that no failure on the part of individuals can justify our abandoning the will of God, supposing now that it is His will that we should meet according to His word and looking to His ever present Spirit to guide. They may be assured also that if they knew better the facts, they would judge more kindly. Is it righteous to credit every evil tale which disaffected or excommunicated individuals say of us?
The three questions at the end of No. I. seem to us questions of unbelief. The only question is, What is God's will for His children? Does He not set out in His word one body as well as one Spirit? Does He not condemn schism and denominations in principle? Is His will or word changed now? Is it a hopeless thing to obey it? None will condemn separation to follow individual teachers more strongly than “Brethren.” The only right course for teachers or taught is to follow the Lord. Will our friends help us to do this more fully? Are they willing to follow Him more fully themselves? Let us pray for each other, as well as set forth the truth without fear.
No. II. need not detain us. If the writer does not think that subordination is sought, found, and valued among “Brethren,” he is in error. That we fail in this as in all other excellent things is our sorrow. But is this peculiar to us?
The writer, however, is still more wrong in implying that we deny appointment of elders as well as of deacons. He has mistaken “Fundamental Principles;” but in fact (through inadvertence, I am sure) he has not borne a true witness to it. 1 Tim. 3; 4:14, and Titus 1:5, 9, 10 do not speak of ministry as such, but of elders or bishops. These last required and received due external appointment. Such is the uniform teaching of the book censured. Let a single passage be produced to the contrary. But in the early Church Scripture shows a number of gifted men exercising their ministry in the word, besides elders whose business was local rule, though, of course they might labor in the word and doctrine if they had suited gift. It is therefore our friend (the Editor, probably, of the Achill Herald) who mistakes both our principles and the light of scripture. Rejection of invalid and unauthorized appointment is a consequence of our adhering to the word of God; but we are not so childish as to refuse the principle of outward appointment, nor the fact where it is duly carried out. Do they not know that “Brethren” have had hands laid on them according to Acts 13, which does not involve the claim of apostolic authority? The basis of what they call our system is nothing of this sort, but the recognition of the continued presence of the Holy Ghost in God's assembly on earth to give power, as working in it and the members in their several places in it, to do God's will according to His word.
The case of R. I cannot judge of, save that, though an eloquent and pious man, according to the writer, he was certainly impulsive and unwise. This may account for his return to Anglicanism, as well as for his temporary appearance among “Brethren.” Whatever may be the estimate of the good man with others, he must have been little known among us; else some tradition must have been left behind.
Will the writer in the Achill Herald permit me to assure him that the experience of many among us is that there is too great backwardness to speak even among very competent men, rather than the forwardness which so offended him when he attended? If it was because they were poor and uneducated men, I do not sympathize with the feeling: such were some of the chief apostles. Nor did the power of the Spirit set aside the evidence of their lack of human polish, as we gather from Acts 4:13. It is in vain to allege that they were inspired; for I am speaking, not of writing scriptures, but of God's sovereignty in calling whom He will to serve in His Church. It may be pleasanter for refined and even for vulgar people to hear men of education; but it is impossible to defend from scripture the plan of confining to such the ministry of the Word either in or out of the congregation. Nor is any amount of knowledge in a real Christian what scripture calls gift, which may be now, as of old, given of our Lord to a poor man as well as a rich. If not, why not? Without gift the ministry of any man is a sham; while the exercise of gift by the humblest Christian is real ministry. Compare Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12; 14; 16; 2 Cor. 4; 5; Eph. 4; Col. 2; Phil. 1.; 1 Peter 4
No. III. calls for even less notice. The story of R. fills the imagination of the writer, with the added tale of some lady who, by his account, acquired a most unseemly influence in his congregation. The Achill Herald may be more or less exact in his statements, which are much too vague for any careful mind to conclude from. All I can say is, that though I know for a good many years those called “Brethren,” abroad as well as in Great Britain and Ireland, I never heard of such persons or such doings, save as coming under discipline when the least approach to them was attempted.
Our reason for separation from the Establishment and Dissent is, not merely because of practical evils existing in these bodies, but mainly because they are not and never were (what alone we see in scripture) assemblies of those received as accredited believers, gathered unto the name of Jesus (not peculiar views, or nationalism), and looking to Him as Lord to act by His Spirit according to His word in their midst. It is a very rare thing for “unruly and vain talkers” to rise in the midst of the assemblies; but if they should there is ample provision to deal with such scripturally: their “mouths must be stopped;” and so they are. Our faith in the presence of the Holy Ghost does not weaken our hands, but the contrary; and God is faithful both in hearing prayer and in giving power to convince (in private, and, if necessary in the last resort, also in public) the gainsayers. We believe that ministry is both a divine and a permanent institution, as certainly as the Church or assembly is. We believe that a few are gifted to minister in the word to the many; we believe that some are gifted to rule or exercise oversight, who may or may not be called of God to preach or teach. But there is not the smallest abandonment of our faith either in owning that individuals may sometimes speak in the flesh, not in the Spirit, in the assembly, or in using such means of repressing this as scripture provides. Cannot the writer see that the case of the assembly as having the Holy Spirit to direct it stands on ground precisely analogous to the individual Christian? The one, like the other, is God's temple; neither is infallible, both are bound to act in the Spirit by the word: Just as the Christian may fail (as we all do individually, the Editor of the Achill Herald, no doubt, like ourselves) so the assembly is liable to the failure of individuals in it as well as corporately, but it is none the less under the responsibility of the Holy Ghost's presence and guidance, which in both cases is the most powerful means both of judging the wrong and of supplying power to walk aright.
The writer is totally misinformed as to the real facts both of “Brethren” and of the seceders who have recently attacked them. But I have said enough to convince fair minds, even among those opposed to us, that our censor is in collision with scripture; no less than with those who are today acting on it at all cost.

The Achill Herald Recollections: Part 2

I proceed to review briefly the rest of these “Recollections of Separatists,” having noticed the first three in the Bible Treasury for April.
No. 4 consists chiefly of a notice which seems intended to decry “Brethren” through exposing the alleged infirmities and faults of a valued and now departed servant of Christ, who “was intimately known to the writer, and greatly esteemed and beloved as a brother in Christ, for his many excellent and amiable qualities.”
It seems that when some Roman Catholic boatmen were rowing them in Dublin bay, J—'s countenance once betrayed grief when the writer himself spoke strongly to some Roman Catholic boatmen about errors of Popery! J—may have been right or wrong; but what has this to do with “Brethren?” Are they morbidly shy of error in Popery or Protestantism? Again, J—refused fellowship at the Lord's table to a Christian whom he believed to be compromised by communion where Christ was deeply dishonored, though not himself charged with holding false doctrine. Is neutrality right in such cases? Lastly, when the Achill Herald writer once complained of his trials in the Achill work, J—said he counted his own among “Brethren” far greater. The rest of the paper attacks “Brethren” for their want of missionary zeal, especially in the Achill mission, and somebody who censured the writer for seeking a magistrate's protection from Popish violence. What is the weight of all this? The delicacy too of the allusions to the deceased may be questioned, and the writer's measure of himself as compared with his friend. I confess I should be disposed to draw an inference unfavorable to the living rather than to the dead, and to impute part of the misleading influence to the party-spirit and self-importance so hard for a clergyman to escape.
No. 5 tries to contrast apostolic labors with “Brethren's.” Let me say a few words. First, the apostles in going forth to preach the gospel far and wide had not to do with such a system of corrupted Christianity as we see around us now-a-days. Secondly, if work among heathen is the one right labor, why does the Achill Herald press it among Roman Catholics? If right among misguided Papists, is it wrong or uncalled-for among misguided Protestants? Thirdly, it is a mistake that “Brethren” do not labor, nor contribute to the support of laborers, among both heathen and Roman Catholics. But we hold that the preacher lowers the dignity of the Lord's call by being the employee of a society or even a so-called church—that he is and should be simply the Lord's servant. In scripture “service of the Church” is quite distinct from ministry in the word. We hold too that the yoking of believers and unbelievers in the professed work of the Lord is forbidden by God's word (2 Cor. 6), contrary to the practice of the existing religious societies, which take and seek from the Gentiles all they can get. At the same time, while I have no sympathy with the false expectations and the vainglorious reports of most of these societies, I am free to confess how short we ourselves come in living only to serve the Lord and spending all we have in helping on His work. I would that “Brethren” and all other saints were incomparably more devoted and self-denying in the fellowship of the gospel and the Lord's objects generally than they are. With those Christians who live at their ease, I have no sympathy, least of all where they ought to know and do best.
Nos. 6 and 7 betray the total incompetency of the Achill Herald for the task it assumes. The writer talks of Mr. Newman as a “rival leader of the Brethren!” This will be as new to our readers, as that Mr. Darby was separated from “for denying the imputation of Christ's righteousness to his believing people!” People so ignorant ought to learn or be silent.
I must add that the writer's knowledge of our views is as glaringly at fault as of facts and persons: is his knowledge of scripture more accurate? Where does God's word make ordaining elders to be a standing institution? Where does it guarantee the permanence of the requisite authority? That “gifts” are secured as long as Christ's body needs them is allowed; for gifts never required ordination by man, but come direct from Christ. On these gifts depends ministry, which we fully allow to be continued by the Lord now as of old. But scripture never speaks of elders appointed without apostles or apostolic delegates. You cannot, therefore, have the one without the other: if you have no apostles, how scripturally can you have elders in due form? It is ridiculous to suppose that, because a society or even the law of a country calls a man a bishop, he can ordain like Titus or Paul.
But there is such a thing as spiritual power. An evangelist proves his gift by the conversion of souls; so does a teacher by edifying exposition of scripture; as an exhorter does by urging truth home. A pastor toils in love to the sheep and lambs of Christ, repressing the unruly, and encouraging the timid, and helping souls in general. There is no real difficulty, as a general rule, in discerning these gifts where they exist, any more than in forming a conviction as to converted and unconverted. Of course there may be mistakes in both respects; but God is faithful and knows how to correct where He is leaned on.
Hence “Brethren” eschew the religious radicalism of dissent, and fully own gifts differing among the members of Christ's body. They hold that some are called to rule and that no one is free to be unruly. Nothing is simpler, therefore, on their principles than the dealing with “unruly and vain talkers,” should such arise among them, which is comparatively rare. Of this class, I fear, consists a considerable part of the clergy, national and dissenting, against whom their congregations have no godly resource. Their “orders” maintain them, spite of ignorance and worse. Scripture, as ever, shows the more excellent way. And so it is found in fact among us, unless with a morbid soul here or there who suffers “agony,” instead of acting in faith and using the power the Lord has given him for common profit and blessing.
The account of D., a zealous Baptist, does not call for notice. We can reprove eccentricities in good men, but must bear the reproach of the Achill Herald if we do not exclude them from Christian fellowship. Would he really have us do so? These are a part of our trials, but we share them with our blessed Master.
It is difficult to suppose a man serious who contends that the English Establishment ever admitted the sovereign action of the Spirit in the Christian assembly. Nor can I acquit the writer of trifling when he argues that faith in Christ can consist with denying the divinity and personality of the Holy Ghost. We hold that the right line is to do as the early Church did—to receive all who make a credible confession of living faith in Christ; and then to maintain among those received godly discipline in doctrine and conversation. I think the allusion to “the cave of Adullam” as against us is the less happy, when one remembers that, though the outward pomp and power might be found in Saul's court, God's king, God's prophet, and God's priest were with the poor despised company in that cave.
Was it better with the Church in the days when they walked as we seek to do now, holding to all the word of God in the power of the Spirit; or when the Church began to protect herself by human creeds and confessions?
As for the account of “Brethren” the writer gives, he must forgive my saying it is wholly erroneous. It is untrue that there is any “section” which denies eternal punishment; nor is Mr. Newman at the head of any. So the other “section” is equally misunderstood. And why the rash speeches of zealous but unformed young evangelists (many of whom are not and never were in fellowship with us) should be thrown in, it would be hard to understand, if the writer were not often careless of his facts and statements in his zeal as accuser of the “Brethren.”
It is false that “Brethren” now or at any time claimed to be “the very body of Christ.” What really distinguishes them is practically and in principle contemplating all the members of that one body, and receiving them frankly, while they appear to us to walk after a godly sort, to the Lord's table; in separation from the world, in a scriptural way. This is obviously impossible in the English Establishment or in dissenting societies. We do desire purity of life for ourselves and all saints, and we exercise discipline according to scripture, as far as we have light and power from God; and we believe that, our position being scriptural, this is practicable amongst us, not where the ground taken is unscriptural and human rules are the guide. But as to denying that there have been painful falls among those received, this be far from us. These have always been true of Christian assemblies, whether rightly gathered or wrongly, and we never expected to escape them. Do we deal with them scripturally when they occur in our midst? This is the only just question, which does not occur to the Achill Herald. But it seems to me that they greatly dishonor Christ who retail such cases against us, instead of according to us their help and sympathy. Are they so blind as net to see that the early assemblies at Rome, Corinth, Colosse, &c., had just the same sources of shame and sorrow as we have now? What must we think of him who would rake such things together in order to condemn what God owned as His assemblies? It is not the entrance of evil which is incompatible with the character of a true assembly of God, but the inability or refusal to exercise discipline according to His word. Where any assembly amongst us so refuses, we disown that assembly. But it is not uncommon, first, to collect and print scandal against “Brethren,” and, next, to sympathize with those who do not exercise discipline rather than with those who do. How does all this appear in the sight of God? To call “fruits of separatism” the cases of moral evil which we have judged solemnly by God's word, I believe to be iniquity which God will judge. It is also wrong to say that we think there is no danger either of sin or of self-deception.
No. 8 objects to sect-making. So do we most earnestly; and of course to old sects, as well as new. The question is, What is a sect? Is not the English Establishment one? Must a Christian belong to a sect?
The main body of the baptized” is; I suppose, Popery. Idolatry is not the only evil that justifies separation. No Christian is free to sanction any evil or error in what claims to be God's Church. But the grand point is that neither the Establishment nor Dissent ever took or even contemplated the original ground of God's assembly. As to the railing tracts by angry men cited in the Achill Herald, they are best left in silence. If such tracts as these can overthrow us, we deserve to fall; but my opinion is that the condescension to use such weapons shows the moral state of our adversaries, and can only injure themselves. Those, within or without, who can be influenced by such reasoning, we can well spare.

Acts 7

Acts 7—I had not sufficiently observed the completeness of the whole view given at the close of the discourse. First, on the testimony of the prophets, the whole Jewish foundation is set aside as a dwellingplace of God, as being mere creation. Next, as to the moral position of the Jews, they had not kept the law; they have betrayed and murdered the Just One; and they were, as ever, resisting the Holy Ghost. Thus their whole condition was brought out. Then we have the contrast: a man full of the Holy Ghost, heaven opened, the man Jesus seen in glory, the cross, and likeness to Jesus, the spirit being received up.


In the Press
In the Press.
THE BIBLE TREASURY is published by GEORGE MORRISFI, (late T. H. Gregg,) 24, Warwick Lane, Paternoster Row; to whose care all letters for the Editor, Books for review, &c., should be sent, Sold also by Baoox, 34, Paternoster Row, London; R. TUNLEY, Wolverhampton; FRYER, 2, Bridewell Street, Bristol; JAMS TUNLEY, Guernsey; SCOTT,Sc ALLAN, Glasgow; A. HAINES, Oxford Terrace, Southampton; and by order through any bookseller. Annual Subscription by post, Four Shillings.


Just Published, Price 2D., the Evangelical Organs of 1866
Price 2s. 6cl., extra cloth, gilt edges, 3s., LECTURES ON THE EPHESIANS. BY W. K.


Just Published, Price 2D., the Evangelical Organs of 18Gg. "The Christian Observer" and "The Record."
Price 2s. 6d., extra cloth, gilt edges, 3s., LECTURES ON THE EPHESIANS. BY W. K.


Works by W. Kelly
Lectures on the Church. Cloth, 3s.
the Second Coming of Christ. 4s. Daniel. Is. 6d.
71 Galatians. is. 6d.
71 Ephesians. 2s. 6d.
/) Philippians and Colossians (in the Press).
11 the Gospels (nearly ready).
17 the Revelation. 9s.
The Revelation, Greek and English, with a full statement of the authorities. 4s. 6d.


Works by J. N. Darby
Synopsis of the Books of the Bible. 5 Vols., cloth. 7s. 6d. each.
Works (Ecclesiastical, Prophetic, &c.). 7s. 6d. each. Irrationalism of Infidelity. Gs.
Dialogs on the Essays and Reviews. 5s.
Analysis of Dr. Newman's Apologia. 3s. 6d.
New Testament Translated, cloth, Matthew to Acts, 3s. 6d.; Romans to Revelation, 4s.
London: G. MORRISH, 24, Warwick Lane, Paternoster Row. E.C. j W. H. BROOM, 28, Paternoster Row. E.C.


Just Published, Price 7S. 6D., Crown 8Vo. Cloth
Prophecy. Vol. I. 7s. 6d.
Ecclesiastical. Vol. I. 7s. 6d.
Doctrinal. Parts 1 and 2. ls. each.
G. MORRISH, 24, Warwick Lane, Paternoster Row. E.C.


A Reply to the "Christian Observer," Article Ii., "The Plymouth Brethren," Dec., 1866. by W. Kelly
London: G. Morrish, 24, Warwick Lane, E. C.


Price Sixpence, a Reply to the "Christian Observer," Article Ii., " the Plymouth Brethren," Dee., 1866


Just Published, Price 6D., the New Translation of the Acts of the Apostles
BY J. N. D.
Matthew to Acts in cloth, 3s. 6d..
TEE BIBLE TREASURY is published by GEORGE MORRISH, (late T. H. Gregg,) 24, Warwick Lane, Paternoster Row; to whose care all letters for the Editor, Books for review, Sc., should be sent. Sold also by Bitoosr, 84, Paternoster Row, London; R. TURLEY, Wolverhampton; FRYER, 2, Bridewell Street, Bristol; Jsrmz Tonmor, Guernsey; Score & ALLAN, Glasgow; A. KA/NES, Oxford Terrace, Southampton; and by order through any bookseller. Annual Subscription by post, Four Shillings, PRINTED BY GEOROL TIGERISH, 24, WARWICK LANE, PATERNOSTER ROW, E.G.


1 John 2. Christ is not only a mediator with God, but an Advocate or Patron with the Father. That is, He restores communion, fellowship with the Father when practically lost. His advocacy is founded on two things: on propitiation for our sins, so that He pleads in grace if we fail; and on righteousness in His own person, our righteousness, so that this is the standing in which we are before God. It is our place in heaven, on one side, and the meeting of our need, on the other.

Apostolic Succession

Succession was contemplated in the Jewish polity. It is not in that of the Church, because no time, no future, is in the thought of the Spirit, so as to sustain the idea of succession. “If I tarry,” I may say, in the language of Him who orders the Church. “The latter times,” and “the last days” are regarded in their moral wakings, as being always present and the churches and ministers are addressed as about to meet the Lord on His return. The Church is as one generation, her time as one day.
No successional office is contemplated. It is true, Paul is to be “offered up,” and he would have Timothy act in the midst of the saints; and as men were speaking “perverse things,” he would have Timothy commit “the truth” to “faithful men” (see 2 Tim). But all that is something very different from successional office.
Indeed no one can be said to stand in the place of another, or to do another’s business, in a dispensation where all ministries flow from personal grace and power, as in the Church. Ministry or service cannot therefore be after a pattern or precedent or predecessor, but according to the ability which God giveth. Office without power or grace is an idea foreign to the polity of the Church.
It is co-operation rather than succession (with different measures of power and authority, I grant) which we discern in Timothy’s ministry. He helped Paul’s work, rather than succeeded. him, according to a perpetual apostolate.
There was a good deal of ministry in apostolic days altogether independent of apostolic appointment. The fruit of it, or the grace of the mode of conducting it may be questioned (as in the Epistles to the Corinthians), but never the lawfulness of it, or its consistency with the polity of the Church.
Persecution (as another once observed) ordained preachers of the Gospel in Acts 8; and, I may add, divine delight does the same in Rom. 10:15. Beautiful and precious truths! And no one instance have we of the Apostles ordaining to preach.
If corruption enter, the original order yields, after special energy of the Spirit to keep the original purity, and after a time of divine patience. Timothy in Ephesus and Titus in Crete were instances of this special provision of the Spirit; the voice of the Spirit to the Apocalyptic churches is an instance of this divine patience. But corruption prevailing, the order is changed. We see this in the Epistles to Timothy. It is no longer Timothy behaving himself in the house of God, but Timothy purging himself from the vessels to dishonor of the great house and walking with a remnant in a clean path. (See 1 Tim. 3 and 2 Tim. 2, &c.)
So, in the progress of the Epistles, ecclesiastical order seems to be lost sight of; the earlier Epistles of Paul assuring it, those of James, Peter, John, and Jude not doing so.
Paul’s apostleship is the divine interruption of the order constituted in Matt. 28:19, 20, or of the institution of the twelve (see Gal. 1:2.) There is nothing successional or derivative in his apostleship; and it becomes a mere play of words or of the fancy to divine office from the twelve now: at least without shutting out St. Paul.
“The Spirit of God has, in this world, to wander among ruins” has been truly said—Church ruins, I may say, as well as personal.
Right conclusions, I doubt not, therefore, come from a due understanding of the history as well as of the nature of the dispensation, as it is anticipated in the Scriptures of the New Testament. Disturbances through corruption are contemplated by the Spirit in the Apostles, and the path of the godly is guided—they are to leave corruptions, whatever their connection or genealogy may be.

Are You Brought to God?

1 Peter 3:10-18
(1 Peter 3:10-18.)
The apostle leads us to expect suffering. There will be more or less of it; for though called to “inherit a blessing,” it is through suffering here. This passage spews out the result of God’s government, but, besides that, it shows that we are brought to God. This is the great central truth. Christ “once suffered for sins that He might bring us to God.” There is little doctrine laid down in the epistles of Peter, but strong and vivid bringing out of fundamental truths. At the end of 2 Peter we have God’s government of all this present scene; and things that the world are trusting in are all to be consumed; for indeed “the world and all that is therein will be burned up.” There is not a single shelter here to be trusted to: all is going to be rolled up as a garment. Peter does not dwell upon what was done for believers by Christ at His first coming, but on God’s government closing in the terrible judgment. Are we brought to God?
Ver. 10. The moral government of God is not brought to an issue, and cannot be while grace is going on, but the principles of it exist. E.g., a quiet, peaceful, upright man would be better off than a turbulent man, &c. “What a man sows that will he reap” even now. It is not that everything gets its just recompense now—quite the contrary; but there are certain consequences a man will suffer for his deeds. There cannot be in this world now the full, final expression of God’s government, because sin has come in; and if He were to act in judgment, He would cut it all off; but as a general thing the principle is true— “The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil;” and behind and within it all there is something more. His own power and grace are at work in the gathering out of souls to form His Church. In the Millennium evil will not be allowed, the sinner will be cut off. There is a secret exercise of this principle now. “If ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye.” There is the working of sin and evil; but, though the terror of the wicked is here, “be not afraid.” The only thing is to have the single eye and serve with a good conscience; but if you do, you will find plenty to oppose you. “Be not afraid of their terror neither be troubled, but sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread; and he shall be for a sanctuary.” In spite of the blessedness of a peaceful walk, there may be the whole power of Satan brought out against you; but you have the whole power of God: therefore “be not afraid.”
There are two characters of suffering noticed by the Lord in the sermon on the mount, as here by Peter—suffering for righteousness’ sake, and suffering for Christ’s sake.
The effect of being a Christian is to have a conscience exercised to know what is right for him as such; he walks in God’s presence, and therefore in the light; he gets his will thwarted. Thus many things in the world, he finds, will not do for him as walking in the path of righteousness: the world will not have this scrupulosity; and therefore trial comes from them for the believer. His hopes and joys being elsewhere, his treasure and his heart are elsewhere. “Blessed are they that suffer for righteousness’ sake.” Then the Christian must expect to suffer for Christ. And “blessed are ye when men shall revile you, &c., for my sake.” When God becomes the object and motive, he takes suffering as a natural portion.
Then it comes to be a question of testimony for God to those who are not with God; that is a different thing from suffering for conscience’ sake, or righteousness’ sake.
In chapter 4:13, 14, it is Christ’s sufferings, and Christ’s glory. The same Spirit that makes me partaker of the suffering, makes me also partaker of the glory. I should be a witness of His power through the Holy Ghost, a witness for Christ, and not only keeping a good conscience. As a witness for Christ, in being a vessel of His testimony, you share the glory He is in.
Peter does not speak of the Church’s place. As in the Church, we are all partakers alike of glory according to the gift of grace, we are all predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. But here it is as individuals and the glory is put before them as the reward of suffering. An energy of love ever goes out if the Spirit of Christ is really there. I cannot see a person perishing, and not care. The spirit of love cannot look upon perishing sinners, and not care for them. This becomes an occasion of suffering.
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.” God must have His right place in our hearts in both these things; giving God in my heart His true character is sanctifying Him. In whose heart has God this perfect place of power and love? I do not mean in activity, that is according to gift, but in the heart. Where is the heart that keeps itself entirely for God, that is filled with God’s love and holiness. All that is in the world, pleasure, vanity, &c., does but rob God of His glory in us. God is not then sanctified by us, and this is the secret of our weakness. Could you say today—yesterday—that God has had His right place in your hearts? What is the consequence? It ought to be a bad conscience. Ought I to forget my forgetfulness? I shall find it out in weakness, if I do not find it in confession. Power for testifying for God is not there, if I have been talking idleness or vanity. If I turn to anything for God, as if my whole heart were in it, I am in danger; I do not sanctify the Lord in my heart. There may not be insincerity or hypocrisy in it, but the lack of the sanctifying the Lord; and when He has not the place in us that makes us happy and that gives us power (for the joy of the Lord is strength), there is not the blessing flowing over to others. We want the practical power of the God that loves us, working in our hearts. What a thing this supposes! If I do not know God, I cannot sanctify Him. It is as being brought to Him I can sanctify Him. The thought of getting to God when I get to heaven, supposes that I have not come to Him now. All we have been speaking of flows out of giving God the place He really has. We are to sanctify the Lord because He is there, trusting in that love shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost. Why is the conduct of one man different from another man’s? One is without God, and the other has Him a present spring of delight and strength, love, comfort—he has had a total immense infinite change. What a thing to be without God as regards the soul! Immortal beings without God! having faculty, intelligence, sagacity, but without God! Human affection is lovely in the creature, but it is not God. The objects of affection may come in between the creature and God, even what He has created in us; for blessing may be an occasion of idolatry.
It is not responsibility here. My leaning on a friend is not responsibility, my being happy with a friend is not responsibility. If I drink when I am thirsty, it is not responsibility; but God is there, when I drink of the living water which Christ gives me. He makes these affections to flow out to Himself, necessarily and divinely. He is working upon me communicating to me in the sovereignty of His grace: therefore it is not responsibility. If God then can communicate Himself in our hearts, what a well of water is springing up I have got trouble, but what is that? I have got that, yea, Him, to give me joy in the trouble, that the trouble cannot touch. I have a spring within and a sanctuary around me. If there is such blessedness in God being sanctified and enjoyed. by us, perhaps some of you say, I know nothing about it. I do not speak of enjoyment now; but where a man is a believer, it is not a question of whether he has the relationship of grace, but whether he has failed in it. If I am unfaithful in this love, and unhappy in the consciousness of having done so, it is because I really have it. The thing he has to enjoy is what is in God Himself, and that is His own love. If we believe what God communicates to the soul, by dwelling in us, “we know and believe the love that God hath to us.” A person may say well—I do not know, I cannot speak of the present, but I hope to get to God. The questioning how a man is to get it, is very solemn and a sure sign that He is not there.
“That you may be able to give an answer to every man,” &c. It is not you suffering for sins; but if the will of God be so, it is better to suffer for well doing than for evil doing; but do not suppose you are suffering for your sins: Christ has done that for you. If you suffer for righteousness’ sake, it is all well, but for sins—Christ has done it for you—left you nothing to suffer for them.
How mighty this inward purpose of God! This one act brings a man to God. Christ suffered all His life long, but from whom? Man. But there at the end, inside all this, the center of all, we are brought to God Himself. God is in a man’s heart or He is not.
But the suffering for sins Christ bore, was from God Himself. Here we get the purpose of God, not His government; and notwithstanding such a death, all the wrath of God, all the power of Satan, all the consequences of sin brought to bear upon Christ on the cross (this was suffering for sin), He did it in respect of what man was, and in respect of what God was, and it was to bring them together. All that was in God was fully brought out. His love brought out suffering, wrath, &c. All that my heart must be rightly exercised met there. I could not go to God without God knowing what my heart is; and (all the difference of good and evil being known to Him) can He know the evil and be indifferent to it? Can He say it is no matter? Impossible! It would be unholiness in Him. Could He see all the levity, ill humored, willfulness, indifference in the presence of His cross and be indifferent? What is He to do with it? What is He to do with you? He must put sin away, and He must deal with it in the perfectness of His love and holiness. We have turned God into a Judge by our sins, and I find myself in the presence of the God whom I dreaded. He has put away the sin from my conscience, put His love in my heart, given me to delight in holiness. He who was just suffered for the unjust; and now, being brought to Him, there is nothing in God, with whom I have to do, but I have been made acquainted with (not His glory yet, of course); but I am the sinner He has been engaged about. He has made Himself known to me by what He has done. I know God. What a home I have! Its spring is the love in God’s heart, and it has brought me back to the source of that love. I am brought home to the enjoyment of His love, and am partaker of His nature.
After this I need not say that there are all the exercises of heart in consequence, conflict with evil, &c., but I can testify to sinners “God so loved the world.” How do you know this? it may be said. I have tasted it. Thus we are fellow-workers with God. We have the immense privilege, according to the sphere given us, of testifying of the love that has saved us. But if I have not this love in my heart, how can I testily of it to others? If I say to one who is weary, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” says Christ, you will turn to me and say, Have you got rest? A person may warn another, and be exercised himself; but he cannot testify to the truth of deliverance. Could you go and say He has received me? I can say He has received me, and none viler. Now if you have not got God, you have your sins, your will, your responsibility—but not God. Why did Christ suffer for sins? It was because you were away from God. Now have you the consciousness of having been away from God, and are you, like the prodigal, brought back? If not, it is very solemn. You have loved vanity, you have loved your pleasures, you have loved yourself, and have not got God; not willfully opposing, perhaps, but in the ignorance of unbelief, you are without God—the God of love.
If you have not yet come to God by the cross, may He give you to see it, that you may walk in the spirit of blessing, and sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, living a life of communion with God, and bringing forth the fruit of communion in ways according to it, till you come to the full enjoyment of eternal blessing in the Father’s house on high!
John Nelson Darby

As It Was at the Beginning? and What Is Its Present State? What Is the Church?

We may consider the Church in two points of view. First, it is the formation of the children of God into one body united to Christ Jesus ascended to heaven, the glorified man; and that by the power of the Holy Ghost. In the second place, it is the house or habitation of God by the Spirit. The Savior gave Himself, not only to save perfectly all those who believe in Him, but also to gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Christ has perfectly accomplished the work of redemption; having offered one sacrifice for sins, He is seated at the right hand of God. For by one offering He has forever and perfectly purified those who are sanctified. Whereof also the Holy Ghost witnesses to us, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” The love of God has given us Jesus; the righteousness of God is fully satisfied by His sacrifice; and He is seated at God’s right hand as a continual testimony to the accomplishment to the work of redemption, to our acceptance in Him, and to the possession of the glory, unto which we are called. From heaven, according to His promise, Jesus has sent the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, who dwells in us who believe in Jesus, and who has sealed us for the day of redemption, that is to say, of the glorification of our bodies. The same Spirit is, besides, the earnest of our inheritance.
But all this would be always true, even if there were not a Church upon earth. That is, it is one thing that there are individuals saved, children of God, heirs of glory in heaven; quite another is their union with Christ, so as to be members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones; and yet another it is to be the habitation of God through the Spirit. We will speak of these latter points.
There is nothing clearer in the holy Scripture of truth, than that the Church is the body of Christ. Not only have we salvation by Christ, but we are in Christ and Christ in us. The true Christian who enjoys His privileges knows that, by means of the Holy Ghost, he is in Christ and Christ in him. “In that day,” says the Lord, “ye shall know that I am in the Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” In that day, that is to say, in the day when we should have received the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit. Accordingly we are in Christ and members of His body. This doctrine is largely unfolded in the Epistle to the Ephesians, chapters 1-3. What is there clearer than this word— “He gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body?” Observe, that this marvelous fact began, or was found existing, at soonest when Christ was glorified in the heavens, even though all that is found contained in these verses is not yet accomplished. God, says the apostle, has raised us up with Him, and has seated us together in Him in the heavenly places—not yet with Him, but “in Him.” And in the third chapter, “Which [mystery] was not in other ages made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel... that now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenly places might be known, by the Church, the manifold wisdom of God.”
Here, then, is the Church formed on earth by the Holy Ghost descended from heaven, after the glorification of Christ. It is united to Christ, its heavenly Head; and all true believers are His members by means of the same Spirit. This precious truth is confirmed in other passages; for example, in the Epistle to the Romans, chapter 12, “As in one body we have many members, and all the members have not the same office; so we who are many are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”
It will not be necessary to cite other passages, we will only call the attention of the reader to chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians. It is clear as daylight, that here the apostle speaks of the Church on the earth, not of a future Church which shall be made good in heaven, and not even of churches scattered over the world, but of the Church as a whole, represented, however, by the church of Corinth. Therefore is it said, at the beginning of the epistle, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s.” The totality of the Church is clearly seen in the words, “And God hath set in the church; first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers; after that, miracles; then, gifts of healing,” &c. It is evident that apostles were not in a particular church, and that the gifts of healing could not be exercised in heaven. It is the Church universal on earth. This Church is the body of Christ, and the true believers are its members. It is one by the baptism of the Holy Ghost. “For as the body is one and hath many members, and all the members of this one body, though many, are one body; so also is Christ.” (Ver. 12.) Then, after having said that all these many members work, each in its own function in the body, he adds (ver. 27), “Now ye are the body of Christ and members each in particular.” Bear in mind that this is come to pass by the baptism of the Holy Ghost come down from heaven. Consequently this body exists on earth, and embraces all Christians wherever they may be; they have received the Holy Spirit whereby they are members of Christ and members one of another. Oh, how beautiful is this unity! If one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; and if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it together.
Here the word teaches us besides that the gifts are members of all the body, and that they belong to the body as a whole. The apostles, the prophets, the teachers are in the Church, and not in a particular church. Consequently these gifts, given by the Holy Ghost, are exercised in all the Church where the member is found, because he is a member of the body. If Apollos taught at Ephesus, he teaches also when he is at Corinth, and in whatever locality be may be. The Church is, then, the body of Christ, united to Him, its Head, in heaven, and one is a member by the Spirit who dwells in us, and all Christians are members one of another. This Church, which will be by and by made good in heaven, is at present formed on earth by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, who abides with us, and by whom all true believers are baptized into one body. The gifts, in the next place, are exercised as members of this one body, in the entire Church.
There is, as we have said, another character of the Church on earth; that is to say, it is the habitation of God on earth. It is interesting to see, by examination that this had no place before redemption. God did not dwell with Adam even while innocent; nor with Abraham, though He visited with much condescension both the first man in paradise and the father of the faithful. Nevertheless, He never dwelt with them. But no sooner was Israel redeemed out of Egypt than God comes to dwell in the midst of His people. As soon as the building of the tabernacle was revealed and regulated, God says, “I will dwell in the midst of Israel and I will be their God; and they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who hath taken them out of the land of Egypt to dwell in their midst.” (Ex. 29:45, 46.) Thus the dwelling of God in the midst of the people was the end of the deliverance: the presence of God in the midst of the people is their greatest privilege.
The presence of the Holy Ghost is what characterizes true believers in Christ. “Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost.” (1 Cor. 6:19.) “If any man hath not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Christians taken together are also the temple of God; and the Spirit of God dwells in them. (1 Cor: 3:16)
Not to speak more of the individual Christian, I will say, then, that the Church is God’s habitation on earth by the Spirit. Most precious privilege! The presence of God Himself, the source of joy, strength, and wisdom for His people! But at the same time there is very great responsibility as to the way in which we treat such a guest. I will cite some passages to prove this truth. In Eph. 2, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and pilgrims, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Here we see that, though this building is already begun on the earth, the intention of God is to have a temple formed, made up of all that believe after that God had broken down the partition-wall that shut out the Gentiles; and that this building grows till all Christians are united in glory. But meanwhile the believers on earth form a tabernacle of God, His habitation through the Spirit, who abides in the midst of the Church.
In 1 Tim. 3 the apostle says, “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly; but 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.” By these words we see that the Christian on earth is the house of the living God. That this epistle teaches Timothy how to behave himself in this house, We see also that the Christian is responsible to maintain the truth in the world. The Church does not teach, but the apostles taught. Teachers instruct, but the Christian maintains the truth by being faithful to it. It is the witness of the truth in the world. Those who seek the truth do not seek it among Pagans or Jews or Mahometans, but in the Christian Church. It is not authority for the truth, but the word is its authority. The Church is the vessel that contains the truth; and where the truth is not, there is no Church. Such is the Church, the body of Christ, who is its heavenly Head. Such is the house of God by the Spirit on earth. When the Church is complete, it will join Christ in heaven, clothed with the same glory as its Bridegroom.
Now it is necessary, before speaking of the state of the Church as it was at the beginning, to notice a difference which is found in the word of God as to the house. The Lord said, “Upon this rock I will build my church.” It is Christ Himself who builds His Church; and consequently the gates of hades shall not prevail against it. Here it is not man who builds but Christ. Wherefore the Apostle Peter, speaking of the spiritual house, says nothing of the workmen, “To whom coming as unto a living stone ye also as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood.” (1 Peter 2) This is the work of grace in the heart of the individual by which man approaches Christ. Accordingly, once more, in the Acts it is said that “the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved.” This work could not fail, being the work of God, efficacious for eternity, and manifested in its time. We read, moreover, in the Epistle to the Eph. 2, “Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.” This building which grows may be manifested before the eyes of men; but if the effect of this work of efficacious grace is not manifested in its exterior unity before men, God will not for that fail to do His work, gathering His children for eternal life. Souls come to Christ and are built upon Him.
The Apostles John and Paul, and more particularly the latter, speak of an unity manifested before men in testimony to men of the power of the Holy Ghost. In John 17 we read, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word, that 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.” Here the unity of the children of God is a testimony borne to the world, that God has sent Jesus in order that the world may believe. Now this truth is, consequently, the evident duty of God’s children. All know how the state opposed to this truth is a weapon in the hands of the enemies of this truth.
The character of the house and the doctrine of the responsibility of men are still more clearly taught in the word of God. Paul says, “Ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every one take heed how he buildeth thereupon.” Here it is men who build. The house of God is manifested on earth. The Church is the building of God; but we find there not only God’s work, that is, those who come to God moved by the Holy Ghost, but also the effect of the work of men, who have often built with wood, hay, and stubble. Men have confused together the exterior house built by men and the work of Christ, which may indeed be identical with the work of men, but it may also differ widely. False teachers attributed all the privileges of the body of Christ to the great house composed of every sort of iniquity and of corrupt men. But this fatal error does not destroy the responsibility of men as regards the house of God, His habitation through the Spirit; any more than it is destroyed in respect of the manifestation of the unity of the Spirit in one body on earth.
I considered it important to notice this difference, because it throws much light on questions of the day. Let us now pursue our subject. What was the state of the Church at the commencement when it began at Jerusalem? We find that the power of the Spirit of God was wonderfully manifested. “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 at home, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2) And in chapter 4, “And the multitude of them that believed, were of one heart, and of one soul: neither said any of them, that ought of the things which he possessed, was his own, but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked, for as many as were possessors of lands, or houses, sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” (Acts 4:32-35.) What a beautiful picture of the effect of the power of the Spirit in their hearts—an effect which was too soon to disappear forever; but Christians ought to seek to realize it as much as possible.
The evil of the heart of man soon appeared; and Ananias and Sapphira, as also the murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration, manifested that the sin of man’s heart joined to the devil’s work was still working in the bosom of the Church. But at the same time the Holy Spirit was in the Church and acted there, and was sufficient for putting out evil and changing it into good. The Church, however, was one, known by the world; and one could say that the apostles, having been let go, went to their own company. One only Church, filled with the Holy Ghost, bore testimony to the salvation of God and to His presence on earth; and to this Church God added all those who were to be saved. This Church was all scattered abroad because of the persecution, save the apostles who abode at Jerusalem. Then God raised up Paul to be His messenger unto the Gentiles. He begins to build the Church among the Gentiles, and teaches that in it there is neither Gentile nor Jew, but that all are one and the same body in Christ. Not only the existence of the Church among the Jews, but still more the doctrine of the Church, of its unity, of the union of Jews with Gentiles in one body, is proclaimed and put in execution. It was the object of the counsels of God already before the foundation of the world, but hidden in God; a mystery which had been hid from the ages in God, to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God: which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. So also in Col. 1:26, “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints.”
All Christians were known, all admitted publicly into the Church, Gentiles as well as Jews. The unity was manifested. All the saints were members of one body, of Christ’s body; the unity of the body was owned; and it was a fundamental truth of Christianity. In each locality there was the manifestation of this unity of the Church of God on the earth; so that an epistle of Paul addressed to the Church of God at Corinth arrived at a single assembly; and the apostle could farther add to it “with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s.” Nevertheless if we speak specially of those at Corinth, he says, “Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” If a Christian member of Christ’s body went from Ephesus to Corinth, he would have been equally and necessarily also member of Christ’s body in this latter assembly. Christians are not members of a church but of Christ. The eye, the ear, the foot, or any other member which was at Corinth, was equally such at Ephesus. In the word we do not find the idea of members of a church, but of Christ.
Ministry, as it is presented in the word, is likewise a proof of this same truth. The gifts, source of ministry, given by the Holy Spirit, were in the Church. (1 Cor. 12:28, 8-12.) Those who possessed them were members of the body. If Apollos was a teacher at Corinth, he was also a teacher at Ephesus. If he was the eye, ear, or any other member whatever of Christ’s body at Ephesus, he was also such at Corinth. For this subject there is nothing clearer than 1 Cor. 12: one body, many members; the Church one, in which were found the gifts that the Holy Spirit had given—gifts which were exercised in any locality whatsoever, where he might be who possessed them. In Eph. 4 the same truth is set forth. When Christ ascended on high, He “gave gifts unto men and he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we 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: that we henceforth be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive: but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things which is the head, even Christ: from 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.”
This unity and the free activity of the members are found realized in the time of the apostles. Each gift was fully owned as efficacious to accomplish the work of the Lord, and was freely exercised. The apostles labored as apostles, and likewise those who had been scattered on the occasion of the first persecution, labored in the work according to the measure of their gifts. It is thus that the apostles taught. (1 Peter 4:10, 11 Cor. 14:26-29.) And it is thus that the Christians did. The devil sought to destroy this unity; but he was not able to succeed as long as the apostles lived. He employed Judaism for this work; but the Holy Spirit preserved the unity as we read in Acts 15. He sought to create sects in it by means of philosophy (1 Cor. 2), and of both together. (Col. 2) But all these efforts were vain. The Holy Spirit acted in the midst of the Church and the wisdom given to the apostles to maintain the unity and the truth of the Church against the power of the enemy. The more one reads the Acts of the Apostles, the more one reads the Epistles, the more one sees this unity and this truth. The union of these two things can only take effect by the action of the Holy Ghost. Individual liberty is not union; and the union of men does not leave the individual his full liberty. But the Holy Spirit, when He governs, necessarily unites brethren together and acts in each according to the aim which He has proposed to Himself in uniting them, that is to say, according to His own aim. Thus the presence of the Holy Ghost gathers together all the saints in one body, and works in each according to His will, guiding them in the Lord’s service for the glory of God and the edification of the body.
Such was the, Church: how is it now and where does it exist? It will be perfected in heaven. Granted: but where is it found now on earth? The members of Christ’s body are now dispersed; many hidden in the world, others in the midst of religious corruption; some in one sect, some in another, in rivalry one with another to gain over the saved. Many, thanks be to God, do seek unity; but who is it that has found it? It suffices not to say that by the same Spirit we love each other; for by one Spirit we have been baptized into one body. “That they all may be one” says the Lord, “that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” But we are not one, the unity of the body is not manifested. At the beginning it was clearly manifested and in every city this unity was evident to all the world. All Christians walked everywhere as one Church. He who is a member of Christ in one locality was so also in another, and he who had a letter of recommendation was received everywhere, because there existed but one society.
The Supper was the outward sign of this unity. “We being many are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:17.) The testimony the Church gives now is rather that of proclaiming that the Holy Ghost with His power and grace is unable to surmount the causes of the divisions. The greatest part of what is called the Church is the seat of the grossest corruption, and the majority of those who boast of its light are unbelievers. Greeks, Romanists, Lutherans, Reformers cannot take the Supper together; they condemn each other. The light of God’s children who are found in the sects is hid under a bushel; and those who are separated from such bodies, because they cannot endure the corruption, are divided into hundreds of parties who will not take the Supper together. Neither the one nor the other pretend to be the Church of God, and they say that it is become invisible; but what is the value of an invisible light? Nevertheless there is no humiliation nor confession in seeing the light become invisible. Unity with respect to its manifestation is destroyed. The Church, once beautiful, united, heavenly, has lost its character, is hidden in the world; and the Christians themselves, worldly, covetous, eager for riches, honor, power, like the children of the age. It is an epistle in which one cannot read a single word of Christ. The greatest part of what bears the name of Christian is the sect of the enemy or infidel; and the true Christians are lost in the midst of the multitude. Where can we find one loaf, the sign of one body? Where is the power of the Spirit who unites Christians in a single body? Who can deny that the Christians were thus? and are they not guilty for being no longer what they were? or shall we call it well to be in a state totally different from that in which the Church was at the beginning and from that which the word demands from us? We ought to be profoundly grieved at such a state of the Church in the world, because it no way answers to the heart and love of Christ. Men rest satisfied in being assured of their eternal salvation.
Do we seek what the word says on this point? Here is what we read there, in a general way, for what concerns every economy or dispensation and the ways of God with the Jews and towards the branches from among the Gentiles who were substituted for the Jews. (Rom. 11) “On them which fell, severity; but towards thee goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” Is it not a serious thing, when the people of God on the earth are cut off? Certainly the faithful are and will be kept; for God has no thought of failing in His faithfulness; but all the systems in which God glorifies Himself on the earth may be judged and cut off. The glory of God, His real visible presence, was once at Jerusalem, His throne was over the Cherubim; but ever since the Babylonish captivity His presence abandoned Jerusalem, and His glory as well as His presence were no more in the temple in the midst of the people. And though His great patience endured long, until Christ was rejected, yet God cut them off as regards that covenant. The remnant became Christians, but all the system was terminated by judgment. Such will be the issue of the Christian system, if it continue not in the goodness of God. But it has not continued in God’s goodness. Wherefore, though I believe firmly that all true Christians shall be preserved and caught up to heaven, yet for what concerns the testimony of the Church on earth, the house of God through the Spirit, it will exist no more. Peter had said already, the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God. And in Paul’s time the mystery of iniquity was already working and was to be continued till the man of sin appeared; already in the apostle’s time all sought their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. The apostle tells us farther that after his departure there should enter among the Christians in the Church grievous wolves, not sparing the flock; and that in the last days perilous times should come, men having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof; that evil men and seducers should wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived; and that finally the apostasy should come. Now is all this continuing in God’s goodness?
And this unfaithfulness is it a thing unknown in the history of man? God has always begun by putting His creatures in a good position; but the creature invariably abandons the position in which God set it, becoming unfaithful therein. And God, after long forbearance, never reestablishes it in the position it fell from. It is not according to His ways to patch up a thing which has been spoiled; but He cuts it off to introduce afterward something entirely new and far better than what went before. Adam fell; and God will have the last Adam, the Lord from heaven. God gave the law to Israel who made the calf of gold before Moses came down from the mountain; and God will write the law in the hearts of His people. God ordained the priesthood of Aaron, but his sons from the very first offered strange fire; and from that moment Aaron could no more enter the holiest with his garments of glory and beauty. God made the son of David to sit on the throne of Jehovah; but, idolatry having been introduced by him, the kingdom was divided, and the throne of the world was given of God to Nebuchadnezzar who made a great image of gold and cast the faithful into a burning fiery furnace. In every case man was faithless; and God, having long borne with him, interposes in judgment and substitutes a better system.
It is interesting to observe bow all the things in which man has broken down are established in a more excellent way in the Second man. Man shall be exalted in Christ, the law written in the heart of the Jews, priesthood be exercised by Jesus Christ. He is the Son of David who is to reign over the house of Israel. He is to govern the nations. Likewise as regards the Church, it has been unfaithful; it has not maintained the glory of God which had been confided to it. Therefore shall it be cut off as a system on the earth, the order of things established of God shall be closed by judgment, the faithful shall go up to heaven into a state much better to be conformed to the image of the Son of God, and the kingdom of the Savior shall be established on the earth. All this will be an admirable testimony to the faithfulness of God, who will accomplish all His counsels, spite of the unfaithfulness of man. But does this take away the responsibility of man How then, as the apostle says, could God judge the world? Ought not our hearts to feel that we have cast the glory of the Lord into the dust? The mischief began in the times of the apostles; each added to it his own; and the iniquity of ages is heaped upon us; and soon the house of God will be judged. The blood of all the righteous has been asked again of the Jewish nation by Jesus, as also Babylon will be found guilty of the blood of all the righteous.
It is true that we shall be caught up to heaven; but, along with that, ought we not to mourn over the ruin of the house of God? Yes: formerly one, a beautiful testimony to the glory of its Head by the power of the Holy Ghost; united, heavenly, so that the world could recognize the effect of the power of the Holy Spirit who put men above all human motives, and, causing distinction and diversities among them to disappear, made believers in all countries and of all classes to be one family, one body, one Church, a mighty testimony to the presence of God on earth in the midst of men.
But it is objected that we are not responsible for the sins of those who have gone before us. Are we not responsible for the state in which we are found? Did the Nehemiah, the Daniels, excuse themselves for the sins of the people? Or rather, did they not mourn over the misery of the people of God as belonging to them? If we were not responsible, why then should God put them aside, why judge and destroy all the system? Why should He say, “I will come unto thee quickly and will remove thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent.” Why does He judge Thyatira, replacing it by the kingdom? Why does He say, “I will spew thee out of my mouth?” I believe that the seven churches furnish us with the history of the Church from the beginning to the end; in all cases we have there the responsibility of Christians as to the state of the Church. It will be said perhaps that there are none but local churches which are responsible, and not the Church universal. What is certain is that God will cut off the Church a4 a system established on earth.
Still more to demonstrate responsibility continually from the beginning to the end, let us read in Jude, “There are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation.” They had already slipt in. “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints to execute judgment upon all.” Thus, those who in the time of Jude had already crept in, would bring the judgments on the profane professors of Christianity. In this Epistle we have the three classes of iniquity and their progress. In Cain there is purely human iniquity; in Balaam ecclesiastical iniquity; and in Korah rebellion, and then they perish. In the field where the Lord had sown the good seed while men slept the enemy sowed tares. It is very true that the good seed is gathered into the garner, but the negligence of the servants has left the enemy the opportunity of spoiling the Master’s work. Shall we be indifferent to the state of the Church, beloved of the Lord, indifferent to the divisions that the Lord has forbidden? No, let us humble ourselves, dear brethren, let us own our fault and have done with it. Let us walk faithfully, each for his part, and endeavor to find once more the unity of the Church and the testimony of God. Let us cleanse ourselves from all evil and all iniquity. If it is possible for us to gather together in the name of the Lord, it is a great blessing; but it is essential that this be done in the unity of the Church of God and in the true liberty of the Spirit.
If the house of God is still on the earth and the Holy Spirit abides in it, is He not grieved at the state of the Church? And if He abides in us, should not our hearts be afflicted and humbled at the dishonor done to Christ and the destruction of the testimony that the Holy Ghost is come down from heaven to bear in the unity of the Church of God? He who will confront the state of the Church as it is described to us in the New Testament and its present state, will feel his heart profoundly saddened by seeing the Church’s glory dragged into the dust and the enemy triumphing in the confusion of the people of God.
Finally, Christ has confided His glory on earth to the Church. It was the depositary of that glory. There the world ought to have seen it displayed by the power of the Holy Ghost, a testimony to the victory of Christ over Satan, death, and all the enemies that he has led captive, triumphing over them in the cross. Has the Church preserved this deposit and maintained the glory of Christ on the earth? If this has not been done, tell me, Christian, is the Church responsible for it? Was the servant, to whom the Lord entrusted the care of His house (Matt. 24), responsible or not for the state of his Master’s house? It will be said, perhaps, that the wicked servant is the outward Church, which is corrupted and is not really the Church; as for me, I am not a member of it at all. But I reply that, in the parable, the servant is alone, and the question is whether this sole servant is faithful or unfaithful? It may be true, that you are separate from the iniquity which fills the house of God, and you have done well; but is not your heart bowed down because of the state of that house? The Lord shed tears of grief over Jerusalem, and shall we shed none over that which is still dearer to His heart? Here the glory of the Lord has been trampled under foot: shall we say that we are not responsible for it? His only servant is held accountable. Even though, individually guided by the word, I may be apart from all the iniquity which corrupts the house of God, nevertheless, as Christ’s servant, I ought to identify myself with the glory of Christ, and with its manifestations to the world. It is in this that faith is shown: not merely in believing that God and Christ possess the glory, but in identifying this glory with His people. (Ex. 32:11, 12; Num. 14:13-19; 2 Cor. 1:20.) First, God entrusts His glory to man, who is responsible to maintain himself in his position, and to be faithful in it, without leaving his first estate; by and by God will establish His own glory according to His counsels. But, first of all, man is responsible where God has set him. We have been set in the Church of God, in His house, in the habitation of His glory on the earth: where is it? J. N. D.
(Translated from the Italian.)
John Nelson Darby

The Assimilating Power of Christ

1 John 3:2
(1 John 2.)
There is one very precious feature that is found in John’s Epistle and indeed elsewhere, in his writings, that we cannot see Christ really as He was and is without being wrought upon and formed according to Him. There is such an assimilating power in Christ that it is impossible to have to do with Him without feeling His constraining influence and becoming like Him. The apostle even traces this through the main particulars of His life and glory. Thus knowing Him as the life, we have life ourselves. Again He is the Son, and knowing Him thus, we too become sons of God. So in Rev. 1. If He is the King, if He is the Priest, as none other ever was or can be but Himself, He has made us kings, He has made us priests, and given us to be kings and priests as none can be, save those that are made so by Him.
But this is also true morally, because as He is our life and we have life even eternal life in Him, so also He is our righteousness and we are righteous in Him and by Him, yea, made the righteousness of God in Him. And this is not only true as to the present but as to the future. We have seen Him now by faith, and all the blessing comes by faith. But we shall see Him soon face to face, and then as we see Him outwardly face to face, as well as now inwardly by the Holy Spirit, we shall be both outwardly and inwardly conformed to Him. Thus does the Apostle preserve this most precious thought everywhere, bringing it out and applying it to us in the most unexpectedly full manner.
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God.” It never was so displayed before. It was predicted that it was to be, but it never was so brought out, till Himself, the Son of God really and properly came: and we then become not only sons in title, but children (for such is the true force of it), as being really born of God. To be sons, glorious as it is, is not so intimate a thing as to be children, born of God. A person might have the title of a son without being of the family. But while we are and shall be owned as sons of God, we are children. “Therefore,” he says, “behold the world knoweth us not.” But why? “Because it knew him not.” There we have the very same thought again. If it is nearness to God, there never was any one so near to God as He was; but now we are brought into the very same nearness, as He says, “Go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, unto my God and your God.” Thus what is His becomes ours. But now, looking at the other side, the world does not know us. How comes this? For the most precious reason—because it knew Him not. Whatever was His portion is our portion. If the world cast Him out, must I wonder if it cast us out also? If the world called Him every bad name, we must expect no better. Only let us take care that we do not deserve it. The Lord give us more and more faith that we may know what it is to be outcast for Christ’s sake! it was His portion from the manger to the cross.
Having given us these two portions, he distinguishes what is from what shall be. “Beloved, now are we the children of God.” As he had before simply said “that we should be called the children of God,” there might have been a question whether it was really so or not. But now he adds, “Now are we the children of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.” It does not appear to the world; it does perfectly appear to us. He is not speaking of what we know, but of what is to be manifested to the world. For we ought to know it now as perfectly as we shall in the glory. It rests upon God’s word, as it flows from His grace; and God’s word will not be plainer in heaven than it is upon earth. Nothing can make the word of God plainer or surer. There may be the putting down of opposing influences, but “the word of God liveth and abideth forever.” And this is the strength of our Christian health and well-being, the very spring that gives us power of separation unto God, that we wait for no signs, that we accept His word and rejoice in it, and take it as our sure portion, not because we deserve such grace, but because Christ does; and Christ deserves it now as much as ever He will. And as it is nothing but the fruit of the grace of Christ, he says, “Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him.” But why? Because it is guaranteed by His infinite power? Nay, true as this may be, it is not the reason. “We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” We see Him now as He was, and this constrains and conforms us into the likeness of what He was, surely then we shall see Him as He is, and we shall be like Him as He is. Yea, in spirit we see Him as He is now, and are even now changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
The Lord grant that having such a hope, grounded upon Him and upon nothing in ourselves, we may be found seeking that our ways and conversation should practically testify that we purify ourselves according to this measure and this standard although it be an infinite one.

The Atoning Death of Christ: Correction

I am sorry to think that any should need a word of explanation on a phrase or two in page 319, Col. 1. Nothing I venture to say is farther from the author than denying the resting place of his soul, and the doctrine he has ever preached—the atoning death of Christ. This is not the question, but the value of “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” as compared with “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Is not the one the expression of Christ’s total abandonment by God on the cross for our sins? Does not the other equally convey His departure after this in perfect confidence in and dependence on His Father? Is this last the expression of God’s judgment on sin? The author does not deny death in the fullest sense by speaking of Christ’s passing through it in His soul; and when he speaks of its being “more than pure,” the meaning is explained by what follows” which has put away sin.” Is this questioned? Is it not more than pure? Pure it always was; now that He had thus died, it went to His Father more than pure, i.e., the witness of redemption already effected. And this was proclaimed to man in resurrection. Curt and abrupt phraseology I admit; but I repudiate the wicked imputation put on our brother’s words. Even the greatest of inspired men presents things hard to be understood; is he to be blamed? or the Spirit who used him?


(Rev. 17; 18)
“Sanctify them by thy truth, thy word is truth.” This is a saying much to be remembered. It teaches us that we are not to make ourselves the judges of what sanctification or holiness is; God’s word is to determine this; because holiness is that character or mind which is found by God’s word or truth.
We are apt to think that our own moral sense of things is the rule of holiness. But the word of God claims to be such a rule: “Sanctify them by thy truth, thy word is truth.” (John 17)
If that rule were applied to many a thing which the moral sense, or the religious sense, of man approves, how would it change its character! And the Lord cannot change His standard of holiness, though He may be infinitely gracious to the shortcomings of His saints.
Those other words, “for their sakes I sanctify myself that they also may be sanctified through the truth,” which stand in connection, have their own force and value also. Thus, in the whole of His utterance in John 17, the Lord strongly takes a place apart from the world, and puts His saints in the like place, praying that they may be kept there. In this sense, I believe, He speaks of sanctifying Himself. Through all this Church-age He is apart from the world and the earth, and sanctification depends on our communion with Him in that separated place. “The truth,” testifying as it does of Him, links us with Him in that place; and sanctification is thus “through the truth,” leading us to fellowship with an unworldly Jesus.
We may see instances of such sanctification from the beginning.
When the ground was cursed for man’s sake, holiness was separation from it, as in the persons of the antediluvian saints; uncleanness was cleaving to it, as did the family of Cain.
When the earth again corrupted itself and God judged it by the scattering of the nations, holiness was separation from it, as in Abraham; and apostasy was a clinging to it in spite of judgment, as Nimrod did.
When Canaan was judged, Achan’s sin savored of the apostate mind; but Israel became a holy people by separation from it and from all people of the earth by the ordinances of God and the sword of Joshua.
But Israel revolts. The circumcision becomes uncircumcision, and with them all on the face of the earth or in the world becomes defiled, and holiness is separation from it in companionship with a rejected heavenly Christ.
The whole thing, the world, is the judged or cursed thing now. It is the Jericho. While the camp lingers in the wilderness, we may be at charges or in labors in a mission to draw out the Rahabs; but we cannot seek the improvement of Jericho, or display the resources and capabilities of the world. Such doings would be unholy, not according to “the truth,” however morally conducted, or benevolently intentioned.
Glory in a crucified Christ will not, if alone, be the perfect thing of this age; there must be companionship with a rejected Christ also. Babylon, I believe, the mystic Babylon of the Revelation, may be brought to boast in a crucified Christ, and be Babylon still. For what is it as delineated by the Spirit? Is it not a thing worldly in character as well as abominable and idolatrous in doctrine and practice? Rev. 17; 18 give us a sight of Babylon in its worldliness much more than in its idolatries. Babylon of old, as in the land of Chaldea, was full of idols, and guilty of the blood or of the sorrows of the righteous. But it had also this mark; it displayed greatness in the world in the time of Jerusalem’s depression. So the mystic Babylon. She has her abominations in the midst of her, and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus stains her; but still more fully is she disclosed as great and splendid, and joyous in the earth during the age of Christ’s rejection. She is important in the world in that day when the judgment of God is preparing for the world: she can glorify herself and live deliciously in a defiled place.
It is not that she is ignorant of the cross of Christ. She is not heathen. She may publish Christ crucified, but she refuses to know Christ rejected. She does not continue with Him in His temptations, nor consider the poor and needy Jesus. (Luke 22; Psa. 41) The kings of the earth and the merchants of the earth are her friends, and the inhabitants of the earth her subjects.
Is not, then, the rejection of Christ the thing she practically scorns? Surely it is. And again I say, the prevailing thought of the Spirit about her is this—she is that which is exalted in the world while God’s Witness is depressed and in defiance of that depression, for she knows of it. Babylon of old well knew of the desolations of Jerusalem; Christendom now well knows and publishes the cross of Jesus.
Babylon of old was very bold in her defiance of the grief of Zion. She made the captives of Zion to contribute to her greatness and her enjoyments. Nebuchadnezzar had done this with the captive-youths, and Belshazzar with the captive-vessels.
This was Babylon, and in spirit this is Christendom. Christendom is the thing which glorifies herself and lives deliciously in the earth, trades in all that is desirable and costly in the world’s esteem in the very face of the sorrow and rejection of that which is God’s. Christendom practically forgets Christ rejected on the earth.
The Mede or Persian is another creature. He removes Babylon, but he exalts himself. (Dan. 6) And this is the action of the Beast and his ten kings. The woman, mystically Babylon, is removed by the ten kings; but then they give their power to the Beast who exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, as Darius the Mede did.
This is the closing, crowning feature in the picture of the world’s apostasy. But we have not reached it yet. Our conflict is with Babylon and not with the Mede, with that which lives deliciously and in honor during the age of Jerusalem’s ruins (i.e., of the rejection of Christ).

