Remarks on the Living God and His Church

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" House of God, which is the church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."-" If the Foundations be destroyed, what can the Righteous do?"
Brethren Beloved,-We were "turned from idols, to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven." Mark it, serve; surely subjection to, and accordance of conduct with, the mind of the party served is involved in that word " serve." And, while (blessed be His name!) He has given us in the Scripture the alone perfect standard of His will-still it is the Living God we serve. The Book guides us, or would guide us, if read and understood, not to the fulfillment merely of certain duties and things, as in our own circumstances down here; but it would lift up _our heads as serving Him, the living and true God, and waiting for His Son from heaven.
The Bible is not its own power; neither does its power Consist in its suitability merely to convict the thoughts and affections of man-for in the long night of Romanism there was the Bible; and in Protestant schools the Bible is learned by rote; and what the benefit as to salvation or obedience? None; without the power of the Spirit, through faith in Christ Jesus. Romanist and Protestant' may alike have had the oracles of God committed to them-and the one may have buried it in a napkin; and the other have exposed it to sale in the emporium of the world's merchandize. Both were the channel through which Scripture came down to the present day: they differed not as to being preservers of it, though they differed in the use made of it. The one used it as too sacred a thing for man's eye-in fact, saying God had no right to be heard in the streets of this world's city; or at best, that it was not His pleasure His word should be heard by, all. This was Satan's act. For God's title and pleasure is to speak before all men now-that which will be the ground of all men's judgment at the great white throne. And, moreover, this same word is the instrument of life to them that believe-the detector of the usurpation by Satan in God's world, and the keen test of flesh and worldliness. Still, there the word was; and whether in the Vatican, or on the shelves of the monastery, its unsoiled neglected pages, had no more tongue to speak the burden, joyous or awful, which they contained, than its soiled pages-frequented where fables of the virgin and the saints were traced upon, and illumined its once fair face-present to the eye of man what God had written.
The Reformation was not the gift by God to man of Scripture or its contents; that existed with all its suitability to man before. The Reformation was the Lord moving, in the great grace of God, by His Spirit, through the word on the conscience. The movement was from above:-neither from below, as the Romanist thought, nor from on earth, as too many of us have unbelievingly admitted. The living God gave fresh power, in vindication of His own name and grace. And the Spirit-testifying still to Jesus, Lord of all-gave its tongue and voice to the word. God was with it, in the vessels He had afore prepared for the work; and whether in quickening, throwing light upon the path to glory, and upon those that traveled in it; or convicting, and discovering Satan, with his slaves on their downward march of rebellion towards hell-it was the Holy Ghost who was the power of understanding, and proclamation, and application of the word.
It is one thing to be blessed-another to define what the blessing is, and how it comes. I believe (let others judge what I say) that Protestantism, as such, had for its distinctive peculiarity, not the preservation of the scripture (others were before it in that, and it only took, with them, its place), but what was in it distinctive-was more the recognition of the object of the divine mind in giving scripture-that he had not given a book to be wrapped up in a napkin, but given one to be read, marked, and learned as inseparably connected with His own glory and with the destinies of Satan, earth, and man; of man whether looked at corporately as Jew, Gentile, or the church of God-or individually, as one's own little self. Many Protestant axioms seem altogether wrong-thus, objectively, " The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible" (true, if used with regard to the question of a standard) is most false if it would make " the Bible its own interpreter," and shut out thereby the blessed Spirit: and again, subjectively, "the right of private judgment," which is the Protestant parent of the Nonconformist'` liberty of conscience," is not true. Parent and child are both spotted with spots of self-will and human right. Now, I say, I know of no right I have as a private individual, save to a place in hell-fire-no liberty, as such, save to go thither. I do not mean to condemn those who, in their inaccuracy, may use these phrases to express better things-' but they are bad raiment good as the things meant to be clothed in them may be-" God is pleased and has a right to speak, and man is bound, at the peril of damnation or (if already saved, of) favor, to listen," is the more correct wording of the thought meant to be conveyed.
Scripture in hand-diligent in study-what is my safeguard as to understanding it? My own competency? Its suitability to what is in me and around, which is most divinely true? 0 no. For if it were so I should, instead a the sincere milk of the word, find in its best parts gall. As no one knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of a man which is in him, so no man knoweth the things of God save the Spirit of God. Let man humbly take the place of subjection, and God will not deny Him- self-the Spirit never fails to honor the Lord Jesus; and it is written,. If any man will do His will, He shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God. Blessed ground this for one's soul to rest upon in contrast with the neologian or infidel ground of human competency and human diligence. To the spirit of obedience and subjection all is sure.
