On Principles and Practice in Gathering

 •  46 min. read  •  grade level: 11
"The questions are: 1st, Can the renewed soul, led by the Spirit, be satisfied with any turning point of conduct for itself in which it does not find the presence of God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who quickened it; and, 2dly, Was it gathered (by the Holy Ghost) according to what He is, as Father gathering the adopted in the name of Christ for his own house in heaven, or merely to a corruptible testimony entrusted to man's hand."
The descent of Noah's Ark upon Mount Ararat is a remarkable fact. In such a deluge it might have floated, sport of the elements, any where. Faith, most surely, would have recognized the place of its descent, wheresoever that had been, as the right place, because it was the choice of Him without whom not one sparrow falleth to the ground; but they whose faith is accompanied with intelligence, from the word, as to the divine counsel and plans concerning the earth, can see something of the reason of the place which was selected. Again, no one, I think, that has passed any time by the sea-shore, and beheld " also the ships, which though so great, and driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth,"- and, amid them, observed one vessel continuously maintaining one and the same position, spite of various currents and the veering of the wind round and round the compass,-but what must have felt that there was a cause why such vessel drifted not, neither changed its place. Its carrying lights, to warn of reefs, etc., might, indeed, proclaim the object of its being there, but there are also PRINCIPLES by which its position is maintained.
Surely the so easily led human mind will never be able to maintain any definite, much less a God-honoring, position, amid circumstances in which God shakes around us all that can be shaken-that is, if it is left to itself. In speaking of shaking now, I do not advert to the mere mutability and versatile wantonness of human will-or to the quicksand character of everything in man's day- or even to those awful periods in the human history, as the great French revolution, which (through the mercy of God) are more rare than are the phenomena of the earthquake, hurricane and volcanic eruption in nature; occurrences, in which (the usual restraints imposed by God on the injurious elements being for a time suspended) man is allowed to witness what bearing the world of his pride would have upon himself, if it were left of God in the hand of the usurping adversary (whether that world be in nature or society.) But besides versatility and changeableness being stamped on man, on the world (set up in Cain's family, Gen. 3 as a place for the flesh to be happy in, out of God's presence), and on scenes subject to Satan,-there is altogether another element of change, when God speaks of His judging, trying, changing or shaking, etc. And this is the grand leading feature of the scenes on which my mind was resting, when I asked, " How shall a definite position be maintained?"
Turn for a moment to the deluge and its attendant circumstances; to the Exodus and its scenes; to the history of the transit of the apostles from Judaism to Christianity; and say, " Who led and kept, save He that formed the people of His choice?" I ask not about the state of feeling, intelligence, or hope of the saved, but, Who kept themselves? God, and God alone, was their keeper. Stability is not a creature-quality; there is but One that changes not—that knows not the shadow of a turn-and He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and will have compassion on whom He will have compassion. It is meet that He should; it becomes Him: higher we cannot go in accounting for why He acts as He does. As to the saved-they " found grace in His sight"; He " remembered his covenant" with Abraham and with Isaac and with Jacob; and the songs of Mary, of Zacharias and of Simeon-all ascribe the mercy found unto His grace and to that alone.
But the saved people had also the Lord's marks upon them;-the word of the Lord (though known to them as being above them, " magnified above all His name") was precious in their sight; and they were desirous to be implicitly subject to it and to His Spirit. I am persuaded that amid the tryings, judgings, changings and shakings by the Lord of all things-none will stand save those that find grace in His sight: the rest will be found self-sold and self-bound, by the folly of their own hearts, to Satan; though it may be, that many a soul which should have been, as it were, improved by the trial, will be only re-made in it. If a haughty or self-confident, or self-complacent, or even an unbroken spirit is in us,-or if policy and expediency have been our strength,-I am persuaded that, saints though we be, the presence of the Lord will show concerning us, both to ourselves and to others perhaps, around us, that in His presence "all flesh is grass; the grass withereth, the flower thereof fadeth away, be- cause the Spirit of the Lord bloweth thereon." Job's history is a solemn one.