Belshazzar's Feast in Its Application to the Great Exhibition

Daniel 5
While Jeremiah was left at Jerusalem to witness the course of moral corruption there, and to warn of coming judgments, and while Ezekiel was among the remnant in the place of discipline or of righteousness on the river Chebar, Daniel is set among the Gentiles, even at Babylon, to learn the history and the ways of the Gentile, or the world.
We may see this in his first six chapters, which constitute the first part of the book. In chapter 1 we see the Gentile, or the world, set up. Then in chapter 2 we get the same system, the world, in its political career onward to the kingdom, figured in the great image, seen in all its parts, from its head of gold to its toes of clay-iron; and judged, in the appointed hour, by the stone which becomes a mountain, to occupy the scene of power all the world over with an untransferable kingdom. Then in the four following chapters, the stories of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius give us the moral course of the world. In Nebuchadnezzar we get a persecuting power, connected with human religion or idolatry. The king sets up an image and demands the worship of it on pain of the fiery furnace. The righteous refuse and suffer. In Belshazzar we get the easy, worldly, self-indulgent thing, with contempt of religion. The king makes a feast, worshipping all that which ministered to his pleasures. The righteous are utter strangers to it all. In Darius we get a persecuting power again, but it is in connection with self-exaltation. The king makes an interdict, that none are to be treated as God but himself for so many days on pain of the lion’s den. The righteous again refuse and suffer.
These are plain and sure distinctions in the progress of Gentile iniquity. And it may strike us, I judge, very clearly, that we are at present rather in the day of Belshazzar. Persecution and idol-service gave character to the preceding day, and persecution and the deification of man to the day which followed; but all was easy indifference, with thorough satisfaction in the present things of the world, in the day of Belshazzar. Refusal and consequent suffering form the path or history of the righteous in the times of the idolatrous, persecuting Nebuchadnezzar, and of the self-exalting, persecuting Darius; but in the times of Belshazzar, perfect and thorough separation is the place of the saints of God.
There is a voice for us in all this. Daniel is not seen at the feast. And there is one, though not in his strength yet much in his spirit, who is absent also—the queen, the king’s mother. The king is ignorant of the man of God who was then in his dominions. He is also unmindful of the doings of God which had been in the same dominions in the days of his father. But the queen has recollections and knowledge of these things, and she is a stranger to his feast.
Is not the question then with us to be this: Who is the separated one now? Who is going to the king’s feast, or who, in the light of the Lord, is separated from it? The present is an easy, self-indulgent, worldly moment. The gods of gold and of silver, of brass, of wood and of iron, are praised. All the capabilities in the world to make a feast are produced, and displayed, and gloried in. Social accommodation and social delights are the great object. Man’s works, the fruit of his skill and the resources of his country, adorn and furnish the scene, and are the host of the feast, that which gathers and entertains. Man is providing the joy of this awful hour in the world’s history—awful indeed, not in the judgments or sorrows which are upon it, but in the moral principles which are quickening it. The captivity of Zion was heedlessly forgotten by Belshazzar, and the vessels of God’s temple were profaned. The operations of His hands were not considered, but the wine and the tabret were in his feast. So now; the rejection of Christ is by common consent forgotten, that man may meet his fellow, greet him with a common joy and with a common welcome, because they are all of one earth, of the same world, of kindred flesh and blood; and all God’s claims on His elect and testimony against the world are thrown together as what for a season must be passed by, till the feast-day is kept.
Where then, again I ask, is the separated one? Where is Daniel? Where is the king’s mother? The feast does not attract either of them, though they may be in different measures of strength. Daniel knew the character of it before the judgment of it was pronounced. He does not wait for the fingers of the man’s hand to put him into his place in relation to it. He is not moved by the mysterious writing on the wall. Sudden destruction, as a thief in the night, does not come upon him. He and his companion, though “a weaker vessel,” are, in the spirit of their minds, in the place from whence these fingers were sent—they were “children of light and children of the day.” The judgment upon the feast had no terror for them, for they were not at the feast. They had judged it already. Their separation was not sleep. “They that sleep in the night, and they that are drunken are drunken in the night.” But they were no more indifferent to it than taking their pleasure at it. Their separation therefore, as I said, was not sleep. In a divine sense they watched and were sober. (1 Thess. 5:3.) In the separated place Daniel knew the judgment of God about it all, long before the writing on the wall announced it to the world. All this is full of meaning for us.
I am not going to say that the form of evil which Belshazzar’s day presents is the worst. Nebuchadnezzar set up an idol before that day, and Darius set up himself after it. The fiery furnace was heated for the saints in the former reign, and the lion’s den was open for them in the latter. The day of Belshazzar witnessed nothing of this. The abomination in the plain of Dura did not demand worship then, neither did the royal statute forbid worship toward Jerusalem then. But still there is something in Belshazzar himself, if not in his day, which especially provoked the Spirit of the Lord. Daniel can feel for Nebuchadnezzar, and Nebuchadnezzar is brought to a right repentant mind, and the judgment of God is reversed. Daniel, too, can feel for Darius, and Darius is seen in humbled gracious meltings of soul, and we can all pity him—pity him when we see him unwittingly involved in results which a moment’s vanity and easiness of nature had led to. But from us Belshazzar gets no kindly movement of heart, from the Spirit of God in Daniel nothing but stern rebuke, and from the hand of God nothing but swift destruction, the fingers on the wall announcing it, and the sword of the Median executing it. “In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.”
He was the easy man of the world. He despised all religious fear. What he worshipped was his pleasures, the gods of silver, of brass, and of gold, the vessels which could fill out his entertainments and make provision for his lusts. He did not summon the world to either his idol or himself, but to his board and to his holyday. Nebuchadnezzar makes an image, Darius a royal decree, Belshazzar a feast. But Jerusalem and her sorrows are forgotten, the Temple and its furniture despised. The wonders which the God of Jerusalem and of the temple had freshly wrought in the land were all a dream or a fiction with him, and the very spoils of His house he can use in making merry with his friends.
This was easy worldliness—the heartless way of man who can forget God’s wonders, and the rejection and humiliation of Christ. And all this is terrible. The harp, and the pipe, and the tabret are in such feasts; but the operations of God’s hands are forgotten. Till now the vessels of God’s house had been held in some fear and honor. But now they are profaned and made to serve the lusts of the king. God had ordained them to witness the separation of His priestly nation, and His own worship in the midst of His people; but the king makes them the instruments of his sport.
And what, I ask, is the effort to deck out the world, to enjoy it, and to boast of it, while Jesus is rejected by its citizens? Is it not a thing in kindred spirit with this? The rejection of Christ is forgotten, yea, despised—for that is gloried in and displayed which continues the word, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” Is not this somewhat of taking of the choice vessels of God’s house, in the very day of their captivity, to make merry with them? The present moment may surely thus remind us of Belshazzar’s feast. Gods of gold and of silver, of brass, of iron, and of wood are praised; the resources and capabilities of the world are displayed, thoughtless of its rejection of Christ. And are any of the captivity at the king’s feast? Israel was captive together with the vessels of the temple. Would any of them be so thoughtless as to make merry with the king who was despising the spoils of that house? Would any of the servants of the rejected nobleman take part with the citizens in setting forth the wonders of their blood-stained land? (See Luke 19)
The mind turns with these thoughts to the present moment. It cannot refuse to give itself, in some sort and in some measure, to the subject of “The Great Exhibition.” It would not be fit that it should be indifferent to it—for it is no common sign of the time and ought to be morally judged.
It will be pleaded for. No doubt of it. It will be said, that it is designed to encourage brotherhood among the nations, and to promote the great business of social comfort and happiness as wide as the human family. But, I ask, are these God’s objects? God has scattered the nations, and never proposes to gather them till He gathers them to Shiloh. God would have us strangers here, “content with such things as we have,” without making it our business to increase or improve them. God would have us testify against the world in its present condition, and therefore neither flatter it, nor reconcile it to itself, nor glory in its capabilities. The Exhibition is therefore in full collision with the mind of God. Christ exposes the world; the Exhibition displays it. Christ would alarm it, and call it to a sense of judgment; the Exhibition makes it on better terms with itself than ever.
It is indeed a mighty advance in all the apostate reprobate principles of man. Efforts of a like kind we may be familiar with; but they are commonplace in comparison with this. As prophets speak, touching advance in the ways of evil, this is indeed “adding drunkenness to thirst.”
I regard all admiration of it as a step in the way to “wonder after the beast.” That will be but a further expression of the same mind; and how serious, if evangelical religion be sending its contributions to it, or becoming one of the Exhibitors at it! Deep must be the infatuation. To tell the world one day what it is in God’s esteem, and the next day to become one of the wonderers after its resources and capacities! Admiration like this savors of worship.
Like the old prophet at Bethel, when a saint is in a place or a position unwarranted by the call of God, the enemy will find easy occasion to use him. Still I own, when I think of it, it is to me wonderful that a Christian should find satisfaction in this thing. That it is an awful advance in the development of those evil principles which are to mark the day of Christendom’s ripened iniquity, I have not the least doubt.
The Lord of old scattered the nations. (See Gen. 11) This was judgment on a bold attempt of theirs, when they were of one speech and one language, to make themselves independent of God. And has He reversed that judgment? There is indeed an appointed time when it shall be reversed. Jerusalem shall be a center, and Shiloh a gathering object. The nations will flock to Zion, there to see the King in His beauty. And none of them there, we may say, shall appear before the Lord empty. The tributes of all the lands shall beautify the place of God’s sanctuary. The fruits of Midian and of Ephah shall be there—gold and incense from Sheba, the flocks of Kedar and the rams of Nebaioth, the glory of Lebanon, the forces of all the Gentiles. All shall flock there, like doves to their windows, and kings shall minister there. Gold too shall be for brass, silver for iron, brass for wood, and iron for stones. All shall be for glory and beauty in the earth then. But this is still future. This is for “the world to come,” after the Redeemer has come out of Zion, and turned away ungodliness from Jacob. See Isa. 59 and Rom. 11.
The reversing of the judgment of scattering at Babel is left for the kingdom of God at Jerusalem. He that scattered must gather. He is Lord of the nations. “The powers that be are ordained of God.” It is His pleasure that they should be scattered nations still; for one universal monarchy is appointed of God for Jesus only—as it is written, “every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” “His dominion shall be from sea to sea:, and from the river to the ends of the earth.”
The name of Jesus was, indeed, proposed as a, gathering object in the day of Pentecost. Tongues were then cloven as they had been at Babel. But it was to reunite what had been already severed. But, this proposal, like every other on God’s part to man, was disappointed. The hard, unbelieving heart did this. And what is man now proposing? He who refused God’s proposal to gather to Jesus, in the power and presence of the Holy Ghost, is proposing to gather to himself. He will exalt himself as at Babel. He will be independent of God. He will be like the Most. High. The beast will issue his decree on pain of death; his mark will be received on the forehead, and all the world will wonder after him. (Rev. 13) This is in the prospect of the world’s history. He who will not let Christ be exalted will surely seek to exalt himself. And such an one is man.
Isaiah, anticipating in the Spirit the last days, warns the people of God against saying “a confederacy,” in common with the world around them. (Chap. 8) And I ask myself and others, do we in deed and in faith receive these notices from the prophets? Do we judge that man will thus exalt himself and confederate—thus gather round himself? And if we treat these warnings of the character of the last days as divine, can we doubt from all we see and hear, that man has already begun to practice his hand in kindred attempts, in efforts which shall issue in all this?
The facilities and the speed in linking the nations one with another is now well known. It is used and gloried in. And what is this “Great Exhibition” but another trying of his skill in forwarding the main leading purpose of man’s heart? No doubt it suits the spirit which is moving all this, to have it under the sanction of religion. When he can use it for his own ends, nothing suits the devil better. He would fain have had Christ exalt Himself under the sanction of Psa. 91. And again and again, he would have acknowledged Christ, had He allowed it—as the spirit of divination would have witnessed to Christ’s servant, had he received it. (Acts 16) But this could not be. The beast, however, will have his false prophet. He will use religion for his own ends. But divine religion takes us only into God’s ends. And it teaches us this (with the authority of the real intrinsic holiness of such a principle): we can have no fellowship with that against which we are called to testify. (Eph. 5:11.)
Nor can we say that the judgment we form on this matter is a small or an indifferent thing. It is not so. The subject is well fitted to exercise the judgment of a saint of God. It is eminently so, I believe. His mind generally will be much affected by his sense of this thing and his decision respecting it. The mind can become dull. The eye gets dim betimes. And if such a process as that be going on, the next attempt of the enemy finds us less prepared. And I ask, Is not all that dangerous, when delusions are multiplying as they are and as they will?
We are counseled to buy eye-salve of Christ, that we may see. That is something beyond or beside faith and confession of the gospel. Laodicea had the common faith, and in a sense boasted of it, but Laodicea wanted eye-salve. And sure I am that let this great shop of the world’s ware expose what it may, that eyesalve is the very thing which will not, cannot be had there. It is the article which would detect the whole character of the place, and it could not therefore be had there. It is a palace. Man is not enthroned there as God, it is true. Things among the children of men are not quite ripe for that yet. It is not a temple where man sits, showing himself as God. (2 Thess. 2) But man’s works are displayed there. Man’s art is enthroned there, and man expects to be admired and wondered at there, and thousands enter it (as another has observed) in the spirit of doing homage to man. It is a mirror in which the world is reflected in a thousand attractive forms, and the unworldly, humbled, earth-rejected Jesus is forgotten. Jesus may be named there, it is true, but an unworldly Jesus is practically forgotten there.
It is indeed as I surely judge, solemnly, awfully significant. It is full of the spirit of the last days. This palace for man’s productions to be gazed at, is but a stage before the temple for man himself to sit in—and admiration of it is getting a generation ready, morally ready, to “wonder after the beast.” One is amazed that any Christian can find the least satisfaction in it.
This Exhibition (for it calls itself by that significant name) in its way spews all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. It does not hide this. It professes to do this. Like John Bunyan’s Vanity Fair, there is the Italian row, and the German row, and the English row. It has human skill and resources in all variety, and from all lands. It presents the kingdoms of the world, and “the glory of them.” And who, I ask, was it that did this before? The Spirit led the Son of God into “the wilderness,” a place of strangership and pilgrimage—but the devil showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.
The world, according to the scriptures of God, is a lost and a judged thing. It is incapable of recovery. The word of God does not, in a single passage of it, warrant the thought that it can be advanced or cultivated for God. He has judged it—though in grace the judgment tarries, and the longsuffering of God is salvation. But the world is a system past all hope of recovery, till the judgment be executed. But confederacy is an attempt to fix the world in its present condition, to settle it, though it be in departure from God and in enmity against Christ. This was the thought at Babel of old.
Separation of His own out of the world is God’s way now. And this separation is the deepest and most thorough judgment that could be passed upon the world. This is a more complete judgment of it than by the waters of the flood, or by the plagues of Egypt, or by the sword of Joshua. The withdrawal or separation of all that God owns bespeaks final thoughts about the world, and not merely a purifying of it from present corruptions, as by the waters of Noah, in order to put it on a fresh trial. The trial of it is over, the judgment of it is pronounced, and the delay is but for the salvation of the elect. The attitude of the Church, that is, separation from the earth, and heavenly calling, tells us of the full moral condemnation of the course of things here. And thus the Church judges the world. Her position and calling does so.
The “servants” of the departed “nobleman” very well know that the country of the “citizens” has very great resources, and very great capabilities; and they know that in due season such will be both used and displayed. But they cannot allow this thought while that country is as it is now—stained with the blood of their rejected master. The cry, “We will not have this man to reign over us,” is ever in their ears. And with that cry from the land, can they, in company with the “citizens” who raised it and still keep it up (for the character of the world, as we have said from scripture, is unalterably fixed), be occupied in investigating and producing the treasures of their country and the skill of its people, and glory in the thought of the common advancement?
They cannot, when alive to the character of the place where they are, and awake, as they should ever be, to the cry which followed the rejected Jesus as He left it—they cannot. The cup of the Lord’s indignation is to go round the nations, and they must drink it. An awful reverse this will be from Belshazzar passing the wine among his courtiers and concubines in the cups of the Lord’s house. And solemn it is in those nations feasting and praising the gods of gold, and of silver, of iron, of brass, and of wood while such a handwriting as that is on the wall against them. If not on the walls of the palace, it is in the books of the prophets. (Psa. 75; Jer. 25)
Incorruption, I may say, cannot inherit corruption. The spotless Jesus cannot hold an unpurged dominion. The woman of Rev. 17 glorifies herself, and lives deliciously in the earth during that very time in which the judgment of God is awaiting it; but the bride of Rev. 21 does not become manifested in the earth till it has been cleansed and is ready, not for the judgment of the Lord, but for the presence of the glory.
There is infinite moral distance there. The world must be judged ere it can be adopted of God. The earth must be purified before it can be furnished and adorned for Him. This has been again and again transacted in the progress of the divine government. Noah, God’s saint and representative, took the earth to rule and to enjoy it, but it had previously passed through the purifying of the flood. Israel, God’s people and witnesses, took the land of Canaan to possess and enjoy it, but it had been judged by the sword of Joshua. And according to these types the earth is to be cleansed; out of the kingdom is to be taken all that offends and does iniquity ere Jesus will take the power.
Ornament and furniture well becomes it, for it is the Lord’s footstool. Eden had not only its plants, and trees, and fruits, and flowers; but its gold, its bdellium, and its onyx stones. Solomon, in typical days of glory, trafficked in all desirable riches. And the millennial Jerusalem will receive all the treasures of the provinces. (Isa. 60) But the present age is not millennial; the earth is not yet an extended Eden. Corruption is not judged; the things that offend and do iniquity are not taken away, nor is there any divine commission to that end. The field of tares is not to be cleansed now—it waits for the angels and the time of harvest. The saint submits to “the powers that be,” knowing that “God” will stand in the congregation of them for judgment in due season. (Compare Rom. 13:1 with Psa. 82:1.)
It is despite of the holiness of God, we may therefore say, to be presenting this evil world in its ornaments and furniture, in its resources and capabilities, as this Exhibition is doing. And it is also despite of the wrongs and sorrows of Christ. The citizens who have cast outside their city and country the blessed Son of God, are exhibiting what their country can produce, and what their hands can skillfully weave and fashion. I ask, could a servant of such a rejected Master aid and encourage such things? Could he be a servant a moment beyond the time that he thus practically forgot his Lord’s rejection here? He could not. He might, indeed, be a useful member of society, and serve his generation in their generation well; but a servant of Christ (properly speaking) he could not be if once he forgot the world’s rejection of Christ; and acceptance of the invitation of the citizens (see Luke 19) to come and rejoice with them in the resources of their country and the skill of their people would at once be such forgetfulness.
The sorrow and the humbling of a saint is that he remembers the rejection of his Master so coldly and acts on that great fact so poorly. But to have it estranged from the soul so as to consent to take part with the citizens from one end of the world to the other, in a great confederated effort to display the world as a wealthy and desirable place—to do this in full and hearty fellowship with all, on the ground of the common humanity, is confounding light and darkness, Christ and Belial. The language of the whole thing is this—We will forget, at least for a season, the claims and the sorrows of Jesus, and have a holyday with the world that has rejected Him.
Has so little “eye-salve” been bought of Christ as to leave the saints in such a blinded condition of soul as this? “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” When Daniel and his companions entered the place of the Gentiles, they carried one purpose of heart with them, that they would not defile themselves with the king’s meat. (Dan. 1:8.) He knew not what this might cost him, but this was his purpose. He had bought this eye-salve of Christ, ere he stood among the uncircumcised. And in the strength of the Lord, he and his dear companions stood. The fiery furnace and the lion’s den witness the victory of men strengthened by Christ. “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us.” And so at Belshazzar’s feast. Daniel entered it as a conqueror, as afterward he entered the lion’s den. He had no affinity with the feast—not a bit. He was, in the day of it, as we have seen, a separated man. But he was called to it, and he entered the banqueting hall as a conqueror. The king who was there promised to make him “the third ruler in the kingdom.” “Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another,” said the servant of Christ. He was as much a conqueror in the day of the feast, as he was in the day of the lion’s den.
Noble attitude of a saint of God! Could such a man have accepted an invitation to the feast? Morally impossible. And “the eye-salve” which Christ had supplied him with, disclosed its further virtues, as he stood in that palace of the world’s enjoyments. There was nothing in the language of the writing on the wall’ beyond the astrologers of Babylon more than beyond Daniel. Not so much, I might say. At least the words were as familiar to a Chaldean as to a Hebrew.
But the wise men of Babylon, the scribes of Belshazzar’s court and kingdom were not equal to interpret them. They were morally incapacitated. A single eye to Christ alone can do so to this day—the “eye-salve.” If we test a thing by any test but Christ, we shall misinterpret it. It will appear fair, and good, and desirable, if we try it by its relationship to the welfare of society, or to the advancement of man and the world; but if we look at it in the light of a rejected Jesus, its bloom will be found to be corruption. Standing in the festive hall, Daniel traces the whole scene in Babylon at that hour in relation to God. He rehearses before Belshazzar God’s way with Nebuchadnezzar, and Nebuchadnezzar’s way with God, and then Belshazzar’s own hardness and infidel pride in defiance of Him who had wrought the wonders. This was Daniel’s key to the writing—of course, I know, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. But still this was the prophet’s moral apprehension of the king’s feast. He judged it in reference to God—and what could the end be, but awful and sudden destruction? The writing must speak of judgment, though the lords and the captains, the wives and the concubines, sport themselves in the king’s hall.
“Anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see.” It is blessed so to do, but it is hard. We judge of things in reference to ourselves, and not in reference to Christ. We think rather of the world’s improvement than of His rejection. We talk of human capabilities rather than of human and incurable apostasy. We want the eye-salve, without which we cannot see—we cannot discover the feast, or read the writing on the wall.
The disciples wanted it on the Mount of Olives, as they looked on the Temple. They saw the building, but not with the eye of Christ, not as anointed with the eye-salve. He had seen it, and all that surrounded it, with the eye of God; and costly as it was, and beautiful beyond comparison, He had written the judgment of it; yea, on the very wall He had written the judgment of “that beautiful house.” “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem—behold your house is left unto you desolate.” This was writing with the same divine authority which had sentenced Belshazzar and his feast. But the disciples still eyed the beauty of the stones, and Jesus, in patient grace, but because of their demand, and unanointed eye, had to re-write the doom of that place: “Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left one stone upon another, which shall not be thrown down.”
Sad to tell of it then, sad to see it now, sad to know, in our own worldly hearts, the secret of all this darkness. We may be sorry to find it thus among disciples, though prepared to get it plentifully among the children of men. The kings of the earth, the merchants, and the mariners bewail the fall of Babylon, and we wonder not. They judged Babylon in reference to themselves—they had lived deliciously with her. How could they have eye-salve to know her, and to see her with the mind of heaven? God “remembered her iniquities,” but they remembered her as one “wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness.” They therefore bewail, when heaven rejoices. The lords at the feast tremble, when heaven traces its doom. But sad it is that saints should be admiring the “costliness” which the mind of heaven has already judged.
What words in our ears, beloved, are all these—what writings under our eyes! O for the anointing which Christ has for His saints! O for power in our souls to judge the king’s feast, the Gentiles’ greatness, the world’s advancement, the jubilee of Babylon, in the light of the rejection of the Son of God, in the hearing of that cry, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” Then let us ask ourselves, if we have a pulse of affection or allegiance to Jesus, can we glory in this present moment with all its costliness and pleasures?

Blessing and Giving Thanks

1 Cor. 14:16 is a positive proof of what is indeed very clear in other passages—that “blessing” means giving thanks. The two words are used for the same act elsewhere. (comp. Matt. 14; 15, Luke 9, John 6) Here they are positively identified.

Christ Alone

This position of Christ is very striking as showing the absolute intrinsic perfectness of His love and obedience. There is an end of man. All that was in man was hatred to God in goodness; so that he has no sustainment from man—only evil. He turns to God, and there He is forsaken. Broken, and more than broken, pressed up to death, from man He turns to God and finds forsaking. He was left alone, repelled by man and in a certain sense by God when He turned to Him—was alone, accomplished all in His own love and obedience, and perfected the work, so that revelation could say, “Therefore doth my Father love me.”

Christ Dwelling in Us

Christ dwelling in us—that is light, life, fragrance, holiness. Many seek Christ within before finding Christ without, and so cannot attain to peace; many, after finding Christ without, do not seek diligently to have Christ within. To have both Christ without and Christ within is peace and purity.

The Christian Observer: Part 1

This evangelical magazine again assails the “Plymouth Brethren,” as they call them. Are they wise? It may be doubted; for while they own their hopelessness of convincing those they oppose, we are pretty sure that, the more they write on the subject, the more they expose their want of acquaintance with the principles of those attacked, with the Scriptures, and even with their own indefensible position. Many godly and intelligent persons outside “Brethren,” some even in their own Anglican fold, are ashamed of their advocate, and of his objections, which are never well-founded, sometimes suicidal, always frivolous. We are not so unreasonable as to expect that those who pronounce the clerical system to be anti-scriptural can ever find favor in the eyes of clergy as such; but there are servants of Christ who, spite of being clergy men, value the faith of those who at all cost carry out practically what they themselves know to be according to God's word. Naturally, among laymen so-called, there are many more who agree with us that the clerical system grew at best out of a graft of Judaism, that it is wholly opposed to Scriptural ministry as instituted of the Lord, and that it is inconsistent not merely with the best interests but with the fundamental constitution of the Church of God. Of course, those who justify that innovation of patristic times cannot cry up those who denounce it as sinful. The next best thing they can do, as far as we (not they) are concerned, is to cry us down; for this always makes manifest their own weakness, gives candid Anglicans an opportunity of comparing scriptural principles and practice with their own ways as well as ours, and keeps the subject as one of present, permanent, and great importance before all who read and hear. More prudent adversaries avoid the perilous game of confronting the Scriptures as to ecclesiastical ground, walk, and discipline, on which the so-called “Brethren” seek to act in the face of Christendom which let them slip from the earliest days as impracticable.
By those who read this journal, whether among or outside “Brethren,” a refutation of these articles can hardly be wanted. The writer is therefore under a surprising and groundless illusion if he really believes what he says, that the former article “seems indeed (and here it has exceeded our expectations) to have gone, like a Palliser shot, right through all the iron coating of their system, and to have caused much fright, even within the vessel, by the scattered splinters.” (Page 896.) There is as much truth in this romance as there was weight in the arguments; but the self-complacency of the whole thing is singularly grotesque.
In the same page the writer claims no small vantage-ground in being able to look at us from without. Will he dispute that it is better sometimes to look from within as well as without? But granting that a look from without has its value, does he not perceive that on his own showing the advantage is greatly on their side who have examined Anglicanism as well as “the Brethren” both from without and from within? Our mathematical friend ought not to need the lesson that a whole is greater (or better) than a part. For myself, I believe that the proposed criterion is only partially true, and quite fails in divine things. There is a testimony to those without, sufficient to leave without excuse, as will be seen another day, and now used by the grace of God to produce conviction through faith; but all our best blessings in Christ, or even in the Church, His body, must be tasted within in order to be adequately known. But let us hear our accuser.
“One of the gravest charges we have to make against the Plymouth Brethren is, that they take the most extraordinary liberties with God's Holy Word. While professing the most entire subjection to every word of the Lord, and chiding all who do not join them with the want of subjection, they set aside the far greater part of Scripture as not applicable to the present age of the Church, and as of no present authority or obligation. Here we shall be met again with the charge of misrepresentation; but we assert that this is no misrepresentation in the sense we mean. Their great knowledge of Scripture, and their readiness in applying it in its spiritual sense, is one of the things we continually hear advanced in favor of the Plymouth Brotherhood. We fully admit that they are most of them well up in the contents of the Bible; that they are very ready with quotations; that they can find a spiritual sense for almost every word of it: but here lies our complaint. They spiritualize it till they pulverize it all into fine dust, which any one's breath may blow clean away. Now for the proofs. They condemn us of the Church of England for repeating the Psalms of David in our Christian service; these, they say, are Jewish, expressing feelings belonging to the Old Dispensation, and altogether unsuited to the new: thus the whole Book of Psalms goes aside, except in the spiritual sense in which parts of it may be thought to relate to the person or work of Christ. With this aside goes the whole of the Old Testament, except so far as that is prophetical or can be spiritualized.” (Page 897.)
Did one ever hear greater confusion and absurdity, giving the writer credit for meaning to say the truth? The first proof, then, of this heinous charge is that we spiritualize the Psalms! That we read them habitually alone and with our families, that we hear them in our assemblies, that we preach on them and expound them and write on them and publish our expositions far and wide, and this not alone historically or prophetically, but also for our soul's profit and blessing and the present edification of all believers, does not satisfy. “Here lies our complaint. They spiritualize.” Now I appeal to any intelligent man in the English Establishment: Does not the Christian Observer herein state exactly the reverse of the truth in both its parts? Is it not plain and notorious and undeniable matter of fact that those who use the Psalms in their Christian service must necessarily spiritualize them? and that one main reason why “Brethren” do not use them as the expression of their worship is because they refuse to spiritualize the Psalms of David? They believe the Psalms in their plain and direct meaning, and accordingly see in them the sympathies of the Messiah with the godly Jews, also their Aaronic priesthood, incense, sacrifices, and all the other appurtenances of an earthly land and a city here below. All this the Epistle to the Hebrews teaches them to be now superseded for the partakers of the heavenly calling, on the footing of accomplished redemption and of a priest after the order of Melchizedec, no longer typified or predicted, but actually on high appearing in the presence of God for us.
It is therefore the Christian Observer's own system, not Plymouth Brethrenism, which really comes under the charge of spiritualizing. For those who employ the Psalms of David in the Christian service as the proper and full expression of Christian worship are obliged to fall back on the mystical process in its extreme form in order to effect a tolerable metamorphosis. Hence David's throne must be made the throne of God; Israel, Judah, &c., must set forth Christians; Zion and Jerusalem must be the Church now on earth, now in heaven; the pleasant land has to be construed of the Father's house; the wars must be taken as a figure of spiritual conflicts, and the destructive judgments on the enemies of the Jews must be converted after some analogous fashion. If this be not spiritualizing, what is? Is it not the basis on which reposes the use of the Psalter in so-called Christian services all over Christendom? Was it not the system (probably derived from Platonizing Jews) of Clemens Alex., Origen, as of Jerome and other Latins, and soon prevalent, all but universal? From this mischievous system the Reformation delivered only in part, not merely because the Reformers, like ourselves, were but disciples imperfectly instructed, but because they were much fettered and hindered by their respective governments from carrying out all they saw. However this be, and whether spiritualizing be right or wrong, the misapprehension of our censor is as complete as can be. For spiritualizing, which he so unqualifiedly blames, is abjured by the “Brethren” and is in full force in the Establishment; and the use of the Psalms in the Christian service, for which he contends, is only consistent on the ground of spiritualizing, which he mistakenly lays at our door.
The truth is that the Psalms, like the law, are divinely inspired and profitable to all: only like the law, they must be used lawfully. I quite acquiesce in the principle of the Christian Observer that what is called spiritualizing is dangerous where it supplants or interferes with the real distinct scope of the Holy Ghost in any part of God's word. But I appeal to his own conscience: does he not perceive that he wrote under some strange spell which inverted his vision and falsified his conclusion? For beyond a doubt it is his own system, not ours, which, to accommodate the Psalms to Christian purposes, yields to the common error of spiritualizing, which we both agree in denouncing. “Brethren” however, I humbly think, enjoy a decided superiority over their unexpected ally in this, that they honestly act out what they believe by God's grace—at least such is their hearty desire and strenuous aim. Hence, rejecting the later patristic and still popular mysticizing of the Psalms, they believe that the evident character and contents of that wondrous book demonstrate it to be an inspired provision, as for the past, so for the future devotions of Israel, in public and private; while it also opens its treasures to us, Christians, meanwhile, furnishing copious, and rich, and touching expression to the heart's exercises and outpourings before God for the present and all time. In our walk and varying states of soul, beside prediction of Christ and His work, who shall set limits to the measure of our appropriation and enjoyment of the Psalms? Certainly not the “Brethren.” Here the Christian Observer is inexcusably ignorant and mistaken. If he takes the ground of competent knowledge, I arraign him of positive untruth. The “Practical Reflections on the Psalms” in the Bible Treasury, not to speak of what everybody knows who knows “brethren” moderately, suffice to contradict flatly his statement. Indeed the New Testament freely applies the Psalms as we use them freely. But thence to infer that the Psalms contemplate our present standing and service as Christians is as false and unreasonable as it would be to deduce, from a similar employment of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, that we are not under grace but law, with an earthly priesthood, carnal sacrifice, and a worldly sanctuary.
The same principle applies to the Old Testament. None but the most ignorant fancy it is the same state of things now that the blood of the new covenant is shed, though the knowledge of it is not yet given to the house of Israel. The writings of the Old Testament mainly occupy themselves with the state of people under the law, save that the prophets, as indeed the types of all the other books, looked on to better things. Faith now knows, as to all the promises of God, the Yea and Amen in Christ. All Scripture accordingly is for us in these days of the gospel; the mistake is that it is all about us. The state before the fall differed essentially from that which followed the fall; and new conditions ensued on the flood. The call of Abram and the dealings with the fathers were not at all the same as those known previously. So also the days of Moses saw new ways of God, as the law of course raised the question of righteousness in a more definite shape than had been before it was given. Then, again, without noticing the details of Israel's history or the times of the Gentiles which began with the supremacy of Babylon, the coming of Christ and yet more His cross laid the foundation for all that is now or ever shall be, though even so the age to come will be wholly diverse from that which now is, and the eternal state, when the new heavens and new earth are in their full and final consummation, will differ from both as indeed from all the past dispensations also. Now the Scriptures treat of all these varying states from first to last, and the revelations of God adapt themselves in His wisdom to all that has been or will be during the vicissitudes of the earth or rather of men upon it. That they are all about us who now believe in Christ is untenable; that they are all for our instruction and direction, none can hold too tenaciously, which is indeed the reason why we notoriously study the whole from Genesis to Revelation. If they considered that any part of the Old Testament was not of real present value to the soul, it is absurd to suppose that “Brethren” generally, abroad or at home, teachers and taught, would read, hear, teach, meditate on it as they do. The only persons entitled to bring such a charge are men so grossly in the dark as to deny all difference of dispensation, if there be such. If the Christian Observer allow (as I presume they do) different dispensations, they admit the principle which lies at the bottom of their objection: all else as to this is a question of detail and degree.
“But worse still: it is not the Old Testament only that is thus made null and void as respects authoritative instruction, but also a great part of the New Testament. The Gospel of Matthew, for instance, it is assumed, was written specially for the Jews, and contains peculiar Jewish phraseology, such as the expression, ‘the kingdom of heaven:' therefore it is ruled that it relates specially, if not only, to the intermediate dispensation, or period between the birth of Christ and the descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost when according to the Plymouthites, and not before, the Church of God came into existence.” (Page 897.)
“Brethren” need not to be told that in every respect this is a string of blunders, founded on truth or statements which the writer did not even comprehend. “As respects authoritative instruction,” they hold that all Scripture stands on the same foundation which never fails. They do hold, as Christian writers have done from the earliest days to our own, that Matthew was inspired to write his gospel in view of the Jews and the relations of their Messiah, and the consequences of His rejection; but they see with equal clearness that “the kingdom of heaven” goes through the entire dispensation, as it is called, in its present mysterious form (chap. 13), and that it is the only Gospel in which Christ announces the building of His Church (chap. 16), and lays down the spirit which ought to regulate discipline in the case of one brother trespassing against another. (Chap. 18) The Christian Observer ought to be more careful: the allegations are quite unfounded, though it may be unintentional.
As to the charge that the Church of God, Christ's body, began at Pentecost, it is quite true that such is the conviction of most or all “Brethren,” though no one is required to believe it. The Christian Observer reasons thus— “Mr. Kelly fails to see that he has fallen into the absurdity, in his interpretation of the words— ‘The Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved’—of making them to be added to a thing that, according to him, did not exist; or rather, to go a little further back, the three thousand souls converted on the day of Pentecost, respecting whom the word ‘added' is first used, must thus have been added on to nothing, if the Church had no existence before!” (Page 898.) The blunder is exclusively on the part of the Christian Observer. Even if the Lord's adding to the Church daily such as should be saved had referred to Pentecost, the error was disgraceful; for the Lecture criticized had drawn attention to the 120 names of brethren in Jerusalem. Were they, including the twelve apostles, nothing? But the case is in fact much worse. For in Acts 2:47 the Holy Spirit (of whom the Christian Observer likes to hear as little as possible, at least through the “Brethren”) is describing the additions which the Lord was making from day to day after Pentecost with its three thousand souls added to the previous band of disciples and the Twelve. Does the Christian Observer fail to see now that itself alone has fallen into absurdity at the very moment when it was seeking, without reason, to charge it on another?
“He [Mr. K.] finds the word Church for the first time in those words of Christ to Peter—’Upon this rock I will build My Church,' and because the future tense is here used, ‘I will build,' he infers that this must have had reference to what was to take place at the future period of the Pentecost; and because he never meets with the word ‘Church' in the New Testament before, that no such thing was before known of! He thus falls into precisely the same mistake as the Baptists,” &c. (Page 898.) Perhaps it may save time if I at once summon not a P. B. but a bishop of Chester in days of yore, who has never been surpassed there in the combination of solid learning with excellent powers of mind, especially of reasoning—the celebrated John Pearson, in the most celebrated of his writings, a textbook for Anglican clergy everywhere. “The only way to attain unto the knowledge of the true notion of the Church is to search into the New Testament, and from the places there which mention it, to conclude what is the nature of it. To which purpose it will be necessary to take notice that our Savior, first speaking of it, mentioneth it as that which (Matt. 16:18) then was not, but afterward was to be; as when He spake unto the great apostle, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church;' but when he ascended into heaven, and the Holy Ghost came down, when Peter had converted ‘three thousand souls' (Acts 2:41), which were added to the ‘hundred and twenty' (Acts 1:15) disciples, then was there a Church (..) for after that we read, ‘The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.' (Acts 2:47.) A Church then our Savior promised should be built, and by a promise made before His death; after His ascension, and upon the preaching of Peter, we find a Church built or constituted, and that of a nature capable of daily increase.” In his posthumous work containing his “Lectiones in Acta Apostolorum” all this is given again as his ripest judgment, which, as far as it goes, coincides entirely with the “Brethren” and condemns the Christian Observer of ignorance, not only of Scripture but of their own ablest writers, where they were most confident.
Hear again: “Is Mr. Kelly really so ignorant as not to know that the word έκκλησία is constantly used by the Septuagint translators for the Hebrew word which in our English translation is rendered 'congregation' or ‘assembly?' The idea of Church, then, was no new thing. Mr. Kelly makes a great parade of his knowledge of the Greek, and of the various readings of the New Testament, where it suits his purpose: he could even tell us that the Holy Ghost used the singular ‘the Church' where our version has Churches (Acts 9:31); but how is it that he has not discovered that the word, ‘the Church' in the passage, ‘the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved,' is not found in the ancient MSS. but is an unauthorized interpolation; and yet upon this groundless basement he has built his grand fabric, that now for the first time God's Church came into existence.” (Pages 898, 899.)
Now in the same page of the Christian Observer there is printed an extract from my Lectures on the Church, which to any man of sense and temper would prove (if the writer questioned my acquaintance with the fact), that the 70 (as is also done exceptionally in the New Testament) employ the word ἐκκλησία in the sense of the congregation of Israel. I expressly said “The Church, in the New Testament sense of the word,” i.e., as the body of Christ; and I challenge this writer, or anybody else, to produce instances from the Septuagint where ἐκκλησία is so used. His insinuation, his logic, and his learning are equally at fault, not to speak of good manners, which I hope one may expect from a decent evangelical journal. If this be so, “the idea of the Church” was a new thing in the sense in question; for there never was before even the thought divulged of believing Jews and Gentiles taken out of their natural associations and united on earth in one body with the Head glorified in heaven. And so far is it from being true that my books referred to contain a parade of Greek and various readings, that, on the contrary, every scholar must see that I refrain from these topics save where the truth would be, in my judgment, seriously affected by reticence. Further, it was my dislike to talk of “the Greek” and “the right translation,” which led me, as I do not infrequently, to speak of the blessed “Spirit of God” saying so and so, which I think I never do unless perfectly sure of my ground. But enough of this. As to the attempt at textual criticism on Acts 2:47, I recommend the Christian Observer to beware of damaging its character by allowing men to venture on such a serious task who are such novices as my reviewer. If his ignorance made him ridiculously timid and captious (not to say more) as to Acts 9:31, his ignorance makes him ridiculously rash as to Acts 2:47. “How is it that he [Mr. K.] has not discovered,” &c. Let me answer that I have not now discovered anything of what he says, but that I am perfectly sure he knows hardly anything of the matter, no matter what books he had to help him. His statement is in every point of view unfounded. 1, I knew the various readings of this verse quite familiarly, but a statement of them here would have been mere “parade,” because the determination of the point is not clear or sure. 2, It is false that the words “the Church” are not found “in the ancient MSS.” Is not the famous Codex Bezae of Cambridge a venerable manuscript? Is not Laud's copy of the Acts (now in the Bodleian) an “ancient MS.?” 3, So far is it from being “an unauthorized interpolation,” that it is the reading of the vast majority of manuscripts, supported by both the Syriac, the Arabic, and Slavonic versions, not to speak of early citations; though it is wanting in the Sinai, Vatican, Alexandrian, and Rescript of Paris, a few juniors, and the rest of the versions. 4, So far from being “a groundless basement,” (as says this slashing sutor ultra crepidam), the greatest of living editors, Prof. Tischendorf, who had yielded in his first edition of the Greek Testament, has replaced τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ in his following editions (except of course his strange GrecoLatin one, Paris 1842), and Griesbach, who is inferior in acumen to none of the past editors, never removed the words. But the fact is, that the editors who, like Lachmann, omit τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ take ἐπί το αὐτό and from the beginning, of chapter 3 (as in the received text). Now this makes the sense in substance the same as if τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ were read. “And the Lord was adding daily those that should be saved together.” In this case Acts 5:11 would be the first occurrence of the word, referring to the assembly, or Church, as an existing and known institution; but this would fall in with the idea that the assembly, not yet begun to be built when Christ was on earth, actually commenced at Pentecost and is ever afterward recognized as a subsisting fact. Lastly, even if the words were removed, my doctrine of the Church is affected no more by their removal than the doctrine of the Trinity by the exclusion of the unquestionable interpolation in 1 John 5. Nor would it be shaken if there were six or twelve dubious insertions of the word ἐκκλησία, for happily both the word and the general truth, presented in a variety of forms and phrases, cover a large part of the Acts of the Apostles as well as the Epistles of Paul. But the fact is, the writer next (page 899) repeats (on a vague reference which, as far as I can see, does not confirm in the slightest degree his statement) that Matthew's Gospel is relegated to the transition between the beginning of our Lord's ministry and the development of the Christian system (i.e. Pentecost, page 897). I believe it to be one of his usual blunders; for not only have I failed to discover the smallest ground for it in the “Papers on the Gospels,” reprinted from the Christian Witness, but it is notoriously contrary to the views which everywhere prevail among “Brethren” on the point. What makes the mistake on his part the graver is that he imputes a motive here as he often does elsewhere. Some men never seem to feel that there are those on earth who are above every consideration save homage to divine truth. And here it is my duty to tell him that he affirms what is utterly inconsistent with fact, in saying that “the Plymouthites get rid of the application of the parables, which describe, under the phrase ‘the kingdom of heaven,' the mixed condition of the Christian Church till the Lord comes again, and confine that to a very limited period.” They do neither the one thing nor the other, as every intelligent person who has read their expositions on this gospel, or even short tracts, must know. They teach, on the contrary, that the “kingdom of heaven,” though in substance equivalent to and hence often interchangeable with “kingdom of God,” differs nevertheless in this that the latter is applied to the state of things while Christ was on earth, the former never is said to be come or set up till He went to heaven. They, as strongly as the Christian Observer, do hold that the parables of the kingdom suppose a mixed condition, and that they extend till the Lord comes again. But that “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven” are not absolutely equivalent terms, is clear and certain from the fact that Matthew uses both terms, and that you could not always if ever substitute “kingdom of heaven” in the few passages in his gospel where “kingdom of God” occurs. Our Lord's teaching we believe to be eternal truth: only we must also bow to His own declaration, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all the truth.” And so He did; and we seek to be obedient to His words and to the Holy Ghost's further communications, whether in the Epistles to the Corinthians or any others. Only we suppose that what is addressed to the members of the Church of God, as to matters of common concernment and duty, do not warrant us, or the writer in the Christian Observer, to claim the authority of Timothy or Titus.
Whether the Christian Observer defends the notion of apostolic succession, is unknown to me: as being an evangelical organ, it is to be presumed that they abandon that pretension to others. Who then is to do the work of Paul and Barnabas in ordaining elders? Who is to take up the task deputed to Titus by the Apostle Paul? Those who claim and exercise such authority ought to prove that they are similarly, or at least validly, invested with it by the Lord. The attitude of “Brethren” is simple and clear. We do not go beyond the word of God, and are thankful that, if we cannot do all that the apostles or their delegates did, we can freely do all that God is pleased to put within our little compass, and find our own blessing and the profit of others proportionate to our fidelity and lowliness, which we pray Him to increase. It is confessed by all men of any weight, and if it were not it is patent to every believer in the word of God, that to preach and pray, to baptize and break bread, never needed ordination even in presence of the entire college of apostles. Hence in doing any or all these things, as God leads and enables us, is strictly within the limits of the general orders of Him whose we are and whom we serve. If any men exhibit the qualities required in such as desire to be bishops, or elders, and deacons, we own them and their work, valuing them for their work and submitting to them as over us in the Lord. This 1 Thess. 5, 1 Cor. 16, Rom. 12, show we can do without exceeding our bounds, or imitating Paul and Titus, as some do. Far from narrow views of ministry, we recognize real ministers as well as members in the English Establishment, as well as in the various orthodox Dissenting Societies, as heartily as among ourselves. But this does not hinder our convictions that unscriptural arrangements (partly relics of Popery, partly through governmental influence, partly through lack of heed to God's word) have effaced much truth as to the Church and ministry for Christians in general. Is this impossible or even improbable? I am surprised that any man pretending to teach others should fail to distinguish between an exhortation in 1 Tim. 2, meant expressly for all Christian men and women, and a charge as to dealing with bishops, meant for Timothy. Any and all in Timothy's position may act and ought to act thus; but surely all who do should have credentials like Timothy. Who are they now? (Page 900.) Those who set up to do what Timothy or Titus did without their authority seem to act “most presumptuously,” not those who confine themselves within what they are sure is their duty before God.
“Our authority shall again be Mr. Kelly. Upon this point he is most positive and dogmatic. This is one of his statements: ‘In fact, as far as the New Testament speaks—and it speaks fully and precisely’—(the italics in the following are his own)—"no one was ever ordained by man to preach the gospel:” And what is the refutation? For there is nothing like having a clear, downright (“most positive and dogmatic”) statement to deal with, if it be erroneous. “Now this is asserted, be it remembered, in the face of the fact that each of the elders whom Titus was ‘to ordain in every city' was to have this qualification, that he was to be one holding fast the faithful word, in teaching, that he may be able both to exhort and convince the gainsayers.” And then he proceeds to compare me to the voice of the Vatican, a pope, &c. Really the Christian Observer is fallen to a low ebb if they can put forward no more competent person to defend their own system or to combat those whom they may believe wrong. I warned them already of this writer's inability to do service. If they are still unable to appreciate the state of the case, they have many friends who will discern the worth of such talk as this: reasoning it is not, still less is it unfolding the precious and sure testimonies of God. Does the writer not comprehend that preaching the gospel, or evangelizing, is wholly distinct from the functions of an elder? I will not accuse him of anything undue in adopting the marginal alternative, though in my judgment the common text is better than the active sense which thus comes in so awkwardly. But letting it pass, no “Plymouth Brother” doubts that an elder was ordained by competent authority, and that his duty was with sound teaching both to exhort and to refute gainsayers; but how does this prove that he or anybody else was ordained to evangelize? Nay, I am bold enough to go farther and to affirm that multitudes preached freely in the best days of the Church, when the fullest authority was there, without question of ordination; and that he who disputes my affirmation just seems to me open to the reproach of excessive boldness and of no less ignorance of his Bible. (See Acts 8:4; 11:19-21; 18:24-28, &c.) Even teaching was not the work for which the elders were chosen, but to rule. Hence, says the apostle (1 Tim. 5:17), “let the elders that rule (or, take the lead) well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.” It was necessary that a bishop should be (not exactly “a teacher” but) “apt to teach,” possessed of a capacity for instruction. Others might be teachers, yet not eligible for exercising oversight, because of the want of moral power for government, which last was the chief desideratum in an elder.
If Scripture nowhere pledges the perpetuation of an ordaining authority, what is the fair inference? Is it not a perfect standard? Was it not provided for all times and circumstances? Did not God who wrote it give us every requisite for obedience and godly order, individually and corporately, ruler and ruled, teachers and taught, till the Lord come? Is anything lacking to its words which ought to be supplied? It is not “Brethren” at least who imply that it is defective and needs either the supplement of tradition, the system of development, or the new inventions of human wit.
Let us test the principle by facts. Who honor most the Epistles, not to the Corinthians or the Ephesians only, but to Timothy and Titus—the Christians who let the government of the day choose the bishops or elders; or those who own they have not those apostolic envoys, and therefore refuse to go beyond their measure, whether as simple disciples or as possessing gifts as teachers, evangelists, &c.? Far from slighting, it is their sense of the superior place and the definite mission of such as Timothy and Titus, which makes themselves shrink from the pretension to appoint and regulate bishops as those did. There is no arguing in a circle, any more than setting aside any scriptures. We cannot but tell the Dissenter that he disobeys them, because in his system the church chooses men to minister in the word and to rule; we cannot but tell the Anglican that he is at least as guilty, because in his system the squire, or the Lord Chancellor, or a college, or the crown chooses similarly both parties in manifest opposition to the uniform practice of the early Church and to the plain word of God. It needs no “positiveness of a pope,” but only the simplicity of faith in Scripture, to know without a doubt that these Dissenting and Anglican methods are at issue with the only principle of ordaining elders laid down in the Bible. Yet because we hold to this firmly and say so, we are charged with nullifying the Epistles to Timothy and Titus and “taking extraordinary liberties with God's written word!” (Page 991.) As honestly asserting the place of apostolic delegates and cleaving to these very epistles, we are obliged to condemn the present practice of Christendom as palpably unscriptural. Will the Christian Observer dare to affirm that Anglican or Dissenting appointments (which indeed cannot both be scriptural) are the same as the apostle enjoined on Timothy and Titus? I can understand his soreness and hard names: it is usual with men who know themselves wrong.
“For what purpose, then, we ask again, as respects us, were the Epistles to Timothy and Titus?” Surely one weighty lesson, and in order not the last perhaps in the present state of Christendom, is that no Christian should sanction a direct violation of that which they teach us as to the appointment of elders. The Christian Observer knows perfectly well that Anglican appointments are not according to those epistles, any more than the popular call of Dissent. If any of the “Brethren” set himself to ordain elders because Titus was commissioned so to do, there would be good reason to challenge his authority and to denounce his acts. Is it not rather too bad to blame us because we refuse any such assumption in deference to these and other scriptures, and frankly allow that none of us has the place of a Timothy or a Titus in this respect?
But the second lesson we gather from these epistles is that a very small part indeed is confined to this peculiar relation of the apostolic delegates to elders. It is in fact with them as with almost all other scriptures: if certain points here and there are special, much the greater portion directly concerns believers in general, and every whit is or ought to be instructive to us all. Thus, from first to last in these epistles, how much there is of the deepest importance to every Christian! The value of sound doctrine, the rejection of fables and unprofitable questionings, the end of what the apostle enjoined, even love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and unfeigned faith, and the danger of missing this in the desire to be law-teachers, with the lack of intelligence which invariably accompanies it; for such pervert the law unlawfully to the righteous, instead of knowing and using its application to the lawless, impious, unholy, violent, unclean, and in short anything else contrary to the sound doctrine according to the gospel of the glory committed to the apostle: all this is but the beginning of 1 Tim. 1. But why need I thus enlarge? The present value “as respects us” is unquestionable; and even that which was exceptional, so far from dying with Paul or Timothy, has this momentous and living use, that it furnishes a divine test to judge whether those who now assume Timothy's functions as to elders have Timothy's qualifications and authority. My knowledge of a magistrate's office and duties, according to the country's laws, does not warrant me to set up myself or my neighbor as a magistrate; but, far from being useless, it may, in a day of difficulty, be the means of preserving others besides myself from owning those who claim to be in the commission of the peace without the necessary authorization (i.e., in fact, from rebellion).
There is a third lesson of great practical value deducible even from the special instructions in the pastoral epistles, where there was no apostle nor apostolic man to appoint local functionaries. They clearly state the qualities spiritual, moral, and even circumstantial, required in bishops or elders. The possession of them all, however unquestionable, would not in my judgment warrant a man to call himself an elder or bishop, nor another who was not duly authorized, nor the assembly so to call him: but it would be the strongest ground, where due ordination could not be bad, for all godly-minded saints to be subject to such, to recognize them as laboring and taking the lead among brethren in the Lord, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. “Obey your rulers (or leaders, chief men, τοῖς ἡγουμένοις ΄νμῶν), and submit yourselves,” would thus apply to the conscience wherever such men watched over their souls in the fear of God, though no apostle or apostolic delegate had ever penetrated there.
This may suffice for the argument drawn from the pastoral epistles. A wise opponent would have carefully retired from that field. For it is the part of God's oracles which sentences to death ordinary ministerial appointment as hopelessly as 1 Corinthians exposes the actual departure of Christians from God's order for the assembly, and from the, principle and exercise of gifts in it. (Chaps. 12, 14) Do they so much as think of their indifference to these things?
It is strange that such an effusion should pass muster with a staff of (I hope) grave, godly, and educated, if not learned, men.
As to the remarks in the rest of page 901, it is due neither to the writer nor to myself, still less to the Master, that I should dwell on such improprieties. “To our view, his ‘Fundamental Truths' are so many fundamental errors. It would be easy to demonstrate, had we space for it, that he is wrong, most egregiously wrong, upon every one of his points. He may well be afraid of mathematics. By his method we would undertake to prove anything whatever out of the Bible,” &c. Uninstructed minds are apt to over-estimate their own powers and attainments; but such a specimen of self-confidence, with so little bottom for it, one rarely meets with. With every desire to avoid a style so unbecoming, let us pass on to page 902 where the writer recurs to the supposed error of believing that the Church of God, Christ's body, began after the ascension of our Lord and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Now we do not “assume” but produce the amplest testimony of scripture that the Spirit's baptism of believing Jews and Gentiles into one body, the body of Christ, did not exist before the middle-wall of partition was broken down by the cross of Christ and the Holy Spirit was sent down to unite the members to Him and to each other. It is this state of union with a glorified Head which is not found in the Old Testament. On the contrary, by God's law the Jew (believer or not) was peremptorily, in every detail of walk and worship, separated from the Gentile (believer or not). Nay, even during our Lord's ministry here below, the same separation was, as a rule, maintained when He sent out the twelve to preach over the land of Israel (Matt. 10:5, 6). After His resurrection He gives His disciples a world-wide commission to all the Gentiles; and in due time the Holy Ghost came down baptizing both Jew and Gentile into one body, one new man. Thus and then was revealed that mystery hid previously in God, now made known to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. Such is the Church of God, Christ's body. Not a syllable in 1 Cor. 10 intimates that the Old-Testament fathers were members of it. Nobody denies that believers among them were saints, looking for Christ and regenerate of the Spirit; but where are they called Christ's body, or said to be baptized by the Holy Ghost? The writer does not see that there may be many blessings common to the faithful at all times, and a new corporation formed from among the redeemed within given limits for the glory of God. This cannot be determined a priori or on vague general grounds. It would be wiser to weigh the alleged proofs, and above all the Scriptures. Indeed it is a more logical inference from 1 Cor. 10 that the Jewish fathers could not have essential identity with us, because the apostle says these things happened as “types” of us. Now a type suggests resemblance, and not, as he contends, identity with the antitype.
So Heb. 11, to which he next appeals, concludes with a verse remarkably adverse to the notion that they and we form one body; for the words he cites expressly teach that God has provided a better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. Instead of being perfected in resurrection glory, when the Lord came and wrought redemption, they had to wait for us who are called to partake of the heavenly calling. (Chap. 3) When we have all got our “better thing,” they will be perfected (not apart from but) with us. That is, the verse teaches with equal distinctness that God has foreseen some better thing as to us, and that we and they are to be perfected together; but not a trace appears of the union of them and us in one body. Heb. 12:23 distinguishes between the spirits of just men made perfect (the Old Testament saints), and the church of the firstborn.
Again, if Stephen speaks of Moses being ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ with the angel that spoke to him in Mouth Sinai and the fathers, Pearson and Alford will, with the “Brethren,” correct his error, and tell him that it was the assembly of Israel in the wilderness, not the one body of believing Jews and Gentiles. Will he be bold enough to say that the Bishop and the Dean were “utterly obfuscated by their sectarian theory?” He ought to be more cautious, and not scandalize his evangelical magazine by abusing too strongly men far more instructed and able than himself, when letting out against the “Plymouth Brethren." It is to be presumed that some of its readers are decently acquainted with common Anglican divinity.
Nor does the writer perceive that the argument here surrenders the citadel. Christ, says he, “as ‘the angel of the covenant was in the Church in the wilderness,' as Stephen says (Acts 7:38), before He actually became its human Head, because His incarnation was an anticipated fact in the divine purposes. He existed in posse before he existed in esse, as the logicians say.” This bit of logic is unfortunate. For Scripture speaks of the Church as the πλήρωμα or complement of Christ, never of the glorified Head as the fullness of the Church. It is our point in opposition to the Christian Observer that Christ's headship of the Church was only in posse, not yet in esse, till the basis not of incarnation only but of redemption. It is now confessed that it was not in esse. This is a fatal admission: for that which wants a head is not a body but a trunk or a monster. Scripture never speaks of the body before the head but rather as following it. Thus, Eph. 1 tells us God raised up Christ from the dead and set Him in heaven, “and gave him to be head over all things to the church which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” So the figure of the building in Eph. 2 where Christians are said to be built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone. Was the building begun before the foundation was laid? Our question is one of fact, not of the counsels of God, who of course sees the end from the beginning. Were the question about the existence of Adam and Eve (who set forth the mystery as to Christ and the Church), what would be thought of the argument that Adam and therefore Eve existed in posse in the dust of the ground on the fifth day?
Again, there is nothing about that one body, the Church, in Heb. 13:8, or in Matt. 21:43. One text speaks of the unchangeableness of “Jesus Christ;” the other intimates the rejection of “that generation” which refused Him, and the passing of God's kingdom to a nation producing the fruits of it. What has either to do with the question whether those before and after Christ form one and the same body? This is not reasoning, still less Scripture; but a mere popular notion without Scripture as to those before Christ, and against Scripture as to those since Christ. It is a tradition, founded on grounds which real scholars of his own and all parties explode as untenable. Indeed any Christian can judge for himself.
The motive, too, which he imputes (pp. 902, 903) is his own fancy, and contrary to all our thoughts and words. If he in the least understood our principles, he would see that to constitute a peculiar church of our own is quite foreign to us. We object to making a church, as much as to the churches, so-called, other men have made. We insist on the truth that God made, and intended there should be according to His blessed will and word, but one Church—not, of course, denying any number of assemblies locally severed, but all Christians forming one assembly, the assembly here on earth; all enjoying one Head above and one Spirit below; all joined into one body, so that a member of Christ should be a member of the assembly everywhere, and equally so His gifts of ministry. (1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4) Such was the fact in apostolic times: Scripture recognizes no other doctrine or practice. “Brethren” only recall believers to the Church God has made, of which they and we are already members, and entreat them to cast away the worn and soiled clouts as well as the new fashions of human texture, and to cleave only to what is of God's word and Spirit.
Next, we come once more to 1 Corinthians and the Christian Observer's never failing misstatement as to both Scripture and ourselves. 1. It is not true that this is “the stronghold of the Brethren.'“ Of course, we believe it to have divine authority over us and all Christians; and it is ridiculous to evade the fact that we are really seeking, cost what it may, to act on it, and that our brethren, Anglican and Dissenting, are not. All Scripture, nothing less, is our stronghold.
2. It is not true that, “because they find at the beginning of this the expression, the church of God which is at Corinth, they conclude that that, as set in order by the apostle, must have been intended to be a pattern church.” We see and say that there is admirable harmony between the address and the contents of the epistle; but we conclude that it is the most largely ecclesiastical, and therefore the most instructive on such matters, from the plain fact (deny it who can), that it enters into questions of the sort, not only more than any other epistle but, more than all other epistles put together. At Corinth the spirit of schism and party displayed itself early. (Chap. 1) Here the wisdom of the world soon claimed to adorn the doctrine of the cross. (Chap. 2) Here schools of doctrine quickly found mutually opposed votaries. (Chap. 3) Here apostolic authority was widely despised for teachers who allowed the world and flattered the flesh. (Chap. 4) Here gross practical evil was winked at, as if the Christian assembly were not competent and responsible to put away known evildoers. (Chap. 5) Here was seen readiness to neglect brotherly arbitration for the world's decisions, forgetting the grace of rather suffering wrong than compromising the love and glory of Christ; here too moral laxity was an especial snare. (Chap. 6) Here difficulties as to marriage, as to the unmarried, as to widows, and as to slaves, required solution. (Chap 7) Here questions of communion, and conscience as to idols, temples, and things sacrificed, demanded an answer, and his own ministry to be vindicated, however he might have waived its rights; for such was his joy and glory. (Chaps. 8, 9, 10) Here the order as to women, even in points of external decorum, had to be laid down; and also the right mode of celebrating the Eucharist is given. (Chap. 11) Here the operation of the Holy Ghost with a view to the common profit of the assembly, had to be explained; and this, not in view of any local need only but of the Church as such everywhere on earth; for it was not in any one church but in the Christian assembly as a whole that God set, first, apostles; secondly, prophets; thirdly, teachers; after that, miracles; then gifts of healing, &c. (Chap. 12) There too after the sweet episode on love in chapter xii. (how needful in such things!), the apostle had to regulate the exercise of the manifestations of the Spirit, especially for the assembly when they came together. (Chap. 14) Again, after the assertion of resurrection against gainsayers as a foundation truth—not merely the soul's immortality, but the rising of the dead (chap. 15), he lays down the general principle and method of collections for the poor saints, and treats of the various ways of divine grace in the service of Christ here below. (Chap. 16) I have but sketched the salient features, as the chapters pass before the mind's eye: but where can one match these inimitable church canons? Still none that knows the value of what is “written again” thinks of making any spot the stronghold, or any church exclusively a pattern church. There is not even the shadow of an excuse for either misrepresentation. What can one think of a man who, when his mistake is corrected and contradicted, simply repeats it without a word or fact adduced as an excuse for his obstinacy?
8. Who ever dreamed that “the Church of God was to be found only at Corinth, because this expression is used” in the address? Nobody but the Christian Observer in its vain efforts against the “Brethren.”
It is not a gratuitous assumption but a necessary consequence of the inspired character of 1 Corinthians, that “what is there written respecting the Church” is obligatory on every assembly which claims to be on the ground of God's Church. Human churches may take or leave what they like, or do not like, out of this or any other epistle. How striking it is that the very address of this epistle, from which they try to escape (sometimes under the subtle excuse of their deference to other epistles or churches!), is not merely to the Church of God at Corinth, to the sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, but “with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.”
Is it honest to say that “the apostle speaks of several things as exceptional, or only of temporary purpose?” This may be convenient to a defender of present things in Christendom; but why not specify? It is true that the apostle corrects their mingling of a feast with the Lord's Supper; but if he enjoins anything exceptional or temporary, why not say what? If the allusion be to miracles, tongues, &c., it seems to me unworthy of a grave man. His directions as to these things abide, just as his injunctions to a Timothy or a Titus. If such powers exist at any time, they must submit to the apostolic order; and if any man have the authority from God of a Timothy or a Titus, they can appoint and govern as their predecessors did—nay, they are bound so to do. But there seems rather more care taken to assert the general value and authority ecclesiastically of 1 Corinthians than of any other epistle, if one may judge from such passages as chapter 1:2; 4:17; 7:17; 9:16; 14:37. Does not this peculiar provision seem meant to guard souls from that prevalent unbelief of which the Christian Observer is here the exponent?
(To be continued.)