One thing more I would advert to here, and that is, that obedience to the word is sometimes made (where the presence of the Spirit and the objective presence of God as the one, served are not seen) something rather which separates us from God than unites us in living fellowship, with him; and something, too, which limits obedience.
Many look merely at the letter of the word, and see a quantity of things to be done and to be abstained from; and they go to work truthfully; but they will find that the task rather leads them into their circumstances than to God, and that there are in their circumstances a thousand things daily to which they can apply, no " It is written" as their clue; besides the ten thousand things in which they equally need direction as to the when, how, where, how far, etc., the word applies. A common solution has been of this difficulty, when felt, to bring in either expediency or the habits of saints around us. The true solution is, " to serve in the spirit, not in the letter;" and instead of " doing many things," "to serve the living and true God." " I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way thou shalt go; I will guide thee with mine eye," is not a promise which presents the mariner looking at his chart merely, conversant it may be with the exact position of his vessel and everything else about her, but puts the soul saved by grace before God as walking under his immediate guidance. Now this is what I understand by serving the living and true God. I am a son of Him who is not only Abba, but God likewise, whose actions and whose claims are connected not only with redemption, but providence also; and I need a present guidance from Him who, above the pit where I may be, knows what he is about to do as well as what his word directs. Now if I limit my obedience to the letter of the word, and I walk not with Him as a son that serves Him as the living God, I find that-good as this is, so far as it goes-in fixed circumstances of domestic or ecclesiastical nature, there are ten thousand things daily in which I am either perplexed or have to guess at his will or else to take my own; for expediency and the saints' will around me is too far steeped in worldliness to be accepted as a guide. And if so while in fixed circumstances as a private individual, how much more when all is afloat, and when, as a converted Jew or Roman Catholic, I have, for the Lord's sake, been cast out of all my domestic circumstances; or when amid the wreck of what the world calls the church, which has lost its landmarks, swept away in the rising deluge of infidelity:' or if I as an evangelist have to go where the Lord is willing to work, or as a pastor have to see the bearing of his mind upon the souls of others. Who is sufficient for these things? The living God will guide His servant. And moreover to serve in the letter is both the destruction of our affection as sons, and an entire disparagement to his grace who, as the Father has said, " Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God. Beloved, now are we the sons of GOD." What grace to set us thus with Him that has called us brethren It is not sobriety, as a Christian, to overlook or to deny the present direct guidance, by the Lord, through His spirit, of His disciples, as being something over and above the written word: slow as we may be to understand it. To do so, is really to shut God out of the conscience.
But now-as to the point with which I set out-We were, beloved brethren, "turned from dumb idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven."
To serve Him as individuals most surely has each of us been called:-but still we are looked at as a group; WE. And every title of Him whom we serve, every blessing we enjoy at His hand, our redemption, privileges, hopes-all remind us of a fellowship with others equally called as ourselves to serve Him. The little flock looked at as the kingdom, or as "the Church which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all," may present fellowship in. different aspects and of various kinds,- yet every title presents fellowship. And poor indeed must his thoughts of the Divine Word be, who, in serving the living and true God, has not, in measure at least, realized the wondrous truth of the unity of the Church as a whole. It is not my thought to enter upon that question, "What is the Church?" now: blessed as the subject is! Neither would. I attempt here to examine how far that which is gathered on the earth as such, and boasts of being such, really has the Divine sanction. My subject is narrower far, viz.: How individuals serving the living and true God are to associate together?
Fellowship of saints one with the other, while in the wilderness, is surely looked at in the word, as a means to an end-not an end itself-refreshing as it was to God and the Father, to the Lord Jesus and the Church, while she stood normally in dispensational perfectness; or as it is realized in its heavenly and eternal connections. As in dispensation, man has failed as to the deposit entrusted to him at Pentecost, as much as in every other previous deposit. But as every dispensational deposit which failed in fallen man's hand will be displayed in abiding power around Christ in the day of His glory, so also will Christ make good in his day a kingdom among his heavenly brethren. And though man may have failed, and has failed, in the second great truth, so far as realizing what it is to be and to live as part of the chaste Virgin espoused to Christ-the spring and security of this blessing never rested in our hands; it hung on Christ-Head of the body the Church-members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. In glory He will present the Bride to Himself (an expression indicative of His own power), a glorious Church, perfect in all its parts. Part of that Bride are we, and precious as our place is as such (because we are only a part and not the whole), it can not be an end, for the whole, in Glory, is the end,-so far as being the body of Christ is an end: perfect means it is, perfect expression of His ineffable grace; but nothing short of the Church as a whole is this. We need to remember this for our present blessing, and more than for our blessing-for if we forget it and rest in present fellowship as an end, or as if having attained it we have reached our goal, we are not like-minded with Christ, and the manna gathered in our vessels will breed worms and stink. I do believe many of us have confession to make on this score-I am sure we have. The sweet comfort through the Spirit's power of the Lord's company with a few of us in the way, has made us, like some of old, constrain Him to continue the refreshment all night; but with the attempt at rest the sense of His presence fled. And our souls had to return through the night, whence we should not have wandered, and in search of our whole company.-Luke 24:28-3328And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. 29But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. 30And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. 31And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. 32And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? 33And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, (Luke 24:28‑33).
