Evangelical Organs of 1866 Christian Observer

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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.”