The Christian Observer: Part 2

(Concluded from page 223)
6. “And if that Church were designed to be made the model for all Churches, in all countries, and in all ages, the epistle to it ought obviously to have been the very first epistle Paul wrote. But the First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians at least is of earlier date; so is that to the Galatians; and that to the Romans is coeval if not somewhat earlier.” The argument has no force, laying aside the irreverence of dictating to God the order in which He ought to reveal His truth, which lies at the bottom of it. But, in fact, no objection can be more worthless. For there is evident propriety in the Epistles to the Thessalonians taking the priority in time of all others. They develope Christian life in its fresh simplicity and in its capital elements of faith, hope, and love, though correcting specially certain errors into which they fell or were misled in the great article of our hope, and insisting on the moral duties which suit that hope, instead of being incompatible with it, as some vainly supposed. There is no niche which these epistles could so well fill as that in which the Spirit of God was in fact pleased to put them—an initiatory instruction and exhortation to an infant assembly. The date of Galatians is the least ascertainable of all Paul's epistles, some making it first, some last, and many viewing it as intermediate. There is no sufficient reason to postpone it till the apostle's visit to Rome, as the legendary subscription in the common Bible does, followed by not a few names of weight I do not even contend for its being so late as the Epistle to the Romans, which was certainly written at Corinth long before he saw Rome, but after the First Epistle to the Corinthians was written from Ephesus, and even after the second was written somewhere in Macedonia, before his stay of three months in Greece, when and where he wrote to the Romans. But, supposing that the Epistle to the Galatians could be proved to be anterior to 1 Corinthians, contrary to the recent investigation of Prof. Lightfoot, what would be the value of the argument? Who can fail to see that to deliver saints from abandoning grace for the law (which is the point in Galatians) is an individual appeal of the most urgent personal importance, and therefore might well precede the laying down of the divine will as to corporate privileges and responsibilities? But the truth is, that the measure of uncertainty which hangs over the place and time of writing to the Galatians, suits exactly. The point is recovery from a lapse into Judaizing, which might have been either before or after or along with 1 Corinthians. But the Epistle to the Romans was assuredly written in Corinth during the apostle's brief stay in Achaia, after both Epistles to the Corinthians were written and despatched. The Christian Observer therefore is all abroad in the alleged facts: had they been correct, the desired conclusion would not follow.
In a former reply it has been already shown that a model place is not given to the Corinthian assembly more than to any other which the apostle planted or wrote to. We go on the broad ground that the same substantial principles were in force everywhere, that all the assemblies of God recognized the same fundamental truths as to communion, the same exercise of gifts and discipline, the same administration of baptism and the Lord's Supper—all this because the Church is one body, the habitation of God through the Spirit. Scripture is fatal to the present condition of Christendom. Our critic somehow must get rid of the authority that condemns it all. Is not this the aim of the following remarks? “The apostle of the Gentiles seems to have had no idea of conforming the churches, as established in different countries, among people of different habits, to exactly the same type. That would have been Judaism indeed. There is a certain pliancy in Christianity in this respect. The churches planted by the apostles were, so far as we can discover, differently endowed as to gifts, and so they had prescribed for them different rules of action. The Plymouthites admit that the age or miracles has passed away, so far as the supply of apostles and prophets is concerned. By what kind of logic, then, can they contend for its permanence in the supply of evangelists, pastors, and teachers? If the Plymouth Brethren can exhibit the miraculous gifts possessed by the Corinthian Christians, we, for our part, will not object to their acting by the same rules; but to enforce the rules for their exercise, where the gifts do not exist, would be obviously Pharisaic and foolish. The laws of the first creation of the world were exceptional: the laws of its continued existence are fixed and uniform. Is not the same true of the Church?” (Pp. 903, 904.) Now it is no question of detail, nor of the presence of this or that particular gift in this or that particular assembly. The truth is, not that Brethren contend for some one out of the scriptural churches as a model (for we are convinced that they were all essentially alike as to constitution, the Church in fact), but that our adversaries want no model whatever from Scripture. And no wonder.
I utterly deny the ground of the reasoning. Differences in the measure of supply, varying displays of power there were in apostolic days, but there was one divine system which then pervaded the entire Christian profession, founded not only on a common relationship to Christ but on the presence and operations of the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. This then is the true question: Does that relationship still subsist for faith to act on? Is that divine Person still present here below to guide those who desire the honor of Christ in obeying God's word? Let others deny not only that it remains but that it ever was true, and thus vainly deny their responsibility and their guilt. May “Brethren” in their weakness have grace to hold fast the word of the Lord and not deny His name It is not true that all the gifts described in 1 Corinthians are gone, because miracles and tongues are no longer. Does the Christian Observer deny that God any longer sets in the Church teachers (1 Cor. 12)? That He still makes His presence felt in His assembly (1 Cor. 14)? There have been Anglican bishops and archbishops who, spite of their system, fully allowed that the prophetic (not predictive) gift is not extinct, and who yearned and contended for the liberty of exercising it; and this on the same ground of 1 Cor. 14 as “Brethren” do. So far is this chapter from being limited to miraculous displays, that the apostle forbids the exercise of a tongue unless sonic one could interpret it for the edification of the assembly. Such was the grand aim of all—common edification, and this in order and decency. But the order is that of the Christian assembly open to the action of the Holy Ghost through its members—an order undoubtedly believed in and acted on by “Brethren.” Will the Christian Observer dare to say it is obsolete? Will they say that no gifts, not even teachers, exist, because tongues, &c., are passed away? “Laws of creation” is mere clap-trap which can only mislead. God created all things by the Son, by whom too all things subsist. He formed the Christian assembly which can never depart from His word that regulates it, save sinfully.
It is true that it was pre-eminently Paul's province to lay down the authoritative regulation of these matters; but God took care to affirm precisely identical principles by the great apostle of the circumcision. So we read in 1 Peter 4:10, 11, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If 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 forever and ever. Amen.” This unquestionably supposes the most absolute openness for the Spirit's action in the free working of every gift from the Lord. Not even an apostle, still less the elders or bishops, thought of silencing the lesser gifts. There was room for all, great and small. Nor were gifted men merely at liberty to employ what was given them for the good of souls; they were bound to minister to one another, as good stewards of God's various grace. Otherwise God would not be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. Flesh might take advantage of this; but no human restriction can afford a remedy, but on the contrary it aggravates this evil, introduces others, and in itself outrages God's revealed will. The true guard lies in the conscience exercised before Him and subject to His word. Hence the exhortation of James (chap. 3:1), “My brethren, be not many masters [teachers], knowing that we shall receive greater judgment.” The abuse of gift was in no way peculiar to Corinth, but the very abuse, whether in one place or another, demonstrates what was the sanctioned principle of God which required the warning, and this where no sign-gift is spoken of, but only such a gift as abides still for the edification of Christ's body. If indeed the Christian Observer's view is that no such gifts as evangelists, pastors, and teachers, are still given by the Lord, if they are obliged to substitute for them the scanty mathematical or classical lore possessed by the ordinary graduates of a university, and the common-places of divinity required by an examining chaplain, one can understand that much of scripture ceases to apply either in principle or in practice. It is for the believer to judge between us and our adversaries. We hold that every spiritual gift needed to call in souls and build them up is still provided by our living Head; and consequently that the scriptures which treat of this subject are as applicable and binding as in the day they were written. Whose logic is at fault? Whose principles make scripture a dead letter?
It is remarkable that the principle for which men now contend was anticipated by the Corinthians, and is forever condemned in this very chapter xiv. of the first epistle. The Corinthian brethren also wished a certain “pliancy” in their church. They saw that some of their females were endowed with gifts. Why should people of habits so different from those in Judea, or proconsular Asia, be conformed to exactly the same type? “That would have been Judaism indeed.” Surely the apostle of the Gentiles had no idea of conforming all in different countries to the same model! Has not the church power to decree rites and ceremonies? has it not authority in controversies of faith? The apostle of the Gentiles does pronounce on the case, but it is to put down with peremptory hand this licentious self-will which forgets that the Church, even on earth and though composed of living men, is a divine institution, and cannot be altered in its landmarks without rebellion. Did they contend for tongues in the assembly? Did they come together every one full of his own contribution? Did they prophesy ever so many on the same occasion? Did they allow women to speak in the assembly? These were abuses of Christian liberty in the assembly, which must be subject to apostolic ordinance, instead of arrogating the title to please itself according to race, age, or country. “What came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? 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. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” This is the alternative for the Christian Observer as well as for ourselves. Which of us owns and seeks subjection to the things the apostle of the Gentiles wrote to the Corinthians? Which of us contends for leave to give up this very portion of scripture as of present obligation? Which of us seeks to originate methods of our own as the Corinthians did? Which of us insists that the word of God comes to us only (not from us as “a certain pliancy” would imply)?
As for the notion that it is illogical to contend for the permanent supply of evangelists, pastors, and teachers, if apostles and prophets are not now vouchsafed, I can only stand amazed at the extent of these men's incredulity as well as ignorance. Are they so far gone as to think that we must have either all the gifts the ascended Christ conferred on the Church at first, or none? Had we the miraculous sign-gifts of those early days, 1 Cor. 14 forbids their exercise, save under peculiar circumstances in the assembly; whereas the edification-gifts were exactly in place and season there. Does this writer believe that we have no edification-gifts now? no evangelists, pastors, teachers? or will he boldly take the other side and claim the continued supply of apostles and prophets too? Nothing is simpler than that the Lord does not furnish gifts to lay the foundation when the foundation is laid; but that He in faithful love continues all gifts needed to build up the saints “till we 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.” (Eph. 4:13.) If these divine gifts exist (as we believe) among all Christians, Anglicans, Dissenters, as well as ourselves, it is Pharisaic and foolish to enforce the divine rules? Is it not Corinthianism to seek other rules or no rules at all?
Next, as to Calvin's note on 1 Cor. 1:21 (p. 904), so far from being opposed to our views, few brethren have taught or commented on this epistle, as on others, without similar reflections. God is long-suffering and faithful; but a real assembly of His may be distracted by countless elements of sin, shame, and sorrow. The Christian Observer does not understand our aim, nor does Calvin touch the point. Since Catholicism swamped Christendom, breaking out into the rival systems of the east and west, there has been no gathering of God's children in the power of the Spirit to the name of the Lord as their true and everlasting center on earth. The Reformation, which did so much for putting man in presence of God's word and proclaiming justification by faith, did not clear the revealed truth as to the Church, ministry, worship, &c., from the rubbish of ages. On the contrary, it embarrassed the ecclesiastical difficulty by giving rise to national churches, each with its own peculiar system of government, ministry, and discipline, independent and coordinate. This was pushed out yet farther by the non-conformists at home and abroad who claimed the title to frame churches of their own. So that the result was (not the Church of God on earth, one body, energized by one Spirit, with local assemblies doubtless, but the members and ministers in the unity of Christ's body, but) distinct bodies, Roman Catholic or Greek, National or Dissenting with no proper intercommunion, save occasional or by courtesy, but contrariwise membership and ministry in a church, so that to be a member or minister of one is incompatible with belonging to another. What people call Plymouth Brethrenism is the recall of Christians to the original state of things in its essential features, as of eternal obligation and the only groundwork truly divine. We leave it with God to give this re-assertion of the Church according to Scripture that acceptance which seems good in His eyes; but whether we convince others or not, our own duty remains clear, as it is our joy and, we believe, both glorifying to God and profitable to His children.
It is curious, however, that the Christian Observer omits in its citation the pith of Calvin's answer to the question what appearance of a church was any longer presented in Corinth. Let me supply his words, “Respondeo: Qnum illi dictum esset a Domino, Ne timeas, populus hic mihi multus est (Act. 18:9): hujus promissionis memorem id honoris paucis bonis detulisse, ut Ecclesiam agnosceret in magna improborum multitudine. Deinde,” &c. The Lord's word that He had much people in that city sustained his hopes spite of appearances. Now, although satisfied Calvin did not seize the truth of scripture as to much, any more than other great and good men of that day, yet I do not dissent from his conclusion that the true assembly of God in any place may be painfully afflicted with all sorts of evil in the members. 1 Cor. 5 is explicit, as are other scriptures, that it is not the amount of sin that may enter or spring up in the midst, but the refusal to judge, and the consequent sanction given to evil there, which destroys the corporate title of the Church as God's witness here below.
The reader may gather hence how little either the Donatists or the Plymouth Brethren so-called are understood, classed as they are here together. “They are attempting what the Donatists attempted in the first century.” (p. 904.) This at least is a discovery! I had been content to know with less pretentious students of ecclesiastical history, that the squabble about the election of Caecilianus (A.D. 311), is the earliest point to which we could look as giving occasion for that famous rent in Africa. From the works of Optatus and Augustine I had learned nearly all that can be ascertained about that turbulent faction. It seemed to be far more a question of discipline than of doctrine if not of party opposition, the Numidian bishops being piqued that they had no part as usual in the election. Felix, bishop of Apthunga, who ordained the new bishop of Carthage, was said to be a traditor during the persecution of Dioclesian, and Caecilianus himself also was accused of ill conduct at that time. The elder Donatus who took part in the election of Majorinus, the Bishop of the seceders, was the bishop of Casae Nigrae of that day; the greater one, who seems to have given the name of Donatists to the party, was successor of Majorinus. Spite of a fierce persecution, which Augustine palliated in the hope that it would be good for their souls, they appear to have gone on sometimes flourishing, and sometimes depressed, till Mohammedanism extinguished both them and the Catholics. Insisting on the rebaptism of all whom they received from their adversaries and refusing all communion save to such as absolutely broke off spiritual connection with others, they differed essentially from the so-called Plymouth Brethren. For we believe, that no ecclesiastical mistake, however grave in itself, calls for such stringent measures, and that extremities ought to be reserved for those who bring not the doctrine of Christ or connive at it.
But there is another discovery as to Scripture which rivals the Christian Observer's sight of the Donatists in the first century, and this in the very next sentence of the same paragraph. (P. 904.) “It is as clear as anything can be, that there never was the ‘one body' in the sense the Plymouth Brethren would put upon the words, that is, a church consisting exclusively of true saints (?) in perfect unity one with another (?) since the day that the three thousand, along with the previous hundred and twenty true disciples, assembled with one accord at Jerusalem, and had all things common. The Corinthian Church certainly exhibited the reverse of this: and indeed, in all the apostolic churches, as described in the epistles, we find precisely the same evils, more or less, and still greater moral evils prevailing, than can be found now in any community of Christians. Are there no similar evils, even among ‘the Brethren' themselves, with all their pretensions to oneness and to exclusive purity?” (Pp. 904, 905.) I know not how godly Anglicans relish such remarks as these on the dead as well as the living; but I avow that a lower tone of spiritual judgment it has rarely been my pain to meet with. Defamation of the apostolic church seems natural to those who apologize for Christendom as it is, and dislike the testimony to their own departure from God's word. Here every notion, every statement, is false. The sense said to be put on the words “the one body” is never given by us. We do say that none were received who were not accredited as “true saints;” but we always allow that our brethren of old, like ourselves now, were liable to be imposed on for a time by deceivers or self-deceivers. Such, however, are apt to fall soon into evil of word or deed, were they as clever as Simon Magus, and thus bring themselves by their manifest iniquity under the discipline of the Church. Next, it is a strange deduction from our writings to infer that our sense of the one body supposes not only the Church to consist of none but true saints, but these “in perfect unity one with another,” since the same writer pretends that we count the Corinthians to have been the model for all churches. For the first evil denounced in the first epistle is their schismatical state, which forced the apostle to exhort them to be perfectly united in the same mind, just because they were not. Yet there are throughout more frequent implications that they belonged to “the one body” than in any other epistle; though, of course, the fact that such was their privilege is as often urged to correct their practical short-coming. See especially 1 Cor. 10:16-21; 12:12-27. I do not hide for a moment the extent to which unwatchfulness exposed the inexperienced Corinthian assembly to gross evil, the remains of old heathen habits, or the effect of wondrous power at work among souls so little used to walk in self-judgment and the conscious presence of God. But there is about as much truth or right feeling in the odious comparison of that church with modern communions to the advantage of the latter, as if it were said that the apostles Peter and Paul were not quite so respectable ministers as the modern clergymen of Nationalism or Dissent. The essential thing to remember is that the Corinthians had been really gathered according to God; and though Satan brought in exceeding mischief, still they were in a position and free to use divine remedies according to His word, neither of which features is true of modern communities.
As to the attack, on ourselves, in the rest of the article (pp. 905-913), it is not for us to speak in self-vindication. We can trust God and are not careful to answer such charges; and the rather, as it is evident the writer knows scarcely anything about us. Others will and ought to look more to the realities of things, judged by scripture, than to the thoughts and feelings either of ourselves or of our accusers. Mere vituperation has no force save for the weak and worthless; rarely is it the servant of a good cause. The question of Christendom is with the revealed word, rather than with those who cannot depart from that word knowingly, save at the peril of the soul and in opposition to God Himself. No dissenter who knows us will admit that we have a special dislike of the English Establishment. Equally untrue is it that “Brethren,” to maintain their position, “give us a new version of the scriptures under the title of a ‘Synopsis of the Books of the Bible,' which is their ‘Douay Version.'“ (P. 905.) Mark the trustworthiness of the Christian Observer in common matters before all eyes. The writer must speak at random of what he cannot have examined, if he ever touched the works alluded to. For the fact is that the “Synopsis” is not in any sense a version of the Bible, though its author has also translated the Greek Testament into German and French as well as English. But the most learned men of the English Establishment have recorded their judgment of this English translation, which one of them, inferior as a textual critic to none in this country, recommended to his divinity classes. The writer can know neither the “Synopsis” nor the 'version; else he could not have confounded them, nor have foolishly sneered at either, as “their Douay version.” The “daring dogmatism” of describing the aim and object of each book of scripture, is just what every annotator and every expounder does every day. The only question is, whether the work be done with spiritual insight, accuracy, and comprehensiveness. It requires no great penetration to see that the Epistle to the Romans, for instance, is not addressed to the assembly as such, but to the saints at Rome (i.e., in their individual standing) and hence, as in chapter 8, brings out their position very fully as “children” and heirs of God. 1 Corinthians, as we have seen, is far more ecclesiastical. He who denounces such self-evident facts as to these epistles may not be a dogmatist nor write mistily; but certainly he must dwell in a land of Egyptian darkness. Would he fain condemn us to the intolerant yoke of his own dullness?
Of the three anecdotes next given to illustrate the spirit of the “Brethren,” I know that the two public ones are not stated truthfully. May one ask if the private case is any better? Is a monstrous tale against well and long known servants of God to be received because it is evil, though none among those acquainted with the facts feels the least need of contradicting it? Trashy scandal neither deserves nor needs notice though some have a natural liking for it. Further, I never knew any “Brother” object to join in family worship conducted by Christians in a Christian manner. And I am perfectly sure that separating the wife from the husband, save for reasons which all Christians would hold as decisive, would never be tolerated in our midst. We have no controversy with our brethren as to such matters; and no man or woman guilty of such shameful impropriety would be allowed a place in fellowship. What can one think then of statements so reckless? or of those who deign to employ them for party or any other ends?
As to our essentially schismatical and sectarian spirit (pp. 906, 907), we have suffered not a little in vain, if we do not utterly condemn it, fruit, branch, and root. But how is it schismatical to abandon all schisms, whether national or dissenting, in order to recur to the original and constitutive principles of God's Church? Is this what the apostle denounces in Rom. 16:17, 18?
It is observable too that in excusing their own intolerance of our refusal to join in ways which we are sure are unscriptural, the Christian Observer avows its gross latitudinarianism. To us it is no matter of opinion but of faith to worship God as the apostolic) church was called to do in holy writings still vouchsafed and obligatory. It is not charity to give up conscience, or to allow self-will, but this is the love of God that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not grievous. To talk about the wise and good of all generations, is idle and false; seeing that every wise and good man knows that the original church action and worship have been abandoned for many ages in Christendom, and that the best and wisest of the reformers (i.e. those who laid the present basis of the greater Protestant bodies) owned how far short they were of the primitive state, and that many of them then and since contested these questions hotly with one another. There are ever so many different modes of worship in Christendom, which may all be wrong but cannot more than one be right. Why this rancor? Is it not fear or hatred of the truth that condemns them? “Brethren” felt that there was no use in owning one thing and doing another, and therefore necessarily left what was wrong in order to do the right thing according to scripture. The Pharisees did not leave the religion of the day, but gave themselves proud airs at no cost in it. Would it have been more righteous or charitable to have gone on, owning our common defection from scriptural duties, but yet persisting in that which we believed to be sinful? This seems precisely what the Christian Observer thinks a more desirable course. Let Christian conscience judge. We have judged that we ought to cease to do evil and learn to do well; and of course where such matters come before us, we lay this as an evident duly on all who see that they are in a false position but are disposed to tamper with a good conscience by remaining in it. Where is the “sectarian spirit,” save in those who take fire at this?
I do firmly and openly tell all these defenders of Christendom against the authority of scripture and the rights of the Holy Ghost, that God's glory is and should be the aim of the Christian, and not only the salvation of souls. I tell them that in vain they worship Him, teaching for doctrine the commandments and notions and practices of men. I tell them that for Christian men it is of the utmost moment both for His glory and the good of themselves and their brethren that they should recognize and follow His will, as about other things, so about His assembly; for they are members of it, and so much the greater is their condemnation if they (through tradition, prejudice, haste, or any other cause) neglect that which so intimately concerns both Him and them. He who truly believes in the Savior but does not understand the assembly of God, or his own responsibility in respect of it, will not be lost; but the man who treats a matter which runs through a vast part of the New Testament so lightly as to class it with “foolish and unlearned questions,” is bolder than one ought to be with the divine truth be does not see, as he will learn to his cost in the day that is fast approaching.
Do the readers of the Christian Observer think that its managers will damage any but themselves by citing 1 Tim. 6:4, as if it applied specially to those they call “Plymouth Brethren?” I admit it. is as close to or as wide of the mark as the rest of their diatribe; but it must be manifest to unbiased men in their own community, that this sort of thing is mere rant. The apostle was denouncing those who sought to make slaves discontented with their masters, especially believing masters. Are “Brethren” men destitute of the truth who suppose that piety is gain? Others there are, most will allow, who lay themselves rather more open to the appearance of using religion and its service as a means of worldly advantage.
Among our logomachies they class objections made to the character of the English Liturgy, to language which confounds the believer's need of forgiveness day by day with the unbeliever's need of remission through the blood of Christ; and, above all, to expressions which cloud the great truth of the Spirit given to all Christians, with desires after greater power of the Spirit. I pity those who count these “foolish questions;” but our objections go much farther than any phraseology however beneath Christian privilege.
But when it is next said that “they confound atonement with pardon on the conditions of repentance and faith, and make faith a mere assent of the mind to a fact,” &c. (page 208), they assert what is directly opposed to truth. This, I should judge, was gathered out of a Methodist preacher's attack, or an article in a Wesleyan organ founded on it. Let me tell them that, without boasting of our knowledge, I do not believe they will produce one man, woman, or child among us guilty of that confusion which they so inconsiderately impute to us as a class; and that no man holding the Sandemanian or Walkerite doctrine, which reduces faith to a mere mental assent, would be knowingly received amongst us. We hold universally that faith is the soul's reception of a divine testimony by the effectual operation of the Holy Ghost.
Again, the Christian Observer must be strangely uninformed of the sentiments of Christians in general, if they do not know that some of the best and ablest men among the Evangelical clergy repudiate the mingling of Christ's legal obedience during His life with the ground of justification. We all agree that Christ obeyed the law perfectly, and that this was needful to vindicate God who gave it; but it is infatuation to think that this proves His law-keeping to be the very basis of the merit of His death as our substitute. These men, like others, are feeble in their apprehension of the divine judgment of sin and sins in the cross. The union of the divine and human natures in Christ's person, His sinless life, His obedience, were all necessary to redemption. The true question is, by what was atonement wrought? With what does scripture connect our justification?
“Brethren” know nothing of imputed sanctification, which really deserves the sneer which J. Wesley cast on imputed righteousness. It is false that such is our doctrine. Every man who knows ourselves or our teaching in any moderate degree, must confess that we insist on a holy walk, as Paul does, because we are under grace, not law. It needs no argument to see that “they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh,” does not mean daily practice but the ground of it. Really the Christian Observer's grammar is very peculiar, not to speak of the doctrine. Do they not know that the Aorist implies a single act, as opposed to what is continuous; or a completed act, as opposed to what is in progress? I do say that Gal. 5:24 speaks of what is “done already;” and I defy any man to prove otherwise. Other scriptures teach a process going on, but not this passage.
If the Christian Observer stands to this, there are more intelligent clergy and laymen who will join with those they blame. It is not a question of substitution alone, but of imparting a real life to the believer, everlasting life in Christ; so that they, possessed of that very life in Him, are called now to walk in the Spirit according to the characteristics of His life in whose cross the flesh, with all its activities and issues, was judged. Is this religion made easy? Ignorance of Christ and the cross may so deem it, but nothing else can. Life is not a question of imputation but of impartation; and the believer, accounted righteous, has life in Christ. This will show how far men are to be trusted who talk of imputed sanctification as the doctrine of the Plymouth Teachers. It is only the misapprehension of the writer. We hold that the believer is sanctified through the offering of Christ's body once for all, and that, besides, he has to pursue peace and holiness (or sanctification) without which none shall see the Lord. What, then, means this senseless outcry? It is unquestionably false witness, which is even more conspicuous in the next paragraph; where a “subtle and specious heresy,". “very pernicious errors,” “Satan's snares,” “angel of light,” open the way to a wholesale application of 2 Tim. 3 to us. Now is it not remarkable that the provision of the apostle against the perils of the last days (which is the real aim of the passage, and of evident bearing on that assumption which is so apt to impose on the morbid, especially on the weaker vessel) is precisely what “Brethren” everywhere press—the value of every written word of God?
I do not deprecate the violence of the Christian Observer, nor should I tax them with “uncharitableness” if their assaults were founded on God's truth. But they falsely accuse us of desiring or allowing liberty to the flesh, which is incompatible with giving due place to the Spirit and word of God, but may and does co-exist well with human ordinances, ecclesiastical creeds, and worldly plans of government, substituted for God's system of His Church. But they betray themselves in the next breath; for after asserting in page 907, their large allowance for differences in modes of worship, as well as in opinion, in other communions, they maintain in page 911 that “separation from a church like that happily established in this land is nothing less than needless schism.” This blind self-complacency in their own religious system (at an hour when its powerlessness to deal with Infidelity, Popery, not to speak of heterodoxy and wickedness of the grossest kinds within its own borders and even in its highest seats) would be ridiculous, if it were not a fitter object for pity and grief. How often must one repeat that no amount of good points and persons can make an association to be God's Church, unless it be the assembly of those recognized as God's saints gathered in the Lord's name, and in subjection to the word and Spirit of God. This the Anglican system never was, any more than the various associations of Dissent. To meet on this ground, of course separate from every unscriptural form, as far as we know it, is the aim of “Brethren,” and the ground of the Christian Observer's charge of schism, which to us seems no better than the blindness of prejudice, as it flows from sheer ignorance. It is evident, moreover, that if Anglicanism were really God's Church in England, every species of Dissent would be schism according to page 911, and the large allowance of differences of worship in other communions would be wholly unjustifiable, contrary to page 907. The fact is, that the premises and the conclusions of this writer are altogether and equally at fault. Separation from that which is not God's Church, though pretending to it, is not necessarily to create a fresh sect (as some absurdly conceive), an absolutely necessary condition if we would “endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Am “I free to abide in a body whose membership and ministry I believe to be opposed to God's word? I might, no doubt, have continued a member of it, lay or clerical, like some thousands, alas! even of real Christians, not to speak of others, who are convinced, like myself, that it is a mere human politico-religious system, and not a Church of God any more than societies framed on the narrow basis of some peculiar and perhaps mistaken ordinance, the denial of external divine institutions, or the maintenance of some earthly founder's plan. Do they really believe that subscribing Art. vi. absolves their consciences, either in using formularies they know to be unscriptural, or in not obeying the scriptures as to the assembly, the Spirit's action there, ministry, discipline, &c.; in short, in never doing the right and always doing the wrong thing in matters that concern the Lord's glory in the Church here below? Tetzel offered indulgences for sin cheap enough, and yet too dear in result; but what shall we say of this evangelical license for a pliant conscience?
Further, I can understand prejudice steeling a man against the scriptural evidence we produce for the nature of God's Church, and the presence and operation of the Holy Ghost in it; but he who treats such a matter as a crotchet or a persuasion about meats or drinks (page 912), and not as a fundamental question for the believer and the Church, does not seem to me, I confess, qualified spiritually, morally, or intellectually to assume the place of an instructor in divine things. It is easy for such a mind to fling out accusations of “mental idolatry” and “singular obstinacy;” it may even appear loving and Christ-like to argue that the apostle classes us as the ἄσπονδοι, the implacables or irreconcilables, with the most wicked of characters. Does he think it consistent with this in the next and final paragraph (p. 913) to admit that the “Plymouth Brethren” have got hold of a good deal of scripture truth, and have, most of them, no deliberate intention of doing wrong; and (believing, as they easily can, that some of them possess considerable gifts) to suggest some sort of linsey-wolsey spiritual occupation in the English Establishment? With such dreary jokes (if a joke this part, or the whole, of the paper can be) in serious matters I have no sympathy. But I may say (with unfeigned respect and love to the saints of God I know, and the many more I can believe to be, in that system,) that from first to last more sorry specimens of a religious essay than these of the Christian Observer on the “Plymouth Brethren,” it has not been my lot to find, even in a day when the press teems with productions which have not a grain of personal modesty, love to brethren, fear of God, or real knowledge of His truth. Did they design to expose themselves or to prove the value of what we have learned from scripture, I doubt that they could do either more effectually than to commit a principal organ of the Evangelical party to attacks which injure none but themselves, and themselves in every point of view, with men of intelligence.

Thoughts on the Church

Acquaintance with the truth of the Church is indispensable for the setting free of the soul. I call him set free who has done with all questions between himself, God, and Satan.
Having entered into that understanding that we belong to the house of God, as if we had always been of it, the question arises, What has Satan to say to it?
In the Epistle to the Hebrews the point is that all is settled through Christ’s blood, and I can draw near. For the Church it is, I am of the family of God. My life is from Christ; it comes from above. I am with God. By the blood of Christ I draw near from without; as a child I am within whence I come.
There is for me a difference between peace in the conscience and peace in the affections. As regards justification, the blood delivers me from a God of judgment, and the resurrection delivers me from the power of Satan, because the enemy cannot go farther than death. Then, in speaking of the Church being risen with Christ, we are one body with Him in resurrection, in a sphere where Satan has nothing. If I remain, as it were before the blood only, God always continues to be for me a judge; but being risen with Christ, I am united to Him in heaven. And such is the Church’s place, for the Church is composed of those who are one with Christ in heaven, and nothing else. We exist in virtue of the love of God, instead of having done anything to satisfy His righteousness. The lack of deliverance now-a-days arises very much from the affections not being subdued. Therefore people do not really get out of this struggle till they have the consciousness of the love of God. One cannot enjoy the love of God without being in holiness. If the heart is full of love, God Himself is there, and this is holiness. Resurrection puts us there consciously; without resurrection and the power of the Spirit one is not of the Church. On the earth I am not said to be dead; I have a right, it is true, to count myself dead; still the flesh is in me; whilst in heaven, my life is hid with Christ in God and this by virtue of His resurrection and ascension. With the flesh I am not in heaven, for I am not united to Christ by virtue of the flesh. In resurrection the Church is there, where is neither Jew nor Greek. Viewed in Christ, in its privileges, the Church is in a condition which goes beyond the state where a conscience is needed: yet this is brought home to the conscience by the fact that the Church is on the earth with a testimony. John does not speak of position; but he signalizes the nature which responds to this position: Paul is rather occupied with position. Consequently John is always individual, whilst Paul speaking of position according to the counsel of God can consider the body. There are two features in John—love and righteousness. To dwell in God is that which is most elevated in the doctrine of the New Testament. It is indeed communion; only that carries communion very far. Amongst our acquaintances, how much better we know the people with whom we dwell! To dwell in God, it is to dwell in Him in love. Surely God loves us always: it is infinite grace to enjoy it. But to dwell in God is more than that: it is to find oneself in this love, to sail there, as it has been said of the deluge, sea upon sea, boundless ocean. The only cognizance that I can take of this space is that I cannot get out of it. If we dwelt in God somewhat habitually, that would express itself. The Savior does not give, like man, from high to low; that is why He rejects the word “benefactor.” “And he said unto them,” &c. (Luke 22:25.)
The Church is in heaven as to title and its privileges, and on the earth as to fact and its duties. On the earth the Church ought to be the manifestation of the activity of God’s love, and of His holiness, according to the power of the Holy Ghost. As we have seen, the Church by resurrection in Christ is in heaven; but in fact it is also on the earth. If we had ascended to heaven to receive the Holy Ghost, the unity would be only for heaven; but the Holy Ghost having descended to the earth to form the unity, that unity is here below.
The body of the Church could not exist before the glorification of Jesus, for that would have been a body without a head, which would have been more monstrous even than in a human body.
In Eph. 1:7 we have in Christ the remission of sins by His blood. Then, in verse 9 et seq., having given us a position of salvation, God makes known to us His intentions and plans. Meanwhile, in awaiting the accomplishment of things, we have the earnest in the gift of the Holy Spirit until the redemption of the purchased possession. Not till verse 22 do we bear of the Church on high.
Chapter ii. shows us how we are brought in. Finding men dead in their sins on the earth, God, in His infinite mercy, quickens them, raises them with Christ and seats them in Him in heavenly places. In verse 6 together twice occurs: the first is “together” with Christ; the second is together—Jews and Gentiles. We have not got the body in this verse, but that which He does to form the body. In verse 14 we get nearer the Church, and see there that the formation of the Church could not take place until after the death of Christ, who has broken down the wall of partition.
Verse 15. The Messiah ought to have been the key stone in all things for the Jews; but they rejected Him, and this has given place to His death and the formation of the new man. Every ordinance is enmity. Take baptism and the Lord’s supper, as they are misused in human systems, and you will find thus. See the various religious bodies. They make a constitution; then of two things one: I must either swallow what is against my conscience or keep outside. There is also another evil in a constitution, when, to avoid offending the conscience, they reduce it to the lowest degree they can find. If God questions, it is the only thing that unites these two conditions; liberty and order. For me I should never separate from an assembly of Christians unless it had ceased to be the Church. I am speaking as to principle.
The Church being formed it is one body. In verse 20 the apostles and prophets are those of the New Testament. Moreover, when it is said “for to make,” &c., it is something quite new. (Ver. 21, 22.) Not only new but in contrast with that which had preceded. This is again a proof that the Church is formed on the earth. In the first half of the chapter we see the fullness of grace which seeks individuals in order to save them; in the second, the revelation that God’s intention was not only to save by this work of Christ, but also to unite these saved ones.
In chapter 3 we have a further revelation, namely, that not only the Church did not exist under the Old Testament, but also that it was not revealed. There are moral connections of all importance—as that the election of the Church was before the foundation of the world. So when man on the earth was put under responsibility, God revealed His counsel for the Church before the foundation of the world, outside the course of this world.
In chapter 4 Paul takes the Church itself. Verse 2. The call is to be the house of God. Then one must walk according to this call, according to the presence of God. The unity of the Spirit exists, because there is not only a body, but one body and one Spirit. The unity of the Spirit being lost would make use of the bond of peace to prevent unity. Verses 7-10. It is in this that it goes beyond the revelation of the Old Testament; for in Psa. 68 Christ ascends on high; but there is more here—it is He who descended who ascends: then He fills all things. This gives a very remarkable character to the person of Christ, namely, that in order to have dominion over all things He must fill all things. “Thou hast received gifts for men.” (Psa. 68:18.) It is the idea that He has received gifts in humanity. As man He received gifts to give them to men. This is a main point—that the Holy Ghost, instead of remaining solely in His divine being, should come into man. It is the doctrine of the Holy Ghost which makes the Church to be one body on the earth, and that it cannot be anything else. At the end of the first chapter Paul supposes the doctrine of the thing. At the beginning of the second He gives what God did to put the Church in the condition where Christ is, and at the end of the same second chapter, the revelation that it is the tabernacle of God on the earth.
Finally, in the fourth, he declares our responsibility of walk according to this calling that we are the tabernacle of God, and develops the power of operation according to the fullness of Him who fills all things for the forming of the body. Every mayor is a Frenchman, but every Frenchman is not a mayor. It is the same with the Church; it shares the general privileges with the others, but it has its special privileges as the Church. The Christ of the Church is a Christ so glorious, that He can be in heaven and in my heart. Paul says the two things in the same phrase, Gal. 2:20. Verse 11. The Apostle Paul sees Christ so much in resurrection, that here he only sees the apostles since Christ is risen on high, without taking account of the call of the twelve whilst Christ was on the earth. Verses 11-16. We have there the undeniable proof that it is the body on the earth, the whole body.
Further, I will not use such an expression as I cannot,’ to diminish the responsibility of man. If the Church has not the consciousness of being the bride of Christ, it cannot realize either the affections or the duties of the bride. One cannot discern them, if will ignores spiritual affections. Would it be with the Church as with the children of the two women before Solomon, one half in the national church and one half in the free church? Oh! no, answer the spiritually enlightened affections, rather take all. Yes, the unity is possible on all the earth. Take, for example, a Moravian. Well, at every point of the globe, in Greenland, in Europe, this Moravian is at home. It is the same thing with a Wesleyan. If I have the idea of making the Church as it ought to be down here, I shall be discouraged; but if I view the Church according to God, and I walk to that end, I find myself in the obedience of faith, and God encourages me. People say, We must content ourselves with that which is possible. I reply, You have never seen the vision of the assembly; you have never seen the Church according to God. He always puts before faith an object that one never obtains before one has been put there by the power of God. It is what will take place in glory as to life eternal (1 Tim. 6) for the Church (Eph. 2, John 17) etc. There is another thing, if the people did not go up against the Amorites when God ordered it, they would be beaten if they rose up a second time; but God will be with them in the wilderness. Even the ark will be at the bottom of Jordan to open the entrant? into Canaan. One must count upon God for the present. The visibility of the Church was plain because of the difficulties which it had to surmount to maintain unity.
Would it be an evil to allow of an invisible Church, as God is also an invisible God? If God was manifested in flesh, so I say, the Church has also been manifested here below. (1 Cor. 12:28.) It is evident here that it is not a question of heaven, but of the earth, of the Church; for in heaven there are no healings, helps, properly helpers [it is, in manner of speaking, gifts which are not substantive but objective; gifts of too little scope to act alone, but which are of great help when there is another to shelter them]. There is still another passage on the Church to mention in this epistle: it is verses 16, 18 of chapter 10. We have here one body manifested in the act of breaking one bread. It is that which has led people to call the Lord’s supper a sacrament. Originally “sacrament” designated the oath by which the Roman soldiers pledged faithfulness to their standard. So in taking the Lord’s supper, Christians declare faithfulness to Christ. (Chap. 14) In each locality the union of the local church was the expression of unity of all the body.
If the Church is one, it cannot make an alliance with itself; if it is, with whom will it ally itself? with evil? (Matt. 16) One sees by this that Christ had not before Him the idea of the existence of the Church up to then. Several confessed the Christ during His life, but it was only Peter who recognized the title of Son of the living God—a living hope by the resurrection of Christ from the dead. It is not the idea of being raised up with Christ, and being in heaven with Him; but rather that of being raised up with Him and walking on the earth. One is not in heaven in this case, one is going there. As to moral character, the doctrine of the Epistle of Peter can be applied to the saints in the high places of Daniel, and again to those raised up after the rapture of the Church. The saints up to Christ had indeed inward life, but they had no intelligence of it; they would not have been able to discern the flesh. There is again this difference, that this life did not connect itself with the Messiah as existing in heaven. God thought of the Church, but He would not leave the Jews, before they themselves had left Him. It is for this reason that the Church was not revealed until later. In verse 18, for “I say also unto thee,” read “And I also say unto thee.” The Father has told thee something about me, that I am the Christ. Well, I tell thee something of thyself. Thou art Peter, and on this rock, &c.
Now the Son takes His place as Master of His own house. God had revealed (not given) to Peter the name of Christ, now Christ gives (not reveals) to Peter a name concerning his position of service in the Church, as Adam gave a name to all the creatures. Does this promise annul the fact of the failure of the Church? No. One must distinguish between the responsibility of man and the faithfulness of God. The failure is but another proof in favor of this power which is able to keep the saints and save them after all. It is the same with the Jews; this lie will abound to the glory of God. The keys are not of the Church, but of the kingdom. In his ministry, Peter always acknowledged the Jews; hence, in the beginning of the Acts he never mentions the Church. He needed to make use of the keys for the work of the kingdom. As to the Church, it was rather Christ who baptized with the Holy Ghost, and who could make use of such and such a person. And what is remarkable is, that not until Paul, is Jesus proclaimed as the Son of God. The same as to the promises:
Peter acknowledges Israel as the heir (Acts 3:25), whilst Paul says that it is the seed of Abraham, which is Christ. (Gal. 3:16.) As for binding and loosing Peter was steward in the house, while working also for the kingdom. To bind and loose is not only in reference to people, but also to things; whatsoever thou shalt bind, &c. He loosens from the law, for example in Acts 15:9, and when he eats with the Gentiles. Now-a-days one binds and unbinds persons, as in John 20.
Peter was invested with a certain authority in Matt. 18. As to the force of verse 18, I decide nothing; but verse 19 seems to have a very simple application. The Holy Ghost acting in the Church, if two or three agree, the Lord is with them. Like government in a state, it does not make the laws; but it makes use of them; it is invested with discretionary power. Only we must remember that we have not discretionary power outside the word. Such is the perfection of the word, that there is not a single case for which it has not spoken; but it needs wisdom to apply it. It is remarkable to see the wisdom of the ways of God. That which was the Church at the beginning has pretended later to be the kingdom.
Although the tares were sown in the midst of the wheat, the children of the kingdom remain always children of the kingdom, whilst the assembly as such may corrupt itself. That is easily understood. The unity is broken; the children of God who formed the unity always remain the children of God; but there is no longer unity; it is no longer the Church as such. The rule for me is not to leave an assembly if I think it is the assembly. If the principle of an assembly is to have the children of God gathered because of Christ, I will not leave it, notwithstanding the neglect which has admitted unconverted souls, I would work for its good, and the righteous dealing with these unconverted; but I would not withdraw: quite the contrary. If I find a gathering wholly composed of Christians, but who are not assembled on the principle of the Spirit’s unity according to the word, I would not unite myself to them in any way. I would not separate myself from false brethren who might have slipped into an assembly; because, at all events, there was the assembly into which they had slipped.
For admission to the Lord’s supper, not only faith is required but peace. At present I count upon the Savior to lead me, knowing that His grace is sufficient for me. We are the guardians of the Lord’s table; but in one sense we are also the guardians of the Savior’s sheep, and from love to them, we shall wish to see them as one flock, far from the dangers of the world; it is a great responsibility for which however the Lord’s grace is always sufficient.
In a case of sin, it is better to leave the individual there, for the assembly to suffer from it until it judges itself, than to exercise discipline among a few which might lead to the scattering of the assembly. As we must hold to the purity of the Church’s conscience, one must, in case of sin, wait till it has the conscience before acting. If these two or three made a rule, they would not be in the place of the word; but in holding to the word, they are authorized for the execution of the thing.
The Church administers to the house of God (I am not speaking of the keys now). First, Unity. There was one body working by its joints of supply. Secondly, There is the power of God by the Spirit confided to the Church for that which was within it. The great principle is that the Holy Ghost was there directing everything, while making the Christians to act as servants of Christ the immediate bead of His house. (Heb. 3) The root of all is that the Church has disowned the presence of the Holy Ghost; it has forsaken the principle which constitutes the foundation of its existence. That is what I call total failure and apostasy. For the Church it is the abandonment of the principles on which those who made profession of them were united. In reality the apostasy of the Church is impossible. There is outside all the counsel of God—within the saints—there is life (John 10); but, on the other hand there is also the result of its responsibility on the earth.
Modern Protestantism denies the power of the Holy Ghost to form on the earth one body. The Reformation had in view other things; but it did not deny this one. There were two things in Protestantism, the authority of the word and justification; some have lost now-a-days one of these things, others another. As to popery, there is unity, it is true, but a unity of which the pope is the center. To deny unity is unbelief on this subject. When one arrives at the fact of the fall, one finds at the bottom Judaism; it was that against which the apostles struggled at the beginning.
Judaism, if we consider the Church, is, it seems to me, the principle of succession in clerical ordinances, in the place of the Holy Ghost rendering the servants immediate servants of Christ. This goes even further, because they have made a priesthood—in a word, the clergy. There are many other things to add—legalism, the earth—but these do not belong especially—to the unity of the Church.
The facts are, 1st, The Holy Ghost is not owned as the power in the Church;
2ndly, The unity is lost in the sense of the visible body on earth;
3rdly, The sense of our responsibility to be one as a testimony on the earth—in a word, the idea of the Church is lost. The consciousness of the relationship of the Church with Christ is also lost. Could not one say, one is fallen through lack of love P Then if love is found again, the failure no longer exists! No; not only that, for power is necessary for unity.
The consequence of this failure is, further, that the heavenly character is lost—the principle of action is falsified (as in the clergy). Peter and Paul could not preach in the Church, such as it is now known: and if Satan comes with ordination, he is received. All the working of the gifts is laid aside and replaced by human systems, which do not recognize the action of the members in the aggregate. They make churches, because they do not believe in the Church. There is still an important question—it is to find out where this failure has begun. It is difficult to say. We find already at Philippi that each one sought his own interests. At first the evil did not affect the unity of the body, but it was soon to do it. That which is serious in this evil is that it began in the Church. See again among the Colossians, how they began to lose sight of the Head of the body, and it is from this source, nevertheless, that, for the Church, flowed all its life. The Church Judaized in losing the consciousness of its unity with the Head. We see the same tendency as to justification among the Galatians. As to the Ephesian church, it had abandoned its first love. In Acts 20 we see that the departure of the apostle was to let loose these wolves. We can only see how the evil has come in, but it has spread very far, as is evident when we come to the apostasy. It is solemn to see that it is in the Church that all this began.
James 5:14. There is an internal administration or power which is completely wanting now-a-days. The Church was competent as to the ways of God with the members of the Church. There is at present total incapacity in the house. If that is not a failure. I hardly know what a failure is. Alas! the Church has not now the consciousness of itself. There is another great point—it is that the Church and the world are united together.
The First Epistle of John shows us the worst evil was already there. It is the evidence of two things 1st. That the presence of Antichrist is that which characterizes the latter times, and that it is in the Church that it springs up; and 2ndly, that this evil was already in the days of the apostles. It was indeed the latter times, for this moral character, the essential character, was already there. The Church ought to have been the perfect testimony of what Christ is; whereas it has become the source and cradle of corruption—the formal denial of Christianity. There was already, to begin, the denial of Christ come in the flesh; they denied the Father and the Son: they did not deny God. “Whoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service, because they have not known the Father nor me.” Satan always comes, with an old truth which does not put faith to the test, to oppose the one where there is power. The Savior marks the latter times by that which existed in the days of the apostles. We must remark that here these antichrists came out from the midst of the saints. That is a difference from what one sees in Jude.
Jude 3. The moral force of this phrase lies in this, that Jude, having the intention to write to the saints on their common salvation, had to leave that in order to occupy himself with the adversaries and apostates, whom he points out to the vigilance of the saints. We see in this epistle, not the fact, but the introduction and the progress of the evil up to its judgment.
In verse 14, Jude passes over all the period of Christianity, and shows it was against those who were there, then present, that the judgment came. Such is the history of the ruin of the Church. It is into the Church that Satan has introduced those who are to be specially the objects of judgment when the Lord comes with the saints. It is not only that the general system has failed, but, besides that, the evil entered when all was in good condition. The virgins slept in the forgetfulness of the coming of the Lord. They had to go out a second time. It seems that they had entered some place more convenient to slumber in. Christians having entered into the world to sleep, it becomes a question of going out again. We learn, then, from Jude, that the evil, which is the object of judgment, enters into the Church. He identifies the evil with the judgment at the end. He passes over the history of the Church, save that he gives the character of evil in verse 11; three characters of evil summed up in Cain, Balsam, Core. There is perhaps here a certain analogy with the dragon, the false prophet and the beast at the end. Although religious corruption is serious, it is in the character of Core that one perishes. It is in the Church that these three things have sprung up. We saw higher up that the negligence of Christians allowed Judaism and worldliness to enter. Now we see people with these characters enter. Satan did not fail to profit by the open door. Then it is that God declares clearly the apostasy. 1st. They turn the grace of God into lasciviousness and deny the only Sovereign God and Lord Jesus Christ. Although when they entered they confessed Christ, Jude does not allow himself to be deceived—he puts his finger upon the evil, and declares that they deny Him. Later they will be seen to go out, as it is said in John.
There is this besides that they were spots in the love feasts of the saints; that is the reason why it is said of them that they were twice dead—dead naturally, and dead as to their profession. “Wandering stars,” they have the appearance of giving light, but disappear immediately in the darkness.
How do they distinguish themselves? They pretend to have great knowledge; they were forward in things which they did not understand; they occupied themselves with fables, with endless genealogies; they affected a great elevation of mind, &c. (Ver. 18.) Remark too that Jude also says, like John, that the presence of these men is the sign of the last times. One has elsewhere in the word directions how to conduct oneself with regard to such men (1 Cor. 5, for example), but it is not the subject here. Jude gives the thing as a revelation to serve for the instruction of the Church until the end. The Holy Ghost does not treat of all the subjects at once. Now that in the aggregate the evil has overflowed one must go out. We are responsible for the evil which has entered, even when we have not done it and are not of the system where it is (Popery, &c.), because, being identified with the true Church, it is that which allowed the evil to enter.
The responsibility is individual. When it is a question of conduct, the Lord takes notice of our conduct in that state of things. But when it is a question of the heart, it identifies itself with the whole body, to whom the testimony of God had been confided.
2 Peter 3. It is very nearly as in Jude, with this further character, that there are mockers who deny the return of the Lord.
2 Thess. 2:3-7. Here indeed is the apostasy. We have here the facts of the apostasy established. If there is an apostasy it is little. But the Christian testimony has not continued in its primitive integrity; so that there is no restoration, and the end of that is judgment. Two important things are to be borne in mind in this subject. First, There must needs be an apostasy. (Ver. 8.) Secondly, This apostasy is a thing of such a nature, that it is the occasion for the judgment of God. (Ver. 8.) For my part, I do not think that the apostasy is consummated, although since the days of John and of Jude the development of the principle has made great advances.
Heb. 6 may be applied to the Christian system. Having been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and having turned away from it, there is no restoration. The guilt of the Jews viewed as a nation, is that they rejected the Son of man; they will be re-established in the Millennium, whilst the Gentiles fallen as to the Holy Ghost (there is no blasphemy yet, but there is the analogy of the principle) will not be restored. Verse 7, returning to 2 Thessalonians, is the formal declaration that the mystery of iniquity had already begun to work in the days of the Thessalonians. We have already seen that elsewhere. He restrains who makes a hindrance. The important thing for us is to know that there is a bridle which restrains the development of evil, without inquiring what this bridle is. The fathers said that it was the Roman empire. Well, I admit this for a time, as for our days God employs other things; He can maintain the civil governments to serve as a bridle for man’s will in order that the evil may be checked. So long as the Church is here below, God maintains the authority necessary towards the ministers of His justice in all that which contributes to the good of His Church. (Ver. 9.) Satan disposes of the creatures although he can create nothing, so that for man it is a miracle. With a magnifying glass, by the concentration of the sun’s rays, I could produce a fire, which would be a miracle with a window. Satan does something like this with men. But there are two things that Satan entirely ignores—the love of God, and spiritual discernment. (Compare ver. 9 with Acts 2:22.) You will see that the same signs which characterized the Christ are those which will characterize the man of sin. Again, in the time of Elijah the question between Jehovah and Baal was settled by fire from heaven descending at the voice of Elijah which the false prophets then could not do. In the Apocalypse we see that the second beast will cause fire to come down from heaven in the sight of men. The acts of power which were a testimony of God by Christ, as well as of Jehovah in Israel, will be exercised by the man of sin.
It seems to me that Judaism occupies a very great place in the prophecies that concern the end.
1 Tim. 3:15. The word is for the Church, and the Church for the world. After all the Church is always the depository of the truth. It is in the world the sphere where one finds the truth. Viewed in its aspect in that which appears, it is an immense lie; but viewed in that which is of God, one finds the truth which God maintains by the faithfulness of His grace. One finds even among the Papists fundamental truth—the deposit is there; but the additions and the transformations render it false as to testimony. Earthly. priesthood and human ordinances are brought in between God and man who cannot get near Him.
In 2 Tim. 2 the man of God was to purge himself from the vessels of dishonor in the house of God—Christendom. Evil is not to be sanctioned, however earnestly we may seek to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Indeed fidelity is essential. If the Lord know them that are His, let him that names His name depart from iniquity. Other names should not bind us to iniquity. It is not discipline here, but conduct regulated in view of corrupt Christendom, and this relative as well as personal. “Flee also youthful lusts, but seek righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with those that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” Thus he may count on fellowship according to the Lord even in such circumstances—not isolation, but communion by the will of God. The perilous times of the last days need not hinder this. From the pretenders who deceive the silly and resist the truth one must turn away. For there will be professing men since they have the form of piety; and here they respond to the picture that we have of the heathen at the beginning of the Epistle to the Romans. The heathen, it is true, are more undisguised there; whilst in 2 Timothy the evil is more hidden: they have the form of godliness. One sees in verses 6, 7, that there was activity in these things— “ever learning,” they are silly women (γυναικάρια), captives under the tyrannical influence of these individuals. On the other hand, there are the scriptures which make one wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. The two things are the word and faith. Faith is the key to enter into the word with. What is very remarkable here is that as security he does not give the Holy Ghost but the word. The Lord (Luke 24:44) acknowledged the Old Testament as it was received with the various readings. Moreover, in that He sanctioned the faith of those who had acknowledged it before it was sanctioned. You do not understand all the code of laws, but you read it acknowledging that these laws express authority in the land. The Church does not give any authority to the word, but was its guardian. To the Church the oracles were confided. It is in this that it has been unfaithful—in the keeping of this deposit. For that which calls itself the Church has added to Scripture the Apocrypha.
Observe “From a child.” It is the authority of the book which is recognized (from father to son); for Timothy as a child was hardly able to judge whether it was the word of God. We have in these verses all that is a security for the perilous times.
Peter also says the scriptures, when he mentions prophets. (2 Peter 1:20, 21.) Again, he recognizes the writings of Paul as inspired writings. (2 Peter 3:14.) I believe in literal inspiration because it is said “by words taught by the Holy Ghost.” (1 Cor. 2:13.) But if one come to this, I should rather say absolute inspiration, because I believe that the Holy Ghost is the AUTHOR of that which has been written. He has made use of instruments for this. You find them over and over again in their special features and individuality. From Him is the difference of the facts reported by some and not by others, in the Gospels.
Then I admit that God permits all these difficulties in the word (the various readings, &c.) in order to stumble unbelief.
One has an example in Isa. 8:13, 14. God permits that there should be things in the manifestation of the truth, which suffice to stumble those who do not believe. If human science can judge respecting the Bible to decide if it is the word of God, then the spirit of man must be above God. This is infidelity, apostasy commenced, which is consummated for the Christian profession by the fact that it ceases to be the Church, just as death brings a man to his end. It is like a shadow, which, at the decline of day, grows lodger and longer, and then—ceases.

Notes on Colossians 1:1-8

It is hardly possible for the most careless reader to overlook the kindred truth set forth in this epistle and in that to the Ephesians. Union with Christ, the Head of His body the Church, has a place here beyond all other scriptures; for though 1 Corinthians may present the same doctrine (chap.12), it is evident that there it is a question of the assembly of God on earth, in which the Holy Ghost is actively at work through the members, distributing to each as He will, much more than of the saints viewed in Christ above, as in Ephesians, or Christ viewed in them below, as in Colossians.
Nevertheless, distinctions of great moment and full of interest characterize these two epistles, the chief of which lies in this, that, as in Ephesians we have the privileges of the body of Christ, the fullness of Him who filleth all in all, so in Colossians we have the glories of the Head, in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. This difference, like others, was due, in the wisdom of the Spirit, to the moral condition of those addressed. In the former case the apostle launches out into the counsels of God, who has blessed the saints with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; in the latter case there was a measure of departure into philosophy and Jewish traditions, not an abandonment of Christ, of course, but such an admixture of these foreign ingredients as threatened fatal results in the apostle's eyes, unless their souls were brought back to Christ, and Christ alone, in all the rights of His person and work. Thus the Epistle to the Colossians, in consequence of their state, does not admit of the vast scope and development of divine purposes and glory for the saints seen in and united to Christ; whereas in writing to the Ephesians there was then nothing in them to arrest or narrow the outgoing of the apostle's heart, as the Spirit led him to apprehend with all the saints the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the knowledge surpassing love of Christ. Here it is largely a question of exhortation, of recovering their souls, of grave warning. Hence the human element is more prominent here. Writing to the Ephesians the apostle associates none with himself in the address; yet was Ephesus the capital of proconsular Asia and well-known to his fellow-laborers and associated by a thousand tender ties with himself and others. The assembly at Colosse as such was among those that had never seen his face in the flesh. This makes it the more marked when he joins Timothy with himself in their case.
“Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus by God's will, and Timothy the brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ at Colosse: grace to you and peace from God our Father.” (Ver. 1, 2.) For himself, he was not unauthorized, nor was his title human. He was an apostle, not of the Church, but of Christ Jesus by divine will; and Timothy stands with him simply as “the brother.” Again, the assembly at Colosse are also characterized not only as “saints and faithful,” as the Ephesians were, but as “faithful brethren.” It is evident that here again, while all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, this term “brethren” brings out their relations to one another, as the others suppose God's grace and their faith if not fidelity. His own apostolic place is named with quiet dignity and in the evident appropriateness for all that follows.
It has been well observed that the apostle quite omits anything answering to the magnificent introduction with which he begins his Ephesian Epistle. (Chap. 1:3-14) There was a check on his spirit; he felt the danger that threatened the Colossians. How could he then at once break forth into an unhindered strain of blessing? The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth and deals with hearts and consciences. Still, if that high tone of worship could not find a place here with propriety, there is immediate thanksgiving. “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ always when praying for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and love which ye have toward all the saints, on account of the hope that is laid up for you in the heavens, of which ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel that is present with you, even as also in all the world it is bearing fruit and growing even as also among you, from the day when ye heard and knew the grace of God in truth: even as ye learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow-bondman, who is a servant of Christ, faithful for you, that also declared to us your love in the Spirit.” (Ver. 7, 8.)
The apostle had heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus that was in the Ephesians, and their love toward all the saints, which drew out his heart in thanksgiving and prayer. He knew them personally and well, having labored with deep blessing in their midst; but it was sweet to hear of the working of the Spirit among them. So of the Colossians, though not known thus, he had similar tidings, for which he could thank God always in his prayers for them.
But is not the difference striking between the two as exemplified in his manner of presenting the hope? In Ephesians it is the hope of God's calling, the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. What can be more profound or boundless? Here he could scarcely say less. Their hope was laid up, it was safe, it was “in the heavens,” not (spite of philosophy or of ascetic ordinances) on the earth. Of all these they had to beware, whatever their looks and promises. Of their proper hope he would remind them, recalling them to the heavens where Christ is, the true and only deliverance from all the workings of mind in divine things and from earthly religiousness.
This heavenly hope, blessed as it is, was nothing new to them: they had heard it before in the word of the truth of the gospel. What the apostle taught would not weaken or undermine, but confirm that which they had heard in the good news which converted them originally, or (as he here styles it, to give it all possible weight in presence of their straining after novelties) “in the word of the truth of the gospel.” It was not intellectual groping, but “the word” definitely sent to them, God's revelation; it was not dabbling in legal forms, but “the truth,” the truth of the gospel. The law was given by Moses; but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. The gospel came to them, yea, was there present with them, no more changing than He does who is its sine and substance. Real truth, even when new, never sets aside the old, but on the contrary supplies missing links, deepens the foundations and enlarges the sphere. Had their philosophy, had their novel restrictions (chap. ii.) increased their sense of the value of the gospel? Had those things exalted Christ? There is no doubt what the effect of Paul's teaching would be either in general or in this epistle very specially.
Further, the gospel being thus the display of God's goodness in Christ, not the measure of human duty nor a system of religious shadows, its theater according to God's intentions is not a single land or family, but “all the world,” and its operation is not condemning and killing, but producing fruit and growing, even as among the saints at Colosse. Was there this fruit-bearing, and expansion too, since they had taken up their newfangled notions and legal ways? The gospel is both productive of fruit and has propagative energy. This addition of its growth (καὶ αὐξανόμενον) is lost to the common text, having been omitted in inferior copies. That it is genuine cannot be fairly questioned. Certainly both were known from the day they heard and really knew the grace of God in truth. And this gives the blessed apostle opportunity, as was his wont, to strengthen the hands of one who was Christ's minister and faithful on their behalf, “Epaphras, our beloved fellow-bondman,” as he is here affectionately called. The speculative views, the Judaistic forms, had, no doubt, their exponents, who would seek to ingratiate themselves at a faithful laborer's expense. We can readily conceive that the word thus commending Epaphras was needed at Colosse.
Scripture is throughout a moral book. God speaks to us according to this, not according to the (after all) petty discoveries of science. I call it petty, because it is only occupied with material things. All knowledge is the proof of ignorance; for what a man has learned, he did not know before. Yet, if he has rightly learned it, it was before, and he did not know it. As Pascal has said, All matter never produced a thought, and all intellect never produced charity.

Notes on Colossians 1:19-23

With the pre-eminence of Christ in all things two great considerations are connected. First, all fullness was pleased to dwell in Him. It was not a partial nor any manifestation of God: this might have been in any man; but here all fullness was pleased in Him to dwell. This is the truth of Christ's person, the glory of the incarnate Lord. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” “If I by the Spirit of God cast out devils, the kingdom of God is come unto you.” “The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” Yet we know it was always by the power of the Holy Ghost that everything was done and said. So truly was all the fullness pleased to dwell in Him.
We observed in an earlier verse that it was because of His being a divine person that He could be said to be the firstborn of all creation. It was founded upon the fact that He was God who created all and sustains all. But here there is more. In Him all fullness was pleased to dwell. It was not alone a question of acting, but of dwelling, whether He acted or not. Thus it is a very full and rich statement indeed.
But again (ver. 20), there is another unfolding of the truth which sets forth His glory, another reason assigned for His indisputable pre-eminence. By Him, the Christ, is reconciliation effected. All fullness of the Godhead was pleased in Him to dwell and by Him to reconcile all things unto God. There is a peculiar phraseology in the passage, which may have led the English translators to put in “Father” in verse 19. If the conjecture be correct, they did it not so much because of this verse as of the following, the 20th— “to reconcile.... unto himself.” They could not make out how it could be unto Him unless it were the Father; but I think the context is purposely so framed, because it is intended to show us, unless I am greatly mistaken, that all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Christ, not one person of that divine fullness acting to the exclusion of the rest. They all had one counsel, not barely similar counsels, as so many creatures might, but one and the same. Hence the object is not to contrast one person with another, but to state that all the fullness was pleased in Him to dwell. It is put in this general form purposely. Then the Spirit of God glides with a scarce perceptible transition from His being the God-man to the work God has done by Him; so that you cannot separate clearly the two thoughts, as far as the construction goes in εἰς αὐτόν. Afterward, as before, the person of Christ is distinct and prominent.
But man was utterly gone, hostile, dead. No moral glory even of the Godhead in Christ could win him back. A deeper work was needed. “Having made peace by the blood of his cross by him to reconcile all things unto himself.” All creation was ruined in the fall; and here we have the vast plan of God first sketched before us, the reconciliation of all things, not of men but of things. It was the good pleasure of the Godhead to reconcile all things unto God. Even the Word made flesh, even all the fullness dwelling in Him, failed to reach the desperate case. There was rebellion, there was war. Peace must be made—it could only be made by the blood of Christ's cross. In a word, reconciliation is not the fruit of the Incarnation, most blessed as it is; for it was altogether powerless, as far as that is concerned. It brings before us grace and truth in Christ—God Himself in the most precious display of holy love. Nothing is in itself more important than, for a person who has found Christ, to delight in and dwell upon Him and His moral ways here below. Everything was in exquisite harmony in Him; matchless grace shone out wherever He moved. All was perfect, and yet would it all have been fruitless; for man was as the barren sand. Therefore we have another and wholly distinct step— “by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself.” All the fullness dwelling in Him was insufficient: it brought God to man, not man to God. All the Godhead was pleased to dwell in Him, and not as a mere passing thing. This was quite independent of the anointing in due time by the Holy Ghost. It was the continual delight of the whole Godhead to dwell in Him as man. But so far gone was man that this could not deliver him: sin cannot be so got over. Even God Himself coming down to earth in Christ's person, His unselfish goodness, His unwearied patient love, not anything found in Christ nor all together could dispel sin or righteously recover the sinner. Therefore it became manifestly a question of reconciliation “through the blood of His cross.”
All things then are to be reconciled, as we see; peace has been made “by the blood of His cross.” It is sweet and assuring to think that all has been done to secure the gathering of all things round Christ. It is merely now a question of the time suited in God's wisdom for the manifestation of Christ at the head of all.
As far as the efficacious work is concerned, nothing more is to be done. Meanwhile God is calling in the saints who are to share all along with Christ. As it is said in Rom. 8 all creation groaneth, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. They are the first fruits. All was subjected to vanity by sin; but now He who came down, God manifest in the flesh, has taken upon Himself the burden of sin, and has made peace by the blood of His cross. Thus He has done all that is needed for God and man. Morally all is done, the price is paid, the work is accepted, so that here too we may say “all things are ready.” God would be now justified in purging from the face of creation every trace of misery and decay; if He waits, it is but to save more souls. His longsuffering is salvation. The darkness and the weakness will disappear when our Lord comes with His saints. For the world, His appearing with them in glory is the critical time. The revelation of Christ and the Church from heaven is not the epoch of the rapture which comes first. The revelation is the manifestation of the Bridegroom and the Bride then glorified before the world.
Thus having brought in the universal reconciliation of created things, the apostle turns to that with which it was so intimately connected “and you that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled.” I do not doubt there is an intended contrast. The reconciliation of all things is not yet accomplished. The foundation is laid; but it is not applied. But reconciliation is applied to us who believe. Us who were in this fearful condition, “now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death.” Again, observe, the body of His flesh, the incarnation in itself did not, could not avail, no, nor all the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in Him bodily. For guilty man it must be “through death.” It was not through Christ's birth or living energy, but “through death” —not by His doing, divinely blessed as it all was, but by His suffering. “The blood of his cross” brings in much more the idea of a price paid for peace. His “death” seems to be more suitable as the ground of our reconciliation. At any rate “in the body of His flesh through death” contradicts the notion that incarnation was the means of reconciliation. This brings in moral considerations and shows the most solemn vindication of God, the righteous basis for our remission and peace and clearance from all charge and consequence of sin.
“To present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight.” Blessed as the death of Christ is, so that God Himself can find no flaw in us or charge against us, which is the meaning here—so perfectly efficacious is this death of Christ in our favor, yet still it supposes our holding fast— “if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel.” Now I take that word “if” decidedly as a condition and nothing else.
It is quite different from chapter 3, “If ye then be risen with Christ,” &e. It is the same word, but there should always be a regard to the context. Here, I believe, there is a condition implied, whereas chapter 3 simply reasons and exhorts from an allowed fact. This would not make sense in chapter 1.
Unless under specially modifying circumstances, every man, almost every person before conversion is naturally disposed to be an Arminian, i.e. to build on his own righteousness; but when he finds himself undone, yet justified by faith of God's pure grace in Christ, there is often a tendency to rebound violently over to the opposite extreme. When he becomes more matured in the truth, it is no longer a question of party views, but of that which is infinitely larger, even of God's mind as revealed in His word. The unconditional parts should be taken in all their absoluteness, and the conditional should be pressed in all their force. The apostle does not bring this in as a condition of our justification. There grace justifies the ungodly; a condition cannot enter. It would be a denial of grace. For all that, there are unquestionable conditions; but in what? God does not let us certainly know who they are among those who profess the name of Jesus that really believe in Him. Some there were even in those early days who followed the truth for a season and then gave it up. Others were slighting the pure gospel for philosophy and ordinances, or at least were disposed to add them to it. Hence the apostle says, “If ye continue in the faith.” There he warns, no doubt, that those born of God continue in the faith; but along with this, other things have to be borne in mind. May not persons truly born of God waver and even slip for a season into error? Now I cannot say of any who abandon the faith that they are holy and blameless in the sight of God. One may have a hope from previous facts perhaps; but as long as a soul is thus led of the enemy away from fundamental truth, I cannot, I ought not, to speak too confidently of him as of God. It would be a trifling with the unbelief and increasing the danger to his soul by making light of it. Therefore the Apostle says,” If ye continue.” A similar principle applies to him who lives under a cloud of unjudged sin.
So in 1 Cor. 5 we see that a man guilty of gross sin and therefore put away is to be treated as a “wicked person,” although the Holy Ghost in the same chapter speaks of the aim that his spirit might be saved, &c. And the second epistle proves that, spite of all, he was a true believer and on his repentance to be restored to fellowship. The Holy Ghost of course knows perfectly; but we can only judge what God permits to be brought forth before our eyes. This is of practical value to our souls; for it is often difficult to behave rightly to a person out of communion. We are apt to think too slightly of such cases, and what is the effect of thus treating them? They drag on outside. There is feeble power within of restoration. The sin is superficially judged. If we feel it much, we desire earnestly to get the person back. It ought to be a pain, a deep grief, whenever souls are put away from the Lord's table. Our desire would then be continually to know them and see them restored.
It is not, If ye continue in faith, but “in the faith.”
When Paul speaks about the common faith, he means the thing believed. So when he speaks about the “one faith,” he does not refer to the reality of our faith, but to the objective truth received. Real believers or not, if they forsook the faith, how could they be owned as such? Modern times have greatly thrown people upon what is inward or subjective: whereas “the faith” is revelation that is offered to faith, outside the man. It is a great mercy that in these last days, to truth, the truth in the person of Christ, great prominence has been given. One cannot absolutely pronounce on an individual's faith, but one can judge of the faith he owns, and tell whether what he professes is the truth or not. Love would assume, if a man professes the faith and there is nothing clean contrary to it in his words and ways, that it is real faith. A person may be sincere in what is wrong, or insincere in what is right; but the truth is an unbending standard. If one judged on the ground of an individual's heart, one could never speak at all; for of that who can pronounce but God? If one acts on the ground of the faith, the moment man goes against the truth, giving up what he professed, we are bound to judge it, leaving the question of his heart's faith in God's hands.
The apostle urges also, “and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel.” The Colossian saints were in danger of slipping away, for they were striving to make themselves holier by asceticism or other efforts, not by the application of Christ to judge themselves. But no, says the apostle; it is in the body of His flesh through death that you are presented holy and unblameable, if ye continue in the faith, &c., and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel which ye have heard, &c. What is “the hope of the gospel?” It is in a heavenly Christ who died for us giving us the assurance of being with Himself there. The hope of Israel (one can hardly say of the law), was the earth; this “hope of the gospel” is above. The Colossians were most unwittingly but practically losing sight of their heavenly hope, because the thought of adding to Christ philosophy or ordinances tends to deprive one of Christ. He calls it the gospel which they had heard; he would not admit of any other. It was that which had been “preached to every creature which is under heaven, whereof I Paul am made a minister.” How the apostle puts forward that which some then, as now, would make cheap—the being a minister of the gospel! He does not regard what would exalt himself in the eyes of the would-be professionists, but what gives glory to God and His grace in Christ. There is a stress accordingly upon “I” here.