The very nearness of the Lord is the abasement of the pride of the flesh. While at the same we shall prove that policy and expediency (vain against Satan and even man), will never stand in the presence of God, or be owned by the Lord. He could not own them:-they came in at the fall, when man learned to blend his own circumstances, and used them as the cover wherewith to deceive a guilty conscience as to God's all-seeing eye; they had their allowed field marked out for them in the family of Cain, the murderer of his brother,-driven out from the presence of the Lord; they were the ruin of Saul, etc.; and are utterly incompatible with faith. For they are always the expression of present subjection to a power which seeks its own because it loves not and owns not dependance upon God, as being the alone fountain of every good gift. The door open for self is open for Satan too. Policy and expediency and human plannings will, in God's presence, I am persuaded, be found to be inconsistent with present obedience and dependance-and to be practical independence (compare Isa. 2:10-2210Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty. 11The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. 12For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low: 13And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, 14And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up, 15And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall, 16And upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures. 17And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. 18And the idols he shall utterly abolish. 19And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. 20In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; 21To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. 22Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of? (Isaiah 2:10‑22)). Jacob's experience when his name was changed illustrates this.
They cannot stop Satan, silence conscience, or meet necessity: to subject self to the counsels of God about Christ is never really their aim. The grand principle of faith is, that we trust in God that raiseth the dead-having the sentence of death in ourselves that we should not trust in ourselves. This surely is a GREAT principle; not as some speak of principles, as though principles could accomplish themselves; or as though they that have the principles, could act them out in their own energy, or use God's energy to do so. To trust in God that raiseth the dead-gives no room for my energy or plannings-. any more than does the having the sentence of death in myself, that I should not trust in myself. It is not that there will not be action, or that I shall not act,-but it is this: my own will and objects being crossed and judged, I have to wait on God, subjecting myself to His will, and taking up His objects—to suffer His will and receive blessing. And again: Faith, though it has a large stock to draw from in God, has nopurse or scrip in man wherein to carry about the expenses of the journey. " Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." Faith is present dependance upon a present God-it cannot live out of his presence; for it is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen; -in his presence God and Christ alone are exalted. He wakeneth morning by morning, " He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned"; " the Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back"; and " now the just shall live by faith." If the Lord is our portion we must go out of His presence, ere we can say, " I lack."
And since some confound principles with power; let me just recall the oft-repeated truth-" A law cannot enforce itself." Every successive government, for the last sixty years, in Paris, has stamped paper notes,-but they cannot pay themselves or their holders. Those of preceding governments are now on sale as waste paper. The laws for Ireland cannot execute themselves: and if the government has power to enforce any act, and sends thither those who shall do so,-such bring not their own power, or will, or objects, but that of another; and are thus dependent upon those that sent them, for the means to accomplish their will. Still, the commissioned officer has the government behind him:-else his acts would constitute him a rebel and a traitor. But no act can enforce itself.
I wish attention could be roused to this question" Have you any principles? and if you have, are they Divine, and such as will make good for you, if you are consistent with them, a steady position when all things are shaking round you." Clearly they who are walking with God, as did Enoch, can say, " Through grace I have such; for the great leading circumstance to me is God, who, nearer to me than my own self, never changes, and if I am kept true to Him, when He has overruled things for Himself, the same grace which keeps me now by steady adherence to Him, who is the same yesterday, to day, and forever, will cause it to appear before all in His own day to the praise of His own grace. God keeps His saints; and when He displays His glory He will not forget His keeping of the saints, or the saints of His keeping. The poor broken sinner's rest is habitually here, " God cannot deny Himself." This is the obedient soul's shelter-He cannot deny Himself. I may be ignorant-misinformed and everything else; but humbleness of heart which seeks to leave all and sacrifice self to God can say, He will not deny Himself-" for if any man will do His will, he shall know", and " I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified."
God the Holy Ghost, as the Quickener, Expositor, and Applier: the written word of God's grace-mirror, in which the beauty of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus is presented to faith; exposition, too, as it is at once of the riches in wisdom and grace of God and the Father, and of the poverty of what we are in ourselves: and an obedient frame of heart and mind; these are our great securities here below.
" My principles, then [mine, inasmuch as God keeps me by making faith in them to be indwelling in me], are, if I speak for eternity, IN HEAVEN—God, even the Father, with the Son of Man returned from the works He did on earth, resting in the glory which He had with Him before the world was, until the children of the Father's love are made ready for the House of the Father; and the counsels about Him: and ON EARTH God the Holy Ghost, and the Word of Its grace." The presence of God with the church is the alone dwelling of God on earth now since Jerusalem was broken up; and if the Holy Ghost is not here, though there may be the actings of Providence over the earth from the throne above (as surely there are), direct personal connection or intercourse between God and earth there is none: for the throne of the Providence of the Creator is in Heaven, and is served by ministering spirits. But the Holy Ghost is here, and He Himself, because He is God, is the connecting link between those that know Him, and the present display in Heaven of the Father and the Son, as well as the earnest of what is to come. On the other hand, our nothingness in ourselves, and the sufficiency of God, notwithstanding all, is shown in that the mode of His dealing is simply the Word....of faith; for " the Word of the Lord endureth forever."
