What has been acknowledged?

Or, the state of the controversy about elders, followed by a short answer to an article of Mons. de Gasparin.

J. N. Darby.

Geneva, 1852.

<04007F> 286

You need not fear, sir, that in making some remarks on the occasion of your "Dernier Mot" (Last Word) I am attacking you afresh. That which led me to take up my pen again is the summary you have given of the state of the controversy. I wish to assert and state what that state is, and my position with regard to it.

It even appears to me that your pamphlet shews a certain compunction with regard to the contents of the preceding one. The least appearance of such a spirit should be, for a Christian, a signal for abstaining from anything which might hinder the return of the heart to better feelings, and destroy the first germs of such a return by irritating afresh him in whom God acts by His Spirit. This single reason would suffice for my not pursuing the path of accusation, even where you might afresh give occasion for it. It is this which decides me. But, in the second place, if this decisive reason did not exist, I have told you that you should be safe from all attack on my part; and I keep to what I have said.

You boast of the ground gained upon me in this controversy. I leave to you, without regret, the glory of the combat, if there is any. If truth has been manifested in a clearer way by this controversy, all will gain by it. Partisans alone will occupy themselves with the trumpet that a man sounded before him on his return from the combat. At least there will be but one of these trumpets. Whatever the value of these flourishes may be, they shall all be yours; the attention which they attract shall be directed to you alone.

But there are certain points which I am desirous of bringing out clearly, as they are in the subjects which have been treated of, because it is a question of truth, of faith, and of the consciences of Christians.

In doing so I would call upon you seriously to observe how far it may be said that Christian uprightness has been restored by your answer; and I would draw the attention of my reader to some grave omissions which regard what lies at the bottom of the question - omissions which touch the truth that the word of God puts before our consciences - without however entering upon the controversy afresh. Then I would prove where we are with regard to some points to which I have just alluded, such as the apostasy, and others besides. This is my special object in taking up my pen.

287 As to that which concerns the first point, the facts are in general admitted, it is only a question as to the judgment to be borne on these facts. I leave each one to give his own. I weigh the excuses which you make in your present pamphlet, without saying a word which might wound you. I shall do nothing but place the facts in their true light with regard to certain points, so that you may have them on your conscience, the attention of which, I believe, has been aroused.

You said, "It is here necessary to copy the passages from 'Plymouthism.'" You admit that you have not done so; you have only copied (p. 5) the thought, you say. I do not well know what "copying a thought" means. No doubt you had full right to "unfold your thought more clearly and briefly." No one contests it. But have you a right to say that it was copying the passage, when you had altered it much? And allow me to ask you, Do you think that "the thought is strictly reproduced"?

The passage from "Plymouthism" said, "That men having failed to answer to the intentions of God," etc., "from that time God suppressed the economy that had failed, in order to substitute another," etc.

This was the essential point of the passage. You render the passage thus in your second pamphlet, "When men had failed to answer to the institutions of God, and the economy is in fact by the sins of men corrupted and ruined, Mr. Darby asserts that God rejects it to substitute another for it." Is "from that time God suppressed the economy which had failed" the same thing as "the economy is in fact by the sins of men corrupted and ruined"? Is the thought strictly reproduced? You add, "Mr. Darby affirms that God rejects it to substitute another for it, and that therefore it is a sin to wish to re-establish in its primitive condition that which God has definitively abolished." Is "from that time God suppressed the economy which had failed," found in the second version of the passage? The second version of your thought is nearly unintelligible, it is true; but it is so, because it has set aside this sentence, "from that time God suppressed," etc., which is very clear, and substituted another, namely, that "by the fact of the sins of men the economy was corrupted and ruined," a thought which is not found at all in the first version. Now this was a principal point. Then the whole subsequent controversy turns on the question of institutions and their analogy with laws which cannot be corrupted, and you have changed "intentions" into "institutions." In fact, it was a question of the stability of ordinances and of their corruption. And in the sentence "in perverting the laws and ordinances," you have omitted "and ordinances" in order to leave only "laws," which indeed could scarcely be perverted, whilst ordinances may easily be so and in fact even disappear, which cannot happen with regard to the authority of a law. Were there not important changes in precisely the principal points on which the discussion turned? I leave it to your own conscience to judge.