Notes on Colossians 1:24-29 and 2:1-3

I should judge that there was a slight put upon the gospel by some of those who were exercising an evil influence at Colosse. They may have thought it good in its place as awakening the unconverted; but what had Christians to do with it? The apostle insists not only on the dignity but also on the depths of the gospel. No doubt, a Christian does not need it in the same way as the unconverted; for he is one who has found rest, has remission of sins, justification, sonship, &c., while the other has no real link with God. A Christian, therefore, does not listen to the gospel as if it were an unknown sound, or as if he had not certainly received it. But he rejoices in it still, and admires with increasing fervor the matchless display of God's grace therein. The apostle therefore takes particular pains to say that he, Paul, was made a minister of the gospel. He did not consider it a thing merged in his apostleship, but emphatically declares himself a minister, not only of the Church, but of the glad tidings to every creature under heaven. It was evident, then, that if any at Colosse had slightingly regarded that message as a thing too elementary for the saints to occupy themselves with, the apostle did not sympathize with such feelings. He served and gloried in the gospel. It is wrong, of course, to put myself on the same ground as the unconverted person, as if I needed it; but it is also depriving myself of much if I do not delight in it, for its own sake, so to speak, as the vindication of God Himself. No other part of the truth brings out such a display of grace and divine righteousness as the gospel. As far as the testimony to souls is concerned, it may be more what relates to their need as lost sinners; but for Christians it is of no small importance to have the heart engaged with its active grace, and the mind filled with its vast scope and the conscience invigorated. It is impossible to see how the gospel vindicates God until a soul has peace with Him. This is practically important. A person that barely knows God's mercy in Christ, has relief, has the remedy for sin, but such a remedy does not always bring in the sight of God fully vindicated. It is more the idea of the scapegoat, than of the goat that was killed. In the gospel we see not only the resource for our sins, but God's truth and majesty and love and whole character glorified. It is not only a question of evil judged and sins forgiven, but a testimony to His rich grace in Christ. But the apostle adds here, “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church; whereof I am made a minister,” &c. It appears that the two ministries, the connection of them, and the assertion of the apostle's relation to both, are intimated. As to the gospel, Paul says, “Whereof I am made a minister.” So also it is here: but inasmuch as this was a more intimate thing, it is added, “According to the dispensation of God,” &c. The gospel of which he was made the minister leads him at once to speak of his sufferings for them, not exactly the sufferings of the gospel, but his sufferings for them. Next, he speaks of “filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ,” &e., for his body's sake, which is the Church. No doubt there was that which pertained exclusively to the Savior in substitution for us. But in all respects Christ did not suffer, however perfectly, so as to shut out others, His saints, from fellowship with Him. His sufferings were absolutely perfect, as the witness of righteousness, as man upon earth and the witness of grace as on God's part. But there was far more than testimony in the cross when made sin for us, and all that God was as judging it fell on Him there. Righteousness and grace were the occasion of His sufferings in life here below: the holy judgment of sin was that which characterized His sufferings upon the cross, that God might be able righteously to show us who believe His grace, without any question of judgment remaining.
Again, the apostle rejoices in his sufferings, instead of thinking them hard or shrinking from them. What a contrast with Peter in the close of Matt. 16. Christ did not monopolize them, as it were; He left some for others—the sufferings spoken of here are mainly sufferings of love for the Church, for the saints of God, but they also include what the apostle suffered as being a witness for Christ in this world. They were real external sufferings from enemies, as he says, “in my flesh.” He does not make it merely a question of his spirit, although if this had not gone along with the trials, there would have been no value in the suffering. But he did not take it easily even as to his body. Some at Colosse, we know from the end of Col. 2, were contending for ascetic practice, mortification of the body, &c., which, the apostle lets them know, might be compatible with a much puffing up of the flesh. But, as for him, he would fill up the afflictions of Christ for His body's sake. Paul was pre-eminently a minister of the Church, in a sense in which others were not. No doubt, the mystery was revealed by the Spirit unto the holy apostles and prophets. But God had entrusted it to Paul “to complete the word of God.” There are two great parts in this mystery, the first is that Christ should be set in heaven above all principalities and powers, and have the entire universe given to Him, as Head over the inheritance on the footing of redemption. Himself exalted as Head over all things heavenly and earthly, and the Church united to Him as His body, He being thus given as Head to the Church over all things. Then the other side of the mystery is Christ in the saints here below, and in such a sort as to bring in the Gentiles with the utmost freedom. “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles [or nations], which is Christ in you the hope of glory.” The hope of glory is the hope of all the glory that flows out of His heavenly place as now at God's right hand. In Ephesians the apostle dwells more upon the first of these aspects, in Colossians, on the second. Hence the point here is not our being in Christ as Head over all, but Christ in us, the hope of all. But it is in contrast in both cases with Jewish things. The Messiah's reigning on earth over Israel, with the nations rejoicing also, is a true expectation gathered from the Old Testament prophets. In Colossians it is Christ now in us, but the glory not yet come. Christ in us is the hope of the glory that is coming by and by when we shall be glorified and appear with Christ. This was a state of things entirely foreign to Jewish anticipations. Christ in heaven and the saints not yet with Him there, but waiting to be with Him, and meanwhile Christ in them the hope of glory, but of a glory not yet come. There was nothing like this in the older oracles. Then they could not have expected that Christ would be in heaven and a people be one with Him there, still less that Christ should be in them, Gentiles or not, here. It is well to weigh the expression, “to complete the word of God.” It is not the mere idea of writing a book; for James and Peter and John had done this, and yet they could not be said “to complete the word of God.” It was not only bringing out truths already revealed, but adding a certain portion that was unrevealed. Even Revelation did not do this in the same sense. We have there a fuller development of what had been previously referred to, a giving further revelations as to prophecy, but all that was not completing the word of God. It does not mean that Paul was the last of inspired writers; for if he had written before all the others, it would still have been true that he completed the word of God. The sense in which Christ is said to be in us here is not merely as dwelling in us, but in us the hope of glory. The hope of glory is contrasted with their having Christ to reign over them in Palestine, bringing in manifested glory. The apostle speaks of them as now down here, but Christ in them the hope of the glory they will have with Him by and by. It is Christ's life in us in its full risen character of display. Colossians never rises above it.
The Holy Ghost, it has been noticed, is hardly spoken of in this epistle, and the reason is, the introduction of Him would not have been good for them; they would have used the Holy Ghost apart from Christ, as something to draw the eye away from Christ. A religion completely of forms makes much of the Holy Ghost, but it puts the Holy Ghost in the clergy as the dispensers of blessing, and thus Christ is dishonored. Again there are Christians who have no forms at all and who consequently make much of the Holy Ghost but apart from Christ. There was much of the old legal feeling that had come in at Colosse, therefore the apostle presses upon them the truth of the riches of the glory of this mystery being among the Gentiles. God did not bring out this mystery when the Church was at Jerusalem; indeed it was only fully brought out among the Gentiles. That is, the full heavenly character of it is only properly known when the Gentiles are in the foreground. Hence Paul the apostle of the Gentiles is the very one who especially brings it out. The full gospel is not mere forgiveness, but deliverance, liberty, and union with Christ above in Spirit. “Whom we preach warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” Perfect in Christ means full grown. A man may be very happy, may enjoy the pardon of his sins, &c, but without the unfolding of this heavenly secret (that is, Christ in the saints and the heavenly glory connected with it), he can hardly be said to be full grown in Christ. This “every man” is very striking here; the repeated individualizing is very beautiful in connection with the body. The two truths are singularly characteristic of Christianity, which unites the most opposite things in a way that nothing else does, and it also individualizes. In the Millennium, individuals will not have such an important place as now; nor will there be the Body on earth. Now “He that hath an ear” comes in as well as “what the Spirit saith unto the churches,” there is the richest place of blessing given both to the individual and to the Church, the Body of Christ, and both are brought out in their fullness. The human way, on the contrary, is that if what is public and corporate be much pressed, the individual suffers and vice versa.
Christianity makes every individual of eternal value to God, and also shows the Church's place and there you find the large feeling of desire and self-sacrifice and seeking the good of the whole. Paul who brings in the Church so prominently, says pointedly, “every man.” “Warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” “Whereunto” has reference to the need. “I also labor striving according to his working which worketh in me mightily.” Strong words are used here, to show what it cost him. It all supposes great difficulty, and the need of a power entirely beyond himself. It shows the necessity for Christ to work in it all. It was not only for those who had seen his face, but the contrary, as we see from chapter 2:1. What is to be noted is this: while the apostle loved those whom he had seen, there was no such thing as forgetting or not feeling deeply about those whom he had never seen. It was for the Church, for the saints as such, whether known or unknown; and more than this, he had a keen conflict for them because of their difficulties. Now (chap. 2:1) he commences to show them their danger, but he first wished them to know what a combat he had for them, and for them also at Laodicea, and as many as had not then seen his face in the flesh. “That their hearts might be comforted.” They were not happy now: they were oppressed, they were getting clouded in their thoughts, and losing the clearness of view they had, “being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, in which mystery [for that is the point] are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” There were hindrances to their apprehension of this mystery. His great desire was, nevertheless; that they should understand it well. A person may be a Christian, seeing the grace of God in Christ, and yet be comparatively poor in his thoughts and very feeble in his apprehension of the counsels and ways of God He may never have been led into this fullness of the understanding of this mystery. Without this it is impossible to have all these treasures. “In which [mystery] are hid all the treasures of wisdom an knowledge.” This brings us into another atmosphere as it were. Failure in apprehension shows a moral hindrance. “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”

Notes on Colossians 1:9-18

In the last portion we saw how the apostle could speak of the effects of the gospel from the day they had heard it and knew the grace of God in truth. Grace is not like the law. The ten words are chiefly negative. The law, for the most part, deals with what is evil and condemns it; but the gospel reveals Christ as a quickening power, and strengthening and fruit-producing power. Being a principle of life, it expands and grows as well as produces fruit, as the apostle describes it, “and bringeth forth fruit [and increaseth] since the day ye heard it,” &c.
But now he says, “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it [heard of this living witness to the power of the gospel], do not cease to pray for you.” This is a beautiful expression of the apostle's love which, spite of fear which he justly entertained about the tendencies of these Colossian saints, still only drew him out in prayer for them the more. “And to desire (or ask) that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will.” They had shown rather the reverse of this; they had proved a void in their hearts, which they had in vain sought by legal ordinances and philosophy to fill up. Nothing but an intelligent and growing acquaintance with Christ can satisfy the renewed heart. The very mercy that delivers a soul becomes a danger unless Christ Himself be the maintained, habitual object. Alas! the freedom which the gospel brings may be used to take things easily, and, more or less, retain or gain the world; but where this is the case, it is seldom a soul possesses any large measure of spiritual enjoyment, and it is never accompanied by solid peace. The soul becomes thus unsettled and uncertain. These oscillations may go on for a certain time, until God carry on the work more deeply in the heart. The Colossians were in some such state; they had not steadily advanced to a fuller knowledge of God's will: consequently Satan found means to trouble them. They had seen the first precious display of grace: it was real but not deep; still, knowing the grace of God in truth, is not the same thing as being filled with the knowledge or full knowledge of His will.
The law never gives that in the least degree; it is a righteous interdict upon man's will. Thus there is only one of the commandments—I mean the law about the sabbath-day—which has not distinctly this character, which never can form a Christian's ways. We want the bracing of the man morally to all that is good. How is this to be effected? As there is in Christ the communication of life, so also from Him comes the filling with the knowledge of God's will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. The believer is not treated by God as a horse or a mule which have no understanding, but as an intelligent and loving being who is brought into fellowship with God. He would not be a delivered man if his own will ruled him; but this is the very reverse of being filled with the knowledge of God's will, and therefore it is that the apostle prays for them that they may be.
In Ephesians, though we read in wonderful terms about God's will (chap. 1.) the apostle did not as here require to ask the knowledge of it for them. There was an apprehension of heart in them that did not need that the apostle should thus pray for them. He does desire for them both a deeper knowledge of their standing, and a richer enjoyment of Christ within, that they might be filled with the fullness of God— “strengthened with might by his Spirit.” But to be filled with the knowledge of His will, as we have it here, evidently has to do with practical walk, “that ye might walk worthy of the Lord.” In other words, in the Colossians there is an important practical hearing upon the walk; it is more the forming of the child; it is the strengthening and guiding of one that can but feebly walk, to help it along. In Ephesians, it is the communication of the God and Father of Christ to His children, who are now no longer babes, but full-grown men. Hence, there we have the family relations, feelings, estates, interests, responsibilities, everything. The Colossians had been misled by the thoughts of teachers who were themselves far astray. Though the saints there were earnest, still there was something that blinded their eyes. “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” They must have been governed by their own thoughts, else they would surely have rejected these false notions. It is a simple truth, but very important to observe, that what is presented as God's will necessarily forms the mind, and consequently the walk, of a Christian man. If I am misled as to the mind or objects of God, the effect will be most fatal practically; and the more earnest, the farther one goes astray. But the apostle had prayed for the Colossians, and still continued, “that they might be filled with this full knowledge of him.” I do not the least doubt that in this passage there is a contrast with the walk of one who, however well-disposed, is under law. The more the Christian knows God's will, which is good as well as holy, happiness grows and strength too; whereas law works so as to produce misery and convince of utter weakness. No doubt if there were a deep sense of the presence of God, it would make but little difference with whom we might be, worldly men or children of God. Of course there would be a difference in our bearing to them according to their relation to God or ignorance of Him; but as a fact, we are always deeply affected by the company in which we are, we affect and are affected by those we are thrown with. Therefore, it is evident that when Christ was a revealed person before the soul, and just in proportion as the believer realized his right relationship to Him, so would his walk be. If I know my place as bound to Him, having Him as the object of my heart, and that He is my Head and Bridegroom, it is clear a totally different walk will be the result. The measure and character of the walk among the children of God is formed by the measure of our acquaintance with Christ, where the flesh is sufficiently judged to enjoy it.
But mark again that all through, until we come a little farther down, the apostle does not touch upon the matters in which they had been faulty. In the middle of chapter 2 he tells them plainly wherein they were to blame. This is very important for us to observe; because, if our aim be really the good and deliverance and help of souls, we should see what God's way is of meeting souls and enabling them to escape the snare. The way we best learn is by observing and cleaving to the guidance of the Holy Ghost as shown us in such scriptures as these. It is a rebuke to one's own too frequent bearing toward others, when we think of the marvelous grace and the slowness of the apostle in coming to what people call the point. I have no doubt there is much to learn in this; and so much was it the case, that from the beginning of this epistle we might almost think these Colossians were in a very delightful condition. The apostle is most careful to approach gradually that which pained him and must pain them. He is sapping and milling, as it were, to take the citadel; but it is slow work, though sure.
There is another expression here that is well worthy of our notice: “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing.” It is not worthy of the gospel, neither is it worthy of our calling, &e. These are not the ways in which it is put here. The Ephesians were sufficiently clear of this evil influence and could be instructed freely in the calling of God to which they were called; and therefore he says there “that they might walk worthy of the vocation,” &c. But he says to the Colossians, “worthy of the Lord.” It would not be so easy for them to get rid of the effects of occupation with philosophy and ordinances. The Ephesians had been kept quite clear of this error, and therefore they are exhorted to walk worthy of what they knew was their place.
As the Lord Jesus is pointed to here, so “unto all pleasing” is the measure; it is not as pleasing us or others, but pleasing Him. Now this is wholly different from the law, which just asked so much and no more. The ways of grace were to be unlimited, “worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing.” Therefore he adds immediately, “being fruitful in every good work.” It is all positive and not merely negative like the requirements of the law. “Increasing by the full knowledge of him” here appears to be the thought. It refers to the means of Christian growth. I think the “wisdom and spiritual understanding” means a perception of what is good and wise in God's sight, apart from its being His express command. I might do a thing simply because another wished it, and of course this is quite right where there is due authority. For instance, my father may bid me do such or such a thing, and I may do it without knowing why; but here it is my Father who at the same time skews me the importance of it. Thus “wisdom” sees the beauty and propriety of any given thing and “spiritual understanding” takes the right application. One seizes the cause, the other is occupied with the effect. Hence then the gospel differed from the law. Whether a person entered into the meaning of the law or not, he obeyed simply because God ordered This does not rise to the nature of the Christian's obedience, which enjoys the unfolding of the mind of God in Christ, so that one not only sees His authority, but also its admirably perfect character and its gracious effects. It is quite right a subject, a servant, a minor should learn to obey, if it were only for the sake of obedience. But this is not the Christian principle. The obedience of a Christian is not the blind leading the blind, nor is it the seeing leading the blind, but rather the seeing leading the seeing. But there is very much more in this. It is not merely that people are quickened and bear fruit, but besides that they grow either by or into a deeper knowledge of God Himself. That deepening acquaintance with God, which goes along with the knowledge of His will, is a very important thing in the path of obedience. One knows God better, one enters into His character better, one learns Himself intimately. Another thing which is of great importance, is that there is not only the growing knowledge, but the being strengthened with all might according to the power of His glory; for that is the idea—it is not “His glorious power,” but the power of His glory. It supposes that the glory of Christ has a most decided effect, as the way in which strength is formed or communicated.
If I look at Christ here on the earth, I see Him in weakness and shame and rejection, but in the deepest grace withal, and no where so much as on the cross; and although we cannot do without it (indeed Christ everywhere is unspeakably precious and absolutely necessary for us), yet for the Christian the place of strength is to look at Christ risen and glorified. No doubt this thought of Christ as one down here in this world is what draws out the affections, even as the cross meets the need of conscience; but neither gives strength in itself, neither is intended of God to give all that we want. Hence while those who know Christ at all will surely find in Him life and blessing, yet they are never strong where His earthly path is all that occupies their hearts. What then supplies our need as to this? Such should weigh what is said in 2 Cor. 3: “We all with open face beholding as in a glass, the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory.” This gives practical power. So here the question of power connects itself with His glory. If sympathy be in question, it is always connected with His life down here, for instance in Hebrews, though Christ is spoken of at the right hand of God, &c., yet it is chiefly as once tempted in all points like us, yet without sin, touched, with a feeling of our infirmities. This is most comforting as to the power of sympathy. Eternal life and strength are two very different things. The only idea with many is following Christ as an example. Of course it is admirable; but what is to give power? I must be in relationship with God first, a possessor of eternal life, and then power is wanted. I am not in the position till I know redemption through the blood of Christ, and power is only found in Christ risen and glorified. The spring of power is not in looking at what He was down here, but having the consciousness of the glory that is in Him, the power of that filling my own heart, and making the certainty of being with Him. I shall thus not shrink from the rejection that was Christ's portion down here, being strengthened “unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness.” It is an evil world that we are passing through; but we have this wonderful secret: we have the consciousness of better blessing we possess in Christ. Therefore, let me observe, it should be the very opposite of a man going through trial with his head bowed down. Let it be according to the power of His glory with joyfulness, “giving thanks unto the Father which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”
This is a present meetness. Sharing the portion of the saints in light is a most wonderful favor; but the apostle does not hesitate to predicate it of these Colossians whom he was going to rebuke with all solemnity in the next chapter. Still he says the Father has qualified us for sharing the portion of the saints in light. It is purposely put “in light” to show how absolute is the effect of God's work in Christ. It is not simply the inheritance, because that would not of itself present the idea of unsparing holiness, as light does. Again, the portion of the saints in light is not upon the earth or in the heavens merely, but in the light where God dwells as such. Wondrous place for us! Our Father has made us meet for this. The effect of law is always to put God at a distance. Therefore here the Father is put forward. There are many persons who only look at God as the Creator and the Judge. Although they admit life in Christ, yet are they not at home with the Father. They make of Christ what the Papists make of the Virgin Mary. It is all false. This was what made the necessity of bringing the Father especially forward. In Ephesians it was not necessary to do so: they were intelligent in the truth. Here although the great object is to make Christ, the unqualified glory of Christ, to be that which shuts out ordinances, &c.; yet the apostle brings in the Father, sheaving that the Father was acting in His love. The combination of perfect love, and our being made meet for light now, is a wonderful truth. As to the light, the Christian is always in the light, but he may not always walk according to it. A Christian, if he sins, sins in the light, and this is what gives it such a daring character. He may be in a dark state himself practically, still he is always in the light. And it is precisely this which makes a Christian's sin to be so very serious. He is doing it in the presence of perfect love and in the presence of perfect light. There is therefore no excuse for it.
This blessing depends upon two things; first upon the effect of the blood of Christ in completely atoning for our sins, and next upon the fact that we have the life of Christ communicated to us, which life is capable of communing with God in the light. Both these gifts of grace are absolutely true of every Christian. He has the blood of Christ cleansing him as much as he ever can have, and he has life in Christ communicated to his soul as much as ever can be. What follows in after experience is simply having a deeper estimate of what Christ's blood has done and what He Himself is, who has shown us such infinite favor and done so much for us. Our Father has done more, as the apostle shows further how we are thus qualified: “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness.” It is not merely a question of wicked works, but of the power of darkness; and how could they be delivered from Satan? He says they were delivered and, more than that, “translated into the kingdom of the Son of his love.” It is all perfectly done. The deliverance from the enemy of God is complete, and so is the translation into the kingdom of the Son of His love. “In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” “Through His blood” has been inserted in the vulgar text and followed in our version, but it really belongs to Ephesians. I do not doubt the copyists put it in here because it was there. There is greater fullness in Ephesians than in Colossians. Hence the former shows how we can be so blessed, spite of our sins entering into the statement of the account there. But here it is just summing up the blessing, “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins; who is the image of the invisible God.”
The object evidently is not so much to dwell upon the work of Christ, but to show His personal glory. Christ is never said to be the likeness of the invisible God, because it might imply that He was not really God. This would be fatally false; for He is God (and without it God's glory and redemption are vain), but yet He is the image of the invisible God, because He is the only person of the Godhead that has declared Him. (See John 1:18.) The Holy Ghost does not manifest God. He does manifest His power, but not Himself, but Christ is “the image of the invisible God.” He has presented God in full perfection; He is the truth. He who has seen Him has seen the Father. He was always the One who made God manifest. The word “image,” as has been remarked, is continually used in Scripture for representation. Such is the first thought. Christ is the image of the invisible God.
The next glory is that He is the first-born of all creation. This seems obviously contrasted with His being the image of the invisible God. Christ as truly became a man as He was and is God. He was made flesh. He is never, nor could be, said to be made God. He partook of flesh and blood in time, but from everlasting He is God. Having shown that He was the image of the invisible God, the apostle then speaks of Him as the first-born of all creation. How could this be? Adam was the prototype. We might have thought he was first; but here, as elsewhere, the title of first-born is taken in the sense of dignity rather than of mere priority in time. Adam was the first man; but was not nor could be the first-born. How could Christ, so late in His birth here below, be said to be the first-born? The truth is, if Christ became a man and entered the ranks of creation, He could not be anything else. He is the Son and heir. Just so we are now by grace said to be the Church “of the first-born,” although there were saints before the Church. It is a question of rank not of date. Christ is truly first-born of all creation; He never took the creature place until He became a man, and then must needs be the first-born. Even if he had been the last-born literally, He must still be the first-born; for it has nothing to do with the epoch of His advent, but with His intrinsic dignity. All others were but the children of the fallen man Adam, and could in no sense be the first-born. He was as truly man as they but with a wholly peculiar glory. What makes it most manifest is, that He is here declared to be first-born of all creation, “for by Him were all things created.” This makes the ground perfectly plain. He was first-born of all creation, because He w he entered the sphere of manhood's creaturedom was the Creator, and therefore must necessarily be the first-born. This is the plain and sure meaning of the passage, in the strongest way confirming the deity of Christ, instead of weakening it in the least, as some have conceived through strange misunderstanding. Hence they have changed the rendering to “born before all creation.” It is impossible to take it so. But indeed there is no need for a change. God's word is wiser than men. There is no Scripture which shows His dignity more than this.
First, then, He is said to be the image of the invisible God. Then we have His human place, in which He was first-born; because, being God, it could not be otherwise. In Hebrews, He is said to be constituted heir, because He was the Son of God. But here it is “all things were created in virtue of Him;” it is not merely “by” Him but in virtue of His own divine power.
“For by him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created by Him and for Him.” All this reaches to things of which we know little, and beyond our ken. As we had before what was in virtue of His power; so now it is by Him, because Christ was both one who acted in His own divine right, and also one who acted instrumentally for God the Father's glory. All things were created by Him. The word created is different; in one case it is a past action, but in the other it is the present effect of a past action, the first being the power that made to exist, the second rather the present result of it. “And he is before all things,” &c. Not merely was He before all things, but before all (God only, of course, excepted). Nor was it merely that all things were, but they were created for His pleasure. “And by [or, in virtue of] him all things consist.” In virtue of Him gives a clearer and more intimate idea. The object here is to take away all vagueness in exalting Christ.
But, again. “He is the head of the body, the Church, who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.” We shall find a reason for this in what follows. It is interesting to see that there are two very distinct firstborns: first-born of all creation, because He is the Creator; and first-born from the dead, as a plain and weighty matter of fact. Thus Christ is not only the head of creation as man, but He is first-born from the dead as risen. It is in connection with this that He is Head of the Church. He was not in this relationship upon earth; He was not so simply as taking humanity. Incarnation is an entirely distinct truth from His headship of the Church, which involves the further truth of union. It is evident that His headship of the body, the Church, is introduced by His being risen from the dead, and having taken His place in heaven. But Colossians does not at once begin with the heavenly place of Christ. Ephesians presents Him plainly as risen and seated as Head. Here it is more general, and does not speak of His being in heaven; He is “the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.” Many confound union with incarnation; but union is not His taking flesh and blood here below, but our being made members of His body, now that He is risen and glorified. There could have been no union with Him until death and resurrection, and the Holy Ghost was given to unite us with Him in that risen condition; then and not before we have the body, the assembly. He had a human body, of course; but the mystical body is formed by the Holy Ghost sent down after He rose from the dead. The one was connected with the earth, the other with heaven.

Notes on Colossians 2:13-19

Much as the Spirit of God brings out the quickening power of Christ in this epistle, He never pursues the ultimate or highest consequences of the work of Christ. Quickened or raised up by Him, or rather raised together with Him, is the utmost we find here; but there He stops. Again in chapter 3, although He says, “seek those things that are above,” He does not say we are there, but on the contrary, looks at the saint as being on earth, while seeking the things that are above. Thus, this epistle never goes so far as Ephesians; it never says we are seated in heavenly places. As we have seen and as is clear, the current of the communications of grace was interrupted; there was a hindrance before the apostle. The Holy Ghost cannot freely show the saints the things of Christ, where He has to show them their own things. He turns aside to occupy himself with the truth practically and apply it to them, which is never the sign of souls being thoroughly bright; for there ought not to be such a need for arresting the flow of grace and truth. In Ephesians, on the contrary, the work of Christ is carried out to all its fullest consequences; the healthy state of the saint is unfolded; and exhortations follow proportionately high.
We have an instance here of the way in which the apostle, having brought in a general principle, turns to them and says, “you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;” then in verse 16, he goes aside to show how very pointedly and completely the work of God would take them away from the things of the flesh and law— “Having blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us,” &c. Yet you want to get ordinances again! The only effect of this handwriting must be against you: it is very strongly expressed; and the apostle repeats it in a double form. These Colossian saints were not so far gone in legalism as to put Christians under the ten commandments as a rule of life. To bring in ordinances even, was not so ruinous; because they at least derive their entire value from the truth of Christ, couched and shadowed forth in them; whereas, there is nothing like making a rule of life of the law for awakening the spirit of self-righteousness in the confident, and of distrust and despair in more diffident souls, reversing exactly the way of grace with both. The apostle insists, that even to let in the principle of ordinances now is to renounce the fundamental truth of death and resurrection, that is, of Christianity, because they suppose men alive in the world, not dead and risen in Christ. Those led aside may not mean to do anything of the sort; but the enemy does who misleads them. It is going back to dealings of a preparatory kind, into flesh and the world, and in effect a forsaking of the glorious privileges of Christ to do so. The apostle does not dwell here as in Galatians on the consequences of our being made debtors to fulfill the whole law, if we venture under it at all; but he shows, that it is a denial of Christ, as we know Him, if we allow of going back to law in any form, ordinances or not. It is the folly of making a merit of a return to the discipline of the rod and the value of the letter-game and the dissected map and the toy—rewards for full-grown men.
It is evident that, in the handling of men of philosophic tone, the rite of circumcision might be made a much more spiritual thing than any man could work out of the law as a rule of life. For they might say, as men have said, that circumcision was pressed only as the emblem of what we have in Christ, an ancient and divine though of course outward sign of spiritual grace. But the step was fatal; for if they admitted that sign, it was a recurrence to shadows when the substance was come; it was a relinquishment of grace too for the principle of law. The fathers had circumcision, no doubt, before Moses, which was then especially connected with promise. Still, although it was originally before the nation's responsibility to the law was pledged at Sinai, it was after that so embedded in the law that they cannot be separated. Take up circumcision now; and if you do not put yourself, the law puts you, under its whole system, and separates you, in principle, front Christ as an exalted heavenly Head who has accomplished redemption. Thus, if there was one ordinance that more than any might symbolize with promise and grace, it was circumcision; yet so strong was the apostle, that he tells the Galatians, that, admitting it at all, they became debtors to do the whole law. To the Colossians he goes farther, and shows how it contradicts and sets aside the work of Christ, and the place of association with Him, into which we are thereby brought before God. Hence he here intimates what sort of circumcision we already have as Christians; it is of divine operation and not human: “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the flesh,” &c.: “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him,” &c.
In Galatians, the law is in connection with justification; in Colossians, with Christ risen from the dead and in heaven. Christ, at any rate, is there; and although we are not seen to be in Him there, His exaltation to God's right hand really decides our place as dead with Him and risen with Him; not merely as justified by His blood, but dead and risen with Him. Of all this exceeding rich roll of blessing, subjection to ordinances is the denial; for what has Christ to do with the law now? And it is with Christ as He is, not as He was under law, that we are associated. In Hebrews we have another thing; it is not our death and resurrection with Christ, but Christ now appearing in the presence of God for us in glory, which is founded upon the perfection of His work, His one offering, which has forever put away sin. He is there, at the right hand of God, because He has by Himself purged our sins. The law as a code or system for us is inconsistent with Christ's place in glory as the bright exhibition of our triumph through God's grace; and such is the Christian way of looking at Christ. We do not, it is true, find our association with Christ dead or risen in Hebrews; still less is it the display of our union with Him above; neither is it justification, as in Romans and Galatians, but the value of His work measured by His position in heaven shines there with special luster. Any allowance of ordinances now is proved to be a gainsaying of His work and of the glory He has in heaven, in danger, too, of leading to apostasy.
From verse 13, then, the apostle takes great pains to set before the saints at Colosse their condition without and with Christ: “You being dead in your sins, &c., hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” The very life we have received as believers is the token that our trespasses are gone. If God has quickened us with the life of Christ, He has forgiven us all trespasses. It is impossible that life in Christ dead and risen could have anything against it. There was everything against the believer once, but the possession of life in a risen Savior necessarily attests that all is righteously forgiven to him who believes. It is a remarkable way of putting the case, an exactly parallel case to which you can scarce find in any other part of Scripture.
In general, as we too well know, recourse is had to ordinances for meeting shortcomings, whetting spiritual appetite, &c. It is never in Christendom the open, despised denial of Christ, but the supply of certain aids to faith (!) or feeling besides Christ. This is precisely what the apostle affirms to be so unbelieving and evil. “Blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us,” observe, not against you, but against us. When the apostle comes to speak of the operation of the law, he will not say “you,” but “us;” as, again, “which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” The fact is, the Colossian saints, being Gentiles, had never been under law at all, and therefore he does not say “you;” but when he spoke of sins just before, he said you: “You being dead in your sins,” &c. This makes the distinction very striking. “You” occurs in verse 13, because it applies to any sinner now, Jew or Gentile; while it is “us” in verse 14, because none but Jews, strictly speaking, were under law. The allusion to handwriting was very notable also; for the Gentiles had never put their hands to it, whereas the. Jews had affirmed “all that the Lord hath spoken we will do,” and thereon had been sprinkled with the blood as a seal of the legal covenant they had signed under penalty of death.
The apostle declares this was contrary to them and only brought in as we know, condemnation, darkness, and death. What has Christ done in respect to all this? He has blotted it out, taken it out of the way. Do you want, like the Colossians, to bring it back again? Christ nailed it to His cross—an expression of entire triumph over it. “And having spoiled principalities and powers he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”
It is very interesting to see the way in which the power of evil is viewed according to the place we are in. When the Church appears, it is not so much Satan's power on earth which was the way the Jews felt it chiefly; but we have the special disclosure, that he is the prince of the power of the air, and that the wicked spirits are in heavenly places. (Eph. 2 and 6.) This in no way clashes with what we have in the Old Testament; only now it is brought out more fully, and shown to be the position in which they are as opposed to the Christian. In Rev. 12 we see them (the dragon and his angels) ejected from heaven. They wanted to keep the heavenly places; they desired to hinder the Church, and dishonor God in His saints, that they might have a righteous claim over them as it were. It was intolerable to them that such as had behaved badly on earth should be at last with the Son of God in heavenly places. Alas I how many here below of the very race whom God so distinguishes in His mercy betray that they are of their father the devil, by love of falsehood and by hatred of God's grace and truth. Here we have the effect of the work of Christ upon these powers—leading them in triumph on the cross. It is not so high a tone of triumph as in Eph. 4, where, it is said, Christ led captivity captive. The powers that led believers into captivity were themselves vanquished. The reason is manifest. It was when He ascended up on high. Here we hear of what was done on the cross, the power of the cross; but there it is the public manifestation of the victory, in ascending up on high. The great battle was won. Christ had forever defeated the powers of evil for the joint-heirs. This ascending up on high, and leading captivity captive, is the witness that they are powerless against the Christian. The language is always adapted to the point of view which the Holy Ghost is taking—whether it be of earth or heaven, whether of Israel or the Church. More than this, it depends on how and where He looks at the saints now. If they are viewed as in the wilderness, there is a different style and figure. Satan is spoken of as “a roaring lion,” which suits the wilderness, and hence that is not the way he is spoken of in Ephesians, but in 1 Peter.
Now comes the practical turn to which the apostle applies this. “Let no man therefore judge you in meat or in drink, or in respect of a feast, or new-moon, or sabbaths; which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (Ver. 16, 17.) A Christian man who knows the victory of Christ for us should not surely entertain the idea of going back to these elementary forms of working good. Hold fast your actual place in Christ, act consistently with it. As to eating and drinking or ordinances relative to the year, month, and week (and the apostle takes particular care to speak not merely of feast or new moon but of sabbaths) remember that these things but prefigure the body or substantial good found really and only in Christ. In fact, these times and seasons point chiefly to what God will give His people by and by. The new moon was a remarkable type of Israel, being renewed after fading away; as the sabbath was the type of the rest of God which He will yet enjoy and share. But whether it be peace or drink-offerings or the feasts in general, they are connected as the shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. This we have. The Jew had the shadow, and he will have the things to come by the grace of God under the new covenant by and by. We are given the substance of Christ now. It is a question here of Jewish days. The Lord's day has nothing to do with Judaism, it is not only apart from but in contrast with that system. The Lord's day is as distinctly a Christian institution as the Lord's supper, the Jew having nothing to do with either. It is very important to see that God has put honor upon the day of resurrection and grace. When people are radically loose or begin to slip away from the Lord, an early symptom is carelessness about this day. There ought to be an exercised conscience about it, not only for our own selves, but also as to servants within and others without our houses. It is of very great consequence that sense of liberty and grace should not even have the appearance of laxity or selfishness.
It is not exactly said the body is Christ. It is said “the Lord is that spirit,” not that body, which was within the letter of the law. “The body” is used in contrast with “the shadow.” There is no substance in a shadow, but we have the body which is of Christ. The twofold idea is, that while the substance is of Him, He is the spirit of all. Verse 16 deals chiefly with a Judaizing character of evil; but verse 18 goes farther and shows a kind of prying into the unseen, not so much the religious use or misuse of the seen, which was the Jewish snare, but dabbling with philosophy, specially of the Orientals. There was a great appearance of humility in all this, as there always is in false systems. The worship of angels seemed right and due; especially as no term peculiar to divine worship was used. Let it be ever so modified, still the apostle speaks of it strongly. “Let no man deprive you of your reward, doing his will in humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by the mind of his flesh.” The Orientals indulged in abundant speculation about angels. It is true there are such beings; but it is the prying into such subjects that is so evil. They have to do with us, but not we with them. Our business is with God. Now it seemed to be a reasonable inference that, if angels had to do with us, we must have to do with them; and inasmuch as they had to do with God immediately, why should we not have recourse to them with Him? It was a not unnatural thought: what then makes it so grievous an error? It is the setting aside of Christ who is the Head of all and so above angels. Christ is the One who determines our relation before God; and for all our need with God we have Christ the great high priest. Thus the putting angels in this place is a double dishonor to Christ. Such a speculator was “vainly puffed up by the mind of his flesh.” It might be plausible; but it injured not only the soul's enjoyment of Christ but His nature and glory to indulge in thoughts of the kind. “And not holding fast the Head, from whom all the body, by joints and bands being ministered to and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.” (Ver. 19.) It was false teachers who were thus depriving the saints of their blessing. These men habitually and instinctively seek to ingratiate themselves with the children of God whose unsuspecting simplicity exposes them to be carried away by them. The worship of angels was one method in which the evil showed itself there and evinced its false character. The Holy Spirit is come down to glorify Christ, not angels. He who went beyond Scripture after angels, certainly did not hold fast the Head. The reference here to ministry is not at all the same as in Ephesians, where the apostle enters into it copiously and shows the spiritual gifts in their chief forms from the highest down to the least, by which the body works for itself the building of itself up in love. Hence, if souls came together in a very simple way, it might still be for edification. Here all is put together, not expanded and distinguished as in Ephesians.
If God has led such into the place where Christ's headship (I may add, too, the Holy Ghost's presence) is held and acted, how can they expect blessing from those who do not see nor act upon it? These truths are fundamental for the Church, ministry, &c. We have to hold to the will of God, and God has His own will as to all this, and His own wisdom and way, which ought to be something in our eyes. Here we are told of joints and bands—the various means which Christ employs for the spiritual blessing and profit of His people. It enables the body to work better; it concentrates the saints around Christ, and for His glory. It is well to seek the diffusion of blessing to others; but for the saints the truest thing is the power of gathering to Christ Himself, not merely sending out servants, but gathering to Christ as Lord where there is need of spiritual power to hold together. This is to increase “with the increase of God.” There is then enlargement, comfort, and consolation. The power that is expressed is not in conversion only but works within in positive blessing and self-judgment.

Notes on Colossians 2:20-23

Here we have the application spiritually of these two great truths, the death and the resurrection of Christ. They had been already put together in verse 12. “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him.” “And you, being dead in your sins, hath he quickened together with him.” (Ver. 13.) Now, from verse 20th to the 23rd, we have the consequences of being thus dead with Christ, as in chapter 3 from the first verse onwards we have the meaning of the resurrection of Christ, that which it secures and to which the Holy Ghost calls us as thus risen with Christ. The use that is made of our death with Christ is not that we are redeemed. In this point of view the blood of Christ is ever made prominent. It is not that the forgiveness of all trespasses is omitted; but the death of Christ and, our association with Him goes much farther here and introduces us to another line of truth altogether. We might have seen the offering of His body, the shedding of His blood, and there might have been no presentation of death with Him. What is here founded upon our being dead with Christ is the having nothing to do with nature or the world in the things of God. The whole force of the world's religion denies death with Christ: it does not see and will not admit the total ruin of man as he is. What the world thinks of in a religion is that which will suit people in every variety of condition. Human wisdom provides for each and all, for the becoming religious observance of the entire population of a land. Thus all decent people, all who are not scandalous livers, &c., are made worshippers, and have a religion adapted to their thoughts of themselves and God, mainly occupied with what man essays to do for God. It is a mixture of heathenism with Jewish forms and finds its element in certain abstinences as its holiness. As there can be no positive enjoyment of Christ, the negative must be its essential characteristic. God embodied these very elements in Judaism, where was a religion of the flesh and a worldly sanctuary. He Himself made the experiment, so to speak, of an immense system of restrictions, which is the only conceivable plan for man as such to be holy to the Lord. Hence we find the trial under every advantage of this kind of worship in the Levitical law. Besides the restraint put on man's will morally in the ten words, particular meats and drinks were forbidden. They were not even to touch certain ceremonially unclean objects. All this had to do with man in the flesh, though I doubt not that every ordinance in the Jewish system had a weighty meaning as shadowing better things in Christ. There were always precious truths couched under these forms and ceremonies. The letter kills (that is, the mere outward husk of the system), but the spirit gives life, wherever there was faith to lay hold of the spiritual import.
Now if we are “dead with Christ,” where is the application to us of “touch not, taste not, handle not?” Such injunctions disappear entirely, because, if already and really dead with Christ, I am outside such language and ideas. You might as well exhort a dead man as to his old wants or duties. The old religious system for man in the flesh is absolutely done with for the Christian. It is to contradict the foundation on which he stands, yea, his very baptism. In Christ he is dead to the world. Hence, if a Christian mingle with the world's religion, he invariably loses the sense of being dead with Christ, as well as the true judgment of the world and man. The only means by which the world could ever be religious, is by a resort to the law, as we see in every national system, and indeed in every effort to win the acceptance of man as such. But this is now to give up Christ dead and risen, little as men think it. Here the apostle seems to allude to the general system of human restriction in religious matters rather than to any particular part of the Old Testament. When a man dies, he leaves behind him his wealth, rank, ease, reputation, energy, that constituted his enjoyment in this life. So does the Christian from the starting-point, by virtue of Christ's death and resurrection. Only it is a great truth on which he is called to act while he is still on the earth. In Christ he is now dead to the world. There is in many Christians the entire overlooking of this truth either as a privilege for enjoyment or as a reality for practice. To them it is a mere mysticism, the idea of being dead and risen with Christ, which they are too humble and reverent to look on and think about. Let me add that it is not the same thing as having life in Christ, for this was of course ever true of believers before there was or could be such a standing as that of being dead and risen with Christ. After the death and resurrection of Christ such was the great change in this respect that then came in.
It is thus evident that to be dead with Christ takes a person not only out of the world in spirit, but out of the whole system of its religion. “If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?” Such had been the condition of men, at best, before Christ. They were at the letters so to speak; the rudiments or elements had their place and trial. But now, the Son of God being come and having given us to know Him that is true, it is the substance and fullness of the truth that we know in knowing Christ. The work of Christ rested on by faith fits the believer now for this place where old things are passed away and all things are made new. “Why, as though living in the world,” is a most remarkable expression. It shows that we are not true to our standing, as well as to Christ, if we are as men alive in the world. We have a new life, which is the life of Him who is dead and risen; and this has now brought us into the condition of death to all that is of the world. Hence as to the religion of the world, the Christian has in principle as really done with it as Christ Himself had after His death. What had our Lord from His cross to do with the fasts and feasts of the Jews? Absolutely nothing, neither ought we; and by “we” I mean every real Christian. The time of patience with the Christian Jews is long passed away; there is no longer the smallest ground of excuse.
I admit that the great mass of Christians will not hear of such a breach with the world; and thus comes one severe trial of those who see it thus a foundation truth of Christ. Have they in grace made up their minds for His sake to be counted fanatical, foolish, proud and narrow, committing these and all other calumnies to Him who loves them, and knows the end from the beginning? The taking up the rudiments of the world, is then a flat practical contradiction to our death with Christ. The Colossians were in danger of this snare. They did not see why, because they were Christians, they should leave off what seemed good enough done among the Jews or Gentiles. They wanted to hold on to the truth of Christ, but to keep up or adopt along with it religious forms which had been observed in olden times. No, says the apostle, it is Christ who is all our good, and nothing but Christ: we need nothing else. Christ is all. Nothing was so exclusive as Christ and the cross; and yet what was so large? “In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” But He was rejected. Since then Jewish forms and principles had lost all their ancient value. In Galatians the apostle speaks even more strongly than here. He charged those who would observe days and months and times and years with going back to heathenism. “Howbeit then when ye knew not God, ye did service to them which by nature are no gods” (that was their old Gentile condition); “but now after that ye have known God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?” They thought that it was to improve on the early simplicity of the Gospel, if they borrowed from the law, and little did they expect the apostolic rebuke, that it is as bad for Christians to take up Jewish elements as to turn back to idolatry. It is in truth now shown to be the same principle: such is the light in which the cross of Christ puts these worldly elements. Before many years are over, there may be seen a strange amalgam not merely between the churches so called, but between Christendom and Judaism. The loss of the temporalities of the Roman See is no unimportant step in the chain of events. In due time Rome will be left free for the Beast to display his power in, Jerusalem becoming the central seat of religion to which Christendom will turn. There will not only be idolatry, but the abomination of desolation: the man of sin will be set up and worshipped in his time. All work on towards a worse evil than even Popery itself.
But if such will be the end, the way now is “living in the world,” which means that the heart is here, that one has settled down to the world's religion. A Christian, on the contrary, is one who belongs to heaven. The error of embracing these Jewish elements practically denied this, and especially the being dead with Christ. The only sure way to judge of anything is to bring in Christ. The question here is, how stands Christ in view of the world's religion? When He lived here below, He, undoubtedly, went to the temple, owning and practicing the law (however truly the only begotten Son of the Father), for God did; He had not yet given up Israel, man, the earth, all things here below. But where and how is Christ now? One cannot, again, have and keep truth unless it be followed out, and God does not mean that we should possess it otherwise. He gives a testimony; the light shines; but the truth only fills a soul when acted on: else the light that is within becomes darkness, and then how great is that darkness! Need one hesitate to affirm, that if a man professed to understand what it is to be dead with Christ and yet went on with the world's religion, he would show himself to be a thoroughly dishonest man? It is more than a want of intelligence. What more solemn, save sacrificing Christ's person? Those who seem to have the truth but refuse to act upon it, will ere long become enemies of the truth which they do not follow.
The religion of the world has to do with this creation; it belongs to those things of which people can say, “Touch not, taste not, handle not.” Take the principle of consecrated buildings, holy places within the holy, sacred vestments, anything of that kind which perishes with the using, all is connected with the world and the flesh is capable of enjoying it. To say it does not matter where or how we worship God, is as bad as any evil. There is nothing worse than indifference in the things of God. Those who are thus careless in what regards God, are not wanting in vigilance as to what concerns themselves. I speak, of course, of the general facts, not of individuals. If we did not know ourselves associated with Christ dead and risen, our worship ought to be a kind of accommodated Judaism, which was the religion of a people living in the world. Now, on the contrary, all that is entirely judged in the cross to be enmity against God; and Christians are called to have nothing to do with it. There is wonderful blessedness in realizing where the death of Christ puts us. It has quite closed with whatever is alive in the world, with all that a man in the world might value. Living in the world takes two great forms, one superstitious, the other secular, self being necessarily the root of both. Being dead with Christ delivers us from both. Take the American churches as the secular form in religion, the one idea is to make themselves comfortable even in devotion. The idea of worshipping God is gone. They have no notion what it is to be dead with Christ. The greater danger, however, lies on the other or superstitious side, because that has a fine skew of humility, piety, and reverence. But those who are truly, wonderfully, delivered through death and resurrection with Christ ought to avoid all reproach of lightness and negligence. Unbecoming behavior is nowhere so painful as where the Christian standing is known and the ground of God's Church is taken.
Then the apostle gives us a sample of what these ordinances are. It is not the power of the Spirit of God unfolding the things of Christ, but something that relates to self, chiefly of a negative character. Such of old was the dealing of law with flesh in an evil world. Faith is now entitled to look on Christ in heaven. “Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh.” This is not God's will, but man devising means of pleasing Him out of his own head. All this clothes itself with a great apparent lowliness, and cherishes asceticism. It is exactly what philosophy has done—denying the proper place of our bodies. How strikingly, on the contrary, does the New Testament bring out the vast importance of the body It proclaims, for instance, that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost. This is most important, and, itself the effect of redemption, is the true ground of Christian morals. “Yield up your members as instruments of righteousness to God;” “Present your bodies a living sacrifice,” &c. The philosophic mind of Corinth went on the principle that it mattered not about the body, provided the spirit was all right. The apostle insists that the body is the temple of the Holy Ghost. (1 Cor. 6:19, 20.) Farther, there is the truth of the resurrection of the body, and not merely the immortality of the soul. The emphasis is upon the body; so that although the body is fallen under sin, the power of the Holy Ghost is there, who is said to dwell in each believer. You cannot reclaim the flesh, you cannot improve the will. The old man has to be judged, denied, treated as vile; but the body is even now made the temple of the Holy Ghost. Adam before he fell had body, soul, and spirit; but directly he fell, he acquired self-will—the loving to have his own way This is a thing we should always treat as evil, and judge ourselves if in any way we allow it to act. What can give a man such power to do this as Christ known thus in full delivering grace? Like the captured sword of Goliath, “none like that.” If I am dead and risen with Christ, where is the old man It does not exist in the sight of God; therefore we are not to allow it in the sight of men.
The prime thought of worldly religion is correcting the flesh, and improving the world. The mind finds greater glory in itself by ascetic efforts. Neglect of the body may be at the same time a puffing up of the flesh. It was a heathenish idea, the foster-child of philosophy. They willingly believed that the soul was holy if not the body, some contending that the soul came from God and the body from the devil. This was productive of frightful evil, to the destruction of all morality. Is there not an answer in Christ to all these wanderings of the human mind? Receiving the truth in Him, you get that which defeats the object of Satan; but the Holy Ghost alone, if I may so say, makes it to be truth in us. May it be received in the love of it!

Notes on Colossians 2:4-12

To some minds there may be a difficulty in the strong language on the one hand, in which the apostle speaks of the Colossians' faith and order; and on the other, in the solemn warnings with which the epistle abounds. It might seem hard at first sight to reconcile the steadfastness of their faith in Christ with the warning we have seen given them— “If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled.” All we have to do is to believe both. What it really proves is, that no blessed order or steadfastness can guarantee a soul that admits wrong thoughts and corrupt principles that shroud, weaken, or lower the glory of Christ. Thus, the seeming incongruity makes the danger more apparent and striking. The fact of their order and the steadfastness of the faith in Christ that had characterized them, were in themselves no effectual bulwark against the evil that menaced them. The apostle felt, and lets them know, that, though they were so blessed, yet by admitting the enticing words of others, their souls would be injured and undermined. No soul, no matter what the blessing in time past or present, can afford to trifle with that which upsets the person or glory of Christ. The Colossians had been remarkably favored; and the apostle rejoiced in beholding their order and steadfast faith in Christ; still in the very verse before he cautions them “lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.” (Ver 4.) What he presses upon them is, that as they had received the Christ, Jesus the Lord, they should walk in Him (ver. 6), abiding as they had begun. Speculation covered over with plausible language, was what they had to guard against. Therefore, though absent in the flesh, the apostle says he was with them in spirit, joying and beholding their order, &c., for this very reason they were to be warned of what would mar the Savior's glory in their testimony. The finest fruit is most easily injured. They would thus practically lose Christ. He does not in the least call in question their real blessing thus far. On the contrary, he reminds them of it, and tells them to walk in Christ, “rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught;” not downcast because of perils, but “abounding therein with thanksgiving.” It is very close work, the object being to exclude the persuasive speech of false men that, if received, would steal them away imperceptibly from Christ.
When we are at rest in Christ before God, we can enter in and behold the manifestation of Himself in Christ, after the most blessed sort. It is very important to see Christ not only in His work of reconciliation but as revealing the Father. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” The Holy Ghost does exalt Christ, no doubt, but then the Son is never exalted, so to speak, at the expense of the Father, any more than the Father can accept honor where the Son is degraded.
The important thing for Christians is to be true to what they believe and confess, or rather to what God has revealed for their faith and confession. Whatever takes us away from the grace and truth which came by Christ, always subverts grace, truth, and Christ. The Colossians had been heretofore happy and really steadfast in their faith in Christ, but they were now allowing doctrines among them which, if not rooted out, would infallibly lead them away from Christ. Here lay their danger. It is astonishing how eagerly and easily Christians are apt to admit something new. The apostle in this case refers to philosophical speculations, which seem to have been brought in at Colosse, as well as Jewish elements, if indeed they were not combined. It was not enough for them to have Christ: they were to walk in Him rooted and built up in Him, assured in the faith, and not caught by these novel dreams, whether of an intellectual or a religions kind. It was thus an early error, that philosophy might be united to Christianity in order to make divine revelation more palatable to earnest, thoughtful minds. It has been all very well, they thought, to preach Christ at first simply, but now that it was no longer a question of a few lowly Galileans, why not address themselves to the great and wise of the earth, sick as many were of heathenism, and repelled by cold Judaism? And, if so, why not meet them as much as possible on their own ground? Why not engraft into Christianity some of the common sense of Aristotle, or, still better, the lofty aspirings of Plato, or yet more readily such high and noble sentiments as Philo represents in his Biblical essays?
Philosophy is one great bane of Christianity now as in these early days. The whole scheme of God's truth and ways is blotted out or has no room left for it in the teaching of philosophy. They overlook creation and the fall. They deify conscience, which man acquired by the fall. They ignore sin and God's judgment of sin. So also God's grace is unknown and the atonement its fruit. Rationalists would reduce divine truth to a mere conclusion that people draw. But truth is never a conclusion. The moment I draw a conclusion, I am on the ground of science. Thus logic is a natural science, the root, one may say, of all others, which submit facts to it; but what has this with submitting to the truth of God? Revelation may pronounce on things as they are in man, as it also gives us things as they are from God; it does not merely show us that such or such a thing must be, which is the province of human reasoning. The truth reveals to us that a thing is. A poor soul might be perplexed to understand what must be; but no one that hears the testimony can avoid receiving or rejecting, if God declares that a given thing or person is. Hence the vast importance of faith.
The Colossians were beginning to let in two snares—a reasoning mind, and certain ascetic mortifications of the body. The one was in connection with philosophy, the other in connection with Judaism. These were the two great errors then slipping in, of whose real character and source they were not aware. The apostle warns them (ver. 8) though he had just told them he rejoiced in their faith and order. How sad in them to slip! But this is not all. He as good as says, Take care of what you are doing, of letting go what has produced such fruits for the fair promises some are holding out to you. They tell you these new thoughts and ways can be held along with Christ; but let me say that you are embracing and taking up that which will frustrate, sooner or later, the truth which you now profess. The effect invariably is, that those who are not really born of God receive these inner dreams and outer forms instead of Christianity, while true believers are seriously damaged and lose their delight in Christ, and their testimony for Him. The one error suits the speculative, the other would meet those of a more practical turn of mind. No wonder, therefore, he exhorts them to be “rooted and built up in Christ, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” This last word is much to be weighed. I suppose their thanksgivings were beginning to wane, for such is the immediate effect of other things intruding into the place of Christ.
“See lest there shall be any one that leads you as his prey through philosophy and vain deceit according to the tradition of men, according to the rudiments of the world and not according to Christ.” The earth gives clouds and not light. Man promises and undertakes much; but he can really give nothing but the blinding deceits of the master he is enslaved to. There is the deepest possible necessity for these warnings. Speculation about the origin of things, in which the Orientals, Gnostics, &c., delighted, as about the eternity of matter for instance, might not have seemed directly dangerous. People are ready enough to say, my philosophy is one thing, my religion another. They might reason then, as since, that the world must have been made out of something always in existence. This might sound plausible to the mind, but it has a great flaw for the believer; it makes nothing of God and gives His word the lie. Matter becomes the great circumstance before the mind, and God is made like man, a mere active mind, a manufacturer, &c. How grandly the scripture of the Galilean fisherman rebukes Colossian dreamers! “All things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made.” How aptly the error had been already met in chapter 1:16! “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him.” The idea of the eternity of matter brings in from the first something outside God, independent and antagonistic; for this was the further deduction from the actual state of the world. Hence they reasoned of the two first principles, the one good, the other evil. This was the very error which was so much followed out and interwoven into heathen philosophy; especially in the East, as indeed to this day. It is evident that the principle as to the eternity of matter, once admitted, leads the way to an abyss of falsehood and moral evil; and he would soonest fall into these inward or outward excesses who reasons most from his false starting-point. Faith repudiates philosophy, not only as a rival but as an ally; it rests only on God's word; it accepts that word as absolute and exclusive. Therefore had the apostle the best reason for warning them against philosophy and vain deceit, “according to the rudiments of the world and not according to Christ.” They savor of, as they spring from, man as he is, not Christ; they suit the world, not heaven, nor those who belong to it, even while they are upon the earth. “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” What gives a more wonderful view of Christ than this truth which the simplest believer knows, or ought to know, however little able to explain it? There is nothing like it. There alone we have the truth. We know God now; and how? Not by reasoning, as if thus we could search and find Him out. We know Him in Christ as a living person who lived once bodily in this world, who still has His body above the world. We know from God, from His word, that in the person of Christ “dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily,” not merely in His spirit, but really in Him bodily, though He be now glorified. He had a real, true body from the incarnation, but He had all the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in Him thus.
Nor is this all. The apostle adds, “Ye are complete in him;” so that you do not want philosophy even if it contained anything good, still less since it is positively bad. What we want is to enjoy Christ better and to walk more according to Him—not to glean other things from man as if they could enrich Christ, whereas they do but corrupt the truth. Man fallen is away from God, and under the power of the devil. This is the fact that makes these human notions so false and ruinous. Philosophical principles spring from death and can only produce death. In all heathenism (and perhaps one might say as much of Christendom) there is nothing more deadly than its philosophy. It is only less deceitful than the world's religion. It sounds reasonable, and a man gets charmed with the beauty or boldness of thoughts, imaginations, language, &c. Faith destroys both superstition and infidelity by the truth of God, and this by the revelation of Christ. The fullness of the Godhead never dwelt in the Father bodily or in the Holy Ghost but only in Christ. He was the only One of whom this wonderful reality could be affirmed. The whole fullness in Him dwelt and dwells still. “The Father that dwelleth in me (said He here below), he doeth the works.” Again, “If I by the Spirit of God cast out devils,” &c. Here we have not only the Son, but in and by Him the three Persons of the Godhead active in grace in this evil world. And faith receives what Scripture says of the unseen and eternal: faith acts on God's revealed mind as to the present. Unbelieving man refuses what is above himself and draws inferences from what he knows or does not know; but God will destroy both him and them. It is not only that all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ, but we are (not that fullness) but filled full in Him. We may be and are said to be the fullness of Christ (Eph. 1), but never, of course, of the Godhead.
Hence we “are complete in him who is the head of all principality and power. In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body [of the sins] of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.” This is expressly in contrast with the external ordinance of circumcision. It should be “putting off the body of flesh,” not the body “of the sins” of the flesh. The true reading makes it a more complete thing: it is not a question of sins, but rather of sin in the nature. “Sins” would hardly be in keeping with the scope of the passage or phrase. It does not refer to the literal fact of circumcision, but to Christ's death. When we believe in Christ, we have all the value of His death made true of us. This is here called circumcision not made by hands in contrast with the ancient ordinance. The meaning and spiritual thought of circumcision is the mortification of human nature, man as he is being treated as a dead thing. It is Christ's death that gives us this privilege. We are brought into association with His death and have all its value in parting with all our ruined condition, the body of the flesh, when we receive Him by faith. His circumcision supersedes all other which in no way stripped off our evil state as man in the flesh.
“Buried with him in baptism whereunto also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God who hath raised him from the dead.” This brings in, not so much Christ's personal glory as His work. The first chapter gave us chiefly His personal glory and even though it spoke of His work, it was the reconciliation of all things, and of the saints withal, meanwhile, before the glory is revealed. Chapter 2 presses His work upon the saints. I have no doubt the wisdom of the Holy Ghost is shown in this: we have first Himself and His work in general, then the specific value and effect of His work for us and on us. There His headship is doubly unfolded with precision; here the fact of His being the Head of all principality and authority, is just alluded to, giving emphasis to our completeness in Him. The reference to circumcision is clearly bound up with Christ's death, &c.; not the legal act to which He submitted, nor a question of His person, but of His work applied to us. This is entirely confirmed by the statement of our being buried with Him in baptism, in which, says he, ye have also been raised with Him, &c. The great point is the linking us to Christ. By Him alone the work was done; but when we believe in Him, we are brought into its efficacy and acquire by grace a common position with Him. It is not merely, that it was by virtue of Him, but in Him this great work was wrought, whereby we have a place in and with Him. The initiatory institution of Christianity sets forth this immense distinctive blessing of the Christian. We owned in baptism that we died in Christ's death out of the condition in which we naturally lived; and now we are risen with Him by faith of the operation of God who raised Him out of the dead. We are thus entered on a new state (not, of course, our bodies yet, in fact, but our souls). The practical application of both death and resurrection with Christ, we shall soon see in the hands of the apostle.

Notes on Colossians 3:1-11

We have seen death with Christ and its consequences applied to the danger which menaced the Colossian saints, judging the evil into which Satan was trying to draw them back. But the effect of this death with Christ was there regarded chiefly in a negative point of view. Why were such as they subject to ordinances? They ought not to be; for in Christ they were dead from the rudiments of the world and had consequently nothing to do with ordinances. These might be all well enough for men alive in the world, but necessarily cannot apply to dead men. It was a total spiritual contradiction. Now the Christian is dead by virtue of the cross of Christ. This is all a matter of faith. Of course he is alive naturally; he is disposed also, if not occupied with Christ, his life, to have old thoughts and habits revived; &c. As a believer I ought to distrust every judgment, every feeling I have had as a natural man, remembering that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God. But now the Christian is looked at as a dead man, aye, dead to the world doing its best, even the religions world. The best the realm of nature can pretend to is in not touching, tasting, handling. Such is its only way of getting the victory, which is really no victory at all, but merely abstinence from certain things, or a system of fleshly restrictions. That is wholly distinct from the principle of the Christian. He looks for the victory of grace. For the death of Christ has delivered him from the whole ground of nature in not touching, tasting, or handling. This was Jewish in principle, and not merely so, but it was the natural religion for man. It is only thus that men try to avoid evil in the world. Christianity does not merely avoid the evil within and around, but brings in death to it all. Christ has died to it, and the Christian should know himself dead to all that is of the world, moral or religious, as decidedly as gross, intellectual or infidel.
In chapter 3 we advance a step farther. The apostle reasons from our being risen with Christ. It is not merely that we shall die and rise, but that we are dead and risen. Even many Christians who use the words constantly, do not really enter into the meaning of this language, and for the obvious and sufficient reason—they are not living in the truth of it practically: they are too habitually mixed up with the world to understand such absolute separation from it. It is not that they are dull of understanding in the things and interests of nature. But their speech and their ways bewray them, proving how far they are from intelligence of the Scripture itself. They substitute mysticism for the truth.
Before Christ came God had appointed a system of ordinances. Judaism was the world's religion in its best shape. Those who were formed in that school, till they underwent a total revolution by grace, never understood the distinctive features of Christianity. Its character was hidden from them. The Jews had no notion of the flesh being utterly ruined—no sense of sin, no understanding of the grace of God. As a nation they were put under law, under Levitical priesthood, under outward sacrifices, under carnal ordinances. All this was a part of what they had to go through, great truths being concealed under these rudimentary pictures. Christendom has taken up the things that were right enough for a Jew, but which are now called “the elements of the world,” as in truth they are. They were not so judged when God was dealing with Israel. It was, however, what the world is capable of. Now they are treated as elements of the world; but it was not so before Christ died.
There are many, for instance, who think you cannot have fit worship for God without a sacred building and ceremonies in accordance and the more beautiful the building, and imposing the ritual, the more they count it acceptable to God. Now all this is part of the elements of the world. Again, there are those who think you cannot have the Lord's Supper without an official ordained for the purpose of administering it. There is no such custom in the Church of God. The apostle repudiates the entire system. It is an invention of the enemy. New Testament Scripture, which reveals the Church, excludes all this. Not only is it not a good thing, but all such thoughts and ways are evil now, and opposed to the cross and the heavenly glory of Christ.
Scripture remains unchangeable (whatever the changes of Christendom), and what we need is to betake ourselves to the light of Scripture. This is a simple but immense safeguard—let us go back to God's word and cleave to that alone. The devil was at this Judaizing work among the Colossians; his great aim was to lead them away to ordinances, Jewish forms which had their lawful place once, but were not in force now. Christianity treats them as of no account, and indeed so far from retaining any value they are treated as childish, and even idolatrous to the Christian. That was naturally a very serious difficulty for a Jew. All that Moses, David, Hezekiah honored as religious observances, were they asked to abandon now? Yes, but Christ had come; and were they not to “hear Him” now? Redemption, the substance of their figures, was wrought: was this to be slighted? The great error of Christendom has always been a going back to ordinances. Take the principle of a consecrated order of men; what is it but the same thing? It is true, all Christians have not the same gift or place; there are only a few gifted to help, lead on, and instruct the many. What is a difficulty to some is, that up to the cross Christ was of course bound up with the Jewish system. But this closed with His cross, resurrection, and ascension. The Christian's connection with Christ is since then founded on the cross, which rent the veil and thus dissolved the Jewish system. Therefore it is said, “Seek the things above where Christ is seated on the right hand of God.” (Ver. 1.) It is very beautiful, the allusion to Christ's place on high outside the world. It is His settled place in glory as our keynote. Not that we are here said to be seated in Him there. In Ephesians that side of the truth is pursued and enforced. But the epistle to the Colossians never carries the believer so high; it shows Christ there, but it does not, so to speak, set us there. The resurrection of Christ or rather our being risen with Him, is urged as the ground for our seeking the things above.
“Let your mind be on the things above, not on the things on the earth.” (Ver. 2.) Who can loyally have divided affections? As our Lord Himself said, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” The Lord put it as a moral impossibility. But here it is put as an exhortation founded on the immense grace that has raised us up with Christ risen. In vain do you essay to be occupied at the same time with things heavenly and earthly. Our calling is to have our mind on the things above, not merely now and again, but at all times. Supposing a person to be engaged in business: is he not to attend to it? Surely; yet not to set his mind on it, but simply to go through all as a duty to the Lord. Ought he not to do it better than another man who has not Christ? I am assured that such would be the fruit of looking to the Lord while the same single-eyedness and faith would preserve him from the snares of covetousness, as well as vain glory. The Christian thus taught and walking has an object before his soil which alone is adequate to raise a man above self and the world. Of course, if he is thus laboring day by day to the Lord, the consciousness of the grace in which he stands would deliver him from the carelessness, or self-indulgence, or speculation, which expose men to get into debt or to act in other dishonorable ways. For this is to sink beneath even decent worldliness. Yet, if a Christian does not walk with exercised conscience to the Lord, he is in danger of doing worse and going farther astray than an ordinary man. Humbling and grievous as this is, it is not surprising. The main object of Satan is put forth to dishonor Christ in those who bear His name, and the power of the Spirit is only with those whose heart is toward Christ. It is not, then, Have your mind partly on things above and partly on things on the earth; but have it not at all on the things that are on the earth. Whatever the Lord gives you to do, you can take up as service to the Lord; but even here there is need to watch narrowly and, not the least, spiritual work in the gospel or in the Church. There is no security in anything but in Him, who sits at the right hand of God. Take, for instance, research into the scriptures. One might be absorbed in the niceties of the language, the prophecies, the poetry, the history, the doctrine, &c. Any or all these might become a snare. There is no safety for us but in Christ Himself—Christ as He is above.
Moreover, there is added a remarkable statement of the reason why we should have our mind upon things above— “for ye have died.” It is not moralizing, like men, even heathen, that we have to die, but the fundamental Christian truth that we are dead. All mystics, old or new, have, as their object, to die. Hence it is a dwelling upon inward experience and human effort—the endeavor to crucify themselves: not “I am crucified with Christi nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” “They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts.” What was suitable for a Jew, so far from being necessarily for a Christian, is on this side of the cross: our foundation is Christ who is dead and risen. Because a thing is in the Bible does not warrant the conclusion that it is God's will for the Christian. We must seek rightly to divide the word of truth. What was formerly right for the Jews is for us nothing but the elements of the world. These forms pointed to a reality that is now come; the body is of Christ. The blessed position of a Christian is, that he is dead even to the best things in the world, and alive to the highest things in the presence of God; for Christ is his life.
To have our mind therefore on the things which accord with Christ in glory is what we are called to—first of all Christ Himself, then the mighty work of Christ in redemption viewed in its heavenly effects. What objects to have before us always! The hopes too that are connected with Christ thus known, spiritual wisdom brought into exercise thereby, the affections kindled and in play; in short, all the fruits of Christ's work in relation to heaven are comprised in these things above. “For ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Ver. 3.) The prevalent notion with many is, that the Christian is just the better qualified to fill a place in the world, because he is a Christian. But this is in truth to deny the primary and precious truth of God, that I am dead, which my very baptism confesses. And it is remarkable that the impression of the world about any one who receives Christ is, that he is dead. They feel that he is lost to his former objects; and if he takes his place in any full measure as belonging to Christ, he does justify the instincts of men; for he ceases to act as one alive in the world. Christendom, alas! soon accustoms him to be false to Christ. But the truth is that “ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God:” As yet it is hidden: Christ has not yet caused His glory to be seen by the world. Therefore should a Christian be content to be for a little while an object of rejection and scorn. Faith and patience are thus put to the proof: God allows it to be so; and a Christian ought not to wonder at it, for Christ had just the same portion. A single eye is not deceived; selfishness is blind to God's glory. We would be true to the moral power of the cross—the night is far spent. The reason why we are despised is thus a blessed source of joy in our sorrow. Then the time is short. All will soon be changed.
There is the further truth, “when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” (Ver. 4.) Christ is not always as now to be hidden; He is about to be manifested; and when He is, we too shall be manifested with Him in glory. God will bring us along with Him, as we learn elsewhere. We shall have been translated to Him, in order that, when He shall be seen by every eye, we may have the same portion with Him. The expression “hid with Christ in God” is a much more emphatic one than simply saying, He is absent in heaven. In John 13 it is said, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself and shall straightway glorify him.” It is not merely glorification in heaven, but what Christ has now in Himself. It is while He is hidden in God, as was said in verse 3, and in contrast with the display of His glory when He comes by and by, as in verse 4. The Colossians had lost sight of this truth in great measure and were in danger of getting on a track that would have deprived them of all enjoyment of peace and confidence in God. The theory was to add what they could to Christ in order to increase the saints' blessing and security, and make a present display to His glory. The apostle shows them that their life is hid with Christ in God. Consequently, though they possess the most perfect security, it is in accord with Christ's place, hidden and not displayed yet. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon earth; fornication, uncleanness,” &c. ( Ver. 5.) Because ye are dead, because ye have this new life, even Christ, and so are dead and risen with Him, mortify your members which are upon earth. What were they? Fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Such is what they, what we really are. It is a wonderfully strong and pointed way of presenting the truth. God is not mocked. Grace does not hinder His judgment either morally in His word or by and by when it shall be executed. “On account of which the wrath of God cometh on the sons of disobedience: in which things ye also once walked, when ye lived in them.” (Ver. 6, 7.)
“But now do ye also put off these all, anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, base language,” &c. It is sweet to see how the truth of being dead with Christ is brought in as deliverance from nature in all its forms, no matter whether corruption or violence. It is the judgment of the first Adam as a whole: nothing is spared. The “ye” is emphatic in verse 7. “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man, renewed unto full knowledge according to the image of him that created him.” God would have His children enjoy the fullest comfort; and indeed it is impossible for a person to be practically holy until he is happy. There may be godly desires and the Spirit be at work; but there is not power till the soul finds its peace and deliverance in another that God gives in pure grace. Then, when he is made happy through Christ and His work of redemption, he goes to God as his Father and has the Holy Ghost as power and all the other practical results which flow from that new relationship. “Where there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is all and in all.” (Ver. 11.)
How beautifully in keeping is the Christian motive seen in this, that we should not lie, &c., not only because it dishonors God, but because we have put off the old man and have put on the new man! All appears in a strikingly characteristic light. God in His very instructions to us fails not to remind us here of our blessing. If we are therefore called to put off anger, wrath, &c., it is because we are dead. If we are told to walk no longer in uncleanness, it is on the ground that, though we once lived in it all, we are now dead to it and alive in Christ. If we are exhorted to speak the truth, it is because we have put off the old man and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him. In Him is no darkness at all. He is the true light that now shines.
It is imperative on us as Christians to value nothing but Christ. I speak simply of our place as Christians; but what does not this embrace? As Christ is all and in all, so we have to seek to act upon this always, only prizing in one another what is of Him. If I love and prize Christ, such will be my feeling toward Christians, even as I shall want myself and all Christians to feel that Christ is the only thing worth our thoughts, affections, labor, and life. There is continual danger of the Christian's sinking into thoughts of natural qualities, of those things that make men attractive, &c. The point of faith is to rise above all this. “Let your light so shine,” &c. Where Christ is not steadily adhered to as object and motive, nature will break out as bad as ever. But before God and to faith I am entitled to treat it as dead; and I owe it to Him who died for me and rose again, to act upon the great truth that God has passed sentence upon the old man. To this end I must judge myself with my eye fixed upon Christ. Otherwise there is no failure in which I may not dishonor Him. No man ever walks inconsistently while his eye is on Christ. Nor is it merely sense of his own weakness, but the consciousness that the old man is judged and gone from before God. What a blessed standing is the Christian's! The Old-Testament saints were kept from sin expecting and desiring Christ; but we look on Christ now, dead and risen with Him who has already done all for us. Is it not an incalculable progress? And there is difference quite as marked as the progress; but on this I dwell not now.

