The Church which is His body

A letter on A.R.D.'s few thoughts as to the position of saints gathered in the Name of the Lord.

J. N. Darby.

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My dear brother,

Somebody has sent me A.R.D.'s tract. It produces upon me the painful effect of one who has learned a great many truths, but has not the centre which binds them together: they have not been inwrought into his conscience to meet the need of his soul. It is a speculation, but a speculation upon holy things. It may meet acceptance where the mind shrinks from a faithful walk, or perhaps puzzle those who are ignorant of scripture, but much more those who are afraid of subjecting themselves to the bonds of truth. But one soberly exercised in scripture must be surprised at such a production, or a clear mind with such a mass of contradiction. It is arbitrary in its statements, which do not even hang together, and slovenly to the last degree even in small things.

In the first paragraph, "the assembly" is the only expression to be used; in the second, "a temporary purpose" is "to be fulfilled by the church." And here is one of the eggs of "the nest of errors" in the word ["church"]. Is this "the one body of Christ risen and ascended"? No; in that sense "the assembly has no true position on earth at all," yet we are told a purpose was "to be fulfilled by the church pending its completion," that is, of course, the completion of the body of Christ composed of the all of paragraph one. The members were to "constitute a manifest assembly on earth." "It is in this character it" - what? - "is spoken of in 1 Timothy 3:15, as the house of God." It must be the church, the body (not complete, of course), which is thus the house. Thus a J temporary purpose was to be fulfilled by the true body of Christ (that is, the part which is on earth), that of being the house of God. It was the church, the body, applied to a temporary purpose on earth, where it has no true position at all. Yet it is already in this paragraph the "professing church."

Now on this point the tract turns; and, if we keep it in mind, the consequences will be found, the natural consequences of this confusion, though inconsistent with it. Already in this same paragraph, in a phrase excessively loose in expression, we are told that "as to their responsibilities, the members of the body together on earth, or in any particular assembly, are looked at as the body," 1 Cor. 12. First then the body is the instrument for fulfilling the temporary purpose of a manifest assembly on earth; and secondly, as to their responsibilities, the members on earth are looked at as the body. Now the whole tract is to shew that the assembly on earth is the only unity we have to do with (though apostasy has for us set this aside), and to distinguish it carefully from the body. And, secondly, already the members on earth, as to their responsibilities, are looked at as the body, though that body, as the body of Christ, has no true position on earth at all. What its responsibilities are, if it has no true position, I am at a loss to know.

210 I shall be told the first paragraph speaks of an "aspect" of the assembly. Well, and what means "looked at as the body" but its aspect as the body of Christ? No, this passage is an effort to get rid of, in seeming to allow, the force of a passage that stood terribly in the way of A.R.D. These saints are addressed as to their responsibilities as the body; and the whole object of the tract is to shew they are not, and cannot act on any such. And A.R.D. knows very well, and (if I mistake not) has a theory formed for the occasion, that what is there spoken of "as the body" is no doubt in a certain sense a particular assembly, but withal "all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord."

I will speak of the ruin. But we have the whole church of God, a particular assembly especially in view treated in its responsibilities as the body. The assembly, in which the apostles and gifts of healing on earth were set, is treated as the body of Christ. And, note, it is so truly the church, assembly, and body on earth, that when I think of being members of Christ in heaven (for a body in heaven is never spoken of that I can remember), there can be no responsibility at all. We are perfect in Him.

As to their responsibilities then, the body is and can be only looked at on the earth; and as to their responsibilities, A.R.D. tells us they are looked at as the body - I suppose therefore are to act in these responsibilities, and to look on themselves as to their responsibilities as the body. If this be admitted (and I am taking A.R.D.'s statements), his whole tract falls to the ground unless he denies my responsibilities because of the ruin (a most anti-scriptural principle, letting us off by our own wickedness); or invent some other kind of responsibility besides that which he himself tells us scripture teaches.

211 But I will go into a little more detail. We find that the body of Christ is spoken of abstractedly without reference to place; and this is but twice; as for example, Ephesians 1, "to the church which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." Whenever any place is spoken of, it is invariably and exclusively spoken of as on earth. So utterly unfounded is the assertion that it has no true position on earth at all. I should not have made any difficulty as to saying the church, as in Christ, is viewed in heaven; because universally we speak of a whole as meaning all its parts. But when a great system of doctrine is founded on an expression, then its inexactitude becomes important. You have only to take a Concordance and verify what I say.

