Is the "One Body" the Ground of Gathering?

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" Is the ' one body ' of Eph. 4:44There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; (Ephesians 4:4) the divinely constituted ground of gathering? " A small paper with this title has been sent to me, signed C. E., initials with which I am not acquainted. The reply is very simple. It is. A very little attention to the passage itself and others which I shall cite, will prove it to every spiritual mind It is, Christ being the center and head, the great principle of gathering which has been the basis of those called Brethren, and has governed at any rate those of them intelligent in God's ways from the beginning. I add intelligent, because a person may be recently converted, and be sealed and of the body and so have title to be there, though his knowledge be defective. I shall quote a few passages to show this point very quickly, profiting by the attack made upon the principle, to keep the point before the minds of Christians, which it is always profitable to do. As to making it clear and proving it, it has been done, not only in tracts drawn from Scripture, but in discussions with Christians of various phases, National and Free Church, since it came up, and dissenters of all classes, mostly, but not exclusively so, in Switzerland some thirty years ago or more, but translated most or all of them, into English.
It is clear that the perfection of the body of Christ, united to the Head, will be in glory. This has been contested, however, on the plea that Scripture never speaks but of the body on earth. But it seems to me that the end of Eph. 1 clearly teaches the supremacy of Christ over all things as Head of the body, as the counsel of God in this respect. That was one extreme;1 the other is, that the unity of the body is not on earth, but only in heaven.
The tract confounds the kingdom with the church, quoting Matt. 13, as to tares being among the wheat. But this would deny all discipline; both are to grow together till the harvest. Final judgment would be the only putting out. This I may dismiss. It is simple nationalism or popery, no present gathering of saints at all.
It also confounds the house and husbandry of 1 Cor. 3 with the body, which is not spoken of at all. We have a temple, that is, where God dwells, but in which there is no union with Him who dwells there. Here we have three cases. He who builds with God's materials; he who, himself a saint, builds with bad, and loses his labor; and he who seeks to corrupt and will be destroyed; but no thought of the body. The writer tells us the word church, or assembly, denotes in their collective character those who profess to have obtained salvation, as when Paul addresses his epistle to the church of God which is at Corinth. The example is an unhappy one, because the apostle states what he means by the church, and makes the difference of those who profess, though these are assumed to be genuine unless proved otherwise. The address of the apostle is as follows: " To the church of God, which is at Corinth, the sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of the Lord Jesus." That is, universal profession and sanctified ones are clearly distinguished, the former looked at as composing the assembly at Corinth, and that by God's calling. And the difference is maintained in the epistle; it is only in chapter 10 that the apostle comes to speak of the body.
Again we are told that in Acts 20, Paul speaks of grievous wolves entering into the church. Nothing of the kind. The church of God spoken of, is what is purchased with His own blood, I suppose the true church which belongs to Christ forever, and which He will present to Himself. All we have is, that wolves would not spare the flock, from which true members of Christ might suffer, if they could not be lost. I suppose, feeding God's assembly was on earth, yet it is viewed as purchased by the blood of Christ. Now the church or assembly of God, here, though set up in perfection by God, was, as man, as Israel, as everything God has set up, placed under man's responsibility; and man, as he has already done and that the first thing, has failed. But that failure was not the principle on which it was set up, any more than sin was the principle of man's standing in creation, nor disobedience and idolatry the principle of Israel's standing under Sinai. In each case it was man spoiling what God had set up. Even in Matt. 13 (which I do not refer to as the church) it was an enemy's doing, while men slept. The opposite doctrine is what Jeremiah so sternly denounces: " We are delivered to do all these abominations." What the Lord did is clearly stated, Acts 2:47,47Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. (Acts 2:47) " The Lord added daily such as should be saved."