Alas! it is worse, when not merely from want of faith we thus wander; but when in pride of heart (Himself absent, unmourned) a little company (fiction of our own minds!) is gloried in. Surely, they who say, or think, " The temple of the Lord are we"- must see their idol pulled to pieces, if the Lord come in spiritual power now; as they would if He came in person on the clouds.
The importance of the question of the principles involved in gathering is immense; because it really involves the whole question of the Church as a whole, and therein, of the grace of Christ. To ourselves, also, there is involved the question of the present pleasing or dishonoring of Christ, in our act of association with others. For one, I cannot consent to let our conduct say "Christ has and is to have no church."
A strange thought in some minds, that ecclesiastical ground cannot be held by the Saint now, but only the ground of the family. Now, if on the ground of the ruin of the Church (as some speak), I deny the competency of any to re-organize or to ordain; much more, upon the same ground do I deny the competency of any to set up a new thing, something different from what Scripture presents, as having been at the commencement what was set up. To give new scriptures, or add out of one's own heart to those given, is not less evil than to assume we have powers which once existed, but now are not. Scripture remains to the end, the alone perfect standard. The obedience of faith will find its path with the Living God as much now as ever, wrecked as all around may be. If I could not have Scripture communion, I would not dare have any.)
What is the Church of Christ-with which the Spirit is? is one question; and How is she bound to act in the gathering together for worship? is another question. The Spirit is with the Church as a whole, from the Pentecost to the rapture; consequently, He is with each part of it in the successive displays of its parts in every age, from Pentecost to the rapture. And when the Church, or any of its parts, meets as the Church, it must be in such a way as to own the Lordship of Jesus its head, and the presence of His Spirit with it. I speak not now of the teaching or preaching of the Gospel, though of course therein also, without the Spirit's witness to Jesus in those that speak and in those that hear, there will be no blessing; but I speak of saints met as the Church.
A Christian is one whom God has separated to himself from an evil world; having snatched him from Satan and delivered him from the judgment due to the flesh. It is the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, once dead, but now alive again in the glory of the Father, by, which the deliverance was accomplished; and it is by the Spirit, acting through the testimony of the gospel, that the new nature has been given to him, and the anointing or christening. The Church is the company of such; which is gathered in the name of the Lord Jesus, while He, rejected on earth, sits as the Son upon His Father's throne.
To the individual then the distinctive characteristic of salvation is separation from everything naturally in and around us,-to the church, it is a separation twice told, fox, while the individual can learn his own separation from coming doom, apart from the knowledge of the corporate glory, it is in the church's glory with Christ,- as the Heavenly Son of Man, that the positive blessedness of he separate glory, reserved for Him and her alone, is known.
It is not so much as to the difficulties of individual walk with God, that my soul groans or gets searched. His shepherd's love leads, along (how gently!) restoring the soul, and leading in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. But what is the Lord doing now in England-in Europe? Partly by testimony of the word, energized by the Spirit, and partly by providential actings, which no understanding of the prophetic word, apart from instruction from the living God, can read aright, He is developing, as I judge, on earth, in living men, the church's principles and the world's. Now, when I have looked at " What is," say in England, " ecclesiastical," and thought, What, if the Lord really is gathering out His saints to be ready to meet Him, can it be that this can be accomplished without the overturning of much and the snapping of many tender ties of kindly intercourse. The Lord is worthy; and if he please to do it, I would not, if I could, say Him nay.
The living God seems to me to be distinctly forcing out into relief the two questions, What is the church? What is the world? in grace to His own people. Vindicating, it may be, the divine honor, in the midst of human failure.