288 Then you assert that you have "reproduced exactly the very text that is the object of discussion." "I have," you say, "copied verbally, between inverted commas, the conclusion that I thought was to be deduced," etc. In fact you wrote that which you copied afresh in your "Dernier Mot." Be it so. I did not complain of the reverse; I complained of this: you have accused me of entirely perverting the form of your thought by the subtraction and addition of words. You have, then, in order to demonstrate it, copied the passage which you have introduced here, and you have added: "Mr. Darby renders that proposition thus"; but you have omitted the half of what I have given, and that which contains the thoughts which you pretend were additions made in my rendering of it. Now I had replied to you that it was not that proposition that I had rendered, but that one and another also which contained the things which you accuse me of having added to the form of your thought, by underlining the words which demonstrated it - a warrantable accusation, if I had given only the proposition which you cited. You answer me now by reproducing the passage without saying anything about what you have omitted. Is this an answer? The question is of that which you have omitted, not of that which you have given; of which I do not complain This passage gives occasion for remarks, but I make none. I confine myself entirely to drawing your attention to the question, if it is an answer.

289 Every one can judge, if he gives himself the trouble of reading what you have written and what I have quoted, whether you have as to the substance said what I make out that you have. I do not trouble myself about the form. I speak of that sentence, page 6: "The author has not said a word of all that: it is Mr. Darby who attributes it to him."

Then you say: "I hasten to acknowledge that I have in fact committed a typographical error, but nothing more." But you take your stand on this typographical error (!) and accuse me of upholding (and that with regard to the conduct of the Saviour Himself) the doctrine of the rationalists. For you interpret this "all" thus: "In fact Jesus submitted himself to the law." If I had said that He submitted to all that was required of Him, I should have understood the accusation. It would still be unjust; for to submit to all that the Jews required of Him, is after all quite another thought from what the law required of Him on the part of God. I did not make this difference appear in my "Appeal," because the sentence entirely referred only to a particular case, and so evidently to that and to no other, that I should have forgotten to reply to this accusation in my last pamphlet as not worth the trouble, had not my attention been drawn to this point. Is it necessary to repeat that the words "lest we should offend them" are the words of Jesus Himself, when He paid the tribute money? I spoke of the people deprived of the glory of God in contrast with His body, the true temple, and of the submission of the Lord to that which the Jews demanded, in reference to this temple, and not of the law of God at all.

The author is mistaken in his interpretation of what the Saviour said. Jesus did not say that He ought to be exempt, as sovereign possessor and creator of all things. This interpretation destroys all the beauty of the passage. He says, "Then are the children free; notwithstanding, lest we should offend them," etc. As to "the accusation of treating this act of the Lord as accommodation, on account of the necessity of the case," I leave it "subsisting in all its force" for the appreciation of every Christian. It is founded on the fact that I said that the Lord submitted to that which was required with regard to the temple in order not to offend them. The author tells us that the "moral character of the Lord is impeached by it." James tells us "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." The author forgets that, if the remark refers only to this single occasion, as he supposes it here, he accuses the words of the Lord Himself of being a just foundation for this accusation; for I have only given them without commenting on them or interpreting them. I know it is myself that he wishes to impeach and not the Lord, but he ought to examine the passage, and know what he is about. I have given the words of our Lord without interpretation, and he says that it is attributing to Him this accommodation, that it is impeaching His moral character. Now in this case it is His own words that would do so. But this is enough on this point.

290 I will now point out the grave omissions in the principal point of which we treat, which are found in this pamphlet. Nothing is said on the teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Why this silence? It is the part of the word which expressly treats of this subject. Nevertheless it is impossible to get one word of answer upon it. I do not ask that the silence should be broken. The silence itself says enough. But the reader will remark that this last pamphlet makes further advance in error where silence has not been maintained. We read in it: "It [that is, the temporary curse which hangs over them, the Jews] is not on account of their sins against the old covenant." How can any one dare to say this, when the word says the contrary? When God has said, "I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant and I regarded them not, saith the Lord"; how dare any one say, after such a declaration from the word, that the temporary curse was not caused by their sins against the old covenant? I have already called the attention of the author to these words of scripture: to say that which I have just quoted, is only to resist the truth which they teach. I quote yet another passage, so much the more remarkable because it is part of a discourse by which it may be said that the relations of God with this people at Jerusalem are terminated. I speak of Acts 7:42: "O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness? Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them; and I will carry you away beyond Babylon." Note this word Babylon, instead of Damascus, which is used by the prophet. Stephen refers the temporary curse, which now hangs over the Jews, to the idolatry of the people in the wilderness when they came up out of Egypt. No doubt they filled up the measure of their resistance against the Holy Spirit in what they did to Stephen himself, who bore testimony to a glorified Jesus, whom they had already rejected in His humiliation.

