Thoughts on the Church

J. N. Darby.

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Acquaintance with the truth of the church is indispensable for the setting free of the soul. I call him set free who has done with all questions between himself, God, and Satan

Having entered into this understanding that we belong to the house of God, as if we had always been of it, the question arises, What has Satan to say to it?

In the Epistle to the Hebrews the point is that all is settled through Christ's blood, and I can draw near. For the church it is, I am of the family of God. My life is from Christ; it comes from above. I am with God. By the blood of Christ I draw near from without; as a child I am within whence I come.

There is for me a difference between peace in the conscience and peace in the affections. As regards justification, the blood delivers me from a God of judgment, and the resurrection delivers me from the power of Satan, because the enemy cannot go farther than death. Then, in speaking of the church being risen with Christ, we are one body with Him in resurrection in a sphere where Satan has nothing. If I remain, as it were before the blood only, God always continues to be for me a judge; but, being risen with Christ, I am united to Him in heaven. And such is the church's place, for the church is composed of those who are one with Christ in heaven, and nothing else. We exist in virtue of the love of God, instead of having done anything to satisfy His righteousness. The lack of deliverance nowadays arises very much from the affections not being subdued. Therefore people really do not get out of this struggle till they have the consciousness of the love of God. One cannot enjoy the love of God without being in holiness. If the heart is full of love, God Himself is there; and this is holiness. Resurrection puts us there consciously; without resurrection and the power of the Spirit one is not of the church. On the earth I am not said to be dead; I have a right, it is true, to count myself dead; still, the flesh is in me; whilst in heaven my life is hid with Christ in God, and this by virtue of His resurrection and ascension. With the flesh I am not in heaven, for I am not united to Christ by virtue of the flesh. In resurrection the church is there, where is neither Jew nor Greek. Viewed in Christ, in its privileges, the church is in a condition which goes beyond the state where a conscience is needed; yet this is brought home to the conscience by the fact that the church is on the earth with a testimony.

341 John does not speak of position, but he signalizes the nature which responds to this position; Paul is rather occupied with position. Consequently John is always individual, whilst Paul, speaking of position according to the counsel of God, can consider the body. There are two features in John - love and righteousness. To dwell in God is that which is most elevated in the doctrine of the New Testament. It is indeed communion: only that carries communion very far. Amongst our acquaintances, how much better we know the people with whom we dwell! To dwell in God is to dwell in Him in love. Surely God loves us always: it is infinite grace to enjoy it. But to dwell in God is more than that: it is to find oneself in this love, to sail there, as it has been said of the deluge, sea upon sea, boundless ocean. The only cognizance that I can take of this space is that I cannot get out of it. If we dwelt in God somewhat habitually, that would express itself. The Saviour does not give, like man, from high to low; that is why He rejects the word 'benefactor.' "And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors," Luke 22:25.

The church is in heaven as to title and its privileges, and on earth as to fact and its duties. On the earth the church ought to be the manifestation of the activity of God's love, and of His holiness, according to the power of the Holy Ghost. As we have seen, the church by resurrection in Christ is in heaven; but in fact it is also on the earth. If we had ascended to heaven to receive the Holy Ghost, the unity would be only for heaven; but the Holy Ghost having descended to the earth to form the unity, that unity is here below.

The body of the church could not exist before the glorification of Jesus, for this would have been a body without a head, which would have been more monstrous even than in a human body.

In Ephesians 1:7 we have in Christ the remission of sins by His blood. Then, in verses 9 et seq, having given us a position of salvation, God makes known to us His intentions and plans. Meanwhile, in awaiting the accomplishment of things, we have the earnest in the gift of the Holy Spirit until the redemption of the purchased possession. Not till verse 22 do we hear of the church on high.