The Church and the World.-Into the Testimony of Scripture Upon These Two Grand Points, I Would Desire at Some Future Time to Enter. at Present, Writing More Immediately With Practice in View, I Desire to Say a Few Words Only With Regard to Some Things Connected With Their Entire Contrasts the One to the Other, and the Perfect Impossibility of an Amalgamation of Them. the Solemnity of the Topic Is Great, As Thus Looked at in Connection With the Present Actings of Divine Power-With the Question How Far Are We Intelligent in Mind and Zealous in Heart to Leave All and Follow in. His Wake-and With the Deep Personal Interest One Has; for When God Is Separating, One Is Sure to Find Oneself Set Either With the World or With His Church, According As the Principles We Are Acting Upon Are to His Mind, Not Ours, Either Those of the World or Those of the Church.
And now, as to the question, How can His saints gather, so as to be owned by Him therein? The question is one which has its real answer in the present application, through divine power of redemption, to living souls: still the word gives us its testimony hereon. Let us look to this then.
" Where Two or Three Are Gathered Together in My Name-There Am I in the Midst of Them."
These are the words of the charter of our meetings together. It is not simply that Christians chance to meet together; but they " are gathered-apart-and in his name." The presence of the Lord, in the sense referred to above, is not promised in this verse apart from the question of object of gathering, and power by which, gathered; and holiness characterizes both.
If they that fear the Lord speak often, in the evil day, one to the other-much more will innate life surely draw those that have it together. But something more than this is referred to here: -In His name, marks OBJECT; and gathered together, marks POWER: and the place is HOLY. The accidental meeting of any number of godly Christians, then, for a benevolent purpose, would not have the blessing promised; neither would a meeting which was religious in its object, but produced by any accident (as the want of a teacher), though it might be only of dear simple Christians as such; neither is the meeting of saints merely from brotherly love all that is referred to. " By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one toward another.... we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.... he that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten," etc., are passages which show that, as in this world like loveth like, so there is a natural congruity and affinity in the children of God one toward the other. But, besides these spiritual, heavenly affinities, we have to consider the mode and way in which the living God acts upon them, to form the church for the fellowship of Christ's, sufferings now, as hereafter of his glory.
For communion of saints may be looked at subjectively, or objectively.
Many portions are there which look' at the communion of saints subjectively, according to what is in the saints, and their circumstances-but this looks at it objectively, according to the power, and objects, and presence of God in accomplishing the intercourse-His working through the life given.
" He prophesied that Jesus should die that he should gather together in one, the children of God which were scattered abroad." The Lord Jesus will present the church to himself-" a glorious church, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" hereafter, in fulfillment of this promise. His deed, that will be, whether working upon them that sleep, or upon us that are alive and remain to His coming-His innate power alone, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself, will accomplish that. In that hour no vile flesh shall remain, for he shall have changed our vile bodies, and fashioned them like unto his own glorious body;-and, gathered round Himself, the scene shall be laid in courts where Satan or his angels cannot come;-distinct and separate from the world, not only in its present moral evil (of joy without God), but above the world as to locality, in the heaven- lies. Here the object, the motive power, and characteristic separateness will be plain enough. Is this blessed truth merely in prospect before us-a matter of hope? It is so, surely: but it is ours also now, as having the earnest of the Spirit: so that (looking up to where the Lord Jesus now is) the Holy Ghost gives to our souls, as individuals, the present taste and enjoyment of these things. For the same Jesus, who, on the cross, cried "It is finished" -as to the work of atonement, has this double glory his; now, Quickener of the soul,-and hereafter, Quickener of the body. And the same Spirit, who, in that day, will be in the church complete in glory, is now, by his testimony to the person of Him who is the center of all God's counsels, is now, I say, forming and gathering together in the wilderness, in the name of Jesus, those who shall be in the glory.
And here, the same object, motive power, and characteristic separateness are seen, though the moral is left in weakness now, as hereafter it shall be innate with power in glory. And it is this, really, by which the character of a Christian, as an individual is formed. " Member of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones... one spirit with the Lord":-and this, now true, gives me my individuality of blessing, and my church position as on earth. I am a member in particular-a member of Christ. Who can interfere between me and Christ? He has a body; and He, or His many members, can neither do without me, nor I without Him, or them;-but still, it is simply as members of Christ that the subordinate members want the one the other. Until, as a whole, it is perfected in glory-the church militant, through grace, realizes, in its displayed parts, now, this blessedness-though it be in a Satan-usurped world, in bodies of sin and death. Now, this puts, to my mind at least, very simply, the proper answer to many a question of our own day. For that which does not answer to this description, is not Christ's church-let its pretensions be ever so accredited, or its claims ever so high.