291 It is said that what put an end to the covenant of Sinai is grace in virtue of the promises, and not the sins of men. The passages which I have quoted and all those which I have alluded to in my first pamphlets suffice to refute this assertion "and not the sins of men." The word says the contrary, but I quote these words to shew that the contrast which people wish to make between the two things is without foundation. No doubt grace has replaced the covenant of Sinai, but that does not hinder God, who brought in grace, from putting an end to the old covenant, on account of the faithlessness of men to that covenant. The testimony of His word is positive as to this. No one denies that, when the first covenant was to be set aside, grace came by Jesus Christ. The question is: Why did God remove the first? Did not His wisdom find a just cause for this judgment in the sin of men? When Adam was turned out of the earthly paradise, grace took the place of the state of blessing, the enjoyment of which was attached to obedience of a law which was imposed on him. Nevertheless, it was a judgment from God which put an end to the previous condition of man, and did so on account of his sin.

But there is yet another principle concerned in this question. Could God have put an end to a conditional covenant - could He have taken it away - if man had faithfully observed the condition to which he had pledged himself? God had bound Himself to this covenant by a promise, if man observed a certain condition. In case man had observed it, could God have said, I will myself take it away, I will infringe it? I said that whosoever doeth these things shall live by them; but it does not matter; you shall not live by them: I have another means, and you shall live by that means - I well know that man could not. This is what God wished to manifest, so that sin might appear sin, and "become exceeding sinful"; and this is what He has proved. Now the anti-scriptural system which I have been combating will not have it that this has been manifested. It is affirmed that (not the sins of men, but) grace has put an end to the covenant of Sinai. But they overturn all the wisdom and perfection of the ways of God by this doctrine, resisting also thus the positive testimony of the word. "The two sides," they tell us, "of a covenant are perfectly independent one of the other." This is a singular covenant at all events. Man pledges himself by a covenant, and in this respect he is no longer independent. It was infinite condescension on God's part to pledge Himself in it; but once having deigned to pledge Himself, could He fail? If He could, all hope would be lost.

292 It is said that the existence of the economy is not confided to the will of man; it remains independent of him; it emanates from God, and only depends on His sovereign will. This is again an error. The principles of the economy are such as God wishes them to be, but the existence of the economy depends (because God cannot fail to keep His word) on what He has declared in the covenant itself, with regard to the conditions on which it was to depend, as well as of the revelation that God has made of His character in the word. Now in that case He has made it depend, not on the will but on the faithfulness of man, on his observation of the conditions which are imposed on him by the tenor of the covenant. It remains unshaken, they say again, until the Sovereign modifies or suppresses it at the time which He has determined for so doing. God may add blessings, no doubt, of which He has never spoken; but where does one learn that if God has deigned to pledge His word to men, He modifies His engagements at His pleasure? What a difference in the holy reasoning of the apostle in Galatians 3:15! "Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed no man disannulleth or addeth thereunto." I do not doubt but that God does suppress the old covenant at the time determined for so doing. Every one acknowledges it. The question is, Why does He so? What is the time determined on for so doing? Is it not when man has failed, and when, in spite of the longsuffering of God, there is no other remedy? They here overthrow the faithfulness of God to establish His sovereignty.

The promises made to the fathers are without condition; God infallibly accomplishes them.

The promises made under the law are made under condition of obedience on the part of the people. "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people." The fact is that, properly speaking, the covenant of the law was ended when Moses, at the sight of the golden calf, broke the tables. The relations of God with the people were sovereignly re-established upon the intercession of Moses by Him who said, "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy." The patience of God has continued these relationships and borne with the people. See Exodus 34:6, 7, 27. Jehovah said to Moses, "Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel." After the golden calf we find God introducing these words "with thee," which refer to Moses who had interceded for the people. He even calls Israel "thy people" in speaking to Moses.

293 The question then is not whether God had determined the time, but whether, at the appointed time, He does not put an end to the covenant on account of the sins of Israel - a point on which the word leaves no doubt, and with regard to which the system which I oppose stands in full contradiction to the express word of God.

But they go yet farther. "God," it is said, "exercised towards His people the right which He had reserved to Himself in the covenant. In virtue of this right He withdrew His glory from the temple, He communicated no more with the people by means of Urim and Thummim; the ark did not reappear. All these things were testimonies of the favour of Jehovah; they were suppressed in virtue of the penal sanction of the covenant. But nothing of all that was a part of the law or necessary to its execution. The priesthood recommenced its functions; the altar was replaced on its foundations; and the burnt offerings, the sacrifices, and the ceremonies were re-established according to the ordinances."

If the truth, which they seek to dishonour by the offensive name of Darbyism, forces its antagonists to place themselves on that ground in order to oppose it; if it is necessary to affirm such things in order to avoid the force of its conclusions (and this in fact is the case), it is impossible to have a stronger demonstration of the truth which they oppose.

