Considerations on the character of the religious movement of the day and on the truths by which the Holy Ghost acts for the good of the church.

J. N. Darby.

Geneva, 1849.

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That there is a universal movement on the subject of the position of the Church of God - a movement which breaks many bonds, and upsets many notions is a plain fact. The world itself is occupied with it. The ties which unite to the State the bodies commonly called churches are waxing old with the forms of society whence they originated. The ivy falls with the crumbling edifice.

In all this the Christian is called to separate the good from the evil. All these movements are connected with the innovations which have taken place in the old social state of Europe - with the revolutions, which have destroyed respect (or rather, which manifest the destruction of respect) for the traditions of their forefathers - respect which sustained at once the social state and the religion of the country. Although formerly some objections were raised against such and such details, men felt, nevertheless, that the country and church of their ancestors were at stake. The fact that a thing is ancient no longer suffices to insure respect for it.

The Scotch movement had this character no less than the others, though in a less evident manner. It shared the softened character of the social revolution in Great Britain; but it was not the less a popular movement counter to aristocratic influence.*

{*An influence which now withdraws more than ever from Presbyterianism, and more than ever attaches itself to the Episcopal system, as in England to Puseyism.}

The other free churches have evidently originated in the political troubles of the countries to which they belong.

Was there then no movement of conscience in that which produced the Free Church of Scotland? Assuredly there was. The question of patronage had agitated Scotland for a century at least. In other countries the consciences of a great number of persons, ministers or laymen, had been burdened by the mixture of the world and the Church, or driven to separation by other reasons: but these difficulties had never produced free churches. Conscience acted individually. Some understood one another perhaps, and acted in concert. A secession was formed - a separation, a school of theology, or the like. Individual conscience, and a certain spiritual activity, delivered from the yoke, found free course; but the national body, as yet intact, persevered in judging this as an irregularity, and sometimes persecuted it.

82 Matters no longer rest there. All is debated. The ties which bound up the whole in one bundle are unloosed. The notion of liberty has weakened the rights of the Church which the state supported. It is no more solely the conscience of spiritual men who, by faith, open for themselves a road in the face of personal difficulties created by associations which they respect. A principle is laid down, as the sole religious principle that maintains the rights of the conscience and of Christ, and, as such, declares itself entitled to occupy the theatre of the world. The providence of God is prominent therein. This is an important consideration for faith and conscience. People desire the Church to be formed according to Christ. Men, long dogged in their consciences, and pushed forward now by providential circumstances, are seen to shake off the yoke of an alien influence, and to act with faith, in the design of forming a church which answers to the wants of the times, such as they understand them, and to the ideas they have got of what the Church ought to be.

2. Here an important question arises. Is it the duty of all to join this? Is it in this path the Spirit of God leads the Christian?

The heart welcomes the faith and faithfulness to conscience which are found there. Yet brethren, who, for years, have walked outside the religious world, should not, as regards their own position, have need to think of this. For years they have taken a position, and they believe it to be in conformity with true intelligence of the word. While all was quiet, they studied this word; and God shewed them, they are convinced, the path which they must follow. There they have found the blessing and approval of God, while experiencing their weakness and all sorts of infirmities which accompanied their little faith; but seeing so much more, in the midst of all this, how God protected the work, and, poor as it was, acted by it on the conscience of His own, and for the conversion of sinners. They have even foreseen all the convulsion which unexpectedly came to pass, so that it neither surprised nor alarmed them. Partakers of a kingdom which cannot be moved, they awaited, in peace and with joy, the coming of Jesus. The revolutions which have taken place confirmed them in their convictions and thoughts without shaking their confidence and joy. The shelter of a faith which explains all these things, and understands so much the better that nothing it possesses is thereby touched, is a position which spares them the excitement which overpowers men preoccupied by the circumstances of the moment, and makes the state and duties of the Church hinge, in their eyes, upon the movements of the world, where peace is ardently sought, because it nowhere exists, and where it will be sought in vain by those who desire it here below, till the Prince of Peace come to establish it; though God may, for a time, restrain the billows. The brethren, of whom I speak, I repeat, find more motives than ever for peace, and a retired, quiet walk in the road marked out for them. A secure shelter is so much the more prized when the storm bursts, though nothing be changed in the shelter itself, and even because it is not changed. For them their path - painful for faith at the beginning, but now staked off with so many blessings - has more charms, more attractions than ever; they have more motives than ever for following it.

83 If men stopped there, all would be simple. "Stand still" is all that there would remain to be said. "Abide in the path where the tokens of a God of goodness recur to you, and where the goodness of a God who directs you, has set you; a path you have found in the word, found in peace, and yet with a heart burthened with grief for the Church, in the midst of the contempt of brethren who then boasted in a position which now they decry with equal energy - of brethren who find the sole bond of union in that wherein they only saw schism some few days ago. Why busy yourselves with aught else than faithfulness to that which God has taught you?"

But here are some considerations which others present to us.

"The difficulties of the times are great."

"True; but faith strengthened in a path that is known, is not afraid before them, like those who, just departing from a system in which they have lived, find everything new to their individual faith, and feel themselves, at the same time, called to found a system."

84 "But (say you) the difficulties are great." Unity is cried up as the only means of strength against the rising billows. "It is a duty. You ought to think of the whole Church, and not merely of your own peculiar peace. If you do not, you cannot be blessed. Let us be unitedly one, for the good and strength of all."

I answer to this, that, as the only means of strength, unity does not inspire me with unreserved confidence. I fear somewhat that, clothing itself withal with the character of the desire of unity, it is a want of faith with regard to the Head which seeks so strongly the support of the members. The conscience of our brethren has long felt the evil; but the importance in their eyes of those who shared in the same system themselves, but who had no strength from Christ the Head of His house, hindered them from separating from them. This subsists still in their minds. These brethren feared then to separate from the mass, because of the importance which their own want of faith lent those who formed it. They fear them in this same measure still; and that so much the more, as conscience and faith enfeeble themselves by hesitations, and delays and weaken themselves by the accrediting of things which they condemn. We know to what point influences so deleterious have led some brethren, otherwise respected by all. "Say ye not, A confederacy to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary," Isa. 8:12-14. Such is what occurs to the spirit of the believer on hearing these cries for union made to those who are departing from under a burden to which they have so long bowed their back.

But when they tell us, "You ought to be concerned about all your brethren, and not confine yourselves to seeking your own peace, and your particular interests," this has a hold on the conscience and heart, and we are engaged, before God, to weigh what this appeal demands of us.

What is the character, what is the force of this movement in the sight of God? what its claims on our spiritual judgment? As regards man, there is good - there is conscience. As regards God, His hand has shewn itself in the circumstances. To what point does His Spirit shew Himself in this movement itself?

Dullness of conscience in these things does not induce me to address the least reproach whatsoever to our dear brethren who have shared it. One is rejoiced, with all one's heart, that God has delivered them. The heart of the Christian goes cordially to meet them. On their side they will agree that it is a question of our responsibility toward God, of the walk which would glorify Him most. Now, dullness of conscience - this feebleness which has hindered conscience from acting for long years of convictions, during which these dear brethren propped up what they knew to be evil, and even condemned those who separated themselves from their system and walk (and add to that the fact that circumstances have brought about the conclusion at which they are themselves arrived) - this dullness of conscience hinders its activity of today from exercising so much power in forming their judgment as to the walk which is to be followed before God by us who already walk outside that which they have just left. Does that hinder our hearts from being open - cordially open - to these brethren, from receiving them, and wishing to strengthen them, by prayer, as well as by an interest sincere and manifest to the eyes of all? Far from it. For my part (my voice is very feeble), I see God's hand in what is passing. I see conscience in my brethren. My voice would encourage them, as my heart rejoices in it.

85 The fact that "the hand of God has acted" produces evidently, in the heart of him who looks to God, respect for the movement. God is there, that is evident. This action of His providence makes what is passing to be respected. But, to a certain point, it deprives the work of the character of a work of God's Spirit. I say to a certain point; for I have no doubt that the Spirit of God acts in the heart of these brethren, and I hope also in others not yet manifested. I understood also that the fact of having preceded them in date is far from saying all. "There are first who shall be last, and last who shall be first." I understand that this may seem to say from God, to those who walked outside the world-church, "If you had been faithful - if you had had the faith necessary to make the word tell in the souls I had prepared, I should have had no need to raise up a new testimony." I submit myself, I hope, with all my heart to this appeal to my conscience. It is always good to listen to God. Only it behoves that I seriously weigh what He tells me, and that in the means He employs, if the means be not directly His word, I separate what is of man from what is of God; "the precious from the vile," Jer. 15:19. My brethren, I am sure, will agree to this. Without it I should go astray in a path, which, while presenting something good, would not answer to the impulse communicated by God Himself; and I should lose perhaps much of the testimony He had formerly confided to me. I repeat, then, that the providential character of the present movement, the impulse it has received from political movements of the day, the fact that it has even sprung up in these movements - all this requires me to consider what is of God, and what is not. It is not, I repeat also, that I see not the work of God's Spirit in their hearts. Nor is it that I attribute the religious movement to the spirit which has produced the political movement. Far from it. Nevertheless, it is plain that the religious movement has been occasioned by the political movement. Consciences were discontented. The Holy Spirit had suggested wants to their hearts. But neither this trouble of conscience, nor this action of the Holy Spirit, gave birth to that which is being done. Revolutions followed unexpectedly. Bonds, in appearance still solid, were found rotten or worn out; and that which conscience and the work of the Spirit in it brought not about, circumstances have accomplished. The Church was not set free by the power of the Spirit; revolutions have freed her. Blessed be God, if His goodness accomplish outwardly that which the faith of our brethren could not lay hold of, that which was offered them by His hand ever stretched out to give them what His voice, in the word, revealed to them!

86 3. It has not been so when God acted in His deliverances.

Cast out by his brethren, who understood him not, Moses received from God in the bush the rod of his authority. He sets out. He returns to his oppressed brethren, and makes known to them the God of their fathers; and he forsakes Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king, for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible, and had respect unto the recompense of reward. The people, standing still, see the deliverance of God Himself, and their enemies are swallowed up in the "mighty waters." In the face of much unbelief, and in spite of many murmurs, God Himself and His cloud led them through the wilderness, where there was no way and where fiery serpents disputed their passage. It was God Himself who brought into Canaan this, alas! incredulous people, acquainting them with the discovery that, at the end of so many griefs and dangers, their raiment waxed not old, neither did their foot swell. It was the faithfulness of God which nourished a faith ready to die, and which maintained the courage of some in the presence of the unbelief of many.

87 "Blessed is the man that dwelleth in thy house!" And blessed also is he in whose heart are the ways, the ways which lead to "thy house," and which, "passing through the valley of Baca, make it a well: the rain also filleth the pools."