Why does Paul say in the passage on which C. E. relies, " after my decease," but to show that spiritual energy preserved what God had set up, as long as it was there? C. E. with his independent churches, and others, and I holding the unity of the body, all believe that the church on earth has been corrupted, and that in the last days perilous times would come. That is not the question; but, is that corruption part of the divine principle of meeting, or a corruption which makes us guilty? Is it a part of the divine intention or man's fault? What I find in Scripture, in the seven churches C. E. refers to, is, that it ends in the terrible judgments of Thyatira, and being spued out of Christ's mouth as nauseous to Him, and the threat of judgment if they did not repent so soon as they left their first works. But what the author cites of Jude teaches us the same truth; certain men had " crept in unawares "; but creeping in unawares was not the principle upon which the saints were gathered, was not accepted as the order of the place. They were spots in their feasts of charity, feasting with those among whom they had crept. Enoch had prophesied of them. Nothing can be clearer than that they had nothing to do-their being there had nothing to do-with the principle of the gathering; they had crept in. Jude writes to them that are sanctified by God the Father. In John they were not in the assembly at all, but antichrists who had been in it, and were to be manifested that they were not of it.
Another objection, which is not new to me, is more plausible, and goes upon a certain borrowed acquaintance with Scripture, namely, that the unity of the body was not known till Paul taught it. Now, there was a time of transition of God's patience with the Jews, and Paul, called specially out to be the minister of the Gentiles, was the instrument in God's hands for unfolding the mystery of the union of Jews and Gentiles on the same footing. But God took care that it should not be a new, separate thing in its nature and essence. After Paul was called he was not allowed to begin the introduction of the Gentiles, and Peter insisted on this in Acts 15. He, not Paul, was the means of introducing Cornelius, and C. E. confounds the existence of the thing and the development of the doctrine. Paul was the great instrument, both of promulgating the doctrine, and carrying it out in practice; a dispensation was committed to him. But God graciously took care to guard against the mistake of C. E. by employing Peter to begin publicly that work as a fact, and securing its stability by not allowing Paul to make good at Antioch the truth he had received; and the church remained one from the beginning. But what is its essence is much more important. The union of the body subsists from the day of Pentecost. It was established as to Gentiles, before Paul's ministry, at Caesarea in the bright and godly centurion, and Paul, in God's wisdom, was not allowed to secure it among the Gentiles. That was to be done (where it was important to do it) among the Jews at Jerusalem. No doubt the union of Jew and Gentile was of importance, especially in those days; but it was not the essential principle of the body or its unity. That was union with Christ, the Head, by the Holy Ghost. That was what made the body and unity, and each Christian, so sealed, a member of Christ.
Was there no body of Christ till Paul spoke about the mystery? Yet, if the confusion made by C. E. between the existence of the body, and the knowledge of the mystery be accepted, there could not have been. Thousands have come into communion amongst those whom C. E. attacks, who know nothing but to cry Abba, Father, as sealed with the Spirit, and learn the mystery there. It is much to be desired that they should be intelligent as to it, and that they should know the place they are in. But I never heard of such being a term for communion. I suspect a very large number would have to be put out. That it is as such the assembly meets, that the truth as to this is found in tracts and writings, is quite true. The writer does not mean to say that we should meet as if there were two churches of God on earth. Meeting on that principle, as an expression in common use, means quite a different thing. We cannot meet as being the one assembly, because a great number of Christians are outside of us, but we meet on the principle of that unity. It is this unity of the whole body on earth which C. E. denies. What a new believer is introduced into, is that unity which unquestionably existed in the beginning, and which we seek to realize as far as we can. Supposing I was to say that we meet on the principle that holiness becomes God's house. C. E. seems hardly to think so, but who would say that could not be the bond of union? Unity with the Head by the Holy Ghost is the only bond of union, but that produces the unity of the body of which we are thus all members. We meet with the conviction that the gathered saints were at the beginning the body of Christ, and members one of another, and as such all one on earth (does C. E. mean to say they were not?), and that we ought to seek to realize it. To be of the assembly as having the Holy Ghost, and to understand and explain it, are two things; to deny it, which is C. E.'s place, is a third. But his statement goes further. God formed the church-for it began down here-on the ground, according to his system, of there being evil in it, tares. They hold the church met on that principle; not that men crept in unawares, but that it is the principle they are united on. Now holiness is not what binds us, nor the principle of unity, yet the assembly meets as composed of those who are sanctified, called saints, sanctified in Christ Jesus, on that principle, and as all one (all saints are one body), and we seek to realize it as far as we can. The principle or ground of gathering is that of all saints being one in Christ, and as such forming the one church of God on earth. • Christians had lost this principle, and it has been recovered; hence much, and rightly, put forward.