When I read "Nothing of all that was a part of the law or was necessary to its execution," I thought that perhaps they were speaking of the ten commandments, or of the summary the Saviour gives of the law. Now the absence of these sacred instruments of Levitical worship had nothing to do, any more than their presence, with the observation of the ten commandments and the love of God and one's neighbour. The institutions do not affect their observations in the matter, unless it be as a means and a help, but in fact they do not depart from the question so far as that. These things, they affirm, were not necessary to the execution of the law, in its ceremonial part; "the ceremonies were re-established according to the ordinances." How can one reply to such an assertion? All the relationships of Israel with God "according to the ordinances" depended on this that the high priest put the blood of the calf and the he-goat once a year on the mercy-seat, which was the throne of the divine glory on the earth, of Him who sat between the cherubim. But there was neither glory, nor throne, nor cherubim, nor mercy-seat - the foundation of all the ceremonies was wanting. The ceremony of ceremonies on which all others depended could never be re-established according to the ordinances. Were the ceremonies re-established; and, yet further, the sacrifices and ceremonies re-established according to the ordinances, without the mercy-seat and without the glory of God to which they offered being there? Was not the mercy-seat necessary for the execution of the law on the great day of atonement? Was "execution of the ceremonial part . . . immediately after the return from the captivity continued according to the book of the law" without a mercy-seat?

294 It is not worth the trouble of entering more into detail, nor of pursuing this subject, in the presence of such assertions which have been made after attention has been drawn to the point.

But let us return to the summary of the state of the controversy.

First of all, it is not the primitive form of the Church which has become the property of Satan, nor, it is needless to say, the true Church itself. The Church has lost its primitive form. I can understand how a person, who thinks that all the ceremonial part of the law has been again set up without the mercy-seat, may imagine that the Church also had found what it had lost. One of these thoughts is worth about as much as the other.

They tell us that God does not reject the economy, but that He punishes the sinner.

The Epistle to the Hebrews, which treats of this subject here presents itself naturally to shew what God says. But they avoid recalling its existence, by saying Leviticus 22 is the constitutive act of the old covenant. This assertion is singular enough. Now the apostle says that the old covenant is set aside; the author does not deny it. Leviticus 26 declares that in case of the wilful sin of the people God would remember the covenant made with the fathers before the law, and keeps silence with regard to the covenant of Sinai.

295 We must seek elsewhere the positive doctrine of the word on this point, and we cannot have a clearer testimony with regard to it.

As to the continuation of the history of the Jews after the Babylonish captivity, God had announced that this captivity would end at the close of seventy years; which was the case. As to our present condition, He has announced that, if the Gentiles do not continue "in goodness, they will be cut off," and that the final result of the evil introduced in the time of the apostles will be the manifestation of the man of sin, whom the Lord will destroy by His appearing.

It is to positive revelations on these solemn subjects that I direct the conscience of my readers. To these solemn truths contained in the word of God, referring to a judgment which hangs suspended over the head of the professing Church, over that Christendom which is the result of the corruption of the truth and ordinances of God - in a word, of the corruption of the Church.

But now as for progress made on certain points: they say, "The apostasy of the Church as an accomplished fact has been abandoned." I repeat what I have often said, that those who teach that the apostasy is an accomplished fact are those who oppose my views. I beg the reader to pay attention to this, because, in remembering it, he will see what is the force of many captious objections. They apply 2 Thessalonians 2 to the passage (as also the 1260 days, years according to them). Now it is there that the apostasy is spoken of, which they believe thus to be an accomplished fact. One has only to ask M. Gaussen, or (if one wishes it) to examine his books, and no uncertainty will remain on this point. Or we may take the History of the Church by M. Guers, and the headings of the pages will point out to you "The apostasy commenced," "The apostasy in progress," "The apostasy accomplished." I do not know if they have been obliged to abandon it or not. As for myself, I believe that this apostasy, in its public and formal manifestation, is future. This is what I have thought since 1827.

296 Instead of having abandoned the doctrine of the apostasy, such as I understand it and as I have explained it, I continue to say that I most seriously believe that it is ever most important to warn Christians of it. The principle, which will end by this terrible apostasy, was already working in the time of the apostles. Jude points out this seed of the enemy as being already entered into the visible Church, and he declares that it is of those that Enoch prophesied when announcing the judgment to be executed at the coming of the Lord. To direct the attention of the Church to this germ of that which is the corrupting principle of the Church, and which is developed in bringing in an apostasy, an open revolt, is of the highest importance. This germ has been so developed since then, that its fruits have been treated by excellent Christians, as the full "accomplishment of the apostasy." I think that they are mistaken; but it is such a development, that morally they are right; and Jude speaks of a much more partial development as being that which was to be judged at the end: how much more then when the evil had displayed itself in such a way as to invade the world, to take possession of its power, and to establish its empire everywhere, as if this world were the Church, and the Church of this world! I believe that those who seek to weaken the impression of the testimony with regard to this evil, and to destroy the thought that it is morally the apostasy itself, are doing the work of the enemy.