342 Chapter 2 shows us how we are brought in. Finding men dead in their sins on the earth, God in His infinite mercy quickens them, raises them with Christ, and seats them in Him in heavenly places. In verse 6 together twice occurs: the first is "together" with Christ; the second is together - Jews and Gentiles. We have not got the body in this verse, but that which He does to form the body. In verse 14 we get nearer the church, and see there that the formation of the church could not take place until after the death of Christ, who has broken down the wall of partition.

Verse 15. The Messiah ought to have been the keystone in all things for the Jews; but they rejected Him, and this has given place to His death, and the formation of the new man. Every ordinance is enmity. Take baptism and the Lord's supper, as they are misused in human systems, and you will find thus. See the various religious bodies. They make a constitution. Then of two things one: I must either swallow what is against my conscience, or keep outside. There is also another evil in a constitution, when, to avoid offending the conscience, they reduce it to the lowest degree they can find. If God constitutes, it is the only thing that unites these two conditions - liberty and order. For me, I should never separate from an assembly of Christians, unless it had ceased to be the church. I am speaking as to principle.

The church being formed, it is one body. In verse 20 the apostles and prophets are those of the New Testament. Moreover, when it is said, "for to make," etc., it is something quite new (vv. 21, 22). Not only new, but in contrast with that which had preceded. This is again a proof that the church is formed on the earth. In the first half of the chapter we see the fulness of grace which seeks individuals in order to save them; in the second, the revelation that God's intention was, not only to save by this work of Christ, but also to unite these saved ones.

In chapter 3 we have a further revelation, namely, that not only the church did not exist under the Old Testament, but also that it was not revealed. There are moral connections of all importance; as that the election of the church was before the foundation of the world. So, when man on the earth was put under responsibility, God revealed His counsels for the church before the foundation of the world, outside the course of this world.

343 In chapter 4 Paul takes the church itself In verse 2 the call is to be the house of God. Then one must walk according to this call, according to the presence of God. The unity of the Spirit exists, because there is not only a body, but one body and one Spirit. The unity of the Spirit being lost would make use of the bond of peace to prevent unity. It is here (vv. 7-10) that it goes beyond the revelation of the Old Testament; for in Psalm 68 Christ ascends on high; but there is more here - it is He who descended who ascends: then He fills all things. This gives a very remarkable character to the Person of Christ, namely, that in order to have dominion over all things He must fill all things. "Thou hast received gifts for men," Psa. 68:18. It is the idea that He has received gifts in humanity. As man He received gifts to give them to men. This is a main point - that the Holy Ghost, instead of remaining solely in His divine being, should come into man. It is the baptism of the Holy Ghost which makes the church to be one body on the earth, and that it cannot be anything else. At the end of the first chapter Paul supposes the doctrine of the thing. At the beginning of the second he gives what God did to put the church in the condition where Christ is, and at the end of the same second chapter, the revelation that it is the tabernacle of God on the earth.

Finally, in the fourth, he declares our responsibility of walk according to this calling, that we are the tabernacle of God, and develops the power of operation according to the fulness of Him who fills all things for the forming of the body.* Every mayor is a Frenchman, but every Frenchman is not a mayor.** It is the same with the church; it shares the general privileges with the others, but it has its special privileges as the church. The Christ of the church is a Christ so glorious that He can be in heaven and in my heart. Paul says the two things in the same phrase, Galatians 2:20. In verse 11 the Apostle Paul sees Christ so much in resurrection, that here he only sees the apostles since Christ is risen on high, without taking account of the call of the twelve whilst Christ was on the earth. In verses 11-16 we have the undeniable proof that it is the body on the earth, the whole body.