I shall now show, that what Scripture presents to us is a body on earth, formed on earth as Christ's body, the Head being in heaven, by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. Let my reader look at 1 Cor. 12:1212For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12) to the end. It is perfectly impossible for a man in his senses not to recognize a body on earth. The apostle compares it to our natural body: we have body and members, and all the members of that one body being many are one body; the body is not one member, but many. But C. E. will say that this is in heaven. But, unfortunately, it is by one Spirit we are baptized into one body: now this was on earth. " Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, not many days hence." They were to tarry at Jerusalem for the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon them. It was one of the two great characters of Christ's work. He it is that baptized with the Holy Ghost. The Spirit of God came down to earth and formed one body before Paul was called. If anything need be added, it is found here, verse 25: and there was to be no schism in the body, the members were all to have the same care one for another; if one member suffered, all the members suffered with it, or one member were honored, all the members rejoiced with it. " Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular; and God hath set some in the church, etc...." Will C. E. tell me whIch of these gifts are to be exercised in heaven? The whole passage is as clear as language can make it, that there is a body on earth formed by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, and recognized on earth with these words, " so also is Christ." Chapter 10: 17 does not refer to the connection of the heathen with idols, or Jews with the altar. It is used in reference to this as the basis of the argument. " For we, being many, are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread." The same principle is recognized as known truth in Rom. 12, " For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office; so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." And all that follows applies to the saints down here exclusively. It is now (Eph. 3:1010To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, (Ephesians 3:10)) that the manifold wisdom is to be made known by the church to principalities and powers in heavenly places, the Gentiles being a joint body. So in chapter 4, the very verse cited by C. E. It is exhortation to us now to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit, and what we are called to is still a hope, as the verse itself says. It will be said, " But the hope of the calling is glory with Christ above." Undoubtedly, but it will then have ceased to be a hope; it is when we have been called and have it as a hope (for we are saved in hope) that there is one body and one Spirit; there is that, as there is one faith and one baptism. The whole passage plainly shows that it is the present time, the time when the Spirit is personally down here, and faith has its place-hence the apostle speaks of the edifying of the body of Christ, " till we all come," etc. Hence C. E. cannot speak so; He has given these ministries, not for the edifying of the body, as Scripture speaks, but " the members of His body on earth." He has lost the great truth, that God has revived in these last days that presence of the Holy Ghost down here. He confounds the kingdom of heaven with the church and the body of Christ, and so will have tares in it, and tares to remain in it till harvest. In Scripture, " an enemy has done it."
I find in this same passage, Eph. 4:15, 16,15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:15‑16) " 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." A husband is to love his wife as the Lord loves and cherishes the church, for we are members of His body. The only other passages, as far as I am aware, are Col. 1:18,18And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:18) and 3: 15. The former does not help us one way or the other, saying Christ is the head of the body, save as far as sheaving, a remark that has its importance, that the apostle does not make the difference C. E. does. The latter passage clearly applies to earth as a present exhortation to peace; it shows clearly, as I said, that as to the unity of the body the apostle makes no distinction between the calling of God in its responsible effectuation now, and its sure divine effectuation when all is complete in result. There is one passage which speaks of it in this result, that is, takes in this view, Eph. 1:22, 23,22And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:22‑23) but even so-looks at the church as an existing thing. I have not to complain of the spirit in which the leaflet is written, but I am surprised in realizing the complete loss of truth by those to whom the writer belongs.