I insist then, more than ever, upon this, that the result of that which is passing here below with regard to the Church is an apostasy, and that it is of all importance to point out that which has already taken place, as being this evil, as being, morally speaking, the apostasy, although its public and open manifestation may still be deferred.

Is it a little thing, that the evil which will bring down the terrible judgment of God upon Christendom exists though still bridled? Is it not important to give it its true name, its true character, although it hides itself, and because it hides itself? Now this is why people oppose this. The word declares that if this evil came in - and it shews that it had already come in at the time of the apostles - it would continue its course, would go from bad to worse, and there would be a cutting off, as took place in the case of the Jews. In a word, that judgment awaits the whole of Christendom, excepting the members of Christ who will go to meet Him in heaven before He executes it. They received the doctrine of the apostasy, when they could accuse others of it, and until it touched all the pretensions of the Gentiles, condemned by the apostle; then these doctors would not have it any longer, because their own pretensions and those of the whole of presumptuous Christendom must also fall.

297 I think that the forgetfulness of this solemn truth, or of its application to all that boasts itself of being Christendom, is a profound evil. The page to which we are referred does not speak another language. It is important, I say, to make the faithful understand that in principle this apostasy is there. I still insist on this point, and, instead of abandoning it, I entreat my reader for the sake of Jesus to pay attention to it.

They say that I have been obliged to acknowledge that the economies are not rejected the moment that men have sinned against them.

The author had made out that I said this. It is one of the passages which he has altered in what he said he copied. I have never entertained the thought, except to refute it when it was presented, if, by rejecting, they mean to suppress or to set aside. In the thoughts of God, however, they are indeed rejected; but His patience does not permit Him to suppress them till there is no longer any remedy.

However, if I were anxious to be very exact, I should say that what they say I am obliged to acknowledge I do not acknowledge, for I believe that an economy is really rejected as soon as men have sinned against it. That which I taught in the passage quoted is that God did not suppress it directly, although they have made out that I say the contrary, which I have never thought. The economy which is founded on conditions is, at bottom, rejected as soon as man has failed in these conditions; it is only suppressed (on account of the patient goodness of God) when there is no longer any remedy. That which they make out that I acknowledge, I do not acknowledge; that which they make out that I say, I have never said, but quite the contrary.

As to the re-establishment of the Mosaic economy after the return from the captivity, they do not quote a page of my writings as proof of their assertion that I cannot deny it. I suppose that I said nothing about it. That these institutions were partially re-established after the captivity is true: I do not remember having denied it. I remember having presented the Reformation as having a certain analogy with this event in a little paper which I published in 1827. I have remarked elsewhere that there are many things which could not be re-established. The author of the "Dernier Mot" says that the ceremonies were re-established according to the ordinances in spite of the absence of the ark. I do not think that he will convince a reader who knows what the blood on the mercy-seat was.

298 Finally, that the Mosaic economy was re-established, is what I do not accept, because it was not fully and definitively set aside before the coming and rejection of the Lord. The kingdom had been overthrown; worship had been interrupted, and never was completely re-established; but still there was a formal promise that at the end of seventy years there should be a return from captivity, their oppressors being judged. The author sends us back to pages 18, 19 of my "Observations." Now in these two pages I find quite the contrary to what they affirm, in saying that I cannot deny the re-establishment of the Mosaic economy. For this is what is said in them, in detailing what was wanting in the second temple: "Well, could men re-establish what depended on the power, the authority, and the grace of God? No, they could not." I said, "The ordinances were not abolished," which is quite true; they were not so until the death of the Lord, and as a judicial fact only when Titus took Jerusalem.

They dwell on my having "acknowledged that the economy of the New Testament is not abolished, and that its institutions still exist."