If I come to speak as to my principles FOR TIME-it is not that they are, therefore, human, or that they cease (because for time) to be divine: quite the contrary, but necessarily then, as so connected (viz. with time), the character and mode of God's actings in time then become a question, and a very important question; and so dispensational truth has to be considered: and this is one of the very solemn evils connected with despising dispensational truth, ... which is not (as some think), mere notions of the human mind-fancies of the imagination -but that truth of God's sober, solemn word, which describes God's present path and conduct. Without dispensational truth, there can, in detail, be no consistent intelligent walk with God now in time. Here arises the
It is not my thought to enter here either into truth as universally true (by which I mean that, inasmuch as wherever God acts, He must act worthily of Himself, and because of His being one God, there are certain grand leading truths which will be found wherever he is found, characteristics of Himself), or into truth as dispensationally given. By truth as dispensationally given, I mean the varieties of expressions God may have been pleased to make of Himself in various scenes: as, for instance, in forming one scene, in which He would make a display suited to the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost;' and another scene suited to the display of Jehovah as involving (I judge) the titles Lord God, Messiah, and the Spirit, etc. etc. etc. If people think they can cramp up infinite glory, or infinite grace, which has stooped to make various finite circles for itself in connection with man, to one place or to a given limit, they are mistaken, and only show us their own folly and short-sightedness.
I shall take it for granted that my reader understands what is distinctively peculiar to the church, or, at least, has some idea thereof; for who of us has more? And that the Heavenly Calling, the mystery (or vital union of the members in one body,-of which Christ is head,-which is His bride,-the vessel of glory in which He will be admired), the baptism of the Holy Ghost, etc., are, in measure, known and admitted as distinctively peculiar: I shall suppose this is granted. This conceded, I ask, as to my principles for time, so far as they are connected with congregationalism of the members of that body (and beyond this, I shall not here essay to go) What are they?
I have been asked whether " gathering to good", or "gathering from evil" is the principle to act on. I understand what ought to be meant when the two propositions are thus put antithetically, as characteristic of two opposite principles of gathering; though I judge the statement is defective, if not erroneous. I say so, because clearly, they whose ensign now is " gathering to good", would not deny, but insist upon it, that they gather from evil also. And on the other hand, they who profess to " gather from evil" admit that in one sense they " gather to good". Also, on the other hand, what is meant, and its force is plain enough, because each term is put distinctively, and that makes it clear; as if when one said, " my salvation is due to the mercy of God"; and another said, " and mine to the righteousness of God",-the propositions taken separately, as each distinctively characteristic of the state of a soul would be quite intelligible. One would be the language of a poor sinner saved by grace; the other of one who thanked God that He was not as other men! but if joined together as the expression of one and the same person, the one would so far modify the other as that both of them might be true. For he whom mercy found as a sinner and adopted into the family, righteousness preserves for the sake of Him whose is the family. But when it is asked whether " gathering to good" or " gathering from evil" is the proper principle, clearly there are two modes of gathering supposed; two characteristic features in the modes pursued by two parties; and they are contrasted the one with the other, so that you may take your choice of which of them you will adopt; and this shows that they are contrasted, for if you take one you leave the other.
The question is deeply interesting if fairly considered. " He that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad", was the word of One who spake as never man spake. His mode of gathering was as God's. If ours is as was His, how blessed! If otherwise, we scatter abroad. But I believe a deeper question even than any of these is involved; for the mode of God's conduct always flows out of the Who and What He Himself is; and this makes the question of the very deepest possible moment to the true worshipper.
I doubt whether any will see their way through this subject, unless they have a somewhat simple faith as to God, and some measure of clearness as to redemption, and also can keep " the church triumphant" (as yet to be displayed as a whole in the glory of God) distinct from, and yet in connection of thought with, the discovery of the various members of that whole in the progressive history of " the church militant "; and they also should see the standing, falling and fallen subdivisions of that history.