And when Christianity, that unspeakable gift of God, was introduced into this world, what did we see in Jesus, that Man who lifted not up His voice in the streets? A testimony which was His, purely and profoundly moral - what do I say? - divine, in the midst of a world which had its own ways; a testimony, a life, a person, introducing into this world the light of God Himself, the consolation, the brightness, the power morally independent, which proceeded from Him; and that in a humility which made them penetrate in love wheresoever a broken heart, degraded perhaps in men's eyes, had need of it; a humility which opened the road to a love before which nothing was found too low for God to descend to it in grace. O what need had this poor world of it! Did He borrow anything from the circumstances which surrounded Him? The contrary was the entire of His life. He came into the midst of these circumstances to reveal God there, because all was opposed to Him, and because, consequently, all was miserable; and God in love entered there in that grace, which much more abounds where sin abounded. Did Jesus meet with the concurrence of circumstances? Certainly not. "His time" was "when man was ungodly and without strength." Thus work must have been the work of God. O how happy are we to have a work which is a manifestation of Him in this poor world! Has not God made circumstances co-operate? Yes, all conspires after its way: not that He arranges circumstances to falsify the character of the testimony, as if this testimony were not of God, or as if man were not opposed to Him. Whatever might have been the height of the wall that man opposed to His entrance, to Him, Jesus, the porter opened, and the sheep heard His voice.

We are not Jesus. No, my brethren, we are not. But you would imitate Him; and God is faithful, who will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able. Here is what the word teaches me: "for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name." - And He that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, what does He for those who are thus described on His part? He sets before them an open door, and no one shall shut it. That then, to which I hold is to keep His word, and not to deny His name; to keep His word whatever may be the weakness of the position in which I am found; to maintain pure, and such as He has entrusted it to me, the testimony of His name This is what He calls keeping the word of His patience. Our business is to keep the testimony pure. God will accompany it with His power. Jesus was the faithful witness. The porter opened to Him. God, who ruled all, put the testimony in relief by circumstances seemingly opposed, but in which, in reality, He made all conspire to the full effect of this testimony. He who has all power in heaven and earth will do the same. If it is His word, the word of His patience, even when it shall be with but little strength, He will open and no one will shut, and He will keep us from the hour of temptation, which is coming upon all the world, to try them that DWELL UPON THE EARTH. You know the beautiful name the church bore to which He addressed this promise.

88 Our task is then to keep His word, not to deny His name all that His name implies (for the name of Jesus means what He is), to keep the word of His patience.

The testimony of Jesus derives, then, neither its strength nor its existence from the circumstances of the moment: its value consists in this, that He was what He was in Himself, coming from God and giving testimony to Him. God perfectly took care of this testimony.

Let us now examine the testimony of the Apostles. Did this testimony draw its existence, did it originate in circumstances? No. It came directly from God. Not only is this true of the doctrine; it is not less true of the testimony rendered to Christ Himself Whether miraculously, or by His energy in the soul, the Spirit of God raised a testimony which drew its strength and its character from this energy itself of the Spirit; thus He introduced, and without mixture, the testimony of God into the world. This the world, this the Church needed. Nor is it less the true testimony, now that the Church is quite mixed up with the world, and at the same time steeped in error.

Outward persecution acted in Judea so as to extend the sphere of testimony. By that patience of grace which had told the Apostles to preach in His name, beginning at Jerusalem, Jerusalem had been for a moment the centre of God's testimony; but, become hostile to the Gospel, it drives from its bosom the persons who testified. God then recommences His testimony at Antioch, in making of the communications and authority of the Holy Spirit the starting point of this testimony. Never has the movement of the world given rise to that which has been God's own testimony.

89 Come we then to the Reformation. Is it born of circumstances? By no means. It is (none call it in question) a soul chosen of God, whose anguish goes even to death; a soul hence stripped of its own righteousness, and, what is of great importance, stripped to a great degree of its own strength; who finds a Bible, and in the Bible the marvellous revelation of God's sovereign and efficacious grace. It is not a new revelation, like that of the Law and that of Christianity; and the work is thus mixed up with the inner life of man, develops itself little by little in its fundamental truths with this life itself, and clothes, to a certain point, with its effects the measure of light to which the instrument who accomplished it arrived. But it is the fruit of an inner work. Circumstances, revolutions, in no wise caused the Reformation. The profound iniquity that existed in that which called itself the Church, inasmuch as it shocked and disgusted the natural conscience of man, dashed with his interests, and insulted him in the feelings that were dearest to his heart - all this was a cause that the truth, which was to deliver the mass from this insupportable burden, gained them over to the support of this truth without having penetrated their hearts; and the work of the Reformation became a work of multitudes and nations. Kings and princes took advantage of it, in order to get rid of the pope, and to be masters at home. The people, no more exalting Rome, resorted only to the temporal authority; and what called itself the Church exalted princes and kings. But whatever form it took, this work derived its origin from God, and drew its strength from God by faith. It was not the fruit of circumstances, though God wrought in many ways to bring about this result, both by subsequent political events, and by the invention of printing and the introduction of the Greek literature of Constantinople, which preceded this epoch. In its cause, origin, and energy, the work was exclusively inward and divine, though not a new revelation, destined to stamp its particular character upon the result produced. A work which is at the same time a revelation, preserves its distinctive character, whatever be the unfaithfulness of man, by the very fact that it is a revelation. But the Reformation was a moral work in man, a work in which the Spirit of God acted; but it was a fruit of the Spirit of God which related to a revelation already given; a fruit which, in the work, made this revelation stand out with a remarkable strength, and which, if the work should fail, sent us, not to the work itself, but to the revelation which was both the source and authority of it, even as God's Spirit was its strength. Christianity rested much on the Old Testament; but it was a new revelation, as we all recognize. And that is what makes the difference, in this respect, between the modern school of Geneva and the truth of the position of the Christian before God in our days.

90 The work of the Reformation was a work of God's Spirit, and of the power of the truth; and its history gives me a proof of this power, an effect of this truth; but it does not give me the standard of it. The Reformation is not a revelation that abides, preserving always the same degree of authority, never ceasing to be the rule of truth, forasmuch as it reveals it; it is but a fruit which can decay, and which sends me back to the rule whose authority maintains itself intact throughout all ages. The Reformation was in no sense Christianity itself. Christianity was not reproduced by it, and that by the very fact that it was not a revelation. It was a very precious fruit produced by the Holy Ghost on this tree already planted. To make of it the standard of truth, of that which God ought to do, is to misapprehend its nature, and, what is much more important, is to misapprehend what is Christianity. We must come to the word, which the Reformation so blessedly exhumed. The Church might have need of certain truths which are found there, and which God in His wisdom brought not on the stage at the time of the Reformation. Not to appreciate the Reformation would be to despise the work of God. On the other hand, to consider the historical church as that to which we ought to return, and as the standard of what we ought to do, would be to disown the living God who acted there, and who acts always; to disown the word He has given us as the sole standard of our faith - and the word sanctions none other; to disown, finally, the power and supremacy of the Spirit, and the care of Christ with regard to His Church, as if we could impose on Christ the historical idea that we make for ourselves, of His action at a given period, as an instruction and a standard for us as to what He should do now.

91 4. Far be it from me to suggest to my reader the thought that the school of which I speak would, in doctrine, establish another rule of faith than the word. I speak of its system, sufficiently know by its writings; a system which, in one manner or another, is found expressed in the Constitutions of the free churches, and the Address of the brethren who withdrew from the Synod of Paris. Now, I believe that to take historically the Reformation as the standard of truth, as Christianity integrally restored, is to make a profound miscalculation, and to strike a blow at the authority of the word in its nature, and at the right to be alone heard which it has.

The consequences soon force themselves upon us. One is forced to make the sin of man appear to be the wisdom of God, because God can make use of everything. Lutheranism and Calvinism are there; Anglicanism and Nationalism, or the union of the Church and State, are there; and men torture themselves to draw from these things (which assuredly are not found in the word of God) philosophical consequences which they apply today, and abandon or destroy tomorrow in order to form something altogether new; and in order to make the essay of this novelty, they bring us back to the work which produced what they destroy. Though there be in the Reformation an admirable work of God's Spirit, it suffices not to adapt to the circumstances of the present time the truths then admitted; a task of which I understand at the same time the bearing, and which contains a just principle as to the walk of the Church of God. Would we serve God in our generation, let us take the Bible itself, not to question truths already acquired (new truths cannot put aside the old), but let us take it as truth itself.

It is to that I attach myself, and not to a work in man, though it be a work of the Spirit of God. At the epoch of the Reformation, God, all wise, put in relief the truths necessary for His Church. And while I receive them, I do not conclude that God has nothing to make known to me from His word necessary for the times in which we live. It is one thing to find in the Reformation man's liberty of thought - that is, the intellectual principle of sin - and here is that to which Rationalists of every sort limit themselves. It is another thing to find there the communication of the truth which we have to make use of today, adapting it to the new circumstances of the Church; and here is the horizon whereby the brethren of the free churches of different shades are bounded: and, again, another thing is to own the work of God and the powerful truths brought to light by the power of His Spirit, and take the Bible as the servant of God bound to this sole rule, without daring either to own any other means of finding His will, or to withdraw from anything of that which is found there, confiding in God, in His faithful love to His Church a love according to which He communicates the things needful for the circumstances in which she actually finds herself.

92 In the perfection of the word, there are, I have no doubt, truths and lights necessary for the critical circumstances, for the trying days, in which we are found, which God gave not to His servants at the time of the Reformation; truths which, at least, they made no use of, dragged away by the circumstances in which they were, and which, on the contrary, we could not perhaps pass by if we would ensure the blessing of the Church at this moment.

The deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, Christianity, and even the Reformation, proceed directly from God and His work. It is God in the bush; Christ come from the bosom of the Father; the apostles sent of Him and filled of the Holy Ghost; Paul eyewitness of His glory; Paul and Barnabas sent from the bosom of the Church by the voice of the Holy Ghost; it is spiritual energy which, drawing its testimony from the truth already revealed, established it according to the measure of this energy and the gift which was distributed. I speak of the testimony itself, and not of the instruments or of the form of their mission. Luther and Calvin were raised up by God for a work which takes its rise in their faith by His grace.*

{* The reader will find, in pages 11, 12, and 29 of the Address of Paris brethren, their principles on this point. Here are some of them, which will make what is at the bottom of their thought understood: -

"Thus spring up [say they] the living and popular professions of the Church, which are those of all its members, which answer to the actual attacks of infidelity, and resolve the difficulties of the time.

"We place ourselves again on the ground of the Reformed Churches of France. We raise with our feeble hands the colours which drag in the dust. It is worth while to pick up this noble standard of our fathers, which is the standard of Christ-of Christ boldly and clearly confessed."}

93 Now, a testimony born of circumstances is clothed more or less with the character which they imprint on it. We are bound to examine to what point it is the word of Christ's patience. The elevated position, both in society and in the world church which they who render it occupy, may be an element which has weight, looked at from the point of view of providence. God may make use of it, and even employ it to put in the shade and bury a testimony that possesses it not, and that because of its infidelity; and if God found it good to do so, His judgment would certainly be just. But this consideration says nothing as to the character of the testimony itself, and cannot act on conscience, although the fact might act on circumstances.

It is evident this is a public fact, that the formation of free churches has been a result, a produce of the political movements of the day. The consequence has been that they have not extended beyond the sphere on which these movements have acted. The revolution of the Canton of Vaud produced a free church of the Canton of Vaud; the revolution of Geneva gave occasion to a free or evangelical church of Geneva; and the revolution of February is the cradle of the free church of France.