As to the first part (that is to say, the economy of the New Testament is not abolished), I have not given to it that name (page 15 of my pamphlet to which they refer us*). One may nevertheless say, with all safety, that it is not; but I fear that it was not this controversy which convinced me of it. We all form a part of it: at least, so I have always supposed. That its institutions still exist is a question which I have not touched upon in this page of my pamphlet. I have looked through the whole tract, and find nothing which has any reference to it, except that which implies just the contrary. I have treated of it at length in my "Appeal to the Conscience." There I have shewn that one may distinguish between the law of an institution and its practical state, in that the first does not change, whereas the institution itself may be corrupted in the hands of men, or cease to exist practically. I remarked in it that, in pretending to establish elders at Geneva, they have not acted according to the divine law of the institution. Several institutions of the New Testament still exist. There are some of them which have been deeply corrupted. In some places these corruptions have been more or less removed. There are some institutions which suppose the exercise of power in order to their actual existence, and that the functions which they suppose may be in active exercise. Now if this power is not in activity, the law of the institution is not changed; but in fact the institution remains suspended as to its practical official existence. This is the case with the institution of elders. The law about them is not changed; but this law supposes, in order to their nomination, the exercise of a power which no longer exists. It would not be true to say, in an absolute way, that the institutions of the New Testament still exist, or that they do no longer exist. I have said nothing about it that I know of; but this is my thought.

{*Observations on a Tract, entitled "Plymouthism in View of the Word of God," see page 271 of this volume.}

299 They say that I repel the allegation, according to which the system says that the victory must be yielded to Satan, and the institutions of God abandoned to him when he has seized upon them. There is no reference to this subject in the page to which the reader is referred. But I do in fact repel the allegation that one must yield to Satan.

But when they say "From whence it results that one must regain from him the institutions," I reply, It is a question as to what God gives us to do; and if the judgment of God has deprived us of anything, by taking from us the power necessary to establish it, it is not a victory over Satan, but a victory of Satan, when they pretend to do so, and that they thus do it without God and without the authority of His word.

Now, as to the complete retractation, it only exists in the imagination of the author. I have not made any retractation as to any point whatever that I know of I have not yet felt the necessity of making any, as to the principal point, that the apostasy has entered in principle, and that Christendom will go from bad to worse until God judges it. I feel continually more and more the necessity of insisting upon this, in order to awaken the consciences of Christians on this point. If I could cry with a voice which should resound through all the world, and make itself heard by all Christians, I would warn them of this solemn truth; as I have warned them in my weakness in the sphere in which God has placed me. I hope that God would give me grace to retract frankly every error into which I might have fallen, when I made the discovery of it. I do not doubt but that in many details I see more clearly than when I announced that solemn and mournful truth, in the presence of which there is only the coming of the Lord that can raise up the heart; but this increase of light and exactness has only rendered the truth which I announced more clear, more urgent, more solemn for my heart and for the consciences of all Christians. I hope God will give me grace to lay it ever more strongly on the consciences of the children of God. The opposition of the party to which the author belongs, the frightful doctrines by which they seek to overturn the truth (such as that which teaches that the past economy was not set aside on account of the sins of men), only render a faithful insisting on the truth as to this subject more urgent.

300 The principle of the apostasy, of the open revolt of the last day, is in activity; it has produced a system which is in opposition to God. The result of it will be the cutting off of all that calls itself Christian (always excepting the true children of God, who will be taken away), and the Gentiles, not having continued in goodness, will be cut off.

I openly own and assert that God has put an end to the Jewish economy on account of the sins of the Jews. I assert that He will do as much with the economy that now exists (if they will call it economy, perhaps not a very exact term); and that it is important for Christians to recognize the just judgment of God which is hanging over their heads.

A local and secondary question has been raised, only important so far as the solution of it resolves another more general one. It is this: can things which require power, and a special authority which supposes the integrity of the Christian system, be re-established, when this integrity has been practically lost, when the special authority no longer exists, nor the power by which this authority did once accomplish its task?

The question was as to the establishment of elders by the body which calls itself the Evangelical Church at Geneva. As to the author who defended the nomination which took place, this question is in fact decided. He says to us, "I do not pretend that the Church has followed the best course in the choice and installation of its elders and deacons. Perhaps it is possible to do it much better: I even think so in a certain measure. But it has acted according to the light that God has given it; it has been and it is blessed of the Lord. After having made trial of its ways nothing will hinder it from modifying them, according as the Holy Spirit may shew it by the word the course that it ought to follow."

301 The author, the elder who was chosen, thinks that the Church has not followed the best course in the choice and installation of its elders and deacons - "perhaps it is possible to do it much better." This renders it perfectly certain, that the Evangelical Church has not acted according to the word, for, in that case, it would have followed the best possible course, the only good and true one; it would not have been possible to do much better. It is impossible to have a more positive avowal that the choice and installation of the elders of the Evangelical Church of Geneva was not according to the word. This is what I thought, this is what I said, and this is what I still think; and it is because it is not according to the word that I do not accept it. That, when it has made trial of its ways which are not according to the word, there is nothing to hinder it from modifying them as the Holy Spirit may shew it by the word, is no reason for conforming to its course, as long as it departs from the word.

