(Bible Treasury Vol. 17, 18 [24 sections, 74,000 words].)
Chapter 1 — Introduction and Early History.
Chapter 2 — Development
Chapter 3 — Closing Sketch and Conclusion of the History
Chapter 4 — Doctrine —
§1. Christ's Second Coming.
§2. The Revelation Misused.
§3. Prophets and Apostles, etc.
§4. The Incarnation.
§5. The Atonement, etc.
§6. Justification, Sanctification, etc.
§7. The Church.
§8. Priesthood, and Sacrament
§8. Tithes, etc.
Chapter 5 — Conclusion
When it pleased God of late to awaken the slumbering virgins by the midnight cry, not only were the wise roused, but the foolish. Nor did Satan delay to set up counterfeits, so as to bring the discredit of heterodoxy and evils of various other kinds on the recovered hope. Evangelical men were at a manifestly low ebb, even the most devoted of them betraying their ignorance of church or even christian privilege by periodical gatherings for prayer that the Holy Spirit might be once more shed on souls, and meanwhile eagerly forming societies to do thus anomalously the work which was the common responsibility of God's church. There was no real faith in the presence of the Spirit, no looking for His free action in the assembly, no expression of the one body of Christ, nor even sense of the church's ruin-state, any more than really waiting for God's Son from heaven. There was not even the consciousness of the true deliverance and heavenly associations of the christian. The evangelical revival, whether of Wesley or of Whitfield, or outside the borders of either, was a pious reaction, which insisted on the new birth and earnestness on behalf of perishing souls, from the cold ethics and formality, if not deism, of the century before. But the calling and the inheritance of saints, the purposes of God for the glory of God in Christ, never fully dawned on evangelical hearts, any more than on Puritans, or even the Reformers that preceded. It is needless to say that it would be vain to look for aught better, or as good, in the middle ages, or among the Fathers. Even redemption in any adequate conception of it had quickly faded away, before men had to contend for the truth of Christ's person or the Holy Ghost. Nobody doubts that grace saved all through; but for more than a dozen centuries where is there a single sentence which proclaims salvation as the apostles once taught and all saints enjoyed?
In such circumstances as these who can wonder that the privileges, either of the individual christian or of Christ's body the church, were unknown? Hard and narrow Calvinism since the sixteenth century maintained a measure of solid footing for the saint sorely tried under law. Active, warm-hearted Arminianism, when it did not lapse into Arianism, went out in zeal personally, and in service of others, but with a minimum of truth, without which one could hardly be saved. Man and the world were unjudged. The assembly of God united to Christ, and the scene of the Spirit's free activity according to the word as a present thing, and even christian standing, were ignored, the future glories of Christ, as well as the actual bearing of His exaltation, being not at all understood.
The horrors of infidelity, both in its multitudinous excesses and in its rising to a head of despotic self-will, made the Bible, then going forth in active circulation beyond example, dearer to the children of God, whose consciences began to be searched as to their state and ways by the coming of the Lord, which now became more distinctly, practically, and urgently pressed. The family likeness on a small scale, first to the apostasy, next to the man of sin and son of perdition, could not but arouse thoughtful souls to the still more awful evils disclosed in 2 Thess. 2 which are to call down the Lord's personal judgment at His appearing. Hence was felt increasingly the imperious call to be ready for the Lord when He comes for His own, that they may go in with Him to the marriage feast. Resting on Him and His redemption, they had the oil in their vessels. But had they not departed from the original call to quit "the camp," to love not the world nor the things that are in the world? Had they not, in ceasing to go out to meet the Bridegroom, turned in here or there to slumber or sleep? Had they not, on the one hand, failed to resist evil in the church, and, on the other, adopted ways of their own to escape what was gross, with little heed to Christ's will and glory? If He was coming as they hoped, they knew not how soon, it behoved them to be found honouring the word and Spirit of God. They could not but feel that the church was fallen and broken irremediably as a whole: the great eastern and western bodies swamped by idolatry and plain evils, both doctrinal and practical; the lesser Protestant systems, either enslaved to the state, or settled on their differences without a thought of unity, save invisibly or in heaven.
The ruin was complete; but had faith no resource? Was there no provision for the faithful in a state so sinful and hopelessly awry? Had the blessed Lord not foreseen and revealed His will in view of it? They must cease to do evil if they would learn to do well. Obedience is the saving principle that never fails in Old Testament or New, for Jew or christian. The word made it clear that, whatever the wreck of outward manifestation, there is one body and one Spirit, even as there is one hope of our calling. These abide unchangeably for such as believe. Were the saints content to fall back on the imperishable blessings of the church, clearing themselves from all compromise of the truth, and owning the fidelity of the Lord to His own word? The Spirit, beyond doubt, was sent down to abide in and with the saints for ever. He will be poured out afresh on all flesh for the kingdom by and by; but He has not forsaken, and never can, the church, any more than the cloud of divine presence left Israel, yea disobedient and guilty Israel, all the wilderness through. But the time is come when God wakes up His own, and works readiness to receive their returning Lord; and they recall His voice vouchsafing the promise of His presence in the midst, were they but two or three, no longer scattered by the names of leaders or by exalting this doctrine and policy or that, but gathered to (εἰς) His name.
Hence they judged themselves and their ways, personal, worldly, ecclesiastical, in the light of that word, which also testified the way of obedience that never fails for the single-eyed in the worst of times. For as sure as God lives, His child never has to choose man's wretched alternative — the less of two evils. There is a way, and it is the way of obedience, of obeying God rather than man, in which the weakest may walk, and the strongest ought to walk. If others turn, as all alas! have turned, to the right and to the left, whatever be the snare, our idol of silver, or our image of gold, Away with it! The written word solves every possible dilemma; but we are wholly dependent on God, Who works in us by His Spirit to exalt the Lord thereby. We have been verily guilty; and repentance, not self-confidence, becomes us. Re-construction is not, nor ever was, God's way for His people in a fallen state. He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. Ceasing from evil in brokenness of spirit, our place is to search the scriptures and find what the Lord reveals there open to saints, whatever be their measure; for we are put members in the body as it pleased Him. God set some in the church: first apostles; secondarily prophets; thirdly teachers; after that miracles; then, gifts of healing, etc. This raises the question of power and authority; and assumption is as dangerous as mistake about them is easy. But obeying God's word is the clear duty of every soul born of God. We are elect through sanctification of the Spirit to obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus.
Here it was that the divergence ensued among those awakened from slumber. Many are the paths of error. There is but one way of truth: it was that of Christ on earth, the obedient One. Power from on high had been already given; and the Spirit sent down from heaven, though our sins be great and many as they are, has never retired again. He has been grieved in a thousand ways, and has shown His sense of the church's unfaithfulness. But never for a moment has He deserted the post which He deigned to take here below to glorify the Lord Jesus. In obedience we prove His gracious power, and this not in gift individual only, but in communion where we in faith come together to Christ's name in the unity of the Spirit which we are all bound to keep. Those who act obediently have ever found His blessing in it, whatever others may or may not do.
Nor is there a tittle of presumption in obeying God. Therein only is true humility. Imitating the apostles is as proud as it is childish; it would be ridiculous, if it were not profane. Men have turned the gifts of Christ, endorsed with the power of God's Spirit, into titles of honour in the world, or of ostentation in a church already judaized. God has taken care to preserve every privilege good for the saints in lowliness to Christ's glory. Whatever is no longer vouchsafed would be incompatible with the church fallen and scattered as it is. He is as wise in what He withholds, as He is good in what He continues, the state of the church being what it is. Those whose principle it is to obey in the immutable relationships of His grace He has not spared all needed sifting and humiliation, but has largely blessed in an increasing enjoyment of Himself and His word. Such as have set themselves up, coveting power and authority, He has covered with shame in all eyes but their own, perhaps in their own also, if the truth were known.
Mr. Irving and his friends stood on the wholly different ground of ignoring known evil in which they were consciously involved, till God should interfere in power and blessing. This, however seemingly humble after a human sort, was neither faith nor holiness; failure as to which was not repented of as sinful, but virtually set to God's account. Moral responsibility was thus ignored and shirked. They did not judge but accept the unbelief of Christendom in the ever-abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, and prayed (like the evangelicals) for a fresh outpouring; as if God's word were void, and His church had no longer that divine indwelling, without which it is not God's house, and in truth cannot be His church at all. This was to judaize the assembly. For it is confessed by all who look for the Lord's premillennial advent that the Jews etc. in that day are to be the object of the Spirit's latter rain on the earth.
But the Holy Spirit never left the church since Pentecost. Had it been true, Christ had no longer a body on earth united to Him the Head in heaven. And the error was far more serious in character and consequence for those who professed to be awaiting the Lord from above, as their habitual hope. Others who shared like unbelief meant little more by His outpouring than greatly increased blessing in their own souls, or in conversion at home and abroad. Not so those who (judging Christendom by the light of the word, with the Lord's coming immediately before them) were as loud as men could be in denouncing the various denominations as only so many streets of Babylon. Yet from their incurably vicious starting-point, those who were crying loudly for the Spirit to come down afresh were as urgent as the idolaters of succession and tradition, that men who saw the abominations they shared should remain where they were till God appeared in power, as their selfish unbelief expected. Even after they had had certain strange manifestations in Port Glasgow, London, etc., they still held to the same evil principle, and insisted on all over whom they had influence, that none should abandon the evil under which they groaned, till they had received manifestations of power like their own. Obedience, the uniform principle of the christian's life, as it was in all perfection seen only in our Lord, was not at all in their counsels and conduct, but really though unwittingly denied by them.
It was just about the same time that God began to impress on some of His children, solemnly and practically, that we are called to holiness, not individually alone, but congregationally; that any other ecclesiastical principle surrenders in truth all genuine claim to consistency with His will about His assembly on earth; that waiting for divine manifestations is a vain excuse for tampering with the evil we allow from day to day; and that in fact we have the personal presence of the Spirit, irrevocable while the church is here below, to know and act on His word. So that the unbelief of that plea is as plain as its unholiness. The abuse of 1 Corinthians, and of the seven Apocalyptic Epistles to justify continuance in flagrant evil is a perversion which all corrupt systems have shared. No upright christian ought to be ensnared by it; he might be unable to unravel the sophistry of the special pleader for going on with iniquity; but surely the Spirit who dwells in him testifies that to employ God's word for associating His children with evil that He hates is, and must be, from beneath.
Herein it is evident that the Irvingite statements are as inconsistent with themselves as they are with scripture, and thus betray their hollow character, to say the least, human, and wholly unreliable, their egregious pretensions notwithstanding. They do not absolutely deny that the Holy Spirit dwelt in some measure or way in the saints since primitive apostolic days; but they arrogate to themselves as their peculiar blessing, and exclusively to be enjoyed under the authority of their apostolate, "the restored Comforter." Now it is striking to read how scripture puts scorn on this self-exalting claim of theirs. For it is precisely in speaking of the Comforter that the apostle John gives our Lord's assurance that the Father would give that other Paraclete "that He may he with you for ever" (John 14:16). Their notion of His restoration impeaches Christ's authority and the truth of scripture. If the Lord, if the scripture, is true, as every christian believes, the so-called Catholic Apostolics are false. But they in fact as little with themselves as with God's word. For they do allow that the gifts or manifestations of the Spirit, the ministrations of the Lord, and the workings or energisings or the Father are is identified their Persons; that if one fails, so proportionately do the others; and that it is the Father's energising which raised up Christ that quickens the soul. But if this be true, was there no soul thus born of God between the apostolic age, and the apostles of Newman Street? If souls were so born, what is the value of teachings and pretensions?
The truth is, that, with all their boldness of assumption and haughty titles, these men have not the courage of their convictions. For if a word of prophecy forbade any other name than that of the Catholic Apostolic Church, as Dr. Norton states (The Restoration, etc., p. 159), it is idle to say, "we arrogate to ourselves nothing, for we do not appropriate it in any exclusive sense." Common honesty concludes that they thereby arrogate to themselves everything of value. If there were an atom of truth in their doctrine of a restored Comforter, and of a restored apostolate, they most logically appropriate the one body of Christ to their party. The ever-abiding Comforter is as essential on earth, as Christ the exalted Head in heaven, to the perpetuity of the church here below till Christ comes; and the special boast of Irvingism, that they, and they only, have the Comforter restored, is mere folly and falsehood, which are so glaring that one wonders not at their toning down their language in public, whatever they may utter among the initiated. Let their "sealed" ones answer whether they do not in private, and in the most, exclusive sense, appropriate more than title or name common to all.
b) EARLY HISTORY.
In tracing the first manifestations of that which issued in the establishment of this society, two publications furnish considerable help. One is Dr. R. Norton's "Restoration of Apostles and Prophets; in the Catholic Apostolic Church (London: Bosworth and Harrison, 215, Regent Street, 1861)," the other, and far earlier pamphlet, "Narrative of Facts, characterizing the Spiritual Manifestations in members of Mr. Irving's congregation, and other individuals in England and Scotland, and formerly in the writer himself. By Robert Baxter. Second Edition, etc. London: James Nisbet, Berners Street, 1833." The "Morning Watch" (7 vols. 8vo.), which changed its publisher from J. Nisbet with whom it appeared in March 1829, to James Fraser for vol. iv., closing somewhat abruptly in 1833, will afford illustrative matter; for it was therein that the chief men made their first public stand and defence, as it was there that their heterodoxy was keenly defended, though broached, taught, and circulated very fully and in every form elsewhere. Among the various authorities I have writings of their accepted apostles, prophets, angels, etc. Nor must one omit to name the Rev. R. Miller's History and Doctrines of Irvingism, etc. (2 Vols. cr. 8vo., London. C. Kegan Paul & Co., 1, Paternoster Square, 1878), which presents a very full and painstaking account of the system, with such a judgment of it as might be expected from a clergyman of decided Anglican views.
Mr. M. devotes four preliminary chapters to (1) predisposing causes, (2) Edward Irving, (3) early meetings at Mr. Drummond's (Albury), and (4) the early prophesyings and tongues in Scotland. Though interesting we may pass these over and come to the utterances in London, which followed two things gravely to be weighed: continual prayers for the outpouring of the Spirit; and Mr. Irving's heterodoxy on the humanity of Christ, as fallen like every other's, save that He never sinned. Dr. N. devotes his first two chapters (pp. 1-71) to what he calls "the outpouring of the Spirit of God in Scotland," and "in England"; as in the second (p. 40) he does not disguise the connection of the movement with Mr. Irving's doctrine that the Saviour assumed fallen human nature in the virgin's womb.
Mrs. Cardale, wife of a London solicitor (of whom more anon), was, it seems, the first in London to speak in a tongue and prophesy; as did afterwards his sister (E.C.), and a Miss Hall who afterwards recanted and left them with an humbling confession. The late Mr. B. Noel refused his sanction and exposed the delusion, which drove the family away, till, finding little more countenance from another clergyman, they betook themselves to Mr. I. Mr. Taplin, a clergyman's son, who attended Mr. I's early and late prayer-meetings for the outpouring of the Spirit, was the first, after some six months' perseverance, to burst on them one morning as with a cras-cran-cra-crash of thunder when beginning to read Isa. 43, following the tongue with the English words, "Jehovah, hear us." Mr. I. at once gave thanks to God for thus answering their cry! The next morning, when Ezek. 28 was read, Dr. N. tells us that the same superhuman voice was heard: — "It is thou, O Britain; thou art the anointed cherub." The third morning the same voice burst forth (while one of the young men was praying to God to come down and help them) in these words, "The Lord hath come down. He is in the midst of you. His eye hath seen, His heart hath pitied the affliction of His people, and He will deliver them. He will not leave any behind."
Females spoke as yet only in private houses. But on Oct. 16, 1831, Miss Hall left her seat during morning service, went into the vestry, and was heard speaking there. An interview ensued when the service was over, when she so spoke that Mr. I. groaned under her exhortation, and on that evening confessed publicly to the congregation his guilty holding out, and thus prepared them for whatever might be spoken in power, that God's gifts might be thankfully received and His voice be not driven away! The moment he ceased speaking, says Dr, N., "a voice that seemed to rend the roof burst from Mr. T-, first in a tongue, and then in the following words:- 'Why will ye flee from the voice of God? The Lord is in the midst of you. Why will ye flee from His voice? Ye cannot flee from it in the day of judgment.' When order was restored, Mr. Irving told the people that they had been alarmed by what had often pierced his own heart; it was the voice of the living God. He solemnly exhorted all, and concluded with thanksgiving that the Lord had at length prevailed" (pp. 48, 49).