{*The cross is the end of the world, and it is the starting-point for the church! The goal before her is the coming of Christ. Between the two we have the Supper which connects the two points. These are the three fundamental principles of the church, which I immediately saw to be laid down when I left Nationalism.}

{**These notes were taken at a conference at Annonay, in France.}

344 Further, I will not use such an expression as "I cannot" to diminish the responsibility of man. If the church has not the consciousness of being the bride of Christ, it cannot realize either the affections or the duties of the bride. One cannot discern them, if will ignores spiritual affections. Would it be with the church as with the children of the two women before Solomon, one half in the national church, and one half in the free church? Oh no! answer the spiritually enlightened affections, rather take all. Yes, the unity is possible on all the earth. Take, for example, a Moravian. Well, at every point of the globe, in Greenland, in Europe, this Moravian is at home. It is the same thing with a Wesleyan. If I have the idea of making the church as it ought to be down here, I shall be discouraged; but if I view the church according to God, and I walk to that end, I find myself in the obedience of faith, and God encourages me. People say we must content ourselves with that which is possible. I reply, You have never seen the vision of the assembly; you have never seen the church according to God. He always puts before faith an object that one never obtains before one has been put there by the power of God. It is what will take place in glory as to life eternal (1 Tim. 6), for the church (Eph. 2, John 17), etc. There is another thing. If the people 'did not go up against the Amorites when God ordered it, they would be beaten when they rose up a second time; but God will be with them in the wilderness. Even the ark will be at the bottom of Jordan to open the entrance into Canaan. One must count upon God for the present. The visibility of the church was plain, because of the difficulties which it had to surmount in order to maintain unity.

Would it be an evil to allow of an invisible church, as God is also an invisible God? If God was manifested in flesh, so I say, the church has also been manifested here below; 1 Cor. 12:28. It is evident here that it is not a question of heaven, but of the earth, of the church; for in heaven there are no healings, helps, properly helpers [it is, in manner of speaking, gifts which are not substantive, but objective; gifts of too little scope to act alone, but which are of great help when there is another to shelter them]. There is still another passage on the church to mention in this Epistle; it is verses 16, 18 of 1 Corinthians 10. We have here one body manifested in the act of breaking one bread. It is that which has led people to call the Lord's supper a sacrament. Originally "sacrament" designated the oath by which the Roman soldiers pledged faithfulness to their standard. So, in taking the Lord's supper, Christians declare faithfulness to Christ (chap. 14). In each locality the union of the local church was the expression of unity of all the body.

345 If the church is one, it cannot make an alliance with itself; if it is, with whom will it ally itself? with evil?

One sees by Matthew 16 that Christ had not before Him the idea of the existence of the church up to then. Several confessed the Christ during His life, but it was only Peter who recognized the title of Son of the living God - a living hope by the resurrection of Christ from the dead. It is not the idea of being raised up with Christ, and being in heaven with Him, but rather that of being raised up with Him, and walking on the earth. One is not in heaven in this case, one is going there. As to moral character, the doctrine of the Epistle of Peter can be - applied to the saints in the high places of Daniel, and again to those raised up after the rapture of the church. The saints up to Christ had indeed inward life, but they had no intelligence of it; they would not have been able to discern the flesh. There is again this difference, that this life did not connect itself with the Messiah as existing in heaven. God thought of the church, but He would not leave the Jews, before they themselves had left Him. It is for this reason that the church was not revealed until later. In verse 18, for "I say also unto thee," read "And I also say unto thee." The Father has told thee something about Me, that I am the Christ. Well, I tell thee something of thyself. Thou art Peter, and on this rock, etc.