Does that rise to the height of the testimony of God?

There will be, it is understood, fraternity amongst those different churches. Community of interests and sentiments will produce and keep up, to a certain point, ecclesiastical confraternity; for I speak not here of purely Christian brotherhood, which has evidently other foundations. But does all this answer to the wants which the Holy Spirit has caused to spring up in a great number of Christian souls, and to the exigencies of the love of Christ, and the rights of this love over us? Do these new national free churches answer to the testimony Christ has given at this moment? Have not political circumstances, in the bosom of which they have received existence, left on them a tint, which, in certain respects, absorbs and hides this testimony dear to Christ?

You will admit, my brethren, that it is a serious point for a conscientious soul. You will grant me that we are bound to walk, as much as we can, to the extent of the testimony of the Saviour, and I will not say the entire testimony which is found in the word, as if we had wholly realized it. No. We are all by ignorance below that. At least we should neither be below what we have understood, nor place ourselves in a position which, modelled according to the little light we have acquired, hinders us from going farther

94 This is so much the more important as they already speak to us of schism, if we range not ourselves there, and of a schism which afflicts all the Church. And those dear and excellent brethren, who latterly separated from the Synod of Protestant France, declare to us that it would be a scandal for the independent churches not to be joined with them in the work of the constituent assembly which they are going to summon. I do not take that as addressing itself to me, for I do not belong to the independent churches which they have in view. I speak as the servant of God to the consciences of the whole Church of God. I understand them, and I understand their desire of unity, and the fear with which the effects of division inspire them. I desire neither to weaken their walk (far from it), nor to furnish arms against them to those who remain in evil. I have no sympathy with those who remain there, save the sympathies of my prayers, and of a Christian heart toward my brethren who I see in something which is more than an error, whom I believe to be in a very grave fault, which, though they have not committed it knowingly and willingly, is no less a fault. I impute nothing to them. As I have said, God may often make the last first. We are all under grace - the only hope of us all. But as to their position, I believe it is entirely false. Further, I have no doubt that the brethren who signed the Address to the Members of the Reformed Churches of France sincerely seek to do the will of God in their constituent assembly. But is the starting-point such that the result can satisfy the testimony of God - this word of patience that we are called to keep? And, without risking here a remark on the circumstances in the midst of which this assembly will be able to unite, nor on the probable consequences of the resolutions it will be called to take, I will confine myself to presenting some considerations on the testimony of God, and on the great principles which serve as the basis to these free churches, as well as to other religious movements; besides considerations which the Lord, I doubt not, has given me to find in the word, which apply to all the movement, and flow from the truths which, in the depths of God's thoughts, precede the movement and govern the whole subject. If the signers of the address deign to read this, they will feel that I have not slighted that which their heart put forward to Christians.

95 5. The Constitution of the Evangelical Church of Geneva, laying down something precise, will give me an evident opportunity for presenting my thoughts upon these things. This constitution, having, besides, the pretension to unite the Christians of this city, and claiming rights over our consciences, demands some observations. This pretension is not expressed, and could not be, in the letter itself of the constitution; but it is in the writings of those who are occupied with it-writings which accuse of schism those who do not join this new church.

I appeal, nevertheless, to all my brethren.

The fact that the Evangelical Church of Geneva is the church of a single city, has preserved it from certain things which, in my eyes, are contrary to the word, which (bear with me, my brethren) disfigure the constitution of the Free Church of the Canton of Vaud. A considerable part of its doctrine freely expresses truths which it is my happiness to believe and my joy to hear expressed by brethren whose sincerity and piety I honour. But when I come to the question of the Church (and surely this is the question, when men are making one), I find a gap, or rather error, which seems to me to attach itself to all the work of the free churches, and to make their position essentially false; and I pray my brethren to be willing to weigh this point seriously. It is found at the bottom of all the questions which at this moment agitate the Church of God. I shall speak frankly and with candour. I owe it to my brethren. It is true brotherly love.

The error at the foundation of their work will always hinder it, as it seems to me, from satisfying the wants of a large number of enlightened Christians, as well as the heart and intentions of Christ, and from answering either to the wants arising out of the difficult times through which evidently the Church of God must pass, or to the light which those trials, I doubt not, will cause to break upon souls. Their work will be partial, and will not last, such at least as it is at present. It has not roots deep enough in truth, and particularly in the truth of which God is now making use. The foundation of the truth as to the Church is wanting. Instead of drawing its essential everlasting truth of God - I speak not of salvation, but of that which concerns the Church - it seeks it in the circumstances and habits of the moment; so that, in proportion as we advance and circumstances alter, a further difficulty will be produced.

96 I beseech my brethren to hear me. I make no question of their sincerity. I sympathize with them in the difficulties through which they have passed, and which have influenced their walk. I own the faith of several among them, who were obliged to act in the face of the most painful circumstances. My heart goes forth to them in all these respects. In acting according to the principles set forth in the different constitutions of free churches, they will succeed, perhaps, in uniting a certain number of persons. Their faith, their personal influence, the wants of many souls who are seeking something better, the confidence which their persons inspire - confidence, without doubt, deserved, so far as that may be said of man - all will contribute to this; but I feel assured they will not work the work of God, such as they desire to make it. I count on their love, and that they will believe me sincere. I expect from their Christian honesty, that they will do me the justice to believe that I have studied the word of God on this point, and that what I present to them is what I believe to be a truth of God, absolutely necessary to the blessing of His people.

Let them smite me. Alas! I am accustomed to it; but let them hear.

Here, then, is that which I assert: -

The idea of the Church, so far as it relates to the present question, is wanting to them. Perhaps this remark already produces impatience. For the sake of the glory of our common Master, I beseech them to grant me some moments of attention. If I do not produce conviction in those dear brethren whom I respect, at least I shall have made known to them the grave - and for me obligatory - reasons, on the ground of which I cannot walk with that which would deny the principle I am about to explain, because I judge that in denying it they would not do the work of God. If conviction is not produced, charity, at least, will gain ground.

In the discussions I have had in England on this subject (I speak not of the frightful heresies which have broken out there latterly); in my discussion with Mr. Rochat, with Mr. Francis Olivier, in the arrangements of the Free Church of the Canton of Vaud; in those of the Evangelical Church of Geneva, and up to the recent attacks of Mr. Monsell; it is, with all, the absence of the idea of the Church which has marked all their reasonings, and all the constitutions of the free churches. I believe this truth - with that of the coming of the Saviour - the most important, the most vital which can be at this moment; not for individual salvation, but for the walk of the Church of God, and for that of the Christian whose assured salvation is already realized in his heart. It throws light upon this salvation itself, and upon the doctrine that establishes it, which it confirms with new lustre. It gives to this salvation a fresh importance - a far grander bearing.

97 Mr. Rochat had well understood what the question was; and though at the end he declared that his ideas on this point were modified, he had in clear and precise terms denied the existence of the Church, such as I had defined it. He felt that such a doctrine, if true, rendered the dissenting systems impossible. He was right.

He sums up his views and mine in the following words: "But what I have denied, what I deny still, is that which the author affirms, and which I believe him unable to prove - the unity of the Church in the sense of a society here below . . . . A fundamental error into which the author has fallen, and which falsifies all his reasoning . . . is that he considers the Church a sort of body," etc. Mr. Rochat adds, that the passages I had cited relate "not to the unity of a society, which would have tended to make of churches a single body, responsible, and having a common destiny, here below, as to its existence as a society," etc.

The same point was at the bottom of my controversy with Mr. F. Olivier.* Remember the question is not about the Church as a body infallibly gathered in glory, but about the Church as one body here below.

{*Mr. Olivier has latterly had a protest published to shew that he retains the doctrine of the Church. The reader will find the sort of passages which have made me say that he denies it formally.}

Here are his words: "Mr. Darby owns that the word church means assembly; and though he cannot deny this truth, namely, that the body of Christ never has been really gathered here below, and that the different churches have never been united in one single assembly, he ceases not continually to represent the Christians living on the earth, at a given moment, as being one assembly, with the responsibility of this assembly; and he calls it the assembly of Christ - the universal assembly on earth."*

{*"Defence of the Principles," etc., p. 75.}

98 "Could he better insist now on the idea of a Church assembled on earth, and receiving, for this reason, the name of church or assembly? But that cannot be, not only because the Church was never united in a single assembly here below, but also," etc. "But that this whole, this totality, was one assembly, and that for this it was named the Church, I presume the author no more thinks of sustaining it."*

{*Ibid., pp. 88, 89.}

"When Mr. Darby affirms that the totality of churches here below forms the Church, he goes also too far, seeing that what forms the Church is not only the totality of the churches at a given time, but the totality of the believers in all the succession of ages between the first and second advent of Christ."

"Mr. Darby's manner of thinking makes a division of the body of Christ in two, and even makes two bodies of Christ, if I may say so; namely, first, this pretended body of Christ that God should have created complete on earth," etc.*

{*Ibid., p. 93.}

"I could not charge myself with any responsibility in respect of this pretended exterior body, . . . or this would-be assembly, which, however, has never been assembled."*

{*Ibid., p. 125.}

"Now, this view is contrary, at once, to the notions which scripture gives us of the totality and unity of the Church, as well as of the assembly of the Church, since the earthly body of Christ, which Mr. Darby believes to have been formed of a totality of disseminated churches, would never have been really assembled here below."*

{*"Defence of the Principles," etc., p. 94; and "Essay on the Kingdom of God," pp. 116, 117.}

Such is the language of Mr. Olivier.

I will not make any observations on the passages just cited. I confine myself to begging the reader not to take what is there said of my views as being an exact representation of them. My object is only to establish the fact as to the doctrine.

The Evangelical Church of Geneva believes that particular churches, established in different places, and more or less a mixture of regenerate and unconverted persons, ought, etc.: "it believes, also, that over and beyond all those particular churches which have been, are, and shall be, there exists before God a holy universal Church, composed of all the regenerate, and forming a single invisible body of which Jesus Christ is the Head, and of which the members shall be manifested only at the last day."*

{*It is the reproduction of Mr. F. Olivier's views, with this difference, that Mr. Olivier makes the Church consist of all the believers between the first and the second coming of Jesus; and the constitution of the Evangelical Church of Geneva makes it consist of all the regenerate, an expression which must embrace also the believers of the Old Testament.}

99 Here are ideas sufficiently precise. There are particular churches, and there is an invisible universal Church. Now I say that the idea of the Church, such as the word of God presents it, is entirely lost here.

The constitution of the Free Church of the Canton of Vaud goes farther. It makes of their Vaudois flocks a body which, according to it, is a church, and the spouse of Christ.

Mr. Monsell sets forth views fundamentally the same; but I pass by his essay here; I will speak of it elsewhere. It is not necessary, either, to speak of the opinions which are in vogue in England.