The following Sunday infidels among others attended. Mr. I's subject was antichrist, and the utterance drew out a tumult of hissings and hootings. Under the horror of such a scene Mr. I. intimated his wish for "the gifted" to remain away from the evening service, but regretted it when said, and only carried this out one Lord's day, giving license more than ever afterwards. The trustees therefore intervened and ejected him in the spring that followed; as indeed such proceedings were intolerable in the eyes of sober Presbyterians, to whose discipline and policy he was yet responsible. Mr. I. however, independent as he was in his bearing toward other christians, seemed spell-bound before the gifted men and women. There were moments when he deeply felt their iron heel, only to fall under their commands more and more deeply. It is a painful and humiliating story. But for their unhallowed influence Mr. I. would probably have seen it his duty to have given up, not the Regent Square Chapel only, but Presbyterianism. But the spirit at work perverted and paralysed an otherwise honest mind and noble heart. By the Presbytery of Annan, which had ordained him in 1802, he was tried and deprived in 1832 for his false doctrine, and died a worn-out old man at forty-two in Glasgow, Dec. 8th, 1834.
For years before Mr. I's death, and in high estimation, not only for correct piety, but among the "gifted," stood Mr. Baxter, to whose "Narrative" we may now profitably turn. One can understand how godly souls were moved by the sight, on the one hand, of infidelity coming in like a flood, on the other, of Christendom's self-complacency, whether in its irregular activities, or in its Pagan-Jewish forms and ceremonies. Then all alike started with the unbelieving thought that the Holy Spirit needed to be poured out afresh; which directly exposed to a snare of the enemy. An answer from God could only come to the prayer of faith. Had they before Him sought to cease from all that grieved the Spirit, and hindered their subjection to the Lord in devoted obedience of His word, how blessed had it been for them, how full of honour to Christ!
Mr. B. (a few months after writing the "Layman's Appeal" on behalf of The English Establishment, then beginning to totter under the strokes which will never cease till the end of its enemies is accomplished) was one of those who longed greatly and prayed much for such an outpouring, as he tells us himself. "When I saw, as it seemed to me, proof that those who claimed the gifts were walking honestly, and that the power manifested in them was evidently supernatural, and moreover bore testimony to Christ come in the flesh, I welcomed it as the work of God, though it was long before I publicly spoke of it ......
"At this period I was by professional arrangements called up to London, and had a strong desire to attend at the prayer-meetings which were then privately held by those who spoke in the power and those who sought for the gift. Having obtained an introduction I attended; my mind fully convinced that the power was of God, and prepared, as such, to listen to the utterances. After one or two brethren had read and prayed, Mr. T-* was made to speak two or three words very distinctly, and with an energy and depth of tone which seemed to me extraordinary; and it fell upon me as a supernatural utterance, which I ascribed to the power of God, the words were in a tongue I did not understand. In a few minutes Miss E. C. broke out in an utterance in English, which, as to matter and manner and the influence it had upon me, I at once bowed to as the utterance of the Spirit of God. Those who have heard the powerful and commanding utterance need no description; but they who have not may conceive what an unnatural and unaccustomed tone of voice, an intense and rivetting power of expression — with the declaration of a cutting rebuke to all who were present, and applicable to my own state of mind in particular — would effect upon me, and upon the others who were come together, expecting to hear the voice of the Spirit of God. In the midst of the feeling of awe and reverence which this produced, I was seized upon by the power; and in much struggling against it was made to cry out, and myself to give forth a confession of my own sin in the matter, for which we were rebuked; and afterwards to utter a prophecy that the messengers of the Lord should go forth, publishing, to the ends of the earth in the mighty power of God, the testimony of the near coming of the Lord Jesus. The rebuke had been for not declaring the near coming of Jesus; and I was smitten in conscience, having many times refrained from speaking of it to the people, under the fear that they might stumble over it and be offended.
*Here is the late Dr. McNeile's judgment. "I heard Mr. Taplin, and what I heard was this. I write it in all seriousness before God, without scoff, or sneer, or ridicule; but simply and bona fide descriptive of what I heard. It was neither more nor less than what is commonly and vulgarly called jargon, uttered ore rotunda and mingled with Latin words, among which I distinctly heard, more than once, amamini, amaminor.
"The same gentleman afterwards read the first chapter of the First Epistle of Peter, in a sort of unnatural recitative, which, as I was informed, was reading in the Spirit. That is, as they define it, it was not he who read, but the Holy Ghost in him, merely using the voice and lips of the man, as an organ of utterance unto men, On this supposition, the reading might have been expected to be perfect indeed. My ear was struck by deviations from our Authorised Version. I had a Greek Testament in my hand, and perceived at a glance that the deviations were palpably incorrect. That Mr. Taplin should make a mistake in his reading, might be very natural; but that the Holy Spirit, speaking by the physical organs of Mr. Taplin, should misrepresent the holy Scriptures, was more than I could receive. I can truly say, that my predominant feeling on the occasion alluded to was astonishment at the possibility of men of mind and education, or even of common sense, being for a moment deluded by such paltry and profane absurdities. Before I left the house I plainly declared my judgment in the matter to Mr. Irving. His reply was strange, and highly characteristic of the system: but it was private, and I do not feel at liberty to quote it" (Mr. N.'s Letters on the Church, pp. 111-113, 1834).
"I was overwhelmed by this occurrence. The attainment of the gift of prophecy, which this supernatural utterance was deemed to be, was with myself and many others — a great object of desire. I could not therefore but rejoice at having been made the subject of it; but there were so many difficulties attaching to the circumstances under which the power came upon me, and I was so anxious and distressed lest I should mistake the mind of God in the matter, that I continued many weeks weighed down in spirit and overwhelmed. There was in me at the time of the utterance very great excitement. and yet I was distinctly conscious of a power acting upon me beyond the mere power of excitement. So distinct was this power from the excitement that, in all my trouble and doubt about it, I never could attribute the whole to, excitement. Conceiving, as I had previously done, that the power speaking in the speakers was of God, I was convinced the power in me was the same power; and I regarded the confession which was wrung from me to be the same thing as is spoken of in 1 Cor. 14, where it is said, 'If all prophesy,' etc. It seemed to be so with me: I was unlearned; the secret of my heart was manifest; and I was made, by a power unlike anything I had ever known before, to fall down and acknowledge that God was among them of a truth" (pp. 3-6).
After detailing some further experience tending to confirm his impressions, Mr. B. proceeds (p. 8), "I am thus particular in explaining these circumstances that I may accurately show how unequal we are, in our own strength to stand before God; and how rapidly we may fall from all our convictions and views of truth, if our God should see fit, in judgment for our sins, to leave us for a season to the influence of a seducing spirit. From this period for the space of five months I had no utterance in public; though, when engaged alone in private prayer, the power would come down upon me, and cause me to pray with strong crying and tears for the state of the church.
"On one occasion, about a month after I had received the power, whilst in my study endeavouring to lift up my soul to God in prayer, my mind was so filled with worldly concerns that my thoughts were wandering to them continually. Again and again I began to pray, and before a minute had passed, I found that my thoughts had wandered from my prayer-book again into the world. I was much distressed at this temptation, and sat down, lifting up a short ejaculation to God for deliverance; when suddenly the power came down upon me, and I found myself lifted up in soul to God, my wandering thoughts at once rivetted, and calmness of mind given me. By a constraint I cannot describe, I was made to speak — at the same time shrinking from utterance and yet rejoicing in it. The utterance was a prayer that the Lord would have mercy upon me and deliver me from fleshly weakness, and would graciously bestow upon me the gifts of His Spirit, the gift of wisdom, the gift of knowledge, the gift of faith, the working of miracles, the gift of healing, the gift of prophecy, the gift of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues; and that He would open my mouth and give me strength to declare His glory.
"This prayer, short almost as I have now penned it, was forced from me by the constraint of the power which acted upon me; and the utterance was so loud that I put my handkerchief to my mouth to stop the sound that I might not alarm the house. When I had reached the last word I have written, the power died off me, and I was left just as before, save in amazement at what had passed, and filled, as it seemed to me, with thankfulness to God for His great love so manifested to me. With the power there came upon me a strong conviction, This is the Spirit of God: what you are now praying is of the Spirit of God, and must therefore be of the mind of God and; what you are now asking will surely be given to you. This conviction, strong as it was at the moment, was never shaken until the whole work fell to pieces. But from that day I acted in the full assurance that in God's own good time all these gifts would be bestowed upon me."
An important fact appears in Mr. B.'s "Narrative," p. 12. The early prayer-meeting had been instituted to pray for the General Assembly to be guided aright in judging Mr. I.'s doctrine, especially on the Human Nature of our Lord. In Jan. 1832 Mr. B. took part there "in the power." During this visit to London, at a private house, after Mrs. J. Cardale testified, Mr. B. gave out for two hours or upwards, with very little interval, "what we all regarded as prophecies concerning the church and the nation." "The power which then rested on me was far more mighty than before, laying down my mind and body in perfect obedience, and carrying me on without confusion or excitement. Excitement there might appear to a bystander, but to myself it was calmness and peace. Every former visitation of the power had been very brief; but now it continued and seemed to rest upon me all the evening. The things I was made to utter flashed in upon my mind without forethought, without expectation, and without any plan or arrangement: all was the work of a moment, and I was as the passive instrument of the power which used me. In the beginning of my utterances that evening some observations were addressed by me to the pastor [Mr. Irving] in a commanding tone; and the manner and course of utterance manifested in me was so far differing from those which had been manifested in the members of his own flock, that he was much startled," etc. (pp. 13, 14).
On the following morning, as we are a little after told, Mr. B. was made by the power to read and expound Rev. 11, declaring that the two witnesses were two offices (prophet and minister), the one already known in "the gifted," the other now for the first time manifested (in himself), and that this should be multiplied, as the days of their witnessing, were now begun. In the evening the declaration of the two witnesses was repeated; "and very distinctly we were commanded to 'count the days, one thousand three score and two hundred' — 1260 — the days appointed for testimony, at the end of which the saints of the Lord should go up to meet the Lord in the air, and evermore be with the Lord" (p. 17). It seems that Mr. B. used to think of some earthly sanctuary in and through the days of vengeance, but had experienced a sudden change of opinion more in accord with Mr. I., founded on Matt. 24 and Luke 21, his wife also having undergone a like charge, each unknown to the other (pp. 17, 18).
These scriptures were no right basis for a truth clearly provable by others; for they speak of the Lord's future dealings with Israel on earth, not with the saints for heaven. This was not divine guidance, But Mr. B. draws special attention (for "the words of the prophecy were most distinct) to count from that day (viz. 14th Jan. 1832) 1260 days, and (? or) three days and a half (Rev. 11:11); and on innumerable other occasions by exposition and prophecy was the same thing again and again declared, and most largely opened" (pp. 18, 19). It was one of the many falsehoods to which the spirit there at work stood committed, which ought to have satisfied all, as it later convinced Mr. B. himself, that the work was not of God's Spirit. Other failures startled the prophet, but two ladies prophesied (pp. 20, 21) so as to show that the work in him was of God, and that he was not to be troubled by anything! "I found on a sudden, in the midst of my accustomed course a power coming upon me which was altogether new and unnatural and in many cases a most appalling utterance given to me — matters uttered by me in this power of which I had never thought, and many of which I did not understand until long after they were uttered — an enlarged comprehension and clearness of view given to me on points which were really the truth of God (though mingled with many things which I have since seen not to be the truth, but which then had the form of truth), etc. ....... It was manifest to me the power was supernatural; it was therefore a spirit. It seemed to me to bear testimony to Christ, and to work the fruits of the Spirit of God. The conclusion was inevitable that it was the Spirit of God; and, if so, the deduction was immediate that it ought in all things to be obeyed" (p. 22). Fresh and marked failures occurred; but Jer. 20:7 was perverted to cover lies; or they were spiritualised to quiet conscience and to lull all into deeper deceit (pp. 23-28). "In the course of the same day and the day following, a prophecy was given to me that God had cut short the present appointment for ordinary ministers. It was added that this was the consequence of the setting up of the abomination of desolation. The Spirit of God having withdrawn from the church, the church was thenceforth desolate; and now God would endow men with the power of utterance in the Spirit, as the gift of distinguishing those set apart for the ministry"...... The plan was adopted of assigning the present day as the time of fulfilment on the Gentile church of those scriptures which speak of the setting up of the abomination of desolation" (Matt. 24, Luke 21) p. 29. Again, the reader will observe the judaising at work by misapplied scripture, the abomination being said to be the quenching of the Spirit, and the desolation, God's withdrawal of the Spirit. Thus 2 Thess. 2 was read mystically (which the popular commentators endorse), for the man of sin was the spirit, of the world in the church opposing the Spirit God would shortly pour down; as by and by he would be a more fearful manifestation in mimicry of Jesus as King of kings in the person of young Napoleon (pp. 30, 31).
Mr. B. gives the development of this working of Satan as an angel of light in pp. 32-55, some domestic, some as to his brother, a clergyman, drawn into the delusion (whose service Mr. B. undertook one Lord's day publicly in the power). Then came in the power an interpretation of Rev. 12 (pp. 56, 57), which made "the woman" mean the spiritual church, i.e., those partakers of the Spirit, and contradistinguished from the visible church seen in "the beast rising out of the earth!" The man child was the testimony by preaching Christ's Second Coming; and the fleeing into the wilderness meant the spiritual now to be cast out and separate since Jan. 14, 1832 for the 1260 days, as the war in heaven was now against the Spirit in the midst of the Lord's people! These of course would have the victory, but woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea, i.e., the nations, and the churches, respectively, thenceforward given up to Satan's delusions and anger.
This, full of self-complacency, in every part false, was followed closely by the power on Mr. B. opening Rev. 8, as if "the third part" meant Protestant Christendom, the papal and the infidel being the other two parts, the last brought about by the late French Revolution. The hail meant the tories! once fertilising water, now frozen so as to beat down and hurt the grass, i.e., good order! and trees or settled institutions, which it once sustained., the fire was the liberal party! now as ardent and hot as the tories were congealed, but destructive and burning to make all things now.
On the following Sunday, as we are informed, the power moved him to declare the second trumpet to be God's judgment on the sea, or military state! as the earth was the civil. The mountain burning with fire was made the aggregation of liberalism in different forms of a side in collision with the military, so as to reduce even the army to a lifeless state, the ships being the commanders! the creatures the rank and file! and the third part still Protestant, and Great Britain as principal and head. The third trumpet was applied ecclesiastically, and the fourth governmentally, so that king and queen would reign, and the House of Lords be extinguished! Yet the Reform Bill would not pass; but when the people flew against the army, the iron Duke would be again Prime Minister, and fulfil the third and fourth trumpets. Think of this trumpery attributed to scripture, as well as to the power of the Spirit! The fifth trumpet would be the spoliation of the church, the sixth its complete overthrow and civil war, England being still the scene! and all these trumpets to be fulfilled, the first four within two years, and the others in the remaining year and a half (pp. 58-62). It is interesting to have the rare opportunity of a man confessing his false prophecies, and the sad spectacle of a religious body cleaving to them with a death-grip notwithstanding.
But even worse was at hand, following a blinding use of Eph. 6:12 (p. 62). "The display of this truth was used to rivet me, and those with me, in the power of the enemy." It was Satan warning against Satan to keep them fast in his snare.
c) EARLY HISTORY.