Now the Son takes His place as Master of His own house. God had revealed (not given) to Peter the name of Christ; now Christ gives (not reveals) to Peter a name concerning his position of service in the church, as Adam gave a name to all the creatures. Does this promise annul the fact of the failure of the church? No. One must distinguish between the responsibility of man and the faithfulness of God. The failure is but another proof in favour of this power which is able to keep the saints, and save them after all. It is the same with the Jews; their lie will abound to the glory of God. The keys are not of the church, but of the kingdom. In his ministry Peter always acknowledged the Jews; hence in the beginning of the Acts he never mentions the church. He needed to make use of the keys for the work of the kingdom. As to the church, it was rather Christ who baptized with the Holy Ghost, and who could make use of such and such a person. And what is remarkable is, that not until Paul is Jesus proclaimed as the Son of God. The same as to the promises: Peter acknowledges Israel as the heir (Acts 3:25), whilst Paul says that it is the seed of Abraham, which is Christ (Gal. 3:16). As for binding and loosing, Peter was steward in the house while working also for the kingdom. To bind and loose is not only in reference to people, but also to things; whatsoever thou shalt bind, etc. He loosens from the law, for example in Acts 15:9, and when he eats with the Gentiles. Nowadays one binds and unbinds persons, as in John 20.

346 Peter was invested with a certain authority in Matthew 18. As to the force of verse 18, I decide nothing: but verse 19 seems to have a very simple application. The Holy Ghost acting in the church, if two or three agree, the Lord is with them. Like government in a state, it does not make the laws, but it makes use of them; it is invested with discretionary power. Only we must remember that we have not discretionary power outside the word. Such is the perfection of the word, that there is not a single case for which it has not spoken; but wisdom is needed to apply it. It is remarkable to see the wisdom of the ways of God. That which was the church at the beginning has pretended later to be the kingdom.

Although the tares were sown in the midst of the wheat, the children of the kingdom remain always children of the kingdom, whilst the assembly as such may corrupt itself. That is easily understood. The unity is broken; the children of God who formed the unity always remain the children of God; but there is no longer unity; it is no longer the church as such. The rule for me is not to leave an assembly if I think it is the assembly. If the principle of an assembly is to have the children of God gathered because of Christ, I will not leave it, notwithstanding the neglect which has admitted unconverted souls; I would work for its good, and the righteous dealing with these unconverted; but I would not withdraw - quite the contrary. If I find a gathering wholly composed of Christians, but these not assembled on the principle of the Spirit's unity according to the word, I would not unite myself to them in any way. I would not separate myself for false brethren who might have slipped into an assembly, because at all events there was the assembly into which they had slipped.

347 For admission to the Lord's supper, not only faith is required but peace. At present I count upon the Saviour to lead me, knowing that His grace is sufficient for me. We are the guardians of the Lord's table; but in one sense we are also the guardians of the Saviour's sheep, and, from love to them, we shall wish to see them as one flock, far from the dangers of the world; it is a great responsibility, for which however the Lord's grace is always sufficient.

In a case of sin, it is better to leave the individual there for the assembly to suffer for it until it judges itself, than to exercise discipline among a few which might lead to the scattering of the assembly. As we must hold to the purity of the church's conscience, one must, in case of sin, wait till it has the conscience before acting. If these two or three made a rule, they would not be in the place of the word; but in holding to the word, they are authorized for the execution of the thing.

The church administers to the house of God (I am not speaking of the keys now). First, there is unity. There is one body working by its joints of supply. Secondly, there is the power of God by the Spirit confided to the church for that which is within it. The great principle is that the Holy Ghost was there directing everything, while making the Christians to act as servants of Christ, the immediate head of His house; Heb. 3. The root of all is that the church has disowned the presence of the Holy Ghost; it has forsaken the principle which constitutes the foundation of its existence. That is what I call total failure and apostasy. For the church it is the abandonment of the principles on which those who made profession of them were united. In reality the apostasy of the church is impossible. There is outside all the counsel of God - within the saints - there is life (John 10); but, on the other hand, there is also the result of its responsibility on the earth.

Modern Protestantism denies the power of the Holy Ghost to form on the earth one body. The Reformation had in view other things, but it did not deny this one. There were two things in Protestantism - the authority of the word, and justification; some have lost nowadays one of these things, others another. As to popery, there is unity, it is true, but a unity of which the Pope is the centre. To deny unity is unbelief on this subject. When one arrives at the fact of the fall, one finds at the bottom Judaism; it was that against which the apostles struggled at the beginning.