An evident consequence of the opinions just cited is, that there exists not a unity like that which we find in the apostolic times, and that it is not even sought. The movements which we witness are national. We have a free church of Scotland, a free church of the Canton of Vaud, an evangelical church of Geneva, and the reformed churches of France. *

{*I know not if our brethren of France have advanced a step in their ecclesiastical ideas, and rejected the idea of a reformed church of France. In general, they speak of the reformed churches of France; but they speak also of a church, and the projected constituent assembly seem about to unite the reformed churches in a body. Some explanations would be desirable on this subject. Nobody, at this time, should seek to create embarrassment for them by inducing them to express themselves on that head: not I, at least. Their Address being only provisional, perhaps we ought not to seek in it anything but a language long used. However this be, speak they of the churches or of a reformed church, it is a question always of a church of France, of the churches of France.}

Now, what is the scriptural idea of the Church?

I leave aside the idea of the invisible church, an idea which is not found in the Bible. An invisible assembly is almost nonsense. There will be a universal Church manifested in glory in the day of Christ.* Far from being invisible, it will be seen in all the glory of its Head. The children of God, alas! are but too often hidden in the world; and in this sense one may speak of an invisible church. In this case, where is the city set on a hill? where is the light which the Lord would not put under a bushel? To say church is to say assembly. Mr. Olivier makes use of this word to say that, since believers have never been all assembled, there has been no assembly, nor church consequently, except by a figure which consists in speaking of a part for the whole.

{*The constitution of the Evangelical Church of Geneva does not admit the visibility of the Church, even in glory. The members of the invisible church will be manifested in the last day. This shews how far the idea of the body of the Church is destroyed by the notion of an invisible Church; a notion which, moreover, dates, I think, from the time of St. Augustine, when the Spirit of Christ made that pious man feel that the exterior church answered in no wise to that which the word said of the Church, while the exterior body was always the church for superstitious consciences. We know what influence St. Augustine exercised on the Reformation, though the energy of the Holy Spirit acting in the Reformers far surpassed the measure of St. Augustine. It will be well to remember that the present movement seeks to bring us back upon the ground of the Reformation. And precious as that work was, is it at all the thought of God to bring us back to it? Perhaps our brethren of France will not bind themselves to stop there. They cannot bless God more than I for the work itself of the Reformation! Would to God that we had the energy which was displayed then!}

100 The word of God, on the contrary, speaks positively, as of a matter of faith, of an assembly - of a church on earth responsible for the manifestation of the glory of Jesus and of a Father's love - of a body acting by its members.

I do not insist upon the Church as about to be, at a future period, gathered completely in heaven, because I suppose we all own it.* I do not speak of a particular local church formed in each city, because I recognize them in the word; I suppose as nearly all our brethren do. When the question is about sects and denominations, this subject becomes, it is true, important. I speak of the Church on earth. Now what I find in the word is an assembly on earth formed in the unity of one body by the Holy Ghost come down from heaven, the Head being in heaven.

{*We have seen, nevertheless, how singularly this idea is weakened, and even lost, in the constitution of the Evangelical Church of Geneva.}

It will be remarked, that the fact that the Holy Spirit is come down from heaven is of primary importance; because it is what establishes plainly the distinction between the state of the body viewed here below, and the heavenly state of the Church in glory. God, in the accomplishment of His counsel, will establish the Church, Christ's body, in the same glory as her Head in heaven. That is the idea of the Church in its plenitude: but, just as that has always occurred, God first set man in a position of responsibility with regard to the things which it is His will to accomplish at a later period by His power. Thus Israel was set under that law which, by and by, will be written on their heart. Now if it be thus, it is evident that the lot of the Church on earth hinges both upon this position and upon the faithfulness that she displays there. But it is that very Church which these selfsame persons disown, deny, or understand not, even those who are acting with a view to raise her up again at the important moment to which we are come.

101 6. Let us see if the word of God shews us such a Church - a body one and unique upon earth.

I repeat my thought. Christ having ascended to the Father, the Holy Ghost is come down, not only to quicken (that had been already), but to gather in one single body on earth the children of God - a body of whose unity His presence was the source and strength, so that all the believers were members of that body.

What says the word on this subject? Ephesians 1:22. This passage gives us the idea of the grand result in the counsels of God; namely, all things subject to Christ who had created them, and the Church united to Him, as a body of which He is the Head; the body being thus the accomplishment of the Head, who could not remain without the body.

The French, the modern French at least, hardly gives this idea, because the word chef in the acceptation of head is grown obsolete; and one can hardly say of Christ that He is chef over all things, though one might say, at the head of all. Taking chef in the etymological meaning of head, the sense is clear; head (chef) over all things to His body, which completes the Head to form a whole.

Chapter 2 of the Epistle to the Ephesians presents to us the means which God employs for the accomplishment of this work of grace; that is to say, what is done in time for the accomplishment of the everlasting purpose of God. The Jews had been a people brought nigh to God; the Gentiles remained afar off from Him, and, at the same time, separated from the Jews by the ordinances which constituted these as a people on the part of God. By His death Christ abolished these ordinances to make of the two one new man, and to reconcile them in one body to God by the cross. Then the preaching of it was made to them who were nigh; and, says Paul to the Ephesian Gentiles, "to you which were afar off"; so that they were built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (prophets of the New Testament; compare chap. 3:5), Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together, groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord: "in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit."* Where? On earth it was assuredly that the tabernacle of God was formed by the presence of the Holy Ghost.

{*Some have wished to see here nothing but the church of Ephesus; but clearly? in all the passage, while it addresses itself to the Ephesians, the ye signifies not only ye Ephesians, but ye Gentiles.}

102 In chapter 3 of the same epistle, he explains the mystery; namely, that the Gentiles are of the same body (a joint body) as the Jew, and closes by saying, "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us; unto him be glory in the church, by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end."

The Church, then, is here considered objectively in all its extent possible; but it is, nevertheless, viewed as one body on earth, and as being on earth the habitation of God through His Spirit, who is come down and has united Jew and Gentile in this one body. That is the vocation in regard to which it is said, "Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called."

Unity is not simply a unity of life. Life does not make unity. I pray my dear brethren to pay attention to it. The source of unity is the Holy Ghost come down from heaven. And, though we have faith and common sentiments, life leaves us in individuality. All that in general is sought, and would be called unity, is community of sentiments and faith. The presence of the Holy Spirit Himself unites us corporately, and constitutes us members of this body. In the mind of the apostle, the motive to, and the character of, unity were drawn from the existence of the body; and he exhorts us to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; for there is one body and one Spirit." And on what foundation does the apostle establish these things? On this, that Christ is gone on high and has given gifts to men (we know this is by the Holy Ghost come down from above), in order to edify the body of Christ, from whom the whole body, fitly joined together, and growing by each supplying joint (allow me this word), according to the measure of the energy of each part,* makes to itself increase of the body, to the edifying of itself in love. The body of the child is still a body. It is nevertheless susceptible of increase. Such is the idea of the Spirit of God. I have said "makes to itself," for the form of the Greek expression implies it. However this may be, the doctrine is evident. All the body, acting by its members, acquires and produces increase of itself. The body is there. It grows, but is there, and this is certainly on earth. It is not in heaven that it grows by the gifts. It is not in heaven that ministry is exercised. It is during the period in which Christ is on high and the Holy Ghost, sent from above, is here below, that this takes place, in contrast with the heavenly state of the body. God willed that this body should be placed here below in this position of responsible activity, according to the power of the presence of the Holy Spirit, before manifesting it as the accomplished result of His purposes, according to the efficacy of His power, who leaves (in what He would effect) no lack, no defect, nor anything that answers not to His intention.

{*The expression, de chaque partie, would be better rendered by the old phrase, d'une chaque partie.}

103 The first Epistle to the Corinthians teaches us the same truth: "As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit," 1 Cor. 12:12, 13. It is clearly on earth this baptism of the Holy Ghost takes place; Acts 1:5. "Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers: after that, miracles; then, gifts of healing," etc. Set where? Not in heaven, assuredly. There is then a body, the Church, on the unity of which the apostle insists - unity which should be found on earth. The apostle speaks of the body, of the Church, of unity, as things existing and manifested on earth, not in an accidental manner, or as part of a whole which touches the earth by one of its extremities, but as flowing from the presence of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven to form this unity on earth, to gather in one the children of God who were scattered. Though there be for those whose service is already closed the rest of the disabled, the army is no less an army; neither does it cease to be still a whole, though it be recruited from time to time with new soldiers.

104 While admitting the unity of the Church manifested in its time of glory, and the existence of particular churches, here is the unity of the Church, such as it is very clearly presented in the word of God; and as to the final result with regard to His own, God will keep this Church to the end. But, as manifested on earth, it was bound to maintain the testimony of Christ's glory, according to the power of the Spirit which was in it. Has the Church done so?

It is a question, not of the faithfulness of God, but of that of the Church. God is faithful in keeping Christians individually. But, though the Spirit abide in him, the Christian is often unfaithful. Just so, if, as a system that God established for the manifestation of His glory here below, the Church has failed in its testimony, God can put it aside as far as concerns this testimony. He has not done so yet; and, as to the result willed of God, the Church will be raised and in glory. I speak not merely of salvation, but of the manifestation of the Church. The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it; and God will keep it, in spite of everything, to the moment of its rapture. But besides that, it was formed to give here below testimony to the glory of Christ. Having failed in this aim, God can cut it off as to this service, with all the system that attaches to it here below. The word of God gives the clearest testimony that this is what He will do; and that He will introduce another dispensation, in which Christ will personally execute judgment, and will maintain the righteousness and glory of God on earth. It is then that the Church, according to the counsels of God, will be, as a whole, such as it has been foreknown, and, gathered on high as the Bride of the Lamb, will be manifested in glory.

105 Now, all the systems of free church and dissent set aside the idea which the word gives of the Church. Consequently, the attempts to restore the Church by such means are faulty in their foundation, in their first principle, in the parent idea of all that takes place. The authors of these systems do not put themselves before God according to His thoughts in this respect. However excellent may be their intentions, their conscience is not reached by those thoughts. They do not seek, in nearness to God, that which circumstances demand, because they have not the thought of that which God sees in them. How measure evil when they see not what ought to be? Not having the idea whence they are fallen, they cannot, consequently, hear the exhortation which calls them to think of it. They may accomplish a certain good, for God is good. This will soon be but one difficulty more on the road of faithfulness and of God's testimony.

I request my brethren to read Isaiah 22:8-14.* Not that I desire to pronounce the judgment which is found there: I pray them only to weigh the moral principle which is there developed. Yet the moment, to which that passage refers, is that in which God was manifested in favour of Hezekiah, because there was some faithfulness; 2 Chron. 22:4, 5.

{*"And he discovered the covering of Judah, and thou didst look in that day to the armour of the house of the forest. Ye have seen also the breaches of the city of David, that they are many: and ye gather together the waters of the lower pool. And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall. Ye made also a ditch between the two walls for the water of the old pool; but ye have not looked unto the maker thereof, neither had respect unto Him that fashioned it long ago. And in that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth; and behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die. And it was revealed in mine ears by the Lord of Hosts. Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord God of hosts."}

There are many other passages relative to the Church besides those mentioned above. Thus, in 1 Timothy 3:15, it is certain that it is on earth, the house of God here below. In the Apocalypse the Bride says, Come. It is evidently on earth. The scriptures give many other proofs of it still; but I have only cited the passages which expressly treat the subject.