I add a few supplementary words, to show how this evil system destroys the whole idea of the church of God. First I would remark, that Christ gave Himself to gather together in one the children of God which were scattered abroad. Now I admit that this is not properly the body. John never speaks of the body. But it is unity, and it is down here, for those who were scattered will all be one any way up in heaven. Their being scattered abroad down here makes no difference as to that; there is no scattering there; yet whereas they were scattered, they were now to be gathered. This unity is ignored by C. E. The word ' church,' says C. E., denotes in their collective character those who profess, whereas in Scripture it is certainly not so at the founding of Christianity. There the Lord added daily2 such as should be saved. Further, who added? The Lord. Did He add mere professors? That such crept in ere many years were past we know. So later, " As many as were ordained to eternal life believed." C. E. does not believe in a divine gathering at all at any time. God does not gather professors. And here the language is not quite honest. The writer says: " they (who profess to have obtained salvation) compose the assembly or assemblies." Which? for they are not the same thing. Hence the assembly is slipped out directly, and we read, " the church of God which is in Corinth," " the seven churches in Asia." Hence we read (page 3) that Christ, in His love and care for the members of His body on earth, provides for their edification, through various ministries and gifts of the Holy Ghost. But this does not alter the character of the assembly, whether in Corinth or Ephesus. He then speaks of evangelists as having their service outside the assembly, while gifts of healing were intended to meet the physical needs of men as men. All very well if we do not go to Scripture, but the assembly is wholly lost, save to say that the service of the evangelist is outside it. But where were the gifts, whether their service were in or out of the assembly, or for men as men? Here is the answer of Scripture: " Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular; and God hath set some in the church, first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers; after that, miracles; then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues," not all in a church, but in the church-the assembly. Nothing can be more clear or definite. Evangelists are not there. The gifts are viewed simply as the power of the Spirit. In Eph. 4 we find only gifts of edification, and they are attributed to the gift of Christ, in His care for the church, His body. There, there are evangelists: " 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 "-even the evangelists, for though they served in the world, they did not leave the fruits of their service there; they were brought into the church, never into a church, but into the church. And then pass on to verses 15, 16, " 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 to the edifying of itself in love." Can anything be clearer or more definite?
But this passage leads me to the remark that this distinction, of what is here from what is in heaven, is destructive of the whole nature of Christianity, and the holiness that belongs to it. I have clearly shown from Scripture that the word of God speaks of the body on earth, that its unity is there, its members are Christ's members,3 and members one of another. But I go further, and add that while, as was predicted, the church on earth has corrupted itself, the blessing that God had established being confided to man in responsibility,4 yet to separate the two in faith is to destroy not only the scriptural idea of a church, but the whole divine principle of holiness, individually and collectively. Our calling is heavenly, our hope is heavenly, our standard of walk only heavenly. Not seeing this was the source of the folly of the perfectionists. There is no goal, no measure of attainment down here. They took the deliverance of Rom. 8 for perfection. The Christian has no goal of attainment but Christ in glory. If faithful, he does that one thing, runs to win Christ, and by any means to attain to that first resurrection; that produces the effect, so far as it operates, of walking like Christ down here. The believer's conversation (his living associations) is in heaven; he looks for Christ to change his body and conform it to Christ's glorious body. We say therefore, with Paul to the end, " not as though I had already attained," but we have no other measure of attainment, and he who best knows Christ, best knows how far he is from having attained. Every step of progress enables him to see more clearly what Christ is and how far he is from it. But there is no other goal, no other measure known or given. We are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He may be the first-born among many brethren. He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one.
Now it is the knowledge of this glorified Christ by the Holy Ghost which is the formative power of holiness. This I proceed to show from Scripture. God chastises us (Heb. 12:1010For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. (Hebrews 12:10)) that we may be partakers of His holiness. Hence, in a very remarkable passage in 1 Thess. 3:12, 13,12And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: 13To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:12‑13) " and the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: to the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints." Where is the difference for faith between our responsible state here and our presentation before God our Father there? How far we realize it, is another and important question; but the measure and principle is the same, or rather, blessed be His name, all one. And this is wrought by the revelation of Christ to our souls by the Holy Ghost, and Christ as He is in glory. Hence He says: " For their sakes I sanctify myself [set myself apart as the glorified man in heaven] that they also might be sanctified through the truth." And this is as clearly taught as possible. " Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And he that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure," 1 John 3. Again, " We, beholding with open [unveiled, alluding to Moses' veil] face the glory of the Lord, are changed from glory to glory, into the same image, as by the Spirit of the Lord." All this is as clear as possible. There are not two holinesses; we cannot say, any of us, that we have attained, but our conversation is in heaven; and as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall bear the image of the heavenly. There is no other goal after which we run: our object is to grow up to Him who is the Head in all things, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. And note well here, this is not the question of our acceptance in Christ. There, there is no growth. As to that we say, " As he is so are we in this world."