I shall now follow some of the author's statements. The assembly becomes after Pentecost contrasted with the body. This is alike arbitrary and false, but all the argument depends on it. "There are therefore two bonds that bound saints together: first, the body, or rather the one Spirit; and then the circle of the assembly" (p. 7). But this assembly on earth, we are told (p. 3), is spoken of in 1 Timothy 3:15, as the house of God, the pillar and stay of the truth." This assembly, now in apostasy, is what A.R.D. calls always "the assembly," which has its unity contrasted with the unity of the Spirit, or "the body," which has its unity: the latter having no true position on earth, the former being now inconsistent with the unity of the Spirit (p. 8). Hence as "the body" has no real unity on earth, and "the assembly" is apostate, of course there is no unity at all.

Now I have shewn already that the body, if any place be spoken of, is always spoken of as on earth. Let me add that I defy A.R.D. to cite me a passage where "assembly" is ever spoken of (referring to the professing church, the house, and not now speaking of local assemblies)* in any other way than as the true, vital, divinely formed and real thing. Christ builds His church. But "assembly" or "church" is never used for anything else in scripture than what God forms it to be; I do not speak of churches, or assemblies, but of the "church" or "assembly." It is never used but of the divinely ordained thing. They may shew departure from its right position. A.R.D. then makes the body have no true position on earth; scripture, when it speaks of a place, never speaks of it anywhere else. Individuals are united to Christ in heaven. A.R.D. speaks of the assembly as the ruined apostate thing, in contrast with the body; scripture never speaks of it but as God's own delight, and as livingly formed of Him.

{* These (with admirable divine wisdom, so that no thought of delay in Christ's coming should be allowed) are, I doubt not, used as pictures of the state of the professing church in Revelation 2 and 3.}

212 Such departures from scripture are rather serious in one who sets up to teach us what is our scriptural path on these subjects. His whole view of the matter is, in its foundations, in the teeth of scripture. This would suffice to put the whole tract away as false. But I will examine it more in detail. The excessive looseness makes it difficult to deal with.

"The members of the body together on earth . . . are looked at as the body; r Cor. 12. The assembly on earth then should be manifestly one," p. 3. This is because "the assembly on earth, or the 'professing church,' as it is commonly called, was constituted according to the standard of the assembly, the body." "Moreover it [the assembly on earth] should consist of all those on earth who are members of the body, (except of course, where any might be outside in discipline)." Now this is a mere arbitrary statement of A.R.D. That the limits of both were the same at the beginning, we may well allow; but the principle is an invention of A.R.D.; if not, let us have scripture for it, if he makes the assembly and the body distinct, for which also he has no ground. Scripture says, "the church [assembly] which is his body."

But to proceed: "God took care to provide all that was needful for the assembly to fit it for its place, and to accredit it in that place" (p. 4). Now we are to remember this is not the body. "Its place is here on the earth; the body has no true position there." The gifts were not to accredit it in heaven, I suppose; if they were, then the place of the assembly on earth is in heaven. Yet, "In Ephesians 4, we have enumerated the gifts of the ascended Christ with a view to 'the edifying' of his body: that is, the fulfilment of the heavenly purpose as to the assembly." Now the fitting for its place is not on earth. But (not to dwell on this confusion) where was the body, when it was edified? The convenient expression before was the assembly on earth constituted according to the standard of the assembly, the body; but now we find it is the body itself But the truth is, unless the assembly be taken as the Epistle to the Ephesians does for the body, "the assembly which is his body," there is not a word about the assembly here at all. It is in vain to say it ought to consist of the members of the body. It is not spoken of here; nothing is spoken of but the body. They were to endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit. There is one body and one Spirit. The gifts are given till we all come in the unity of the faith - that we be no more children tossed to and fro, but grow up to Him who is the Head, from whom the whole body, fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." Now where was this? Every one in his senses must say, on earth. Where then was the body? On earth, to be sure. Was it the one body of Christ risen and ascended? Clearly. The gifts came down from Him there. And what is the fitness? and for what place? The whole passage speaks of earth. I have quoted the parts which shew it. The growth is on earth, the things to be secured against on earth, the responsibility on earth, the object of the ministrations on earth. No doubt we shall finally be in heaven; and all ministrations are in result in view of that. But, as I have said, the body, if spoken of as anywhere, is always spoken of as on earth when addressed, because it was on earth. It is never spoken of as in heaven, and there is (to give no other than that referred to by A.R.D. in the first paragraph, but of which he did not see the force) the plainest scriptural testimony that the body is there treated as on earth. The body is formed by the baptism of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, and of course formed on earth; and though I do not doubt that that which is the body will be in heaven, the body and heaven are never connected together, because it is formed by the Holy Ghost come down from heaven. The passage which now occupies us (Eph. 4:16) is as plain as possible as to this.