Notes on Colossians 3:12-17

In Ephesians the ground for not lying is because we are members one of another. Here it is treated as inconsistent with our having put off the old and put on the new man. Thus it is an evident contradiction of the new nature, as well as of the judgment and setting aside of the old one. That judgment doubtless took effect upon Christ, but then faith in Him supposes it has been applied to us, and that we have, through Him, renounced self, yea, put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new. The old man is supposed to account for lying; the old man is false, full of deceit. There is not, there cannot be, thorough truthfulness in nature as it is now. We see this from the first: Adam was false directly he sinned; Cain was false also. There may be other evils, such as violence, &c., shown betimes in some and not in others, but all are false—lying one does sec in all. The ordinary forms of social intercourse are founded more or less upon deceit in the present state of the world. Men say what is agreeable to others without thought. Men subscribe forms, especially in religion, which they are not expected to believe, and, sad to say, the best men least of all. This all shows how universally falsehood follows the old man. Here it is a question of Christians, and therefore we have the new man. In Ephesians we hear of the members of the body; here it is the nature. In Ephesians also they are to put off the old man and put on the new; but here it is said, “which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” In Ephesians it is as a fresh thing that they had not before, without any reference to being renewed; it is absolutely new-created; whereas here they have received the fresh blessing, but at the same time there is renewing. Both ideas are in the two epistles, but singularly put so as to prove the complement of each other. In Ephesians it is said the new man is after God created in righteousness and true holiness. What is the difference between the two? Righteousness brings in the idea of authority; it supposes an answer to a just claim; let it be man that meets it, or God, a right to demand underlies it; merely nature above and intolerant of evil. Holiness has in itself nothing to do with the claim of justice. To the believer Christ is made righteousness, which is grounded on God's judgment, though it may be entirely settled in our favor; whereas holiness would have been true apart from the question of His authority; it is the essential nature and character. The angels are said to be holy, but are never said to be righteous or just. The new man rejoices in both. There is entire acquiescence in the authority of God, and delight that the judgment of God has been so met in Christ that He is glorified more than ever. Besides that, there is the moral nature that feels with God. Righteousness is more a bowing to Gad, holiness is the participation of His own feelings about good and evil. In us the two feelings often mingle. Righteousness is a true balance, the maintenance of what is just in relationships of all kinds. For instance, it is right for a child to obey its parents; it is not merely holy but “right” to do so. The one belongs to the nature quite apart from relationship, or anything of duty, apart from anything that is a sort of obligation which at once brings in the idea of righteousness. Hence rationalists admit the value of holiness, but they seldom talk of righteousness, for righteousness supposes judgment. Righteousness is a terrible word for a man until he has got hold of Christ. Righteousness, I repeat, proclaims the authority of God. God was holy before sin came into the world; but who could speak of His righteousness before there was the judgment of evil, spite of conscience, and against His express authority? Under the law, therefore, which was the formal assertion of that authority in dealing with men in the flesh, Jehovah, as a righteous God, is continually set forth. “The righteous Lord loveth righteousness,” &c. There was neither righteousness nor holiness in Adam before he fell. We have both and become both in Christ. Adam was made upright, but that is not the same thing as being righteous or holy; it was the absence of evil: he was innocent, unfallen.
Righteous and holy is the description that God gives of the Christian. Adam knew nothing of evil as yet, neither was there any question of God's righteous claim upon him, save so far as the forbidden fruit tested his obedience, yet there was no limit of doing this and living, but rather of not doing lest he die. Adam was in a place of privilege, and the point was simply to enjoy it in obedience to God, on penalty of death if be disobeyed. We are in a wholly different position, being in the midst of evil, and acted on by a good outside and above us. Hence we are said to be called by glory and virtue; “by glory” as the object, the condition in which Christ is, and “by virtue,” as a restraint upon us and practical conformity to Christ.
It has been well remarked that in Ephesians Christ is never spoken of as the image of God; He is so very expressly in Colossians. If we may discriminate, what we have in Ephesians is more Christ showing me what God is—not His image but His moral likeness reflected in Christ. Hence it is said, “Be ye imitators of God, us dear children, and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us.” It is more the notion of resemblance than representation. Still although you can say of Christ, He is the image of God, he is never said to be in the likeness of God, just because He is God. In Colossians we hear repeatedly of the image of God. Here, for instance, the new man is said to be “after the image of him that created him;” as in the first chapter Christ is said to be the image of the invisible God. The two ideas of likeness and image may often he confounded in our minds, but not so in Scripture, where likeness simply means that one person resembles another, image means that a person is represented, whether it be like him or not.
“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering.” (Ver. 12.) These are the positive, moral qualities of Christ, the tone, spirit, and inward feelings of our Lord. It is not exactly as children, but “as the elect of God, holy and beloved,” that we are called on to manifest the same. We are to feel and walk as the Lord walked here.
There is this character about Scripture, that, being divine, it never can he mastered by intellect alone, but always appeals to the affections and conscience as well as mind. It needs the power of the Holy Ghost to connect it with Christ in order even then to feel, judge, and act aright. “Forbearing one another and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Christ is looked at as Head of everything in this epistle. He is viewed as the ideal of all that is good and lovely which God looks either for or from us. “And above all these things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” There is more in love than simple kindness and forgiveness: it goes beyond these. Love always brings in God, being the activity of His nature. His nature morally is light, but the energy of it is love that goes out in goodness to others.
Thus, love tends to bind together, whereas self or flesh is the very opposite, the one as decidedly removing difficulties, as the other brings them in. Love not only bears and forbears, but overcomes evil with good. “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,” &c. The peace of God is that perfect calm in which He rests as to all circumstances in this world and into which He brings the believer who looks up to Him, committing all circumstances into his hands without allowance of will or anxiety. Instead of our way of escape, which is what man's mind loves to take, because he has always a notion of governing for himself, faith enables a man to look up to God, and brings in the word of God to bear upon what passes around us. But our epistle speaks of a peace more intimate. It is the peace that Christ has now, the peace He ever had when here below. Thus Christ Himself met all difficulties, as He saw all perfectly, resting in perfect peace about all, and so should we. No sense of evil without, no sense of weakness among His own, disturbs His perfect peace about everything.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body, and be ye thankful.” Thus it is peace, but not in an isolated spirit, not as having done with one another, but, on the contrary, cleaving to all, spite of all. Supposing, for instance, something painful troubled me about one in communion, am I to be stumbled by this so as to be hindered from going to the Lord's table? That would be adding wrong to wrong; for if it were right for me to stay away, it would be equally incumbent on others also. I am never warranted to yield to trouble about such matters, but entitled to have the peace of Christ ruling in my heart. There is always a way of Christ in everything, and this is very important for our souls to remember. “And be ye thankful,” not anxious nor fretful, but thankful. Everything that is wrong may be matter for judgment; but the best preliminary for judging soundly is to do what is according to God ourselves. It is our privilege to think of Christ in all that we enter on.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” This is a remarkable contrast of the gospel and the law. The law decided this and that; and not this only, but the obedience of the law is definite, it does not leave room for a growing measure of spirituality. Now, in Christianity, there is an elasticity which leaves room for differences in spirituality. This does not suit the thoughts of human nature; it is too vague for it; but it is perfection in the mind and ways of God, who thus forms the affections and judgments. It is precisely what leaves room for the word of Christ. Here there is growth in every kind of wisdom, and also room left for the exercise of spiritual judgment. In the first chapter there is a similar principle, only there it is “Being filled with the knowledge of His will, that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing.” Here it is “That the word of Christ may dwell in you richly in all wisdom;” it is not a question of walk, but of enjoyment and worship. Hence immediately after we have “teaching and admonishing one another,” &c. By speaking of enjoyment and worship, its public exercise is not meant, but the spirit of it in intercourse with one another.
As to the difference between psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, I suppose a psalm was a more stately composition than a spiritual song, which admits more of Christian experience, expression of our feelings, &c. This may be very good in its way and season, but it is not the best or highest thing. A psalm, then, is more solemn; a hymn is a direct address to God and consists of praise. By psalms, of course, I do not refer to the Psalms of David, but Christian compositions.
The exhortation, again, to sing with grace in their hearts was because the Colossian saints were far from the excellent state in which we may gather the Ephesians, for instance, were. “And whatever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” This exactly meets what has been already remarked about bringing in everything as a matter for blessing the Lord, instead of finding only sorrow. Doing all things in the name of the Lord Jesus, includes not the mere thought of belonging to Him, but of perfect grace. Still it is the Lord Jesus, not Christ simply, but the “Lord Jesus,” which involves our relation to His authority. Whatever grace may be shown us, the authority is not weakened, and the effect is that we give thanks to God and the Father by Him. A Christian man, woman, or child dishonors the Lord by yielding to the thankless spirit of the world. “Whatever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Thus our mode of speech, as well as our ways, should testify our subjection to Him, before whom all heaven bows.

Notes on Colossians 3:18-25,4:1

Hitherto the exhortations have been entirely general. Now the apostle enters upon special relationships. The Spirit begins, as a rule, in these exhortations with the subordinate ones, with those under authority, rather than with those who are called to exercise it. The wisdom of this is manifest. If the one that should be subject behaves with humility, there is nothing more conciliating to such as are in authority. First of all, then, we begin with the most important of earthly relationships, that of wives and husbands. The wife, in accordance with that just principle, is exhorted before the husband. The emphatic word for the wife is to submit herself. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.” Where she is not submissive, it is unseemly even in nature, but more especially in the Lord. The wife's subjection is fitting in the Lord, though no doubt “in the Lord” acts so far as a preservative, that if a husband required anything wrong, submission could not be right. The point here, however, I think, is rather the suitability of it as a Christian principle without entering into the question of how and when it should be made. Some have inferred that as we are all one in Christ Jesus, there is now no submission due from the wife; that it was part of the curse and woman's special lot in and by the fall; but that now, when she becomes a Christian, the inferiority vanishes, and the woman stands absolutely equal with her husband. Now it is true that Scripture skews us a place and relationship in which the question of man and woman disappears. Thus, “if ye then be risen with Christ” applies in a manner quite independent of age or sex; man, and woman, and child are equally risen in Christ. But the moment you come down to special relationship, there are distinctions. If a person indulge in wrong thoughts about this, he is in danger of destroying weighty principles. The husband would abandon his right seat of authority: the wife as a matter of course would lose her only happy place of subjection, and where would the Christian child be if the scheme were followed out? As children of God, no doubt all stand on a level; father, mother, child, if believing, enjoy like spiritual privileges. The differences as to flesh and the world entirely disappear in Christ; but the moment you think of earthly relationships (and this is what we have here), there are differences, neither few nor unimportant, in what pertains to our present life and the shape of our walk as Christians. The difference between man, woman, and child, was not destroyed, and still less was it originated, by the fall; it existed before there was sin: the fall did not touch it in any respect. So far is Christianity from taking these differences away, that it strengthens them immensely. When the apostle forbids a woman to teach, &c., he does so on the ground that a woman is more likely to be deceived than a man. Adam was not deceived; he was no better for this, for though not deceived, he sinned boldly with his eyes open, while the woman was led away weakly: what the apostle infers thence is that the woman should not teach nor rule, being stronger in her affections than in her judgment. A man may be worse, but is less likely to be deceived. The woman is governed by her affections instead of judgment guiding her. A woman is not so apt to fail on that side. A wise woman would show her wisdom, in not putting herself in the place of, or still less above, her husband. If she compared herself with him, she might be easily misled; but if she thinks of the Lord, she would rather put her husband forward. The principle of submission to the husband is here without any guard. “As it is fit in the Lord” does not mean so much acting as a measure, but that it is a seemly thing in the Lord for wives to submit themselves.
Next, comes the word to the husbands. “Husbands, love your wives and be not bitter against them.” The wife needs not to be exhorted to love her husband; it is assumed that therein her affections are all right. But it is very possible the husband might allow anxiety and outward pressure of life so to occupy him that he might not take sufficient care of his wife or interest in her anxieties: accordingly this is the exhortation for him. The wife is necessarily thrown upon her husband; she leaves father, mother and all, and is cast peculiarly upon her husband, and if he be not watchful, he may fail in thoughtful love, in the attention of everyday, not sufficiently guarding his temper, which seems to be what is meant by being” bitter.” There should be this affection for the wife, this vigilance against the influence of circumstances; the outward world might often occasion irritation, and then the husband is liable to vent his spleen at home, especially on his wife. This is human nature and what we know too often happens; but it is not Christ; and here it is guarded against: “husbands, love your wives and be not bitter against them.”
In the same order parents and children appear, the fathers, however, more particularly. “Children, obey your parents in all things; for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.” Here this also is put quite absolutely. We know elsewhere there are landmarks to guard us. It is evident neither a father nor a husband has any title to insist on what is contrary to the Lord; but accordance is assumed here. What the apostle urges is that the children should in all things obey their parents. And how good is obedience! Scripture elsewhere brings in a limit, but not here. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord” furnishes a very important restriction; at any rate it defines the sphere of obedience; it determines how and how far one ought to go. As a rule, even a bad father would like to have a good child. Many who drink or swear would be very sorry for their sons to do the same. “Children, obey your parents in all things; for this is well pleasing to [or, in] the Lord.” This directs us simply to the Lord as the One to whom this obedience is acceptable, but well pleasing in the Lord goes a great deal farther. It is not the bare fact of regarding the Lord as the ultimate judge, who then will be pleased; but the Christian has the consciousness of the Lord's love now and of His interest in all his ways and trials day by day. No doubt He will manifest His judgment of all that was done in the body by and by; but this should only strengthen the Christian now to do that which is well pleasing in the Lord. The best authorities are unanimous that it should be here “in the Lord” rather than “to the Lord.” It is well pleasing that children should obey their parents, not naturally only, but (for the Christian, let it be) in the Lord. “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” The mother is not thus exhorted; for as a rule her general fault is to spoil them. There is nothing that more discourages a child than a parent's continual needless fault finding. Again, where a child is punished without deserving it, what can be more apt to create distrust, and so weaken the springs of love and respect?
We now come to the lowlier members of the household. “Servants, obey in all things your masters, according to the flesh; not with eye-service as men pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God.” It is absolute in every one of these cases in Colossians; not so in Ephesians, where there is more of a guard brought in. I should think this attributable to the happier and better tone of the Ephesians. They required rather the limits than the pressure of the duty. The Colossians, on the contrary, stood in need of exhortations to obey. Thus, for instance, if a man had to do with a well-ordered family, he would not have to urge obedience in the same manner as if they were disorderly. Strange to say, you will always find self-will the companion of a legal spirit. There is never true obedience without the power of grace. Who were the most stiff-necked people in all the world? The Jews, the same who boasted of the law. You will find, since the law has been taken as a rule of life for Christians, they too are less obedient and think nothing of going against the Scriptures. This was one danger for the Colossians—a spirit of ordinance and legality. No person becomes obedient by good rules. What is it then that produces it? The heart must be filled with right motives; and what brings this about? Love for a person gives a sense of duty to him, and acts upon the heart. This makes obedience easy. Rules are never the power but only tests of obedience in certain cases. This is even true of Christ's commandments. He keeps them who loves Him, and he only. This induces obedience, and then what Christ says lies upon our hearts and minds and memories—not only His commandments but His words: whereas if we love not, how readily all is forgotten! This is an important difference in John 14. First the Lord speaks of His commandments, then of His words. The truth is, where there is a loving heart, any expression of will, even without a positive command, governs the affections.
“Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh,” &c. This is very important. Feelings, habits, &c., no doubt, have been brought in by Christianity—difficulties also (not that these ought to have been, but by reason of a fleshly mind)—all these arose. A bondman found himself suddenly a brother to his master: if he did not watch, he would soon begin to judge his master, whether he ought to say this or do that. If his master blamed him for anything, he might consider his master to have acted in a fleshly way, &c. How easy it is to slip into a wrong spirit, especially for a servant in presence of his master's infirmities daily before him, and in danger of judging his master according to the evil thoughts of his own heart! But surely a man ought to do all better after, than before, he knew Christ. The notion that, because they have to do with Christians, the latter ought to put up with ill done duties, is all selfishness. The fact that servants are not bondman now in no way alters the matter. In those days they had often to serve heathen masters. In any case the great thing is to remember the Lord Jesus and His will in every place. We belong absolutely to Him to do His bidding in all things. In order to walk well with God, let me take care that I am in a position according to His will where I have no qualms of conscience. A scrupulous conscience however is dangerous, though far preferable to a burdened or bad conscience; but it is dangerous; for the strain tends to break and to end in a bad conscience. There is no place in this world where one may not glorify God, sin of course excepted.
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Christ.” Be not so occupied with the fact that you are serving an earthly master; remember,” ye serve the Lord Christ.” Thus will you be the more subject to your earthly master, doing heartily whatsoever ye do, not as being right only but with heart. The apostle adds a remarkable word here, “he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done, and there is no respect of persons.” This takes in both the present and the future, as I suppose, being a general principle.
The condition of the Ephesians was such that the love of Christ to the Church could be developed and urged on them. The Colossians, not being in so healthful a state, are exhorted on a lower ground. Conscience needed to be exercised.
Chapter 4:1. It is evident that the first verse of the new chapter belongs to the special exhortations which occupy the close of chapter 3 Consequently, chapter 4 ought, if the division were accurate according to subjects, to begin at the second verse.
The exhortations to wives and husbands are correlative, so to children and fathers, and to servants and masters, making three pairs of such appeals. There is the difference to be noted that husbands and wives existed from the very first; not so the relation of master and servant. It is clear also, that though children were contemplated from the beginning, in point of fact they did not exist in Paradise. God took care there should be no race, no parent and child, before the fall.
It was when Christ had glorified God perfectly, that Christ became the head of a family. The contrast in this respect is very interesting and beautiful. What confusion, if some had been born in a state of innocence, and others in sin! God ordered things that there should be no family, till man was fallen. To increase and multiply, however, was the intention and word of God even then. The relation of masters and slaves (as they are here supposed to be), was solely a result of the entrance of sin into the world. We do not hear of bondmen before the flood, though Noah predicts it of Canaan soon after. I presume that the mighty hunter, Nimrod, was the first that essayed his craft or violence in this direction.
If this be so, there is a remarkable gradation in these relationships. Husbands and wives in Paradise, children born after the fall but before the flood, servants not heard of till after that. I do not mean at all that Scripture does not recognize this latter relationship—far from it: only it is well to see that it was one which followed not only the fall, but even the great judgment of God executed on the earth. Thus it is a condition of things very far from according to God, that men should have their fellows as their property or slaves. And yet even so, “masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal.” In our countries it is a relationship voluntarily entered into on both sides, and there are corresponding privileges and duties; but here, though it was a case of slaves, the call to masters is to be impartial in their ways with them. And this refers not only to equity as a matter between the master and a slave, but between the slaves generally. There might be much confusion and injury in a household by disturbing the equilibrium between the slaves. The wisdom of God thus provides for everything, even for what respects the despised bondmen. It is here said “just,” &c.—not grace. You never can demand grace. In writing the epistle to Philemon, the apostle brings motives of grace to bear upon the case: he does not dictate what Philemon was to do, but reminds him of his heavenly relationship, and leaves it to Philemon's grace. Though the runaway slave was justly liable to be put to death, Roman and indeed any other masters having the right to punish them thus, yet would he have Philemon now receive him again no more as a slave but as a brother. Here however it is a question of what was “just and equal.” For the expression, “just,” shows a sense of right, grace in this case would not have been suited, as it would have left the door open more or less. Justice maintains obligations. In Ephesians it is said “forbearing threatening.” It was wrong even to threaten a slave with violent measures. The Colossians, being in a lower condition, are plainly dealt with, and told to be just and equal; it is the recognition of certain responsibilities in which the masters stood to their slaves. Do not you masters imagine all duty is on one side; you have yours toward your slaves. This, often forgotten, seems implied in the word “just,” and “equal,” forbids the indulgence of favoritism.
The rationalistic philosophy is mainly founded on the endeavor to blot out the word “duty.” I have known persons even in the Church disposed to deny anything in this shape as obligatory on the Christian. But it is a fatal error. Grace no doubt alone gives the power, but moral obligations ever remain binding.
The broad-church class talk of holiness, they do not like righteousness. That bias of mind ever tended to explain it away from Scripture. So Grotius used to say that the righteousness of God means His mercy: an idea as dreadful in its way, as the common error that the righteousness of God means the law fulfilled. Such entirely deny the standing of the believer, for the law was not made for the righteous, but for the ungodly. Thus theologians are infected by a double error, either that of confounding the righteousness of God with the righteousness of the law, and making this to be both the standing and the rule of the Christian, or that of denying all righteousness in any shape by making it to be merely divine mercy. Both are quite wrong, and one error leads on to another: as truth hangs together, so does error. “Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” “This is the true grace of God wherein ye stand.”

Notes on Colossians 4:2-18

“Persevere in prayer, watching in it with thanksgiving.” (Ver. 2.) The habit, the persevering habit of prayer, is of immense moment. And as Luke 18, so this chapter presses it strongly, though the apostle does not look for such far extending and thorough spirit of supplication as in Eph. 6. Their state did not admit either of like depths of desire or of such large affections for all saints in the bowels of Christ. Legalism, ordinance, philosophy savor of the creature, not of God rightly known: they are not Christ and are far short of comprehending all that are His. Nevertheless, he does count here as there on a mind on the alert to turn occasions of difficulty or blessing, joy or sorrow, anything, everything, into matter for spreading before God; and this in a spirit not of murmuring anxiety, but of grateful acknowledgment of His goodness and confidence in Him. How blessed that even the groaning of the Spirit in the believer supposes deliverance, and not mere selfish sense of evil! Not of course that the deliverance is complete and evil yet put down by power from on high and actually cleared out of the scene. But we know the victory won in Christ's death and resurrection, and having the earnest of the Spirit, feel the contrariety of present things to that glory of which He gives us the sense in Christ now exalted, the hope for all saints at His coming. The consciousness of the favor already shown and secured to us in Christ makes us thankful while we ask of God all good things suitable to it now, worthy of it in result by and by when evil disappears by His power. Yet it is remarkable to see how the apostle values and asks for the prayers of saints— “praying at the same time also for us that God may open to us a door of the word to speak the mystery of Christ on account of which also I am bound.” (Ver. 3.) The value of united prayer is great; but God makes much of individual waiting on Him, and very especially as in the interests of His Church and the Gospel—of Christ in short—here below. How little the apostle was discouraged even at this late day! He writes to the Colossians, from his bondage because of his testimony to that very mystery of Christ which he still desired to be the object of their supplication on his behalf with God, “that I may make it manifest as I ought to speak.” (Ver. 4.)
Next, he reverts to their own need of walking wisely, considering those outside, and seizing the fit opportunity, though I doubt not the service of prayer, such as we have seen would have issued in their own blessing as truly as in good to others. “Walk in wisdom with those without, buying up the time. Let your speech be always in grace, seasoned with salt, to know how ye ought to answer each one.” (Ver. 5, 6.) Grace gives us the rich glow of divine favor to the undeserving, the display of what God is in Christ to those who belong to this guilty, ruined world; salt presents the guard of holiness, the preservative energy of God's rights in the midst of corruption. It is not said “always with salt,” seasoned with grace but “always in grace, seasoned with salt.” Grace should ever be the groundwork and the spring of all we say. No matter how much we may differ, righteousness must be maintained inviolate.
It is this combination of divine love in the midst of an evil world, with uncompromising maintenance of what is due to God's holy and righteous will, that teaches the Christian not merely what but how to answer each one as he ought.
Next come personal messages. (Ver. 7-18.) Observe the remarkable care of the apostle to sustain and commend true-hearted laborers, knowing well the tone of detraction natural to men who can see the failings of those whose service left themselves far behind. “Tychicus, my beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow-bondman in the Lord, all my affairs shall make known to you, whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that he may know your matters and may comfort your hearts; with Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is [one] of you: they shall make known to you all things here.” (Ver. 7-9.) This exuberance of affectionate commendation is greatly to be weighed. The lack of it tends to loosen and dislocate the bonds of charity among the saints. Remark further, that love counts on the interest of others in our affairs quite as much as it feels a real concern in hearing of theirs. Among men such a feeling is either unknown, or where it exists is but vanity; but then love, divine love, is not there. And love must exist and be known in order to understand its workings and effects. Truly is it called in this epistle the bond of perfectness.
“Aristarchus, my fellow-captive, saluteth you, and Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, concerning whom you have received orders (if he come to you, receive him), and Jesus that is called Justus, who are of the circumcision: these [are the] only fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God which have been a comfort to me.”
(Ver. 10, 11.) There is a singular change in comparing the notices here with those in Philemon. Aristarchus is here a sharer of the apostle's captivity, as there Epaphras is; while there Aristarchus is a fellow-laborer of the apostle with others, as Epaphras is here spoken of—at least as a bondman of Christ. They may have shared the apostle's imprisonment successively, as some one has suggested. It is certain that Aristarchus was his companion not only in Asia, but during his voyage to Italy. This would tend to show, I think, that this Epistle to the Colossians was written at least a little before that to Philemon, though both may be supposed to have been written at the same general date and to have been forwarded by the same hands from the apostle, a prisoner at Rome.
How beautiful too is the grace which enjoined distinctly the reception of Mark! Remembrance of the past would else have forbidden a cordial welcome to himself, and so must have hindered his ministry among the saints. Thus, if here we learn the secret of Barnabas's leaning (for he was his kinsman), when the breach occurred with the apostle in earlier days, we learn that real love is as generous as faithful, acts at all cost for the Lord, and where requisite, spite of paining nature, but rejoices to praise aloud and heartily where the grace of God has intervened to the removal of the impediment. Of Jesus called Justus we know no more than that, like Mark, he was of the circumcision; and like him too, consoled the apostle as a fellow-servant—rare thing among those who had been used to the law and its prejudices. The Justus of Acts 18:7 was a Gentile proselyte. Barsabas, the candidate for the apostolate, who was a Jew of course, was so surnamed, but not called Jesus like the one in question.
“Epaphras saluteth you, who is [one] of you, a bondman of Christ Jesus, always striving for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all [the] will of God. For I bear him witness that he hath much toil for you, and those in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis.” (Ver. 12, 13.) It would be a joy for the saints at Colosse to know that Epaphras, himself a Colossian as well as Onesimus, did not stand higher in the love and value of the apostle (chap. 1:7) than in earnest remembrance of themselves in his prayers for their blessing before God. Remark too that the doctrine of the epistle (that we are filled full according to all the fullness that is in Christ), far from excluding, is the basis of desire and intercession for the saints, that they may be practically perfect and fully assured in everything about which God has a will. There was no such narrowness as shut him up to a single assembly, though there was the affectionate recollection of need where saints and circumstances were specially known to him.
“Luke, the beloved physician, saluteth you, and Demas.” (Ver. 14) The occupation of Luke was not blotted out because he was a saint and a servant of Christ, and even an inspired writer. Demas, I should gather, was even now distrusted by the apostle, who mentions his name with an ominous silence and without an endearing word—a thing unusual with the apostle. Even to Philemon, about the same time, he is “my fellow-laborer.” In 2 Timothy he had forsaken the apostle, having loved the present age. The steps of declension were rapid; no testimony tells of his recovery. But a more extensive falling off was at hand (2 Tim. 1:15), for, the ice once broken, many were ready to slip through. As for the apostle, he had fought the fight, he had finished his course, he had kept the faith. The men who were little known for building up, were active for leading astray: as one of this world's sages has said, the hand that could not build a hut can destroy a palace. Nevertheless God's firm foundation stands.
“Salute the brethren in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the assembly in his house. And when the epistle has been read among you, cause that it be read also in the assembly of Laodicea, and that ye also read that from Laodicea.” (Ver. 15, 16.) Whether this letter be that commonly known as the Epistle to the Ephesians (and having a circular character), or that to Philemon (who may probably have resided in or near Laodicea); or whether it refers to a letter no longer extant (possibly a letter from Laodicea to Paul, literally), has been a question much contested among learned men. Two remarks may be made which seem clear and certain. 1. The Epistle from Laodicea would be indeed a strange way of describing an epistle written to the church there. It would be natural enough, if it meant a letter which was then there and intended for the Colossian saints also, to whomsoever it may have been addressed. 2. There is nothing to forbid the view that more letters were written than we possess, God preserving those only which were designed for the permanent guidance of the saints. But that the one alluded to here is a lost letter, addressed to Laodicea, is wholly unproved. It is also obvious that the Colossian epistle was directed to be passed on to Laodicea. The letter the Laodiceans were to forward to Colosse may have been addressed to them, but the description necessitates no such conclusion. What links of love and mutual profit among the assemblies!
“And say to Archippus, See to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it.” (Ver. 17.) The brethren cannot forego their responsibility and exercise of godly discipline; but ministry is received from and in the Lord. The assembly never appoints to service in the word, but Christ, the Head, though apostles or their delegates (never the church) acted for Him when it was a question of local charge.
Finally comes “the token in every epistle” —at least in his regular province as apostle of the uncircumcision: “The salutation by the hand of me, Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you.”

Confederacies of Men and Judgments of God

Scripture contemplates hostile associations of men and of nations. Isa. 7, 8, was the era of one and the prophecy of another. Joel 3 tells of “multitudes, multitudes,” gathered together in the day of Jerusalem’s final sorrow. Psa. 83 anticipates a confederacy against the Israel of God; and “Gog” is the witness of a host of nations leagued in infidel defiance of the Lord.
But scripture also contemplates civil or worldly associations; and it is our business to watch their spirit, their purpose, and their working, awful indeed as they are in forming the character and history of the world, and in urging it on its way to meet the judgment of God.
It was confederacy of this sort which was among the descendants of Noah. The one speech and the one language of the children of men in that day led them to judge that they were strong, and that by a little skill and effort they might wax still stronger, even to independency of God. The material under their hand in the plain of Shinar promised very fair. They were all of one language, and were journeying in one direction. They were invited by favorable circumstances (providences as they might say), and they would make a common effort, and try the industrial resources of nature. Things looked well for progress. With a little skill and diligence of their own, the fruitful plain would yield them brick and mortar, and they might accomplish much. And why should they not use the resources of nature, and exercise their own capabilities? Why should they not try what “the raw material,” by man’s “art and manufacture,” would lead to, and do for them?
This was the language of the children of men in Gen. 11. Whether God would have it thus or not, they never thought of waiting to consider. He was not before them. They did their own pleasure. They built a city and a tower, that both name and security, glory and strength, might be theirs.
Thus was it in those early days. In other and very distant days, in the days of the Savior, it was the same—with this aggravating circumstance, that confederacies then formed themselves of strange discordant elements, because of the working of the natural enmity of the heart to God, let that heart be disciplined or trained as it may be, whether in a Jewish or Gentile school. In that enmity, the Jew and the Gentile are found together; and so are the Pharisee and the Sadducee—the men of different politics and of different sects. The world combined these diverse materials against an unworldly Jesus. This was the secret of their confederacy. The Pharisee and the Sadducee were men of different thoughts altogether, considered simply in themselves; but the world can be their common object in resistance to Christ. This is seen in Matt. 16:1-5. “Show us a sign from heaven,” they come together and say to Him. That is, they challenge the Lord to accredit Himself in some way that the world could appreciate, or that, otherwise, they would reject Him by common consent.
This is to be laid to heart. The world has power to combine very different elements when an unworldly Christ stands out as a common enemy. Herod and Pilate were made friends together. There may be the secular and the ecclesiastical, even the infidel and the superstitious; but let an unworldly Christ appear, and He will be challenged as the object of common enmity. A heavenly stranger sojourning on earth for a time is resented as a trespasser by both; and however else they may differ, they can confederate and act together against Him. God, such as man’s heart or man’s religion gives Him, man will accept; but the true God, whose image Jesus is, will never do for him.
All this is for the present consideration of our souls. For the world is becoming a common object in these days of ours. All are aiding its advancement, and the development of its capabilities, and the multiplying of its desirable and delectable things; and such a generation as this may easily become the material of a confederacy or common association against the unworldly Jesus and the Church of God.
Strange coalition of this kind is presented to us by the Lord Himself in Luke 11.
It is a solemn word of warning; and, I may add, a seasonable word just in this present day.
The unclean spirit had been the original tenant of this leprous house. In due time he left it, seeking other scenes of action. But after a while he returns, and finds his old house in a new condition. His absence, the absence of an unclean spirit, had left it open to other influences; and, accordingly, on his return he finds it “swept and garnished.” This, however, does not disappoint him. He rather deems it to be more suited to his purposes than ever. And it is in this fact—this solemn awful fact—that I judge there is something for our careful and special observation at this time, and for this generation.
This leprous house changed its style or condition, but not its owner, nor its fitness to answer the purposes of its owner. If the unclean spirit had been disappointed in his wanderings, he is not so on his return to his old dwelling. So far otherwise is it, that he goes to gather seven other spirits, more wicked than himself, and they all make entrance into the house more thoroughly than ever to accomplish its ruin. And they succeed. The last state of it is worse than the first.
This is a picture, indeed, of strange unexpected confederacies. An unclean spirit enters a swept house, associating with himself seven other spirits. This is a strange coalition. Things are found together in this house which naturally suited neither the house itself, nor each other. But still, there they are in company, and dwell and work together. An unclean spirit, with seven other spirits, in a swept and garnished house!
Is this Christendom in her last state? Is it to come to this? Is it not, I rather ask, on its way to this already? Are there not symptoms, somewhat too plain to be mistaken, of such strange unnatural alliances all around us? Are not elements in themselves repulsive, beginning to try their capability of combining? Is not “alliance” the favorite watchword of the day? Is not the unclean spirit of darker earlier days making fresh entrance into a reformed and swept and ornamented house? Is not this the Christendom of the present hour? Are not the premonitions of the Divine Prophet realizing before us and around us at this moment?
There are many spirits abroad at present, “gone out into the world.” The old “unclean spirit” is abroad in growing vigor, the spirit of idolatry or superstition. The infidel spirit is abroad. The worldly spirit is abroad—that energy which, with its ten thousand arts, is embellishing and furnishing its native place, using refinement of all sorts, morals, religion, intellectual culture and intellectual delights, science and music, books and pictures, everything that can set off and recommend the world, and linking “the million” with nobles in the enjoyment of it.
Thus is it in the history of this present hour. The affecting truth that Jesus is the rejected Jesus in this world is practically forgotten in all this. That mystery is scorned by some, denied by others, slighted by others, and but coldly, carelessly, and feebly acted on by us who thoroughly and entirely own it among the deep and precious things of God. For we say, How could God meet anything in this world but rejection? The world had already departed from Him, ere He came into it. It had set up for itself long before, even from the days of Cain and the city of Enoch. But how deep-seated its enmity must be, when it refused to know such an one as Jesus! This enmity of the world was as the enmity of the Jews, who could forget all their hatred of the Gentile, settled and rooted as that hatred was in the very heart of the nation, and say, in the desire to rid themselves from Him, “We have no king but Caesar.” They refused the waters of Shiloah that flowed softly, and rejoiced in Rezin and Remaliah’s son.
But confederacy has not closed its history, or spent all its energy yet. Far otherwise. It must be witnessed in full action at the end, as it was at the beginning. We have seen it in the early days of Babel and in the matured meridian days of the Lord Jesus, and are still to see it in the declining days of the Apocalypse. And the “old Serpent” will be the life and instigator of confederacies at the end, as he was at the beginning, and hitherto. The book of the Apocalypse witnesses this, specially in the mysteries or symbols of the “Woman” and the “Beast.”
The Woman sits on many waters. Multitudes, tongues, nations, and peoples, all receive the cup of fornication at her hand. Kings of the earth, merchants of the earth, inhabitants of the earth, every shipmaster and sailor, and such as trade in the sea, are subject to her. The beast has the whole world wondering after him. In himself he combines the lion and the bear and the leopard, and he has ten horns and seven heads. The false Prophet ministers to him, and the kings, by one consent, give their power to him. All that dwell on the earth worship him. Small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, receive his mark in their forehead.
These are awful tokens of confederated energies of evil. And in them we see the beginning reproduced at the end. For confederacy is the mode or form in which man makes display of his natural pride and apostasy.
And in that form of confederation God will judge the revolted children of men speedily, as He has already done in early days. At the beginning, it was the alliance between the Woman and the Serpent that He broke, saying to the serpent, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman.” It was those who were gathered in the rebel-plain of Shinar that He scattered over the face of the whole earth. And so it is the body of the Apocalyptic Woman in her pride, He will give to the burning flame (Rev. 17:16; 18:8); and His supper, “the supper of the Great God,” shall celebrate the doom and ruin of the Beast and his associates. (Rev. 19)
Our present victory, beloved, is by separation. Separation is holiness, if it be separation to the place and character which the calling of God suggests.
The purpose of the serpent in the garden was to withdraw Eve from the condition in which the Lord God had put her. She was to sacrifice that, and get advancement from him. She consented; and at once as a “chaste virgin” she was ruined. Her purity was lost. Whatever she gained, she lost that. She lost what God had made her.
The Church, like the Eve of Gen. 2, should be what the hand of God has made her, taking, as it has done in this age, the cross of Christ as its instrument or material. And that cross has brought her nigh to God, but estranged her from the world. And when the principles of the world propose to cultivate and advance the Church, and such proposal is listened to, we see again, what of old we saw in Gen. 3, the mystic Eve has lost her virgin purity.
The proposal to advance the Church by such means is attractive. But so was the proposal of the serpent at the beginning— “Ye shall be as gods.” This was an angel of light, a minister of righteousness, in the judgment of flesh and blood. But it worked corruption and utter moral ruin, for it beguiled her from the state in which God had left her.
And this generation is doing its best to commend the world to the Church, the Tree to the Woman again. It speaks, as though the world were now a very different thing from what the Cross of Christ has declared it and proved it to be. It speaks, as if Christ were no longer a rejected Christ. But if the saint listen, as of old Eve did, he is so far corrupted; for he is surrendering the place, the condition, and the character, which the cross of Christ has given him and made him.
The serpent would fain give man a garden again. And a happier garden it shall be than God once gave him. He shall have every tree in it. The world shall be a wise world, a religious world, a cultivated world, a delightful place, and still advancing. The man of benevolence, the man of morals, the religious and the intellectual man, the man of refined pleasures, all will find their home in it. And this shall be the world’s oneness. And all who desire their fellow-creatures’ happiness, and the common rest after so many centuries of confusion and trouble, will surely not refuse to join this honorable and happy confederacy.
Nothing will withstand all this but “the love of the truth” —nothing but faith in that word which gathers a sinner to Jesus and His blood, and the hopes of a poor world-wearied believer to Jesus and His kingdom. Come what may to you, beloved, though it be moral or refined or religious in its bearing, it is “unrighteousness,” if it be not of “the truth.” (2 Thess. 2)
The world is “to wonder after the beast” before “every tongue confesses Jesus to be Lord.” Each will be in its day; but the beast will have his day, his day of the rule of evil, ere Jesus has His day of the dominion of light and righteousness. The saint has to walk apart from those schemes or confederations which are undertaking to make the world what God can accept, till the rejection of Christ be answered from heaven. Little do many who favor the system of religious ordinances, and assert the rights and dignities of office, think that they are combining with those who are cultivating the masses, and the people by liberal institutions. But it is so; for all are cultivating man, instead of renewing him. All are doing something against the truth, and not for the truth. (See 2 Cor. 13:8.) The attempt is very specious. The system of the beast and his kings will, in its day, be very fair. They have all “one mind;” and from the attractiveness of such unity nothing will preserve the soul but the faith that knows the principles of God, and that anything or everything that purposes to set the world in order till judgments have cleared it, is of the god of this world and not of heaven. The thing that is to have this “one mind” is the very thing that with stands the Lamb, and is judged of God in the day of the Lord. (Rev. 17:14; 19:19, 20.)
Easy to write this, beloved, but I know that it is the power of separation that is to be cherished by us. It was so in the soul of the dear Apostle, as we see him in 2 Timothy. In that affecting Epistle, he breathes a spirit which was strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and consciously treading the borders of the glory. And with this he had ardent love for the prosperity of the Church, and of his beloved Timothy. Here was the hidden virtue of his beautiful and distinct separation from the world, or the corrupted “great house,” which was then rising up before him and around him. His separation was in the power of this faith and hope and charity. And to like grace the Spirit calls us in this day, when the “great house” of that Epistle has become the Christendom of this day.
The scenery of the prophets (and that scenery is as real as what at this moment is under our eye) and I may say, very specially that of the Apocalypse, is acquiring increased distinctness in the thoughts of many of the saints of God in these days. In other days it was looked on as dim and clouded. And is not this, I ask, some symptom that we are approaching those regions—that we are conscious of increasing distinctness because of nearness?
And ‘besides; there is something of an instinctive turning to thoughts of judgment and of glory among us. There is something of a sense of this solemn fact, that God is about to interfere in some way or another with the course of things around us. The energies of evil are seen to be very active, and the world to be very haughty and self-sufficient. The present day is the manhood of the world. The world is playing the man now. It speaks of other days as one would remember his childhood. It is boasting itself beyond all former pretensions, and promising to do greater things still. And so will it proceed, till in the moment of its loftiest pride the judgment of God overtakes it.
The people of God should wait with the girdle and the lamp, which are the beautiful standing symbols of their calling till the Lord appears—that is, with minds girt up unto holy separation from present things, and with hearts brightened up with the desire and expectation of coming things.
These thoughts of judgment may profitably move our hearts at this hour. But let me add, for it is a comfort to remember it, that the judgments of God are always only by the way, and never close the scene, or terminate His action and purpose. He does indeed pass through them, but He only passes through them, or rather with them, onward to glory and the kingdom, which is His calling. The deluge, one of His judgments, led to the new world under the government of Noah. The judgment of the cities of the plain was survived, and Abraham is seen on high, the next morning, above it all, and Lot is delivered. The judgment of Egypt was the redemption of Israel destined for the inheritance.
And for still further strength and comfort I may add, that if the mind could be delivered from the blinding and prejudicing power of self-love, it would speak the judgment of righteousness, and justify God in His judgments. Look at Adam. His hiding ‘behind the trees of the garden gave judgment against himself with God. Look at the camp in Num. 14. Their utter silence, the moment the glory appeared, did the same. It was like Adam’s hiding of himself. Look at David. Nathan catches his conscience when he appealed simply to his moral sense, his estimate of right and wrong, his measure of iniquity and his retribution. He got from David such a sentence as justified the judgment of God against himself. He little suspected that he was pronouncing sentence in his own cause. But it was so; and (self-love being dismissed or set aside for a moment, and the moral sense being left alone in company with the offense) David out of his own mouth is judged, and God’s judgment is justified.
So, the husbandmen of Matt. 21. Like Nathan with David, the Lord catches the conscience of the Jews, and makes them pronounce their own condemnation. And all this, because self-love was again, as it were, sent out of court, and the mere moral sense, the sense of good and evil, right and wrong, is alone on the judgment-seat. The decree of God against them is there anticipated by themselves.
And so with the man without the wedding garment in Matt. 22. He got into the marriage feast with a careless heart, just thinking of himself in the power of some form or other of mere nature. But again, in his case, when the sense that judged what was fitting and necessary was called into exercise, and there was nothing to interfere with its action in the conscience—when the simple, unmixed thought is presented to him, whether any person in such a dress should be in such a place, he is “speechless,” he is convicted, be has nothing to say, and his own judgment tells him that such an one as he has no business in such a place as that.
Thee may be used by the soul as illustrations of the great truth, that the Judge of all the earth will do right, that He will be justified when He speaks and clear when He judges. Out of our own mouth will He condemn. When Eve pleaded the serpent’s guile, and Adam pleaded Eve’s gift to him, the Lord God did not condescend to answer the pleas. And who of us at this hour does not justify Him in pronouncing that sentence without replying to those excuses?
All this is for us and our comfort, when we think of Him with whom we have to do; and we may sing of Him and of His praise, when the subject is either “mercy” or “judgment.” (Psa. 101:1.) But judgment, again I say, never closes the scene. It is never “the end of the Lord.” The things of Job were all set right, and much more than that, ere “the end of the Lord” in his history was reached. His things in the world, in his own person, both mind and body, in the family, and in the Church, were all in confusion. His cattle were stolen, his houses were in ruins, his children were dead, and his brethren were set against him, he misunderstanding and reviling them, and they injuriously reproaching and condemning him. All was thus out of order, within and around him, as to the world, the family, and the Church.
How could there be more confusion! But God’s “end” lay beyond all this; for we never reach God’s end in either discipline or judgment, the discipline of an individual saint, or the judgment of a people or a world.
So does the holy Jesus alone close and crown the book which details the coming judgments of God. (Rev. 22)
How little does the soul rise up in the power of these things which are so easily discerned, and so freely spoken of and written about!
John Gifford Bellett


When we look a little at the different agents of evil and of delusions exhibited in the Book of Revelation, we wonder how any soul will escape. And then, when we remember that though these agents have not yet been manifested, yet that the energies which are to animate and use them are already abroad and in action, and all working now in mystery if not in revealed forms, we stand amazed at the sight we thus get of the conflict in which we are engaged.
There will be “the dragon” and his “great wrath” —the “beast” and his “false prophet” —the “frogs” — “Babylon” — “the kings of the earth” —and “the whole world wondering after the beast.”
What tremendous agents in the work of delusion, darkness, and blood! What strong temptations and what appalling difficulties will then beset the path of the wayfaring saints! Who will stand? Who will find safe conduct through this array of hindrances? Who will discover the path of life and light amid all this thickening and overwhelming darkness?
And yet with each feature of this terrible scene, with each member of this great system of subtlety and strength, in the mystery or spirit of it, we have now to do; though of course some part of it may be more in real activity than others. But it is our duty still and always, to recognize the dragon and his wrath, the beast and the frogs, Babylon, the king of the earth, and the world deluded into infidel or idolatrous wonder and worship—to recognize each and all of these in the mystery, or in the hidden energy, of their working.
The field of conflict thus spread out is serious indeed. But, as this same book unfolds to us, we have at the same time to recognize the better region, that is, the heavenly, where we get other objects altogether, and all, I may say, for us.
The prophet of God in Patmos passes, in vision, with great ease and rapidity from earth to heaven, and from heaven to earth. The two regions are alternately before him, and he sees the action in each. But the passage is made with ease and with speed.
In chapters 4, 5., he is in sight of heaven. So, at the opening of the seals in chapter 6, passing however at once to see the results of those opened scenes on earth: so again in chapter 8 we find him in vision of both the regions. And, in like manner, I may say, throughout. He hears the music and the conferences in heaven, the rapture and the hopes there; and then again he is amid the infidel pride, the confusion, and all the workings of apostate principles, which are giving character to the scene on earth. He passes from the exulting marriage feast in heaven to the terrible judgment of the Rider on the white horse on all the confederated iniquity of the earth.
We see something of this in the opening of Job. There we are, in vision, both in heaven and on earth, as in the twinkling of an eye.
Is it not the business of the soul thus to act still? There are two regions—that of faith and that of sight: and the soul should pass rapidly and frequently into the region of faith. Had Job thus visited heaven, and heard and seen the action there, he would have been ready for the trials and sorrows which awaited him on earth.
Little one knows of it indeed, but the soul covets the power to follow John in the Revelation, passing, as we see, easily and speedily from earth to heaven and back again, and always prepared, I may say, without amazement, for the shifting scenery.
But beside this, for the encouragement of our hearts, I observe two victories achieved in the progress of this book—one over the accuser (chap. 12:11), and another over the beast (chap. 15:2).
The accuser was defeated by a certain army of martyrs, and the weapons of their victorious struggle are hung up before us; for we are told they conquered by “the blood of the Lamb,” by “the word of their testimony,” and by “their not loving their lives to the death.” These had been their armor in conflict with the accuser.
If he went up, as in Job’s case, to the presence of God with charges against them, they met him there with “the blood of the Lamb.” They pleaded the sacrifice of God’s own Lamb according to God’s own testimony respecting it. And to the charge that “skin for skin, all that a man has will he give for his life,” they rendered up their lives to death in answer.
Here was their victory, and such and such the weapons which accomplished it. Heaven could employ itself in celebrating this victory. Was Jesus standing when Stephen was martyred? Easy then for heaven to be engaged in rehearsing with joy these conquests of this martyr-band.
But again, we have another victory celebrated in chapter 15. It had been obtained over the beast, as the other had been gained over the accuser.
The conquerors here are like Israel on the Red Sea in Ex. 15 And just as in that song of Israel, so here in this song of triumph, we learn the character of the previous truth, and how it was the conquerors conquered.
Moses and the congregation rehearse the fact that a victory had been won. But more than that, they rehearse how it had been won. They sing of the horse and his rider being thrown into the sea, of the Lord, as a man of war, casting His enemies into the mighty waters, of the depths covering the foe. And they let it be known that Israel themselves had not fought, but that the Lord had made the battle all His own.
Thus the style of the victory, its instrument and strength, is published in this song, as well as the fact of victory. And I judge in like manner so does the song in Rev. 15
All the world had wondered after the beast, and their wonder led to worship—or it was itself worship. (Chap. xiii.) His power appeared to be so great, his history so marvelous, that all the world wondered and worshipped, except (as I may say) this conquering band who paid their lives as the price of their faith in God and fidelity to Jesus.
But the song, as I have said, utters, as I judge, the weapons they had used in that day of battle. And they were these. These martyrs were admiring and worshipping “the Lord God Almighty,” while the world around them were admiring and worshipping the beast. The world was wondering at the greatness of the beast and the marvelousness of his history; but they were standing in the holy adoring admiration of the Lord and the marvelousness of His works. (See Rev. 15:3) And while all beside were fearing the beast who could and would kill their bodies, they lived in the fear of God only, giving heed to the angel’s voice which had spoken of His coming judgment. (See chap. 14:7; 15: 4.)
Thus this fine but short song tells of the manner of the victory, or the weapons which had accomplished it, as that song of Israel at the Red Sea had done before.
But further. I might extend this thought as to victories in the Book of Revelation, and say, generally, that from beginning to end it is the book of victories.
It contemplates corruption or apostacy—evil in the Church and in the larger scene outside; or first, among the candlesticks, and then in the earth or world.
But corruption or apostacy occasions struggle or conflict on the part of saints; and accordingly, the saints in this book are addressed or contemplated as conquerors; such as have been in conflict because of corruption and have come off in victory.
They are formally regarded in this character in this book. Thus it is as conquerors they are addressed by the Spirit in each of the letters to the churches. “He that overcometh” is the language in each of them. Because in each church there is contemplated a struggle or conflict by reason either of corruption within, or danger and enmity without. (Chap. 2, 3)
And I suggest that the crowns of chapter 15 are more formally the crowns of victors than of kings (see chap. 3:11), as though we saw the “overcomers” of the previous chapter enthroned in chapter iv.
So in the very next scene (chap. 5) the Lord Jesus is recognized as a Conqueror. In that character He takes the book. The word “prevailed” is the common word for “overcome.” (See 5:5, Gr., and foot note.) Then, in the progress of the book, we see two victories celebrated in heaven, one obtained over the accuser (chap. 12), and another over the beast (chap. xv.), as I have before noticed. Then, on the earth, we see victory achieved, victory over the closing concentrated enmity and apostate strength and pride of the whole world. (Chap. 17:14, or 19:11-21.)
And further still, for I ask, Is not the first resurrection contemplated as a resurrection of conquerors? Is it not a reign of conquerors which we see in chapter 20:4?
And so forever for the inheritance of all things, after this is in the bands of conquerors. (Chap. 21:7.)
Can I ask my own soul what measure or character of victory marks my course? Can I inquire of myself, Do I know what conflict is because of corruption, and what the victory of separation from it?
The more we are conquerors, the more are we morally fit to be readers of the Book of Revelation. John, I may say, was a conqueror in the first chapter, for he was a martyr or confessor in the Isle of Patmos, “a brother and a companion in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ,” and in that character he gets the Revelation communicated to him. And I suggest again that it comes to him from a Conqueror, because it comes to him from “Jesus Christ” in the character (among others) of “the faithful Witness,” the character in which He overcame the world. (See 1 Tim. 6:13; see also John 16:33; Rev. 3:21.)
Indeed the four leading ideas in the book seem to be corruption, conflict, victory, and kingdom, the judgment of God being in exercise throughout.
The book assumes so to speak, that those who have tasted the grace of the Savior should stand in the rejection of the Savior. This may give a character to the book which will be somewhat strong for our timid hearts; but it is fitting that the volume of God should close with such a chapter, if I may so call it. Because the blessing of the creature was not the only business in creation, neither is it in redemption. His own glory was proposed as well as His creatures’ good. And it is His glory to judge a reprobate, unrepentant world; and His people glorify Him by taking part with Him in that judgment; and they judge it now in weakness by gainsaying the course of it even at the hazard of goods, liberties, and lives, as they will by and by judge it in power, when seated on their thrones in the regeneration.
The volume then closes as it began, for His own glory, of course in a different way (i.e., in the judgment of all the apostate principles of the world in their ripened condition). And the saints are rightly expected to be on His side in that action. This is their place and character in this book. The present is an age of easy profession, and the martyr strength and devotedness which are found in this book is not the common element. O for faith and love to reach it!—to be on the side of a rejected Jesus against the world!
But more than this: the book contemplates the Saints as heirs as well as conquerors. The expectation and the desire of getting the earth into possession and under dominion, occupy the mind of Christ and of the saints throughout.
In the opening of the prophetic part in chapter 4, we see the rainbow, the sign of the earth’s serenity, round the throne in heaven. And the One who sits on the throne is clothed in His glory as creator, for whose pleasure all things were created. We are, thus, in spirit, in Gen. 1
In chapter 5 the book of the inheritance of the earth passes into the hand of the Lamb and all rejoice. We are, thus, in spirit in Gen. 2, where the Lord God Himself, and all the creatures owned the dominion of Adam, the Lord God by conferring it, the creatures by submitting to it.
Judgments under the seals and under the trumpets, the necessary precursors of the kingdom, then take their course; and in chapter 10 the Lord Jesus, as the mighty angel, triumphs in the now approaching moment of inheritance and dominion over earth and sea; and, in chapter 11, the saints in heaven do the same.
The voice heard in heaven in chapter 12, and the song of the victor-harpers in chapter 15, alike utter joy over the prospect of the kingdom. “Now is come the kingdom of our God and the power of His Christ,” says the voice in heaven. “All nations shall come and worship before thee,” the harpers sing.
Then in chapter 19 the joy in heaven is this, that she that corrupted the earth has been judged; and the voice there (as of many waters and mighty thunderings) utters “Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” And the action which makes the earth the Lord’s property takes place.
In chapter 20, the first resurrection is spoken of as being for the very purpose of bringing in or manifesting the kingdom. Speaking of the risen ones, the prophet says, “they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”
And how does the book close? Not with a description of the Church in the hidden places of heaven, as the Father’s house, but with a sight of the Church in the manifested heavens, the place of power or government, up to the light of which the kings will bring their glory and honor, and forth from which will go the waters of the river and the leaves of the tree for the healing of the nations. And this is such a view of the heavenly places as suits the earth in the days of the kingdom; and of the servants of God and of the Lamb, who are there, it is said at the close, “and they shall reign forever and ever.”

Death of Lazarus

John 11
“Sorrow is a sacred thing,” it has been justly and beautifully said. But it is a fruitful thing also. If a sorrowing house be a sanctuary, so that no rude foot should trespass, it is also a spot for divine husbandry, and ready to yield its good and profitable fruit.
The sickness and death of Lazarus procured for the loved family at Bethany a visit from the Lord; a circumstance in itself full of blessing and of promise, and in that visit we see several things which may well engage our heart and attention.
He sympathizes with the sorrow, and then removes the cause of it. He “wept” first, and afterward said, “Lazarus, come forth.”
The purpose which He carried with Him of removing the occasion of the misery, left His heart still the seat of present compassion with it. It was so in the case of sending out the apostles. He was about to give them pastors according to His own heart; but looking on them as sheep that had no shepherd, He had compassion on the multitudes. It was so again in His feeding the people. He was about to give them bread enough and to spare, but, on seeing them, He had compassion. (Matt. 9; 15)
No prospect of the future, be it as bright and certain as it may, can rightly close the heart to the claims of the present. The follower of Christ will “weep” as he enters the house of mourning or the chamber of death, though he knows that the power of resurrection, in season, will close the scene in all its own magnificence and joy.
With this sympathy and this power over the cause of the sorrow, we see, moreover, the instructions of wisdom and the lessons of God enjoyed through His sorrow.
Martha speaks of her grief to the Lord, and much ignorance is expressed through the natural and in some sense pardonable exercises of her wounded heart. But Jesus teaches her the way of God more perfectly. He lets the light of some wondrous truths break in upon her soul, truths deeper and more precious than what the hours of her undisturbed ease and happiness had been able to discover. The light of the day of prosperity had not shown her what Jesus now brought with Him in this night of weeping. She is made to see some bright shinings of the glory of God through the tears of that sorrow, through that gloom of death which had entered her dwelling. “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” The place was indeed a sanctuary, and Jesus Himself treads softly. He wept. He owned the claim of such a moment. But it was a spot for Him to cultivate also. It was a garden of the Lord’s; and He enriches it with fresh fruit and growth of knowledge. Again, let me say of this affecting scene, that it is made productive to others also. Many believe, when they witness how the grace and power of the Lord had dealt with this sorrow. “Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.”
I ask, is not all this as much the history of this our day, as it was of the day of Martha and Mary? Who need live long and travel far to know that the sorrows of the saints still draw the willing visits of Christ? and that, during such visits, He sympathizes and teaches? Who, I ask, need live long and travel far to know this? Gracious it is in the Spirit, and gracious to us, to have the record of such things in the book “written for our learning.” But is it less gracious in Him, or less gracious to us, that these things are not merely the things of history, but the common things of experience and observation?
And further. This sorrow is the occasion of fresh acts of supplication and of worship. “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me,” said the Lord. And is this at all more strange or less a matter of experience than the others? What say our own souls?
“Trials make the promise sweet, Trials give new life to prayer; Trials bring me to His feet, Lay me low and keep me there.”
This is not history, but experience. It is not the light of other days which, as we hear, was wont to cheer the night of weeping or the house of mourning, but the light which, as we know, is still wont to hold its court and display its power in the dark valley and in the shadow of death.
I am bold also to add another thought—a thought, too, lately made very precious to my own heart—that the blessed Lord, in unjealous love, allows both our sorrows and our mercies to be fresh links between Himself and our poor fond hearts. The widow of Sarepta was afresh bound to the prophet, when she received her son from the dead. Her joy, in one she so loved being restored to her, acted as another link of tenderest and yet strongest texture between her heart and the man of God, the witness of Christ; and the Spirit allowed it, I am sure. (1 Kings 17:24.) So in much later days, the Lord allowed His servant to be thankful and take courage on seeing brethren again, after a long separation, though during that separation he had enjoyed His presence and encouragements in a sweet and large measure. (Acts 28) And so here. Receiving their brother from the dead, the dear family at Bethany are more than ever the Lord’s. In the power and joy of resurrection they sit with Him. (Chap. 7:1.) They delight in Him afresh through the mercy which their common natural human feelings had received.

What Is Death to the Believer?