It will be said, " But this is individual." I admit it. I quote it to show the principle on which God deals with us as regards our responsible state in this world. Being made partakers of the divine nature, having the risen and glorified Christ as our life, and the revelation of this glorified Christ by the Holy Ghost, we cannot look at anything as goal of attainment but that glorified Christ; and as He could say being a divine Person " the Son of man who is in heaven "-making, and in Him perfectly, His life, what it was down here-so we (united to Him in glory, sitting in heavenly places in Him, and the Holy Ghost revealing what eye has not seen nor ear heard nor entered into the heart of man to conceive) take the affections, spirit, self-denial, practical realization of what answers to Him in glory, as the motive and measure of a holy walk here; and thus, he that saith he is in Him ought himself also so to walk even as He walked. Hence it is said " Be ye therefore imitators of God as dear children, and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us and given himself for us, a sacrifice and offering to God for a sweet-smelling savor." " Hereby know we love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." And in this chapter of the Ephesians referred to, the other essential name of God is taken, Light, and we are declared to be light in the Lord, and are to walk as children of light; and if our poor eyes have drooped in sleep, and we are lying among the dead, we are called to awake from sleep and Christ shall give us light. Our life is hid with Christ in God; we have no other measure than what He is.
There is not one holiness for heaven, and another for this world, as 1 Thess. 3:1313To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:13) so remarkably teaches. We have our treasure in an earthen vessel, know in part, see through a glass darkly, but the treasure, what we know and what we see, is one and the same. Eternal life is the end, but it is eternal life we have, but that life is Christ, the present Christ. " He that hath the Son, hath life "; then we shall have it as He is, but it is not another. I repeat he who is nearest to Him by faith, in whose heart Christ dwells, knows best how dear he is to Him, but how far he is from Him as an object of attainment. But he has not two Christs, but one. This is the principle of Scripture. We are in Christ as to acceptance, and Christ in us as present life, and the hope of glory before us; our path, as we are yet in the body, is always to bear about there the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our body.
This principle would involve the church on high and below being but one, though here hindered by weakness in a responsible condition as individuals are. There is really no difference, but happily we are not left to draw conclusions on the subject. The word of God is formal and positive on the subject. " Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." C. E. may say this means the members. Of course it takes place in the members, though collectively too; but the church that was loved, and that will be presented to Christ without blemish-the assembly that was loved and for which He gave Himself, the church that will be presented without a wrinkle by Christ to Himself-is the church that He has sanctified down here in time by the word. The same thing is expressly taught in chapter 4 already quoted, except that it is also called His body, Christ being the Head, to whom we are to grow up; verse 16 specifically presenting the present operation in grace, and the increase of the body by the effectual working in the measure of every part; so that it is impossible to separate that body of which Christ is the Head, from that which grows and edifies itself here-and the whole body, and an edified and increasing body. There is but one. Nothing can be more specific, positive, and formal.
Even as to a particular assembly, this as owned of God, is not as C. E. states. As such its members are not viewed as professors, but as to be presented blameless before Christ. In Corinth, blamed in all its ways, so bad that the apostle could not go there, he says, " Ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall confirm you to the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ." That was their present calling, that their final state, called into His fellowship (koinonian, to partake of His state) now, and blameless in it there. The beginning of the epistle to the Ephesians largely confirms this principle. In chapter 1, from verses 3 to 8, what time is it that is presented to us? When are we holy and without blame before Him in love? It is evidently the thought of God about us. Is it something else we are to realize now? And is what is here, the spiritual blessings with which God hath blessed us, only for the heavenly places, and our calling different now?