"About this time was consummated the masterpiece of doctrinal delusion in the development of 'the baptism of fire,' as it was thenceforth expounded by me," etc. (pp. 63, 64). I should rather say that a deeper foundation of evil was laid in the blasphemous assumption of fallen humanity in Christ's person. But however this be, "it was declared in utterance that the Lord would again send apostles, by the laying on of whose hands should follow the baptism of fire; and should give to the disciples of Christ the full freedom of the Holy Ghost, and full and final victory over the world" (p. 65). Fresh utterances followed, calling for enlarged confidence in the Lord's unbounded love, as before they had warned against Satan's snares as an angel of light, alike from the enemy to blind and turn them into his meshes. "At the interval of a day or two there followed an appalling utterance — that the Lord had set me apart for Himself — that from that day I was called to the spiritual ministry I must count forty days — that this was now well nigh expired — that for those forty days was it appointed I should be tried — that the Lord had tried me and found me faithful, and, having now proved in me the first sign of an apostle, patience (referring to 2 Cor. 12:12), he would give to me the fulness of them in the gifts of signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds - that the Lord had called me to be an apostle; and, by the laying on of my hands and the hands of the other apostles whom the Lord should call, should the baptism of fire be bestowed. Then was added a repetition of the fearful oath given on the declaration of my call to the ministry, 'By Myself have I sworn, saith the Lord; by Myself have I sworn; by Myself have I sworn that I will not fail you, I will never leave nor forsake you.' I was commanded to go back to the church where my mouth wits opened, and on the fortieth day power should be given, the sick should be healed, the deaf should hear, the dead should be restored, and all the mighty signs and wonders should appear; apostles and ministers should be ordained, endowed, and., sent forth to the ends of the earth, to warn the world of the rapture of the saints, and make ready a people prepared for the Lord. It was declared that, when I again stood in the church in London, I should be made to rebuke them sharply; that they had sorely pained the Lord and hindered His work; ....... This full development took place on the Friday preceding the fortieth day, which would fall on a Wednesday. On the Sat. or Sunday came an utterance concerning Scotland — that that was a land of prophets; that the church there had greatly erred in rejecting the remembrance of the apostolic government, but God had used them as prophets to His church; that, because of this, the servant of that church in London (alluding to Mr. Irving) would not be given the apostolic office, but would be sent as a prophet to Scotland, to bear the Lord's warning before the carriage which would ensue from the cholera there. This utterance was accompanied with great power in the form of revelation, laying open to me that Mr. A. [Nicholas Armstrong, an Irish clergyman] would be ordained an apostle [which was done afterwards], and that the clergyman, to whom I have before alluded as a believer in the work, would be set apart for the apostolic office in London [which was certainly never done]; that I should be carried to foreign lands, after passing through a few parts of this land, and should only return at the end of the three years and a half, to join my family immediately previous to the tribulation" (pp. 66, 67).
It is needless to enlarge. It was all a tissue of pretentious falsehood with just enough appearance of truth to ensnare its votaries. The solemn fact is to be noted that the mouth-piece was a saint, more upright than most of his companions, yet a prey to delusion for a season, but soon mercifully delivered.
"On the morrow [i.e., the fortieth day of promise], at the morning prayer-meeting, nothing peculiar occurred. At breakfast several strangers to me were present, and having been made to give forth what seemed a most glorious prophecy concerning the endowments which would attend upon the spiritual (!) apostles whom the Lord would send forth; in how much they would exceed (!!) the endowments given to the twelve apostles (!!!), it was, etc. The day however passed without any manifestation of the signs and wonders which had been foretold. I was made in power to speak to Mr. A., declaring the Lord had called him to the office of apostle; that he would receive the endowment of an apostle, and speedily go to Ireland, to build the Lord a spiritual church there. On the disappointment of our hopes for the day we all seemed to pause, expecting that the succeeding day might realise what the present did not furnish" (pp. 69, 70).
Even so Satan kept up the delusion, not only by Mr. Baxter's public utterance on Thursday which wrought powerfully on Mr. Irving, but by a strange incident on the Saturday at breakfast in Mr. I's house. A stranger asked the Lord's will about something, when the power came on Mr. Baxter and referred in the answer to Mr. B.'s proceedings [for Mr. H. Bulteel of Oxford was for a while carried away by the delusion] with a warning against his rash course. There was nothing in the question, gentleman, or previous conversation, leading to Mr. B.; yet it turned out that it was the very thing that led to the difficulties as to which counsel was asked. No wonder, in detailing yet more (pp. 74, 75), that Mr. B. says, "Ah! how true is the word of God. 'If the light that is in you be darkness, how great is that darkness.' On the Sunday, when Mr. I. was noticing the unseemly behaviour of a young man who insisted on going out, the power came on Mr. B. with 'a most appalling cry, or rather shout' to the effect of a curse on the land, when Mr. I. pronounced this an example of Rev. 11:5 (fire proceedeth out of their mouth), and that Mr. B. was called of God a spiritual minister, one of the witnesses, while he himself was but a fleshly minister, and unable to command discipline as Mr. B. did; and so it would be, when the full power of this ministry was come in, that discipline would be enforced" (p. 77).
But the snare of an evil spirit once yielded to is not so easily detected or broken, specially, we may suppose, in one accepted as a prophet, and more than a prophet, as an apostle elect. How God wrought to deliver we shall soon learn.
Several circumstances about this time happened and were used somewhat later of God to deliver Mr. Baxter from the evil spirit which was at work in him, accepted by Mr. Irving and his friends as the Spirit of God. The visit to London of a North American Indian chief may be mentioned as a plain fact, and not without instructive interest for its proof of the infatuation that reigned among thorn.
"One evening at Mr. P.'s [? Percival's] I met Mr. R. [? Ryerson] who had come from North America, and had been a missionary among the Indians there. I had in the country received an utterance and a revelation concerning America, which I was mentioning, when he declared his opinion that the American Indians were the lost ten tribes of Israel. He asked me if I had any teaching upon it. I told him I had not, and after hearing from him that one of their native chiefs was converted and now in London, I thought no more of it. A few mornings afterwards, at breakfast at Mr. Irving's, a conversation arose upon America, and I mentioned what had been revealed to me concerning it; and Mr. Irving asked, with reference to some utterance, whether I should conclude it referred to the ten tribes. I paused, for the power rested upon me, and after a little time it was distinctly revealed in the power, and I was made to utter that the American Indians were the lost ten tribes, and that they should, within the three years and a half appointed for the spiritual ministry, be gathered back into their own land, and be settled there before the days of vengeance set in. That the chief, who was now in London, was a chosen vessel of the Lord to lead them back — that he should be endowed with power from on high in all signs and mighty wonders, and should lead them back though in unbelief — that he should receive his power here, and be speedily sent forth to them. After this I went with Mr. Irving, Miss E. C. (who had been present at the foregoing prophecy), and several others, to a Jewish institution, where I was again made to reiterate to the Jews there present the promise of speedy restoration, and vengeance upon all their enemies.
"Being on another occasion assembled with some young men of Mr. Irving's congregation, the Indian chief, who had been alluded to, came in; and I was made in a most triumphant chant to address him as the vessel chosen of God, and to be endowed of God for the bringing back of his brethren. Afterwards I supped with him at Mr. R.'s. The chief did not believe in the message, or in the gifts, though he was apparently astounded; and, as I conversed with him, his countenance and tout ensemble was so utterly foreign to my idea of a Jew, and so strongly of the Tartar cast, that my confidence in my prophecy was shaken, and I was quite miserable under the fear that I had been mistaken and deluded in the matter. However, my conscience was clear of all wilful mistake, and I resisted the fear as a temptation, though exceedingly tried by it. I hinted it to no one, and sought counsel of no one; but I was relieved from my doubt in a most extraordinary way — a way which might be called accidental, did not the very frequent occurrence of such things in the midst of the working of the power, under which I and others were walking, show that it was much more. On the following or next succeeding morning, as I was walking from church with Miss E. C., she, without any reference on my part to the subject, alluded to the prophecy, and said to me, 'It is very remarkable that when you spoke about the ten tribes the other morning, whilst you were pausing the power was so strong and so distinct upon me, I was ready to give the very utterance you gave, and the whole was before my mind as distinct as if I had spoken it.'
"This quite dispelled my doubts. I thought I could not have mistaken the mind of the Spirit, since the same communication was made to her at the same time. Thus were my doubts in this instance removed; and were I to multiply instances, even beyond what may occur in the narrative, I should only more largely confirm the fact of the subtle lying in wait of the enemy, ready by signs and workings (so far as power was committed unto him) to remove doubts, and cancel difficulties, and bring us anew into a state of unsuspecting confidence in the spirit which swayed us. I will also point to this simultaneous action of the power upon Miss E. C. and myself, as an instance of what continually occurred, and as a proof of the identity of the origin of the manifestations in both. The subject of this prophecy was so far new to me, that I had never had the question of the Indians being the ten tribes brought before me, old as it is in the literary world; and even when Mr. R. mentioned it, it made no perceptible impression upon my mind; nor did I to my knowledge ever think any more of it until it arose again at Mr. Irving's. What Miss E. C.'s previous impressions were I know not; but certainly the prophecy developed no previous impressions formed in my own mind, but was to me both a novelty and a difficulty.
"The complete failure of this prophecy is very manifest. The chief went away to his countrymen an unbeliever in the work; and none of the powers have been at all manifested" (Narrative, pp. 80-82).
But there was like failure about that which affected all nearer home. "Not to dwell too long upon minor incidents I was weighed down under the delay of the fulfilment of the prophecy concerning the apostolic endowments on the fortieth day. Prayer was made daily for me in Mr. Irving's church, in obedience to the injunction given by Miss E. C. on the evening before alluded to; and Mr. Irving did not hesitate to pray publicly before his people that I might receive the full endowment of an apostle. To add to my distress, I had heard from my friend in the country,* who had spoken in power and received directions to go and perform a miracle of healing, stating, that in fasting and prayer he had gone upon the errand, but had failed to perform any miracle; that he concluded he had spoken by a lying spirit, and could no longer believe we were speaking by the Spirit of God. My prophecy concerning the fortieth day had been bruited about in my own neighbourhood, and its failure, together with that of my friend, had had such an effect, that my wife, and greater part of the believers in the country, abandoned it as a delusion. My faith in it was, however, not the least shaken. I saw the fiery trial I had to go through in endeavouring to uphold what I considered to be the truth in the face of such seeming failures; and yet I confidently trusted God would make manifest His mercy and power in the midst of it.
[* This was the clergyman who spoke in the power in his own house on the evening when the christian armour was expounded. "In the few seconds I could speak to him, he told me he had had a revelation, accompanied with a very powerful utterance, in singing, directing him to go on the following Wednesday to perform a miracle of healing upon a poor cripple who had for many years been bedridden. When he had told me this, the power came greatly on me," etc. Narrative p. 68.]
"I continued yet a day or two with them; and one morning calling upon Mrs. J. C., she asked me whether I had any teachings upon the propriety or impropriety of prayer-meetings formed of ladies alone; one of which had been some months established, and she and the other gifted persons had been in the habit of attending. I was made in power to declare they were not profitable — to rebuke her for not having sooner discerned it, and to bid her go, as they met that morning, and declare to them what had now been spoken. She carried the message to the meeting, and they all at once agreed to abandon it, but desired to go to prayer, to return God thanks that they had so long been kept in peace; when the power came on Miss E. C., as she afterwards told me, and she was made to rebuke them for not more implicitly obeying the word of the Lord given by me, and so bid them separate without prayer.
"At the same time that Mrs. J. C. consulted me as to the ladies' meetings, Mr. J. C. remarked, concerning the select prayer-meetings at Mr. Irving's church, that he had often found great heaviness upon him at them. I was then made to declare Mr. Irving had erred in making them select — that they ought to be open to all. This was conveyed to Mr. Irving, and he at once acknowledged the error, and opened the meetings generally to all. I may here mention that on a former occasion Mr. Irving had consulted me upon the same subject, and had received a like rebuke. The reason he made them select was, that he found the power more manifested when those who believed in it as of the Spirit of God were alone present; and on the other hand found in a miscellaneous assembly the power was quenched. It was told him in power from my lips that he was offending in this, by giving occasion to the enemy to say the manifestations would not bear the light; and, furthermore, by shutting up the manifestation of God's love he was practically acting as though God did not intend the message of His love and pardon to be made known to all men. He seemed at the first rebuke to yield to the reasoning, but he did not act upon it; and it was not till the second rebuke was conveyed by Mr. J. C. to him, that he publicly declared to the congregation that he had received such a rebuke and changed his plan. I understand that now he has again under another name restored select meetings, and I am deeply grieved to find it so. For here in the midst of minds duly prepared Satan can gradually develop the subject of his delusion, and going on step by step can unwarily lead his victims into extravagance, first of doctrine, and next of conduct, which they themselves would without such gradual preparation shudder to contemplate. So long as their proceedings are open to the public eye, there will always be some warning and remonstrance set before them upon the development of any mew device. When shut up to themselves, the mind is gradually darkened, and the delusion becomes daily stronger, until they are ripe for each successive stage of the mystery of iniquity. As a proof of this, I may allude to the fact that they are now avowedly exercising apostolic functions, without pretending to have the signs of an apostle, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds; and the individual who has been thus set apart for apostolic office prays in their meetings in the following strain: — 'Lord, am I not thine apostle? Yet where are the signs of my apostleship? Where are the wonders and mighty deeds? O Lord, send them down on me,' etc. He has as an apostle, and in the name of an apostle, laid hands on several, and ordained them to the ministerial office, as evangelists and elders; yet it is not pretended that the manifestation of the baptism of the Holy Ghost follows with the laying on of his hands.
"When I was amongst them, we were all of one mind, that the apostolic office could not be exercised until the signs of an apostle in signs, wonders and mighty deeds, were manifest in the individual claiming the apostolic office; and ware also of one mind that the baptism with the Holy Ghost would attend the laying on of the hands of the apostle. It appears in their private meetings this further depth of 'folly' has been added to the 'folly' to which I wickedly introduced them. And they are so hardened under it, that they do not now hesitate publicly to declare it. Coupled with this also is the further 'folly' of Mr. Irving's claiming, as angel of the church, authority over the apostle; and the apostle is put under subjection to the pastor, or angel, as he designates himself. Surely in these things is a darkness that may be felt. We may however trust that the word of the Lord has reached them, which declares, concerning the deceivers of the last days (2 Tim. 3:9), They shall proceed no further; for their folly shall be manifest unto all men. May God graciously make it manifest to themselves.
"But to resume the narrative: my professional engagements in town being ended, I purposed going out; but before I did so, I mentioned to Miss E. C., as well as to Mr. T., the full circumstances under which I was sent up to them. Mr. T. was made almost immediately to declare in the power, with reference to the powers, and signs, and miracles which were promised, 'Ye shall do it — ye shall do it'! Miss E. C. spoke once or twice in the power, and I gathered I ought to wait till the morrow at least. One utterance which she gave was, 'Wait and pray, that the glory of the Lord may burst forth in the midst of the congregation,' with some other words referring to the congregation then assembled, and leading me to the full expectation that on that very evening, in the congregation there met, the power with signs and wonders would be given. As, however, I went out of the, vestry, an extraordinary visitation of darkness, which I had experienced on more than one occasion when expectations were not realised, came over me, laying my mind under the severest darkness. Nothing whatever occurred on that evening in the congregation, and I returned to my hotel. On the morrow I was made at the morning meeting to give a long and severe rebuke to the congregation, declaring they hindered the work of the Lord, and calling upon them to humble themselves because of it. Alas! little did I think what it was which was hindered.
"At breakfast at Mr. Irving's the closing scene of my unhappy ministrations among them was no less remarkable than mysterious. Very great utterance had for several mornings been given me at family prayers there, and particularly beautiful and comforting expositions of scripture were given from the power. This morning a clergyman (who, I have since understood, was from Ireland, and had come especially to enquire, favourably disposed towards the work, but startled at the doctrines) was present. He was talking to Mr. Irving, but I did not hear his observations. Presently the sister of Miss E. C., who sat by me, said, 'That gentleman is grieving the Spirit.' I looked, and saw a power resting on Miss E. C., and presently she spoke in rebuke; but I did not gather more from it than that the gentleman had been advancing something erroneous. Mr. Irving, then began to read a chapter, to which I had been made in power to direct him; but instead of my expounding as before, the power resting upon me revealed there were those in the room who must depart. Utterance came from me that we were assembled at an holy ordinance to partake of the body and blood of Christ, and it behoved all to examine themselves, that they might not partake unworthily. None going out, I was made again and again, more and more peremptorily, to warn until the clergyman in question, and an aged man, a stranger, had gone out, when Mr. Irving proceeded in reading the chapter, 'I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of His wrath,' etc., and I was made to expound as usual, with great setting forth of God's love in the midst of the trials of His people, and with great promises of blessing. It was greatly to my own comfort, and I believe also to that of others. I often prayed in the power, and when all was concluded I was made in power to declare to Mr. Irving that he had seen in this an example of the ministration of the supper of the Lord, as he had before seen the example of baptism; that he must preach and declare them to his flock, for speedily would the Lord bring them forth; that the opening of the word was the bread, and the indwelling and renewing presence of the Spirit, the wine the body and blood of the Lord; and the discerner of spirits would not permit the unbelievers to mingle with the faithful, but they would be driven out as he had seen. Then in power I was made to warn all of the snares of the enemy, and concluded with the remarkable words, Be not ye like unto Peter, 'I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.' It is not a little remarkable, that upon the call being made for all to depart who did not examine themselves and receive the word spoken in power as the word of God, the clergyman I before alluded to professed his faith in the work, and I was made to tell him he was doubting and was not confirmed in it. And I have since heard that he was in so much doubt that, when he came to consider, he abandoned the work as delusion. Whilst under the awe of the presence of the supernatural power, he was so confounded or overcome as to profess full faith in it, and believe himself to be really receiving it. I had not any previous idea that on this morning the ministration of the Lord's Supper would be given, nor had I until this was set before me any conception what its spiritual ministration would be.