And, first, I may remark, that to those who have intelligence exercised in Divine things-I doubt not-holiness is more distinctively characteristic of God, than is aught else. Holy, Holy, Holy! is the cry distinctive to His presence: and if one enters in thought upon what He is in Himself, which is clearly deeper and fuller than that which may shine forth from Him, -He is that He is: His essential character, and the indescribable peculiarity in the very thought of supreme Deity, plainly put Him, apart from all else—in Himself,—and as the origin, center and end of everything, and so as to us. And this is just the separativeness of Divine holiness.
There is no contradiction in God most surely; and yet there may be, and there are different characteristics, and some may be higher than others. To one party He may be merciful in goodness, to another righteous in wrath-in both cases He is holy.
Another has remarked, in commenting on the evils of the day, that people talk of charity and love; and when they think this or that action is inconsistent with either of them, say it must be inconsistent also with God's pleasure, for " God is love"; entirely forgetting that it is said, " GOD is love", i.e. the characteristic of love does not set aside Himself, or what He is.
I have spoken above of holiness as more characteristic of God than is aught else. It is peculiarly so. LOVE may be of various kinds; damnation in John 3 is the reward of loving darkness more than light; so may LIGHT, 2 Cor. 11:1414And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14), Satan is an angel of light, and Matt. 6:2323But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:23), " if the light that is in thee be darkness," etc.; so may LIFE, as may be seen by the foolishness of those who argue against eternal misery, because eternal life is promised only to the believer. If Love, Light, and Life are used characteristically at times of God, they are not GOD himself. But as proceeding from God, have to be thought of as connected with God, and what He is, and His holiness.
And it must not be forgotten that Redemption is distinct from Creation. Redemption is the bringing back from out of the hand of the adversary by purchase and power. There could be no Redemption where there was no fall- no people redeemed save those who were under the power, through the fall, of the adversary. The power was of God, and the ransom was of God; but it was in behalf of a people from under the adversary's hand. By creation they were God's-in their actual state, through the fall, they were sold under sin, and though still in many cases partakers now of the goodness of God's providence in time, they had nothing but participation m Hell in prospect from themselves. Redemption brings them back to God-to God in the portion he may assign them, and that we know now is one marvelously connected with His own self, children in the Father's House.
In the church, triumphant in glory, all that the power or wisdom of God in His beneficence can put forth in display as the token of His delight in the Man Christ Jesus will, I cannot doubt, be displayed; and. no good thing will He withhold.
In the church militant, as first set up, there was a foreshadowing of the good which is to come in the day of glory, so far as the circumstances would admit of it. Thus it will be the scene of the display of the glory of God and the Lamb (Rev. 21, 22); and will be dedicated to Divine and Heavenly purposes, the court of all earthly plans and glory; will have special connections with the Son, and be the vessel in which He will be glorified by the then unrestrained power of the Spirit. All these things and others had their commencement in display at Pentecost; hereafter it will be in the heavenlies literally, in the glory of God and the Lamb; it was in time the place on which, when Heaven was opened, the rays of the light of the Son upon the Father's throne, and of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ were known, by faith, to play. It will be the place of display of the Spirit in unrestricted power; it was the place of His residence, but self-restrictively (John 16:13-1513Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. 14He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. 15All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you. (John 16:13‑15)), amid earthen vessels, acting through faith chiefly, acting as a means to an end. There were the powers of the world to come, shown too, in man, and a sort of first-fruits of the blessing man will have hereafter: the confusion of tongues remedied by the gift of tongues; sickness, by gifts of healing, etc.; and the impress of a moral character of unselfish love put upon the company gathered, which was beautiful and excellent.
While, from what I have said as to our adorable God and redemption, it will be seen I have precluded myself from the possibility of admitting, that " gathering to good" was ever the distinctive mark of gathering, yet in the subordinate and second sense (the one from which one is precluded by the contrast supposed between the two principles stated), I of course own that there was a manifested good to which, in apostolic days men knew believers were gathered. For there was once a God-honoring, undefiled temple habitation of God through the Spirit, with the company who (because true to God and the trust committed to them) had, as the church, the tokens of gracious power and moral character which spake among men for God; "great grace was upon them all, and they had favor with all the people" (see Acts 2 and iv). But this I should press, that in those days, and never indeed while the church stood, did believers in it look upon it as other than as means to an end. To the mind of the Spirit, it might be the fold, for the time being, of those with whom he was dealing for eternity; and the great practical point of the believer that he was there as one separated as a living member of Christ's body from all around it incompatible with His glory and its life; but the deposit was in man's hand, and therefore there was the need of watching, for the place had no fixity of goodness attached to it, but was open to every inroad of the adversary.