213 A.R.D. next quotes 1 Corinthians 12:28. He could not help doing so. Let us see if this is the body of Christ, "the one body of Christ risen and ascended"; and next, whether it "has no true position on earth at all." I read, "For 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 . . . but now are they many members, yet but one body . . . now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." He had spoken of the gifts (vv. 7-11) as the display of the Spirit in the various members, while the body was one, and he now closes with a general list of them (v. 28). "And God hath set some in the church [assembly]; first apostles," etc. Now this is clearly on earth; there are no healings in heaven. It is by the baptism of the saints into one body, in the various members of which the gifts are exercised. And note also (to do this the more completely, and bring general Christian responsibility in), the apostle includes in the beginning, "unto the church [assembly] of God which is at Corinth . . . with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord." The distinction of the assembly and the body, and saying the body has no place on earth, is a mere fable. Responsibilities are in the body, mutual, and universal, and necessary. If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.

214 There is a distinction between the house and the body; the former, the habitation of the Spirit; the latter united to Christ. But in the house there is not at all the same responsibility, there is in building it (1 Cor. 3); there is in public common confession of the truth, and, when a great house, individual responsibility to have done with evil in it; but all proper Christian responsibilities as such are wholly as members of the body on earth, and in connection with the unity of the body. We are members one of the other; we are to keep the unity of the Spirit. But our author tells us, "I have said that unity and purity ought to characterize the assembly." Is the assembly here in contrast with the body? A.R.D. has said, it "ought"; but plain people want something more than "I have said "for their consciences. However he has said (p. 4), "it should admit no others" but those who are members of the body. But when I look for something from scripture in the tract, or in my own search into it, I find no more than "I have said." But again, where has he found that the assembly "admits"? I find nothing of it. I find Philip and many other individuals baptising others, which I suppose was admitting as far as there was any such admission. But a duty of the assembly in admitting it would be very hard to prove, still less admitting members of the body. In the first place, save Cornelius perhaps, they were not members of the body till after they were admitted. It was not then a departing from Christian iniquity, and seeking to walk with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. There was no admission by the assembly and no question at all of their being members of the body. If there be, A.R.D. has forgotten to shew us any scriptural authority. "I have said" - will hardly furnish us with sufficient authority. There is a statement in this (p. 4) too long for me to quote: "For God committed to the assembly so constituted, endowed and accredited, the responsibility of acting according to the principles revealed in the word for its guidance." Will our author kindly point out (it is that I seek for in vain here) anything revealed in the word for the conduct of the church then in admitting those already members of the body into an assembly which was not the body?

215 I do not admit in the strict sense of the word that there is any apostasy of the assembly as yet. No doubt for spiritual discernment the principle of it is there, but not apostasy. But even on any ground, A.R.D. has no scripture for his distinction of Christendom and the assembly as he considers it. Judgment begins at the house of God. Laodicea, which is spued out of Christ's mouth, is called "assembly"; Thyatira, to which the morning star and the kingdom are substituted, has the name of "assembly." God's building may have wood and hay and stubble in it; God's servant may find his place with unbelievers; the branches that partook of the root and fatness of the olive tree may be removed. But it is remarkable how false principles throw mere activity of mind into confusion. No one pretends that the assembly on earth exists no longer, he tells us (p. 5); he does not mean to say that Christendom is the assembly of God, but he insists that what was once God's assembly has "degenerated into what we call Christendom."