"In the previous part of the morning Miss E. C. had been made to speak in power to me, to the effect that I was shrinking from the cross, in being pained at going back into the country with the endowment promised. This had weighed with me, and my mind was made up to return. After the noon-day service, before all the congregation were departed, she asked me if I intended to go home. On my telling her I did, she was made in power to address me, which though in a subdued tone, was perceived by the congregation remaining, who immediately stopped. Her message was, that I was right in returning home; that the Lord was well pleased with me that I had been content to walk in darkness; that I had been faithful to the Lord, and the Lord would be faithful to me; that I should return and pass into deep waters, but yet for a little time, and I should behold the glory and rejoice. Mr. Irving then informed the remaining congregation, that it appeared to be the will of the Lord that I should depart for a little season, and prayed that I might speedily return with full powers of an apostle to impart unto them the gift for which they were longing" (pp. 86-89).
These minute particulars are here given, as more will follow of a witness not only reliable, but with the best possible means of information, before the seal of secrecy was imposed, as it soon was sought to be, on all, of prime importance to be known in order to a sound judgment. Grace secures that God's children have ample warning of the enemy's work.
d) EARLY HISTORY.
"I accordingly returned into the country deeply depressed, though quite unshaken in my faith of the work. The difficulties which had been thrown in my way were great; but I trusted the Lord would overrule them all, and I resumed my public teaching as before. My wife having relapsed into unbelief of the manifestations, my mouth was not at all opened in private, until by another remarkable dealing her confidence in it was restored. On the fourth day after my return, I had arranged to begin a public morning prayer-meeting; and as it gave her such pain, I did not mention the subject to her. She however seemed to have an impression that something particular was about to be done, and questioned me so closely that I was obliged to tell her. She was both irritated and distressed, and, in the fullest conviction that the work was a delusion, did all she could to dissuade me from having the prayer-meeting.
"I had however only left her a few minutes, to proceed to the prayer-meeting, before a power came upon her in the form of revelation, calming all her irritation and distress, and in a moment filling her mind with peace, giving to her a reason why the powers and signs and wonders were not bestowed upon the fortieth day, and assuring her of great blessings from the Lord and a speedy fulfilment of what had been prophesied. It was also told her as a sign to prove this revelation to be of God, that as soon as I came home, when she came to me, I should say, 'Speak, speak;' and then after she had told me the revelation, I should speak to her in the power, and beginning, 'It is of the Lord,' should fully explain what had been revealed to her. When I came home, I thought she seemed much troubled, and, unconscious of what had occurred, I said to her, 'Speak, speak.' Upon this she told me the revelation, not saying anything of my speaking afterwards; and when she had told me, the power immediately came upon me to utterance, and I was made to say in great power, 'It is of the Lord,' and then to open and explain it. This so fully concurring with what had been revealed cleared away the doubt which the non-fulfilment of the former promise had created; and she again fully yielded to the persuasion that the work was of God.
"In the revelation allusion had been made to the case of Miriam (Num. 12:10); and in the utterance which followed it was declared, that the power was not given on the fortieth day, because the church in London had failed in love toward the visible church which God had cast off. It had some time before been declared that the separation between myself and my wife, which the Lord had ordained, was as a type and figure of the Lord's casting off the visible church and the visible ordinances. Now it was further declared that God was zealous for those whom He had so cast off; and as the camp of the Israelites could not proceed in its journeyings until Miriam was brought in again, so now was the work of the Lord stayed, and the power in signs and wonders delayed until the heart of the church was turned toward those whom the Lord had made desolate. And then followed in the power a most emphatic declaration that on the day after the morrow we should both be baptised with fire: so should we be joined together in the bond of the Lord's baptism, the Lord also joining Himself to His desolate church again, by bringing forth visibly a spiritual church with spiritual ordinances in fulness of power and gifts; that had the church in London manifested greater love, this baptism and power would have been given there; but now it should be given here, and on the day named we should receive it, and thenceforward would the work proceed in swiftness and not again tarry. Most glorious prophecies, as they seemed to be, followed these declarations, and great fulness of development as to the constitution of the spiritual church: and its progress through the earth to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
"We were overjoyed with these communications, and, in fulness of hope and confidence, awaited the day of fulfilment. The interval was filled up by very powerful and frequent utterances in interpretation of scripture, and in confirmation of the work. The day named arrived, and in the evening an utterance from the power, 'Kneel down, and receive the baptism of fire.' We knelt down, lifting up prayer continually. Nothing however ensued. Again and again we knelt, and again and again we prayed, but day by day for a long time we continued in prayer and supplication, continually expecting the baptism. My wife gradually concluded the whole must be delusion, and ceased to follow it. For six weeks, however, I continued unshaken to seek after it, but found it not.
"The baptism of fire was fully explained in utterance to be the burning out of the carnal mind, and subduing every sinful lust of the flesh; so that those who received it should be freed from the law of sin, and thenceforth freed from Satan's temptations through the flesh; that the fulness of the presence of the Holy Ghost should accompany it, and thenceforth those receiving it should walk in the fulness of spiritual light and life, and repel every assault of the enemy — should walk in perfect holiness and be utterly free from sin; that the gifts of the Spirit would follow according to the office to which each individual was ordained of God, to the apostle in all fulness of gifts, and power, and signs, and mighty wonders, and to all other office-bearers in due measure; that it was a baptism specially reserved for the three years and a half of the last ministry upon earth, and during this period the ministers of the Lord would be borne about from place to place by the Spirit as Philip was. Bodily changes, it was also declared, would be wrought by the baptism; and it was especially declared, that, as a consequence of such changes, the marriage state would no longer be blessed with increase; and husbands and wives, sons and daughters, would thenceforward be called to the ministry, and devote themselves to the office of warning the world, until the expiration of the days of testimony should summon them to the glory of the Lord.
"From the time of my return from town the difficulties seemed on all sides to increase. A few days after I left him, Mr. Irving, forwarding a letter, added a few lines of his own, telling me how greatly they were encouraged and strengthened in London by my last visit, and stating how they looked forward to my return with the full powers of an apostle; but at the same time adding that Mr. F., who had spoken in power amongst us, had been found to speak by an evil spirit, Mrs. C. and Miss E. O. having been made so to declare. This troubled me greatly, for I have (? had) been made to declare to him his call to the spiritual ministry. He had also been present and spoke in power on the last morning of my presence at Mr. Irvings, when two persons were sent out; and where it was declared in the power that the Lord would not suffer an unbeliever or unclean person to be present at that holy ordinance, as it was called. Here were contradictions I could not explain away; and all I could do was to wait the Lord's teaching on it.
"Next, after an interval came a letter from Mr. Irving, which yet more perplexed me. He said, 'This moment the Lord hath sent me a very wonderful and wonderfully gracious message by our dear sister, Miss E. C., concerning the time which you have been made so often to put forth: rebuking me for having repeated it, and counselling me not to do it any more; declaring the word to be a true word, containing a mystery — declaring that the day is not known, and commanding me to write to you to say you must not repeat them in the flesh, but suffer the Spirit to say it how and when it pleaseth.' Mr. Irving, then added, 'Here I leave it without any comment whatever. I am not equal to the work of commenting upon these words of the Lord. I am content to walk in the darkness. The same message which said that the word you spake was true, said also that the day is not known, and that it is a mystery, and that you as well as myself had erred in repeating in the flesh this matter of the time. The Lord lead us aright.' I was amazed at this message, for constantly I had been made in power to declare the time, and to explain it, and to enforce it; and more than once I had been made to enjoin ministers publicly to preach it in the flesh, though they had no gift. I had then nearly fallen into the persuasion that my gift could not be a true gift, or that I had so mistaken the leadings of it as to be no more worthy to exercise it. But the recognitions and encouragements given me by Mrs. C. and Miss E. C. in London held me up against the conclusion. I went on speaking and preaching in power, and found the matter of the three years and a half as constantly in my mouth as ever. I could not refrain from speaking it; and yet, when any one asked me about it, I dared not to say anything in explanation, except in power, my mouth being shut by this extraordinary message from Miss E. C.
"A fact which came to my knowledge, after I abandoned the work, has served to give me some insight into the message. A sister of mine when in London, attending the private prayer-meetings before I ever spoke in power, heard several utterances from Miss E. C., in which she most emphatically pronounced that Christ would come at an hour when even His own people would not be looking for Him — that the time of His coming would not be known to His own people. I remember also, that when preaching in the power at Hampstead, I was made to declare the time in Miss E. C.'s presence. She, as we were returning, asked me whether the time had been clearly revealed to me. I saw she did not receive it; but she said no more about it. When I heard of the previous utterances, my inference was that she, having a remembrance of these utterances and feeling the contradiction which my utterances gave to them, was troubled in mind upon it, and that the message that was sent to me was a device of the enemy to lull the disquietude and reconcile the contradiction. The subtlety is indeed deep — recognising my prophecy as a truth, and yet setting it practically aside, by alleging it to contain a mystery, and therefore not fitted to be named except in the power. I mentioned this inference subsequently to Miss E. C., but she would not speak upon the subject.
"A little later came another blow. Intelligence was sent me, that Miss H., who had for months been received as a prophetess among them — (who had been the first to speak in the Sunday congregation, and whose speaking Miss E. C., on that occasion was made in power to declare ought to be heard; to whom also I in the power had spoken as a prophetess, and on a second occasion Miss E. C. had alluded as speaking of the Lord) — that she had by Miss E. C. and Mrs. C. been charged with feigning utterances, and they in power had pronounced that the whole work in her was of the flesh, and not of the Lord. I had heard her speak, and her utterance seemed to me at times as full and as clearly supernatural as Miss E. C.'s. She had also begun a prophecy, which Miss E. C. would take up and complete; and she would take up in power what Miss E. C. had begun; so as to cause Mr. Irving to remark how manifestly one Spirit spoke in both.
The particular occasion on which this charge and declaration was made against her did not at all lessen the difficulty. it will be remembered, I was made after the prophecy concerning the national fast to write it down, and send it to a member of the House, enjoining him to deliver it in the House of Commons, This message, after some deliberation, it was intended to deliver by reading the letter containing it. By some accident however the letter was mislaid, and it could not be done. Whilst I was in town, the letter was found; and I was consulted, whether reading the letter would be the proper method of delivering it, and it seemed to me it would not. The letter was shown to Miss E. C., and she in power declared to the effect that the member in delivering it might be made to speak in the power. We could not read positively whether it would without doubt be so; and I was in power made to say he might deliver in the power or without the power. Circumstances, of which I do not know the particulars, prevented its being delivered in the House until the night before the fast-day. For some short time previous to this night Miss E. had urged the member to deliver it, and on the previous night when he had been prevented, she said in the power, 'Satan has triumphed in its not being delivered.' When, however, the message had been delivered, Miss E. C., knowing Miss H. had spoken on giving it, rebuked her in power for it, and declared that the member had rushed before the Lord, in delivering it without waiting for the power. Upon this unfortunate message the two speakers came into collision, and Miss H. was pronounced a false prophetess. The rebuke however proved true in the matter of feigned utterances; for Miss H. acknowledged that, in two or three instances, she had meditated utterances before repeating them. She was smitten in conscience and bowed before the accusation; and I believe to this day she acknowledges the justice of the sentence against her, though in the particular utterance concerning the message, and in most others, she declares she did not at all premeditate. Explained in any way however, it was a most startling occurrence, as involving all of us in lack of discernment, and two of us in false testimony to her gift.
"Added to all this, the fast-day passed over; and notwithstanding all the prophecies marking it out as a day much to be remembered, and the day of the Lord's answer by fire, nothing had occurred upon it. Moreover, the servant girl, on whom it was declared the miracle of casting out a devil should be performed was recovered of derangement, and had gone out to service, these prophecies also failing. Upon my return to town I saw again the friend whose attempt to perform a miracle had failed, and was made instrumental, soon after we again met, in showing him a, gross error of judgment as another subject into which he had nearly fallen. This I believe added to the impression which the power had yet left upon him; and the arguments I used to convince him had such an effect that, though he never returned to a full unsuspecting credence, he again joined the work, and forbore all testimony against it. I was made on several occasions to speak in power to him, and declare that the message to perform the miracle was of the Lord, and only hindered by want of faith in the person on whom it was to be wrought, and that it should yet be fulfilled. These messages he seemed to receive as the word of God, and for some time his confidence seemed restored. But as the time was restored, and failures increased, he was again brought to discard it, though not satisfied that no work of God at all attended it. Since we both fully abandoned it, the person on whom the miracle was to be performed is dead, never having been in the least degree restored.
"Distressing as all these occurrences were, yet I dared not on account of them suffer myself to deny the work. The supernatural nature of it was so clear — the testimony to Jesus was so full — the outpouring of prayer, and, as it seemed to me, the leading towards communion with God, so constant in it, that I still could not condemn it, but treated every doubt as a temptation. I rested implicitly upon the text, 'Every spirit that confesseth Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God,' and felt assured that no spirit making that confession could be of Satan. I had heard the confession made several times by the spirit which spoke in myself and others; and, resting in the confession, I persuaded myself I was resting in the faithfulness of God, and that His faithfulness was a sure defence. Most true it is, the faithfulness of God will never fail; but God requires of us the exercise of watchfulness, and it is but provoking Him when we shut our eyes to the teaching He gives us, and continue to assert and pledge His faithfulness to a thing which we ought to have seen to be untrue or unsafe. In the case of Mr. F. the spirit in him confessed Jesus come in the flesh; and Miss H. also, when the other gifted persons had been called to confess, had herself given in power the confession equally with them. Thus then had it been shown us that the mere confession in words was not itself a proof of the spirit being of God; and this I ought to have seen, and to have searched more fully whether the spirit did really set out the truth as it is in Jesus, and not to have rested in the verbal confession.
"Whilst upon this point, it is necessary I should refer to a remarkable occurrence in Gloucestershire, which served to sustain my faith in the verbal confession as an unfailing trial of the spirit. In the latter end of the past year two children of a pious and exemplary clergyman there [a Mr. Probyn] had been made to speak by a supernatural power, They were twins, a boy and a girl, and only eight or nine years of age: children in whom nothing of a religious turn had been remarked. Their parents were unfortunately led to seek after the manifestations, believing them to be of the Spirit of God. From the time the mouths of the children were opened, their conduct seemed so much changed that they appeared most religious and devoted children. Their utterance was most astounding; beginning in the setting forth of Jesus, and calling to self-abasement before His cross; and preaching with such recital of scripture and such power of argument and exhortation as might be said to surpass many able ministers, and certainly quite out of the compass of children of their age and understanding. Having by this demonstration of power, of truth, and holiness, gained the confidence of their parents and friends, they were carried on to deliver prophecies of things which were coming to pass — then uttering commands to their parents and friends, and sending them here and there — denouncing the judgments of God upon the church and world, and setting a day for a particular manifestation of judgment.