And, further, while responsibility rested on man, that no evil should be allowed or sanctioned there, for the place was holy, -the epistles, if compared one with another, show, as to the peculiarities of the place, that if the light of Heaven shined on the church below, and if all that God and Christ have done were proclaimed to faith as somehow or other its portion, that the enjoyment of these things now is in various measures and degrees, and is affected by state and circumstances; and so also the enjoyment of the blessed Spirit, for he may be honored, or grieved, and quenched, or perhaps even resisted. And it must never be forgotten, that being committed in dispensation to man, failure was sure and prophesied of too, failure of a worse kind than ever had preceded. And as to the people in the scene who had found an eternal portion there, they surely could not—we surely cannot-but mark as to the Spirit's own self the peculiarities of His presence. The Ruler and Comforter, as God personally, the good One in all perfectness of Divine goodness, yet the abiding of His presence hung, and hangs in his gracious condescension toward us, upon His understanding of the intrinsic worth of the counsels of God, and of the worthiness of the Lamb. On the ground of this, he tarries in long-suffering heedful of the new nature given, amid the poor earthen, and soft sin-stained, and alas! sometimes sin-sanctioning people. Though the sin-sanctioning saint's portion is " a wounded conscience, who can bear," for the grieved Spirit is a griever; and the quenched Spirit can quench all joy; and the resisted Spirit is a resister.
Compassion, and mercy, and long-suffering, are learned by us to be in God, in means to an end, whether as characterizing his taking hold of brands in the burning, and translating them from the hearth to His temple; or as marking him while not only in Egypt, but while speeding through the wilderness, amid the poor failing ones. But in His own Canaan—in the end, whether we look to the Father's house on high, or to the wide spread fields of glory and blessedness below.... will there be a need in us to which compassion, and mercy, and long-suffering can then still flow? I judge not. But the lesson as well learned then, as well taught now, of mercy, compassion, and long-suffering in God shall be known in the fixedness and fullness and power worthy of the Spirit in the presence of the glory of God and the Lamb. Feeble quivering lips, in the earthly house of this tabernacle, shall no longer lisp these sounds, in uncertain continuity, with many an interval and pause between; but he who groaned and sighed here below, once, as never mere mortal did, shall then, anointed with the oil of joy and gladness above his fellows, in the midst of the church sing praise to GOD. And who will refuse to join in that song-song of praise for the deliverance which Jehovah's Prophet, Priest, and King found, when as a poor and needy one, forsaken as a worm, and no man, he cried unto God, and was heard, Psa. 22.
Unselfish, then, without one sorrow left, the God of mercy and compassion will be our glory. There are two things one has to remember as a learner in the school of God. One is, that God, the Holy Ghost, never unteaches what Himself has taught; the other is, that by our misapprehensions of, or additions to, what He has taught, our minds are often hindered from further progress. I would avoid by any question shaking any mind as to any truth He has taught it; but I would not desire to avoid, even by questions, raising reverently in His presence the inquiry, " How far have I really apprehended in its full scope His thought upon this or that topic, the which I am persuaded He Himself has taught me?" The difference between these two things is immense. If Hezekiah had not assumed that himself had learned the lessons God was teaching, in Isa. 38, he would not have failed as he did, in chapter xxxix. Now when I get to the point of the failing subdivision in the church's history, or the history of its failing as on earth, I confess a crowd of thoughts come before my own mind; index surely of my unfitness to pretend to teach, but not with my brethren to inquire.