It will be said, I understand, it is an assembly, not God's assembly. Whose then? It was so: when did it cease? Will it not be judged as such? When wood and hay and stubble had been built in it, it is still God's building, God's temple; and on God's house judgment comes, on "that servant"; and there profession is spoken of If judgment begin at the house of God, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel? In the great house of 2 Timothy all the vessels to dishonour and honour are - that into which the assembly has degenerated, the vessels are in that. If an assembly exists, it must be that, or they are in no assembly at all, they are not in God's assembly - have nothing to do with it. There is none such - no responsibility connected with it; or are they in another assembly which is responsible? Where is their responsibility as to any assembly if it be not God's? Man has not ceased to be a creature responsible to God because he is fallen and in that sense apostate from God. If the assembly of God has fallen, has its responsibility ceased? and if it be responsible, on what ground is it so? Is it not as God's assembly, though it has ceased to be so really in heart and way? When and how did God's assembly cease to be such as to responsibility as such on the earth?

216 But the reader must remember that all this distinction of "assembly" and "body," etc., is wholly without scriptural ground. Purging the house never was the duty of saints; it is all a fable, an invention of A.R.D. There is no truth in the apostasy of the assembly. It was commonly used for popery; but that is no ground to go on now, bad as that system may be. I admit we do not purge the house; I admit we do not come out of it. If it was apostate, we could not be in it at all. If it be a house, who is in it? Is it the house without the Holy Ghost in it? Who is the Master of the house where the vessels to dishonour are, and out of which we are to come? Is He the Master of an apostate house? Is it His house if it be apostate from Him? The distinction of the "assembly" and "body" is wholly unscriptural, the statement of the present apostasy of the assembly equally so.

What can I think of a tract in which I find (p. 7), "I have said that one might be a member of the body though outside the assembly," when I read in scripture "the assembly which is his body"? And all the gifts which are members of this body are described as being set in the assembly. I have discussed the grounds of the tract: in page 7 we come to its object; and, I must say, such a complete hopeless mess I never read. First, "there are therefore two bonds which bound the saints together." I suppose this means that at the first there were such. I really take in this the fairest meaning out of the sentence I can. For, it is added, these two bonds still exist. Well, two bonds which bind the saints together still exist. But here we are in a pretty case. It is first "the body," or rather the Spirit, and then "the assembly." Two bonds for unity are curious, particularly as one might be a member of one and not in the other, and in the other without being a member of the first. But let this double unity pass. But then see where we are. It is a unity of saints, this bond of the assembly; but then not only many of the unity are not saints, at any rate not members of the body, but the assembly is apostate. So that it is unity in apostasy, the saints' unity in apostasy. That is nice, is it not? and they still exist, these bonds.

217 I should not in a common case have made a difficulty of the next phrase, assuming it to mean right, had it not been made much of, and the grand ground of action, "gathered to the name of the Lord." Will A.R.D. forgive me for not being content still with "I have said," and tell me where he finds this in scripture? No Christian doubts the authority of the Lord, none that Jesus is Lord: it is a distinctive character of such to call Him Lord. But it is a title, as far as I see, of authority over individuals, not a title to which people are gathered. However, if A.R.D. can shew it me from scripture, of course I should bow. But I know of no such principle in scripture.

But our tract puts me farther in the mud here. Page 7 tells me that the unity of the assembly is a bond of the saints, and that this bond still exists; but page 8, that "to manifest the unity of the assembly is inconsistent with keeping the unity of the Spirit." That is, it is so now, and it is now that the question concerns me. So that he maintains a bond of saints still existing, instituted of God, is inconsistent with the unity of the Spirit. Now the body, the only other unity (or that of the Spirit), "has no proper position on earth at all," according to A.R.D. To assert any other than these two is to make a sect, we are told; that is, to have any unity at all is impossible. Membership of a local assembly is a thought characteristic of apostasy. Poor Dissenters! all characteristically apostate - absolutely fallen away from Christ altogether, without even suspecting it. They are to be pitied.