106 This is then, dear brethren, with all deference to you, to whatever country you belong, the reason why I cannot join the free churches as they are presented up to the present. What hinders me is not only that, in the different organizations of this work in different countries and in other points of detail, I do not find them founded on the word of God; it is not even ignorance of this precious and important truth of the unity of the Church on earth, established by the Spirit come down here below. You will find in the midst of us, I have no doubt, persons who are ignorant of it also. That which hinders me is, that this work - and let us take as an example the constitution of the Evangelical Church at Geneva, the foundation which is there laid - denies the foundation which Christ has laid, for that which ought to be a testimony for Him here below. What is nearest to His heart, as regards that which is here below (and it is with this our responsibility is connected), ought to be nearest to our conscience. But the work we are discussing is the very denial of the principle in question. To restore, to raise up again the Church - and this is just what you pretend to do - you give for a basis to your work the denial of that which the Lord Jesus established. You will understand me, my beloved brethren. I speak neither of the salvation of individuals nor of your personal love for the Saviour. That, you will confess, is not the question between us. I speak of the systems you establish. This injures all the development of truth; but I do not enlarge on the subject at this moment, nor stop as to certain details which have given rise to grave difficulties.

7. The constitution of the Evangelical Church in Geneva claims some further observations.

This constitution aims essentially at the establishment of a clergy, and in this manner it shuts up all the gifts into the establishment of the elders, which form a separate order.

"The Church," says the constitution, "recognizes the universal priesthood of believers, in virtue of which each one of them is called to draw near unto God, without any one being intermediate other than Jesus Christ, in order to worship Him in Spirit and in truth, and to proclaim the excellencies of Him who has saved him."*

{*The manner in which the article quoted above speaks of worship is very unsatisfactory: the relations of the disciples with the Father are there completely forgotten. And it quotes 1 Peter 2:9, omitting even chapter 2:5, and confounds that with John 4, of which it mentions verse 24, omitting verse 23. The relationship of the disciples with the Father, in Christ and His name, according to the power of John 16:26, 27, is omitted. These things become very important when the question is about setting forth the foundations of the believer's relations with God. They form the character of the faith of all who are cast into this mould; and God will even have it so, that their state be according to their faith. It is in the order of His government that the vital principle of things be reproduced through the whole duration of their existence. Accidental defects disappear through the influence of grace. The creative principles are reproduced, and even unfolded. Therefore it is not without importance carefully to weigh these ecclesiastical constitutions; and however they may contain very good things, the Christian ought to examine upon what foundation the whole rests, and whether it is the one Christ laid down. If it is not, opposition to one's brethren is not what keeps from joining them. We must exercise forbearance towards ignorance. It is seen in us in many things, even in those things that we ought to know. I need not tell my brethren that I am conscious of it. The reading of the Bible makes me every day feel it deeply, and I look above. But to accredit ignorance at the outset of one's walk is another thing. This dishonours Christ, and vitiates in its origin, and thus inasmuch as that is in man's hand) in the whole truth of its being, that which Christ has most precious here on earth, His Church, which they propose to restore.}

107 I suppose that (without having heard of the universal priesthood of believers) one has recognized that each can worship God, without this being granted by the constitution. And provided the clergy be recognized, it is generally admitted that every Christian is to be allowed to publish the excellencies of Him who has called us. But this is to admit the universal priesthood in such a manner as to limit it as much as is possible in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

"However," adds the constitution, "the Evangelical Church recognizes the necessity of a special ministry as an institution of God and a permanent want of the Church. In consequence, she has elders and deacons."

See, here is the ministry - all the ministry. And this the article following confirms: -

"The elders are all enjoined to feed the Church. We distinguish among them the ministers of the word, who, prepared by holy study, are more especially called to teach and to preach."

108 I fully recognize the ministry - a special ministry - as a thing instituted of God.

Is this the question here? No. The article quoted interdicts absolutely all ministry outside a ministry officially established by men. "The church recognizes a ministry . . . . In consequence, it has elders and deacons."

I leave the deacons for the present.

Amongst the elders, one distinguishes elders who are ministers of the word and elders who are not. In this there is no recognition of any other ministry than that which has been officially established by the laying on of hands. Besides the deacons, there are only the elders to make up "the ministry." This is simply the clergy, without the frankness to own it. What else is it? The only ministry is that of the recognized elder. Again, in order to be minister of the word, one must have been prepared by holy study. What is that, if it is not the clergy? Is there the least difference?

Let us suppose a Christian, blessed by God as an evangelist for the conversion of ten times more souls than all your elders together, because of the gifts God has imparted unto him. Never mind: it is not a ministry; and he is not a minister of the word, because he is not amongst your consecrated elders. Perhaps he is a young unmarried man, who has not the qualities required of God for a bishop, possibly not even the gift of teaching, for one can be a good evangelist without having that gift. It does not matter. He cannot be a minister of the word. He is not in the number of your elders.

And you complain of schism because one does not submit to such things?

Woe to him who so denies the authority of Christ, and the gift of God, as to submit to it!

You erase with one stroke of the pen chapter 4 of the epistle to the Ephesians. You deny the authority of Christ in His own house, as well as the rights of the Holy Ghost; and you talk of disobedience! You confound the bishop with the evangelist; you will not have any, unless it be some of your own bishops; and if there are any others who are so from God, you deny it to be ministry; and you will have us to submit to this, under penalty of your anathema as schismatics! Is it, then, you who have the key of David, to shut and to open, so that there should be no ministry except that of your bishops and of your deacons?

109 You decide too quickly, my brethren. The Master is still there. Better would it be for you to confide more to Him. Is it His house that you direct thus? Take care! It is a serious affair to meddle with the Church which belongs to Him. He is Son over His own house.

He will act in spite of you. He shuts and no one opens; He opens and no one shuts. In this respect, your position is worse than that of the ancient clergy, which hardly meets with the support of anyone. The ancient clergy are in a difficult position: at least, they obey traditions which the course of ages had formed into a habit. But now he who has put himself forward to this work professes that clerisy is of the enemy, and, with this confession on his lips, he again makes a clergy. I call your constitution as a witness of this! For to deny all ministry which is not that of your consecrated elders - to recognize no other minister of the word but your pupils in theology - what is it else, but to institute a clergy? And you re-establish it while saying you will not have any more of it.

Article 12 of your constitution, where mention is made of "brethren who might be called to some work of evangelization," seems to contain a contradiction. But no. This article which, in a way so singular, speaks of those brethren called to some work of evangelization - mentioning them besides the ministers of the word, as if those who are called (of God, I suppose) to some work of evangelization were not themselves ministers of the word - watches that these also (for they feel that there will be some, in spite of all) should not escape the clerical system, and should not work without the Presbytery having laid hands on them. Yes, you establish a clergy, and an all-exacting clergy, which does not suffer any to work outside of its authority, and which accuses of schism all those who do so. Consequently, it is more than a sect. It is Rome on a small scale. It is Rome in its system; and it is, in fact, a sect.

There is another thing to remark; that is, discipline.

Dear assembly of La Pélisserie, if you had not wished for a clergy, you would not have come down to this. And I say it with feelings of sincere affection for the brethren that are there. After having been united to them in the sweetest bonds, I am still united to them by the strongest ties - those of love. Brethren of the Pélisserie, the principle of the clergy has destroyed you, and now you cast yourselves there, where one reaps the fruits of this corruption.

110 In order to satisfy the exigencies of your position, it has been sought "to conciliate unity in the faith with variety in the form." The new church "has recognized that there exists among its members different wants as to worship." Consequently, you may serve God apart every Sunday, with the exception of one Sunday every month. And, in exchange for this sacrifice (and this is what they call unity!) there is granted to you the privilege of being members* of the new church.

{*A principle which, in itself alone, denies the unity of Christ. We are members of His body, and of nothing else.}

As to the discipline which maintains this body and its outward order, and which makes you to know who are the members thereof, here it is: -

"Discipline is exercised by brotherly rebuke in charity, in order that in everything the doctrine of God our Saviour may be glorified among all. This duty concerns all the brethren, and more especially the elders. In extreme cases, these may have recourse to the Presbytery."

Is this all?

Yes, it is all. The putting away is not even mentioned. It is excluded, for discipline is exercised by brotherly rebuke.

But, you will say, although the first words quoted are too wide, there is something more for extreme cases.

Yes, there is something else, and it is this: "These (the elders) may have recourse to the Presbytery." Is it not saying enough that the matter is entirely left to the clergy, and that the conscience of the brethren is reckoned as nothing at all?

That the elders should enlighten the conscience of the flock, guide it to a sound judgment, and exhort it to act according to the word; that they should even succeed in terminating happily many things without the intervention of the flock, and even better than with that intervention, this is assuredly a good thing. But in the article which is before us - recourse to the Presbytery by the elders in extreme cases - this is the discipline of the Evangelical Church. To enter into her bosom, she asks for a profession of faith in the presence of two elders. If the question be about judging those that have entered, the elders can have recourse to the Presbytery. For the ministry, there are consecrated elders, of whom some are ministers of the word, prepared for that by holy study. And the faithful, what can they do? Obey. They have now been provided with elders, with official persons, whom they can obey.

111 If this is not the clergy, it will assuredly be difficult to know what is.

Alas! there remain still in the question, as a whole, some very grave difficulties, which relate both to the character of the work and to that historical church which, in practice, serves her as a foundation, and which gives the measure of the truth which they there profess as their testimony.

I recognize, my brethren, your sincere desire to maintain fundamental truths against fatal errors, and I appreciate it, I believe, sincerely. But the unity of the Church - true bond of the saints - being laid aside, as well as the liberty of the Spirit, who, centre of this unity, is found there alone, it is necessary to arrive at an agreement by the aid of mutual concessions, which reduce the testimony to the lowest round of the ladder, and which thus grieve the Holy Ghost who renders this testimony.

This truth, mutilated by reciprocal concessions, becomes the measure of the faith of the body which unites upon that foundation. If, after having signed a confession of faith of this kind, in order to accommodate myself to other persons who do not believe what God has given me to believe, in order to walk by that means with them; and, because they will not admit of more than that, I insist upon the truth with which God has entrusted to me, I fail in my tacit engagement, since we are together on that ground. Such an engagement grieves the Spirit of God. In order to walk with man I should have renounced the testimony of truth. I should have failed towards God, precisely in what He has entrusted me with. God acts in the Church through the testimony of His truth. He uses instruments, and trusts them with this truth. In the accomplishment of their task they ought to act with charity, with wisdom, giving milk to the children, meat to full grown men, and, in general, laying on the conscience of the Church the truths through which God acts upon her; in a word, distributing the nourishment in due season. But if I form an agreement with those who will have only milk, so as that this should become the common ground, the term, the condition of communion, I deprive myself of liberty - of a liberty which, before God, is my duty. It is an agreement; it is not union.

This is what is clearly seen in the constitution of the Evangelical Church of Geneva She does not seek that which is according to the word while bearing with the weak ones; but, recognizing that there are diversities of views (and whoever knows Geneva could name them), she does her best to conciliate them. Take worship; take discipline. Those who, certainly, had made the most progress are the only ones who make concessions. The preachers (art. 20) keep their monthly (Lord's) supper, while another class of Christians deprive themselves of theirs on that day. Some preachers, transformed into elders, preserve the arbitrary right of discipline; others abandon discipline. That is to say, in order to agree, principles are given up, and they arrange a system on the lowest ground possible. This even takes place in things more grave.