My remarks may be desultory, but let them be weighed,
and received or rejected as they are found when placed in the balance of the sanctuary. And, first, it seems to me, that judging by the end many minds have overlooked the differences of things which are found in the church. For instance;-if I compare Rev. 19:1-91And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God: 2For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. 3And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever. 4And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia. 5And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great. 6And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. 7Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 8And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. 9And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. (Revelation 19:1‑9), with chapter 20:1-6, I find in the one place the marriage of the Lamb, and His bride; and in the other place I find thrones and a kingdom. So in chapter 21 and 22, there is what the city is in itself; the new Jerusalem, city of our God, bride adorned for her husband, and there is the use made of it in a dispensational display from chapter 21:9, onward over the earth. Now the kingdom and the display (i.e. the second subject in both cases), is dispensational, it lasts for a thousand years, when Christ gives up the kingdom "to God, even the Father (1 Cor. 15:2424Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. (1 Corinthians 15:24)), having put all enemies under his feet... that God may be all in all." The kingdom clearly is over the earth, and as clearly God was all in all in the court of it, the new Jerusalem, at the beginning as at the end. For there the Son. has said to his Father, "Behold me and the children committed to me"-they have been in the Father's house, and heard and joined their elder brother in His song of praise in their midst: and as to the displayed glory of the city of their abode, there was no temple there (no stringent restriction on adoration), for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb (whose glory was all pervading without a veil) was the temple: the medium through which all was seen, how blessed 1 The glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb was the light thereof: the Lamb's book of life, the enrollment of its citizens, and the throne of God and the Lamb there. Not so on earth -the millennial display there had only showed the competency of the Son of man to wield power, as everything else, for God even in a scene still open to inroads of the adversary, still having unreconciled inhabitants. God could not come in there apart from offices and works, sustained still in the person of the mediator as such, and there a temple was blessing; for, if restrictive as to worship, it proclaimed the presence there of the Lord. Now I would suggest, whether at the beginning (in the Acts, say) 'there is not a double testimony of a kingdom and of truth, about a bride with a most striking difference too flowing, perhaps, out of the difference I have referred to-that the kingdom is held dispensationally only by the blessed Lord, as many other things, by which God had tried man, and found man fail in, will then be seen to be held by the Lord, and God honored by him; but that at the commencement of that kingdom in its court above, another state of things is found standing in the full fruition of redemption, and God there already all in all. The difference I suggest, further I go not, is that there was a kingdom formed among men, but that there was only the testimony of the bride delivered (by Paul). There was no bride committed to man's hand, neither was the thing put forth into man's hand; it hung on Christ as the head above. Separate members there might be, and were, but the thing itself' never was in dispensation at all, only the doctrine about it—of nothing on earth could it be said, " The bride of the Lord," as it could be said, " The kingdom." I write freely, because I write suggestively, and desire that what I write may be judged, and rejected if not sustained by Scripture. And I would just observe that there is no question, to me at least, whether the same persons may be in both-or whether the principle of faith might, of God, be placed as the spring in the heart of fellowship with both."
One more point I would advert to as being connected with what is inside of this subject; and that is, as to the ministrations of the Spirit. How far did our blessed God, in forming and recording them, so order them, as that He, in reformation or renewal of blessing, could act within the precincts of those ministrations as of Apostles, Prophets, and Evangelists, or not?
As to that which lies connected with what is on the outside, I still feel that (though this more properly comes under the question of the closing in of judgment) all the things which were found at the beginning in the scene-Jews, Gentiles, and the church of God-have to be kept before the mind as three co-existing separate bodies, while the present period lasts. And it is the losing sight (as I judge) of the divine dealings with the Jews, with the image of Daniel, and with the extern nations, as such, which has tended to confuse the minds of many as to the church. They have made separate threads of each of the three first named, so far as it got blessing from the church, and somehow or the other, dropped all the distinctively peculiar characteristics of the church, and made an anomalous fourfold cord, which has no existence in Scripture. As to the fact of the failing, my own mind has no doubt whatever, and I am only astounded to find people deny that man has forfeited altogether everything under this disposition which God had put into his band. I have sometimes feared whether some (who speak boldly enough about man's entire failure in everything always, and yet seem inclined to cavil at testimony to man's failure since Pentecost) really know what they themselves have taught, and the uncompromising holiness of God which cannot pass by sin, though he can lift the sinner above the place on which judgment is coming. I only add, that the question is not at all as to whether the obedience of faith may not realize greater blessedness, or more beauty, or more power of testimony: be it that it may, this would not undo the failure of the dispensation as such.
I have noticed these things, because they seem to me elements involved in the question, if it is fully entered into, " What constituted the forfeiture by many, of the divinely made deposit at the commencement of this period we live under?" The question clearly is not of individual salvation, but of the witness, as a whole, which God raised for Himself on earth, when Judaism ceased to be a witness. No witness which He ever set in the world was ever removed by outside adversaries, or by Himself, until it was self-betrayed. When self-betrayed, mercy might long wait ere judgment came in; but judgment in the end always came, and when the witness, or its wreck, was removed, the faithfulness of God to Himself, in his own in it, was only made the more manifest, because of the judgment of the outside-failed witness.