Then, if the assembly of God at Ephesus admitted a person, "they admitted him into the one assembly of God on earth." You must not suppose the assembly means the body as scripture always speaks; this is A.R.D.'s assembly. Now, first, there was no such admission by assemblies at all. Next (for the confusion is complete), it was not into the unity of the body he was admitted, but of the assembly of God. Those in the assembly might have been of the body before, or never be of it. It was another bond of unity. This is another invention of A.R.D. Moreover, if false brethren had crept in, if many walked whose end was destruction - in a word, if the assembly was far gone away from the limits of the body, was it an assembly of God, or when did it cease to be so? I know A.R.D. speaks of the apostasy; but when, then, did this take place? I deny altogether that it has, when we speak strictly and truly. And if A.R.D. says it is popery, when did it take place? Is the Greek church in it? When the Protestants broke with Rome, did they continue in the apostasy, or remain in it? The whole reasoning is founded on one false statement heaped on another, so that it is hard to know where to begin.

218 The idea of a local assembly admitting a person into an assembly of God on earth which was not the body, is composed of as many unscriptural statements as it has notions in the sentence. But this is the basis of the practical part of the tract. There is no unity in the scripture, as a fact, but the unity of the body, or assembly as the body; no church admits to it - no gathering admits to it; we arrive at it by the baptism of the Holy Ghost, which regularly comes after baptism by water. As far as it has any meaning, A.R.D.'s principle is independency. Nor does he deny it, but says he might retort that the other principle (that is, of seeking unity in the assembly now) is Popery in germ. But independency is, according to him, characteristic of apostasy (p. 7). Besides, see again what he has brought us to. Any attempt at unity is, according to him, the manifestation of the unity of the assembly (p. 8); now inconsistent with that of the Spirit; it is in principle popery. But the assembly on earth, we are told (p. 8), should be manifestly one - that is, should be manifestly popery. We are getting on nicely.

But, in all soberness, what is proposed to us is essentially congregationalism. They admit them as members of God's one assembly on earth; they receive, they say, all Christians; only they hold that each congregation is to act on its own responsibility, and as subject to the Lord only. They would receive on a testimony from another assembly of honourable fellowship into communion with themselves: only each assembly must purge for itself, and by itself. They do not pretend to be the assembly of God, they only claim to be saints who have been baptized by the one Spirit into the one body of Christ, and who, in separation from evil, are gathered in the name of the Lord. There is not a word of the tract on this point which they would not take into their mouth. The last lines of page 10 would be just their language and practice. Nor could they profess to act in discipline towards those not gathered with them. The tract merely and simply pleads for independency, but independency without putting out for sin. And remark here that, if I only exercise discipline on those gathered with us, the principle of strict membership is fully established.

219 As regards discipline, A.R.D.'s theory is equally confusion. He tells us, "the principle on which saints should act in relation to evil is to 'purge themselves' from it, and not to seek to put it out of the assembly." Of course the direction of the apostle, "Put out from among yourselves that wicked person," falls to the ground. "Before apostasy . . . the duty of saints was not to separate . . . but . . . to put out the evil, and keep the assembly pure." Now, they are "not to seek to put it out of the assembly" (Note to p. 6).

Now I reject the whole system as unscriptural, as already shewn. But of two things one: either they are to put it out of the gathering which is not the assembly, or they are not. If they are, then we have a voluntary association and membership as the sphere of action, which A.R.D. tells us is characteristic of apostasy; or, if not, we have membership of a voluntary association without any possibility of putting it out. We are told [in the same note] that "to make this principle an excuse for allowing evil among saints professedly gathered in the name of the Lord is simply to deny the holiness of the Lord." All very fine; but no one can deny that evil can come in, and, according to A.R.D., we never ought to seek to put it out. All we can do is to go away. That is, it is independency, with the denial of discipline. But supposing an ungodly walking member of Christ's body comes where one of these precious gatherings which must not seek to put out evil is assembled, and wishes to be of it, what is to be done now? not let him in? Here you are doing the same thing. You can shut him out - not put him out! Or are you to let him in, and then walk out yourself, purging yourself from the evil, and leaving the poor gathering in sore danger (if it does not break up) of being in principle apostate, and bound to do so? or is evil to be excluded when it is without, where A.R.D. tells us discipline cannot be exercised, but not within, where it can? We cannot "act in discipline towards any who are not gathered with us"; it is, we are told, so far popery. (See note to p. 10.) Now clearly the person desirous of coming is not yet gathered with us; yet we shut him out. But we must not seek to put out evil when it is within.