348 Judaism, if we consider the church, is, it seems to me, the principle of succession in clerical ordinances, in the place of the Holy Ghost rendering the servants immediate servants of Christ. This goes even farther, because they have made a priesthood - in a word, the clergy. There are many other things to add, as legalism, the earth, etc., but these do not belong especially to the unity of the church.

The facts are, first, the Holy Ghost is not owned as the power in the church;

Secondly, the unity is lost in the sense of the visible body on earth;

Thirdly, the sense of our responsibility to be one as a testimony on the earth - in a word, the idea of the church is lost. The consciousness of the relationship of the church with Christ is also lost. Could not one say, one is fallen through lack of love? Then, if love is found again, the failure no longer exists! No; not only that, for power is necessary to unity.

The consequence of this failure is, further, that the heavenly character is lost - the principle of action is falsified (as in the clergy). Peter and Paul could not preach in the church, such as it is now known; and if Satan comes with ordination, he is received. All the working of the gifts is laid aside, and replaced by human systems, which do not recognize the action of the members in the aggregate. They make churches, because they do not believe in the church. There is still an important question - it is to find out where this failure has begun. It is difficult to say. We find already at Philippi that each one sought his own interests. At first the evil did not affect the unity of the body, but it was soon to do it. That which is serious in this evil is that it began in the church. See again among the Colossians, how they began to lose sight of the Head of the body; and it is from this source nevertheless that for the church flowed all its life. The church judaized in losing the consciousness of its unity with the Head. We see the same tendency as to justification among the Galatians. As to the Ephesian church, it had abandoned its first love. In Acts 20 we see that the departure of the apostle was to let loose these wolves. We can only see how the evil has come in, but it has spread very far, as is evident when we come to the apostasy. It is solemn to see that it is in the church that all this began.

349 James 5:14. There is an internal administration or power, which is completely wanting nowadays. The church was competent as to the ways of God with the members of the church. There is at present total incapacity in the house. If that is not a failure, I hardly know what a failure is. Alas! the church has not now the consciousness of itself. There is another great point - it is that the church and the world are blended together.

The First Epistle of John shews us the worst evil was already there. It is the evidence of two things; first, that the presence of Antichrist is that which characterizes the latter times, and that it is in the church that it springs up; and, secondly, that this evil was already in the days of the apostles. It was indeed the last time, for this moral character, the essential character, was already there. The church ought to have been the perfect testimony of what Christ is; whereas it had become the source and cradle of corruption - the formal denial of Christianity. There was already, to begin, the denial of Christ come in the flesh: they denied the Father and the Son; they did not deny God. "Whoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service, because they have not known the Father nor me." Satan always comes, with an old truth which does not put faith to the test, to oppose the one where there is power. The Saviour marks the last time by that which existed in the days of the apostles. We must remark that here these antichrists came out from the midst of the saints. That is a difference from what one sees in Jude.

In Jude 3 the moral force of the phrase lies in this, that Jude, having the intention to write to the saints on their common salvation, had to leave this, in order to occupy himself with the adversaries and apostates, whom he points out to the vigilance of the saints. We see in this epistle, not the fact, but the introduction and the progress of the evil up to its judgment.