Are you not a member of Christ's body-one spirit with the Lord? Then you are no member of the Church. You may be a member of Christ's body and through ignorance not know it, and then you cannot confess Him as the One whose you are and whom you serve; but if you really are not a member of Christ, why, you are not a member of Christ, and no part of the Church, which is His body, " the fullness of Him that filleth all in all"-the object, and power, and separation, come in here also. Afloat on the ocean, of perdition is he that knows them not-blessed with everlasting blessing the soul which is subjected to them. And if you are that in yourself, and yet are associated in fellowship with that which is professedly not so, then your fellowship here is not with the Church of Christ at all; and your ecclesiastical circumstances and your soul will, if there be liveliness of faith, be in conflict: and the same will be the case if those with whom you are gathered are Christian, and yet not gathered in the name of Christ, and by His Spirit. The individual and the body corporate should have identity in object, in power, and in separateness.
And here remark, that all and everything, the allowance of which would be a denial of this, must be ejected, or the FOUNDATION of the Church is denied. This is often questioned; but really it is too simple a thing to admit that any society has power to neutralize the conditions or terms of its own being, and still exist as the same thing. And be it remembered, to us, now, since the day of Pentecost the foundations of individual salvation and of the Church as a body, are not really separable. The thought involves in the particular case, a very wicked assumption of a power not possessed-for the Church is not a self-formed society, neither has power over itself, as we shall see-and it is morally and intellectually foolish. But there is no need to argue the case, for what God does not count His, none can make His•' and all the meaning which there is in the assertion of being a part of Christ's Church, when the elementary principles of His Church and His mind have been denied, is simply this, -we are deceiving ourselves.
I would say a few words on the application of this in detail.' And first, as to doctrine or truth. My corporate worship is the result of a common apprehension, by the Spirit, of the Father's grace through the Son -but I have it, first in my own soul as connected with individual salvation-and if the doctrine of Father, Son, or Holy Ghost is touched, not only is the ground of communion destroyed, but my individual salvation is called in question. Am I a saved man then? It is this which makes so sad the calmness with which one sees some either handle rudely, or bear quietly and unmovedly, assaults upon these foundations. I never can help thinking, Does he know he has a soul to be saved? If any one asked me to join in prayer or praise I should count myself happy of the occasion; but if, as we kneeled down, he said, " But remember, you must not use any expression which recognizes Jesus as the Eternal Son, or His perfect purity as man, if you would not grieve me." Could I pray with that man? He has destroyed the ground on which we were about to meet; and I could as soon kneel upon an imaginary line of air, six inches from the floor, as really unite with that man. We might kneel together, but there would, there could, be no prayer in common. Or, again, if he said, " But remember, I do not believe the Holy Ghost to be God Himself"-could I pray with that man? He has neutralized the power of my competency to join with him more than if he bid me pray aloud in perfect silence; and the same if he said, " But remember, I do not own God, even the Father, as the source." Soul-sickness and revulsion, and sorrowful pity-and not fellowship in the expression of dependence to Abba would, on my part, be the real character of our relationship one to the other. I am not supposing a case of mere puzzledness of mind, nor of one who, in addition to his own soul-sick state, was trying to spread the error as an open heretic, but of one who in decision of judgment, yet candid (though self-preserving) confidence, so spoke, or who was assuredly known to myself so to think. I have no fellowship with such a one, and, please God, I will not so sin against his soul or Christ, as to deceive him as though I had. Moreover, his statement not only dishonors God and discredits himself, but rouses my soul in indignation, by its value for its own foundations in the grace of God. The same might be said where any foundation-doctrine, not connected with the person only, but with any of the works of the Lord, or of redemption, was concerned.
But if true of one's soul in its individuality, how much more are these things true of the Church as such. Time was, and time will be, when, to a quickened soul, the revelation of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost was and will not be the name taught on earth. To patriarchs and to Jews other names of divine glory presented the correlative of their position, and so it will be hereafter. But the very being of the Church is inseparably connected with this name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Ere that name was revealed, the Church was never spoken of; and when hereafter other names of God give in various places their distinctively peculiar glories, the Church will have her fair and proper scene in courts above, with the Son, in the house of the Father-itself the body, in which there is to the Spirit, as I judge, a most peculiar place. Look at the recorded origin in the divine genealogy of the Church, and you will find the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost peculiarly involved; Father, Son, and Holy Ghost together and severally there. Look at the wondrous development of the plan:- at the formation-at the Being—fortunes—destiny—hopes of the Church-and say whether the personality or distinctive peculiarities connected with Father Son, or Holy Ghost could be touched, and the Church not destroyed.