"Shortly things were spoken by them which seemed to their parents contrary to scripture; and they were startled by an utterance forbidding to marry. This was so plainly the work of a false spirit, that their parents and friends were greatly distressed; and, though much awed by the influence which the power had obtained over them, they remembered they had forgotten the command, 'Try the spirits'; and they wished to try the spirit in the children by the scripture test. They accordingly called the boy and told him their doubts, and that they must try the spirits. The boy seemed to be much wrought upon by the power, and in the supernatural utterance said, 'Ye may try the spirits in men, but ye may not, try the spirits in children. Ye will surely be punished.' They however persisted. Though the father was so much agitated as not to be able to do it, yet the curate addressed the spirit in the child, and demanded in the words of scripture a confession that Christ was come in the flesh. Paleness and agitation increased over the child till an utterance broke from him, 'I will never confess it.' They were thus satisfied it was an evil power which spoke in him; and the curate went on to say, 'I command thee, thou false spirit, in the name of Jesus come out of the child. As the child afterwards described his feelings, he felt as though a coldness were removed from his heart and passed away from him. They told the child if he felt the power coming on him again to resist it; and several times he did so. Once, some time afterwards, from his mistaking something his parents had said to him, he did yield to it, and spoke supernaturally as before; but being corrected, and thenceforth resisting the power whenever it came, upon him, he was entirely freed from it. This narrative which I first saw in print has been confirmed to me by one who was eye-and-ear-witness of the whole. If any one should be inclined to doubt whether any supernatural agency has been manifested in the adults, and should be led to think excitement coupled with a fervid imagination is sufficient to account for all that has occurred in them, he will yet be compelled to acknowledge that, in these children at least, neither excitement nor imagination can account for it."
Dr. Norton in his "Restoration of Apostles and Prophets," chap. iii., pp. 74, 75, essays to explain away the damaging effect of this story, the truth of which he confirms in the main, though he lowers their age to "seven years," and adds that "they also described and manifested bodily influences, proving that some invisible power had possession of them. Living in a distant village, they had never witnessed anything supernatural, and could not have been excited by the conversation of their parents, who were from home at its beginning, but hastened to them on receiving intelligence of it." That the twins may have heard enough to excite them seems probable from the fact that their father was one of those who attended the Albury meetings, and could not be ignorant of, or uninterested in, the manifestations, good or ill, that had broken out in Scotland, and later on in England. The rest of the tale stands alike in both accounts; and the late Lord Rayleigh, who was there at the time, used to testify to the facts. Dr. N. makes the most of Mr. Irving's formal trial of his prophets on the receipt of this intelligence; but what could be the value of a test from one who was himself involved in positive and extreme heterodoxy?
e) EARLY HISTORY.
It is easy to turn aside, and hard to recover; but God is faithful, as Mr. Baxter was to prove. "Continuing however in the exercise of their power, and in daily teaching and preaching the things which had been declared in power, I was providentially led to an examination of doctrines, for neglecting which at an earlier period I justly suffered what came upon me. At the recurrence of the monthly meeting for exposition of scripture, to which I have before alluded, the friend to whose turn it had fallen to choose the subject, chose this, The Word was made flesh, with the special view, as I believe, of eliciting the views which were held by those of us who believed in the power, he himself deeming it a delusion. I stated what, as far as I am conscious of my own mind, had always been my view, viz.: That Jesus took the fallen flesh, but took it free from the law of sin which we are all born under — by fallen flesh, intending the consequences of the fall, as it respects our outward relations, and the constitution of our frame — we having become unsuited to the world, and the world unsuited to us; and we having become subject to pain, sickness, and other infirmities of frame; whereas Adam was made suitable to all around him, and all the world was suitable to him; and the diseases and infirmities to which we are subjected, had no place in him. Many persons identify the idea of fallen nature with sin. The fall was certainly the consequence of sin, and we, in our fallen estate, are under the law of sin, which rules in all our members. But it is clear the consequences of past sins are distinct from sin itself; and it is very easy to understand that Jesus took our nature in that condition into which sin had brought it, and yet took it free from all sin — as free as Adam before his fall possessed it. Jesus came into a fallen world, and took part of flesh and blood with those whom He was not ashamed to call brethren, and subjected as that flesh and blood was to all weakness and infirmity; and yet He so took it that He took no stain of sin nor taint of corruption with it. Being conceived of the Holy Ghost, He took manhood of the substance of the Virgin, but took it pure, and free from all sin. The law of the flesh, or law of sin, which was in the substance of the virgin, was not in His substance; so that in Him there were no motions of the fleshly or carnal mind, as there are in all of us.
"This my friend fully assented to; but he charged Mr. Irving with holding the opposite view, and asserting that the law of the flesh, or law of sin, was in Jesus, and only kept down by the Spirit. I could not see this, but contended as my persuasion was, that Mr. Irving, by "sinful nature" meant no more than I meant by "fallen nature," and that my views were the same as Mr. Irving's After much discussion we parted, and I thought little more about it, until I received a letter from a member of Mr. Irving's church, making inquiries relative to the Indian chief and the prophecy of the Jews before detailed; and in this letter, by way of postscript, he added that he had just heard Mr. Irving expound the eighth chapter of Romans, and he gathered My. Irving's view to be that our Lord had the carnal mind, or law of sin, to contend with. My correspondent was troubled at this, and asked my opinion upon it. He had heard two utterances in power, which, put together, seemed to him conclusive that Jesus had not the carnal mind to keep down or contend with. One was from me on Mr. Irving's having asked whether Jesus was baptized with fire, the power answered, "No, He had nothing in Him to be burnt out." The other was from Mrs. C., who, explaining in power what the baptism by fire was, declared it should burn out the carnal mind.
"After this letter, I thought much on the matter; but my persuasion continued that Mr. Irving, did not hold the law of sin to be in Jesus. I was, however, in power, made to write to him on the subject, setting forth that the carnal mind was not in Jesus, and some other points alluded to. After this my mind was at rest upon it, under the assurance that, if there had been any error in his view, it would be corrected from the message I had been made to write to him.
"God, however, graciously ordained that the matter should not rest here. A few days later a clergyman from Staffordshire came to me, who, though by no means disposed to receive the work, thought it his duty to inquire, perhaps more in the hope of my conviction than of his own. He examined very closely my views on the human nature of our Lord, and declared, when he heard them, that they were opposite to Mr. Irving's He produced Mr. Irving's book on the subject to prove his assertion, and pointed out many passages. These, however, did not seem to prove his point, but on the following day, resuming his position, two passages were found which showed clearly that Mr. Irving conceived the workings of the law of sin were felt by our Lord (Hum. Nat. p. 23):- 'And in the face of all these certainties, if a man will say that His flesh was not sinful flesh as our's is, with the same dispositions, and propensities, and wants, and afflictions, then, I say, God had sent that man strong delusion that he should believe a lie'; and page 24, 'Now if there had not been in Christ's nature appetites, ambitions, and spiritual darkenings, how, I ask, could the devil have addressed these several temptations to His will?' On reading over this, an utterance in power broke from me, 'He has erred, he has erred' — an utterance accompanied with great anguish under the feeling then that my friend's presence was grieving and quenching the Spirit; but which I now see to have been because the utterance was wrung from the spirit, as a desire of testifying, against Mr. Irving to lull my inquiries. My friend's argument, which followed upon this, was very sound; he argued that, if Mr. Irving had been holding false doctrine, it could not be the Spirit of God which was speaking in his church, or he would before this time have been rebuked. I, however, thought that the spirit in me had fully testified against this error, and, as I had never myself held it, the character of the work could not be involved in it.
"These discoveries, and the reference to Mr. Irving's book, led me to search more fully into the views he held; and I not only found, on the further reading of his work, that his views were unsound on the human nature of our Lord, but that he was also still more unsound on the doctrines concerning holiness in the flesh. Besides his works, I also consulted the published sermons of Mr. Campbell, who had preached in Scotland, and was spoken of as the great champion of the truth in Scotland; and he appeared to be involved in the same mistakes as Mr. Irving. I was much disturbed by this, because I thought how greatly the church was prejudiced by these false doctrines against what I yet deemed the manifestations of the Spirit; and in much heaviness I sat down to write to Mr. Irving, stating fully his error in conceiving the law of sin to be in the flesh of Jesus; and in stating also what I conceived to be the truth concerning our holiness: that as by faith accepted in Christ, and clothed in His righteousness, so we are in the sight of the Father holy and without blame; but whilst in the flesh, the law of sin remains even in them who are regenerate, and the flesh lusteth against the Spirit. And though our mark and aim should be to be perfect even as our Father is perfect; yet that we all come short of perfect holiness in the flesh, and are unprofitable servants. As Mr. Irving regarded me destined to the apostolic office, and set for the instruction of his church, I had great confidence that he would receive this, and would be led to retract and abandon his errors, and thus remove a great stumbling-block from his door.
"A short time before this, I had received a communication from the Rev. Mr. Dow, who in Scotland was exercising the gift of utterance, after the same manner as those speaking in London. His sister had written to Mrs. Irving, and, she had sent me an extract from the letter; declaring, that much additional light and power had been vouchsafed to Mr. Dow, and he had in the Spirit given a clear testimony confirming my prophecies, opening the six trumpets in the Book of Revelations, and giving a very full opening of each trumpet. This was an encouragement to me, giving me, as it did, the recognition, in my prophetic office, of the Scotch followers at Irongray.
"In a few days after I had sent to Mr. Irving, I received his answer, and as this letter was mainly instrumental in opening my eyes to the delusion by which we were bound, I give it at length.
"'London, 21st April, 1832.
"'My dear Brother, Read this letter with your eye on God. We have great need, especially the spiritual amongst us, to walk humbly with the Lord. Your first letter,* containing the utterance of the Spirit, without any expression of his intention in sending it to me, led me very deeply to ponder the subject of our Lord's flesh, and to cry upon the Lord to examine me; and to the same exercise of soul had I been drawn by the utterance of the Spirit, and the experience of the spiritual of my flock in these days past. These things put me into a fit condition for receiving the full impression of your last letter, which arrived last night after I had preached a sermon on the Holy Generation of the Flesh of Christ. This I had done, in order to express anew, before my people, with all caution and consideration, what I firmly believe to be the truth; and to guard them against the effect of any rash or unguarded *expressions which I might at any time have used. All night long, my soul, sleeping and waking, was exercised upon the subject of your last letter. And it being wonderfully ordered in God's providence that Mrs. C. should be in town a day or two; and that Miss E. C., though desirous to go home before breakfast, was so burdened as not to be able to go — these two prophetesses of the Lord, who have been His mouth of wisdom and warning to me and my church in all perplexities; I called along with my wife, who had read your letter, and read it to me, and having spread the whole matter before the Lord, and twice besought His presence, we proceeded to read your letters in order. Upon your first letter there was no utterance of the Spirit, nor expression of any kind amongst us, but that of assent. When we had read the two first pages of the second, wherein you reason upon the words of the Spirit, 'He has erred, he has erred,' given to you upon two sentences of my book; and bring forward your views of our Lord's flesh, and of the believer's holiness, in contradistinction from mine, we paused, and seeing there was so manifest a discrepancy between us, I solemnly besought the Lord that He would speak His own mind in the matter. Instantly the Spirit came upon Miss E. C., and, after speaking in a very grieved tone and spirit in a tongue, she was made to declare many words which I will not take upon me to attempt to repeat, seeing the Spirit has discountenanced such attempts. But the substance was most precisely this, that you had been snared by departing from the word and the testimony — that I had maintained the truth, and the Lord was well pleased with me for it — that I must not flinch now, but be more bold for it than heretofore — that He had honoured me for it, and I must not draw back — that in some words I had erred, and that the word of the Spirit by you was therefore true; and that if I waited upon the Lord He would show me them by His Spirit, but that He had forgiven it because He knew my heart was right towards Him — that I had maintained the truth, and must not drawback from maintaining it. Thereupon we knelt down, and having confessed my sin and thanked Him for His mercy, I proceeded to entreat Him for you, that you might be delivered from the snare in which you were taken concerning the flesh of Christ and the holiness of the believer. This done, I sought to recover and recount the substance of the utterance as above given, that by their help I might report it to you exactly. My wife was mentioning a doubt as to whether it should not simply be left to the Lord, and not dealt with in the understanding at all; seeing that in your letter you had gone astray by commenting in your own understanding on the words of the Spirit, 'He hath erred,' as applicable to two sentences of my book, and applied them to my whole doctrine, which the Spirit had just declared to be 'the truth,' that 'must be maintained'; when Mrs. C. was made to speak in a tongue with great authority and strength, and immediately after in English, to the effect that you had stumbled greatly by bringing your own carnal understanding to spiritual things; that truth in the inward parts, the law of God in the heart, wrought in us the fulfilment of the righteousness of the law in all our members; and that union with Jesus brought into us the holiness of Jesus in body, soul, and spirit; that the Lord would have a church upon the earth holy as He is holy, the light of the world as He is the light of the world; that some had sought to bring this about in the flesh; that you had been snared in the opposite extreme of denying it altogether, and making a distinction between Christ's holiness and that of His church; that you must be informed of it, because this it was which was preventing the work of the Lord. There was a third utterance through Miss E. C. to teach me Satan sought to overthrow my confidence in the truth, and to bring me into a snare; but that I was called upon to maintain it now more firmly than ever.
[*The letter I had written in power, setting forth that the carnal mind was not in Christ.]
"'There were no more utterances, but when we came to that part of your letter where you say, 'Concerning the vessels by whom He speaks, you have fearfully provoked Him, and they are ready to burst asunder under your hands,'* there was great indignation felt by both the vessels of the Lord present, and great sense of injustice felt by myself. For, oh! dear brother, I have done all things to know and follow the Lord in respect of them. It was indeed said, I think in the Spirit, that this in you was the same spirit of 'The accuser of the brethren,' which hath manifested itself lately amongst us in one of the gifted persons who spoke evil of me in the midst of the congregation. But the Lord hath showed him that though it was with power, the power was not from God but from Satan, to whom, by hard and unjust thoughts of me, he had opened the door. Ah, dear brother, you have surely been much overseen in some way or other — search it out. The thing you spoke of F. and of Miss H. was not of God. I fear, and am persuaded in my own mind, that you have not discriminated duly what is of God, and what is not of Him; and that sin in this matter, undiscerned and unconfessed, hath brought on greater falls, as we have seen amongst ourselves; and that now you are brought to oppose that very doctrine which alone can bring the church to be meet for her Bridegroom: — That as He was holy in the flesh, so, are we, through the grace of regeneration, brought to be holy — planted in a holy standing — the flesh dead to sin, as His flesh was dead to sin; and that by the baptism of the Holy Ghost we are brought into the fellowship of His power and fulness, to do the works which He also did, and greater works than these.
[*This passage was written under the dictation of the power, and the impression on my mind was, that he had too much honoured me and the other persons speaking in the power, and so had dishonoured God. He, and these with him, evidently read it as though I accused him of behaving ill towards one or more of the speakers — the very opposite of what I intended.]
"'When we came to that passage of your letter where you censure as 'fearfully erroneous' a passage in the Day of Pentecost,* we were all made to feel that you were forgetting what you yourself had been made to utter so abundantly concerning the baptism with fire and the spiritual ministry.
"'I have read this to my wife, and Mrs. C., and. Miss E. C.; and they say it is a full and exact account.
"'And now, upon the whole, my well-beloved brother and prophet of the Lord, I give you counsel to search and prove what it is that sits so heavy upon your conscience, for the Lord will surely reveal it. Concerning the flesh of Christ, we will discourse when we meet. I believe it to have been no better than other flesh as to its passive qualities or properties, as a creature thing. But that the power of the Son of God, as Son of man in it, believing in the Father, did for His obedience to become Son of man, receive such a measure of the Holy Ghost as sufficed to resist its own proclivity to the world and to Satan, and to make it obedient unto God in all things, which measure of the Spirit He received in His generation, and so had holy flesh; and by exercise of the same faith, He kept His vineyard holy, and presented it holy to the great Husbandman. Regeneration, through faith, sealed in baptism, doth give to us the same measure of the Spirit to do the same work of making our flesh the holy thing, the temple of the Holy Ghost, body, soul, and spirit holy, wherefore we have the name 'saints,' or 'holy ones,' 'sons of God,' as He received those names in virtue of His generation of the Holy Ghost. If we were to meet, I think we would not find much difference of mind as to the flesh of Christ. But as to your view of holiness, it is the very deepest and darkest and subtlest snare of the enemy. If you understood thoroughly the one subject, you would understand thoroughly the other. I say not that Christ had the motions of the flesh, but that the law of the flesh was there all present; but that where as in us it is set on fire by an evil life, in Him it was by a holy life put down, and His flesh brought to be a holy altar, whereon the sacrifices and offerings for the sin of the world, and the whole burnt offerings of sorrow, and confession, and penitence for others, might be ever offered up. And thus ought we to be, and shall be, when the flesh becomes the sack-cloth covering.†
[*This passage is the one (p. 39) in which he asserts "Baptism of the Holy Ghost doth bring to every believer the presence of the Father, and the power of the Holy Ghost, according to that measure at the least, in which Christ, during the days of His flesh, possessed the same." I had myself, received what they all held to be the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and could, therefore, testify practically as well as doctrinally.]