The question of the choice of elders, at Geneva at least, is decided for him who respects the word of God. I do not pretend that it is my arguments which have produced this conviction in the mind of the author. I do not in the least doubt but that he has derived it elsewhere.

As to the principal question, which is whether God has put an end to His relationship with Israel, under the old covenant, on account of the sins of this people, I leave it to the decision of every Christian who takes the word for his guide.

Another general principle is brought out by this pamphlet, which is of sufficient importance. It is, that not only is popular election the source of authority in the Church of God, but, supposing even that someone has been duly established as an elder, the people have only to be discontented and the elder must retire. That which the popular breath has created the popular breath can destroy. "It is now for you," it is said, "to examine before the Lord whether you judge me no longer worthy of your confidence, and if I ought to retire."

302 I have only one remark to add, to express my way of thinking. They accuse me of the omission and subtraction of words. If they believe this to be true, they would do much better to say that there is dishonesty and impiety. I like frankness; I dislike the habit of speaking of things and not giving them their proper name.

P.S. I do not read the religious journals, so that I do not see the attacks which they contain against what is called Plymouthism; but just at the time this pamphlet was coming out of the press, they put the "Archives du Christianisme" of September 11 into my hands, and I was begged to add a word in answer to the article signed "De Gasparin." There is as little pleasure in answering anyone who does not know what the question is, as there is in replying to those who make out that you say things that you have never said, and who, when you repudiate them, triumph in your having, as they say, abandoned your views.

However, I will add a few words.

They say that Plymouthism has tried several theories. First, it was the apostasy of the economies; then it was the corruption and the fall of the institutions; and, lastly, it was the impossibility of establishing elders since the death of the apostles.

Why "first," "then," and "lastly," as if they were different theories? I should not express these things as they are expressed here; but the expressions do not matter much. I believe all the three things together. Instead of one theory replacing another, the latter only prove accessory facts, which are connected with the more general one.

There is an apostasy of this economy (for I find the remark on the expression too trivial for me to employ any other). The institutions have been corrupted without the economy being at an end. And I do not exactly believe in the impossibility of establishing elders after the death of the apostles, but in the incompetency of those who now pretend to do so: their work, according to me, is antiscriptural.

That there is an apostasy, 2 Thessalonians 2 declares it of Christendom. That the institutions have been corrupted every protestant believes. That the method which they now follow in nominating elders, and which M. de Gasparin approves of, is not scriptural, is evident to anyone who reads the Bible, and almost confessed by Mons. de Gasparin himself. What is said of the three theories being tried one after the other, has no foundation whatever.

303 Moreover M. de Gasparin, as far as it appears, does not know what the question is. He says: "The Church and its offices belonging to the economy, and this economy having apostatized, there is nothing more to be said of offices and of elders to be set up." Why? The offices might exist as any other form, although the fundamental principle of the existence of the economy might have been completely denied.

I have already sufficiently answered that grossly antiscriptural idea, that it is not the sin of man which brings about the suppression of an economy. I beg the reader to pay full attention to this. Such an assertion (and it is approved of by M. de G.), is sufficient to judge the whole moral system which it is employed to sustain, and to prove what is the biblical knowledge of those who employ it.

They wish to make it appear that I have acknowledged that my first position was untenable. I am very sorry; but instead of believing it untenable, I believe it more important than ever.

I should have been quite ready to suppose that the first publication of my thoughts on this subject might have contained something inaccurate, as it generally happens when fresh light shines into the mind of man; but I have been led, by the attacks recently directed against this doctrine, to read this first publication again; and I find it more reserved than I should have thought, and very conclusive for whosoever recognizes the authority of the word. They add that I even expressly allow that the evangelical economy has survived the very profound failure of Christendom. Yes, I do allow it most expressly. Until now I have never found an idea to the contrary excepting in the dreams of my adversaries. Where have I said that the economy had come to an end? I have preached and taught by word of mouth and by writing that the coming of Christ will be the term of it.

That fine idea, that the economy of which we form part has already come to an end, is entirely due to the bright imagination of my adversaries.

As to the assertion which follows - that Christians ought to abandon the institutions to Satan - when M. de Gasparin can shew this in my writings, I will reply to it. Further, sin does not suppress the institutions, but the latter may be practically corrupted by men and abandoned by men.

304 The apostles, say they, have not enjoined the abandonment of their institutions. What a profound remark! But if men have abandoned them without its being enjoined - and if in consequence they have not existed practically during seventeen centuries - can M. de G. re-establish them practically, so as to bind the conscience, as the apostles did in nominating elders? If not, he causes divisions. He is guilty of schism in imposing that which has no divine authority, and in excluding those who do not accept that which is not according to the word.