The witness self-betrayed, and the forfeiture of blessing apparent, not only might the obedience of faith still be acted upon by the faithful toward God, and the whole of His word of grace, but He may be found manifesting His own faithfulness amid the failure, and vindicating His name and His grace by a preserved and chosen people. Such, 1 suppose, we own and acknowledge to be the case-the door of our present mercy. The apostasy, or ruin, when perfected, is not simply the corruption of one thing. In it, I judge, will be found the ripened fruits of many evils among the Jews, Gentiles, and nominal church. I press this, because the magnitude of the common ending in wickedness (the anomalous fourfold cord referred to), if seen, will humble the heart to seek the Lord's guidance and light as to varieties of evils now present at work among us.
To what good visible thing could Luther, or did we (when we began to gather) gather. I am sure I know not. "Cease to do evil, learn to do well:" "herein do I exercise myself to have a conscience void of offense both toward God and man." These and such like words: as " to keep one's self unspotted from the world", and " Come out of her, my people, and be not partaker of her sins"; " Come out from among them, and touch not the unclean thing." Such words, I say, plowed up my soul twenty-one years ago, and forced me out I knew not whither; and the only bright thing I knew before me, was to meet the Lord. God and his holiness brake in upon my soul as the sun rising in a clear morn. It was God, though it might be God for me; and Christ in God, one whom the world, as being under Satan, had allowed no place to upon earth -that perfect One, in the presence of whose perfectness, the contrast of all that I was to Him, made me loathe myself: it was the solemnizing presence of God, though that perfectness of His Christ might have been the ground of His work on the cross for me; and though it might speak liberty of approach as being ever before God, and be the pattern to which I was predestinated to be conformed;-yet this Christ and I, how unlike now! and thus every act of real separation from, and renunciation of the world, the flesh, or Satan, became an act really of self-abasement, and of honoring of God, and the expression of personal attachment to the Lord. Abba's love and the unchanging presence of the Holy Ghost, and the sweetness of communion of saints may, since, have been tasted,-good things to which God, who knew what he was doing, knew were in store for us; blessed things though tasted in the wilderness; but so far as what one knew, in one's own mind, when one came forth, they had no place in my mind. And if we talk of gathering now, let your faith be a thousand times brighter and clearer than mine as to What and how precious God's estimate of His people is (and may it be so!); see and glory too in God in our midst; and sing, amid failure and crash around, the triumphant song of all things working together for good to them that love God; yet let me put it to your conscience, whether of a truth, as in His Presence to whom every heart is bare, you can turn your back on Egypt and your face to Canaan-the waste-howling wilderness around-God trying our hearts and teaching us to know what we are as well as who He is-the people murmuring-His presence questioned-the dance and idol-worship, and merriment presaging judgment-heresy within the camp -outside all, amid the crash and confusion of the day: and then, I say, (if indeed you realize what is due to Christ), I thank God that you can find that God'(and not yourself) " gathering to good" is the principle acted upon. To faith it surely is true; but not, as was said before, as by contrast with gathering from evil.
If these are my principles, and if, by acting upon them they once made a serene calm around, because they brought God into the scene, and if worship was then and there tasted, which man could enjoy, they are not that serene calm itself. Cause and effect are separable, as root and fruit. If my own folly, or the uninstructedness of those who owned the blessedness of the effects, without a due knowledge of the cause, or if the malice of Satan's snares to us has led God to allow my heart to be challenged as to whether I will cleave to him and give up the quietness of fellowship and worship which yesterday's honoring Him produced, I have no difficulty in seeing what is the right answer. To honor God and retain an unspotted conscience are of more worth than intercourse with good men-communion of saints I will not say, for that can never be found apart from his honor and a pure conscience, without which being maintained in the conscience of the individuals, it is mere intercourse of good men, if not confederacy; but is never to be called communion of saints. God is a better portion than any present effects which honoring Him may produce. Moreover, the calm is broken, the serenity is of yesterday; to turn back to where it is not will only be weakness. He, if honored, can, and in His own time, will return, the blessing, and greater still. Arise, this is not your rest; it is polluted.
In Israel the pillar of fire and cloud was the central point till Israel made the calf-but when Moses had pitched the tabernacle outside the camp-thither moved the pillar, and there the people who were called and obeyed the call to separate themselves unto the Lord went forth, and there they found the Lord and the mediator in converse together. Gilgal was but a repetition of this in principle; for there they had to separate themselves afresh from their own evil to the Lord by circumcision. And when in Judges, chapter 2, the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bocchim, His first word was one of rebuke, that they had lost their practical separateness from the evil of the world around them.