So far as to the truth of the God with whom we have to do, into whose family, as sons and daughters, each of us is brought.
But the mode in which we are blessed involves a good deal likewise as to what is lower than this, viz.-what is in, around, and against us-as the flesh, the world, and Satan.
Let us look at these, Satan, whether I am looked at as an individual or as a member of Christ's body, Satan and I have the same relative position. To bear with his assaults and resist him in every way, with the word of our testimony and the blood of the Lamb—one knows that one is called to. Can I as an individual be at peace with him? Surely not; but what if it were proposed by any company to make a compact with him, or to allow him the place of government, which in the Church belongs to the Lord alone, am I to submit to this? And when I have done my all to prevent it, if others will, must I, would I dare to remain? What! a devil owned for direction, as in Irvingism, instead of the Holy Ghost? Not I most surely! God helping me. What fellowship has Christ with Belial? The question is not, Are those thus beguiled Christian or not? But has a false spirit, a devil, had the Holy Ghost's place allowed to him by them? If he has, come out from among them, and touch not the unclean thing: and come with the more zeal, according as you believe those left are Christians; it is your best hope of saving them-to get out thence whence prayer will not ascend-where, if you stay, you cannot help them. How strongly does John 16 show that the Church's very being is the testimony of Satan being conquered-" Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged." Inside the fold of Christ he has no allowed place.
A deliberate sanction of worldliness would be just the same. " We are not of the world, as Christ is not of the world;" and " He gave himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father." The church was left to be a widow till her lord's return; and the widow that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. The contrast of this is, " I sit as a queen and shall see no sorrow." It may require much self-judgment, and most surely will require direct guidance from the Lord Jesus Christ himself ere we can tell correctly, either as to ourselves or others, how far this or that thing of the world is as the withered leaf of the by-gone year, which will, if left alone, drop off of itself when the fresh sap flows, or as the spring bud of the new year about to develop itself; but the Lord Jesus Christ has his eyes of fire still, and in holiness He does discern, and while His gentleness will surely be shown in guiding aright those that will do His will, the individual soul which has no power by which to discern the world (little as any of us know how to use what discernment we have) is not a
Christian at all; nor is the body, which has no power to judge of robes defiled by the world, the church of Christ, or owned as such by Him. Who can read John of the Ephesians, etc., and not see that the very being 17 or church is the emphatic testimony of this world's rejection and the introduction of a better one to come.
Emphatically we start as Christians with an end of the flesh (our flesh) through the death of Christ, and with a commencement of the spirit (His spirit) in ascension. Whether freedom from the lot of Adam the first, or standing, privilege, hope, calling or walk, are concerned; see Rom. 6 vii. viii. And, as in his body, one spirit with the Lord is our blessing. Flesh is flesh, whether it be trained in the court, sensitive, pathetic, delicate; or wild in the wood, rough, rude and grasping. And flesh is not to be owned or allowed in the church. How hard to walk in the power of the cross daily. How compassionate the Lord amid our failures! But, as a matter of principle, flesh is judged in the individuality of the Christian's standing, and in the body in which he has His position, and clearly it must be put down. The law was a system which measured man; but by the gospel is I measured into the church (the end of flesh having been found in the cross). " All spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus."
I would repeat here, too, a thought which (common, I conceive, in Protestant Luther's day) is too much forgotten now. As, "no hurdle, no fold," so, "no discipline, no church." And this may be seen as a point at which the common adversary is driving in many ways. Where the spirit of the Lord is, there must be judgment and discipline, as we see in 1 Cor. 11 by the individual, or the body, or the Lord. And the fact that there is no such judgment exercised here or there, in what may call itself by the name of the Lord, only shows that he does not own it as His. Discipline which goes upon that which is common to the church as a whole, bringing it to bear upon the individual, is surely not sectarianism.
If the table of the Lord does receive one saying "I desire to break bread because the Lord has enjoined it to His disciples, and I am one"-it is quite clear that the last clause, "and I am a disciple," would be the ground of future conduct or discipline.
If theoretically one did not see that discipleship is in the word much more a matter of subjection to certain influences from above, and has more to do with a nature, objects; motives, positions, hopes, &c., than, with the adoption of any set of notions; yet surely we have seen practically, that so it is. A Jew, a Turk, a Socinian, a Romanist, etc., etc., if each were being drawn by the Spirit to God, through Christ, would find a sympathy the one with the other, and more than this, if they compared motives, objects, hopes, etc., they would feel that there was in them what corresponded. I say not that at first they would be able to rise so far above themselves as to see either the common power above, or the common portion within, to do that correctly might require either much power of the Spirit, or gift.