112 Take the doctrine of the coming of Jesus - a doctrine so solemnly important in these last days. I receive, with all my heart, a Christian who does not understand it. As a Christian he belongs to Jesus, a member of the body of Christ, and I love him. In receiving him thus, my liberty of ministry is kept untouched, and I exercise it with regard to him, as also towards all, according to the wisdom which God gives me, in charity. But if, instead of abiding a member of the Church, I place myself so as to become a member of a church, in accepting a document - although there may be nothing false in that to which I subscribe - I commit myself, nevertheless, to something. I say, There is my faith; and thereby I lose the power and the virtue of the testimony I ought to render. In this case, unity depends on this, that I am a member of the particular body to which I attach myself, and this by virtue of the agreement I have just made. As to the coming of Jesus, the authors of the constitution of the Evangelical Church have gone as far as a document concerning the truth could permit them. The paragraphs thirteen and fourteen of their profession of faith, relating to the coming of the Lord, are made up in such a manner as that every one in the world might sign them. The thirteenth might suffice for any one who believed in the coming of Jesus before the thousand years, without hurting any of those who oppose it. It is composed of two passages almost textually quoted. The fourteenth is made more for those who do not believe in it, without wounding, however, those who do believe in it. Each phrase of it is true. The whole paragraph is skilfully conceived for peace.

Is it thus that one arranges truths which ought to be sharper than a two-edged sword? My mouth would be closed on the subject of the coming and of the appearing of Christ; or it would only open itself by giving me a bad conscience! And if I sign the fourteenth paragraph, and an anti-millenarian signs it equally, shall we give to these words, "He shall judge the universal world," a similar sense - an equal bearing? By no means; and by our silence we deceive one another. "The wicked," adds this paragraph, "shall go into everlasting punishment, while the just shall enjoy eternal life." Assuredly; but what just are spoken of? when?* We sign both the one and the other, to walk together as if we agreed, knowing very well that we are far from believing the same things. This cleverness is trying to me. I believe that the coming of Jesus - the judgment of the world by Jesus, when He shall appear in glory, of the world such as it is, filled with living men - is a doctrine of the highest importance, which must be announced in a manner that is clear and developed, and in all its power; and I cannot myself resolve to torture the phrases, so as to reduce the testimony to the level of expressions which the man who does not believe in them can bear. This is not to feel the importance of the doctrine before God. And if I do not feel its importance, I cannot render testimony to it: it is not faith.

{*It is not as to eternal punishment that I, for a moment, raise a doubt here; but I believe that the passage quoted here applies only to the living - to the nations on the earth, to the judgment of the living, a truth of the utmost importance for the consciences of those who attach themselves to this world a truth which has been quite neglected.}

113 If you insist so much on your views in things secondary, you will say to me, that all union is impossible.

I shall answer you, first, that to call this secondary, as testimony, only means that you do not feel the importance of it. This is not my case. And this is precisely that to which I win not lend a hand. If you rest on the foundation, which is Christ, I receive you with open arms in the unity of the body of Christ. If you are speaking of making an agreement for a common profession, as the means of union, your observation is just; but this it is which makes me fear your principle of union. I feel the sword of my testimony broken in my hand. If you love the Lord Jesus according to truth, to me you are heartily welcome. If you deny any foundation doctrine, we do not walk together. But to make accommodations with regard to that which concerns my testimony, I cannot do it. The fault does not consist in having been firm for the truth: I honour my brethren for having been so, and for having professed it. Truly, I do not seek for union in indifference as to error, which is the great sin of the day, and the form which incredulity takes in our age, devoted as it is to materialism. The fault of these brethren is the looking for a way of union in themselves agreeing upon the terms of a confession of common faith. Perhaps you had not any other, by reason of your seeking to produce union, instead of recognizing it in the unity of the body of Christ.

114 In this case, that which you call the church is only an arrangement of men, to which you may perhaps assure the consent of a certain number of signers. Far be it from me to put the Church of God on such a footing. If you are not of the Church of God, none other do I acknowledge.

I find, then (I shall not say the truth, because I do not believe that would be in the intention of my brethren, but), the testimony to the truth compromised in a compromise connected with the truth designed to secure union. The only true principle of union is to be members of the body of Christ. Once united, the most faithful care to maintain truth is an imperative duty of the disciples. The Church owes it to Christ in the care she takes of the sheep.

I see, then, in the work of which we have just been speaking, an agreement between men, and not the Church of God. I find the testimony to the truth compromised - and a testimony to the most important truths.

8. I shall add here three points of the deepest interest, in which the truth unfolds itself, and by which the Holy Ghost witnesses to souls.

Before noticing them, I ask my reader to pay attention here to a consideration which renders the matter more clear.

Certain truths are at the foundation of Christianity itself as a whole. Others have to do with its efficacy or the making of it good towards men. There are, thirdly, some which relate to the means of its reception, and even of its communication. Thus, for instance, we find at the very root of Christianity the existence of one God, the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, His humanity, and such like doctrines. Just as the existence of one God was the fundamental truth of Judaism, and the truth alters not, so likewise the revelation of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and, in connection with that, the revelation of the Person of Jesus, distinguish essentially Christianity. Roman Catholic theology admits this.

115 But there is, besides, a class of truths which concerns the relations of man as a sinner with his God - with God thus revealed. And here the work of Christ, as mediator, is unfolded in all its extent.

With regard to this, I see three principal positions in which Christ has been manifested, or will be manifested: in the infinitely precious work on the cross; in the position of Jesus at the right hand of God (a position to which corresponds the presence of the Holy Ghost here on earth); lastly, the return of Jesus Himself in glory.

This relates to the sufficiency of Christianity for establishing certain relationships between man, as a sinner, and God, according to the counsels and love of that very God against whom man has sinned; and for placing the redeemed one in the joy and glory which are destined for him.

It is in this that the Roman system fails entirely. It attributes to the sinner, not the work (as regards which it is as a matter of history in the truth), but the appropriation of the efficacy of the work which Christ has accomplished, an appropriation which, it says, takes place either by means of the sacraments - whence results the establishing of the clergy in a mediatorial position, and, in consequence, necessary to the soul - or by works, so as to deny grace and the state of ruin in which man finds himself; to place him under the terror of the law; and to make him dependent on the priest, and not on God, to whom, as a hard Being, exacting the uttermost farthing, his heart is not drawn, and out of whose presence his unpurged conscience drives him.

Oh, how precious to our souls the grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ! What do we not owe to our God! In contrast with this darkness, the Reformation appears and shines in all its lustre, which is the brightness of the testimony of the grace of God. And, as a testimony of the grace of God, it has established with a happy clearness this foundation of grace, which is, at the same time, that of the work of Christ, upon which the relationship of the sinner with God has been established by God Himself.

In saying this, I need not add that I esteem this world in the highest degree. A poor sinner, whose soul depends on this work and on this grace, and who, in knowing and enjoying them, has learned to love the glory of God, and the souls ready to perish of those by whom he is surrounded, cannot otherwise than value this work.

116 Other considerations, without which the price of this work would have been again made void, come to the help of the one we have just presented.

The Reformation made the certainty of my knowledge of this truth, and the faith I have in it, to rest upon the testimony of God instead of that of man. This is a total and entire difference. God takes the place of mall in the salvation and in the knowledge of the salvation. The word of God is the foundation of the faith in His work by the grace of the Holy Ghost. What I find in the Reformation is not that the spirit of man has been made free, although in a good sense that is true. It is not merely that it has made good the claim of man to read the word, although, as regards other men, that is true also. What it has made good are the rights of God, the grace of God; the admirable right of God to save the sinner in His love - precious salvation of which Jesus must have the glory; the right of God to communicate to the sinner the testimony of His grace, and to assure him of it Himself by the word which He had given him; the revelation of the grace of God, and, by that very grace, the immovable and precious rule and foundation of man's faith. Who will dare to say (not to man "Thou shalt not have it"; but) to God, "Thou hast no right to give it, to communicate it Thyself to Thy servant?"*

{*It is evident that if I send orders to my servants, and if any one prevents their receiving them, he encroaches less upon the rights of the servants than upon mine. It is the same as to the word of God, which God has sent to His Church: an argument that has been too much forgotten in the controversy upon the right the faithful have to read the Bible.}

To put these things in the broad light of day, such was the beautiful work of the Reformation. We should always bless God for it. But we must not shorten His arm and say, Thou hast done all. He whose grace has given us the Reformation is the living God. The Lord, whose work made, for the instruments which God had raised up, the subject of their testimony, nourishes and cherishes still His Church, and purifies it by the word. Does He say nothing to us now? His own, who have ears, do they not hear anything in the midst of the storms which burst forth, and which proclaim to those who are hidden in the Rock of Ages that the Lord is coming forth. Or does the fear of these heralds of His power prevent them from hearing the still and small voice which speaks to the heart of His own? We are hidden in Jesus, my brethren. The impetuous winds, and the shakings which announce the Lord, do not frighten us, nor touch our safety or our peace. We know Him whom they do but announce; and while announcing Him, and that solemnly, they are not the things which? for the heart of him who knows Him, have the power of His voice. His word is that - His word communicated to our hearts by the power of His Spirit.

117 Well, my brethren, I believe that His voice is speaking to us. The Lord would, I believe, that, however humiliating for us, our hearts should take notice of other truths besides those which the Reformation set forth truths which confirm these.

He speaks to us of His Church. He speaks to us of the return of His Son Jesus from heaven. His Church has need of it.

Everything is shaking. Everything in the world is stirred up by that interior strength which, acting as from the centre of the moral world of man, shakes and tosses the whole surface, the unwonted agitation of which frightens those that walk there, at the thought of the overthrow that is about to follow.

What is there solid? what immovable?

The Church of God, because Christ loves her.

The question is not merely about salvation. Without salvation one can evidently have nothing else. But in the midst of the agitations of the world and the waves of the peoples, which God only keeps in subjection for the moment, where is peace, duty, the circle of affections? - where is their "own company" to which the apostles themselves would resort in the agitations and the troubles which they experienced in the midst of an incredulous nation, and which, to its own ruin, would rebel against God?

It is the Church.

It is God, you will say to me.

Surely. But towards what does God direct the heart, the thoughts, the affections, of him who is near Him by faith? It is towards the Church. This it is which is dear to Him in the world. If, in His grace, He seeks poor sinners, it is the Church that ought to gather them together.

Where is the Church?

Here that which answers to the second truth of which I have spoken with regard to Christ.

118 While Christ sits at the right hand of God, until the Lord makes His enemies His footstool, the Holy Ghost, who was sent from on high when Jesus Himself went up to the Father, remains here on earth a witness of the redemption of those that are His, and the power of their gathering together again in one body - of the gathering of the Church, which is the body of Him who, as its Head, is seated at the right hand of God. That is to say, just as Christ on the cross accomplished redemption, Christ, at the right hand of God, gathers together the Church on the earth by the Holy Ghost whom He has sent from on high from the Father.