In verse 14 Jude passes over all the period of Christianity, and shews it was against those who were there, then present, that the judgment came. Such is the history of the ruin of the church. It is into the church that Satan has introduced those who are to be specially the objects of judgment when the Lord comes with the saints. It is not only that the general system has failed, but, besides that, the evil entered when all was in good condition. The virgins slept in the forgetfulness of the coming of the Lord. They had to go out a second time. It seems that they had entered some place more convenient to slumber in. Christians having entered into the world to sleep, it becomes a question of going out again. We learn, then, from Jude that the evil, which is the object of judgment, enters into the church. He identifies the evil with the judgment at the end. He passes over the history of the church, save that he gives the character of evil in verse 11: three characters of evil, summed up in Cain, Balaam, Core. There is perhaps here a certain analogy with the dragon, the false prophet and the beast at the end. Although religious corruption is serious, it is in the character of Core that one perishes. It is in the church that these three things have sprung up. We saw higher up that the negligence of Christians allowed Judaism and worldliness to enter. Now we see people with these characters enter. Satan did not fail to profit by the open door. Then it is that God declares clearly the apostasy. First, they turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, and deny the only Sovereign God and Lord Jesus Christ. Although when they entered they confessed Christ, Jude does not allow himself to be deceived - he puts his finger upon the evil, and declares that they deny Him. Later they will be seen to go out, as it is said in John.

350 There is this besides, that they were spots in the love-feasts of the saints; that is the reason why it is said of them that they were twice dead - dead naturally, and dead as to their profession. "Wandering stars," they have the appearance of giving light, but disappear immediately in the darkness.

How do they distinguish themselves? They pretend to have great knowledge; they were forward in things which they did not understand; they occupied themselves with fables, with endless genealogies; they affected a great elevation of mind, etc. (v. 18). Remark, too, that Jude also says, like John, that the presence of these men is the sign of the last times. One has elsewhere in the word directions how to conduct oneself with regard to such men (1 Cor. 5, for example), but it is not the subject here. Jude gives the thing as a revelation to serve for the instruction of the church until the end. The Holy Ghost does not treat of all the subjects at once. Now that in the aggregate the evil has overflowed, one must go out. We are responsible for the evil which has entered, even when we have not done it, and are not of the system where it is (popery, etc.), because, being identified with the true church, it is that which allowed the evil to enter.

351 The responsibility is individual. When it is a question of conduct, the Lord takes notice of our conduct in that state of things. But when it is a question of the heart, it identifies itself with the whole body, to whom the testimony of God had been confided.

2 Peter 3. It is very nearly as in Jude, with this further character, that there are mockers who deny the return of the Lord.

2 Thessalonians 1:3-7. Here indeed is the apostasy. We have here the facts of the apostasy established. If there is an apostasy it is little. But the Christian testimony has not continued in its primitive integrity; so that there is no restoration, and the end of that is judgment. Two important things are to be borne in mind in this subject. First, there must needs be an apostasy (v. 3). Secondly, this apostasy is a thing of such a nature, that it is the occasion for the judgment of God (v. 8). For my part, I do not think that the apostasy is consummated, although since the days of John and of Jude the development of the principle has made great advances.

Hebrews 6 may be applied to the Christian system. If men have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have turned away from it, there is no restoration. The guilt of the Jews, viewed as a nation, is that they rejected the Son of man; they will be re-established in the millennium, whilst the Gentiles, fallen as to the Holy Ghost (there is no blasphemy yet, but there is the analogy of the principle), will not be restored. Verse 7, returning to 2 Thessalonians, is the formal declaration that the mystery of iniquity had already begun to work in the days of the Thessalonians. We have already seen that elsewhere. He restrains who makes a hindrance. The important thing for us is to know that there is a bridle which restrains the development of evil, without inquiring what this bridle is. The fathers said that it was the Roman empire. Well, I admit this for a time; as for our days God employs other things: He can maintain the civil governments to serve as a bridle for man's will, in order that the evil may be checked.

352 So long as the church is here below, God maintains the authority necessary towards the ministers of His justice in all that which contributes to the good of His church (v. 9). Satan disposes of the creatures, although he can create nothing, so that for man it is a miracle. With a magnifying glass, by the concentration of the sun's rays, I could produce a fire, which would be a miracle with a window. Satan does something like this with men. But there are two things that Satan entirely ignores - the love of God, and spiritual discernment. (Compare verse 9 with Acts 2:22). You will see that the same signs which characterized the Christ are those which will characterize the man of sin. Again, in the time of Elijah the question between Jehovah and Baal was settled by fire from heaven descending at the voice of Elijah, which the false prophets then could not do. In the Apocalypse we see that the second beast will cause fire to come down from heaven in the sight of men. The acts of power which were a testimony of God by Christ, as well as of Jehovah in Israel, will be exercised by the man of sin.