It is evident enough a man may get into a place upon the ground which is the opposite of that upon which he remains there. I was taken into the favor and peace of God upon the alone grounds of mercy in Him, and sin in me. My remaining in favor and peace are upon very different grounds, viz.: holiness in Him, and a new nature, through grace given to me. Save Christ, none but those who were sinners will be in glory; but no sin shall be there, nor murderer, nor liar, etc., nor anything that defileth. The cross, if the expression of pity to the sinner, damns his sins; it is simple faith, as being a poor sinner, in the Lord Jesus alone Which gives salvation and Church membership. But this is not without the Holy Spirit, and it gives a new nature. And if grace save him, does grace destroy itself in so doing? Has the Father's heart and house no appeal to him, no lesson to teach beyond this,-" Thou shalt not die." Is Christ not a living person, who drew' him and to whom he is drawn? Is he merely the Quickener of dead souls-in his title of Second Adam, Life-giving Spirit? Is he not also the Changer into His own image, from glory to glory-the Judge of works (where we fail to judge), as well as the Shepherd and Bishop of Souls-and is not the Church the House of God, "the habitation of God through the Spirit."
Some walking in the flesh would make the scriptural directions for us into a sort of "Act of uniformity"; others again, would so far hinder their having force (on the ground, either of the church's ruin, or of their own uninstructedness) as to state that every one may do that which is right in his own eyes, provided he is honest. Both these are wrong, and lead to lawlessness.
If you ask what is the guide in discipline, I answer:-Christ's honor; and the science of the Divine nature in man (2 Peter).
Now, while scriptures contain the theory of this, they are neither their own power, nor the intelligence by which they are understood. And they teach us that living souls on earth have a living Shepherd in heaven, one who is the fountain and sustainer of life. Directly you begin to deal with the soul of a saint, you get to that which Christ is keeping and training; and unless you are guided to act in unison with Him, you cannot see what ought to be done. This is a solemn truth, as also that in 1 Cor. 11, that the conduct of the individual Christian, of the saints collectively, and of the Lord, are all linked together.
Practical holiness may not be trampled under foot. Chief of sinners as I am, yet, saved through grace, I would rather walk to the end of days alone, than be the manifest sanctioner of sin. If I fail, let me confess; if not, let the saints judge me; and, if not, may God in His mercy not say, "Let him alone." Let God have glory, even in my failures, by confession, and let Satan have the blame, why should I carry it. Such a union is Romanism in its worst features; and be it remembered, that a work of the flesh like fornication, is not worse than spiritual wickedness-than filthiness of the spirit. Some sins are sins in the very nature ' of things-as lying. God cannot lie; Satan is the father of lies. Some things would be sin at one time and not sin at another. To kill a man, when divinely commanded to do so, was not murder.
And, moreover, the word of the Lord is plain: discipline in the Church, even to exclusion, goes upon the ground, not that a man is not, but is a Christian-delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh-that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
The delusion referred to would make the table the place where God was dishonored in the worst form: it separates between Christ and the Holy Ghost entirely; and lends the sanction of the Lord's name on earth to every evil thing.)
I have not spoken, and do not propose doing so now, upon the question of daily separating the daily growth of evil, and of the training and purging of one's soul and those of others from the daily defilements of the world. But only of such an allowance and sanction to elements of evil-in the world, the flesh, and the devil; whose judgments are presupposed in the church's very existence. As to the other, I would only remark, what was spoken of at the commencement, that the personal presence of the Lord and our walking with Him as a living person, will be found of paramount importance in this; because, having the mind of Christ, as a matter of privilege, it is alone by communion with Himself that we get the proper understanding of His thoughts, affections, and desires. And sure I am that the soul which knows and lives in his presence, will neither allow evil in itself nor in others around it, whom it will see and know as in His presence, one with Him and it, and whom it will suppose to be sharing with it the sympathies, thoughts, and affections of its risen Lord. Preposterous is the thought of sustaining communion with the Lord in allowed evil in any form round about us. It cannot be. In the light of Him, risen and returning, every spot will be detected. We know Him who has said, and every man that " hath this hope in him, purifieth himself even as He is pure."
Is the house of the Lord-the family of God, the habitation of God through the Spirit-to sanction evil in doctrine, morals or practice, which no individual Christian as such would dare to do?