This last truth the Reformation neither set forth nor unfolded.

It admitted, no doubt, as an orthodox truth, that the Holy Ghost had come down on the day of Pentecost. But it instituted national churches, as Saxony, Hesse, and England, etc. (that is to say, churches of nations, grouped geographically in churches, and, as being such, organized in relation with the State and subject to its power) having their confessions of faith according to the light which their directors had been able to pick up.

This, as regards churches, is what the Reformation has produced.

Men are no longer satisfied with it.

Why then establish any more, giving them as a foundation that which the word teaches as to salvation, instead of considering what it says on the matter which occupies us?

Who, in establishing free churches, has asked himself - What says the word of God on this matter? My brethren, it was not thus they acted at the time of the Reformation. In the midst of difficulties and of conflicts much more serious than those with which we are surrounded, they looked to the word of God. The Reformers were men of faith. As to difficulties, they needed none besides God. As to their walk, the word guided them. They dared to obey, because they reckoned upon God for their strength and their protection in the path of obedience.

Why not imitate them in this?

This may lead us to humiliation, and to a walk in appearance little glorious, with little éclat, which appears of no importance. But, if God leads to it, it will assuredly be the way in which He will bless His people. Allow me to remind you again of the passage in Isaiah 22:7-11.

119 You are thinking to establish a church. Have you thought what the Church of God is, according to the word - the word of Him who made and fashioned it long since? You recognize that, with regard to this, the Reformation has not done what God wished, according to what is revealed in the New Testament. What, then, does the word say? And while revolutions have produced free churches, is it not true that the word of God speaks of a Church formed by the presence of the Holy Ghost come down from on high, who put that Church - the one only body of Christ - in relation with its Head, seated at the right hand of God? And save the churches of such and such place - churches whose local unity is established equally by the Epistles and the Apocalypse - the word of God does not mention any other church. Churches that found their limits in the circumference of the countries inhabited by those of whom they formed part, is that which the word of God makes not the least allusion to. Such churches cannot, either in fact or in affection, be the Bride of Christ. They are necessarily in relation with the country wherein they are found. The unity of the body of Christ is lost to them. The order, the walk, the links, the whole machinery - all, in one word, in their operations, is necessarily restricted within the limits of the country where the church is found. It cannot be the functions or the regulations of the body of Christ. These they set aside. I am not speaking of the uniformity of details; but of all that which forms the body; the moral springs of the institution. The body of Christ is not recognized. The unity of the Church becomes a unity quite different from that of the body: the body becomes quite another body than that of Christ. It is a body which acts in an independent way - a self-regulating body, which has its spring in itself. The consequence of this is, that the Holy Ghost, who gives this unity to the body of Christ, is not recognized in this character. All that belongs to His presence, as come down from heaven to unite the body to its Head, and to act in the members for the increase of the body, is lost in its reality. He acts, it may be, in spite of what is called the church; but He does not act by that which is the system of it. The Holy Ghost cannot recognize a body which He has not formed, but which man has formed. And to form such a body is not recognizing the body which the Holy Ghost has united to the Head. One cannot say that these churches are the body of Christ. The word and the Spirit do not recognize any other church besides the one that is such. I speak not of a local assembly.

120 I prefer presenting to my brethren this truth as an object of faith, rather than as a difficulty which, as to its relation to them, obstructs the way of him who submits himself to the word. The Reformation, the historical church, cannot put us in possession of this truth, which it does not recognize. An invisible church does not answer the wants of the heart which this truth creates. The Church - the body of Christ - is, in the world, the testimony of the power of the Holy Ghost, who can abide in the midst of believers, because they are accepted in Him who appears before God for them; the testimony, also, of the glory of Christ upon the Father's throne. The Church is the dwelling-place of God upon earth, as the temple was before the coming of Jesus. It is the Bride of Christ.

Be assured, my brethren, that there are spiritual affections, relations known and felt with the Lord Jesus, to which the word attaches great price, and whence flows precious light, which makes the love of Jesus shine in a manner quite peculiar, and reveals the object of His affection and of His cares; that there is, in a word, a whole part of the Christian life, and of the love of Jesus depending upon this truth, which he who has the knowledge of it, by faith, could not consent to give up. In doing so, he would sin against Christ. I speak of what Christ nourishes and cherishes as His own flesh - of what He sanctifies and purifies by the word.

Would you like us to forget it? Ought we to withdraw from the influence of the truth that speaks to us of it? I speak of the Church of God.

Why make a church, instead of thinking of that Church which God has created to be the firstfruits of all His creatures, co-heir with His Son, and the Bride of the Lamb?

That is what the Church will be in the glory, you will say to me. This is true. But its gathering together takes place upon the earth; and its unity flows from the presence and the baptism of the Holy Ghost come down from heaven. She is one by the Holy Ghost upon the earth, as well as with Christ on high.

And this is what leads me to the third truth which I referred to - a truth which the Reformation left out entirely, and even let fall into the hands of fanatics, into the hands of the enemy. I speak of the return of the Lord.

121 Does not the word of God present us with the return of the Lord as a truth which ought to act powerfully upon the conscience and upon the heart? And are not existing circumstances a serious appeal of the Lord to think of it? The truth that the Lord is coming quickly to judge the habitable world, to execute judgment in convincing the wicked of all their wicked deeds which they have wickedly committed against Him, and of all the injurious words which impious sinners have spoken against Him - ought such a solemn truth to be kept bound in the horizon of God's testimony as an object lost at a distance? - the sweet and precious thought that Jesus will soon come back to receive His own, to gather His Bride to Him, and to shelter her in the house of the Father, in order that she may enjoy eternally there the love which has saved her - is it to remain a stranger to the life of every day of her pilgrimage here on earth, far away from her Bridegroom?

Let us see whether the word of God does not present, whether to the world or the Church, the coming of Jesus, under these two points of view, as a continual motive.

I do not speak either of the great white throne, or of the judgment of the dead. When He sits upon the great white throne, Jesus does not come. The dead alone are standing before Him. Heaven and earth pass away before Him. "They were no more found." Jesus, sitting upon the tribunal of God, calls for the dead to appear before Him - a solemn day, of which the eternal consequences are of a nature to produce seriousness in our souls! But all this is not the coming of Jesus - of Him who is to come back in the same manner as He went.

I speak of the judgment of the living, of this world which we inhabit. What does the Lord say of it? "As the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be . . . . For as it was in the days of Noah, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." The same thing happened in the days of Lot. They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded, but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone, which destroyed them all. So shall it be in the day when the Son of man shall be manifested.

122 "But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape."

"Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen."

"When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power: when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe."

Here are some testimonies - and the word is full of them - concerning the coming of Jesus to judge the living. For, alas! the kings of the earth shall be gathered by evil spirits, for the battle of that great day of God Almighty. They "shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them; for he is King of kings, and Lord of lords."

"The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof," Psalm 50.

"And he that is called the Word of God shall tread the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God," (Rev. 19); and that when the harvest shall be ripe for the sickle and the grapes of the vine of the earth shall be ripe.

God is full of goodness and patience. He only strikes when iniquity is come to the full. He still seeks souls while it is yet the acceptable day, the day of salvation. No one knows the day "when he shall rise for the spoil." But who will say that the harvest is not ripening for the sickle, and the grapes of the vine of the earth are not filling up for the day of His wrath?

That day shall not overtake as a thief those who are the children of the day - the children of light; but it is because they are the children of the day. Instructed beforehand of the judgments of God, they belong to Him who is to be the Judge, and not to the world on which the judgments will fall. They wait for Him, from heaven, who has saved them by His grace, who delivers them from the wrath to come. Redeemed by His blood, He who has redeemed them is dear to them; and they wait as to glory for Him who, by His grace, has made them capable of it.

123 Now, let us see if, according to the word, this thought does not influence the whole walk, and does not rule all the thoughts of him whom the love of Jesus has introduced into the way in the pilgrimage of faith.

I do not pretend to present you here with the proofs of the doctrine. Although the study of the teachings of the word on this subject is of the highest interest, my aim is to make you see, my brethren, that the truth of which we speak, that the hope of the coming of Jesus, connects itself with the whole Christian walk in every connection of it; and that, in consequence, it is one of the most practical truths.

Is the question about conversion? They had been converted to wait for His Son Jesus; 1 Thess. 1.

Is the question about the joy of the work, and of the communion of the saints? "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?" (1 Thess. 2).

Is the question concerning holiness? It is "to the end he may stablish your hearts unblamable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints," 1 Thess. 3.

And what will, perhaps, strike more the minds of some, and will shew to what extent the Church has departed from the habits of thought which the Bible inspires is, that at the moment when the afflicted friends of a Christian just departed surround his bed, the apostle comforts them with the thought that Christ will bring him back. "Now, my brethren, I would not have you ignorant concerning them which are asleep, that Ye sorrow not even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain: unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descent from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words."

124 If one gave this as comfort now, on the occasion of a death, what would be the effect on the greater part of Christians in our days?

Is the question, again, of a life irreproachable in every respect? "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ," 1 Thess. 5.

In the midst of the strongest persecutions the thought of the appearing of Jesus came in as the time of rest. "Rest with us," says the apostle; "to you who are troubled rest, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels." How could such a thought afford consolation to the soul, if this hope of Jesus was not a real and present hope?

Is the question concerning the trying circumstances of life, and of patience under oppression? The same comforting hope is present to the heart of him who suffers. "Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord." . . . "Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." . . . "Behold, the Judge standeth at the door."

Is the question about responsibility? "I charge thee in the sight of God," says Paul to Timothy, . . . "that thou keep this commandment, without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ."

And, as motive, measure, and mark of spiritual progress, we know that, when Christ shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And whosoever hath this hope in Him purifieth himself even as He is pure.

"Yourselves," says the Lord, "like unto men who wait for their Lord," etc. That is the character the Lord would have His disciples to put on. What is it, on the contrary, that marks the iniquity of those who hold the place of servants, iniquity which brings in the cutting off? If it is the language of the wicked servant to say, "My master delayeth his coming," has the Church of God nothing of what is similar to this to confess in her history?

What is the character that the profession of Christianity took in the beginning - a character which this profession has lost, and that Christians are called to put on again? What is the proclamation that awakens them? Here it is: -

125 The kingdom of God is like unto ten virgins, who went forth to meet the Bridegroom. All, alas! went to sleep. While the Bridegroom tarried, the wise, no less than the foolish, lost the thought of His speedy coming.

What awakens them, puts them into a suitable position, and sets aside those that had no oil? At midnight a cry is heard: "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet him!" Then all the virgins rose. And this is what puts to the proof the state of souls. Could there be any sort of evidence more solemn to set in relief the truth which, at the beginning, characterized the Church, converted to wait for the Son of God from heaven? to shew how the spiritual slumber has taken hold of her, and what means God uses to awaken her?

If the Lord will comfort the disciples whom He is about to leave: "I go," says He to them, "to prepare a place for you; and if I go and prepare a place, I will come again, and will receive you unto myself, that where I am ye may be also."

If the angels sent from heaven are to give a just and healthful direction to the thoughts of the disciples, who were still looking upwards after Him who escaped from their sight, they announce His return to them, saying, "This same Jesus, which is taken from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."