(2 Cor. 5)
The hope of the believer is not death. It is “not to be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality may be swallowed up of life.” He need not be unclothed, that is, of himself. The purpose of God is nothing less than that we should be conformed to the image of Christ. (Rom. 8) Our proper hope is to see Him as He is, and be like Him. It is the power of divine life conforming us to Christ the Head that we hope for; and this is what He has wrought us for. Being in utter ruin, we can now only look to what are God’s thoughts and purposes about us, and therefore hope comes in as a very necessary help; but hope is not all our joy now, and when we get to heaven, there will be no hope left. Our proper joy is not hope at all, though now, seeing there is nothing satisfying here, one of our greatest joys is hope. What He has brought us into now is not subject of hope at all. We do not hope for the divine nature or the love of God. The divine joy of the believer is having these, while rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.
We have a hope in death, but death is not our hope. There is that in it which is more than hope—the possession of life; and that death does not touch but set free. There are some things we should be at home in. We should be at home in God’s love; and at the judgment-seat of Christ, being like Him, we may be at home. True, we are at home, too, in conflict here, temptation, &c.; the promise is “to him that overcometh. But, in spite of conflict, our hearts should be at home where God has put us. We cannot be at home where no water is. So far as the Spirit of God animates and fills us, we find no water here.
When death comes in, it breaks every possible thought of nature; it is a terrible thing in this way: every thought of man gone—not a single thing to trust in—everything in nature broken down.
Another point is, it is the power of Satan which none can control. God has the power of life, but if He had called in question Satan’s power in death, He would have annulled His own sentence. Death must come in, breaking every tie of nature, and bringing in every terror connected with Satan. The sentence must be executed by God Himself, and therefore it is the judgment of God. There is judgment after it. “It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment.” What can this judgment be? If I die and God brings me into judgment, I must be condemned for the sin that brought me there. “Death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (I am not now speaking of deliverance.) In every sense death is a terrible thing. Besides the natural dread that even an animal has, there is a terror in it, because all ties are broken by it; everything, however loving, is gone, when death takes it. The power of Satan ushering into judgment, it can bring nothing but condemnation for sin. It is also what God has put as a stamp on man, and no skill of man can avert it. It comes with bitter mockery amidst all the progress of which man boasts. In all this we see what death is in itself, as the wages of sin. But there is another way to look at it. The way God has taken it up and entirely delivered us (those who believe); and now, if there is a bright spot in a man’s (a Christian’s) life, it is at his death. It brings in a bright gleam of the future, entirely by Christ. “If one died for all, then were all dead,” &c.; “that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death,.... and deliver them who through fear of death,” &c. This blessed truth is simple in itself, familiar to us, that the Son of God, of whom it is said that it was not possible He should be holden of death, did come down into it has gone under it and is risen. The second Adam came into the very place of the first Adam.
Then we were under sin, judgment, wrath, condemnation, and He has been under it all—He was made sin. Had God not measured the sin? Yes. Did He not know the consequences of it? Yes; and He “spared not His own Son,” &c. Did Christ not know all that was involved in it? Yes; and He came in the full love of His heart to accomplish the purpose of God—to drink the cup; but such was His agony at the thought of what the cup was, that He sweat great drops of blood. It was the thought of sin, death, and judgment that made Him shrink from the cup, but He went through it with God. The power of death was gone, in a sense, when those who came to meet Him saw Him, “They went back and fell on their faces.” He had nothing to do but to go away then, but He did not: He offered Himself up. His disciples might go away, because He stood in the gap. Thus He takes the cup as judgment, suffering the penalty of sin. It is not now Satan (as in the agony in the garden), but God. When on the cross He cries, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He drank the cup thoroughly on the cross, then He died. His body went down to the grave. Was it the power of Satan when He said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit?” No. He gave up His spirit, waiting for the resurrection. He went down under death, took up the whole thing—sin, Satan’s power, wrath, &c. He was made sin for us. “He died unto sin once.” We have thus seen what death was for Christ. Now see what it is for us. In nature it is everlasting wrath: but there is not a bit of the wrath, not a bit of the sin remaining for the believer. Is God going to judge the sin He has put away? No; there is not a trace of it remaining. “He has put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” — “condemned sin in the flesh.” The strength of it all is in this—that He was “made sin,” because He had no sin of His own. He suffered for it once, the just for the unjust. (1 Peter 3:4.) “Condemned sin in the flesh.” God has done it once for all, and now He lives, and there is no more about the sin. “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and unto them that look for Him shall he appear the second time without sin,” having nothing more to say to it, and apart from the question of sin altogether, to take us into glory.
Looked at as the nature, He had no sin, but I had sin, and that is put away; sin is entirely put away, abolished forever. He has come up from under the consequences of death, after sin is put away. The life He took up is in the “power of an endless life.” I have new life in Him, life born of the Spirit, and “the life that I live, I live by the faith of the Son of God,” &c. Then what about the old man practically? As I have this new life, the old man is reckoned dead. I am dead. What is dead? The old man; I am “baptized into His death.” The “corn of wheat” must die. Death ended all connected with it, for dying is unto that by which I was held. The law has killed me. The effect of the law, if we see its value, is that it has killed me, and I have life in Christ. Scripture does not speak of our dying to sin, or of our dying to ourselves; but we “are dead,” and are to “reckon ourselves dead.” “Wherefore, if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though alive in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?” The old man is an antagonist in its a ill; but I am dead to it. I have done with that which hindered my going to God. Has not a man done with that to which he has died? Literally, when death comes, I shall have done with what is mortal. Mortality is to be “swallowed up of life.” The old nature is a thorn I shall be glad to get rid of; it is mortal, corrupt, and now by sin under the power of Satan. But then it will be gone, this corruption and mortality. The mortal body having died, I shall have nothing more to do with death or the old nature.
What of the new nature? Is this clone with? No; it is getting home, where the affections will have full play. In death we have done with the old nature, the first Adam, and get a great deal more of the Second. This is “far better.” I shall have got rid of mortality when I die. “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that whilst we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.” Who is this person? The new man. I am absent from the body, present with the Lord. Leaving this wretched, poor mortal, to be with Christ, is positive gain. It will be better still to be in the glory with Him, complete in all with Christ; but now it is “gain” to die.
What was Christ’s own thought about dying? What He said to the thief shows: “This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise:” and to His disciples He said, “If ye loved me ye would rejoice, because I go to my Father.” In Christ there was the perfect consciousness of gain. Was Stephen less happy in his measure when he died? Hear him saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” The fact of death is leaving the old man entirely behind, and going to be with Christ. There is positive gain in having done, in measures, by faith now, or in fact by and by, with the mortal.
Then there is the dying daily. But there is not a single thing in which death can come, but it is positive gain, and for the life of the spirit. The sorrow which comes in, by the breaking of natural ties, is for blessing, reducing the flesh, &c. If there is will in the sorrow, it is bad; but trial is to be felt. Peter did not like the thought of the cross; his flesh was not broken down to the point of the revelation he had from God. Then there must be a process gone through to break it down, either with God in secret or through discipline.
John Nelson Darby

Discipline: 19. Job, Part 1.

The allusion which is made to Job in James 5:11., viz., “ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy,” is enough to draw the attention of any earnest soul to the study of a history so fully recorded for us
Job is at first presented to us as a pattern man, happy in his own condition, faithful and true in his relations toward God. We see in him a man who had on every side risen above the evil and sorrow which is the lot of man; a remarkable instance and exemplar among men of how God could distinguish from the rest of men—one strong and superior to them; at once for God on earth, and blessed abundantly by God. He was perfect and upright; one that feared God and eschewed evil, and as to possessions and earthly things they were so abundant that this man was the greatest of all the men of the East.
It is important to see that Job was walking on the earth well pleasing to God” and owned by Him as such, when Satan first called in question his fidelity and imputed to him the unworthy motive which was couched in the question “Doth Job serve God for naught?” It affords us the clue to a true apprehension of the nature of the discipline to which he was subjected, when we see that it was not primarily on account of personal failure; but the rather for the purpose of exemplifying to Satan the truth of God's estimate of His servant. It will be seen that much personal failure was betrayed by Job, while under the divine discipline; for though the trials which he suffered were inflicted by Satan, and with the intent to verify his calumny on him, yet they were used of God to accomplish in Job that self-renunciation and faith in God, which did eventually enable him to establish in full blessedness, the truth of the estimate which God had in His goodness given of him. It is wonderful and most interesting to trace the way and manner in which the blessed God at once confound', Satan, vindicates His own judgment, and educates His servant up to the standing he had ascribed to him, and having brought him to it, rebukes Satan by bestowing on Job twice as much as he had before.
We must seek to realize in our minds what it must have been for one in the circumstances in which Job was, to be suddenly plunged into such reverses. We see him but a moment before enjoying the full circle of God's mercies, and at the same time maintaining a scrupulous conscientiousness with God; in the jealousy of his zeal rising up early in the morning, after the feasting of his sons, to offer up burnt-offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “It may be my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts; and this he did continually.” When every known point of the circle was thus carefully and with jealousy of heart toward God watched over, we might have expected, and doubtless Job had reckoned, that there would have been no disturbance of the rest in which through mercy he was set. Doubtless whatever might be the fears, which, like clouds coursing the sky on the brightest day, beset him, he had no idea of the malignant spirit who, by aspersing him before God, only moves the blessed God to surrender him into Satan's bands, in order that He might in the most unequivocal manner prove his integrity and unshaken fidelity to God. We must also bear in mind that while it is God's purpose in His dealings with Job to vindicate His own estimate of His servant, it is at the same time shown us how He educates or disciplines that servant so as to render him worthy of this estimate.
It was at a moment when Job could little have expected it that the crush came. No doubt he often had his fears; for he says “that which I feared greatly has come upon me;” and this must ever be the case when the soul has no better security for the love than the evidence and presence of its gifts. The gifts are thus a snare to us, and Satan's imputation against us is often in a measure true; our ground for rest and quietness of spirit before God being His kindness and mercies to us, and not simply the knowledge of His love. This is very evident from the violent grief and despair many of His people fall into when they are deprived of any particular mercy. They had rested in the gift more than in God, and the gift was to them the evidence of His love—the love itself not the rest of the heart. Satan knows man's tendency and therefore hesitates not to accuse Job of it, asserting that he had no link with God, or reverence for Him, but on account of His abundant mercies to him. God in His grace had challenged Satan as to His servant that there was none like him in all the earth. Satan retorts, imputing to Job a sordid motive for his allegiance; and asserting that if he were deprived of all which now attached him to God, he would curse Him to His face. The Lord on this, in order to verify His own estimate, and to render Job in himself worthy of this estimate, permits Satan to deprive him of all he has.
In one day, in quick succession, Job loses property, children, everything. Never was a catastrophe so rapid and so complete. “Then Job arose and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground and worshipped.” He bears these first great waves of adversity in a most exemplary manner, and says, “Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither; the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”
It is to be noted that at first a great accumulation of afflictions are better borne than afterward. The strength that is in the heart, the confidence in God, is the resource where the crash is sudden and terrific; and in the rapidity with which Satan used his power, it appears to me he outwitted himself, for certainly sufferings with an interval between them are more trying. Satan, however, hoped that the crash would be so overwhelming, that Job could not but reproach God for the calamity. But extreme difficulty always calls out the latent strength, as with a drowning man; where a lesser difficulty would not. The trial is not sufficient at times to rouse one to effort. It is when the effort has been drawn out by extreme difficulty and has proved unavailing, that real helplessness is felt, and the cloud of despair invests the soul. Job had borne his troubles so well that the gracious God is able again to challenge Satan as to his estimate of His servant. Satan retorts, “Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life, but put forth thine hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.” Of course, it fills the cup of misery, if besides being deprived of everything my heart clings to, and the whole scene once so lovely and pleasing to me now a waste—with but tombs of my former enjoyments; if besides this, I have become by bodily infliction a burden to myself! Surely bodily suffering and disease would in such a case be the bitterest way of reminding me of my utter desolation without heart or power to retrieve my condition. God permits Satan to afflict Job with the most grievous bodily suffering; he is smitten with sore boils from the crown of his bead to the sole of his foot. How complete his misery! his wife is overwhelmed, and in her distress falls into Satan's snare, and counsels her husband to curse God and die. Thus everything is against Job. What a moment of exercise to his soul! How he must have wrought within himself as to hope in God! But every exercise, though the sufferer at the time little knows it, is strengthening the soul in God. The deeper the distress, the deeper the sense of His grace in relieving it; the one only makes a good rooting ground for the other.
Job bears up wonderfully at first. He rebukes his wife, saying, “What, shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” But he is further tested. His friends come to mourn with and comfort him. If I am passing through discipline from God, which my most intimate friends or relatives do not understand, their intimacy and offers of help and comfort disturb and injure me rather than the reverse. This Job had to encounter from his wife, on one side, and his three friends, on the other; one on the ground of nature, the other on the ground of superior intelligence. What a scene it was! “When the friends lifted up their eyes afar off and knew him not, they lifted up their voice and wept; and they rent every one his mantle and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him, for they saw that his grief was very great.”
“After this Job opened his mouth and cursed his day.” Under the weight of a terrible blow there is such utter exclusion from everything all round, that there is no attempt to complain or to express oneself. And if the soul has confidence in God it is more shut up unto it, while the sufferer is unable to look at himself in relation to things here, and as he was among them. But the moment he awakes to the reality of his relation to everything here, himself must occupy him, unless he is done with himself. The discipline is administered in order to set aside self, and introduce the heart into its true relation apart from self with God. Hence, the effect of the discipline is to expose the secret workings and feelings of self, which otherwise would not have been detected or known, and, if not known, not renounced. Job felt himself now a hapless one, with misery all around him, having outlived every enjoyment on earth, and be cursed his day. What had he lived for, and what should he live for? Little he knew the place he was occupying before God, or how God was preparing him, through terrible sufferings, to vindicate His own estimate of him to Satan. We have now to examine how God effects this His blessed purpose; noting the course which a soul under discipline from God necessarily takes in order to arrive at simple dependence and rest in Him.
The first thought, and the most bitter one, after awaking to a full sense of one's misery, is to curse one's day; a terrible impression, and the one which leads to suicide, when God is not known. But when God is known, as in Job's case, it is the beginning of healthy action; not in the discontent and wretchedness which it discloses, but because the sense of death, utter extermination from everything, is known and felt. I may give way to rebellion and discontent in learning the utter wretchedness of man on earth, but the sense of this is necessary to full self-renunciation. I ought not to blame God for it, but I need to realize it as man's true place. Death, because of such present misery, is preferred. To live in it has no attraction for the heart. This Job feels. He knows not that God seeks to make him a witness of dependence on Himself against Satan. But this is God's way. Discipline may have the effect of making us feel that death is preferable to life, but it is working out God's purpose.
To this experience Job receives a check in the reply of Eliphaz the Temanite. I think we should regard these three friends as representing to us the various exercises which engage our consciences when under this order of discipline. Eliphaz intimates to Job that he deserved these afflictions; “even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity and sow wickedness reap the same,” and still more (chap. 5:17), that it is not even chastening; for if it were, “He that maketh sore bindeth up:” thus insinuating that as He had not bound up, it was something more than chastening. In consequence of this, Job is now (chap. 6:7) not so much occupied with his misery, as with his right to complain and endeavor to retort the suggestions of his friend. He gives us a history of his calamities, disappointment in his friends being added to the list—occupied with self-vindication, though at the same time only the more convinced that his days are vanity, saying, “My soul chooseth strangling and death rather than life.” What lessons of anguish one has to learn before one sees the wisdom of renouncing self! What has not the soul to pass through in discipline in order that it may be brought to this! How tormented it is with one suggestion and another; which never could reach or trouble it only for the amount of self which exists. It is the possibility of the truth of a charge which makes it painful and irritating.
Bildad replies. This is another exercise to Job. It is well for us to have recorded in God's word an account of the often unexplainable exercises through which we pass when learning the nothingness of man in himself—suggestions claiming to be friends, afflicting us still more sorely. Bildad here severely reproves Job; telling him that the words of his mouth are like a strong wind, and that if he were pure and upright God would awake for him; thus throwing him still more on himself and implying, that his trials are judicial requitals for sin, and not, as really was the case, the discipline of God leading him to the full end of himself. He is now no longer so much overwhelmed with his misery, as occupied with righting himself in the sight of his friends. Painful and cruel work is it to the spirit to repel charges made by friends, of deserving irretrievable misery. Job knew that he had done nothing to deserve it; but what he had to learn was that he was entitled to nothing, and this his friends knew no more than he; they stood entirely on righteousness.
Job now owns the greatness of God. He is turned God ward; yet while he owns the greatness of God and His power, he uses it only to show the distance that is between himself and God; even that they cannot meet on equal terms; but that if they could, he should not fear. It is evident his soul has a link with God, but his friends have occupied him with God as a judge, intimating that the deprivation of temporal mercies is a punishment for sin, which implies of course that the gift of them is the contrary. In this new exercise, he sees God's greatness and does not see God's care for himself: as under His hand, what (he argues) can he avail? He sees no reason in it, regards it as arbitrary, and implies that if he had a daysman who could place them on a common footing, he could make good his case; but as it is, there is no hope. “Oh (he cries) that I had given up the ghost, and no eye had seen me!”
Zophar replies, endeavoring to convict him, pressing on him that God “exacteth less of thee than thine iniquity deserveth;” and if there were no iniquity, there would be present mercies. “Thou shouldest lift thy face without spot and take thy rest in safety.” Zophar makes man's acts the measure of God's dealings. He does not see the evil of man in himself, and his consequent distance from God, as without title to any blessing. Job replies. What little way a soul makes when occupied with self-justification! The friends had stung him with reproaches, that his afflictions must be on account of sin. Job, unconscious of any evil that would warrant such suffering, denies it. The reproaches which the Lord bore without reply, though unjustly heaped upon Him, Job rebuts because he has not seen himself as he is before God. He is only judging himself as a man would, and as his friends ought, who really were on no higher ground than himself. God's sovereignty accounts to him for everything. He sees no purpose of grace in God's ways with him, and yet it is evident his soul is gaining ground, for he exclaims, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him,” and a gleam of hope bursts in on his path; for he adds, “Thou shalt call and I will answer thee, thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.” What a season when the soul passes through all this exercise and anguish in order to emerge from self-satisfaction and rest only in God! yet God's way is perfect, as the end always proves.
Eliphaz replies. (Chap. 15) He waxes severe and unmeasured in his efforts to convince Job that he and his companions have wisdom, and therefore that they are right in their statements that God is now dealing with men according to their merits, that the wicked man travaileth with pain all his days; and he adds, “a dreadful sound is in my ears: in prosperity the destroyer shall come upon him.”
Unless we study the exercises of our own hearts we can hardly estimate the heart-rending which these censures must have caused Job. They turned him in the wrong direction; they engaged him with himself. He could not deny that he was afflicted; he did not see, measuring himself with man, that he had done any act to subject himself to so great affliction; and his friends harassed him, directing and confining his mind to this one point, that God's doings were all according to man's acts, and therefore, as he suffered so much, he must have been wicked in an extraordinary degree. Job resists (chap. 16), and pronounces his friends “miserable comforters;” and so they were. “Though I speak,” he cries, “my grief is not assuaged; and though I forbear, what am I eased?” He has now the bitterest of feelings; even that God had delivered him to the ungodly. He tastes of our Lord's sufferings as a man. Who can comprehend the bitterness of the sorrow that now devours the soul of Job! “My friends scorn me,” he exclaims, “but mine eye poureth out tears to God.” In all his sense of the terribleness of his affliction and suffering, there drops out now and again the link, that, as a regenerate soul, he has with God. He has not yet seen himself in the sight of God; and therefore he maintains (ver. 17), “Not for any injustice in my hands, also my prayer is pure;” and therefore he looks to plead with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbor. He has a partial sense of God's greatness; but he has not the sense of His holiness; and the reason of this is, that he has never been near enough to God; for it is nearness to Him that produces the sense of His holiness. Therefore he concludes that if he could plead with Him, he must be acquitted. We see thus what terrible distress of soul arises from estimating sufferings from God's band according to man; i.e., looking man-ward in respect of them. How much of Job's self is before his mind! He feels that be is a “by-word of the people.” “Upright men shall be astonied at this, and the innocent shall stir up himself against the hypocrite.” To such thoughts as these death can be time only release. “If I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness.”
(To be continued.)

Discipline: 20. Job, Part 2

Bildad replies (chap. 18) in angry and reproachful terms; and in a pointed way traces step by step the course of the wicked; first “taken in a snare, because his own counsel hath cast him down, until he shall have neither son nor nephew among his people. Surely such are the dwellings of the wicked, and this is the place of him that knoweth not God.” Well might Job reply—thus goaded with the assertion that he knew not God— “How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words?” What a wonderful time for the soul, when with conscience and faith in God, it seeks to justify itself, amid all the affliction and sorrow which here judicially and righteously is the common lot of all, and still more when they are for discipline. Job repels the accusation of having been taken in his own snare, saying, “Know now that God hath overthrown me, and hath compassed me with his net.” He ascribes it to God, but cannot see any reason for it. But with all this probing of the wound in the increased sense of being unduly afflicted by God, his spirit is nevertheless strengthening in hope, as we may discover in his words. “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”
Chapter 20- Zophar now in the most emphatic manner presents to Job the utter and overwhelming ruin of the wicked. He denounces him without pity. Heaven shall reveal his iniquity, and the earth shall rise up against him. Job replies (chap. 21) detailing the prosperity of the wicked in order to skew that Zophar must be in error, and yet, though he knows that the reproaches of his friends are unfounded, he has no clear idea of God's will or of any order or purpose in His dealings. Knowing nothing more than that He is omnipotent, and can do as He likes, without being able to see that He always has a distinct end before Him for every one of His ways. “Known to God are all his works from the foundation of the world.” “How then,” he retorts, “comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood.”
Chapter 22- Eliphaz, now for the last time addresses him, and endeavors to make an impression upon him by the enormity of his charges. “Is not thy wickedness great, and thine iniquity infinite?” reiterating again that false principle, so ready to the carnal mind with reference to God's dealings, that He gives the gold and the silver to them who return to Him. “If thou return to the Almighty thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles. Then shalt thou lay up gold as dust, and the gold of Ophir as the stones of the brooks.” (Ver. 23.)
Now in chapters 23 and 24 there are two points which come out: the first, that Job is sensible of his distance from God, and while sensible of it, desires to be brought near. It is the true exercise of a quickened soul—groping as it were in darkness for what it yearns after. “Behold,” he says, “I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him.” With this there is a sense of the unchangeableness of God's purpose. “He is in one mind, and who can turn him?” And yet the true fear, the solemn effect of His presence is not unknown, for he says, “I am troubled at his presence; when I consider, I am afraid of him.” The second point is that Job turns his eyes on men; he has not found rest or acceptance for himself with God, and now he looks at men; and he sees that the wicked prosper in the world; yet they have their secret sorrows, and death checks their career. But at this stage of his experience, he is not so much magnifying himself; he seeks to be near God, but fears His presence, because not at rest or in acceptance. Varied indeed are the exercises which a soul must be put through while refusing to see the completeness of its ruin in the sight of God.
Chapter 25- Bildad concludes his strictures, reiterating the greatness of God and uncleanness of man; as if there could be no ground of reparation between them. Bitter words to a worn one seeking for standing ground with God, whom in his spirit, he knew and believed in. Chapters 27-31—Job now gives a summary of his state, &c., as he is in himself and also as to his apprehension of God. The greatness of God creationally comes before him; but this never makes the soul conscious of the character of its distance from God; hence, in the next chapter we have Job maintaining his integrity. If not in the light I must maintain my integrity, unless I have broken some law—done some overt act; so here Job thus seeks to relieve himself from the reproach of being stricken of God. In chapter 28, where he finely describes wisdom, it is interesting to mark how, under all the pressure, his soul is advancing in true light and knowledge; and that thus the discipline is effective. The more I see the wisdom of God and His way (as one does sometimes when under pressure) the more depressed I shall become, if not able to connect myself acceptably with God; and as a consequence, I turn back on my own history, and become occupied with myself. Thus Job in chapter 29 dwells on the past, and this is always an evidence of the soul not being right with God; for if it were going on with him it would have greater things than the past to recount. This is especially the case when what it has to recall is self-amiability and God's gifts and goodness, which made up the sum of the young ruler's possessions. If I have a sense of sin from having been a transgressor, then retrospection is necessarily shorn of its charms; but when in misery the Lord can recall a time of uninterrupted blamelessness of life and conduct; the light of God's favor in His gifts shed around it; such a retrospect is attractive and engrossing to the heart. Job's time was before the land was given; and hence as a Gentile he is learning the evil of himself, not by law but in the presence of God and having lived in all good conscience, he found it no easy matter to count all as dung and dross. He is allowed to dwell on it in order to show us how the righteousness which is of ourselves may engage and hinder us; and yet on the other hand how utterly futile the course Job's friends adopted to help him to a true estimate of himself before God, and according to God Himself. Thus still occupied with himself, Job in chapter 29 dwells on his former prosperity, while in chapter 31 he goes seriatim over the goodness of his whole course and ways, judging himself according to man's judgment; and after it all he sums up thus: “My desire is that the Almighty would answer me.” Such are the exercises of a soul which, without having done anything to offend the natural conscience, has not seen itself in the light of God's presence, and therefore knows not the corruption of its nature. If the natural conscience could have formed wherewithal to convict, its action might have been easy and summary; but where the moral sense is not offended, a lengthened process is required for the soul ere it can reach a spiritual sense; i.e., an estimate of itself formed in the light of God's presence.
We now come to another epoch in this interesting history. We have traced briefly and inadequately the patient, searching process by which God leads a soul to discover its utter ruin in His sight. The example before us is one against whom no one could bring any charge. As far as works went, God Himself could challenge Satan and assert that there will none like Job in all the earth; an upright man and one that escheweth evil. But while either to man's eye or to Satan's eye there was nothing to blame or censure in Job, God would have Job know that in His sight he was utterly corrupt and lost. To learn this is most painful and bitter work to nature. Nature must die. Job begins by feeling that death would be preferable to life, all being misery here. He then, both from his own “mens conscia recti,” and also his knowledge of God's ways (while tortured by the unjust reproaches and surmising of his friends as to his concealed guilt) rebuts the doctrine which they uphold, even that God rules and determines things for man, according to man's works here; that He has no other principles of government; and that man's acts suggest to God a course of action; thus placing God without a purpose, and only like an ordinary sovereign legislating according to the vicissitude of circumstances. Job by all this exercise is strengthened in two points, which only add the more to his perplexity. He is the more deeply convinced of the sovereignty of God, and that all power is from Him; and, secondly, as his friends have failed to touch his conscience, he is bolder in self-justification.
Chapter 32- At this juncture Elihu comes in. This servant of God comes, as we shall see, from God's side, and supplies now to Job the teaching he so much needed. We are not aware often of the severe process of soul which we must pass through before we are prepared to hear of God from His own side. We may have to weary ourselves in very darkness before we are ready to hear the word of light; for light comes from God only; He (Christ) is the “light which lighteth every man which cometh into the world.” All reasoning from man's side, as Job's friends had done, only occupied him the more with himself, and provoked his self-vindication, while it necessarily made him more sensible of the distance between himself and God, and therefore deepened in his soul the need of God. Elihu now shows that it is not true what Job had asserted; that God acts arbitrarily; that “he findeth occasions against me.” His first argument is, that God is stronger than man. “Why dost thou strive against him?” “He giveth not account of his matters.” The first great thing for a soul is to humble itself under the mighty hand of God. This Job has not yet done. But furthermore, adds Elihu, God in dreams deals with man “that he may withdraw man from his purpose.” How gracious, that when all is in the stillness of sleep. God should show His wakeful interest for man, and warn him in dreams! God is full of mercy, as we see. (Ver. 23-28.) When there is confession on the ground of God's righteousness, there is mercy and salvation from God. All these things worketh God oftentimes with man. We get in the case of Isaac an example of the convulsion that occurs when the truth of God regains its power and rule in the soul. He trembled with an exceeding great trembling. Job must now learn this; he had allowed his own mind to judge God, instead of submitting himself to God, and waiting for instruction from Him.
Chapter 34- The next point with Elihu is that God must be righteous. Job had said that he himself was righteous, and that God had taken away his judgment. If God were not righteous, yea, the fountain of righteousness, how could He govern? “Shall even he that hateth right govern? surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment.” “Who hath given him a charge over the earth?” Elihu exhorts Job to understand that God is righteous and in His righteousness He can act as He will. “He will not lay upon men more than is right, that he should enter into judgment with God.” Seeing this to be so, the true place for Job was that of confession. “Surely it is meet to be said unto God I have borne chastisement—I will not offend any more.” Though these varied lessons, these progressive steps in the history of a soul are presented to us as one continued unbroken tale, we must bear in mind, that there are often long and suffering intervals while each step is being learned. It is the order of their succession that is presented to us here; rather than the suffering which the soul goes through in learning them.
In chapter 35 Elihu touches on a new point; namely, that God is infinitely above man; that man's works can in no wise affect Him. Job must learn that “If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hand?” “If Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.” There ought to be perception of the goodness that cometh from God; but on the contrary “none saith where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night,” —when all around is darkness. Job had dwelt on what he was to God, not on what God was to him. And then, “surely God will not hear vanity, neither will the Almighty regard it.”
In chapter 36 another point is pressed on Job, even that if he looks at things from God's side, he must see His righteousness. Job ought to understand that “He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous “He openeth also their ear to discipline” — “He delivereth the poor in his affliction.” Here it was that Job had failed; he had been occupied in justifying himself, instead of having his ear opened to discipline. “Behold God is great.” There is an immense advance in the soul when it comes to this; and regards things distinctly as from God's side. When I have a true sense of what He is, the effect must be to humble myself under His mighty hand, and to wait on Him.
In chapter 37- Elihu leads Job into further contemplation of what God is in His greatness and His works; just as the Lord said “Believe me for the very works' sake.” And this is the introduction, if I may so say, for what we shall find in the next chapter; when God Himself addresses Job apart from any recognized instrumentality, instructing him in His own greatness and power. Job has listened to Elihu, and now prepared for God's voice, God in His mercy, deals directly and closely with his soul. How deep and solemn the exercise; when the soul, alone with God is in His wondrous grace and mercy taught by Him the majesty and goodness of Himself.
In chapter 38 we read “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind.” And calls on him to ponder and consider. “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?” “Through faith we understand that the worlds were formed by the word of God.” This is the beginning of faith, as also, that he that cometh to God must believe that He is. Job did believe in God as existing, but his faith was not simple and fixed in the might of God; in His greatness. He is now called to consider whether he could explain or know the origin of any of God's works. Could he reach or comprehend them? God challenges him, “Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts, or who hath given understanding to the heart?” In the material world God proves Job to be ignorant of the origin of any of His works; and now in chapter 39, he is required to ponder how unable he is to rule over the animal world. Be it the unicorn, the horse, or the eagle; each and all are superior to Job in strength. How much more He who created and gave them their qualities, ought not He to command supremely Job's reverence and fear! “Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him?” (Chap. 40) Now it is that Job feels the force of the divine word. Then Job answered the Lord and said, “Behold I am vile, what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer; yea, twice, but I will proceed no further.” He is now brought to a sense of his vileness; but only so far as this, that he will be silent; for he knows not how to answer. He feels condemned, but has not yet reached simple self-renunciation. One may have a sense of vileness, and inability to answer, and yet hope to improve. It may be only a pause to recover from the conviction which the word of God must effect in the soul stunned but not subdued. If the sense of ruin and vileness were complete, there would be no promise of improvement, or expression that one was doing something better now than heretofore. Hence the voice of God still addresses Job; and he is subjected to the divine challenge again. Chapters 40, 41. This time God presses upon him, that Behemoth, the Leviathan, is a greater creature by many degrees than he; “upon earth there is not his like who is made without fear;” and for this purpose, the variety and order of God's ways with regard to this strange and mighty being, is brought before the soul of Job, who feels himself in the presence of God, and is confounded.
Now it is that he arrives at the end, desired of God, in all the discipline to which He has been subjecting him. Job now seeing God, forms a true estimate of himself, and repents in dust and ashes. The blameless man, in nature good, and as a man upright, when brought into the presence of God abhors himself. As a man, he has whereof he may boast; he may justify himself to his fellows, but not before God. Before, and in the presence of God, he can claim nothing, expect nothing, and feel himself entitled to nothing. In the sight of God's holy eye, his only consciousness of self is to abhor himself and repent in dust and ashes.
Job has now done with himself. Happy fruit and consummation of all discipline! And so completely is he freed from himself that, before there is any relief from the circumstances and trial which had been the proximate cause of all his misery and soul exercise and which Satan had brought upon him to prove his hollowness, he can pray for his friends. Superior to his own sufferings, he thinks of his friends before God, and then it is that the Lord turns the captivity of Job, proving (and how deeply we may lay it to heart!) that “the end of the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy.” Amen.

Discipline: 21. Hezekiah

Nothing is more interesting or helpful to us than to be taught the ways of God by a living example; one like ourselves in nature and feeling, used of God and empowered by Him to do His will. We see where the grace of God works and where it is hindered; and not only this, but in the vessel we get an apprehension of the way man under similar circumstances would act, as well as a clear perception of what the mind of God is and how it addresses itself to man, and how man is formed and controlled by it. The nature of any great divine working is explained to us through the medium of the human servant; and we see, on the one hand, how God would use the man, and, on the other, how the man failed, as well as how he acted when simply led of God. We require to know both, because unless we do, we cannot get a clear idea of the divine working. In scripture we generally get through an individual the nature and character of the event through which God's servant and chief human agent is passing; and as we study and observe God's instructions to the individual, we arrive at an understanding of God's mind at the time.
Hezekiah comes before us at a very critical period in Israel's history, and the way he is prepared of God and taught of Him for such an eventful time is necessarily very instructive. There is often a great similarity in leading points, between the position which we are called to occupy ourselves, and that occupied by distinguished servants of God. The points of resemblance between the great and the small in God's household are very marked, and the study of His way with a leading servant often helps and assists another servant who is unknown beyond his immediate circle. And yet the ways of God are as truly learned by him, and he is as thoroughly disciplined under His band as the most prominent and distinguished servant.
Hezekiah, in his history, presents to us two things: the first, how he is strengthened and succeeds in renewing the testimony of the Lord in a very exemplary way, at a time when everything had sunk to the lowest state, and was to all appearance in irretrievable ruin; secondly, how he was taught to rest in God through suffering and a conviction of the end and desolation of everything here. It is very engaging and instructive to dwell on a history like this, to observe how God leads on His servant, uses him to do His will and to walk in His ways, and yet teaches him that, however he has succeeded or been a channel of success, still if he turns aside and depends on man, all is forfeited.
Hezekiah's life, in deep broad lines, is a checkered one and deeply instructive. The first notice we get of him is that he “removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made, for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it, and he called it Nehushtan.” (2 Kings 18:4.) This was a bold and decisive act wherewith to open his public career as God's servant, for the high places had existed before and throughout the days of Solomon and until now. (See 1 Kings 3:3.) What manner of discipline Hezekiah had already passed through in order to qualify him for such prompt and decided action we are not told. From the record of his father's ways, and the state of things connected with the testimony of the Lord, we should not be prepared to see a young man of twenty-five, immediately on ascending the throne, acting with so much vigor and decision. He emerges out of all the waste and debris of former greatness, as if he had no contact with it; as if he had been taught to separate from and denounce all that surrounded him. He takes his place in the scene like another David visiting his brethren in the valley of Elah. Apart from, and yet among them, he addresses himself to remove everything dishonoring to God. The work he does indicates the school he has learned in, the association in which he has obtained his ideas. The roughness and wildness of a mountain home may have unsurpassable charms to one in early youth, until the halls of the learned and the scenes of other climes arrest the attention. The well-ordered mind, the more it sees, the higher the scenes presented to it, the more does it require and seek to conform all within its power and province to its own improved convictions. This is the end of education, and the expected fruit of extended knowledge; the better thing being accepted, the inferior is discovered and refused. The way in which we act, when the opportunity for acting comes, discloses the manner and nature of the principles which we have imbibed. The action and the reformation wrought by the young king Hezekiah testified surely that he had been educated in the divine school in no ordinary way. David's discipline in the wilderness prepared him for his valiant engagement with Goliath; and Hezekiah must have been in some other way prepared and exercised, or he could not have met in so masterly a manner the disorder which surrounded him. The disorders themselves thus discipline and test the servant of God. One submits to them, another groans over them, a third addresses himself to them with feeble and inadequate remedies, with the view to an improvement; but he who has obtained from God in his own mind and spirit what is the true and divine order, can propose or accept nothing less. He makes no compromise—the right thing and the right thing only, according to God in his measure—and this he acts on and enforces, whatever it may sweep away. It is sometimes an apparently very little thing and a thing long overlooked by other servants of God which peculiarly indicates the elevated purpose of the faithful servant. Hezekiah's extermination of the serpent of brass at once establishes him as one whose soul was well disciplined by God for His service; for though we may not always see the discipline, we see fruits which nothing but holy discipline could have fostered and developed. God's honor is first maintained, and Hezekiah is confirmed in strength and asserts on all sides the rights of his calling, and his true dignity as king of Judah. “And the Lord was with him, and he prospered whithersoever he went, and he rebelled against the king of Assyria and served him not.” But not only did Hezekiah assert and maintain his true place as God's king; he also in a very full and complete way maintained the testimony for God. It is not enough to oppose and resist our enemies, to check or compel them to surrender encroachments; we must also set forth what is the truth of God. Hezekiah not only proves himself stronger than his enemies, but he also devotes himself to the re-establishment of the testimony of God.
In the first year of his reign, in the first month, opened he the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them. So largely and fully did he effect restoration and procure blessing that it is said, “So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon, the son of David, king of Israel, there was not the like in Jerusalem.” (2 Chron. 30:26.) And in chapter 31:20 it is summed up: “And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the Lord his God.” To resist evil and introduce good declares the possession of divine power; it is not one-sided. Where there is conviction or persuasion only, and not divine power, there will always be marked imperfection. “The legs of the lame are not equal.” There may be a great effort to resist the enemy, but there will not be commensurate effort to recover the truth; while on the other hand there may be an avowed desire to recover the truth with a tampering with what is hostile to it, a cry for the suppression of vice without paying any regard to the testimony of God; or a connivance with that which is really opposed to Christ with a profession of His name. Hezekiah is not of this order; be is not lame; he resists evil and seeks and supports the truth of God in its true force and excellence. He has reached a point which we all admire, and above all seek to attain to.
What I have hastily sketched occurred within the first fourteen years of Hezekiah's reign, a prosperous useful time; but the more useful anyone is, the more he requires to be brought to an end of himself, and find that his all is in God. Hence we find some of His servants are deeply chastened at first, in order to prepare them for a useful course; and some, after a useful period, are brought low and afflicted in order that they may learn bow truly and fully God, in His own blessed self, is paramount to everything. This fourteenth year was an eventful one with Hezekiah, for we read, “Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah and took them.” (2 Kings 18:13.) And again, “After these things (i.e., those which I have glanced at above) and the establishment thereof, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up and entered Judah;” also in those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. (2 Chron. 32:1.)
Trial from without and from within is upon him. His sickness must have occurred in the fourteenth year of his reign, for from his sickness there was added unto his life fifteen years; and as he reigned only twenty-nine years, his sickness therefore must have occurred in the fourteenth year. Its being related as subsequent to the second invasion by Sennacherib is, I conclude, on account of its having a typical import; for Hezekiah's exercises during this sickness set forth what Israel will go through before their final deliverance, and not any other favor, however great, which may be vouchsafed to them. It is a beautiful and interesting sight to behold Hezekiah for fourteen years (twice seven, a doubly perfect period) walking on the earth before God in dignity and faithfulness. But now we are invited to observe him and to learn from him in far different circumstances, even as oppressed and intimidated by the king of Assyria; and in his own soul before God, deeply and sorely exercised. He appears to have lost himself in the first invasion of Sennacherib, because we can hardly imagine that Sennacherib persisted in his first invasion after receiving the fine which he had imposed. The history is simply this: In the fourteenth year of Hezekiah's reign, Sennacherib came up and laid siege to certain cities of Judah. At that time Hezekiah bought him off and stipulated to pay him a certain sum or ransom. Subsequent to this Sennacherib came up again (possibly on his return from Egypt), and then he threatened Jerusalem; and it was between these two invasions that Hezekiah was led by a great sickness into deep exercise with God. For fourteen years he had walked with God and prospered. Then, for the first time, failure appears in his course. Instead of repelling the invasion of the king of Assyria, as he would at one time have done, he essays to buy it off. At the beginning of his reign, without any apparent resources, he had freed himself from the king of Assyria and served him not. Whereas now, after being established in success, and invested with power on every side, there is inability and confessed powerlessness to maintain the position which was taken when nothing but faith favored or authorized him to assume it. What a commentary is this on the oft failure of God's servants! But it is easily accounted for. When I am serving God in dependence on Him, and see His way for me, I am bold in it, even though I may see no means at all by which I can be maintained in it; but when I begin to rest in the fruits of my faithfulness, the possessions and resources given to me of God, I may fear to imperil them, if not holding them from Him and with Him. Thus was it with Hezekiah. He who had so fearlessly assumed his true place, and the divine rights vested in him, cannot maintain it or them without stooping to the unworthy expedient of buying off him whom he had set at defiance when his faith was in vigor. What a contrast between the confidence which faith in God gives, and that which is derived from the largest amount of human resources! Hezekiah with nothing but God can refuse to serve the king of Assyria: Hezekiah surrounded with great power and prosperity sinks into the place of a vassal.
It was at this juncture I assume that his sickness was inflicted. And surely there was a needs-be for it. In this sickness God will teach him death, and the terribleness of it to man as man. What more touching than Hezekiah's own account of the exercises of his soul when he contemplates death. The Lord intimates to him through the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 38) “Set thine house in order for thou shalt die and not live.” “Thee Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed unto the Lord and said, Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.” This is an exercise and a discipline which every saint one way or another must enter into and endure. This dreadful moment to nature must be learned and felt. What a moment! when all that man cares for, all that connects him with his own works and will, sinks into dissolution. Man as he is himself no longer exists. The greater his place here, the more extended his occupation, the more pleasing his associations, the more engaged his affections, the more terrible the wrench to which he is subjected in death. Yet it is appointed unto men once to die, and the better a man is localized here, the more poignant and terrific it must be to be severed from it; nay, the better the man is as man and the more useful, the more grievous and insupportable it seems to him. But it is the judgment on humanity; and every believer, in his soul as a man, suffers and goes through this death just as bitterly as Hezekiah did (if he be brought to the end of himself). He was an excellent and an eminently useful man, one who had walked before God in truth and with a perfect heart. His suffering in view of death was not because of a doubt of his final salvation, but it was the contemplation of death as that which must sever him from all that interested and engaged him here. Could any man who felt himself the center of usefulness and power here, independently of other considerations, take it lightly that he should be deprived of all this position and sphere of interest by the stern power of death? Can any one realize what it is to be severed from all he loves and cares for as a man, from all who care for him, and consider him a link to their existence, and not sympathize with Hezekiah instead of condemning him? The experience of Hezekiah tells us how a man of God, a regenerate soul, feels the wrench. Of course we are not taking into account how a Christian, knowing that he has life in Christ at the other side of the grave, apart from and above the flesh, would pass through this ordeal. Yet he too must pass through it. And that he does so victoriously is not because it is anything less than it was to Hezekiah, but because he has received through grace life in the risen Son of God—he does not suffer less but he enjoys infinitely more than Hezekiah. Still the ordeal is necessary for us in order that we should understand that the giving up of our existence as man is a thing that must be now learned morally in the cross of Christ; and that this giving up (that is, death) is no light thing; nay, that it is an exceeding bitter thing, but yet, a thing that must be; and that a man's goodness and usefulness here, instead of mitigating the desperateness of the blow, aggravates it, and imparts a deeper agony to it. The actual surrender of my existence as a man is not the mere pain of dying as a lower animal suffers; it is the termination of my connection with all that interests and attracts me and makes life valuable and great. The bitterness of death is past when one is so worn by sorrow or sickness that he longs for dissolution; but to be severed from everything here without a heavenly hope, to be no more here for God or for man—this is its bitterness; and this Hezekiah expresses when he says, “In the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave, I am deprived of the residue of my years. I shall not see the Lord, even the Lord in the land of the living, I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world. Mine age is departed and removed from me as a shepherd's tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me. I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will he break all my bones: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me. Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward.” This writing of Hezekiah, it will be seen, is the Spirit's account of the exercise which took place in him during this desperate discipline. But when he comes to the words, “O Lord, I am oppressed, undertake for me,” there is evidently a new light in his soul; he enters into resurrection, in hope. He can now say, “O Lord by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit. So wilt thou recover me and make me to live. . . Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption (there is also the sense of the Lord's forgiveness), for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back..... The living, the living he shall praise thee, as I do this day.” The discipline has effected its blessed purpose. A terrible ordeal it was, but none other can lead the soul to rest entirely in God as the spring and fountain of life. If I am alive with God, death to man, and man's things become small to me; but then, to realize the actual blessedness of living by the Son of God, and unto God in a life pleasing and suited to Him, I must needs know and realize my death as a man. This is no light thing; for it is the summing up and END of all discipline. If we were simply dead, and allowed the Spirit to maintain Christ in us in everything, there would be no need of the discipline, and there would be nothing in us to die. But the less there is in us to die, the more must death—moral death—have taken place in us; and a very real and a very bitter thing it is. With some it takes place at once, with others by slow processes; but death as death must supervene, and it is in proportion as we realize that life which is in Christ taking its place that we endure the process and are able to say, “The living, the living, he shall praise thee as I do this day.”
Hezekiah has now passed through wonderful experience. He has known what it is to be in the valley of the shadow of death; he has seen the lights here go out one by one, felt the silver cord loosening, and has known the mighty power of God in raising him up again. He has been well disciplined by the tender hand of God: will he now walk as thus taught and renewed in knowledge? The remainder of the history of Hezekiah sets before us the trials to which one, educated as he has been, is exposed; How he is ensnared, and yet how he gives evidence of the benefit of the discipline through which he has passed. It seems a paradox, that one should exhibit special weakness and special strength, after a season of deep and blessed discipline; but so it is. The weakness of the nature is exposed, and the strength of the grace conferred is declared also. It is a mistake which is sometimes made, that grace in a way cloaks the flesh and screens it from discovery. It is quite true, that grace would suppress and subdue the flesh; but it never imparts to it a false color and appearance. On the contrary, where there is most grace, there the hideousness of flesh is most exposed, if it be not judged and subdued. Thus it is not uncommon to see an outbreak of the flesh, or its tendency in nature exposed, where there is a true, deep vein of grace. Peter denies the Lord: his flesh is exposed, while the deep vein of grace in his soul leads him to repentance. Paul is enriched in his soul with the treasures of glory, and, consequent thereon, there is a need for a check on the flesh, which otherwise would not have betrayed itself. The bad in me, in fact; is brought to light through grace, while also I am more distinctly led on by grace. The bad ought to be discovered before it works, and if I am walking near the Lord it will; but if not, being in grace does not prevent the disclosure of it. If seen and judged before God, it is put away without being publicly seen or betrayed in acts; but if not, grace will not screen it; it will be brought to light, and will there receive judgment from God as it had not received judgment from oneself: for if we judged ourselves we should not be judged. The more we have advanced in grace the more the exposure will be, if the flesh be not subdued by the grace conferred on us; that is, if we are not walking in dependence on God from whom we have received the grace. Hezekiah, in the matter of the ambassadors from Babylon, betrays his nature; he who in deep exercise of soul had vowed, “I will go softly all my days,” is still not proof against the flattery of the world. “Hezekiah [we read] was glad of them and sheaved them the house of his precious things, the silver and the gold, and the spices and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armor, and all that was found in his treasures; there was nothing in his house nor in all his dominion that Hezekiah showed them not.” The man who, through discipline, has learned resurrection, is still not proof against being recognized here and made much of by Babylon. God's servant ought to have refused any such recognition; but he gave way, and consequently brought judgment on his house. Thus he has only survived to entail judgment on his house, and is a striking evidence of how man in his nature is irretrievable; and that when man is acknowledged and made much of, then it is that he is tested. “As the refining-pot to silver, so is man to his praise.” The simple fact of the gratification which it affords to our flesh to be recognized and exalted, is proof positive of the danger attendant on it to us. Hezekiah falls beneath it! What a fall for a man who, in exercise of soul, had learned death and resurrection! Babylon embodies in principle all the selfish independent advancement of this world. To be acknowledged by it is too much for Hezekiah, and the acknowledgment which he in his unbelief and vanity accepts entails judgment on his family; for the favor of the world is deceitful. Hezekiah's susceptible part is exposed, while judgment is inflicted not only on himself but on his nature: for in his family his own nature is judged, and not merely the offense which was the fruit of the nature.
But while in this matter we see the sad exposure of Hezekiah's nature; in another, he is a bright example to us of how a man should act when under apparently overwhelming trials. If the flattery of Babylon disclose the weakness and vanity of his nature, as is always the tendency of worldly prosperity; the invasion and fearful threatening of the Assyrian (2 Kings 18:17) only bring to light the strength of his reliance on God. The great discipline which he has passed through has not been ineffectual. To man he preserves a calm imperturbable dignity. “The king's commandment” with reference to the messengers sent by the king of Assyria was, “Answer him not a word,” but to the Lord he unburdens his heart, and spreads out before Him all his distress. He had before in weakness essayed to buy off the invader; but now he rent his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the Lord. His position and bearing now is the very opposite to what it was with the Babylonish ambassadors; and truly comforting with one who had been raised out of death—who had learned what death really is. He is here as nothing in himself but his hope is in God.
When the Lord promised Hezekiah recovery from his sickness, He also promised him deliverance from the Assyrian. (2 Kings 20:6.) The victory of the Lord is a complete one, over oneself, and over every other oppressor; but the heart has to learn how, as having passed through death, it can endure better when there is death and pressure before it than when there is acknowledgment and flattering recognition.
Hezekiah understands death, and what God is in death, and therefore under the pressure of the Assyrian he turns to God; whereas when he is courted and flattered by the ambassadors of Babylon, he falls under the fatal influence of that system which they personate, and his children and nation in God's government must suffer accordingly. Hezekiah's marvelous deliverance from the Assyrians by the interposition of God is the last event of his life which is recorded in Scripture, and it not inaptly closes the history of his discipline. He has learned that all flesh is grass, and God is made all in all before his soul. When we have come to this, the purpose of all discipline has been effected. May we learn and walk in patience, that we may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing!

Distrust of God

Before Satan introduced lusts into man's heart, He produced distrust of God: when this was brought in, man was easily a prey—all was really done. So with what infinite goodness and surpassing grace God attracts and warrants confidence for the chief of sinners in Christ.

Dorman's Appeal

W. H. D.’S “Appeal.”
Dear Brother, This “Appeal,” which I had not seen when your letter reached me, was brought me by a brother to whom it was sent unsought. Brethren must change woefully from what I have known them, if its perusal affect them otherwise than with real grief for the writer, his companions, and any Christians who may be credulous enough to receive statements which I refrain from characterizing as they deserve.
Nothing can be simpler than the doctrine for which I am responsible, which seems to me unquestionable. No doubt W. H. D. holds the same at bottom, though he may prefer his own way of putting it and I beg leave to cleave to my own. But I have no wish to impute to him what he hates. I have never taught or implied that Christ’s death was unatoning; I have nowhere explained away or denied the intrinsic character of anything previously stated. I assert openly and decidedly that the blood or death of Christ is viewed in some scriptures as through man’s sinful deed, and consequently as bringing judgment on him, in others as the fruit of God’s grace in judgment of sin, and so the basis of all blessing to the believer. “His blood be on us and on our children,” and “a propitiation through faith in His blood” may illustrate both points, for which many proofs might be produced from Scripture. I believe too that God’s smiting, &c., in every scripture in which it is used of Christ (Psa. 69:26; Dan. 9:26, and Zech. 13:7), can be demonstrated to be on the side of judgment rather than of grace, the contextual connection proving it to be no question of atonement. But while unwavering in this conviction, I treat no man as unsound who does not see it. Is it a new thing for such as are wrong in their views to be violent in their denunciation of those who are more right than themselves? is nobody else to see more than they see They are not asked to see or to say they see, if they cannot; but do they want to hinder others? This is what it comes to.
This “Appeal” will not convince any fair-minded Christian that the dignity of Christ’s person is lost sight of by those it attacks; nor do I think that Crantz’s Greenland or Brainerd’s Journal will help the writer much to understand the point in dispute. No one doubts that it is not a matter for preaching to the unconverted: are we as Christians never to go beyond the good’ news? The editor of Present Testimony needs no defense of mine. But for myself, I do hold to the proposition that God’s word connects having nothing with the Messiah cut off in Dan. 9 Is this the effect of atonement? It is of His cutting off. Does any one then cavil at the antithesis, that cutting off is the loss, as atonement is the gain, of all? W. H. D. is silent on Psa. 69:26: had he been equally reserved on Zech. 13:7, it would have been no damage to his new tract or his old one. He may think it only proper spirit to allow himself the license he takes in page 19 and elsewhere; but to me it is as clear as light whose intelligence is at fault. Compare John 11:52. Does not this verse speak of Christ’s death, His atoning death, that He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad? Compare also John 10:15, 16 with the passage in Zech. 13:7. On the other hand, who can see people gathered to eternal life in John 5:24? This is to interpolate, not to interpret. It is scripture which makes scattering the effect of smiting, and treats death in atonement as the forerunner of gathering. Israel too will be gathered when the Lord applies that atoning death to them. The scattering of the disciples when Jesus was smitten was a sample, the beginning of that which befell the Jews at large not long after. The gathering of the Church was based on the same death viewed in grace, as that of Israel will follow by and by. The argument which essays to weaken this is mere wrangling and beneath notice; but it is instructive as indicating the writer’s state and tone, as well as his feeling toward those he does not (perhaps, cannot now) comprehend.
But there is another statement of mine which has been attacked with sufficient heat and din of words to stun those who can be alarmed by sound. Now I believe that atonement demanded that Christ should suffer the judgment of our sins, and that God should forsake Him when thus made sin on the cross. Where all was marvelous, this is the great marvel which bows our hearts before that suffering One, the mighty God, yet crucified in weakness. Do they want scripture for it? This infinite fact is what I sought to convey in the incriminated sentence: “That which was properly expiation or atonement was not the pure, however precious, act of Christ’s death.” I used, as I was entitled to use, the word “pure,” in its idiomatic sense of mere, nothing but; and I meant then, as I am bold to repeat now, that even the precious blood of Christ, the Word made flesh, is atoning because He bore our sins and their judgment on the cross. The whole force of my remark was leveled against severing His death from that stupendous expression of sin-bearing and infinite suffering at God’s hand. Alas! it seems that these men would like to think us guilty of treason against Christ and His cross.
Here I go farther than as to “the smiting.” Many servants of God, probably Brainerd and the Moravians, have interpreted smiting of the atonement. I may think them mistaken as an exact exposition of scripture; but as they are substantially right, I should not in such a case notice a flaw of phrase. For in the smiting of Christ atonement was wrought. But the man who denies the judgment of our sins and God’s consequent abandonment of Christ on the cross, separating these from the act of death and His blood that was shed (the good Lord pardon any sounds of discussion on so holy a theme I), seems to me most seriously wrong, and evidences how meager is his own perception of the hatefulness of sin before God, because he thereby slights the true revealed character and consequence of Christ’s suffering for us.
“The pure.... act of Christ’s death,” in my sentence, does not mean His death (p. 11). When scripture speaks of His death as reconciling us to God, or of His blood cleansing us from all sin (to refer to the various scriptures this tract cites), it never means what I called the pure act of His death (i.e., His death apart from the judgment of our sins by God); but, on the contrary, His death efficacious according to the perfection of God’s moral dealing with our evil on the cross. This, therefore, gives in one sentence the simple and conclusive answer to all the noisy declamation, and, I must add, the groundless slander, of W. H. D.’s new tract. I hurl back the shameless taunt of holding or teaching the unatoning death of Christ. What I declared and do affirm, is that His atoning death is not merely because He died, but because God made Him to be sin, and that so He died and sled His blood for us. He who hesitates about this truth appears to me a man to hesitate about. Does not W. H. D. believe it? I trust and believe he does; yet his rash and alienated spirit dared to say over and over that “atonement is the bare (pure) act of Christ’s death.” Now either he used my words in my sense, or he did not. If he did not, it was a fraud; if he did, he said over and over what he does not believe (namely, that atonement consists in Christ’s death without our sins being judged by God’s forsaking Him on the cross). This indeed would be to mutilate His cross and to divorce atonement from His death. But no I will vindicate W. H. D. from this at least, against his own “too strong” feelings, and against his own unguarded and unwarrantable words. He did not mean, any more than I meant, what he says. But oh! is this a brother’s love? Is this jealousy for the truth, or for what?
As to the statement that to interpret the Psalms of the Jewish remnant and of Christ’s special connection with them is a fifth gospel and a development, the writer had better have let it sleep. The apostles had the Psalms as we, and they had the Holy Ghost too. There was no need of a fresh interpretation; but that they knew nothing of their bearing on the Jewish remnant is what no man is warranted to say. All the talk about authoritative, or the New Testament only, is nothing to the purpose, or a mistake. Who makes J. N. D.’s exposition of authority? All this is the language of no less than confusion.
I have not thought it worthwhile to speak of the uncommon preoccupation of the writer, who seems to deem his own opinions indisputable, and the worst possible construction of those he reviews (save B. TV. N.) absolutely settled. Is this righteous or decent? I am content to have shown briefly that the gist of the pamphlet is a mere blunder, which is in no way relieved by entitling it “A solemn appeal,” or by calling on his brethren to judge as heretical that which it is all but a heresy to deny.
But I must point out ere I conclude, that even plain matters of alleged fact cannot here be safely taken on trust. Thus the writer says (p. 11) that Christ’s smiting from God “is now allowed by Mr. Darby to have been only on the cross, though formerly contended against.” Is this the truth? When and where was it contended against? I have always heard the same statement and never understood what is insinuated here. In the “Sufferings of Christ,” which raised the question, Mr. D. stated exactly what he states now—that the act of smiting took place only on the cross, though the spirit of it was realized before, especially from the last Passover. The same misstatement occurs again in page 21. It is untrue, therefore, that it is a concession now, for it was always so explained.
Let me add that the writer goes much too far in his notion of “an impossible mental conception.” Had he said impossible to himself, it might be true. Is his mind the measure of the possible? I am satisfied that there are many Christian men and women who find the conception in question perfectly intelligible to them.
Possibly the writer never had faith in God as to the path he followed his leader in for eighteen years: such at least is the melancholy portrait he presents of himself, though I see no sign of humiliation and self-distrust, but, on the contrary, morbid suspiciousness of others and no small acrimony now. Is this the temper to enter on the consideration of stale calumnies against his brethren, which in a happier mood he used to despise? He ought to know what “second-hand” means; and the new regime some will think a change for the worse. As he reminds us, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” What a painful comment on the text is his own tract! Happier they, in my opinion, who by grace have known how to walk across difficulties and in face of dangers, with loving respect for the worthy but with none the less independence of judgment before God.
The moral I gather from this fresh sorrow is, that the spirit of unbelief works, first, in giving up an uncompromising judgment of all allowance of real heresy; secondly, in calumniating as heresy that which is real and important truth. It was reserved for the present “Appeal” to fall into the absurdity of trying to fasten the semblance of heresy on a truth which, I cannot doubt, its writer himself holds. The issue for the assailed I for one can happily leave in the Lord’s hands; and I can ask my brethren to join me in beseeching His pitiful mercy on the assailants.
I am, dear Brother, yours faithfully, The Writer of “Remarks on the Gospel of Mark.”
William Kelly

Dr. Capadose and the Dutch Reformed Church

Allow me to send you some extracts from a pamphlet recently published in Holland by Dr. Capadose, a man well known in Holland and elsewhere, as a Christian, (converted from Judaism, I suppose, nine and thirty years ago), and valued and respected in the religious world since. It is not for clearness of views, as to the Church, nor an exact interpretation of Scripture, that I send it. I should think, from some expressions, he is not what I should account clear on these heads. I send it as a sign of what is going on in the world; and to all a solemn warning as to where we are. It is earnest, serious, with feeling ardently genuine, and contains principles of the deepest importance; and if some prophetical points, or apprehensions of the unity of the body be not clearly seized, and that the circumstances of the reformed church, so called, in Holland, have led Dr. Capadose’s mind to the conclusion he has arrived at more by conscience as to the evil than by attraction of the good, it is only so much the more a witness, that in all circumstances where the Spirit of God is acting, the sense of the times we are in presses on the spirit. The conclusion Dr. Capadose has arrived at has been the conviction of the writer of this these nine and thirty years, and is participated in by a vast number of your readers. I give these extracts as additional testimony from an upright and right-feeling soul of the state things are come to. For indeed what was a matter of principle forty years ago is now verifying before our eyes. The doctrines of the Church, of the rapture of the saints, are a relief and source of consolation and joy in the midst of the evil. May Dr. C. find this too!
The principles of his pamphlet, however sorrowful the occasion, are as true as they are urgent. The public ministry of the reformed body in Holland is almost universally infidel, and, since the publication of Mr. Renan’s Life of Jesus, this infidelity has become bold and pretentious. This is what seems to have urged Dr. C. to the step he has taken. The inscription of the pamphlet is Isa. 52:11, 12, which I give in the English translation: “Depart ye, depart ye; go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord. For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your reward.” I now give the preface: it chews the spirit of the work.
“I hope the few pages which follow here will be read and weighed with the same seriousness as that with which the writer has penned them. They have not, however small in compass, to thank a fugitive passing emotion for their origin. No, already for more than a year, my heart has been urged by the feeling of an urgent need to communicate openly and make known the results at which I have arrived with the deepest conviction, what a ripe and continually-repeated searching out has taught me of the painful state of the church of our fatherland, and what the holy calling of Christian professors within this requires. I must give testimony. And not only I feel myself compelled to this for myself, but I must recommend to, and press on, others with all insistence the holy way of earnest search. I am conscious, moreover, of having in these pages, respected the conscience of brethren who think otherwise, though not without fraternal exhortation. Let each search his heart and follow what is enjoined him by the Spirit of God, but distinguish there also well what God’s Spirit wills. The state of mere appearances (that is, of lies) must cease where people desire to follow the truth in everything. It is happy for myself that I know and love upright brethren in all churches who are attached to the same principles of life and faith, and trusting to remain to the end, in the strength of Jesus the Lord and Savior, His witness, and to be able to persevere as a living member of Christ’s Church. I here declare openly and officially, that I cannot any more belong to any church communion so called.”
Dr. C. then states he cannot really call it separation, for the simple reason that be no longer recognizes any Netherland reformed church as such remaining among them. He goes over the ground of former evil and trying states of the church: but that never was there an open combating on a wide-spread scale, by teachers of the church of the Christian faith within the Church itself, not only before the reading public, but from the pulpit itself, and baptism and the Lord’s supper administered and profaned, and that unhindered, by persons who are not Christians. “This is,” he adds in a note, “unhinderedly allowed, while people strongly deny to Christians, but who are not ordained, competency to do it. I myself,” he says, “approve for order’s sake, that the administration of the sacraments in the normal state of the Church, by unordained men, should not be permitted, but judge that the ordained modern teachers, who want what is the fundamental principle of a Christian, is far away less competent for it than the believing brother, who wants the fundamental ecclesiastical principle of ordination for it.” I thought it well thus far to spew what Dr. Capadose’s principles are, not to misrepresent his mind.
I add now what is more important. He says, “If people will give the Dutch reformed body the name of church, they must; call her the church of confusion, not a Christian church, and thus no reformed church;” and that he must leave what thus steals the name. If others hope for restoration, for his part in no case can he cherish any hope of her restoration. Many efforts earlier in the work and more definitely some four and twenty years on a broad scale, and showing sympathy with the reformed congregations in his country might, perhaps, have led to restoration, but if not absolutely opposed, certainly were not supported or furthered even by well-minded ministers. “They have let the opportunity be lost, and now through this much-to-be-lamented want of zeal, the canker of infidelity has penetrated continually deeper and deeper, and we are come to the beginning of that apostasy of which Paul speaks (2 Thessalonians) that definite apostasy from Christ, which must precede the revelation of Antichrist. And this apostasy, already long prepared beforehand, is nothing but the consistent development of the unresisted, if not fostered, progress of infidel science in the church.. Yet the epoch of apostasy is there, and will continually spread more and more, as well in every worldly government which by its institutions more and more excludes God, as in all churches wherein the true Christ, the God-man, will be more and more denied by the deifying of man. Do we not forget the reproving saying of our Lord: ‘Ye can understand the face of the sky, but can ye not discern the signs of the times?’” He notices the breaking out of it in Roman Catholic and Protestant countries at the same time, and presses the fact of the growing canker of infidelity, and the near approach of the dissolution of the different churches.
“The Church of Christ, the Church of the crucified One, that and that alone has the promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; but also the holy calling to bear the cross after the crucified One.”
The voice of the Lord calling in the signs of the times makes us bear a higher claim. The question is not of a choice between church and church, but between Christ and Antichrist.”.... “The Lord Jesus calls all who believe in Him in truth to unite themselves together round Him, as He in its own time will bring together all His elect out of all tongues, peoples, nations, and races, so He calls now His believing ones out of reformed, out of dissenting, out of Lutheran, out of Roman, and other churches, to attach themselves to Him; and to go away from places where Belials are to be found, by the side of Christ. The great and mighty combat begins, if we can call a fireproof combat. Let the Lord’s word be a light in everything, a light to our path, and that word calls to us. Do not bear the same yoke with the unbeliever,” &c.
What I have transcribed will give, I think, a just idea of this earnest appeal. Though there may be a mistaken application of some passages as to the apostasy and trial, I heartily feel that the apostasy in principle is begun, so that on this point the appeal is just, and I am not afraid of a mistake in interpretation which does not affect the substance of it.
Dr. Capadose adds extended reasoning on the particular proofs of what he insists on in the Netherland reformed church so-called, urges at length that believers should not be arrested by temporal difficulties in presence of the faithfulness of the Lord, and adds a kind of second part where he insists that, if the clergy have not the courage to leave the system, they should at least absolutely separate (in every religious service of every kind, schools, and all Christian service) from those who deny Christ. The details of these parts I do not give. It is the solemn warning (one of the multiplied signs of the times, the proof of the principles which, by the operation of the Spirit of God, are at work in men’s minds), which, I thought, might be alike in the best sense interesting and profitable to your readers.
Liverpool, June 22.


It is a common and a correct thought that the Book of Ecclesiastes is a writing, under the Holy Ghost, upon the vanity of all things “under the sun.”
This is so, most surely. Solomon was lifted up, that he might be able, from his position and resources, to inspect and test the vanity of all human conditions. All that either business or pleasure could provide for him, all that wealth, or station, or learning commanded was within his reach and at his disposal. And he challenged it all to say what it was worth.
He went through all the conditions of human life which carried with them a single promise to contribute anything to him. His search was complete. His inspection and testing left nothing improved. And each and all were equally vain and unsatisfying. No one thing relieved the disappointment which another had produced. His journey was a wearying and vexatious pursuit of what was ever and equally eluding him. From everything the sense of vanity pressed on his spirit, and there was nothing to relieve or deliver him of all that was done or that was found “under the sun,”
The principal business of this Book of Ecclesiastes is to tell us this. And a valuable as well as serious lesson it is. Well if we learn it, and the better for us the better we learn it.
We should, not, however, fully honor the wisdom of God in this book, if we said that this was its only business. It is not so. It teaches us principally, it is true, the general vanity of all the scene around us, but it likewise lets us know that there is one outlet, one relief from the oppressive sense of the common, universal emptiness, and that is found in the service of God. This is its second lesson.
I may here call to mind how the apostle teaches us, that there is but one outlet from the scene or condition of condemnation. He tells us that we are “shut up” to the faith of Jesus. Law and works and all other provisions fail and prove themselves vain, for all of us are concluded under sin and no escape from such condition of death, but faith in the Lord Jesus now revealed to us. (See Gal. 3)
This Book of Ecclesiastes reminds me of that. For in it I see one way, but one only, open to us as an escape from the condition and from the sense of an universal vanity. We are “shut up” to it. In these thoughts we know this analogy. Faith in Jesus, says the apostle, is the one only outlet from a state of condemnation: the living to Jesus, says the Book of Ecclesiastes, is the one only outlet from a state of vanity. And we may well rejoice in the simplicity of such relief from such heavy and grievous conditions.
“Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days.” (Chap. 11:1)
Here there is found something solid, something abiding, something which does not partake of the common universal vanity. The serving of Christ has the value of eternity in it. The bread cast on the waters is found after many days, or at a future hour.
Just the lesson which all the New Testament reads to us. For there we learn that there are bags which wax not old, and that it is service to Christ which fills them for us—that there is such a thing as being “rich toward God,” and such a treasure as “faileth not,” no thief approaching it, no moth corrupting it. And there also we learn, according to the whole bearing of this Book of Ecclesiastes, “the world passeth away, and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”
Happy, serious, simple lesson! The highest attainments or richest prosperity in things under the sun are all vanity, while the smallest service to the Lord, even the giving of a cup of cold water in His name, has the value of eternity in it.