And, note here, that the church is called to " walk worthy of the Lord unto all well-pleasing." It is not merely morality, but spirituality of walk. " Ye walk as men" was Paul's rebuke-not bad men; but, as men. The saint, as partaker of the divine nature, most surely has his tastes, and perceptions, and inward assurances, which, while accordant to the word, will often take the lead in guidance; and which cannot may not be neglected or despised, if he would have a conscience void of offense. A mere servant can measure his doings by the written compact; but a son has the honor of the Father and His family upon his heart. Moreover, as having the mind of Christ, and serving the living and true God, guided by His Spirit,-it is not evidences, such as the carnal natural mind can weigh, which alone weigh with him. My soul may be assured that God is moving, or removing, in a way of which no evidence tangible to sense can be found. Surely I am responsible to walk in that way.
Where is the spiritual wisdom in saying " God is evidently in much power among that gathering of saints-but, I wait for an evidence, such as I could show to man, ere joining myself to them;" or again, "God has gone out from the midst of that people, or they are utterly given up by God;" and yet, to say " I remain with them till I have an evidence of this, I can show to others." Nothing could lower the grace in which we stand more than this. For, in the abstract principle of such a thought, either redemption is not upon a higher ground than creation; or else, at best, the renewed nature is all which it recognizes, and God himself is shut out as the origin, sustainer, and end of that nature. Surely if any such awful conviction were justified-if justified in saying such a word of any gathering-some action is incumbent upon me. The distinctive characteristic of faith, as seen in James 2, is, that it is energetic.
God does not require me to convince the conscience of others, though he may require me to testify to them. He knows I cannot give conscience to any, though bound to keep my own unspotted.
The. Church is a habitation of God through the Spirit. Alas, for me, if I adhere to the place where He is not, upon the foolish thought, that what is called by me, or man, the church, must have the Spirit-there will be no fruit therein. It is Romanism. And, while sad, indeed, the thought of turning one's back upon any company where He is, assuredly I am bound to expect, and to realize, that His presence, in sustainment and government is there, where I go-and to cease going where he is not. Let all human weaknesses be allowed for in me and in others, still God is God; and the soul that has known the realizings of faith in conversion, can, and will, in humbleness, know the self-same testimony to it, of the reality of the presence of the Holy Ghost, when it finds itself in that which the Lord Jesus owns, as corporately part of God's church in the wilderness.
For the Bride-chosen companion of the Lord, is the one, whose hope is the Bridegroom's self-and Him alone. O for more understanding of the wondrous grace in Him, who now condescends to open his heart and mind to the chaste virgin that is espoused to Him. We are for Himself, and He is for us-as those wonderful words, "Bridegroom" and "Bride" teach. What grace has our God, to have such a title and such a glad honor for His Son, and for us. Both titles tell of joy-His speaks of power; hers, of beauty. But they answer the one to the other, as none other of our correlative titles do; and the savor of either one is more peculiarly for the other; and the other, more immediately only. Be the company in whose presence they shall be seen divine, as the Father's whose house is theirs; or below them both, as of angels; or of the world, seeing His love making the display that she is loved even as He is loved-still they have a joy in one another's love. Each needs the other; and both are perfected alone, when together. What means that title, "Bridegroom" without a Bride? or who is the Bride apart from the Bridegroom? What joy such as of the Bridegroom and the Bride? What glory, brighter witness, either of the worthiness of the Lamb, whose wife she is-or of the rich, divine grace of the Father's heart. May we remember whose we are, and serve him with a whole heart.
P.S. Let the children of God weigh this paper. The writer prays-that wherein it is defective (much more, if in any matter it is wrong) in PRINCIPLE or unguarded in STATEMENT,-they may detect and object; and only receive what is of the Lord. Of the general value and correctness he has no doubt whatsoever in his own mind.
The Headship of Jesus to His church, and his being Lord of all, closely connected as they are, are quite distinguishable. The distinction hangs upon the difference, not of "relative positions," so much as of "subsisting relationships."
The saint knows his headship now, as a member of the body of which Christ is head, and as a servant in the kingdom in which He is Lord. This paper, though in principle applying to both, treats more of the former than of the latter. I notice this, because "profession and responsibility arising thence" are little treated of here, as more pertaining to the kingdom. Moreover, my object being to keep the elements of first principles, and their development before the mind,-I have intentionally avoided entering into any details of properties connected with these elements. What I mean is this, God separates me to Himself from the world, the flesh, and the devil. This is my subject. Whenever He acts, he acts worthily of himself; this gives what characterizes his acts. In redemption, how richly does the savor and fragrance of it fill all things, and rest upon the saint. This, though most precious, is not my subject, and is therefore little entered upon.