Finally, is the question respecting the feelings, the most affectionate, which the revelation of Jesus, the bright and morning star which is to arise, produces? "The Spirit and the bride say, Come." And Jesus answers, "Surely I come quickly. Amen."

This solemn word closes the word, as a whole. The response of the faithful heart, moved by the Holy Ghost - "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."

This is what the Holy Ghost has left to vibrate on the heart of the Church until the Bridegroom comes.

In one word, if the coming of the Son of man threatens the world, who rejected Him, with the just and terrible judgment of the God whom incredulity shall know in His wrath - Him whom it desires to be ignorant of, and rejects in His grace, spite of all the proofs which have been granted to it; as it is written, "Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: Lord, when thine hand is lifted up, they will not see; but they shall see," Isaiah 26:10, 11. If I say, the appearance of the Son of man tolls the hour of the pride of the man of the earth, it is, on the other hand, to the coming of the Son of God that all the thoughts, all the affections, all the motives of the faithful are bound up. The hope of this coming used to characterize and form the whole Christian life. Joy, glory, holiness, rest, consolation, patience, everything in Christianity of the New Testament relates to the coming of the Lord, whose humiliation and work had laid the foundation of so glorious a hope. This hope crowned the whole of the Christian life, and separated the Church from the world, to be, as the Bride of Jesus, entirely for Him - her heavenly Bridegroom.

126 This is not, my brethren, proof of the truth of this doctrine - it is not that which I have sought to present you with here; but proof of the manner in which this truth is connected with the whole of the Christian life.

Is an abridgment of the Christian doctrine required? Take Hebrews 9:27: "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment, so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." Or, to use another passage, "Now the grace of God which bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, justly, and godly in this present life; waiting for the blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ." The appearing of the grace that saves opens the way to the appearing of glory.

These are two great truths: - the Church, a body formed upon earth by the presence of the Holy Ghost come down from heaven; and the return of Jesus to receive His Bride to Himself, and to come back with her to judge the world: - two truths essential to the glory of Jesus, and the instruction of the Church in the circumstances in which it is found - truths which the Reformation did not set forth in the light, and which answer the wants of the moment, in the work which the Holy Ghost accomplishes, as it seems to me, in preserving that which is the ground of all the truths - the work of Jesus on the cross, and the dignity of His divine Person.

127 9. The institutions which the Reformation established, even considered as the effects of the work of God, are passing away. What is to be done then? That is the question.

In bringing souls back to the Reformation, and to nothing farther, does one meet the need which, at this time, the Holy Ghost produces in them; that is to say, according to the thoughts of His grace?

I do not think so. That you have motives sufficient for separating from a system which puts the true doctrine of the glory of Jesus on a level with the denial of that doctrine, I grant. But that is not the question. The question is about setting up the reformed churches of France, or the Reformed Church of France. It is not, observe, what were the symbols of the primitive Church, howsoever ineffectual they were. At that period, the Church was standing, and professed her own faith in rejecting certain errors; for, in fact, symbols are in the main always negotiation (that is to say, truths presented so as to guard against certain errors). But here, that is not what you do. By a profession of faith, you wish to place, or, if you like it better, to induce the churches to place themselves on a given basis, confessing, at the same time, that you do not copy even the institutions of the Reformation; and you expect (a desire in itself holy and excellent) that all Christians will unite with you.

The question thus becomes very serious.

The ensign for rallying which you propose, is it sufficient for gathering Christians together again? A great number of Christians, who share with you both in the same faith and in the principles of the Reformation, remain attached to the institutions which the Reformation created. They are wrong in your opinion; but they do it. You adopt the truth in the measure they profess  it; only you wish it to be so set forth as to exclude those who deny it; that is to say, you make of this denial of error the basis of your new system.

Truth, say you, is a principle of life. I believe it.

The churches, you think, existed because they had faith. This is rather a mistake, as to history. But grant it.

The measure of truth which the Reformation did possess produced the institutions which you abandon. You do not take up a symbol as a standard for rallying; you confine yourselves to adding a formula designed to exclude the French heretics, if they are honest. Will this negation suffice as the foundation of the work of God, which alone can rally His children? For, besides that, the same truth will still be found in the old system; and, at the side of it, the error which, for oneself, one avoids.

128 What then would be the effect of your course? A division; the formation of two camps - not of two camps, one of which would be united together by the truth, and the other by error, but of two camps of which one would admit truth and error, with traditional influences and the institutions of the system; the other, truth without error, making separation obligatory, and drawing its strength from that very separation.

Will this motive (a motive which will, I have no doubt, act upon a great number of upright consciences) suffice to reunite all the children of God? For, while laying down sound doctrine for the foundation, the truth in question is but partial.

You separate from those who will not confess their faith. Feeling, as to yourselves, the obligation of doing so, you profess your own.

Dear brethren, I respect you in the bottom of my heart. I am satisfied that your aim has been the glory of the Lord. But what do you present to others? What sign for rallying have you which, in principle, would reunite all Christians according to the wants of the Church, and the everlasting truths which will answer these wants?

You re-produce, at very best, the fundamental truths of the Reformation, truths which produced what you have just left; you reproduce them unfolded, so as to make a clear distinction between you and the sad denial of truth, which is the symbol of the camp which you no longer support. That is to say, when the question is about forming something beyond the sphere of individual salvation, you have nothing but a negative principle, which separates you from that which exists already, and which condemns it. Many of those that are found there, possess salvation as well as yourselves, and through the same truths. You re-gather Christians, by making such an exposition of these truths as separates those who adopt it from those who do not receive these truths.

As regards a church, the Reformation only produced what you forsake. Possessing only the principles which formed that which you forsake, what will you put in the place of that which you leave? A church of separation, that denies the kind of corporation of which she possesses the constitutive principle, and nothing more. For, while acting in the power of the truth which saves souls, the Reformation produced, in point of fact, nothing but the body with which you will have nothing more to do. Its result in France was not even the formation of a national church, but simply that of a body of professors. That is what you are. What makes the difference is the denial of indifference as to the truth, and, for the moment, the faith of those who are acting.

129 Do I blame you, my brethren, as to your individual act? I approve it highly. The only thing that strikes me is, that you do not approve of a confession of faith as the basis of your work; and that you substitute for it a profession of individual faith, so expressed as to meet the errors of the day. But first, one might in this case act without separating oneself, if it is only individually one does it. If it is inconsistent to remain, as an individual, along with persons who deny the Gospel, because it would be sanctioning them, you ought a long while ago to have left them. Affection for the system kept you there. Will you, then, continue in this system of "the many"? In that case you will soon be again in unbelief. Multitudanism, without confession, soon becomes indifferentism. If you changed systems because it was bad, why did you remain in it until the question of doctrines was touched? Do I reproach you for having come out of it now? Far from it. In my sight, that is an evident duty. But - dropping this consideration, and likewise the character of faith, and the energy which are manifested therein - I seek in your position principles which may serve as the ground for the gathering of God's children; and I doubt whether a faith which rises not above a negation suffices for that. For that, something more is needed than what was sufficient as a motive for withdrawing from a mixed body, of which happily you no longer form part.

It seems to me that your present position is upright and honourable, and that if it is rather late, God at least approves you now. But are you thereby in a position which enables you to lay the foundations of the re-gathering of the children of God, so as to answer the wants of these critical times? Or, in hasting to do it with what you possess (or rather with what the churches of France possess, for you feel you cannot do it narrow, too little based on the energy of the Spirit of God, such as He unfolds it, to accomplish the purposes of the grace of God, to accomplish His own peculiar work? I understand your fears, lest, in waiting, souls should grow cold.

130 Energy is good, but it does not confine itself to laying foundations, when they are laid in a moment, in which, while one is building, it is to be feared that God is acting outside of what one does. Your eagerness makes manifest that, in order to maintain truth and reunite souls, you still reckon upon the institutions which you have just left; and that the truth which you profess is not sufficiently distinctive to retain souls in the position in which you wish to keep them, seeing that other persons, who have this truth in common with you, remain in the old system. It is enough to say, that a formal separation is the principle of reunion; and, for vital principle, your new institution has but the truths which produced that which you abandon.

Is separation sufficient to serve as a rallying point, and to reunite by a spiritual responsibility all God's children? That is the question. Is it not true that your project reckons on the traditional affection of souls for the reformed churches of France? We place ourselves again on this ground, to raise the ancient standard. But you share with others the influence of this sentiment.

Faith, which reckons on God, does not make haste, as if the thing was not in His hands. You make a church - a serious and solemn task! Is it the Church of God?

You desire union sincerely, and for the glory of God. I believe you, my brethren. But who can lay foundations such as that they shall embrace all Christians? God alone. There needs not only portions of truth - not only truths so set forth as to repel those who deny them; there needs the positive truths by which God acts to gather together again His own according to the actual wants of the Church. Because you have had to fight against those who deny them, you think that the precious truths elicited at the time of the Reformation will suffice. Are you sure you have reached the height of the thoughts of God - that your views include the whole sphere in which the energy of His Spirit manifests itself?

You will say to me that I am proud. You will ask whether I pretend to do it. No, my brethren. But I do not pretend to draw up on paper a church constitution which claims the adherence of all Christians, as if it were the sphere in which this energy of God's Spirit manifests itself. I act according to the measure of faith God has given me. That is all. Do likewise; God will bless you; and to him that has shall more be given.

131 If you do not pretend to be able to make a constitution which is according to the depths of the counsel of God concerning His Church at this time, do you well to think of making any constitution at all? Would it be well for you to condemn all those who, having the thought of something more, do not like to limit themselves, or rather to limit God, to the measure of that which He has given you at this time in His grace? It is certain that you cannot go beyond it. Ought you to impose it as a limit? I do not speak, dear brethren, in order to put opposition in your way: nor do I think of opposing you in what I have just now said. I know what prejudices exist. I bless God for the step He has given you individually to take. I even believe it very possible that, your faithful step leaving without excuse those who remain united to that which is evil, blessing will in great measure leave them as to the very truths they do maintain.

This is what I have thought I saw in the ways of God. When the work of the Spirit in Christians embraces all the extent of God's thoughts, and all the energy of His power, it reunites all His children. This it is which took place at the beginning. If the case is not so, God must act elsewhere, because He cannot abandon His own. If a partial energy will create for itself a system and formal institutions, it becomes a sect. God will bless you, my brethren, in your faithfulness. I believe it, and I desire it with all my heart. I only desire there should be sufficient largeness of heart to weigh what I have just been saying; and that there might be the fear of God, so as to feel what a serious thing it is to lay the foundations of a church, so that it should have the right to demand that all should enter therein. If one makes any other church than that, one necessarily makes a sect.

If I unite myself with two or three children of God, I act according to my faith, and upon a principle which embraces all the Church of God, such as God sees it.

If I lay the foundation of a constitution, I make a church; and, in this case, what is the church I make? Does it answer entirely to what God has said of a church in the word?

In acting according to what one has, God will give more.

In establishing a church, I limit the circle of my blessings wall of enclosure that I have made myself.

132 The apostle says, "That ye may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church, by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."

My brethren, I pray God with all my heart to bless you.

Let us seek peace and the good of His Church.