[†The allusion here is to Rev. 11 where the sackcloth clothing of the witnesses is spoken of. Mrs. C- had been made to prophesy that the baptism by fire would burn out the carnal mind, and our flesh would become a sackcloth covering, the clothing of the witnesses; and this is what Mr. Irving, was looking forward to.]
"'Oh! brother, I have had many trials, but the Lord hath sustained me, and I dwell before Him in — peace of soul, though in much sorrow because of the condition of His church. I shall be glad when we meet. But, oh! I beseech you, lay to heart the words which have been spoken by the Spirit, and doubt any words which may be spoken in you contrary thereto. For though an angel from heaven should come to me, testifying to your views of holiness, I would not receive him.
"'Do you hold correspondence with any of my flock, that you speak so positively, yet so unjustly, concerning my treatment of the spiritual persons? or is there some meaning couched under it which I do not understand? Did the Spirit say so in you? If so, doubt that spirit; for certainly it is not true, they themselves being witnesses.
"'Fare you well. May the Lord have you in His holy keeping. Amen. Your faithful brother,
"This letter was at once a great blow to me. Here I saw doctrines, which I could never have believed Mr. Irving, held, not only avowed by him, but sustained and enforced by the utterances, in power, of those who were deemed gifted persons. I had no copy of my own letters, and had the utterances been confined to a denial of the accuracy of my views, I should not have dared to question it, as I should rather have attributed it to some inaccuracy of statement. But here was an unqualified approval of Mr. Irving's views; and in the same letter, those views broadly stated without disguise, and clearly involving heresies most fearful and appalling."
[NOTE. The Editor thinks it well to state here, that, while giving Mr. B.'s testimony as much the most important he knows on the real character of the Irvingite movement, and especially on the fact of powers beyond man, yet not of God though professing to be, he does not mean to endorse all Mr. B.'s thoughts or expressions. He does not, for instance, approve of applying "fallen flesh" to the human nature of Christ, which was a body prepared of God by the power of the Spirit of God, beyond Adam's even when unfallen. But Mr. B.'s doctrine is sound in the main.]
f) EARLY HISTORY.
"That there was in Christ's flesh a 'proclivity to the world and to Satan' and that Christ received 'such a measure of the Holy Ghost as sufficed to resist' this proclivity, is a doctrine so fearfully erroneous, that I cannot conceive anyone who has at all learned Christ, unless he be blinded by delusion, can allow himself for a moment to entertain. Christ, the Holy Thing as born of the virgin, to whom the prince of this world cometh, 'and findeth nothing in Me;' also holy, harmless, and undefiled — that in His flesh there could be a proclivity to Satan, which needed to be resisted; or that He, of whom it is declared, that God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him, should be held to have received only a measure of the Spirit, and this for the purpose of resisting a sinful tendency in His flesh: this is a departure from the truth, which is broad as the day. But if any one's eyes should be holden that he cannot see its errors, singly considered; when it is conjointly affirmed, that 'regeneration through faith, sealed in baptism, doth give to us the same measure of the Spirit, to do the same work of making our flesh the holy thing' — dark indeed, must be our state, if we do not instantly see how Christ is first abased towards our sinful condition, and we next exalted to be put on an equality with Him: as though Christ had a work to do in making His own flesh holy, and we are enabled to do the same work and make our flesh holy. What said the apostle Paul, after he was called to his apostleship, and had been caught up into the third heaven, and had received gifts of the Holy Ghost abounding above all others? 'I know that in me, that is, in my flesh dwelleth no good thing.' And again, 'So that with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with flesh the law of sin.' And what does he say of every believer who is born again of the Spirit of God? 'If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin.' Here is no holiness of flesh, but a plain declaration, that even in those in whom Christ dwells the body is dead because of sin, and the flesh has no good things, but serves the law of sin. The apostle's glorying was not that he had made his flesh holy, but the law of the Spirit of life, in Christ Jesus, which made us free from the law of sin and death; adding, if we live after the flesh ye shall die: but if ye, through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. The living after the Spirit, and mortifying the deeds of the body, was the apostle's state, and is our state, as many of us as are born of God; whereas, if our flesh were made holy, what need would there be to mortify it?
"I have heard the sophistry which denies that the tendency or proclivity to sin is itself sin, and which dares, therefore, to ascribe the first to our beloved Lord in His human nature, while it is properly indignant at the second. As it regards, ourselves, I am ready to admit, that God does not bring us into judgment for such a tendency to sin, when we mortify and resist it, the apostle showing the ground of such mercy, where it is written, 'Now, then, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.' But yet we must say, is expressed in the article of our church, 'The apostle doth confess that concupiscence and last hath of itself the nature of sin.' But who shall say that in our Lord 'the law of the flesh was all present, but by a holy life kept down,' without feeling that such a statement compromises the character of 'holy, and undefiled?' The law of the flesh is the law of sin and death, or, in other words, that corruption of nature which is called the lust of the flesh, and which is the mark and consequence of original sin. Now, surely all will agree, that not a breath or suggestion of sin — no lust — no desire — ever arose in or from the flesh of our blessed Lord. The law of the flesh, which in us daily sends up streams of corrupt desires, though our flesh never was in Him nor ever could be in Him, so as to need to be resisted or kept down. To suppose this corruption to be in Jesus, is to deny His holiness. However much, and however completely you may affirm it to be kept down, if it ever was there, holy and undefiled are set aside at once.
"I would not lay hold of words to convict a man of heresy, if his real intention was not comprised in those words. Every man may err in words; and hard indeed is it, if we should lie in wait for one another, to make a man an offender for a word. The letter copied, however, does so clearly show Mr. Irving's mind, that, far from doubting whether it is not a matter of words, it is very obvious that his general design and view is unsound. As gathered from the letter itself, and as confirmed by subsequent conversations with him, I gather his general design or broad doctrine to be this: — That Christ Jesus, though God as well as man, yet was a man in all respects such as we are, and was by the power of the Holy Ghost, from His generation to His death, upheld in holiness and perfect purity; and that we receiving through His blood the pardon of past sins, are now called to receive the Holy Ghost; and by the same power of the Holy Ghost, shall, if we faint not, be ourselves, in the flesh, brought into and upheld in holiness and perfect purity, as fully as Jesus was.
"To sustain these propositions, Mr. Irving sees it necessary to suppose the law of sin to have been in the flesh of Jesus: otherwise the work of the Holy Ghost, in sustaining Jesus in perfect holiness, would be no precedent nor assurance to us, that by the Holy Ghost we can be sustained in equal holiness. Here then, lies the first error, in ascribing to Jesus that corruption of nature, as it regards His flesh, which belongs to all of us. The next error lies in putting out of sight the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to us, which is our wedding garment, and in which we are holy and without blame in the sight of the Father — seen as standing in Christ; and, in the stead of this, requiring us to work out a personal holiness, and, by the power of the Spirit, to make ourselves holy as Christ was holy."
It is not needful to give all the workings of Mr. B.'s conscience more fully. "These considerations of doctrine weighed with me, and I could not for a moment doubt the erroneousness of Mr. Irving's views. I was then of necessity compelled to conclude the utterances which supported these views were not of the Spirit of God. Upon this a doubt arose in my own mind, which however I trembled to entertain; and yet with such facts before me I could not reject: whether the whole work was not of Satan. I could not conceive of a person speaking at one moment by the Spirit of God, and the next by the spirit of Satan. Moreover it had been declared in the power by the mouth of Mrs. C., Miss E. C., and my own mouth, that God would guard the utterances of His prophets, and that they should never be permitted to speak by the power of Satan. According therefore to my view and understanding of scripture, a false utterance convicted a person of being a false prophet; and this was also according to the interpretation of the power I had been acting under. Mrs. C., Miss E. C., and Mr. T. were therefore on both grounds manifestly to be deemed false prophets; and this, as to the two former, upon a test of scripture doctrine. Then was not I convicted as a false prophet by the non-fulfilment of the words I had spoken according to the test in the book of Deuteronomy? And might not the whole be accounted for as a chastisement of God sent for the correction of heresy? All who were caught in it having drank of, or sustained, that heresy. These questions and considerations weighed upon my mind and almost worked conviction.
"On the other hand so strongly was the whole interwoven with interpretations of scripture, and so much of the fruits of the Spirit had I seemed to find under it, so entirely had I become pledged to the work, and my character and consistency become involved in it, I paused and weighed again and again the several facts and proof, trembling at entertaining doubts at all.
"It had been very providentially ordered that I was expecting a professional call from home on the very day succeeding the arrival of Mr. Irving's letter; and I had arranged for a week's absence. The same post which brought me this letter brought me also a respite of my engagement, and left me at liberty. Otherwise, having engagements to preach almost every morning and evening, I should have been still more perplexed as to my course. If I stayed from preaching, it might overthrow the faith of many, and give occasion to the enemy to traduce the work; if I went on preaching it whilst I had doubts upon it, how could I answer it to conscience? There would have been no time for consideration, but for this providential opening; and I at once availed myself of it to visit the brother to whom I have before alluded. During the journey, which occupied two days, I was, as may be supposed, engaged in consideration of the subject; and the whole train of circumstances from the beginning, with the successive failures of prophecy and contradiction of utterance, when calmly reviewed and compared with the present fact of the support of false doctrine, were so strongly affirmative of the evil origin of the work, that, however supernatural I had found it and still knew it to be, I was convinced it must be a work of Satan who, as an angel of light, was permitted for a time to deceive us.
"My brother, who had continued speaking in the power, examined the doctrines and fully agreed in their fearful errors. He weighed also the facts which I had to state to him, and joining them with other facts which had occurred within his own observation, he arrived of the same conclusion as myself.
"Being anxious to communicate with Mr. Irving I travelled on to London, and reached him on the morning of his appearance before the presbytery of London. Calling him and Mr. J. C. apart, I told them my conviction that we had all been speaking by a lying spirit, and not by the Spirit of the Lord. He said it was impossible God could have sent us strong delusions, for that was His final judgment upon the wicked; and we at least thought ourselves seeking after the Lord, and desiring His glory. I answered, I believed God had sent it as a chastisement for pride and lofty imaginations; that we had been lifted up in our hearts, and God would humble us. He was astounded, but asked me to stay with them a little. I replied, I could not without rebuking the utterance, if it were made by any of the speakers in my presence; and as he would not suffer this, we parted. I saw him again in the evening; and on the succeeding morning I endeavoured to convince him of his error of doctrine, and our delusions concerning the work of the Spirit; but he was so shut up, he could not see either. I particularly pressed, upon Miss E. C. and Mrs. C., and before him also, the non-fulfilment of the word, and particularly the falseness of that prophecy which they, as well as myself, had given — that God would guard the utterance of His prophets, and not suffer Satan to speak by them; whereas in the case of Mr. T [aplin] alluded to in Mr. Irving's letter, he who was and (I believe) is still received as a prophet, had, in the midst of the congregation, with tongues, and with English, spoken evil of Mr. Irving, and Miss E. C. had since in utterance declared he spoke it, of Satan. They however could not see the non-fulfilment in the other cases; and in this case they said we must have mistaken the meaning of the utterance — that it could not mean God would keep the utterance always, but when they were speaking, He would not suffer Satan to mingle words with His word: a most miserable subterfuge.
"The argument on which Mr. Irving mainly relied for parrying the difficulties was this; — that the same person might at one moment speak by the Spirit of God, and the next moment by an evil spirit, He urged therefore, that those things which had failed were from the false spirit, and those which were fulfilled were of God. I had the most distinct remembrance, when I first heard Mr, Irving, preach upon the utterances, that he preached the utterances, being the voice of God, were pure water without admixture — that he might in his exposition as a man fail, or fall into error, but in the word of the Lord, ministered by the prophets in their utterances, the most entire and implicit confidence might be placed, as in every respect and purely the truth. Out of this position he was, however, evidently driven by the appalling fact of the prophets, before all the congregation, denouncing him as the cause of the Lord's anger against the congregation — this denunciation coming with every usual demonstration of power and tongues. The only solution now to be found was, that the utterance at one time might be of God, and at another time of Satan, even in the same person. For if this were not admitted, Mr. T., being himself recognised as having spoken by God in his former utterances and by Satan in this, would either overturn the whole fabric of the spiritual gifts and falsify the claims of the prophets, or must be himself still received as a prophet, notwithstanding his false utterance.
"The mere enunciation of the proportion of a varying origin, whilst the outward demonstration remained the same, was enough to shake even the nerves of Mr. Irving. To be under the necessity of telling such a fact to his congregation, and thereby assuring them that they could no longer give credence to the utterances without deciding upon the origin of each message; to tell them moreover, that no one could decide this without the gift of the discernment of spirits; and lastly that no member of his church yet possessed that gift — this would seem beyond the courage of any minister, and beyond the power of belief of any people. To this however was Mr. Irving reduced, and to this were his people subjected.
"It was attempted to decide the origin of the utterance in the mind of the speakers from whom it came by prescribing a certain frame (e.g. a calm sense of the love of God in Christ and of our abiding therein), as the proof of the utterance from the Spirit of God; and an opposite state of mind, as a proof of the utterance being deceitful. This, however, I could experimentally contradict. For several utterances which were still held true, and particularly that which Mr. Dow had confirmed, were made when I was in the disturbed frame; and others which had proved false were given under the prescribed heavenly frame; and I was fully persuaded that no such line of distinction could honestly be drawn" (pp. 116-120).
We may leave Mr. I's argument on Jer. 15:7 (a strange and misleading juxtaposition, and yet more Ezek. 14:9), as well as Mr. B.'s reply in disproof. Deut. 13 and 18 are, as he shows, quite at issue with the desired excuse for error in a true prophet from God's word. From p. 123 we may cite: — "I am overwhelmed (says Mr. B.) with the remembrance of my own blindness and unfaithfulness by hesitating at all after one instance of the failure of the word. and I may well shut my mouth against the like offence in others. But I desire to confess my sin, and in love to those who like myself are erring, to pray them take warning and no longer to continue such a provocation.
"It is not necessary I should enter into any subsequent communications which have passed with those holding the manifestations. After my first visit, I found the utterance amongst them warned them against having intercourse with me; and they now shut themselves up, refusing to hear arguments, or discuss the subject at all. It may however be only just towards Mr. Irving that I should give another letter of his, written some months after my renunciation of their views; as he there again fully sets forth his doctrinal views, and if he intended this in any particular to correct the expressions in his former letter, he ought to have the benefit of it.
"'London, July 6,1832.
"'My dear brother, — I can no longer refrain from writing you in a few words what I believe to be a most heinous sin under the oppression of which you are lying bound. It is the sin of blaspheming the ministers, and prophets, and church of God, and calling us ministers of Satan under the form of an angel of light. Not to bear testimony of myself, still less to judge thee, O brother, do I say this, but to assure thee that herein thou hast sinned, and dost sin exceedingly, nor wilt be restored till thou restore thyself to charity with thy brethren who have never but loved thee.
"'My testimony to Jesus is that in our flesh He was most holy. That His flesh was in itself no otherwise conditioned, nor is otherwise to be defined than ours, with all its laws, properties, and propensities. But through His anointing of it, and upholding of it from first to last, it hath no other properties nor propensities than those which may be predicated of God — holy as He is, pure as He is, yet temptable, mortal, and corruptible as ours — until the resurrection changed its form and fashion altogether.