I admit surely the difference of realization in human responsibility by the power of the Holy Ghost, and the perfect accomplishment by divine power when Christ shall come and change our body of humiliation, conforming it to His glorious body, when we shall be to the praise of His glory; but there are not two things. It is spoken of in itself: " to the glory of His grace " now, " to the praise of His glory " when all is perfected. And so in what follows as to the church. It is presented as in the purpose of God, with this much accomplished that Christ is set at His right hand in heavenly places, and the result is there stated as part of the same thing; " though we see not as yet all things put under him." But in what follows He takes care to show that " we are quickened with him," according to the same power which raised Him from the dead where He lay for our sins in which we were dead, " raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ." Is this present or not? he does not say " with Christ," but " in Him," but this is to show in the ages to come the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. Is that of which He speaks, as showing in coming ages the exceeding riches of His grace, a different thing from that which He has wrought now? But this is identified with " head to the church, his body." I admit fully it will be accomplished in glory. We have the spirit of adoption now; we wait for the adoption, to wit the redemption of the body. But I close.
The word of God is perfectly clear, and the identity of what is revealed and discerned by the Holy Ghost with what will be revealed in us, is seen to be of the very essence of Christianity, as Scripture presents it in its fullness. It is the very meaning of the phrase " we are saved in hope," and " though now we see Him not, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and glorified, receiving the end of our faith, the salvation of [our] souls." A church of professors denies that it is the church of God. He does not form one of the professors, that is quite clear. The thought is next door to blasphemy. The system denies Christian responsibility, and that the professing church will be judged for its unfaithfulness. It falsifies the nature of holiness, and Christ's present relation to the church. There is no bride to say " Come! " No purity according to what there will be then, as in Thessalonians, or according to what Christ is now as in 1 John 3. No recognition of the predicted corruption of the church, for even now we have to walk with those who call on the name of the Lord out of a pure heart. If it were to be a church of professors, and God would have it so, how many are to be allowed? That such may creep in unawares nobody denies, but the theory is that this is what God owns, His church on earth; that we are not to purify ourselves from vessels to dishonor, or go outside the camp.
For one thing I am thankful to C. E.: he has clearly brought out what has been really at stake in the painful questions which have lately exercised the saints he blames, in London, and which all have felt. It is because this was in question, without my having an unkindly feeling toward a human being, that I took my stand in the matter. The whole testimony of the unity of the body, and even of our heavenly calling was at stake, and in great danger, I admit too. Many of the brethren were much more immediately in the conflict than myself, and I thank God for giving them to be faithful in it; and while, I dare say, all was not perfect wisdom, God sustained them in grace. I speak thus as personally distinct, because I was almost all the time out of the country. But C. E. by his tract shows what was at stake, the whole special testimony of God as distinct from gospel truths as to pardon. As to this I say no more. If my reader wished to see where man's responsibility is taught, where the church is viewed as the house or temple, he must turn to 1 Cor. 3, " Let every man take heed how he buildeth thereon! "
I should never have replied to this tract, but that it offered an opportunity of showing from Scripture the real character of the church now, and its identity for faith-though placed here under man's responsibility (save God's infallible grace)- with the church and spouse on high; and that Christians were bound to recognize and act on this, and so responsible for the state C. E.'s church of professors is in; and that even present individual holiness cannot be separated in its measure from what it will be in glory. All that is there, is brought down here now, as that which we are in the new creation and by the Holy Ghost, and according to which we are to live, and seek withal the unity of the Spirit.
I recognize that the brethren in question were well nigh in utter failure. I trust, humbled before Him, we may be allowed to maintain better than ever the holy testimony of God. As to the one who gathers, it is a present power here, the Holy Ghost. As to the center to which they are gathered, it is Christ; but that makes all saints one, and on that principle they meet.
1. There is really only one church spoken of in Scripture, though the state be different in heaven and on earth; but of this further on.
2. I do not add " church," as the reading is generally rejected. I quote for the character of those gathered, also who were the gathered.
4. So it ever has been since Adam, the first thing man has always done being to fail, while God's patient goodness has continued till the time of judgment came.