On Ecclesiastical Independency

(1) The point I take to be fatally dangerous is confounding private judgment and conscience. We see the full-blown fruit of it in the present state of Protestantism, where private judgment is used to authorize the rejection of everything the individual does not agree with.
The difference is plain in the case put. A father’s authority is admitted. Now if it be a matter of conscience, Christ’s authority or the confession of His name, of course this cannot stand in the way. I am bound to love Christ more than father or mother. But suppose I reject my father’s authority for everything my private judgment differs in as to what is right, there is an end of all authority. There may be cases of anxious inquiry as to what my duty is, where spiritual judgment alone can come to a right judgment. This is the case in the whole Christian life. We must have our senses exercised to discern good and evil—not be unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is; and such exercises are useful.
But the confounding a judgment I form simply as to right with conscience is, in result, confounding will with obedience. True conscience is always obedience to God; but if I take what I see as sufficient, confusion of a deadly character soon comes in. Does one not submit to a father’s authority unless be can bring, even in an unimportant matter, a text of scripture for everything he desires? Is there no setting up of self and self-will in such a principle?
But I go farther; and it is the case in question. Suppose in an assembly a person has been put out for evil. All admit that such, if truly humbled, should be restored. The assembly think he is humbled truly: I am satisfied, supposing, that he is not. They receive him. Am I to break with the assembly or to refuse subjection to their act, because I think them mistaken? Supposing (which is a more trying case to the heart) I believe he is humbled and they are satisfied he is not, I may bow to a judgment I think erroneous and look to the Lord to set it right. There is such a thing as lowliness as to self, which does not set up its own opinion against others, though one may have no doubt of being right.
There is another question connected with it—one assembly’s act binding another. I do not admit, because scripture does not admit, independent assemblies. There is the body of Christ, and all Christians are members of it; and the Church of God in one place represents the whole and acts in its name. Hence, in 1 Corinthians, where the subject is treated of, all Christians are taken in with the assembly of Corinth as such, yet this last is treated as the body as such, and made locally responsible for maintaining the purity of the assembly; and the Lord Christ is looked at as there; and what was done was done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is wholly ignored when one speaks of six or seven clever, intelligent Christians and a number of ignorant ones.
The Lord in the midst of an assembly is set aside. The flesh, it is said, often acts in an assembly. Why assume it does and forget it may in an individual?
Again, why speak of obeying the Lord first, then the Church? But supposing the Lord is in the Church? It is merely setting up private judgment against the judgment of an assembly meeting in Christ’s name with His promise (if they are not, I have nothing to say to them); it is simply saying, I count myself wiser than those who are. I reject entirely as unscriptural the saying, “First Christ, then the Church.” If Christ be not in the Church, I do not own it at all. It assumes that the Church has not Christ, making them two distinct parties. I may reason with an assembly, because I am a member of Christ and hence of it—if it is one, help it. But if I own it as an assembly of God, I cannot assume Christ is not there: it is simply denying it is an assembly of God. The thought is wanting of what an assembly of God is. This is not surprising; but it necessarily falsifies judgment on the point, which is not “if the word” —but, if I see not the word for it. It is justly trusting one’s own judgment as against others and the assembly of God.
I could not for a moment put a question of blasphemies against Christ on such ground. It is really wickedness. The attempt to cover them by church questions, or by pleas of individual conscience, I abhor with a perfect abhorrence.
Allow me to put the question on minor questions in another shape. Suppose I am of an assembly, and I think they judge something in a mistaken way. Am I to impose my individual way of thinking on them? If not, what am I to do? Leave the assembly of God if it be such (if not, I do not go there)? You cannot help yourself. If I do not continue in an assembly, because it does not agree with me in everything, I can be of no assembly of God in the world. All this is simply a denial of the presence and help of God’s Spirit and of the faithfulness of Christ to His own people. I cannot see godly lowliness in it.
But if an assembly have judged as such in a case of discipline, admitting all brotherly communications and remonstrances, I distinctly say another assembly should, on the face of it, receive their act. If the wicked man is put out at Corinth, is Ephesus to receive him? Where then is unity? where the Lord in the midst of the Church? What led me out of the Establishment was the unity of the body: where it is not owned and acted on, I should not go. And independent churches I think quite as bad or worse of than of the Establishment. But if each assembly acts independently of another and receives independently of it, then it has rejected that unity—they are independent churches. There is no practical unity of the body.
But I shall never be brought to such wickedness as to treat acceptance of blasphemers as an ecclesiastical question. If people like to walk with them or help and support the bearing with them at the Lord’s table, they will not have me. I distinctly judge the principles defended show want of lowliness as to self and a setting aside the very idea of the Church of God. But I am not going to mix the two questions. I do not accept the setting aside my spiritual liberty: we are a flock, not an enclosure. But in questions of discipline, where no principle is denied, nor truth of God set aside, I do not set up my judgment against that of the assembly of God in that which God has committed to its care. It is just setting myself up as wiser, and neglecting God’s word which has assigned certain duties to an assembly, which He will honor in its place.
Let me add that there is such a thing as obedience in what we do know, which goes before speculating on possible claims in obedience, where we should like to be free to go our own way. To him that hath shall more be given. Doing what we know in obedience is a great way of knowing further.
Again, “the bond of unity between the churches is said to be the Lordship of Christ.” But there is not a word about churches [when we speak of unity], nor bond of churches; nor does unity consist of union of churches. Lordship is distinctly individual. Nor is Lord of the body a scriptural idea. Christ is Lord to individuals, Head to the body over all things. Unity is not by lordship. Of course, individual obedience will help to maintain it, as all godliness will; but unity is unity of the Spirit, and in the body, not in bodies. Both Ephesians and Corinthians teach us distinctly that unity is in and by the Spirit, and that Christ has in this respect the place of Head, not of Lord, which referred to individual Christians. This error if acted on would falsify the whole position of gatherings, and make mere dissenters of them, and in no way meet the mind of Christ.
(2) Confounding authority with infallibility is a poor and transparent piece of sophistry. In a hundred instances, obedience may be obligatory where there is no infallibility. Were it not so, there could be no order in the world at all. There is no infallibility in it, but a great deal of self-will; and if there is to be no obedience where there is not infallibility, no acquiescence in what has been decided, there is no end to self-will and no existence of common order. The question is of competence, not of infallibility. A father is not infallible, but he has a divinely given authority; and acquiescence is a duty. A police magistrate is not infallible, but he has competent authority in the cases submitted to his jurisdiction. There may be resources against abuse of authority, or in certain cases a refusal of it when a higher authority obliges us, as a conscience directed by God’s word. We ought to obey God rather than man. But there is never in scripture liberty given to the human will as such. We are sanctified to the obedience of Christ. And this principle—our doing God’s will in simple obedience, without solving every abstract question which may be raised—is a path of peace, which many heads who think themselves wiser miss, because it is the path of God’s wisdom.
The question then is a mere sophistry, which betrays the desire to have the will free, and a confidence that the person’s judgment is superior to all that has been already judged. There is judicial authority in the Church of God, and if there were not it would be the most horrible iniquity on earth; because it would put the sanction of Christ’s name on every iniquity. And that is what was sought and pleaded for by those with whom these questions originated: that whatever iniquity or leaven was allowed, it could not leaven an assembly. Such views have done good. They have the cordial abhorrence and rejection of every honest mind, and of every one who does not seek to justify evil. It is possible you may think or say, that is not the question I am asking. Forgive me for saying I know that it is, and that only; though you do not, I am well assured. But the judicial authority of the Church of God is in obedience to the word. “Do ye not judge them that are within? Them that are without God judgeth. Wherefore put out from among yourselves that wicked person.” And, I repeat, if it be not done, the Church of God becomes the accrediting of every vileness of sin. And I affirm distinctly, that where this is done other Christians are bound to respect it. There are remedies for fleshly action in it, in the presence of the Spirit of God amongst the saints, and in the supreme authority of the Lord Jesus Christ; but that remedy is not the totally unscriptural and miserable one proposed by the question—the pretension of competency in every one who takes it into his head to judge for themselves independent of what God has instituted. It is, taken in its most favorable aspect, not an individual pretension, which is its real character, the well-known and unscriptural system which has been known since Cromwell’s time—that is, independency: one body of Christians being independent of every other as a voluntary association. This is a simple denial of the unity of the body, and the presence and action of the Holy Ghost in it.
Supposing we were a body of Freemasons, and a person were excluded from one lodge by the rules of the order, and instead of looking to the lodge to review the case, if it was thought to be unjust, each other lodge were to receive him or not on their own independent authority, it is clear the unity of the Freemason system is gone. Each lodge is an independent body acting for itself. It is in vain to allege a wrong done, and the lodge not being infallible; the competent authority of lodges, and the unity of the whole is at an end. The system is dissolved. There may be provision for such difficulties. All right if it be needed. But the proposed remedy is the mere pretension of the superiority of the recusant lodge, and a dissolution of Freemasonry.
Now I openly reject, in the most absolute way, the pretended competency of one church or assembly to judge the other, as the question proposes; but what is more important, it is an unscriptural denial of the whole structure of the Church of God. It is Independency, a system I knew forty years ago and would never join. If people like that system, let them go there. It is in vain to say it is not that. Independency merely means that each church judges for itself independently of another, and that is all that is claimed here. I have no quarrel with those who, liking to judge for themselves, prefer this system; only I am perfectly satisfied that in every respect it is wholly unscriptural. The Church is not a voluntary system. It is not formed (or rather unformed) of a number of independent bodies, each acting for itself. It was never dreamed, whatever the remedy, that Antioch could let in Gentiles, and Jerusalem not, and all go on according to the order of the Church of God. There is not a trace of such independency and disorder in the word. There is every possible evidence in fact, and doctrinal insistence on there being one body on earth, whose unity was the foundation of blessing in fact, and its maintenance the duty of every Christian. Self-will may wish it otherwise, but certainly not grace, and not obedience to the word.
Difficulties may arise—we have not an apostolic center as there was at Jerusalem. Quite true; but we have a resource in the action of the Spirit in the unity of the body—the action of healing grace and helpful gift, and the faithfulness of a gracious Lord who has promised never to leave us nor forsake us. But the case of Jerusalem in Acts ay. is a proof that the scriptural church never thought of, and did not accept the independent action insisted upon. The action of the Holy Ghost was in the unity of the body, and is always so. The action directed by the apostle at Corinth (and which binds us as the word of God) was operative in respect of the whole Church of God, and all are contemplated in the opening of the epistle. Does any one mean to pretend, if he were to be put out at Corinth judicially, that each church was to judge for itself whether he was to be received, that judicial act pass for nothing or operative only at Corinth, and Ephesus or Cenchrea to do as it liked afterward? Where then was the solemn act and direction of the apostle? Well, that authority and that direction is the word of God for us now.
I am quite aware it will be said, Yes, but you may not follow it rightly, as the flesh may act. It is possible. There is possibility that the flesh may act. But I am quite certain that what denies the unity of the Church sets up for itself, and dissolves it into independent bodies is the dissolution of the Church of God, unscriptural, and nothing but flesh. It is therefore judged for me before I go any farther. There is a remedy, a blessed gracious remedy of humble minds in the help of God’s Spirit in the unity of the body, and the Lord’s faithful love and care, as I have said, but not in the pretentious will which sets up for itself and denies the Church of God. My answer is, then, that the plea is a sophistry which confounds infallibility and divinely-ordained authority met by lowly grace, and that the system sought is the pretentious spirit of Independency, a rejection of the whole authority of Scripture in its teaching on the subject of the Church, a setting up of man instead of God.
It is clear, that if two or three are gathered together, it is an assembly, and if scripturally assembled, an assembly of God; and if not, what else? If the only one in a place, it is the assembly of God in the place. Yet I do object practically to taking the title, because the assembly of God in any place properly embraces all the saints in the place. And there is practical danger for souls in assuming the name, as losing sight of the ruin, and setting up to be something. But it is not false in the supposed case. If there be one such and another is set up by man’s will, independent of it, the first only is morally in God’s sight the assembly of God; and the other is not. at all so, because it is set up in independency of the unity of the body. I reject in the most entire and unhesitating manner the whole Independent system, as unscriptural and a positive unmitigated evil. Now that the unity of the body has been brought out, and the scriptural truth of it known, it is simply a work of Satan. Ignorance of the truth is one thing, our common lot in many ways; opposition to it is another. I know it is alleged that the Church is now so in ruins that scriptural order according to the unity of the body cannot be maintained. Then let the objectors avow as honest men, that they seek unscriptural order, or rather disorder. But in truth it is impossible to meet at all in that case to break bread, except in defiance of God’s word: for Scripture says, “we are all one body; for we are all partakers of that one loaf.” We profess to be one body whenever we break bread; Scripture knows nothing else. And they will find Scripture too strong and perfect a bond for man’s reasoning to break it.

The Elohistic and Jehovistic Notion

The statement as to Elohistic and Jehovistic sources of the Mosaic history is without any other foundation than ignorance. And the low German habits of criticism—I say, low habits. Even Stuart, I judge (“On the Canon of Scripture”)) does not escape this. For we do not read with God but simply as men, we are already on this low ground. Thus, judging as he and others do if a book has an ethical tendency for me, what a thoroughly narrow-minded way of looking at it, instead of seeing it as part of an immense and divine conception and communication of the whole history of men, and God’s ways with them! Thus, for instance, Esther is the providential care of Israel even during its rejection not a principle of immense importance in God’s dealings with men and His people? It is of the very last importance. Is such a knowledge of God not ethical for me? He could not reveal Himself, or it would not be the time or their rejection. All the style of reasoning I am commenting on, I must be forgiven for calling by the well-known term of “pettifogging.” But I anticipate. There is—at least in what I have seen—a plodding diligence, no doubt, to find out something which has the character of human learning, no matter what, but something which will make a book (which somebody else has not made); but then it has all a downward tendency, and never rises above a groveling pre-occupation with the external means of truth, or the spinning out their ideas of what ought to be. Take even Michaelis, a learned man and attractive by his modesty. When he comes to touch the interpretation of scripture, it is puerile to the last degree. A child who reads the scriptures with a little simple intelligence, would smile at the wonders he finds out by Syriac and Hebrew (and, if Marsh is right, often a very slovenly use of them) and the working of his own mind. It is such naïf nonsense, and brought out with such good faith, that it produces the kindly feeling one has for the foolish questions of a child which betray his innocence. The mind of God in the passage never seems to occur to him, though he believes scripture to be inspired.
Now Jehovah and Elohim are always used each in its own proper sense in Holy Scripture. The latter is the Creator God, God in His own being as such. The former made known to Israel a personal name in which He dealt with Israel, and even with the world, though they do not Own Him. The appropriateness is always sensible to him who seizes the bearing of the passage. When the relationship (or work of God known in relationship) to Israel is expressed, we have “Jehovah.” When the account is simply historical, “God” (Elohim) is used. In some cases either would give, if not so perfect a sense, yet very little different; since Jehovah is the true Elohim, and Elohim is Jehovah; and the use of Jehovah in these latter eases amounts to the writer’s having God as known to himself in his mind. The Psalms notably show the different use of the two terms, as does the Book of Jonah. I will take a special example from the Psalms to show this—Psa. 14 and 53. These are very nearly the same; but in one Jehovah is used, in the other Elohim. In Psa. 14 Jehovah is used. Hence it says, “They were in great fear, for [Elohim—God Himself] GOD is in the generation of the righteous.” The relationship, the consequence of ‘this name Jehovah, is expressed in the presence of Elohim with the righteous, in verse 6: “Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because Jehovah is his refuge.” Now in Psa. 53 Elohim is used; it is the historical fact of what they were in the sight of Elohim. Hence we have, “There were they in great fear, where no fear was; for Elohim hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee; thou hast put them to shame, because Elohim hath despised them.” These Psalms convey the same truths. But the thought of relationship prevails where Jehovah is used; whereas, where Elohim is used, we have the general result as regards the enemy.
It may be interesting to those who do study scripture with spiritual understanding, however feeble, to draw their attention to the circumstance, that all the Psalms in the first book (i.e., to the end of Psa. 41) are addressed to Jehovah, except Psa. 16, in which, as cited by Paul in proof of Christ’s partaking of human nature, and by Peter as proof of His resurrection, Christ’s taking His place with man is most clearly brought out. “Preserve me, O Elohim, for in thee [in what God was as such, He having become man] do I put my trust. Thou hast said to Jehovah, Thou art my [Adon] Lord; my goodness extendeth not to thee.” He takes the place of subjection, not as equal with the Father. “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but God.” “[Thou hast said] to the saints that are in the earth, and the excellent, All my delight is in them,” He takes His place now along with the saints, not with Jehovah: as to Him, He tithes the place of a servant. How deep and admirable are the instructions of the word! Now, all these Psalms of the first book suppose the relationship existing as, however deserving rejection and not a people, was the case in Israel when Jesus was amongst them.
But in Psa. 42, i.e., the second book, it will be seen that they are cast out from God’s sight—can no more frequent His temple and worship. Hence we at once find, not Jehovah but Elohim addressed. And so it is through this book, though, of course, He is owned to be Jehovah, and Jehovah as the only true Elohim. I have no doubt that, prophetically, the first book refers to the Jews in the latter-day returned to Jerusalem, and enjoying outwardly their hoped for advantages there; and the second has its application when they are driven out in the time of the great tribulation mentioned in Matt. 24.
It will be seen that the third book, beginning with Psa. 73, refers to all Israel (i.e., the ten tribes as well as the two) as such, and not specially the Jews, but only to the clean in heart, however, among them. They are still driven out—the temple pillaged and defaced—and Elohim is addressed until the last confederacy in Psa. 83, where the judgment prophetically spoken of introduces Jehovah, known as Most High over all the earth. Then in Psa. 84 they address Jehovah, and turn and mount up to the tabernacles of Jehovah Sabaoth and His courts, finding that man blessed whose trust is in Jehovah. Thence onward is praise to Jehovah, with contrition and exercise of heart, mercy celebrated in the true gracious or Holy One (Chasidika), Christ, the true David, which closes the book.
I may just add, that the fourth book celebrates (in all its bearings, but in special connection with Israel) the introduction of the first-begotten into the world; Psa. 90 giving Jehovah’s interest in Israel, and Psa. 91 Christ’s taking Jehovah, the God of Israel, as the true Elion Shaddai—the names by which Melchizedek blessed Abraham. Then it celebrates Him in this character, and develops the coming of the Lord to reign, and that in detail from the cry of the needy till He is fully again seated between the cherubim.
In the last book (from Psa. 107) we have the general bearings of it all, and the praises and hallelujahs which result from it—a kind of historical comment upon all God’s dealings with the world, Israel, the Messiah, and His place while all was going on. Already, in the last Psalms of the fourth book, Christ’s government, that, while utterly brought low even to death, He was Jehovah, is brought out in the most astonishing way. The healing of the paralytic in Luke is a distinct allusion to Jehovah’s name in Psa. 103:3. But I must not go farther here on this subject.
Again, look at Jonah, where there is not, and cannot be, the smallest pretense of two accounts. The intercourse between Jonah and God is under the name Jehovah. When the seamen learn who his God is that he is running away from, they fear Jehovah, and call upon Jehovah. Where it is a general testimony of repentance in strangers (chap. 3:5, to the end), it is Elohim. And when we have the general supreme dealings of God with Jonah to make him show what He was with man, as God, it is again Elohim. Now, in Jonah, this has peculiar force, because the relationship of Israel with Gentiles, and of Gentiles with Jehovah, is in question. It is the last public direct testimony of God to Gentiles before Christ. And this goodness of God to Gentiles is really what Jonah dreaded, as discrediting his message of judgment, which Jewish pride might like to see executed. (See Jonah 4:2.) Hence, on one side, we have Gentiles brought, in the moment of judgment on the Israelite, to confess Jehovah; and, on the other, God, as such, showing Himself good—the faithful Creator, who thought of those who could not distinguish between their right hand and their left, and even of the cattle. At the same time the proper relationship of Jehovah to His prophet, as such, is also fully maintained, and the word Jehovah, his God, more than once repeated. Now, here we have the elements of Jehovah’s grace, and Elohim’s true character and supremacy: what, in the nauseous systematizing of ignorance, is reduced to some imaginary documents which none of them know anything about but suppose. We have, I say, these two titles brought out in the clearest and most instructive way, as unfolding divine relationships for those who have the heart to delight in them, and justify that wisdom which is the joy of her children. The infidel must imagine and suppose some external cause, because he knows nothing of the real divine force of these things.
And I would remark, that I am not here bringing an external proof of the truth of the Jewish system; but that, supposing its existence, the reason for the distinctive use of the words Jehovah and Elohim is fully given within the system itself—is consistent and appropriate. This the infidel ought to have seen, or at least examined; because it is a part of the system he pretends to judge, and there are adequate proofs of its consistency within itself, which makes his arguments perfectly futile. For what he finds imaginary reasons for is accounted for on the plainest principles of the system be is judging. For every one can see that Jehovah was a proper name of God. to Israel, and declared positively to be such, though the name of the one true supreme God. Now, for the believer, the use of the names of God carries blessed divine instruction, for all His names have a meaning: Almighty, Jehovah, Father, all have a sense to his soul. But it is not even rational to seek for a reason in imaginary causes, when the real reason lies within the system, and makes a clearly stated and characteristic part of it. Now such is the difference between Jehovah and Elohim.
I would just add here, that it is perfectly indifferent to me if Moses used five hundred documents, provided what he in result gives me expresses exactly, perfectly, and completely, what God meant to communicate to me. I have taken the case of Jonah, because we have the use of Jehovah and Elohim where there is no pretense for this flimsy notion of documents. I may add, that I never found a case in which the use of either of these words did not seem to me precisely appropriate, and this distinctive use is eminently instructive. In the Psalms, this is peculiarly the case. This internal evidence of suitableness to relationship is the strongest possible kind of proof of the genuineness and (the subject being moral and divine) of the divine character of the record, in which this suitableness is uniformly found.
Thus, not to speak of the Psalms, where it is shown more in detail (as we have just seen), the book of Jonah touches on the relationship of Israel to Gentiles; of the peculiar God of Israel with Gentiles; of God, as such, with the latter, with creation, so as to put everything in its place—without an idea of proving anything about it—according to the whole history of the Bible from Genesis to the end of Chronicles. It spews the feeling of a Jew on one side, and God’s way of looking at it on the other. The proper place of Jehovah, in His character of God of Israel, is always preserved, and yet it is shown that this very Jehovah was the supreme God of goodness to men, let them be in the height of their pride, if there was room for repentance, a character which He would not relinquish even towards cattle. Nothing can be more important as a key to the whole question of God being Jehovah, and the peculiar God of Israel, and yet the one supreme and universal God—a thought so easily lost, at any rate as to goodness, if not as to power, by Jewish pride. It corrects all that a Jew could draw falsely from his peculiar position.
One might suppose that the double accounts which the rationalist alleges to exist, are in every case distinguished by the use of Jehovah and Elohim. This is not the case. But it may be he uses the fact of these names being employed to establish, the existence of two documents, at least, and their use by the author of the Book of Genesis, from which they are drawn. But even this is untenable ground; because if the two documents were distinctively characterized by these two names of God, all account alleged to be drawn from one of the distinct documents would not, as it often does, employ both of these names, nor two accounts, alleged to exist because the writer copied two distinct documents, employ, both of them, only one and the same name. Such accounts cannot be referred to two distinct documents characterized by the distinct employment of each. The reader has only to read Gen. 6; 7, to convince himself of the intermingling of the words “God” and “Lord (i.e., Jehovah),” though never without reason, to see the futility of the system. I shall cite some examples further on; but it is easily seen by reading these chapters.
However, none of his objections on this ground (rather a favorite one with German discoverers) has the least validity. It was important, in a book addressed to Israel, to show that Jehovah, their God, was the one true supreme Elohim, the Creator, in contrast with the demon gods of the heathen. Hence, in Genesis, where creation and the ante-Israelitish history is given, we have these two names brought in together (the force of which is much lost in our English translation), or so used as to make it clear that Jehovah is Elohim and Elohim Jehovah, though this last was taken as a name of relationship only at the exodus, on which we will say a few words further on. The very creed, as I may call it, of Israel marks clearly the use of these words ךָחֶא הָֹוהְי ּוניֵהלֱא הָֹןהְי לֵאָרְֹשׅי עַםְש (“Hear, O Israel, Jehovah, our God, is one Jehovah).” “And what nation is there that hath Elohim,” says Moses, “so nigh to them as Jehovah, our Elohim, is in all things that we call upon him for 1” “Did ever people hear the voice of Elohim speaking out of the midst of the fire?” “Or hath Elohim assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation,” etc., “as Jehovah, your Elohim, did for you in Egypt before your eyes? Unto thee it was spewed, that thou mightest know that Jehovah, he is Elohim; there is none else beside him.” To the people, when Elijah brought down fire from heaven, cry out” Jehovah, he is Elohim; Jehovah, he is Elohim.”
Having thus the undoubted importance of these words, let us apply this clear principle to that part of the history in which it was necessary to spew that Elohim was Jehovah, the Creator, Israel’s God.
I have spoken already of the creation. We have first, as a general history, Elohim—God—creating everything in succession; and Elohim rests. (Gen. 1; 2:1-3.) Then we have Jehovah Elohim, and the particular condition of things under Him. This kind of repetition is universal in scripture history, when subjects are considered in a new light; as if I give Benjamin’s progeny as such, and Saul’s royal one, for example, as such. I am not exactly aware of three accounts, as the rationalist alleges, of man’s creation. We have, besides Adam, a special account of Eve’s creation. In this second chapter we have a detailed account of the condition and circumstances of man—the peculiar position he was placed in as lord of the creation—his wife’s to him—out of what he was formed—how he became a living soul: details, as essential all of them, when his relationship with Jehovah Elohim was unfolded, as the historical account of Elohim’s creating all things in general, among which man had his place, was in its place too.
In this there is only a perfect communication of divine truth, each thing being perfectly in its place.
Let us turn to Noah and the flood.
We have the sons of Elohim. (Chap. 6:2.) As to them and in connection with His peculiar dealings with man, Jehovah said (ver. 3), “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” We have “sons of Elohim” (ver. 4), because here the expression is characteristic. “Elohim saw” (ver. 5), because here it was God in His own nature and character looking at man as such. “Jehovah repented” (ver. 6), because here it is His special thoughts and dealings about man as His—His feelings in connection with this relationship. Again (ver. 7), Jehovah, and Jehovah in relationship with Noah. Noah (ver. 9) “walked with God:” here it was morally characteristic, not his relationship to Jehovah under that name.
“The earth was corrupt before Elohim” —again it refers to God’s abstract nature and character. (Ver. 11, 12.) So (ver. 13) Elohim takes up His creation to declare its end to Noah. He had the Creator’s title to destroy His creation. Elohim Himself commanded Noah what to do in this case. In chapter vii. we enter into the full relationship of God with Noah as a deliverer; and it is Jehovah, just as we saw with Adam. There Elohim created. Jehovah had to do with Adam in a special way in the garden. Here Elohim is going to destroy His creation, and Jehovah has special relationship with Noah in the ark, as we have seen in verses 3, 6-8 of chapter 6., The peculiar relative feelings of Jehovah, not the simple character and supremacy of Elohim. Yet fully to identify the two accounts and connect them, we have in chapter vii. 16, “And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as Elohim had commanded him, and Jehovah shut him in.” The connection of the two names here makes the double-document system absurd. Now here we have the general command of Elohim given in the preceding chapter about His creatures to preserve them, as Creator; and then Jehovah shut him, Noah, in—that is, in the same verse, the special name of relationship in the case of the chosen and faithful patriarch. The rationalist says, “The two documents may indeed in this narrative be almost re-discovered by mechanical separation.” Certainly it would not be more than mechanical; for German theology nothing more, indeed, would be wanting. Again in chapter 8, in preserving mercy we have Elohim’s care of His preserved creation, and its deliverance to subsist on the recovered earth again. Then Noah builds an altar (Ver. 20), and Jehovah’s name immediately appears again, because it was important to spew that it was indeed Israel’s God that was thus worshipped—God in relationship with man from the beginning. Elohim then (chap 9) begins the world, so to speak, again; but the moment it is a question of relationship (ver. 26), we have Jehovah the God of Shem.
This need not be pursued farther. One point only remains to be noticed—the twos and sevens of the animals. In the accounts of Elohim’s directions for saving the different races of creatures, they are directed to be taken two of every sort, the male and female, to keep them alive. Nothing can be more simple than the meaning of this. When Jehovah is stating His thoughts as to Noah, and giving His directions in respect to His relationship with man and the earth, He directs Noah to take of clean beasts by sevens, still two and two male and female. And they all go in two and two, as Elohim had commanded, thus identifying, in the text itself, the two names in a way which would make the dissevering them difficult even on the mechanical process. The reason for distinguishing the clean beasts (still two and two, male and female) is too obvious to make the smallest difficulty. The twos refer, moreover, to male and female on a general principle. One must be very hard run up for a difficulty, or for a discovery, to find a contradiction here. The fowls of the air, which went in by sevens, are meant evidently clean ones too, as may be seen, chapter 8:20.
The cases of Pharaoh and Abimelech only confirm the remarks we have made. Moreover, in the parallel part of the passage, Jehovah is used in both cases. Jehovah plagued Pharaoh with great plagues. Jehovah had fast closed up the wombs of the house of Abimelech. Only there is added in Abimelech’s case, God having known Abimelech’s integrity in the matter, that He (Elohim) warned Abimelech in a dream. Now here Jehovah the God of Israel would have been quite out of place; for Abimelech was a Philistine, and Abraham already distinctively called. Yet, as a gracious God in nature and character, Elohim could chastise Abimelech temporarily for his error, and warn him, though He would preserve the integrity of the family He had chosen. Here let me remark, that undoubtedly Abraham was to blame. In the day when God judges the secrets of men’s hearts, all this will have its place between God and Abraham; but in His government of the world, all having fallen into idolatry, God was showing His special care over one called out in grace to bear His name, and walk under His protection. Hence that special care of him and his descendants, till there was no remedy, because they respected the name of Jehovah less than a heathen, as was shown in Zedekiah’s conduct with Nebuchadnezzar. He that touched them, Jehovah’s called ones, touched Jehovah Himself, who declared He would protect them as El-Shaddai, the Almighty, such a one touched the apple of his own eye. Jehovah’s power as Almighty had to be made good against the apostate and guilty heathen, for the sustaining the faith of His called ones, and the knowledge that there was a God of the earth.
But the statement that these names are contrasted in Abraham’s case with Pharaoh and Abimelech, is unfounded. There is no divine warning to Pharaoh; and Jehovah’s care of Abraham, in judging each, is related under the same title—Jehovah.
I do not know what the rationalist means by a double account of the origin of circumcision; I know but of one, that in Gen. 17. It is referred to Elohim, but He is called, as appearing to Abraham, Jehovah, and yet gives His name as El-Shaddai. It was a command connected with the character and nature of God. They were to be a separate people to Him, and the flesh be mortified. This “was not of Moses,” who brought in specially the name Jehovah as the ground of relationship, “but of the fathers,” antecedent to the special relationship of the Jews with Him, and connected with the name “God Almighty,” that Abraham might be a father of many nations.
There are no two reasons for the name of Isaac. God directs his name to be called Isaac— “laughter” —as a term of joy and gladness at this peculiar blessing to Abraham. Sarah takes up the name when he is born, and says, “God hath made me to laugh;” but this is no double account of his name.
God confirms the name of Israel to Jacob; but there is no double account of its origin. On the first occasion, God had a controversy with Jacob; but blesses him, strengthens him to prevail in the conflict, and gives him the name of Israel” a prince who prevailed with God;” yet chastises him, and does not reveal Himself to him. Jacob, after this, goes up to the place where his real meeting with God in blessing was to be, and puts away idols out of his house, knowing he is going to meet Him. Then God begins by revealing freely His name, and confirms to Jacob the title He had given him before. Here there is no kind of pretense for making two accounts—one using the word “Jehovah,” the other “Elohim.” Jehovah is used in neither. In the case of Bethel God appeared to him when he left the land of Canaan, and he called the name of the place “Bethel.” God tells him, on returning, to go up there, calling it already Bethel; and then appears a second time there to Jacob, and Jacob thereupon confirms to it the name of “Bethel.” He had a double reason; but it is called, in the second part of the history, Bethel already, before he gets there. So that the case is very simple and very clear, and there is no pretense of a reason to speak of it as two distinct independent accounts which are referred to.
The name of “Beersheba” was confirmed by Isaac, when he also established by oath his boundaries there with Abimelech, as Abraham had done. These circumstances both gave occasion to this name. Being the boundary-well, the engagement was repeated; and both engagements contributed to give it this name. But here there is not the smallest ground whatever for supposing that it was inattention to some other document; for it is stated (ver. 18), “And Isaac digged again the wells of water which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham. And he called their names after the names by which his father had called them;” And then it goes on to give an additional personal reason why the last had the same name.
As regards God’s saying, “But by my name Jehovah was I not known to them,” the meaning is as simple as possible. The words are— “And Elohim spake unto Moses [in the previous verses it is ‘Jehovah,’ spewing bow unfounded is the supposition of their belonging to distinct documents], and said unto him, I am Jehovah: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty; but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.” Now here we have Elohim, Jehovah, El-Shaddai, all spoken of the one supreme God as different names; and then the Lord declares, exactly according to Genesis, that to the patriarchs He had revealed Himself as. El-Shaddai. (See Gen. 17; 35:11.) This was the name, the power of which He was specially to make good in their favor, in protecting them in their wanderings, “what time they went from one nation to another people.” Now that He was calling His people, He reveals Himself to them by another name, as the ground of relationship and of the expectation of faith on their part, as the existing One “who was, and is, and is to come,” though still the Almighty. He who now promised would live ever to perform, unchanged and unchangeable. Jehovah was God’s proper and peculiar name with His redeemed people. He had never taken this name as the ground of His dealings with Abraham, nor laid it as the basis on which his faith was to act. the New Testament, God takes yet another—that of Father. Hence He says, “I will be a Father, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” That is, God (Elohim), who had the two former names, Jehovah (or “Lord”) and Shaddai, (“Almighty”), now took this special one of Father with the saints. From the first calling out of the world to be separate from it, God Almighty, Jehovah, Father, characterized successively the position which God assumed for faith. Nothing can be plainer. I believe He is now God Almighty; but it is not the name by which He is known to me. He is known to me by the name of Father. “To us there is one God, the Father.”
If this be all German discoveries are worth, they deserve to be designated by a name which I shall not, however, permit myself to give them. I am sure they are not distinguished by any intelligence of the bearing of the work they are exercising their wits upon, nor of the force of the expressions contained in it.

Letter on Eternal Punishment

My Dear Brother,
My answer has been delayed through constant work and absence from the house for evening meetings, &c., but I should gladly help you in this to the utmost of my power, for this doctrine is a deadly and demoralizing heresy, or, rather, infidelity. I ever refuted it, but I never saw so much of it as latterly at New York and Boston. It issues in denying responsibility and conscience, enfeebling, in the most deadly way, the sense of sin, the value, consequently, of the atonement, and ultimately the divinity of Christ. All do not go this length, and are unaware of it, but it has led thousands in America there. It is its just result. Some hold simple annihilation; others, though death is ceasing to exist, yet a resurrection for judgment, and then torment. The greatest part of their proofs are from the Old Testament; and the moment you know that the mass of their texts refer to temporal judgments on earth, all that part of the fabric comes down. Then they dodge to words in the New Testament: as if, e.g., “destruction” means ceasing to exist. This is not true, as “Oh Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thy help.” In the original it is the same word where it is said, “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” God can say, “I create and I destroy;” but otherwise it is used constantly for ruin in a general sense, as in the boat the disciples say, “Carest thou not that we perish?” They admit there can be no annihilation in nature, and do not like the word. Next, death never means ceasing to exist. Scripture speaks of casting the soul into hell after the body is killed; so, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, they subsist after death. They say that is a Jewish figure: I admit it; but it is a figure to show how they subsist after death. Again, it is said in Luke 20, “For all live unto him” —dead men but always alive to God. Besides, if it be then ceasing to exist, there is nobody to raise for judgment. The second death even is casting into the lake of fire, where they are tormented; that is, it is not ceasing to exist. They say eternal life and eternal death does not mean eternal. This is not true; eternal life and eternal punishment are spoken of together, and it is the regular force of it in Scripture— “The things which are seen are temporal, and the things which are not seen are eternal.” Nothing can be plainer than that. So we have “the eternal God,” “the eternal Spirit,” “eternal redemption,” “eternal inheritance,” —all contrasted with time.
What is so morally dreadful in it is the weakening the sense of sin and atonement. For if my sin only deserved death, Christ had only to bear this for me, which hundreds have borne besides. Sin becomes little and atonement nothing. Hence a vast number speak of what Christ obtained for us by His death, but drop the atonement for our sins as of any consequence. Again, if death means ceasing to exist (and this is the basis of all their statements), then Christ ceased to exist. This leads many on to deny His divinity (I do not say all, though it is far the greatest number in America). If they say, “No, He was a divine person, He did not,” still He was a true man, body and soul, and truly died; and death does not mean ceasing to exist. Further, this materialism as to the soul is entirely contrary to Scripture. In Genesis, the way man is created is carefully distinguished from beasts. God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life: this He never did to the beasts. Hence Adam is called the son of God, and Paul declares we are the offspring of God. Hence to liken our soul to the beasts is false, besides what I quoted from the gospels as to its subsistence after death. The one text, “It is appointed unto men once to die and after that the judgment,” proves demonstratively that we subsist after death. Death dissolves our present state of existence, but that existence does not cease at all. So far from death being the full wages of sin in this sense, it is after death we get all we are adjudged to. That is, death as to the body is the result of sin here; the judgment of the man, to receive the real consequences of it before God, comes altogether after it. Hence there is a resurrection of the unjust, a resurrection to judgment. Remember, we conceive of eternity as prolonged time; that is, we do not conceive it at all. It is an eternal Now. And this is the very definition of the word given by writers of the apostles’ time.
I have thus, dear brother, given you rapidly, as far as a letter allowed, the way the question has actually come before me, and my reply. The effect in destroying responsibility was fearful and, in people with grosser habits, rejection of all truth and immorality. The tree was bad, had a bad sap, and so was cut down, and there was an end of it. Where is sin and atonement there? One, the most eminent, quiet and most guarded (who had learned much truth from brethren in England, and a very popular preacher), said, he believed that the elect were the only souls God meant to exist; the rest were the fruit of man’s lust after the fall. When asked how he would reconcile the doctrine of thus perishing of souls simply bad and responsibility as stated in Scripture, he said he could not, but, as he found it there, he did not deny it. But he was wholly a materialist as to the truth of a soul; he would not call it material, but it is born by mere physical generation. I regret to have to refer to such things. Keep your mind simple if you can by grace and receive what scripture says in simplicity as it stands. I think I have some tracts on it, but written when I had not tracked it out as I had to do in America, particularly New York and Boston but elsewhere too. Thank God, several were delivered and found clearly it was Satan’s power, others arrested who were in danger. I will look up the tracts to send them.
Your affectionate servant and brother in Christ.
J. N. D.

Evangelical Organs of 1866 Christian Observer

In “The Christian Observer” for August, 1866, an article appears on “Plymouth Brethrenism,” largely cited, and adopted without question, in “The Record” of August 20. This I purpose to notice briefly, not so much to vindicate what they assail as to point out the state both morally and doctrinally of the party they represent.
1. Much is said of the lofty claims of those who charge Christendom with departure from first love, through worldliness and judaizing (pp. 599, &c.) But in what atmosphere have these men been living? Do they not know that all good men, at home and abroad, mourn over the present general defection from primitive holiness, unity, and the fresh sense of divine grace, and of the Savior’s love, which made His yoke easy and His burden light? But there is more than this. For who can deny that the actual state of Romanists, Greeks, Copts, Nestorians, Abyssinians, Anglicans, Lutherans, Moravians, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, &c., does not agree with, but flagrantly opposes, the system of the Church which we find formed by the presence and power of the Holy Ghost in the Acts and regulated by the apostolic epistles? Did not the Evangelical Alliance grow out of this feeling? and is it not a sort of corporate confession from Protestants in general that the present state of things within the various orthodox denominations affords no adequate means of exhibiting Christian unity, no proper enjoyment of the fellowship of saints beyond party enclosures? As to this the chief point of difference from the members of that Alliance is that the so-called “Brethren” believe that, as it is a duty to cleave to the assembly of God when duly constituted according to His word; so it is equally incumbent to abandon all fellowship which is fundamentally unscriptural. This seems to them not “arrogant pretension,” but obedience—the truest and humblest position for any child or even creature of God.
It is not true that they arrogate to themselves the designation of “the Brethren.” (Pp. 599, 601.) They are content to be Christians only and not some peculiar species (Episcopal, Presbyterian, Independent, &c.) Others style them “the Brethren,” which title, if they themselves employ it, is generally marked within inverted commas to show that it is a citation. But no intelligent person in their midst ever means thereby to weaken for a moment, still less to deny, the common brotherhood of believers. And in fact they carry out the recognition of that brotherhood more thoroughly than any others. For where else can a godly man be received at once frankly and fully according to the place the Lord has given him in the Church of God? Where else can he (without being first tried by some denominational Shibboleth, be free to open his mouth in praise, prayer, or edification through the word in the Christian assembly? Who else recognizes this save as a courtesy accorded by the minister or the congregation? With “Brethren” so-called it is the practice, the simple consequence of accepting the truth of God’s assembly, once a man is known to be a member of it and to walk after a godly sort according to his measure of light. “Brethren,” therefore, desire grace to carry out Scripture consistently and uniformly; exercising patience with their brethren who may not yet have felt the evil of “sects” in the sight of God, and believing that all truth is best learned within the assembly of God, save of course the primary confession of the Lord’s name, which is the sole condition of entrance there. This is a main reason why “the best out of all communions” sympathize so much (spite of contrary interests and prejudices), and why others are wont to designate them “the Brethren.”
The truth is that the evils, against which the Apostle Paul and the rest contended during their ministry, burst all barriers after their death. Nothing proves this better than the remains of the Fathers. For there is no right testimony in them to the nature of the Church, nor faith in the personal action of the Spirit, nor even a clear, full understanding of salvation by grace. Ministry is everywhere confounded with priesthood, the institutions of baptism and the Lord’s Supper perverted into ordinances of life-giving virtue. The Reformation, so blessed of God in giving the nations an open Bible, and recalling the great truth of justification by faith, did not fully emancipate believers from the bondage of ecclesiastical tradition or remove the clouds which still obscured the Lord’s return as the constant hope of the Christian. Why should it then seem incredible that God from the rubbish of ages should recover His truth on that which is essential to the well-being of the Church, as He did in the sixteenth century for the peace and blessing of the believer? What is corporate naturally follows what is individual. Do they suppose that the Reformation restored all that was lost? or that the God who acted for His own glory in helping souls then is indifferent to other wants now?
Among the different co-ordinate sects of Christendom, not one even contemplates the manifestation, according to Scripture, of the one body of Christ: for Popery is not to be thought of save as the veriest and most corrupt pretender on earth. And of the rest, which so much as aims at the idea? What was to be done then? Were we to give up fidelity to God’s truth about His Church, Christ’s one body, as a mere theory or only to be realized in heaven, and not a matter for faith, and action, and suffering, in the earth? Let those so act who seriously believe they can justify it before the throne of Christ. “Brethren” desire to cast themselves fearlessly on the unfailing word and Spirit of God, and, in order to meet in God’s way, have had the trial of severing from associations founded only on principles of expediency or some other ground altogether human. What claim have these bodies on the allegiance of God’s children? Are they, were they ever, constituted according to His revealed will? If not, how do Paul’s warnings to the Corinthians against schism apply? The divisions (σχίσματα), heresies or rather sects (αίρέσις), of which he speaks, were among those who really formed the assembly of God at Corinth. Is there much force in the argument that, because it is sinful to separate from what is divine, it is equally so to separate from what is human? It was wicked to leave the Corinthian assembly; is it therefore wicked to leave Popery, Anglicanism, Presbyterianism, or any other society of the sort? Mathematical study, to which the Christian Observer invites us for the exercise of reasoning powers, seems to have sadly failed its advocate here. Those whose principles of Church association are divine, who stand on nothing but Scripture as to this, are entitled to urge the apostolic exhortations against schism, not the men whose very constitution (for I speak not of mere disorder or erring individuals) is now and has always been both schismatical and in other respects contrary to Scripture. Nationalism essentially contradicts the one body, for it asserts the principle of distinct Church system though on a large scale; Dissent contradicts it to the extremist limits. Why is it counted sectarian for Christians to come out of human societies (i.e., sects), and fall back on the original ground of the Church? Why is it schismatical to abandon the schisms we were in, to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace? One thing only can account for such blind and senseless clamor—the will to blacken those whose adherence to God’s word condemns such as see error enough but have not the faith to renounce it at all cost. Till they cease doing the evil they know, how can they expect light from God to discern the good they very probably do not know?
But it seems “Brethren” insist on “separation from all other communions.” Not so: we advise no Christian to leave even that which we believe has no authority whatever, till he is sure that it is a duty. Never do we think it right to employ fear or favor, which is not the case with our adversaries. Each Christian is exhorted to seek light from God and a single eye. It is the fact, no doubt, that, as the nature of the Church’s worship or ministry is gathered from Scripture, no faithful man helps on that which is inconsistent with the truth. But all is left to conscience. There is no rule, expressed or understood, which forbids “Brethren” to hear a sermon or join in a service elsewhere. Only it is clear that the Christian who comes to the conclusion that Anglican or Dissenting rites involve the dishonor of God’s Spirit, or the denial of truth, is not free in conscience to participate. Compulsion, however, would be altogether wrong. Thus conscience and liberty are both preserved. Men who have no fixed principles may consistently perhaps go to the Anglicans on Sunday morning, to the Presbyterians in the evening, and to Methodists or others during the week. But do the Christian Observer and the Record endorse such laxity? Do they blame “Brethren” for first seeking to ascertain God’s will as to Christian communion, and then refusing to swerve from it? The Anglicans, it is to be supposed, count the Dissenters wrong, as the Dissenters do the Anglicans: why are we then to blame if we judge them both by the only unerring standard? We do not complain if people judge us, or our ways, or our writings, by the same rule: only it were well to examine all fairly and even lovingly as in the sight of God. If we are sure we are right in going back to scriptural fellowship, rather than cling to innovations of Protestant times, are we to hide from our brethren the truth we know? Has not God’s word the same claim on His children in matters of communion as in doctrine or in personal conduct? To us it seems that the real sectarianism consists in despising God’s will about His Church, not in abandoning sects because of our faith in His word.
6. But “the Plymouth Brethren” are divided among themselves, from which the Christian Observer infers that they are “essentially sectarian in spirit.” A man’s notion of reasoning or common sense, of which the writer says so much, must be strange who could draw such a conclusion. “Brethren” were indebted to the Anglicans for one who turned out heterodox as to Christ’s person and relation to God, which he taught to be one of like distance from God as in any other child of Adam. This led to separation among us. It was not with us an Act of uniformity, driving out multitudes of pious men, but a fundamental question of Christ, which made us prefer diminished numbers or a total rupture, rather than accredit the subversion of Christ’s personal glory. “Brethren” never guaranteed that all who came amongst them would stand faithful. Do those who depart, or are put out, or refused fellowship, destroy the testimony of those who hold fast? Do parties of carnal men prove those who refuse such evil to be “essentially sectarian?” If frequent splits into sects or heresies evince essential sectarianism, what would such an argument compel us to think of the early Church? The truth is that it is a mere absurdity. The precise reverse is the apostle’s inference in 1 Cor. 11:19— “There must be also heresies (sects) among you;” not that sects are thereby justified, cannot be avoided, must not be spoken against; nor that all are essentially sectarian; but “That they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” We never boasted of our unity, as these men falsely say (p. 600); but we cannot let any consideration induce us to sit down in communions which systematically set aside the unity for which God holds us responsible. And if we cannot force others to quit that which is unscriptural, we are not the less bound to be found true to God’s word ourselves, as far as our souls have apprehended it. Again, has the Christian Observer any real ground for saying, “it is no longer in humble good works they employ themselves, such as ‘visiting the widows and the fatherless in their affliction,’ or in seeking to bring lost sheep to Christ?” Was it not a mere piece of idle declamation? Does he not know that the very reverse is true? Unquestionably, the movement of “Brethren” has set many free to preach the gospel to the unconverted at home and abroad, as well as many others to engage in more unobtrusive ministry from house to house. But it becomes one not to be provoked into speaking of ourselves, where indeed we have abundant cause for humiliation. Of God’s principles, on which we seek to act, we feel we can never boast enough; and therefore we cannot but desire that all Christians should act—yea, let it even he so faithfully as to put us to shame. It is mere puerility to suppose that this desire for the Church’s blessing is inconsistent with the most earnest zeal for perishing sinners. Would that both were true of us in an incomparably larger proportion!
7. But what shall we say of the statements in p. 601? No doubt “Brethren” have said, as others, that the apostles and first Christians met in private houses (not in public buildings) to “break bread,” to pray, and to hear the word of God expounded. But where has this been made a plea, as they represent, for leaving this or that communion Who has ever dreamed of the folly “that after the apostles there was to be no such thing as a Christian ministry?” The clear contradiction of this was insisted on in the “Lectures” of which the Christian Observer speaks, but knows almost nothing. “‘That all believers are equally priests” is true; but the added words “or ministers” prove that the writer neither understands “the Brethren,” nor ministry, nor priesthood: else no such blunder was possible. It proves that the Christian Observer judaizes, like the post-apostolic Fathers who introduced the same fatal confusion. One might have supposed that every Christian held, nominally at least, that the Holy Ghost was the sole administrator now (or at any time) in the Church, sent down for that purpose by the exalted Lord Jesus; but this is treated as peculiar to “Brethren,” who certainly deny neither apostles and prophets of old, nor the continuance of the other ministerial gifts which follow in Eph. 4, such as evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Further, who can deny that there was but one body gathered by our Lord on earth? that, though we hear of “churches” of this country or that, all Christians then enjoyed intercommunion? It was the Church everywhere. Ought this, or ought it not, to be so now? Ought the Church to consist of known unbelievers as members, or ‘ministers, and perhaps in the highest station? Nowhere do we say that separation from all assembly of God is necessary because evil enters; but we do say that the manifest allowance of evil, the absence of discipline, the refusal to judge what is out before the eye, leavens the whole lump and finally deprives an assembly of its claim to represent Christ. The candlestick is removed. Its character is lost.
The Christian Observer opens p. 602 with a remarkably easy way of sheaving themselves “honest minded.” “We say— ‘Let us follow out these new principles by all means, and whatever may be the consequence to ourselves, if they can be established by the word of God.’” Unfortunately, however, it is but “we say,” without the smallest serious thought about the truth, still less of doing it. “These new principles” are just a return to the old divine ground on which God originally set the Church, laid down in His perfect word, and with reliance on the ever-present Spirit. Whether the objector is “honest minded” may appear from the first point adduced: “The first Christians met to break bread in private houses: therefore so we will meet.” This is followed by an “upper chamber,” &e. “Brethren” can judge both the spirituality and the common sense of such arguments as these. We do just as our earlier brethren did—use rooms, upper chambers or not, private or public, according to need and opportunities as the Lord gives. The puerility or worse is entirely on his part who puts into our mouths what is a were invention of his own, for which there is no ground in our words or principles.
8. Lower down the page the Christian Observer asserts that “the Brethren” take the Corinthian Church as their mode], repeated in p. 603. Now the writer must know, if he have “common sense,” that we do not take the state of that or any other assembly as a model, but the inspired epistles which set forth the right things and correct what was wrong. Neither do “Brethren” make a point of any circumstances which may or may not have been. But does this warrant Christendom in perverting the Eucharist, for instance, from its original simplicity, and in foisting in ordained administrators where Scripture gives no sign 7 yea, where the fullest account inspiration affords on it goes to prove there could be no such official for its due celebration? Is it “honest minded” for any man in his senses to quote 1 Cor. 11:22 “as bearing upon the principles set up by the Brethren about meeting to break bread in private houses 7” Is it “logical” to infer that “they were not to receive in private houses, but only in company with the Church of God?”
“Brethren” insist, as the writer well knows, on the Ephesian Epistle just as much as on those to the Corinthians; he had the evidence of it in the “Lectures” before him. Yet he repeats the nonsense that they take the Corinthian rather than the Ephesian Church as their model; and adds, “We (sic) cannot fail to notice that in more orderly churches, such as the Ephesian, no such miraculous powers are referred to,” &c. The Christian Observer had scarcely failed to notice this very difference more correctly pointed out in the “Lectures,” though he deigns to insinuate the contrary. The truth, however, is, that the very disorder of the Corinthians led to an unfolding of the interior working of the Christian assembly, such as we have neither in the Ephesian Epistle nor in any other than the First Epistle to the Corinthians; and it is precisely this which convicts Christendom, not of disorder merely, but of the far graver evil of systematic departure from God’s only sanctioned plan for the meeting together of Christians as such. One can easily comprehend why the Christian Observer so diligently misstates the facts both as to 1 Cor. 12; 14, and as to Eph. 4.
Nor is it true that “the Plymouth Brethren fail to make any distinction” between the synagogue system and that of the temple, which is a matter of the commonest knowledge. Where do they apply “the camp” (Heb. 13) to the synagogue worship? Thus the argument is represented: “The Christianized Jews were to leave the tabernacle worship which was now abolished—in other words, to come out of the Jewish Church; therefore we Christians are to come out of the Christian Church, even where its worship is as simple as that of the synagogue This is one of the sort of non sequiturs which the Plymouth Brethren are continually making. Correct reasoning is plainly no part of their system.” What we do infer from this scripture, beyond its immediate application to the Christian Jews, is that “the camp” represents the middle ground of earthly religion for men in the flesh, in contrast with the Christian position with its heavenly joy and full cleansing within the veil, on the one side; and, on the other, utter rejection in this world with Him who suffered without the gate. Does not the Anglican glory in that medium which answers to “the camp?” Do not “Brethren” insist on that Christianity which unites worshippers once purged, having no more conscience of sins, with the shame of the cross as our present portion here? As to the reasoning of the Christian Observer, it is all a mistake. Christians come out of that which falsely calls itself a Christian church in order to meet as God would have them. They never come out of the Christian church. But, moreover, in the same page (604) we are told that the Church of England adopts the synagogue worship!! and then lower down, rather more truthfully, that “it was as simple as any service can possibly be among the Brethren’ themselves, consisting only of prayer, reading the Scriptures, singing, and preaching, or expositions of the word of God; it might be by any qualified to give it.” Is this then a specimen of correct reasoning? Is it the fact that the Plymouth Brethren fail to distinguish the synagogue from the temple? Is it true that in the Church of England the system of worship is as simple as any among Brethren themselves, consisting only of prayer, singing, scripture reading and exposition, it might be by any one qualified to give it? Really the Christian Observer reasons extraordinarily here for “the Brethren” against his own system. If the synagogue was “a providential platform for Christian assemblies,” the reader must judge where the resemblance is most real, and who it is that presents the most striking non sequitur. As the apostle did not refuse to go to the synagogue where there was the fullest liberty for the word of God to be expounded “by any one qualified to give it” (Acts 13:15), so “Brethren” never decline any meeting on similar principles among God’s people. Nor is the objector correctly informed, if he supposes that there is not ample room among them for “elders” such as we hear of in James 5:14. Only when men pretend to ordain elders, we are entitled to inquire whether the ordainers possess the scriptural authority requisite for the purpose.
Equally mistaken is he as to “the Brethren’s” alleged judgment of men’s hearts.~ We cannot exclude a secret hypocrite; but we can abstain from seeking the union of those manifestly unconverted in the worship of the Lord. Does the Christian Observer seriously contend that those who confess they are not born of God should join in blessing God for privileges they are strangers to? Are hymns to be chosen to please men or to praise God? This is what was condemned as not of the Holy Ghost in the “Lectures,” from which the writer charitably infers that the lecturer assumed to speak for the Holy Ghost, and to determine what He does, and what He does not, suggest! To understand an author is desirable before criticism. Further, the irregularity (p. 606) he tries to fix on the open, unformal character of the assembly is a question he must settle with Scripture; for 1 Cor. 14 is quite exposed to his irreverent attack. It is absurd to pretend that the order of that chapter answers to the routine of an Anglican service, by which the Christian Observer evidently measures things. Yet here it is that, all being open to the action of the Spirit by the various members of Christ’s body, the apostle does not scruple to say that “God is not the author of confusion but of peace:” “let all things be done decently and in order.” Did this order most resemble the Anglican morning service, or “the Brethren” met as an assembly?
As to the parable of the tares and wheat, it is not worth while spending words in refuting the Christian Observer’s misapplication. The field is not the Church, but the world; and the warning is not against putting offenders out of the assembly, but against cutting off the wicked. Toward such the Christian is to walk in grace, not in earthly righteousness as James and John were disposed to do with the Samaritans in Luke 9
The writer shows, in pp. 606, 607, that he knows absolutely nothing about the Church of God. Let him weigh Matt. 16:18 and say whether the Lord represents that building as an old or a new thing. Let him consider Acts 1; 2 with 1 Cor. 12:19 and say whether the baptism of the Spirit (not His operation in giving life and faith) was not a new privilege and yet absolutely essential to the formation of the “one body,” the Church. Was, or was not, that baptism first known when Pentecost was fully come? Let him answer whether the partition wall was broken down, whether Jew and Gentile were united in one before Christ ascended and sent down the Spirit to give them both access to the Father. It is easy to misrepresent what is evidently but ill understood; and it is not easy to convince where the word of God has small authority, and the Spirit’s action is almost unknown, and a man has no small confidence in his common sense, his correct reasoning, his study of mathematics, and his honest-mindedness. But he will not satisfy any, save partisans, that the “one body” “of course means the Plymouth Brethren” in Lectures which always maintain the contrary. Nor will he set aside the many scriptures which limit the Church to a New Testament order of things quite different from that of Old, by citing “the church in the wilderness” which even Bishop Pearson would tell him means the congregation of Israel. Nobody disputes “the faithful” and the olive tree both in Old and in New Testament times; but it is not expressly stated that God founded His Church of real believers till redemption was wrought, and Christ took His place as Head in heaven. The writer has no perception of the question; which is not about believers then, for no one doubts it, but whether there were not new privileges afterward, and whether those who partake of them be not styled the Church, the one body, &c. A parallel among Jews and Christians does not prove that they are the same; and a new thing might perfectly well be compared with an old. When a writer with the New Testament in his hand can affirm that God since the creation makes no absolutely new thing but only gives new forms to the old, it is high time to suspend reasoning with him and rather to pray that God may be pleased to remove the scales from his eyes and the hardness from his heart, if peradventure he may repent to the acknowledgment of the truth. He may then with sorrow and shame confess that what he ignorantly scorned as “veritable nonsense” (p. 608) was a sound exposition of a most certain and momentous truth of God.
13. But the last clause of the same page contains a charge which will surprise every man of real learning among the Anglicans as well as anywhere else in Christendom. “And when Scripture does not use the exact words that suit his theory, he [Mr. Kelly] undertakes, with the most astounding presumption, to speak for the Holy Ghost and says (referring to the expression, Acts 9:31, “Then had the churches rest’), But that which I am persuaded the Holy Ghost wrote here, was the Church.’ The Holy Ghost is continually made answerable for what Mr. K. asserts, which to us sounds very much like profaneness, not reverence. Whether it be so, let others judge.” Others will judge (and this, were they the bitterest enemies of “the Brethren”) that the Christian Observer has committed itself here to unwarrantable abuse, growing out of an ignorance of New Testament criticism which is in the highest degree disgraceful to a man who presumes to write on such subjects, and to the party which could produce and reproduce such flippant floundering about God’s word. The candid reader is requested to examine the “Six Lectures on Fundamental Truths,” pp. 85, 86. Is it true that the author undertakes to speak for the Holy Ghost when Scripture does not suit? It is a baseless calumny; and the writer must be totally incompetent to understand the grounds on which the decision of such a point turns. For there is an ample statement of the overwhelming ancient authority of manuscripts and versions, which reject the vulgar “churches” as not Scripture, and read ἐκκληờἰα, “Church” as the exact word spoken by the Holy Ghost.
A second instance the writer adduces in p. 610. “And where Scripture does not seem to express just what they think it ought to express, that is, just what suits their notions, they have a ready way of correcting it in the name of the Holy Ghost. We have given one instance of this from Mr. Kelly. Here is another. ‘For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, in order that ye may not do the things that ye would.’ This, I believe is what the Holy Ghost wrote and meant.” (Kelly’s Lectures on the Galatians with a New Translation.) Now here it is a question of correct translation. Will the Christian Observer stand to the error of the English versions since Tyndale? Will the writer be bold enough to deny that ἵνα μὴ ἂ ἂν θέλητε, ταῦτα ποιῆτε means “that ye may not do” (not, “so that ye cannot do,” which is bad doctrine as well as false translation)? Real scholars, like Bishop Ellicott and Dean Alford, or indeed any others of any land you please, will unhesitatingly condemn the two organs of the Evangelicals. Will it be contended that the Spirit of God sanctions the false reading, the false version, or the narrow-minded spite which disclosed its astonishing ignorance in refusing and calumniating a correction because it emanated from “the Brethren?”
The instance next given, in page 610, “of the way in which Scripture can be twisted by the Brethren,” is really an instance of pure mistake through their desire of finding fault. But it is not worth saying more than that 1 Cor. 12:3 was not aimed “at the doctrine that Jesus bore the curse of the law for us,” but at the blasphemy, of which the Christian Observer does not seem to have heard, that Jesus was born into the ordinary distance of fallen man from God. This, an evident offshoot of Irvingism, is the evil doctrine which led to our refusing communion to its propagator, a former Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. All the virtuous indignation expended on this head is therefore quite superfluous, and proves inconsiderate haste and want of proper knowledge; for these things were not done in a corner.
16. Page 611 opens with the usual want of ingenuousness. Is it true that “Brethren” “assert for themselves an exclusive possession of the Holy Ghost?” The writer had in his hands books which over and over predicate this privilege of all Christians equally. The real divergence is that “Brethren” net as if they believed it, while others act as if they were still waiting for what they have not, but expect. We never affirm that the Holy Ghost is not in all Christians; but that Christians in general do not act scripturally as those possessed of so great a blessing—do not leave that open door, which is requisite for the due development of His operations. In short, we arraign our brethren’s want of faith in that Holy Spirit whom they, equally with us, have “personally and not by influence merely.” Even when we take this ground, which they cannot but own to be humble, want of charity insinuates that we are insincerely stating that which is nothing but the simple truth.
17. The law has been discussed fully enough elsewhere to render many words needless now. Neither the Christian Observer nor the Record ever writes on the subject without affording a practical comment on 1 Tim. 1:7. “Brethren” hold fast the apostolic truth that the law is good if a man use it lawfully, knowing this [which they who make it a rule of life for the believer do not know] that the law is not made for a righteous man [which we presume the believer is], but for the lawless and disobedient [which we trust all our adversaries are not].” We do not abandon the law objective for Quaker subjectivity; but we believe that the Christian is under grace, which really does accomplish the righteous requirement (τὸ δικαίωμα) of the law in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. And here let me commend 1 Cor. 9:20, 21 to the Christian Observer and the Record, and let them not fall into the egregious error of fancying that we add to the Scriptures, because we say that the Tex. Rec. and the Auth. V. present the passage in a mutilated form. The clause μὴ ὢν αὐτὸς ὑπὸ νόμον”(not being myself under law)” properly comes in before the last clause of verse 20, resting, as it does, on the amplest authority of the best MSS. and Vv. It was omitted δι᾿ ὑμοιοτέλεντον, as was indeed a much larger portion of the same verse in one ancient copy. So far is it from being the fact that “according to the Plymouth Brethren the law, even the law of the Ten Commandments is entirely abrogated” (p. 612), that the Christian Observer had before him a distinct objection to the Auth. V. of Rom. 7:6, which really does stick to a bad reading that contains this error. No intelligent man amongst us asserts that the law is dead, but that the Christian is dead to it, as the right reading conveys. The grace under which the Christian is widens the sphere and deepens the character of Christian obedience, the directory of which is all the word of God, which the Spirit alone can enable us rightly to divide and really to carry out. Whether this be Popery, Quakerism, and Irvingism, without certain of their evils or goods, some Christians will judge with less of passion or prejudice than the friends now before us. It would be somewhat difficult to reconcile the common cry that we pick out the more spiritual of all denominations with the reproach that those most generally laid hold of are “silly women and equally weak men.” (p. 614.) Is it not strange that “the best Christians out of all communions” should so turn out when refined a little in our crucible 18. Remarkably enough too, after recurring in p. 614 to the old charge of an intensely sectarian, proselytizing spirit, tinctured deeply with spiritual pride, the Christian Observer admits that the present mixed condition of the professing Church, “we are as sensible as the Brethren, is only the world under another form,” yet contends that we are not to separate but “help to leaven, or rather salt, the whole lump.” The admission is fatal. Scripture is uniform that separation from the world, especially the Babylonish or Christian world, is always right, separation from a true assembly of God is always wrong. The Christian Observer knows really nothing of the latter, and contradicts Scripture as to the former. How painfully religious tradition approaches the confines of infidelity! Professor F. W. Newman boldly says that he now loves the world. This organ of the Evangelicals is not ashamed to confess that they go as far as we in owning that the present condition of the professing Church “is only the world under another form,” and yet they would have us not to separate, as God’s word invariably enjoins, but stay to leaven! or rather salt it!! It is not usual to salt what is corrupt, nor is it more promising in spiritual things than in physical. To plunge your hand in a bucket of pitch will not make much difference to the bucket, but will decidedly defile yourself. Testimony to the world, as one not of it, is a very different thing.
The conclusion is that the new system (i.e., a recurrence from the system of sects with human constitutions to the sole authority of Scripture and the guidance of the Holy Ghost in the unity of Christ’s body) “is a delusion of the great adversary.” “The Plymouth Brethren are essentially idolaters,” practically and mentally; their liberty is bondage, their results illogical logomachies; their consciences are weak and crotchety. The Christian Observer’s great end, like Mr. Howels’s, is “common sense in matters of religion.” We are not careful to answer our accusers in this matter. Those who judge by the word of the Lord will want other evidence than the estimate men form of themselves or of the “Brethren.”