220 There is, therefore, no discipline for those who are gathered, as the negativing of discipline on those not gathered might have led us to suppose. Yet we are told, "a fellow-member of the body of Christ comes in, and claims to be received at the Lord's table!" . . . "Our only inquiry is whether they are members of the body of Christ" (why so, let me ask, if that is not the ground of union? There is no end to the contradictions); "and, moreover, whether they, too, are separate from evil" (p. 10). Well, here then is practically judicial discipline exercised. But if the evil is within, it must not be; the scriptural direction, "Do ye not judge them that are within?" is absolutely reversed, and the fact of being gathered, which in scripture gives the ground of judging, here absolutely deprives of it. The fact is, the whole system is a defiance of scripture, and founded on the fable of the unity and bond of the assembly, as contrasted with the body, while yet membership of the body is made the ground of union, not being of the assembly.

Scripture never speaks thus, never speaks of the assembly as contrasted with the body, but on the contrary it always speaks of the body as on earth, always connects the corporate responsibility of saints with the unity of the body. If the Lord's supper be spoken of, we are all one body, for we are all partakers of that one loaf. There is no such thought in scripture as putting out of the one assembly, as contrasted with the body. A.R.D. says all baptized persons were of the assembly. Be it so. People were never put outside baptism; they were put out of communion, separated from the gathered company. They were not baptized over again, but restored to communion, readmitted to the company of gathered saints, where unity was expressed by the Lord's supper; at least so Paul declares. The exclusion was from the body as manifested on earth, and from nothing else. A.R.D. is forced to admit that, as to their responsibilities, the members of the body together on earth, or in any particular assembly, are looked at as the body. Was not judging those within discipline in connection with their responsibilities? Well then, in putting out, the particular assembly was looked at as the body.

The truth is, the whole principle of A.R.D. is an invention of his own, a new theory, not borrowed from scripture at all, and hence every page of his system is false; while some borrowed truths only make it confusion, from his mingling them with his own false principles.

221 There is nothing about reconstructing the assembly. There is no assembly to reconstruct; the apostasy is not really come at all, though the principles of it may be at work. The lordship of Christ is not the ground of gathering at all. Lordship applies to individual responsibility. The lordship of the assembly is not scriptural, nor the Lord's assembly, nor the lordship of the body. The assembly (when spoken of as a systematic truth, as A.R.D. does) is always connected with the body. If we meet, and take the Lord's supper, we must meet on the principle of the unity of the body, for we are all one body, for we are all partakers of this one loaf. This is true of all Christians. They are not, properly speaking, admitted at all. Now tests are used rightly, because we are separating from evil in the great house (p. 11). But no assembly ever admitted any one, nor at the first were there any tests. But where the unity of the body is manifested, it is what it always was, and never can be anything else, having to act on the principles it always did, as it can rightly act on no other.

And A.R.D. admits the assemblies at first acted in the way he is opposed to, only he has invented his notion of the unity of the assembly to get rid of this plain scriptural truth - truth always obligatory where it can be applied. I cannot apply the rules for tongues, because there are none, nor for Timothy's own conduct, because there is no Timothy. But if tongues returned, the rules would apply. If there are saints gathered in the unity of the body, without any fabled reconstruction of the assembly at all, the rules of scripture for the conduct of such gatherings, and such one manifested body, as far as it is realized, apply. I must beg to prefer scripture to inventions of man and "I have said."

In conclusion, A.R.D.'s notion of the unity of an assembly, a bond of saints distinct from the body, is an invention of his own. Next, he is obliged to admit scripture is so plain, that the members of the body together on earth, or in any particular assembly, are looked at as the body. Hence, as to their responsibilities, they must look at themselves as such. The Lord's supper is the formal expression of one body. There is no reconstruction of the assembly, nor any assembly such as A.R.D. speaks of to reconstruct. He is obliged to admit that the assemblies at the first acted in the unity to which he objects. If there be assemblies, they have no other principle to act on; and two or three together, if in the spirit of unity, can (thank God!) do so. Indeed, when this subject is practically treated of in 1 Corinthians, all saints are taken up together as all one, though the local assembly is made responsible in and according to this unity. There are no true assemblies but as the expression of it; and if they make themselves, as the tract desires, independent assemblies, they deny the only scriptural principle on which they can gather. They have no direction on which to act. They are a voluntary association, and in no sense, as such, an assembly of God at all, nor have they any scripture to guide them.

J.N.D.