"'Concerning the holiness of the believer, my testimony is that he ought never to be less holy both in flesh and spirit than Jesus was; and that the same power of God incarnate, which presented Christ's flesh and Spirit holy, is bestowed upon the believer at baptism, to present his flesh and spirit always holy through faith. And every short-coming from holiness is not of necessity, nor of accident, nor of circumstance, but of positive will not to believe, and not to receive the power of regeneration, which is the continuance unto us of the power of generation in Jesus.* Wherefore we are called 'holy ones,' and 'sons of God,' as he was called 'The holy Thing,' and 'Son of God.' He kept the name of the Father, and glorified it: we have not kept it, and therefore need continual atonement and intercession.†
[*The position that the power of regeneration in us is the continuance of the power of generation in Jesus is a most fatal one, implying that act of the Holy Ghost which formed Jesus in the womb of the Virgin was nothing more than that act of the Spirit (as the apostle says to the Galatians 4:19), or, in other words, by which we were born of the Spirit and made the children of God by adoption and grace. This virtually annuls the doctrine of the incarnation, and supplants it by supposing the Son of God to be made flesh only by inhabitation of the human nature. Indeed many of Mr. Irving's positions suggest the idea of inhabitation instead of incarnation. Mr. Irving's inference from the position which follows above is very lamentable, as tending to put us on a par with Jesus."]
[†"To 'need continual atonement,' I should conceive, must be a mere error of expression; but there is much watchfulness requisite with respect to his view of continual intercession, which, coupled with his views of fleshly holiness, tends very far towards the idea entertained by the Romanists of the efficacy of their mass." [The Editor cannot concur in so mild an inference either here or as to the former note. The doctrine destroys the truth of Christ's person, and so fritters away the atonement. He that knew no sin (not merely did no sin) could alone avail for us or be made sin by God. It is a lowering of Christ in the vain hope of raising the christian to the same level by the same Spirit. Now we are by grace one with Him, Who died for us, yea for our sins, with Whom we too died to sin. But there was no sin in Him, there is in us. Christ as born of woman was ever and absolutely holy. For us God condemned sin in the flesh, which we have, in Him a sacrifice for it,]]
"'Furthermore, concerning the baptism of the Holy Ghost, my testimony is, and ever has been, that it is the indwelling of the Father in the members, after what manner He dwelt in the Head while on earth, for the same ends and for what other ends the Father may have to accomplish by His church until He comes.
"'Now, brother, you may not apprehend these things, thy natural mind being very formal and wedded to its forms; whereas the fashion of my natural mind is rather ideal, or spiritual (!). But because thou apprehendest not the truth in that form in which I do, shouldest thou say that thy brother hath a devil, when thou knowest from my fruits that I serve God with a pure conscience? And my dear flock thou hast misrepresented, whom yet thou knowest not.* My love to thy soul, my desire to see thee standing where God set thee — a spiritual minister — beareth no longer that this sin should be upon thee. Repent of it, and ask forgiveness of the Lord. I fully forgive thee, and love thee with a pure heart fervently, as I have ever done and never ceased to do, though thy words and letters, of which I have seen some and heard of others, have sore wounded me. Repent of thy rash judgments against the children of God, that thou mayest be healed of thy sin. I write to thee as a man of God, and minister of His gospel, even thy brother in great love. For I know thou art an honest man, though thou hast greatly erred through thy rashness. Your faithful brother, EDWARD IRVING.'"
* "To the charge here made my reply is: — What I say of his doctrine and of the spirit which speaks and rules in the midst of them, I desire to speak out of love to them: not to charge them or judge them, but to show forth the cunning of the enemy, that if possible they may be delivered. His position, that I am not to judge his doctrine because I may not apprehend him, is very unsafe, and what he cannot and does not act upon."
Some general characteristics in the work casting suspicion on it, which follow in pp. 126-129, we may leave, as also Mr. B.'s testimony to the sincere piety and devotedness of Mr. I. and others with him whom he knew, with his judgment of the inadequacy of the tests applied (pp. 129-133), In this last page he adds his personal experience of the tongue. "A few days before the prophecy of my call to the apostolic office, whilst sitting at home, a mighty power came upon me, but for a considerable time no impulse to utterance; presently a sentence in French was vividly set before my mind, and under an impulse to utterance was spoken. Then in a little time sentences in Latin were in like manner uttered, and with short intervals sentences in many other languages, judging from the sound and the different exercise of the enunciating organs. My wife who was with me declared some of them to be Italian and Spanish; the first she can read and translate, the second she knows but little of. In this case she was not able to interpret nor retain the words as they were uttered. All the time of these utterances I was greatly tried in mind. After the first sentence an impulse to utterance continued on me, and most painfully I retained it, my conviction being that until something was set before me to utter, I ought not to yield my tongue to utterance. Yet I was troubled by the doubt what could the impulse mean, if I were not to yield to it. Under the trial I did yield my tongue for a few moments, but the utterance that broke from me seemed so discordant that I concluded the impulse without words given was a temptation; and I retained it, except as words were given me, and then I yielded. Sometimes single words were given me, and sometimes sentences, though I could recognise neither the words nor sentences as any language I knew, except those which were French or Latin. What strengthened me, upon after consideration, in the opinion that I ought not to yield my tongue was the remembrance that I had heard Mr. Irving say, when explaining how the utterance in tongue first came upon Mr. T., that he had words and sentences set before him. Immediately after this exercise there came an utterance in English, declaring that the gift of tongues, which was manifest in London, was nothing more than that of the tongue needing interpretation, manifested formerly in the Corinthian church; but that shortly the Lord would bestow the Pentecostal gift, enabling those who received it to preach in all languages to the nations of the earth. I was on several other occasions exercised in this same way, speaking detached words and sentences, but never a connected discourse.
"When I went to London after this, I questioned those who spoke in the tongues, whether they had the words and sentences given, or yielded their tongues to the impulse of utterance without having them. They answered almost entirely the latter, though sometimes also the former. I was also in London made to confirm in utterance before Mr. Irving, what I had spoken here concerning the Pentecostal gift of tongues for preaching; and such was the readiness with which he yielded to the utterances, that, though he had both written and published that the Pentecostal gift was not for preaching, he at once yielded and confessed his error, giving thanks for the correction. Oh! that he may manifest the same ingenuousness in abandoning his opinion concerning the power, when, weighing its fruits, he sees it is not of God.
"My persuasion concerning the unknown tongue as it is called (in which I myself was very little experienced) is, that it is no language whatever, but a mere collection of words and sentences; and in the lengthened discourses is, much of it, a jargon of sounds" (p. 134). To this we may all agree, save in the unfounded distinction as to Corinth, which was clearly similar to Pentecost. How could a sober christian think the Holy Spirit conferred there or anywhere "a jargon of sound"? Neander, in his History of the Planting of Christianity, reasons on the "tongues" in 1 Cor. 12, 14 as ecstatic to set aside the force of Acts 2:6-8; but such efforts to explain away scripture are as lamentable as vain. The Lord had promised this sign in Mark 16:17.
g) EARLY HISTORY.
There is a fearless and distressing paper in the last vol. of the Morning Watch ("What caused Mr. Baxter's fall?" vii, 129-140), so characteristic of this early phase, that it may fitly follow Mr. Baxter's Narrative.
"It is written in the scriptures, 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.' Give me, O God, the heart purged by Christ's blood, the single eye of sincerity and truth, that I may now Clearly set and show forth the mystery of Thy dealings with my friend, and more than brother, Robert Baxter, who having been called of Thee as a prophet, and as such been attested of Thy Spirit, an approven of Thy church, hath now openly set himself against Thee to pull down that which Thou didst set him to build up. To me it appertaineth not to sit in judgment upon him, nor to account for the inconsistencies wherewith he chargeth the Spirit that spoke in him; nor to distinguish whether these be really inconsistencies, or only inconsistencies between the spiritual word and his own interpretation thereof; and, if real spiritual inconsistencies there be, to determine whether, like Saul, he may have been visited by an evil spirit from the Lord, for his haste and unbelief, or whether he may, being still a true prophet, have spoken presumptuously and beyond the analogy of faith, or whether being, like Balaam, at heart a Moabite, he may have been drawn out from the river of his people, and constrained against his proper nature to bless the people of God: — to determine whether of these be the manner of his fall, I undertake not, because he standeth not at my bar, nor is he one of my flock; but in love to his soul, and the souls of those whom he hath stumbled, and chiefly for the glory of God, I will show forth the righteousness of God in permitting him to be brought thus low.
"Robert Baxter is a vessel marred upon the wheel of the Potter, whom the Potter would yet make into a good vessel for the hand of the King, to be filled with treasures of glory for the good of the church. But he fighteth sore against the gracious purpose of his Maker, and standeth in peril of being dashed and broken in pieces. The Lord called him to be a prophet and more than a prophet; a strong stone, but not the Corner stone, of His house; nor yet the Builder thereof, though a master builder under the Builder, Whose name is The Branch. The Lord, which is the word of God, opened his mouth in mighty utterances, of things unutterable by the lip, inconceivable to the mind, of man; and gave them forth with a richness and variety and exuberance of knowledge, with a majesty and strength, with a melody and power of harmony, and yet with a calmness and distinctness and exactness, Yea, and minuteness of truth and beauty, which if Satan hath power to give, then Satan may have written all the oracles of God. [Is not this presumptuous for a saint to write?] For verily there be no parallels to the words which he spake, nor to the manner and method of his discourse, but those which the universal church hath stamped by the name of the word of God (!) If Satan, as an angel of light and a minister of righteousness, can give forth the honour, the nobility, the grandeur, the glorious truths, which not thy poor formal intellect, Robert Baxter, but He that, spake them in defiance of thy formal intellect did utter, in my hearing, and in the hearing of the church; — then say I again, Satan may have indited the word of God [shame on thee, Edward Irving], which is of all blasphemy the most horrible and guilty.
"Yet for all this, Robert Baxter, a man of godly spirit but yet an enthralled understanding; a man of truth in the inward parts, but of tradition in the outward; a man in his reason taught of God, but in his understanding taught of the traditions of men, a man who, in unfolding the forms of godliness in the law and the traditions of the church, surpasseth the men of this day, as is manifest from his two papers in this work, but whose spirit hath not informed his understanding with the heavenly life — he, even such an one, hath endeavoured to show that the mighty Spirit which spake in him these utterances of honour and glory is no other than the spirit of error; for he is too honest a man to believe, or to say, that it was excitement of the flesh. He knoweth too well what an ungodly thing — what a rash, riotous, turbulent, wayward, and contradictory thing — the flesh is, to mistake for its excitement that heavenly rapture, that sober certainty of truth and collected wisdom of God which first enwrapped him into divine assurance of faith, and love, and rest, and then poured forth through him streams of the waters of life, beams of the sun of glory. Oh! my brother, my brother! Where is thy discernment gone between God and Satan, good and evil, Spirit and flesh, that thou shouldest thus turn aside like a deceitful bow in the hand of thy Maker! Here therefore is an enigma and a dark riddle; that a man, with more formal theology in him than most men I know of, should have committed the most fearful sin of naming the Spirit of truth and holiness by the name of the father of lies. And how cometh this to pass? Where is the interpreter to interpret this parable?
"It cometh to pass from this, that the natural understanding apprehendeth not the things of the Spirit of God. No, nor no single mind of even the spiritual comprehendeth all the words and ways of God; which are spoken not for one man, but for the church of many members composed; nor for the church of one generation, but for the church of all generations; for no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation, but holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. And least of all is the prophet himself capable of resolving his own words. Sufficient is it for the tongue to have the glory of utterance. The ear must have the glory of hearing; the heart the glory of understanding; and the mind the glory of bringing forth the flowers and fruits of the word rooted in the heart of love. But thou, Robert Baxter, prophet of the Lord, in thy rashness, in thy strength of head, in thy solitary self-sufficiency, in thy great personal stedfastness — for there was no soldier like thee in all the camp for personal single combat; thou wast a rock beside other men; a lion wast thou amongst the beasts of the field; yet see, O brother, how thou art fallen before the rock of Israel, the Lion of the tribe of Judah; thou thoughtest by thine own capacity to measure the capacity of the word that thou wast made instrumental to utter. This was the reason wherefore God took thee to use thee, that thou hadst strong personal parts, in a day of confederacies. Thou wast not afraid to trust thy God; and thy God did not belie thy trust. He did open thy mouth in majesty, but not until He had found an ear to hear, a heart to understand, and a mind to realise, in the church whereof I am the pastor. And if thou hadst heeded the counsel of Him That sent thee, and staid there where thy mouth was opened until the power was given, it would have been well with thee at this day, instead of being very evil. For, O man, thou art not the pillar and ground of the truth, strong though thy manhood be; the church is the pillar and ground of the truth. Therefore it is thou hast fallen, because thou wouldst be both giver and receiver, both utterer and container, both prophet and angel, and pastor and teacher; and so, by usurping all offices, which dignity pertaineth to Jesus, thou hast lost all, and become nothing but a stumbling-block in the way of the children of the Lord.
"Ever and anon, as thou didst utter a thing, thou wouldst understand it; thou wouldst settle down in to space and time the word of the Lord, which is unto all generations. The Spirit in the prophets warned thee of this; and I, according to the light given unto me, did also warn, and in some cases was able to deliver thee. But still thou wouldst be grasping with thy fist the word of the Lord; and with thine understanding, which is formal and fashioned according to the traditions of men, thou wouldst be containing the word of the Lord. Did ever Isaiah think of comprehending what the lips of Isaiah spake? And when Jeremiah gave formal expectation to his words, instead of patience and hope, his feet had well-nigh slipped; and he was only brought back from this state of saying, 'I will speak no more in this name,' by his obedience greater than thine, which, when the fire burned within him, constrained him to speak. But thou, O man, hast not grace to do this; for thou hast called the Spirit of God the spirit of evil; and the word of thy God the word of the father of lies. Take heed, take heed, O my brother, lest the Lord harden thy heart, as He hardened the heart of Pharaoh; and lest thou as Balaam did, in the slaughter of Midian and Moab.
"God is righteous in his dealings with Robert Baxter, whom, for the years that I have known him, He hath led by a gentle and steady hand into the knowledge of all the forms of truth written in His word, especially of the purpose which He hath laid in the Christ. I say, the Lord led him onward with a steady hand into the forms of the truth; and at the same time gave him a child's heart for simplicity and gentleness. A tender husband, and a tender father, and a tender friend, did He make thee, O my brother. But thy heart lay in its guileless simplicity of childhood, and did not grow up to fill the majestic forms of thine understanding with the life of God. Thou buildest, and buildest in thine understanding; thou didst fashion and mould until thou hadst made it a noble temple; but the voice within it was but the voice of a child. Thine understanding was not a living temple. Thou hadst quickened none of thine articles of faith, none of thy forms of truth. They were but an outward shape, whose proportions thou couldst measure; not the food of an inward joy, not the growth of an inward principle of organic life. Thy child-like spirit from within the temple called upon thy Maker for strength and power; thou didst lie sore upon thy Father, thou didst entreat Him much, and thy Father could not refuse thee thy desire. But well knowing what rendings His Spirit must make in the temple which thou hadst built around thee, He sent thee first into the bosom of a living temple — a church whose understanding of truth had grown out of a vital informing principle; and He would have had thee submit thy building of man to the building of God. And He did put thee there to prophesy to the builders of the house, to ask change of raiment for Joshua, and to strengthen the hands of Zerubbabel; but thou wouldst not, thou wouldst be both prophet and church unto thyself. The Lord saw that He must either part with thee for His prophet, or part with us for His church. So, when thou hadst sown among us the seed of hope, the hope of the Man-child, He shut thy mouth, like Zacharias, for disbelieving the word and asking for a sign; and thou shalt be dumb like him for a season; aye, and until thou shalt yield thyself to be fashioned and builded by the Spirit of God, according to His mind, and not according to thine own.
"All thy doctrines concerning our Lord's flesh, and concerning regeneration, and concerning holiness of the believer, and concerning the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire, are dead letters of tradition, as thou holdest them, blind conceptions, having in them a form of godliness without the power. O brother! I would teach thee, for I am set as a teacher in the house of God; but thou wilt not be taught. Those letters, which, contrary to all honour and friendship — letters, so private, so holy — those two letters of mine, which thou hast dared (or rather, I should say, been constrained by God overruling thine evil) to publish, would have taught thee the truth, the living truth of God, concerning these great heads of doctrine. But thou wilt not be taught by any man, by any ordinance; nay, thou wilt not be taught by the Comforter dwelling within thee: how shouldst thou be taught by man? Yet once more, and for the multitude that follow after thee, I will get forth distinctly what my faith is, what the only living faith is, concerning these matters" (pp. 129-133).