Extracts From Correspondence: Christ in Gethsemane and on the Cross

I was much struck lately with the way in which Christ was answered and overcame in Gethsemane and on the cross. I apprehend, while looking forward to the dreadful cup, the proper and immediate trial of Gethsemane was the power of darkness; the great point was to get between His soul and the Father (as before, by desirable things for life). But he could not. Christ hence pleading with His Father, receiving nothing from Satan or man in the cup, received it from his father in perfect and blessed obedience. “Thou hast brought me into the dust of death.”
Hence His soul is entirely out of the darkness in respect to His enemy, and He can say in peaceful hour calm of others, “this is your and the power of darkness,” and presents Himself willingly that His disciples might go free. How blessed the perfectness which, at His own cost, always kept them free. For in their position Satan would have caught them in his hour, had not the Lord 81 God forward in the gap; and so ever. When needed for Peter, He can allow just so much as was good to sift, but stay the proud billows for him, which were to go clean over His own soul. He was thus, I judge, entirely out of the whole conflict with darkness before it came in fact. He passed through it with God—His Father.
At the cross, I apprehend, there was another thing. He was forsaken of God. He had immediately to do with God, and just wrath against sin, and He in that place, so that love could have no refuge for His soul; and here too He is perfect. And having accomplished this ineffable work, His soul having drunk the cup unmixed, atonement having been made, He comes forth as heard, and the act of death is just His own giving up His spirit to His Father. In the time of peace He had said so, but He was to pass through death in His soul, and did as an offering for sin. But, then, what was death? It was One who had overcome death, undergoing it in its infinite atoning efficacy, and gives up His soul more than pure, which has put away sin, into the hands of God His Father. What is death here, if the overcoming of Satan made it obedience? The bearing of wrath gave title to give up life into the merited reception of infinite favor. Death was His. It was not yet power in resurrection, but His soul given up to His Father. It was death; but death the closing of an accomplished life of obedience in woe, and the introduction into that infinite favor in life beyond all relationship of promise down here, which the work in which He had glorified the Father placed Him in.
And so through Him is death to us. It ceases to be a closing life. We have a title through Him to give up our souls in it into His hands, as we see in Stephen. It is the closing of conflict to be in the life, in the power of which we live to Him, absent from the body and present with the Lord. He gave Himself up—it was power, though in reference to the Father, into whose hands He commends His spirit—that His resurrection might be by the glory of the Father. For in this even He did not take glory Himself. Death, or what is called death, is thus a totally new thing. It is having done with all, as a redeemed soul, to enter into another world.
But I speak now of Christ. He had emerged from all this, and a far more dreadful hour, and could tell the thief be should come with Him into Paradise—speak in peace to John of His mother. His hour was come for this: and knowing that all was accomplished, after saying “I thirst,” He gave up His soul into His Father’s hands. These two considerations have deeply affected me, seen in some details of which I never traced the general bearing and importance.

Extracts From Correspondence: Dependence

It is so true that we have all grace in our living Head, and I do pray that we may be enabled, in holding fast the Head, to draw continually thence, and to be preserved from what would hinder the life of that blessed One in our mortal bodies. When one thinks what it is to have such a life and such a fullness to draw from, and that really we are to enjoy all that it supplies, in God’s own presence, in the light in heaven, it gives a thankfulness and a steadiness of joy that the Holy Ghost alone can give or make us understand. But we have to seek that there be an exercised spirit, that our living way and habitual state be according to this. Christ was not always in the glory of the transfiguration. He met and felt an unbelieving world; but He was always consistent with the glory which that revealed, and indeed with what was only dimly shadowed then; and that in every spring of action and manifestation in life; and in us this must be sought to be realized within. It is not an effort to copy (though we do copy) but to be, or rather so to draw from the Head that what we are in Him be not hindered in its manifestation by evil. To overcome we need power as well as the desires of a new nature; hence constant dependence, not uncertainty as to the nature and life which desires, but dependence for force or power on Another for the accomplishment (I mean here below) of these desires. It is the difference of Rom. 7 and 8.
There is another point I will mention, as I have been led to this, that all proper and happy affections suppose the relationship to which they belong, not merely the nature capable of them. An orphan has the capacity of loving a father and a mother, and this makes it unhappy. A child who has its parents has the affections which belong to this relationship. So the existence of the divine nature involves the desires natural to it; but spiritual affections have their place in known relationship with the Father and with Christ. And this is founded on redemption and grace, which must be known as an assured thing accomplished, and indeed the relationship into which we have been brought by it, in order that these blessed affections, which flow from a known God, exist in our souls. But then what a sure and immutable source of happiness we have—divine and immediate nearness to God! He has adopted us to Himself as children in Eph. 1, and given a nature capable of enjoying it, and the Holy Ghost as power (unlimited in itself), and that based on a redemption which places us fully in unclouded favor, and in a position as assured and accomplished towards us in it—in a position as assured as the value of the redemption itself—eternal redemption. The Lord keep us in His peace, and walking before Him in all holy conversation and godliness, that we may meet in unfeigned joy. Adieu, dear—. The Lord, our gracious Master be with you and near you, and all His beloved people, and deign to bless me also. I have been these latter times in general very happy with Him, but it has been with a look into the blessedness before me in His presence, which has made me feel how little one sees into it even as one ought, though at the same time how great it is; but it is a wonderful light into which one is permitted to look. I speak of the happiness of His presence in light.

Extracts From Correspondence: Exercise of Gifts

There is a point in your letter I would just touch upon, and that is respecting the exercise of gifts. When the object in going to the Lord’s table, and to meetings for worship, or for prayer, is to “exercise gift,” it is plain that the true character of such meetings is not understood. I do not go to exercise gift, but to break bread, to worship, to meet him who has said, “Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them;” and “do this in remembrance of Me.” The very expression shows a wrong thought in the mind, giving one the idea of a performance, which it too frequently resembles. This was the case with the Corinthians. “They came behind in no gift;” but instead of using them in subjection to the Holy Ghost, to the glory of God and the edification of His children, they were exercising them (i.e., glorifying themselves by them). I do not know anything more sorrowful or dishonoring to the Lord, or that has brought more sorrow amongst gathered saints than this. Real subjection to the Holy Ghost, with a sense of the Lord’s presence, would at once put a stop to the thought of “exercising gifts.” A sense of His presence at once displaces all thoughts of self. It is indeed most grievous, when we go to wait upon the Lord and to enjoy His presence, to find some forward self-sufficient one making himself the center of the meeting, occupying the time, filling the minds of his brethren with painful thoughts about himself, instead of happy thoughts about Christ, thus marring communion, interrupting worship, and hindering blessing in every way. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” —a liberty in which the Spirit leads (and not the energy which is of the flesh); then the Lord alone will be exalted, for no flesh shall glory in his presence. Then God is everything and man nothing. May the one object of all our hearts be, that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion forever! Amen.

Extracts From Correspondence: God's Presence Is Power

I trust there may be no questioning of what was once so plain to many as a path of duty. I am a little afraid of some being unsettled by looking too much to the present condition of gatherings, instead of the fact of God’s having a further work of chastening to accomplish, which we have deserved and must bow to. If there is disappointment because God does not use us more than he does, may it not be that we are thinking more of our faithfulness than of our guilt as to the evils we have separated from? If we look at our present low condition and murmur in our tents, shall we not be likely soon to question our position? If Satan can unsettle, he will. There are some who talk much about the want of power in the gathering, having a standard of their own as to what power is, forgetting that God’s presence is power, whether it be to break down or to build up.

Faith and Righteousness of God

The person of Christ is the object of faith; but he who believes has part in the righteousness of God, which is revealed as the portion of the believer.

Faith's Ivory Palaces

By-and-by all the Lord’s garments will smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia, by reason of the greetings of His people. God will have anointed Him to the throne “with the oil of gladness;” and they will welcome Him out of their “ivory palaces.” (See Psa. 45)
That dear woman, whose memorial is in the gospel all the world over, began this greeting while Jesus was still in humiliation (faith in her overlooking the flesh, the disallowance of men, and even the cross itself in the sight of the resurrection and the kingdom).
Beautiful and precious faith! a faith that could talk of life in the midst of death, of glories and crowns in the face of degradation and scorn, and which thus raised and gladdened the heart of Jesus when full of approaching paschal sorrows.
Against the day of His burying she had kept that ointment. She knew Him as appointed to death, but she knew Him as appointed to resurrection also. And she comes in the faith of “the sufferings of Christ and the glories that were to follow,” to make Him glad out of her ivory palace. (Matt. 26)
Love did an acceptable service afterward. It came to bury the dead. It brought its spices to the tomb. It wept with them that wept. It died with Jesus. “Let us also go,” it said, “that we may die with him.” But this was not faith. Faith looked beyond the grave; love looked into it.
Different measures of light will separate disciples from each other, but not from their common Master. This woman, Mary, the sister of Lazarus, was not at the tomb afterward. Her richer knowledge of Christ kept her apart from such a journey and such a task. She could not have been there. Faith, or light and knowledge, forbad her. But Magdalene and others are there, and the angels and the Lord of angels will meet them there, though Mary cannot.
Oh the sweet and sure truth which all this illustrates in days of distraction like these! Disciples are now separated, through divers measures of light and knowledge, like these women of faith and love; but those who, though in the place where faith would not have them, are yet where love had sent them, shall know something of heaven and of the presence of Jesus.
Well to know the meltings of pity over sorrow according to love, and well to know the gladdenings of hope over sorrow according to faith. But the spices of the women at the tomb were but as graveclothes; the box of spikenard of the woman of Bethany was an ivory palace. Faith used it in anticipation. The humbled Jesus was then to faith the anointed King, and faith was saying, “while the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.”
I may add, the wise men of the east had ivory palaces for the Babe at Bethlehem, their faith treating Him as the King of the Jews, the enthroned God of Psa. 45. Beautiful faith that was indeed, and somewhat kindred with hers who anointed the despised Galilean at Bethany. They greeted the Babe, she the Lamb appointed for the slaughter, out of her ivory palace. (Matt. 2)
It will be an easy thing to greet Jesus in the day of glory. All will do it then. (Psa. 45:8.) But to have done it thus at the opening and close of His humiliation, at Bethlehem and at Bethany, was excellent faith indeed.

Thoughts on First Corinthians 15:47-49

1 Corinthians 15:47-49
There are two characters of relationship into which we are brought; one is our union with Christ, and the other our relationship along with Christ to God as our Father, He being the firstborn of many brethren. “As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” This last is the result in glory, but it is founded on this great truth of, “As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy, and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” It flows from our connection with the Second Man (He Head of a spiritual race, as the first Adam was head according to the flesh).
This is a different thing from His relationship to the Bride, and the headship of the body. It teaches us how the whole of the Old Testament Scripture looks at our history in the first Adam, closing that history entirely, and then brings in a new One. This is not brought out until the Second Man is raised from the dead. He was in person the same before, but He was not Head of a spiritual race until He was raised. “Except the corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone,” &c. It was only then that He could take such a position with His disciples as to say, “I go to my Father and your Father.” All thought of any union with Christ, as man, is wrong. He could not unite Himself with us in sin: He could show compassion, but it was impossible there could be any connection between us and God in the flesh, as men in nature. When Christ takes a new position, outside every position in which flesh could be taken account of, we are united to Him in spirit; but the whole history of man shows the impossibility of connection between man in nature with God. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” “And as I said to the Jews, even so say I to you, Whither I go, ye cannot follow me now.” Flesh, corrupt and corrupting, cannot enter into glory.
True, flesh works in the believer; but Scripture goes deep and brings out this truth, “in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.” So the apostle afterward says, “When we were in the flesh.” I do not know whether you would be able to say that—when I was in the flesh. If we can say so, our responsibility now is to walk as men in the Spirit. A Christian is not to walk as a man, but as a Christian. There are duties of husbands, wives, children; and the relationships between man and man have to be sustained of course; but before God I am not looked at as a man in the flesh at all. The flesh tries to hinder. It comes to be a hostile power to what I have from the last Adam; but if you walk merely as men, you are lost.
Flesh showed its weakness. The word to Adam did not provide for sin, and supposed no lust in man. In the garden of Eden lust came in, sin came in, and the separation was complete between God and man. Adam then became head of an excluded race.
Law, given afterward, supposed men dead, but it invoked responsibility. Man left to himself became corrupt before God. The earth was filled with violence. Then a flood came. Then came the law as a trial of man. Promise was not a trial of man, but it manifested grace without a question of man. There was no promise to Adam, the promise was to the Second Adam, the seed of the woman. God cannot promise to sin. There was no question of responsibility in promise. He gave it to man and left it. Afterward the question of righteousness is raised. We may little weigh what the terms of the law imply. Were I to say, If you do this, you will get a fortune, this implies that you have not a fortune without. You cannot say, Do this and live, if you have life. When God said to man, “Do this and live,” it implied his being dead. Man did not think so, but it was the ministry of death and condemnation, because it demanded obedience, which man could not render. Law does bring out man’s guilt; he cannot be subject to the law of God. But there was another thing that proved his guilt more thoroughly. Will they accept God’s terms when He came to them in grace? Christ came, and in His life was the perfect manifestation of goodness; He came amongst men to do them good, healing the leper, &c. But could flesh find anything attractive in Him? He was an outcast among the people to whom He brought home the goodness and love of God.
When law was given, they were not subject to it; and when Christ came, they would not have Him. Therefore the Lord said, “Now is the prince of this world judged.” “They have both seen and hated both me and my Father.” Man, tried in every way, is proved to be bad.
In other circumstances, viz., that of the Christian, there is the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the same impossibility of its pleasing God. All flesh shows utter rejection of God Himself, and is proud of itself all the time. Before God executes judgment, man has entirely cast God off. The wonder of the cross is that He came—the sinless One came into the very place where flesh is. “He who knew no sin, was made sin for us.” He finds Himself in the fully revealed position of man before God; He puts Himself there in grace and in obedience too. There was more than that: “He bore our sins in his own body on the tree.” He was “made sin,” and put it away by giving up the life in which He bore it. God deals with Him about sin, and the very life ceases in which He takes it, and then He rises up. God had dealt with it, put an end to it entirely on the cross. There was an end of the old man, and now it is said, “Reckon yourselves to be dead,” &c.; “He that is dead is freed from sin.” Christ has taken the place of the first Adam in sin. All that I was in, Christ has stepped into and borne. He rises up and I have an entirely new position. I am now in Christ. He has closed forever the history of the flesh (we have it as an enemy—but its history is closed forever before God) and commenced a place for us in Him the Second Adam. “Father, glorify thy Son.”
He returned to His place before God, having accomplished righteousness. He is Head of a new race, a family of His own. He has new glory as thus Head of a race. We are livingly united to Him—we are in Christ. “As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” We are not in flesh, but before God in virtue of accomplished righteousness. All God’s dealings with man before were grounded on sin having come in; so law, promise, government, until Christ came. Now His dealings with us are founded on righteousness. God has His righteousness before Him in a man. The Son of man has glorified God on the earth, and God has glorified Him in heaven. It is as a man He is there, though He is much more to be sure.
Life I have in Him and righteousness. Life is in the Son, the Second Man, and I can treat the flesh and all connected with it as an enemy. As to that, I am dead: flesh has no place now. I have life in Christ: flesh is dead. I have nothing to say to it, no relationship with God in flesh; I have to pray against it, fight against it, read, and use all the means I can against it; but I am not in it. There may be confusion in the mind, but not in the relationship. God can have nothing to do with flesh. “Reckon yourselves dead,” for He has died. It is not said, Die, to the flesh. The flesh will keep itself alive as long as it can. It will try to mend itself—try to be better. There would be no sense in telling the flesh to die. But Scripture says, Ye are dead. Flesh has been judged in Christ, and therefore I am entitled to say, I am dead and am a new man. Then walk in the Spirit, walk as Christ walked, as the Second Man, not as the first. You cannot get back to innocence, the uprightness of creation. True you are upright, if in the Spirit, but more, righteous and holy. All this is equally true about sins. As surely as the first Adam was turned out of the earthly paradise, and became head of a race, so He, the Second Man, is Head of a race for the heavenly paradise.
Faith takes absolutely what God says. Where does it take its place? Half way, or entirely, with Christ? Flesh never can take its place before God. Faith says, I have no place before God, but in Christ Himself. He is righteousness on the throne of God. Any half-savior, any half-place would not do. We grow up into His likeness: but our place before God is the same at first. Christ’s life upon earth is a perfect pattern for us, manifesting God in all His ways.
Our position before God is one of full favor. And we have the hope of glory before us. How it elevates the heart—not us! Grace humbles us, but elevates the heart. I have boldness before Him in the day of judgment. When we reach the heavenly tribunal, we shall be like Him, the heavenly One.
Grace alone does it. It enables us to discern between flesh and Spirit, not only between what is right and what is wrong; but we can say, That is flesh, or That is Spirit. It may look very fair, but if it is flesh, it comes to nothing. If all the world thinks a thing good, that is not Christ and I would not believe it. If a man walks with the Lord, the flesh is judged. There are the different growths of the babe, the young man, the father; but if we walk with Him, we discern what a thing is. The flesh is very subtle, but it will not last out when the Lord tries me; the wood, hay, and stubble, will not stand. Gold is a rarer thing in the world than wood, bay, and stubble, but it lasts longer.
Can you say now, “When I was in the flesh,” with the very distinct consciousness that you are not in it now? Then you are called not to walk as if you were in it. The Spirit has not a fair show. You cannot go on with Christ; you may walk with Christians, but you cannot walk with Christ, without the power of the life in exercise—not going to look for the power, but having it. May the Lord give us to know what it is to be in the Spirit and not in the flesh! It may try the conscience, but the end will be peace and joy.

"Follow Thou Me"

Alas! how the heart can spring up, when set at ease, after all manner of dealings with it. Peter, so humbled, so wonderfully restored by exhaustless grace, must know what shall happen to John. What ease! He loved John surely; and it served as occasion to revelation. Still the Lord must say, “What is that to thee?” and turn back to the “Follow thou me.”

Fragment: 2 Corinthians 12

Flesh is seen in three distinct positions: first, when the man is in the third heaven and there has no consciousness of it at all; secondly, in the activity of its own will at the end of the chapter when it is sin; and, thirdly, in conflict but disallowed. Here the man is not unconscious of it, but it is known and conscious weakness, but the soul having Christ's power with it, and this relied on by faith. As respects the sphere it acts and works in, it is a weakness, but thus a testimony to another power which does its own work in this sphere—the power of Christ. The saint is obliged to feel it as weakness because of the tendency to self-confidence and forgetfulness of dependence; and that the Lord alone can do the Lord's work whatever instruments he uses.

Fragment: Abraham and the World

Abraham gives up the world in liberty, conquers it in power, and refuses it that he may have everything from God. He is blessed of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth.

Fragment: Abraham the First Object of a Promise

There was no promise before Abraham to any person as an object and depositary of it. There was an object of faith in the judgment of the serpent as to the promised seed; but there was no person an object of promise.

Fragment: Christianity of the Busy Life

The Christianity of the closet, and the Christianity of busy life, are not, as is often fancied, conflicting things. The man who has fellowship with Jesus in his solitude knows how to carry the savor of the fellowship even into the most common affairs. There is need of prayer in this matter. For though we be convinced that there is but one thing needful, we are easily led away, like Martha, to busy and trouble ourselves about “many things.” many things we must needs do and care about, while we are in the flesh; but the work to which Christ calls us is to do and care about these things in such a spirit as to make them part and parcel of our great work—the work of keeping close to Jesus, and of following him whithersoever he goeth. If only willing to leave all and follow Christ, he would make the cross not heavy to be borne but a delight, more pleasant than to the miser is his load of gold, or to the earthly monarch are his insignia of power. “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Fragment: Difference Between Love and Self

Self likes to be served and thinks itself great; love serves and is great.

Fragment: God in the Book of Job

It is to be specially noted in the book of Job that in its introduction and close (Chap. 1:1-6 being the history of the book) we have Jehovah. In all the book itself, including the speech of Elihu, we have Elohim, Shaddai, &c. Here we have the ways of God as God in the whole world; in the introduction and close, the interpretation of divine government—we are behind the scenes in revealed dealings. There are springs or sources of action in the beginning and close, in the book facts on which man reasons and from which he draws conclusions. We are above in the former, below in the latter. Compare Psa. 139:15, and Job 3:21.

Fragment: God's Word

A child of God who sins is entitled to believe that he is forgiven on confession to his father. If he doubts, it is not humility or holiness, but distrust of God in Christ. Probably he is looking for some sign or token; but God will never give this, for it would encourage a soul to undervalue his word
The word is the expression outwardly of what God feels inwardly; and therefore as he puts the highest honor on it, so should we.

Fragment: Hooker's Doctrine

When I weigh Hooker's doctrine with the word of God, I am not at a loss to judge what are the views of law absolute, and others to which I am invited to look, in contrast with the plain declarations of scripture. Hooker uses them to vindicate those things in the English establishment, for which there is no warrant in scripture. But they equally warrant, though he did not intend it, Popery and modern Rationalism: one contending that scripture does not suffice; the other contending that the Christian conscience has its light independent of scripture, just as scripture does, applying it then to the judgment of statements in scripture, and of course, soon to the rejection of all that reason does not like. Hooker lays full ground for it by insisting that scripture does not prove itself (in which he wholly departs from the first reformers). As regards Popery, Hooker distinctly asserts, not that scripture suffices—that he denies in terms, but—that, as we have reason and scripture, these are sufficient, and tradition therefore is not needed. It is a pity that the national establishment should be founded on such principles. I recognize, not right reason, but conscience; I recognize all use of gifts of ministry, and parental care according to God; but the doctrine of Hooker is low and dangerous.

Fragment: Hope an Inheritance

The hope in Peter, and indeed in Colossians, though not connected with so high a dispensational place, yet is itself as an inheritance a higher hope, not the inheritance of all things, which, though in a certain sense general since it may continue (Rev. 21:7, Heb. 2), yet is properly the kingdom inheritance of the Son of man, and at any rate of what is below us, but the eternal blessedness itself in the heavenly state with God.

Fragment: John 3:13-14

Remark the amazing power of the words in John 3:13, 14, thus brought together—the Son of man in heaven, and the Son of man must be lifted up—whether we consider His person, or the grace that is in that “must,” as sheaving how he had thoroughly taken up our cause and identified Himself with us.

Fragment: Justification: Washed and Accepted

As to justification, there is a point I must remark. Two things unite in it: first, there is the blood which has washed us from our sins; and this is perhaps properly called justification. But in fact we may add to it our acceptance in the beloved. If any one doeth righteousness, he is righteous, as He (Christ) is righteous. For doing righteousness is what flows from the life of Christ in us; but inasmuch as we live of this life by the Holy Spirit, we are united to Christ, and we enjoy His righteousness before God, accepted in the Beloved. Of this, the resurrection is the pivot; for it is the proof of justification, and it introduces Christ in the power of this eternal life (in which we share) into the presence of God. It is around the person of Christ, viewed as risen, that all the truths found in the word turn. The union of the Church to Him is its complement. The resurrection leaves all that could condemn us behind it in the tomb and introduces the Lord into the new world of which He is the perfection, the Head and the glory. Now we are one with him.

Fragment: Matthew 26

Note, in Matt. 26 (besides his being the Christ, the Son of God as come among the Jews on the earth, living amongst men,) the double position of the Son of man—sitting at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

Fragment: Participles in 1 John

Note the tenses of the participles in 1 John 9, and 5:18 is Ἰεγεννημένος is the state, γεννηθεὶς is the fact, the consequence of which is that he keeps himself.

Fragment: Pictures From Abraham and Joseph

If Abraham gives us the bright and blessed picture of communion with God, in Joseph we find goodness and unsullied integrity of heart toward God in the midst of the power of evil. It is lovely, and in this a beautiful foreshadowing of the Lord in his life, the beloved of His Father. Note, too, that faithfulness is the way of divine, spiritual understanding.

Fragment: Psalm 102

Psa. 102—What is peculiar in this Psalm is that it brings out the person of Christ, His divine nature, in answer to His sufferings and cutting off. It is not grace to others by His sufferings, nor judgment on others because of their iniquity in inflicting them. But in reply to the utter loneliness in sorrow and touching appeal to Jehovah of a heart withered like grass, He is owned as Jehovah, the Creator, Himself. It is not what He is for others through his suffering and humiliation, but Himself. The answer is his own glory, the blessed title of His person. This it is which gives it such peculiar interest.

Fragment: Psalm 69

To correspondents: The sealing of the spirit is connected with the gospel of our salvation. This makes what has perplexed many pretty clear. It is when the gospel of simple salvation is received that we are sealed: so indeed it was with Cornelius.

Fragment: Resurrection of Christ

The resurrection of Christ, laid hold of by faith, is the pivot of true separation to God. It is the only thing that enables a man to make a clean break with the world and the flesh, as it is the witness of victory over Satan and judgment.

Fragment: Romans 6

Rom. 6 considers first sin in respect of nature, and then the man in respect of relationship, and subjection and (as noted elsewhere) obedience to a person in contrast with a law.

Fragment: Romans 6:4-8

I apprehend the “shall” of Rom. 6:5 is not future but consequence. Verse 6 is corroborative of it, the result being the last words of verse 4. Verse 8 is consequence, but on to the future, and this, because there is power in his resurrection. (Ver 9.) But it is power of life, putting of course in a given place by resurrection, but not in simple standing as in Eph. 2:6. No doubt, this is connected with power, as in the end of Eph. 1, but it is not life as here working in us. In Rom. 6:7, it is not justified from “sins;” and, it is clear, a dead man cannot be accused of sin working in him: his state of death clears (justifies) him at once. In all this part of Romans, the apostle speaks of sin, not sins. When he speaks of offenses, the law is introduced.

Fragment: The Grand Blunder of Schleiermacher

The grand blunder of Schleiermacher, and the source of the worst infidelity now, is that he has taken the Holy Ghost's work in us—very likely in himself for intuition, or specially collective Christian consciousness. He made divine teaching, in which case it is real, to be a title of human judgment on what the Holy Ghost gave. This is, I suspect, the key to the whole system, itself probably the fruit of Kantian philosophy and its offsets. The whole hangs on the Church's not believing in the positive operation of the Holy Ghost. For all that Scherer and Bunsen, &c., pretend on their best side is simply Schleiermacher. Thus the Bible is Christian consciousness there: we judge it by Christian consciousness now. Hence it is, as Schérer says, the mere history of partial apprehension of truth; and of course, as every philosopher trusts himself, we judge scripture. That is, there is no revelation; for revelation must have authority or is false
Be it that the Church was before the new testament and the latter written for believers; yet the question is not thereby touched, whether it was not written by the power and direct inspiration of the Holy Ghost to give certainty and a divine record of those things in which they had been instructed. If the consciousness of believers was there, it was not to reproduce this but something else. It was to confirm and correct theirs by a divine statement of it, and give a sure record of that divinely-taught truth. Thus its being given to believers is, as far as it goes, a proof that it was not merely the expression of religious consciousness as then developed.

Fragment: The Sanctuary of God

If a man is a Christian, he belongs to the sanctuary of God. God has given him a present place inside the holiest, which faith should use to judge flesh by.

Fragment: The Whole Truth

It is to be remarked as to scripture, that Paul declares his doctrine (i.e., of the church) completes it (Col. 1:25), and that (Gal. 1:8, 9) he will not have any gospel besides. It would be ἔτερον, not ἄλλο. Thus we are certain to have the whole truth. The Spirit may apply in grace, may practically develop, so as through him to judge all by.

Fragment: Without Christ We Have Nothing

If we have Christ, we have all—without Christ we have nothing. You can be happy without money, without liberty, without parents, and without friends, if Christ is yours. If you have not Christ, neither money, nor liberty, nor parents, nor friends can make you happy. Christ, with a chain, is liberty; liberty without Christ is a chain. Christ without anything is riches—all things, without Christ, is poverty indeed.

Fragment: Worldly Religions

A worldly religion, which forms a system in which the world can walk, and in which the religious element is adapted to man on the earth, is the denial of Christianity.

Fragments Gathered Up: Abel's Sacrifice

Abel's sacrifice was rather an offering to God than redemption. Therewith he could come and be received by faith, and so it is used in Hebrews. It was Abel's offering, not God's redemption.

Fragments Gathered Up: Christ Not Law-Transgressing

It has been wrongly said that, if Christ's whole life had not been law-fulfilling, it must have been law-transgressing. This is simply that He was incapable of going beyond that to which all as creatures are subject. If there is no alternative but law-keeping and law-transgressing, there could have been no act of sovereign goodness and love to sinners; for this is neither. He could not go beyond creature obligations! Such is the theology and reasoning opposed to us.

Fragments Gathered Up: Distinguishing Between Sins and Sorrows

Your comfort and enlargement of heart in walking with God, will depend not a little on your rightly distinguishing between your sins and your sorrows. To take all your natural, it may be sometimes your Christ-like, sorrows to the blood of atonement, as if they were altogether sinful, would have the effect, not of softening your heart, but of hardening it; of bringing not light, but darkness into your soul; not of augmenting, but of diminishing, your love to Jesus. O how Satan strives to make us believe that our Lord is an austere man! How he labors to give us false views and impressions of the character of our Lord! Believe nothing about Christ which the word of God does not warrant. You know well what Christ is, you have been in His company, you have tasted that He is gracious, your experience has taught you that He does sympathize with you in all your afflictions. Come then to Him with all your sorrows, and, oh! you will have good cause to say that He who wept at the grave of Lazarus is still the same, no less Godlike in His power to comfort, and no less man-like in the flowing forth of His compassions.

Fragments Gathered Up: Hooker's Doctrine

Hooker takes up these forms of law, first, a rule imposed by authority, alone held to be such by some, which he extends to any rule by which actions are framed. I have no objection. The first only is properly law, and the difference is all-important; but the second is often in a secondary sense so-called, as the law of faith, the law of the spirit of life, so in natural things, the law of gravity; but scripture, speaking of law as such, uses it in the former sense. The fact of an imposed rule (as contrasted with the voluntary actions of nature, uniform, because it is such), is capital. But to return a moment to Hooker. He classes under the general idea of law, nature's laws, what angels observe, the law of reason (he never speaks of conscience, which is by no means immaterial), Divine law known but by special revelation, human law, supposed conformed to one of the last two. The first two he calls law eternal. God may overrule, he alleges, the law imposed on the creature—nature's law, according to the law which Himself hath proposed eternally to keep. still this eternal and immutable. I quote this to show that as to this highest law, however overruling power may operate, God is, though by His own act imposing it on Himself, immutably bound. Now this is surely unsound. God will not act contrary to His nature, for then he would not be Himself, which is impossible; but it is not an imposed law, or freedom, grace, miracle, sovereign goodness are all taken away from God. The reader must not think this metaphysical. I am speaking of what I have been referred to as setting me right. And we shall soon see it is at the root of the whole matter.

Fragments Gathered Up: Joel 2:30

Joel 2:30 is a new sentence connected with the end of verse 31. Thus the pouring out of the Spirit on all flesh, in its literal and last accomplishment would be after Jehovah had settled His people in the land: the signs will be before. Its accomplishment consequent upon the reception of the remnant would be on their partaking of the salvation as a sign of favor and blessing.

Fragments Gathered Up: Not Alive Under Sin or Law

We, Christians, are not looked at as alive under sin but as dead—hence not as alive under law but as dead. Let it be remembered that no deliverance from law is deliverance from obedience or commandments. I add “commandments;” for it is not sufficient to be right: Christ's authority must be obeyed.

Fragments Gathered Up: Presence of God

The presence of God keeps everything in its place—nothing else: otherwise the human mind works. John does not worship up in heaven: when others did, his place was to see and record. The living creatures celebrate God, the elders worship. When John sees the angel, he was going to worship him. What a difference the presence of God makes!


Galatians. — The apostle would establish the saints in personal, immediate confidence in God, from which Judaism was withdrawing them. He does this by showing them his own commission, revelations, experience, and acts, all immediate and personal (chap. 1, 2); and then by challenges and reasonings. (Chap. 3) Thus he would form Christ in them, the spirit of the free woman. (Chap. 4) Hope and service of love would be the fruit of this. (Chap. 5) And so, personal and immediate with God, would he have them in commonest duties (chap. 6:14); and in like spirit he closes with his body and their spirit. He would set each of us for himself at the door of the tabernacle to learn the secrets of God for ourselves. (Lev. 8; 9) The patriarchs, sinners in John’s gospel, as well as Paul, went down to Arabia; that is, they needed no ordinances [like Israel under law], having immediate, personal communion with God in Christ and the promises. Paul would have Peter take that journey (chap. 2), and the Galatians take it again. (Chap. 3, 4)
John Gifford Bellett

Thoughts on Galatians 3

The apostle has been speaking to the Galatians in chapter 2 as having had a sense of, what they had gained in Christ, and now in chapter 3 he has to address them thus: ‘“ Who hath bewitched you to make you go back to law when you have been justified not by the works of the law, but in Christ?” is impossible for a man to be justified by the law. I cannot live to God till my accounts are settled with God. I have no fortune to spend until my debts are paid. The effect of the law being given is to kill man, but the apostle can triumph in the killing power of the law, because it has killed Christ instead of him. “I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless,” &c.
All the promises were made to Christ, or rather confirmed to Christ. They were first made to Abraham (Gen. 12) and then there are gospel promises in view of the Gentile. It is “thee,” not “thee and thy seed,” as in Gen. 17, where the nation is spoken of, and which was to be as numerous as the sand on the sea shore. This is a Jewish promise, but in Gen. 22 it is to Abraham’s “seed,” not to him and his seed, but to His seed (Christ); for Isaac received back from the dead in a figure is a type of Christ, and it was to Isaac that the promise was confirmed or ratified, though given to Abraham.
The promises are taken up in Christ, as risen; and this is of the last importance to us, because before they are made over to us; there is a righteousness wrought, put for us. The law comes in meanwhile to raise the question of righteousness; and in such a way as to condemn men. God was righteous and the question has to be raised on that subject, not as to goodness. Man could not meet the demands of the law, because it required a perfect righteousness’; but Christ could and did, and has put us into the place in which we can receive the promise. “The law has, power: over a man as long as he liveth, but when is dead, he is freed from that law.” Well then the law has no more power over me. If a man who is in prison dies, there can be nothing mere done to him. The apostle not only says “dead to the law,” but “crucified with Christ.” I have died to the law through Christ having died to it. It killed Christ, and now I live by Christ:
The death of Christ closed the whole scene morally. It was the end of law, the end of man, the end of the world; and a whole new scene commenced from that point.
There are two ways of looking at righteousness. If I had kept the law, I should have, been a righteous man. But to keep it I must love God with all my heart, soul, and spirit, and my neighbor as myself. This is human righteousness, which is never found in any man, save in Christ. The law is founded ‘on the knowledge of good and evil which he got by sinning; then there is a righteousness needed to meet its requirements. There is another thing needed, which we read of in scripture, and that is, God’s righteousness. All that God is was displayed in Christ; human righteousness was perfect in Him; but there was another thing needed, and this need He met on’ the cross. He was not keeping the law on the cross. If God were to show perfect righteousness towards sinners, they must die. Then there would be no love displayed. But if love were shown to the sinner irrespective of the question about his sins, there would be no righteousness. Christ glorified God on the cross in the display of His righteousness and His love. Then, having thus glorified God, He had a title to be glorified by God, and therefore God raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in glory, There is the righteousness of God: All in which Christ glorified God on the cross, I am accepted in; therefore there is more than the cleansing from my. sins, through the blood of Christ. All the devotedness of Christ to His Father’s will as far as death, is accepted of God, and by virtue of God’s acceptance of Him, He is at the right hand of God, and in that I stand. I am as Christ, as Luther has expressed it.
Christ was born of a woman; born under the law. As a man He was obedient to it; but God could not be obedient to the law. He emptied Himself and became obedient, &c. “If a law had been given which could have given life, verily righteousness had been by the law.”
Law was not given till long after promise. The law was not given in Paradise. There was a law, but the question of right and wrong was not raised, but simply obedience then. There was no knowledge of good and evil in paradise, and therefore no law required to measure the evil. The delusion people fall into about trying to be justified by law, is owing to man taking up that, which God gave to prove what a sinner he is, to work out a righteousness for himself. The law was not given to bestow life, but to make sin appear sin.
As a man, Christ did what He was bound to do, in fulfilling the law; and therefore there would have been none in that righteousness to impute to us. If He had failed (which of course He could not)—if He had had a blemish or a spot, He would not have been a fit sacrifice for our sins. He had to make good to God, He had to make good before Satan, a perfect human righteousness. Therefore this was a part of the thing because it proved the fitness of the sacrifice.
Promise preceded law, and it was abstract and unconditional. It was revealed that it was part of God’s counsels that they were to be blessed, but the question of righteousness was untouched by promise. The law comes in and raises that afterward.
If God had made the accomplishment of promise dependent on the fulfillment of the law, it would not have been pure promise. If you make a promise to your child, and be disobeys you afterward, you do not make him forfeit the promise, to do which would be to break your word; but you cannot pass over the offense without taking any notice of it. Your promise stands, but you must deal with him about his conduct, and not let him take what you have promised him, as if he deserved it. God made a promise, and man would come in and take the promise on the ground of his desert. Then God must bring in a law to prove his unrighteousness. The gospel is not promise but good news, after all is broken, to put us into possession of divine righteousness. Israel in their folly took up the law, as being able to keep it, instead of throwing themselves back upon God’s promise to Abraham, and in their pride and presumption they thus took on themselves that which God alone could fulfill as the accomplishment of promise. Now the promise was really given to Christ. How? Was He to enjoy it alone? No! This was not God’s thought. But how then can He bring in all these sinners, these law-breakers? He works out a righteousness for them before He claims the promise, that we poor sinners might share the promise: and this is the gospel.
Much as man boasts of conscience, he gained a conscience by sinning. There are two characters of conscience—the conscience of responsibility to God, and the knowledge of good and evil, and this man got by sinning.
The promise is made to Christ (not the Jewish, but the original promise of blessing). God does not make a promise to man as a sinner—He could not do that; but the serpent is told what He will do to Christ; and Abraham becomes the root through which the promise is to come. “He saith not unto seeds as of many, but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ.” After that the law comes in to show the utter sinfulness of man: in his lusts, he is corrupt; and in his will, perverse. Thus man, as to corruption and rebellion, was proved to be bad by the law. So in 1 Cor. 15 it is said “the strength of sin is the law.” It brought out the sin which was there already, because it immediately created the desire to do the thing forbidden.
Man showed his inability to take the promise, because Christ was the embodiment of the promise, and they rejected Him. Man is left by the cross, convicted not only of a bad conscience and a broken law, but of a rejected promise.
Ver. 13, 14. The blessing is put upon all who are along with Abraham, through Jesus Christ, and the curse on all under the law. The promise takes its unhindered course through the blessing of Abraham which comes by faith. God could not disannul, by another act, a previous one.
The mind of man having a good opinion of himself, the law brings out all the rebellion of the will. The law was not against the promises, but put man under obligations. The law does not promise life, and gives no power to do it, because it does not give life.
Ver. 20. This is on the ground of the contrast between promise and law. When the law was given, there was a mediator needed, because there are two parties, God and the people to whom the law is given. The stability of promise depends on the faithfulness of One: there is no need of two.
Under law, God does not reveal Himself. He reveals what He requires of man, but there is no love, and no grace in love. The mediator Moses reported the words of God to the people. The thought in this verse, “A mediator is not of one, but God is one,” is not about Christ, the Mediator, as in 1 Tim. 2, but rather the abstract notion, that if you have a mediator you must have two parties; whilst, by contrast, a promise is given from one. God giving promise and Christ receiving it are one—God is one. The Church, as such, was never the subject of promise. It was hidden from ages and generations, and revealed now.
That which makes obscurity in the passage is that the conclusion is not drawn, though the premises are laid down.
Covenant in scripture is different from covenant as understood by us in common language. It is the form of dealing God takes with man, not an agreement between God and man, or man and God.
The Church gets all the spiritual blessings of the new covenant, because in Christ. Thus we have all the moral blessing of the new covenant in the Spirit, though not in the letter. “The blood of the everlasting covenant” in Heb. 13 is that which is finished and done with, and will go all the way through, and is available for all. The blood will never lose its value. It is the ground-work of all God’s dealings with man in all ages. The full display of the value of Christ’s death was made in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. The power of it was proved in the salvation of the thief on the cross. Psalm al. may be a sort of embodiment of the book, or counsel between God and the Son from all eternity, and the divine power of the Son was shown in His being able to accomplish what was written in the volume of the book. For there was as much the power of God needed to be able to say, “Lo I come to do thy will,” as to will it. If Christ undertook to do God’s will, He must be able to create a world if God wills it. The Father gives them to the Son, and He takes them back with Him into glory. The “sheep” in Heb. 13:20 are not looked at in the unity of the body, but as individuals (as they are throughout the epistle), and in that way I want the power of the blood.
“The law is a schoolmaster unto Christ.” God does not reveal Himself in law. The schoolmaster is not the Father, but one under whom the child is put to be taken care of, until he is fit to come into direct communication with the Father’s mind. Under law, it was like saying to a child under age, Do this, and do that, without giving reasons. But ye (those who are brought to be Abraham’s seed by being put in Christ) are all the children (sons) of God, through faith in Christ Jesus.

Genesis 3

Gen. 3 presents only the earthly or governmental consequences of sin. Whatever were the developments of relationship, or the experiences of saints which necessarily savored of the truth, the full separation from God which sin causes was only brought out when he himself was revealed and indeed could only then be. Such is what we find in Rom. 1:18.


(Luke 22:44.) (Translated From the French.)
The state of the heart has more to do than exegesis with the understanding of this passage. Yet important doctrines, or rather facts and truths relative to Christ, are connected with these remarkable verses. I shall try to bring out the position in which the ever-blessed Savior is found here, although the appreciation of the bearing of these verses depends, after all, on the spirituality of the heart. It will be understood that doctrines about Christ are connected with them, when one knows that verses 43 and 44 have been omitted by more than one manuscript, evidently because according to the view taken by the copyists they made Christ too much a man. Now it is this which gives to these verses their true value: Christ, in the gospel of Luke, is essentially man. We there find Him in prayer much oftener than in the other gospels. Thus after His baptism by John, it was whilst He prayed that heaven was opened upon Him; it was whilst He prayed that He was transfigured. (Chap. 9.) So also He had passed all the night in prayer before choosing the twelve disciples. (Chap. 6:12.) All this is exceedingly interesting, yea, of profound interest for the heart.
But other elements present themselves in the consideration of these verses which are before us. An immense change was taking place at this time in the position of the Savior. Until then He had, by His divine power, provided for all the wants of His disciples, entirely disowned as He was, and in appearance dependent on the kindness of a few women (for it was their particular privilege thus to devote themselves to Him), or of other persons, for His daily bread—if needed, a fish. They brought Him exactly what was necessary to supply His wants. And when He sends His disciples to preach in the cities of the glorious laud, He knows how to turn the hearts so that they lacked nothing. But He was to be rejected. The things concerning Him were, to receive their divine and wonderful solution, and to be accomplished according to the depth of the counsels of God. He was going, not to shelter His disciples from every evil; but not to shelter Himself, and to be exposed to the outrages of those who said, “He saved others; himself be cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.” Christ was not yet drinking the cup of wrath. That was accomplished on the cross: it was there, that which He suffered from the hand of God, supreme and expiatory in its nature. But the moment was come which He Himself described by these words: “This is now your hour, and the power of darkness.” The hour of temptation, not of wrath but of temptation, when the Savior must have thought at the same time of the terrible cup that was before Him. The enemy tried to overwhelm Him by the circumstances, before which human nature, as such, would shrink; and is view of the forsaking of God amidst these circumstances. The Savior entered at this moment into the trial; but He entered into it perfect in every way, receiving the cup in obedience from the hand of His Father. As to the circumstances, and as to that which weighed upon His soul, Satan and the men under his power were everything: as to the state of His soul, they were nothing; His Father was everything. This is one of the most perfect and profound instructions for all our troubles.
It is to this supreme hour that the Apostle John alludes when he says, more than once, when no one touched nor could touch the Lord: “His hour was not vet come.” But I would enter into some further consideration of the character of this hour of temptation. The Lord in His grace deigned, led by the Spirit, to allow Himself to be tempted, having associated Himself with us to take part in our miseries and troubles. Satan tempted Him at the beginning by all that which (sin apart) induces man to act from his own will, that which leads him into sin when he listens to his own will—the need of food, the world and its glory, the promises outside the path of obedience, and in distrust of God and His faithfulness.
But the Second Man maintained His integrity, and Satan could not succeed in making Him depart from the path of the man of God. The strong man was bound and Christ returns, with the power of the Spirit, being untouched in His soul, “to spoil him of his goods.” He delivered all those who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him; He was the man who conquered, gained the victory over Satan, as the first man had broken down. By the Spirit of God He cast out devils; the kingdom of God was there. All the effects of the dominion of Satan disappeared before Him, even death itself. Alas! this did not change man’s heart; he was, in the affections of his flesh, enmity against God. Death was needed for the redemption of man; quite a new state of being, his reconciliation with God; the righteousness of God was to be glorified; the claim that Satan had over man, by sin in death and that by the judgment of God, was to be destroyed and annulled. The righteous vengeance of God against that which was hostile to Himself was to be manifested. So that all the enmity of man against God, all the anguish of death viewed as the power of Satan and the judgment of God, all the energy of Satan, and lastly the wrath of God (and it is bearing in the latter that expiation has been accomplished) were to meet on Jesus, and did meet on the head of the Lamb of God, who opened not His mouth before His oppressors. Terrible testimony spewing that the hour of man and of his will is the power of darkness; the hour of God in righteousness for man is but the righteous wrath which abandons Him, and finally excludes from His presence him who is in hostility against Him. What powerful and infinite proof of grace, that Christ tasted that in His grace; that God gave Him that we might escape it; that Christ tasted it, offering Himself without spot to God for that! Outwardly, the power of Satan and the malice of men led Christ to death and the cup of God’s wrath. And it is thus that the perfection of Christ knows how to separate absolutely these two parts of suffering, and to turn the terrible suffering, from the power of Satan in death, into perfect obedience to God His Father, because He passed through that fearful hour of temptation with God, and without entering into it one moment as a temptation which might have for its effect in Him to awaken His own will. Such is Gethsemane; not the cup, but all the power of Satan in death and the enmity of man taking their revenge (so to speak) on God (“the reproach of them that reproached thee, fell upon me”): all perfectly and entirely felt, but brought to God in an entire submission to His will. It is the Christ—marvelous scene!—watching, praying, struggling in the highest degree; all the power and the weight of death pressed upon His soul by Satan, and augmented by the sense He had of what they were before God, from whose face nothing then hid Him; but He always kept His Father absolutely before His face, referring everything to the Father’s will, without flinching for a moment, or trying to escape that will by giving way to His own. Thus He takes nothing from Satan or men, but all from God. When He is well assured that it is the will of His Father that He should drink this cup, all is decided for Him. “The cup which my Father hath given, shall I not drink it?” All was between Him and His Father, the obedience is calm and perfect. What ineffable victory, what supreme calmness! suffering, yea, but between Himself and God! Satan now was as nothing, men were the instruments of the will of God, or the redeemed of His grace. See what happens when they come; Jesus went forth, and when He announced Himself, they fell to the ground. He voluntarily offers Himself to accomplish the work, and thus permits those to go in safety, who had no strength to shelter themselves, to subsist in that terrible moment when the triumph of good or of evil was to be decided, and where the righteousness of God against sin lent its force to the power of death and the malice of those who were the voluntary slaves of him who possessed the power of death.
The perfect bond of love has overcome through the subjection of Christ as man to the judgment against sin, by which righteousness can triumph in blessing according to love; the expiation of sin has been made, and the power of Satan and of death annulled for him who comes to God by Jesus. But Luke 22:39-44 presents to us Christ conscious of that which was to happen, and, as man, occupied in communion with His Father, with this final and decisive trial. Was He to enter into the temptation, that is to say, to yield to a will of His own, even by desiring to escape death and the cup of judgment, or to find an occasion of obedience, instead of sparing Himself? For Him obedience, however terrible the sufferings, was the joy and breathing of His soul.
Not to dread the judgment of God would have been insensibility; to avoid it would have been to fail as to the will of His Father, since for this cause He came to this hour. It would have been to fail as regards the salvation of man, in which the whole character of God revealed itself even to the angels. But here Christ does not draw the character of this moment from elevating and encouraging motives, but He goes through it in entire subjection to the will of God with all the pain attached to it. He prays. Verse 43 puts the question in all its simplicity. An angel appeared to Him to strengthen Him. It is a man having need of help from on high. If He had not been that, it could not have been the deliverance of man.
The pressure of anguish only becomes stronger on realizing the evil with which He had to do; but this struggling agony of soul is only expressed by more intense prayer. His soul attached itself more strongly to God, and He rises—having perfectly gone through the valley of the shadow of death, the power of Satan, the horror of evil as opposed to God—He rises victorious. The cup which His Father would give Him He will drink. Then it will not be a question of struggling, watching, or praying, but of subjection. A perfect calmness marks the cross, a calmness of darkness where man’s eye does not penetrate; but the subjection is perfect. Here goes out the cry, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” It was perfection, the perfection of suffering; of subjection, but not a struggle where the soul cleaves to God in order not to enter into the temptation, a temptation—mark it well—not by means of something agreeable, but of all the power of evil, of death, of Satan, who tried to make the Savior shrink before the awful cup which was found on the path of obedience, the cup which produced our salvation, and the glory of Jesus as man. On the cross, in the solemn hour of expiation, all takes place between the soul of Christ and God. In Gethsemane, the Christ, in presence of all the efforts of Satan, cleaves to God so as not to enter into temptation, but follow the path of obedience, low as it brought Him. Now He descended into the lower parts of the earth, alone, forsaken, betrayed, denied, and, lastly, abandoned of God—perfect, victorious, obedient, the Savior of those who obey Him. And notice here, therefore, that in Gethsemane, infinite as were His sufferings compared with all ours, Christ is an example to us. We have to watch and to pray, to struggle in prayer, perhaps, so as not to enter into temptation. Sometimes even, when some affliction comes upon us by our own fault (in Christ no doubt it was the fault of others), it is difficult to submit to the ways of God. It is the same thing when, in one way or another, the path of obedience and of uprightness, the path of life, is painful. A more easy path, more verdant to the eyes of the flesh, is to be found by the side of it. Then in our little troubles our portion is that of the Savior, to watch and to pray so as not to enter into temptation. The trying path (see Psa. 16) is the path of life. There God is found; there is the deliverance for His glory and for our own. May God keep us in it! We need His grace, we need sometimes to struggle in the presence of God, to hold good; but He who overcame is with us. And if we have gone through the trouble of circumstances with God, the circumstances themselves will be but the occasion of obedience when in fact they do happen. This is the secret of practical life.
In the expiation, it is evident that Christ was our substitute, and is not our example except in the fact of His perfect subjection. There were, doubtless, on the cross, profound sufferings of body and soul, where Christ was a perfect example of patience for us; but in speaking of the cross we are pretty well accustomed, and rightly, to have the moment of expiation before our minds. It is in this sense only that I make a difference, as to the example. It is important in these days to maintain as clearly as possible the idea of substitution where Christ was alone, of suffering in which we had no part but by our sins. One is willing to have Christ as a burnt offering, a Christ who offers Himself (we, by grace, can offer ourselves, we ought to do it); but a Christ who is a sacrifice for sin some often will not have. Are we to suffer for our sins and to bear them I? Morally speaking, there is a glory in expiation, in the cross, which there is not found in glory. I shall share the glory of Christ with Him, by the infinite grace which vouchsafed it to me. Could I have shared the cross? The Christian knows what he has to reply. May God teach us in exercises of piety, but may He keep us firm in the simplicity of that faith which rests on a perfect expiation, accomplished by Him who has borne our sins in His own body on the tree!
Hence, to understand Gethsemane, we must understand Christ as man, as He was at the time of His first temptation in the wilderness; then all the power of evil and of death in the hands of Satan, and in presence of the judgment of God in death against sin. If Christ had not gone through that—the horrible bottomless pit, this deep mire, where there was no footing lay on our path—who could have gone through it? Satan tried to make Christ shrink before the abyss which our sins had opened, to place it between His soul and God. The effect on Him was to make Him draw near, with greater intensity of soul, to God, to ascertain His will while realizing all the horror of that moment in fellowship with Him, and then thus to find therein an occasion of perfect obedience without entering into temptation.
The cup of judgment itself He drank on the cross.
A word on our portion in following His example, if a trial is before us. If it be the will of God that we should pass through a trial, if even we dread it, our wisdom is to present ourselves before God, and to place all before His eyes. There may be anguish; that in which the will in us has not been broken will be laid bare. When we would avoid the temptation because it is painful, that is, spare ourselves instead of yielding the fruits of righteousness, instead of submitting ourselves to it for the good of our souls and for the glory of God, the evil path of selfishness, which the heart tries to take, becomes evident; we choose “iniquity rather than affliction.” When these exercises are sent for the development of grace, grace is developed, God working with the trial in the soul. When it is discipline, positive chastisement, and the soul submits—receives the discipline from the hand of God, the discipline has lost its bitterness and borne its fruit. In it God is all in holiness for the soul. I do not desire that one should anticipate evil, but, when the evil is in view, that one may pass through it with God and not with man—that one may watch and pray so as not to enter into temptation.
John Nelson Darby

The Glory in the Cloud

The cloud which conducted Israel through the wilderness was the servant and the companion of the camp. But it was the veil or the covering of the glory also. Commonly it appeared in the sight of Israel only as a cloud, and the glory was known only by faith to be within it. But still the glory was always there, and at times it shone forth.
Such was that beautiful mystery. It was occasionally a bidden, occasionally a manifested glory. It was the servant and the companion of the camp, but It was, so to speak, its God also.
Now, all this was Jesus, God manifest in flesh, God in “the form of a servant” commonly, occasionally shining forth in divine authority, and always entitled to the honor of the sanctuary of God.
Let us look at instances of this shining forth.
Israel had to be defended. The cloud changes its place and comes between Egypt and the camp, and then the glory looks through it and troubles the host of Egypt, so that they come not nigh Israel all the night, and this was doing for the camp the service of God.
Just so, Jesus. On a kindred occasion Jesus acts exactly as the cloud and the glory on the banks of the Red Sea. He comes between the disciples and their pursuers. “If ye seek me, let these go their way.” He defends them; and then, as of old in the borders of Egypt, He looks through the veil and troubles the enemy again; and all this with the same ease, the same authority, as in the day of Pharaoh. He did but, as it were, look out again. He did but show Himself, saying, “I am he,” and the Egyptians lie on the shore again. (See Ex. 14:24, and John 18:6.) Can we refuse to see the God of Israel in Jesus? “Worship him, all ye gods.” He is the God of Psa. 97:7, and yet Jesus. (Heb. 1:6.) The Egyptian gods worshipped Him at the Red Sea, and the Roman gods in the garden of Gethsemane. And when brought again as the first-be-gotten into the world, it shall be said, “Let all the angels of God worship him.”
But further, Israel had to be rebuked as well as defended, to be disciplined as well as saved. The same glory hid within the cloud will do this divine work as well as the other.
In the day of the manna, in the day of the spies, in the matter of Korah, and at the water of Meribah (Ex. 16; Num. 14; 16:20) Israel provokes the holiness of the Lord, and as often the Lord resents it. The glory is seen in the cloud, expressing this resentment, a witness against the camp.
Just so Jesus in His day. When grieved at their unbelief or hardness of heart, He asserts His glory, His divine person and power in the midst of the disciples, and is thus, as of old in the wilderness, rebuking their way. (Mark 4:37-41; 5:39-43: 6:36-51; John 14:8-11.)
Surely, here again was the mystery of the glory in the cloud realized in Jesus, God manifest in flesh. That cloud veiled the glory, and was at once the servant and the God of Israel. The cloud was the ordinary thing; the glory was occasionally manifested, but it was always there, and in the temple. And is not Jesus in all this?
But I would look a little more particularly at one instance of Jesus as the hidden glory, alluded to above, that in John 14 In the parting scene on the shore at Miletus, we see the dear apostle full of affection towards the saints, and also strong in the consciousness of integrity. (Acts 20) But there is no glory shining out there. Paul was a servant and a brother, He was a vessel in God’s house. Others had been blessed through him: but he was, all the while, a companion, a brother, a fellow-servant, a minister, and apostle, and such only. No veil is to be rent to let him appear other than he is seen to be. There was no hidden glory in him, nothing to be manifested personally which had not been manifested.
But there is another parting scene where we get this. I mean that which is presented to us in John 13-17 We find there the tokens of the most devoted affection, as we may get in Paul on the shore at Miletus. Jesus girds Himself with a towel, pours water into a basin, and washes His disciples’ feet. But with all this, mark the sense of His authority and of Himself, of His office, and of His person, which fills His soul. He knows Himself to be the “Lord and Master,” though washing their feet, and “that he was come from God and went to God.” (John More is glory in the cloud again. He is the servant of the camp again, but when Israel’s ways or worlds challenge or demand it, Israel shall again, for their rebuking, look to the wilderness again (Ex. 16:10), and see the glory in the cloud. And so, quickly afterward (John 14:1-3), the same Jesus would render them other service. He would prepare mansions for them in heaven, as well as wash their feet while on earth. He would alto return to take them home. But if the disciples, like the camp of old, be unbelieving, the glory shall shine through the cloud for their confounding, and Jesus will say, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip; he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; how sayest thou then, Show us the Father.”
Thus, Jesus is the clouded glory. And very grateful all this truth is to those who trace, and delight to trace, that glory in its full brightness because of the thickness of the veil under which, in measureless grace, He hid it. He was the servant and the companion of the camp still, on whatever stage of the journey they were. Here was love—the patient serving love known of old to Israel in the desert. But it is the love of the glory. That is the joy, had we but hearts to take it. Paul’s was love, patient, serving love. But it was the love of a brother, of a fellow-servant, of a man of “like passions,” the service of a Moses. Jesus’ was the love of the glory.
The glory in the cloud was the God of Israel. (Ezek. 43:4; 44:2.) The God of Israel was Jesus of Nazareth. (Isa. 6:1; John 12:41.) The Nazarene was as the cloud which veiled a light, which, in its proper fullness, no man can approach unto, though discovered by faith.
Here let me add that it is the business of faith (through the indwelling Spirit) to discover the hidden true glory, and to refuse the displayed false glory. How quickly Abram discovered it! (Gen. 18:3.) How beautifully Abigail owned it in David, type of Christ! (1 Sam. 25) How did the wise men discover it in a manger, after they had passed by all the false displayed glory of the world round Tiered in Jerusalem! (Matt. 2) And how did old Simeon discover it in the Child, the same Child in the temple, and passed by all the religion, glory, and array which was then filling that very same spot! (Luke 2) Faith was doing this, discovering hidden glory, all through the life of Jesus. Under the despised form of the Galilean, at one time, the Son of God was owned; at another, the Jehovah of Israel; at another, the Creator of the world; at another, the Son of David or the King of Israel. All these were different glories of the same person hid under the same veil.
How precious to Christ was that faith which rent the veil! The wise men, Simeon, Anna, rent the veil of infancy, the dying thief rent the veil of the cross. And see Mark 10 The Lord was speaking of His deepest humiliation (ver. 34), but at that very moment the sons of Zebedee speak of His kingdom and desire it. The multitude speak of “Jesus of Nazareth” (ver. 47), but the blind beggar at that very moment speaks of “the Son of David” and prays to Him for help.
How precious is sweet faith as this! And I ask myself, am I rending veils in like power of faith? Do I see glory in the Church still? not doctrinally merely in the person of Christ, but really and livingly in the persons elf His people? If I am delighting in, and honoring, a member of Christ under the veil of worldly degradation, such as men would neglect and despise, I am doing this ancient beautiful work of faith, rending veils.

God Manifested in the Flesh

Throughout John’s Gospel we may perceive that a sense of the glory of His person is ever present to the mind of Christ. Whether we follow Him from scene to scene of His public ministry (chap. 1-12), through His parting words with His elect (chap. 13-17), in the path of His closing sorrows (chap. 18, 19), or in resurrection (chap. 20, 21), this is so.
This full personal glory that belongs to Him is declared at the very beginning of this Gospel (chap. 1:1), and there recognized by the Church, conscious, as she is, that she had discerned it. (Chap. 1:14) But, as I have just said, it is always present to His own mind. He is in the place where covenant arrangements put Him, and He is doing those services which care for the manifestation of the Father’s glory laid on Him; but still He takes knowledge of Himself in the fullness of the Godhead glory that belonged to Him, essentially and intrinsically His. (See 2:21; 3:13; 4:14; 5:23; 6:40, 62; 7:37; 8:58; 9:38; 10:30, 38; 11:11, 25; 12:45; 14:9; 16:15; 18:6; 19:30; 20:22)
The Spirit in the saint, after this manner, glorifies Him still. The saint may recognize him in the place of covenant subjection, or think of Him in His sorrows and sufferings, but (like Himself in the day of His flesh) never loses the sense of that personal glory which is essentially and intrinsically His. Christ’s own way when He was here, and the saint’s present experience, are thus in perfect concord. And when we look a little at the epistle, we shall find something still in harmony—I mean in this particular. The Spirit in the apostles does not meet an injurious treatment of the person of Christ in the same style that He does a wrong dealing with the truth of the gospel. And this difference in style is very significant. For instance, in the Epistle to the Galatians, where the simplicity of the gospel is vindicated, there is a pleading and a yearning in the midst of earnest and urgent reasonings. So there are measures and methods recommended (such as charging, rebuking, stopping the mouth, 1 Tim. 1 and Titus 1), and not a summary process and outlawry at once, when Judaizing corruptions are dealt with. But when the person of the Son of God is the thing in hand, when His glory is to be asserted, there is nothing of all this. The style is different. All is peremptory. “They went out from us, because they were not of us.” “Receive him not into your house.” “Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ hath not God.” The Spirit, as I may say, holds the decree most sacred, and guards it as with instinctive jealousy, “that all should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.” (John 5:23.)
All this about His full divine glory is precious in the thoughts of His people. We are, however, led to look at man in Him also, and through a succession of conditions we see in Him man presented to God with infinite though varied delight and satisfaction. I have, long since, traced Him in the following way, as man in all perfectness:
Born.—The material, so to speak, moral and physical, is presented in Jesus as the born one. He was a taintless sheaf of the human harvest. Man in Him was perfect as a creature. (Luke 1:35.)
Circumcised.—Jesus, in this respect, was under the law, and He kept it, as of course, to all perfection. Man in Him was thus perfect as under law. (Luke 2:27.)
Baptized.—In this character Jesus is seen bowing to the authority of God, owning Him in His dispensations, and man in Him is perfect in all righteousness, as well as under law. (Luke 3:21.)
Anointed.—As anointed, Jesus was sent forth to service and testimony. In this respect man is seen in Him perfect as a servant. (Luke 3:22.)
Devoted.—Jesus surrendered Himself to God, left Himself in His hand to do His utmost will and pleasure. In Him man was therefore perfect as a sacrifice. (Luke 22:19, 20.)
Risen.—This begins a series of new conditions in which man is found. This is the first stage of the new estate. John 13:31, 32, intimates a new course in man, as here said. The corn of wheat, having fallen into the ground and died, is now capacitated to be fruitful. Man in the risen Jesus is in indefeasible life.
Glorified.—The risen Man, or man in indefeasible life, wears a heavenly image. The new man has a new or glorious body.
Reigning.—The risen and glorified Man receives, in due season, authority to execute judgment. Dominion is His. The lost sovereignty of man is regained.
Scripture leads us through this series of contemplations on the Son of man. And though I speak here of the Man, as before I did of the divine glory, yet I divide not the person. Throughout all, it is “God manifest in the flesh” we have before us.
We need to walk softly over such ground, and not to multiply words. On so high a theme, precious to the loving, worshipping heart, we may remember what is written, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin.”
John Gifford Bellett

God Seeing Us and Our Seeing God

Hebrews 11:27
(Hebrew 11:27.)
“For he endured as seeing him who is invisible.”
If you compare this with an expression in Gen. 16, I think the force of both is made much more distinct. “And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?” In the one case Moses sees God; in the other, although Hagar looks after Him, it was God that saw her. We are apt in everything to look at the lower end of the truth, to content ourselves with the scantiest portion that can sustain us.
Now Hagar did not really go beyond this. She was the bondwoman: she knew nothing of the liberty of grace. She might look after God, but what she reached was this, “Thou God seest me.” Now the simple consciousness that God sees us, never goes beyond the knowledge either that He is a Judge noticing our ways to deal with them, or, at most, that He is a guardian to protect in the hour of difficulty and danger. But love, liberty, rest, joy in God, are never known through the bare truth that God sees us. No one denies it to be a truth; but what I must maintain is that, as believers, we are entitled to the further and more precious privilege of seeing God, of seeing Him who is invisible. This was, in the principle of it, what sustained the heart of Moses. Hagar did not endure. She ran away; she was protected, she was brought back, she was finally expelled from the house of Abraham and Sarah, and the child of flesh along with her. It was the bondage of the law that was set forth by her. Now the law does bring out this—that is to say, God seeing man, God occupying Himself with man, God dealing with man, God judging man, yet God, it may be, showing mercy to man, as we see in Ex. 34. But communion with God there never is nor can be, till there is the consciousness that grace reigns. Not that the law is weakened, dissolved, or destroyed; not that its authority is touched. It is not so that God brings us into the place of liberty; that would be to set the ways of God against His sovereign grace. But the believer is brought out of the region where law applies—out of the scene of death, and darkness, and bondage, into the place of light: he is brought to God. There is no law in the presence of God. Law deals with flesh in the world. If I am in the place of flesh and of the world, Ι must be under law or I shall be lawless. The Christian is neither the one nor the other; but he is brought in peace, by the grace of God, unto God. He endures, not because God sees him, but because he sees God. He endures “as seeing Him who is invisible.” He endures, he knows God in Christ, he has rest in His presence, for he knows Him whom He has sent, and “herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” This is what He has done and what law could not do, for it has no propitiation to give. It may demand, but it has nothing to give: it waits to receive, and it receives the deeds, alas! of darkness, of fear, of feebleness; it can only receive whatever poor man’s conscience may offer, trying to make his peace with God. But grace makes the peace by a gift of His own love, gives the peace that it has made through the blood of Christ’s cross, and brings into the consciousness of the love of Him who has suffered all for us. And therefore, instead of our being afraid of Him and avoiding Him, instead of its being a sort of guess-like way of wondering, doubting where it may end, fearing what it may bring, endurance is the word for us.
This is the portion of the Christian, this is what characterizes him. It is enduring “as seeing him who is invisible.” We know in whom we have believed; we know that we have eternal life. “We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true; and we are in him that is true, even in his son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” We endure “as seeing him who is invisible.” And so it is all the way through. The new life is fed, nourished and strengthened by faith, “while we look not at the things which are seen:” —such are the things which flesh has to do with and law deals with. But we look not at these things, but “at the things that are not seen; for the things that are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” So, again, to the life itself. The law dealt with a man as long as he lived. We begin with the confession that we are dead; and now we live in an eternal life. “And the life which I now live in the flesh” —not merely in heaven, but in this world—is “by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” There is no uncertainty here: whatever may be the practical testimony we bear to Him, there is no weakness nor failure in Him who is our life. There is endurance, but for us it is as seeing Him who is invisible.
The Lord strengthen our faith!

What Proves There Is a God

What proves there is a God proves that we cannot know or conceiv