They tell us "that, finally, they have proved that the duration of the institutions of the Church was everywhere fixed so as that it should equal that of the evangelical economy, that is to say, fill up the interval which separates the first and second coming of the Saviour." Where have they proved that? Now there is still the same sophistry here. "The institutions were to fill up the interval," etc. Have they filled it up? The law of the institution has not changed; but has the institution, as a fact, continued to exist practically? If it has, why so much trouble to prove that they have the right to re-establish it? Wherefore "discoveries" with regard to the means of doing so? No, it has not continued to exist, and it is because it has not thus continued that they seek by so many arguments to shew that they have a right to re-establish it by other means than those shewn in the word. Note this well. The law of the institution still exists; the institution does not now exist. It cannot now be re-established according to the law of scripture; and they seek to re-establish it, in fact, by violating the law which ever exists.

But again: Where is the duration of the economy itself fixed in the word? Where is it said that it should be long, and that there should be a means of prolonging its institutions? For my part, I deny that this is said. The scriptures speak of it in a perfectly different spirit. I plainly affirm that nothing is arranged in the word with a view to the prolonging of the economy, unless the sleep of the ten virgins be called an institution. That the Bridegroom has, in fact, delayed His coming, we know; but I challenge my adversaries to shew me any ordinance of God which sanctions the state of things which is the result of this. I assert that the word always treats this state as a state of ruin and of sin, which will bring in the judgment of God. This is the great controversy between us.

305 Now here we have that which, while allowing that it is not proved, is the avowal of the true state of the question. They tell us "that even supposing that the New Testament never presents to us the election by the Church, as interposing in the nomination of elders, it would not be less evident that God, in ordering us to have elders, and in taking from us the primitive mode of nomination and installation, would authorize and enjoin our employing another way. Liberty in the choice of means is the common right of the churches."

First. It is plain that, if there is a mode primitively ordained by God, that is the law of the institution, and there is no question of a liberty of choice.

Secondly. Besides, God has never ordered us to have elders. He has only given us the historical account of their nomination and of their installation. There is no command beyond the institution itself, according to the primitive mode, which (admitting the supposition) God has taken away. The institution itself as a law is nothing else than this mode which God has taken away.

Now has God taken away this original mode in order to establish another? Clearly not. We have not another revelation, and there would be no liberty of choosing if God had established another mode by His authority. Now has God abrogated the law of the institution? It is there in the word as the mode appointed by His sovereign authority. How then has He taken away the primitive method? It is historically the fact; it is the practical failure of the institution in the hands of men, and this to such a degree that it may be said that God has taken it away. For the law subsists, it has not been taken away. It is as an institution virtually existing amongst men: that God has removed it, as well as the means of re-establishing it according to the law of the institution, according to the primitive mode, you may say. That is to say, practically the thing has failed. God, acting in judgment (for He has not changed the law), has removed it. He has by this judgment rendered it impossible for man to re-establish it according to the primitive law of the institution; for (it is supposed) God has taken away the original mode. Then, although God may have removed it in judgment, man will re-establish it by his liberty; and although God may have rendered it impossible to do so according to the law of the institution (for God has taken away the primitive mode), man will follow another mode, will establish a law according to his liking. "It is the common right of the churches." Here is fine liberty! The law of God (I speak of His institutions) is attached to an exceptional fact, transitory in its nature; and consequently man may afterwards thus do what he pleases.

306 The sacred canon, you tell us, has preserved the Epistles to Timothy and Titus. Yes, truly; but it is to shew a law of the institution, which you cannot follow, and to prove that, in pretending to re-establish what God has removed, you despise at the same time both the judgment which removed it and the law which established it, by re-establishing it after another mode according to what you call liberty, that is to say, your own will. For God has, in fact, removed the institution, and not the law of the institution, which still exists in these epistles and elsewhere in the New Testament, in all its force, so as to condemn you.

This is a supposition, do you say? It is your own supposition which betrays your principles in the conclusions which you deduce from them. But it is more than a supposition. "The discovery of the means, you say, is not difficult." This is true. Outside the authority of God, there is only the will of man. This is the path that you have followed. It is quite evident, that, if one respects the word, one has not to make discoveries. If you have any to make, it is because you have abandoned the word. If you do the work which you give out, I sincerely exhort you to examine more fully the responsibility of man, and its consequences with regard to the dispensations. This is the true question. It is not right to shake the fundamental principles of the ways of God for a question of elders.