It may be, that while the church stood in the integrity of its primitive state, there was no such observable separableness to the individual soul of his principles as for eternity and as for time; for the God of eternity was honored by man in the position He in time had taken up; and while failure was going on, the distinction adverted to might not be so felt as it ought to be, now that the failure has been made fully manifest. And here I would observe what the Book of Judges fully establishes, that help from the Lord to a failed people always comes in a way to rebuke the failure, and make it to be seen by all, that though gracious amid failure, God is no sanctioner of the failure. Yea, the aid so comes, that you cannot get it without the admission of failure. I doubt not, that the preserved in Jesus Christ and called, of Jude's epistle, are as well the token of the failure of the whole from which they are separated, and of those that need " compassion" (verse 22); and of those that are pulled " out of the fire," as of God's faithfulness; and is not their very work one which avows failure. To those who look for numbers to their party with something that can be seen, and of weight in it, I say I would rather be among the
300 who, unlike men, lapped of the water with the tongue as a dog lappeth.... chosen of the Lord in their unconsciousness, as the deliverers of Israel, than of the 22,000, or the 9,700, who, like worshippers and men, bowed down on the knee to drink, whom the Lord sent away.
To attempt to make good, in display, the unity of the body on earth, when God has been dishonored, is really to turn back from the tabernacle of testimony outside the camp (where is the Lord, and the mediator and the avenger of his dishonor), to honor the place out of which he has been driven by the golden calf and its worship.
God is God, and will be God alone, even unto the end. Christ is the one, who in His presence is the all-governing and first object. If you have found Him, or been found of Him, abide near Him, and then the church will ever be in your sight in its right place too as dear to Him, and subject here below to the Holy Ghost. The notion of the church out of the presence of God and of Christ is Romanism; and that is not the care, or subject of care, of the Holy Ghost at all.
" Thou shalt call his name JESUS for he shall save his people from their sins." Matt. 1:11The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Matthew 1:1).
Thy name we love, Lord Jesus!
And lowly how before Thee;
And while we live,
To Thee we'll give,
All blessing, worship, glory;
We'll sing aloud thy praises,
Thy beauty 's all transcending,
For thou alone,
We worthy own,
Our hearts and voices blending.
Thy name we love, Lord Jesus;
It tells thy love unbounded,
To ruined man,
Ere time began,
Or heaven and earth were founded;
Thine was a love eternal,
That found in us a pleasure,
That brought Thee low,
To bear our woe,
And make us thine own treasure.
Thy name we love, Lord Jesus; It tells thy birth so lowly,
Thy patience, grace,
Thy gentleness,
Thy lonely path, so holy;
Thou wast the " man of sorrows,"
Our grief, too, Thou did'st bear it,
The bitter cup,
Thou drankest up;
The thorny crown,-did'st wear it.
Thy name we love, Lord Jesus;
God's Lamb-Thou wast ordained,
To bear our sin,
(Thyself so clean),
And Nast our guilt sustained;
We see Thee crowned in glory,
Above the heavens now seated,
The victory won,
Thy work well done,
Our righteousness completed.
Thy name we love, Lord Jesus;
For though thy travail's ended,
Thy tender heart
Still feels the smart,
Of those thy grace befriended.
Thy sympathy how precious!
Thou succourest in sorrow,
And bid'st us cheer,
While pilgrims here,
And haste the hopeful morrow.
Thy name we love, Lord Jesus;
* For service unremitting,
Within the veil,
To countervail,
And us for worship fitting;
Encompassed here, with failure,
Each earthly refuge fails us;
Without, within,
Beset with sin-
Thy name alone avails us.
Thy name we love, Lord Jesus;
And wait thy revelation,
In sweeter song
To join the throng,
Of the redeemed creation;
Soon shall the bright archangel
Call forth thy saints to meet thee;
Our only Lord
Alone adored,
Well then with gladness greet thee.
Thy name we love, Lord Jesus;
We long to see Thy glory,
To know as known
And fully own
Thy graces, all before Thee;
We plead thy parting promise,
" Come quickly" to release us,
And endless praise
Our souls shall raise,
For love like thine, Lord Jesus.
(* Or, query,
Each soul for worship fitting,
Within the veil
Thou dost prevail,
In service unremitting.)