It seems to me that Judaism occupies a very great place in the prophecies that concern the end.

1 Timothy 3:15. The word is for the church, and the church for the world. After all the church is always the depository of the truth. It is in the world the sphere where one finds the truth. Viewed in its aspect in that which appears, it is an immense lie; but viewed in that which is of God, one finds the truth, which God maintains by the faithfulness of His grace. One finds even among the Papists fundamental truth - the deposit is there; but the additions and the transformations render it false as to testimony. Earthly priesthood and human ordinances are brought in between God and man, who cannot get near Him.

In 2 Timothy 2 the man of God was to purge himself from the vessels of dishonour in the house of God - Christendom. Evil is not to be sanctioned, however earnestly we may seek to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Indeed fidelity is essential. If the Lord know them that are His, let him that names His name depart from iniquity. Other names should not bind us to iniquity. It is not discipline here, but conduct regulated in view of corrupt Christendom, and this relative as well as personal. "Flee also youthful lusts, but seek righteousness, faith, charity, peace with those that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." Thus he may count on fellowship according to the Lord even in such circumstances - not isolation, but communion by the will of God. The perilous times of the last days need not hinder this. From the pretenders who deceive the silly, and resist the truth, one must turn away. For there will be professing men, since they have the form of piety; and here they respond to the picture that we have of the heathen at the beginning of the Epistle to the Romans. (Compare 2 Tim. 3.)

353 The heathen, it is true, are more undisguised there; whilst in 2 Timothy the evil is more hidden; they have the form of godliness. One sees in verses 6, 7, that there was activity in these things - "ever learning," they are silly women (gunaikaria), captives, under the tyrannical influence of these individuals. On the other hand, there are the scriptures which make one wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus. The two things are the word and faith. Faith is the key to enter into the word with. What is very remarkable here is, that as security he does not give the Holy Ghost, but the word. The Lord (Luke 24:44) acknowledged the Old Testament as it was received with the various readings. Moreover, in this He sanctioned the faith of those who had acknowledged it before it was sanctioned. You do not understand all the code of laws, but you read it, acknowledging that these laws express authority in the land. The church does not give any authority to the word, but was its guardian. To the church the oracles were confided. It is in this that it has been unfaithful - in the keeping of this deposit. For that which calls itself the church has added to scripture the Apocrypha.

Observe, "From a child." It is the authority of the book which is recognized (from father to son); for Timothy as a child was hardly able to judge whether it was the word of God. We have in these verses all that is a security for the perilous times.

Peter also says the scriptures, when he mentions prophets (2 Pet. 1:20, 21). Again, he recognizes the writings of Paul as inspired writings (2 Pet. 3:14). I believe in literal inspiration, because it is said, "by words taught by the Holy Ghost," 1 Cor. 2:13. But if one come to this, I should rather say absolute inspiration, because I believe that the Holy Ghost is the AUTHOR of that which has been written. He has made use of instruments for this. You find them, over and over again, in their special features and individuality. From Him is the difference of the facts reported by some, and not by others, in the Gospels.

354 Then I admit that God permits all these difficulties in the word (the various readings, etc.), in order to stumble unbelief. One has an example in Isaiah 8:13, 14. God permits that there should be things in the manifestation of the truth, which suffice to stumble those who do not believe. If human science can judge respecting the Bible, to decide if it is the word of God, then the spirit of man must be above God. This is infidelity, apostasy commenced, which is consummated for the Christian profession by the fact that it ceases to be the church, just as death brings a man to his end. It is like a shadow, which at the decline of day grows longer and longer, and then - ceases.