Next follows a bold exposition of Mr. Irving's peculiar doctrine, too sad and evil to be transferred to these pages, which will fall elsewhere for judgment by God's word. Suffice it to cite the peroration in pp. 139, 140. "But what serveth this dispensation to the church? Much, every way. Chiefly to mar the work in the sight of the multitude, who were gaping after it, as to a market-place of mighty power and signs and wonders; — to separate those who bowed the knee to the waters of the Spirit and drank, from those who did but stoop their girded loins and stretch down the hand of faith to the brook that runneth in the way; to send back the thousands to their homes, while the handful pass onward with Gideon to the fiery fight. For this battle is not with confused noise and garments rolled in blood, but with burning and fuel of fire: whereunto who would send the hay, the wood, the stubble, and the chaff? Nay, but only the gold and silver and precious stones may abide that fiery conflict. Therefore is it that God hath permitted thee to put forth thine own shame, which will serve as a touchstone, to distinguish the men that have been feeding upon the word of God, from the men who have been eyeing it with suspicion, lying in wait for the faltering of their God, and taking good heed to risk nothing for the Saviour of their souls. But, O ye little ones, who are stumbled by this stumbling-block which a giant has put in your way — for he is a very mighty man — know the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.' Taste and see that God is good: prove ye the meat by the eating of it; know ye Satan from Jesus by the house which he buildeth; come amongst us, and see whether we be a church of the living God, or a synagogue of Satan. Ah! this pang woundeth the deepest, that Satan should have the credit of such a work! O thou enemy, thou hast triumphed, but thy triumph is short! And thou, Robert Baxter, hast lifted up Satan in the sight of many men, and crowned him as the author of a work which has been, and is, the joy and edification of thousands of saints. Be ashamed! Fear and tremble! Repent of thy wickedness, and pray, if haply the thought of thy heart, the word of thy mouth, and the work of thy hand, may be forgiven.
The fact is, that Mr. B. held to the faith of God's elect for his soul, but was only too long deaf to the strange and fatal heterodoxy of Mr. I., through the great personal influence and surpassing ability of the latter, partly through the evil power to which he had too long surrendered himself. But Mr. I. was more honest than most false teachers. There was nothing privy about him. He was open, not to say arrogant, enough in the foregoing. It was (to adopt their phraseology) before the ordinances were fully set up, when an angel laid down that, if he taught positive error, none must question it, as the authority responsible to God! But even Mr, I. does pave the way for denying the Christian's title to judge, where a prophecy failed manifestly, on the perversion of 2 Peter 1:20, that no prophecy is of private interpretation. They are not the only party in Christendom that would supersede (by the church, or the clergy) the believer's direct subjection to the Lord by scripture. Faith is undermined whenever the alleged voice of God — not in man, or the people, but in the church — is made superior to the written word. Even the natural honesty of Mr. I's soul was impaired, as we may see; but as a whole, he was plain-spoken, where he sets out his error, though he well knew how offensive it was to the mass of those he had once respected and loved. He was taken away prematurely, in spite of many a prophecy which promised him grand results in the near future. God cut short, in mercy, as well as judgment, a career of delusion. For even he, uncompromising as he was, submitted absolutely to the spirit in the gifted, which sanctioned his evil doctrine against Christ (though not all his expressions), and he was powerless before the ordinances which he idolized. Who indeed could or ought to resist if he believed it was God speaking?
A serious stride was made early after the expulsion from Regent Square and the temporary use of a room from May 6th, 1832, in Gray's Inn Road. Let them tell their own story. Dr. Norton thus describes the new departure in his book, already cited, using the highly coloured words of another's "Narrative":
"October 19 was the first day of our meeting in Newman Street. After the first prayer a sound of triumphant joy through Mr. — [Irving] calling upon us to praise the Lord and blessing Him that He had given rest to His people. Then followed a setting before us the prospect of continued conflict; sure victory to the faithful, but the hosts of the Lord diminishing day by day. It was said, 'Remember Midian: the Lord will conquer by few. Ye shall be despised, ye shall be rejected; the scorn of all men; ye shall know what it is to be empty vessels, but oh! they shall be fitted to contain the glory!' Much manifestation of the Spirit followed through others of the gifted persons in every interval of the service.
"At the conclusion the pastor was about to pronounce the blessing as usual, when Mr. D[rummond] rose in the power of the Holy Ghost and blessed the people. The next evening what was our joy on hearing Mr. C[ardale] speaking in the power of the Spirit! Many utterances followed in much connection of subject in reference to Zech. 10, Joel 2, Ps. 29: on the planting of the cedars of Lebanon in the house of the Lord. At the conclusion of the service on the Monday following Mr. C[ardale] blessed the people in the power of the Spirit, as Mr. D[rummond] had done two days before, the first buddings, although we knew it not, of the coming apostleship; and a few days afterwards, while Mr. C[ardale] was in prayer, asking God for the outpouring of His Spirit upon the church, declaring that the Lord had called him to be an apostle, and to convey His holy unction. The next morning Mr. Irving, narrating the dealings of the Lord in the designation of Mr. C[ardale], solemnly addressed him accordingly, adjuring him to be faithful and warning him of the exceeding great responsibility and awfulness of his office: also warning us against any idolatry or undue exaltation of a man, inasmuch as the whole church was apostolic, and instead of needing to lean on any man, was itself 'the pillar and ground of the truth"' (Restoration, etc., pp. 64-66).
Mr. Cardale, though thus designated apostle, did not act plenarily for the present. Mr. Drummond was by a prophet named pastor or angel of the church at Albany on the 20th of October, the day after Mr. C. was named apostle. For Christmas Messrs. Cardale and Taplin went to Albury, where on the eve Mr. C. ordained Mr. Place as evangelist. Yet were they perplexed how to celebrate the Eucharist. Mr. R. Story of Rosneath wrote a letter at the time, given in Appendix iv. (pp. 409-411) to his Life, which lets us see the state of things:-
"At the commencement of the usual meeting for prayer on Wednesday evening last (26th current), the Lord spoke a searching word through Mr. Caird while Mr. Drummond was reading the thirty-third Psalm; the substance of it was a warning against trifling with God and with sin. Before singing Mr. D [rummond] warned the people against coming there without knowing why. He saw some who, he feared, were ignorant that the purpose of this meeting was to pray unto the Lord for the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, and the revival of all His gifts to the whole church everywhere throughout the world; and unless they could join sincerely in this, the prayer would be a wavering prayer, which the Lord would not hear. After the Psalm Mr. D[rummond] said there were some amongst them who, he knew, were very anxious concerning the ordinance of the Lord's Supper; and he requested the brethren who might be led to pray to make this an object of special prayer: he then called upon the elder, Mr. Bayford, to read and pray. Mr. B[ayford] read Luke 4. During the prayer, while beseeching the Lord to make known His mind regarding ordinances, the Spirit broke forth in Mr. Drummond, saying, 'It is the Lord's will; it is His will that the ordinance of the Lord's Supper be observed in this church; it is His will.'
Then the Spirit through Mr. Caird called on us to rejoice that the Lord had heard the prayers of the destitute, and said, 'Be ye prepared to keep the feast with desire; desire ye to do this in remembrance of Jesus; the Lord will feed the hungry, but the rich He shall send empty away.' Mr. Bayford concluded his prayer, and Mr. D[rummond] desired the church to sing the thirty-sixth paraphrase, which contains the words last quoted by the Spirit. While preparing to sing it, the Lord spoke through Mr. Taplin a long time in a tongue, and then said, 'The Lord ordains by you, who have been called to be the angel of this church, to feed this people with the body and with the blood of the Lord: the meek ones shall be fed, but the proud consumed.' Mr. D[rummond] then called on the church for thanksgiving to the Lord for the mercy He had shown, but told them to remember we still required the counsel of the Lord in this matter, and added, 'I may give you the bread and the wine, and you may press the bread with carnal teeth and touch the wine with your lips, but this is not. to have communion with the Lord. It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing'; and again he called to prayer. The Spirit immediately spoke through Mr. Caird, saying, 'Let the Lord do His work; let Him declare all His mind; lot His working alone be seen in the midst of you.'
The Spirit then through Mr. Cardale began to open up the mystery of the Body and Blood, and the proper condition of those who receive it, and with much expression of grief, saying, 'Mourn ye, because the cisterns are broken, and there is no water. The Lord's people are a grief to Him; they are a burden to Him. He is pressed, He is pressed under them. There are some among you who believe not. Jesus is angry, He is angry.' The Spirit then proceeded in prayer crying unto the Lord, 'O come down unto Thy people; O for a living way to ascend unto our God,' concluding with a comprehensive prayer for the whole church and for the officers of the church in particular, specifying everyone, pastor, evangelist, elder, and prophet. At the close of the prayer Mr. D[rummond] again said, 'I wish some of the brethren would pray, for I do not clearly discern the mind of the Lord in this matter.' The Spirit in Mr. Cardale said, 'Ye do well,' and continued to plead and exhort; it was a mingled utterance of both. Then the Spirit broke forth in Mr. Taplin with great power in a tongue, and thus said, 'The Lord commandeth you, you who have been called to be an apostle, to lay hands on the angel of this church, and ordain him to rule and feed the church, to feed them with the body and blood of the Lord: be faithful, be faithful, and Jesus will honour you.' After a short pause Mr. Cardale advanced to Mr. Drummond, who was kneeling at the desk, and after a prayer mighty in the Spirit, beginning at Creation and going through the manifestations of God unto the person, sufferings, and glory of the Lord Jesus, with strong crying for faith and that the hand of the Lord alone might be seen, put forth his hands on Mr. Drummond's head, the latter seeming deeply absorbed in communion with God; the Spirit in Mr. Cardale saying, 'Be thou filled with the Holy Ghost, and with the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge and of a sound mind. Be thou of a quick understanding in the fear of the Lord. Feed and rule His people. Be thou faithful unto death, and thou shalt receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath prepared for thee and all who love the Lord Jesus.' Then turning to Mr. Bayford he blessed him, and spake words of encouragement, exhorting him to feed this people, and in so doing he himself should be fed. Immediately after this the Spirit burst forth in Mr. Drummond in a song, 'Glory to God in the highest,' when the Spirit in Mr. Caird took up the same strain in the name of the church, singing the 'Doxology' in which the congregation joined. Then followed a remarkable prayer in the Spirit by Mr. Drummond thanking and praising the Father for all His goodness and mercy; for His gentle dealing with us, not remembering our unworthiness, but putting away our sins, beseeching the Lord with great urgency not to let the vessels be looked to or regarded in themselves, lest He should be provoked to dash them in pieces. He seemed to have great entrance into the bosom of Jesus, enjoying much light shown in the rapidity of the utterance. Mr. Cardale then in a commanding manner spoke in the Spirit, saying, 'It is the Lord's will that thou proceed to feed this people with the body and blood of the Lord. See thou to it; live for them; watch for them by night and by day, and see that thou give a good account of the souls committed to thy trust. The Lord will bless in it. The Lord hath ordained thee the pastor of this people. He hath cast off the pastors who have forsaken and fouled the waters; but now He hath appointed them one who will give them pure water.' Then a word to Mr. Bayford, charging him to be faithful in teaching this people, and promising him ordination in the Lord's time. Mr. Drummond was then looking for a psalm to sing, when the Spirit, through Mr. Cardale said, 'Sing the twenty-fourth Psalm, and let all your hearts be lifted up to the Lord.' The Spirit in Mr. Taplin then, after singing for a while in a tongue, declared that Jesus had been in the midst of us, that His arms were open to receive us, that we should flee into them. Mr. Drummond then again in prayer blessed the Lord, praying for the souls of the pastors, although their offices were being laid aside; and, after a few words of exhortation to his people, showing that the utterances of the Spirit were no decrees, but addressed unto faith, and that according to the faith would the blessing be imparted and received, concluded by giving his blessing to the congregation."
This long extract of a quite reliable witness gives us a life-like view of the development at work. The pseudo-prophet Taplin, rebuked in the power by Miss E. Cardale at Regent Sq., convicted by the same at Gray's Inn Road of corrupting his utterances, and assailed in the most solemn way for his misguidance in Newman Street, was the same person who designated Mr. Cardale as apostle, and Mr. Drummond as angel of the Albury church. Every one may see how the so-called prophet and apostle played into the hands of each other, guided by a spiritual power which sustained them in high pretensions without an atom of God's word but profanely abusing Christ's name. Nor can any sober christian read the narrative without a shudder at the levity which could accept all and every part of these utterances as "in the Spirit," bearing in mind how solemn a thing it is to grieve Him, if it be not blasphemy to accredit Him habitually with error.
When Mr. Irving after his deprivation by the Presbytery of Annan on the 13th of March, 1833, returned to Newman Street, he was stopped by Mr. Cardale on Sunday the 31st when about to receive a child that had been privately baptised, and thereon closed the service, throwing his gown away, with the words, "Thank God, I am free from the trammels of men." Alas! a baser bondage ensued, according to a "Prophecy" uttered in his absence. Irving, fell under the iron yoke, confining himself to preaching till his fresh ordination, as he was commanded; so we learn from his own letter to D. Dow and [Douglas'] Chronicle, p. 10. Here again, Mr. Taplin, who conducted the service, figured as before, and during his utterance in the power directed the apostle to ordain Irving as angel of the church on the morrow evening. On that, evening (5th April), after words and deeds of no small assumption, he called on Mr. Irving to kneel and the apostle to ordain him; when Mr. C. in the power directed 1 Sam. 2, 3, to be read, which he applied, on the one hand to corruption of the priesthood in christendom, and on the other to God's present raising up of the apostleship and other ministries. Next, he knelt down with Mr. I., and rising laid his hands on the latter, and ordained him angel, or bishop. Then Mr. C. sent the deacons for unleavened bread, which they prepared themselves, and during their absence read in the power Rev. 2, 3, as that which the Lord would have read. When the deacons returned with the unleavened cake and wine, he, on receiving the angel's promise to keep the charges of Christ to His church, consecrated the elements, presenting them before the Lord, and administered them to Mr. I. kneeling, who was bidden to administer them to his elders, and the congregation, the service of not far from four hours concluding with a Psalm, the doxology, and the benediction (Restoration of Apostles, etc., pp. 108 - 110).
Elders had been already nominated. On the evening after Irving's consecration as angel (equivalent in their scheme to an Episcopalian diocesan or bishop) a sixth elder was appointed, making up the complement represented by the golden candlestick with its three branches on either side of its central shaft, as had been taught in power. Soon after two evangelists were called by the prophet, and ordained by Cardale with Irving, inasmuch as they were to serve under the oversight of the latter. On the Lord's day following the six elders were ordained according to promise, Cardale taking the upper hand most decidedly, with Irving accompanying, as in the ordination of the evangelists.
Even this official show did not suffice. Five were designated by prophecy as assistant elders or "helps" (as was a sixth later), and ordained by the apostle with the angel, not without Cardale's holding out to some a higher honour to come. On the Sunday after seven deacons were appointed to the charge of temporals, i.e., the public services and the poor, subordinately to the presbyters or priests (for of course they are confounded). Singular to say, the apostle did not lay hands on them, in marked contrast with scripture (Acts 6:6). Can we suppose them ignorant of the fact? or did Mr. G. presume to improve on the Twelve? They were however not only chosen by the congregation but ordained by the hands of the angel and of his elders, and brought before "the apostle" for his blessing. One was named head deacon, the only deacon who followed I. from Regent Square, as three of the six elders did also. The strangest perhaps of these ordinations was that of Taplin, the first thus of the prophets: a thing wholly unknown to scripture.
Newman Street (the premises of the late Mr. West, the painter) was to be a model for other churches, though the official display might be greater or less according to the congregation.
Bishopgate was the second, where a Mr. Miller had presided over an independent meeting, but imbibed subsequently Mr. Irving's views. As early as the 12th of June prophetic utterance broke out publicly for eleven months, till it forbade Mr. Miller to administer the eucharist, and he was in due time ordered to seek instructions at Newman Street. The very next evening Miller was ordained by Cardale as angel of the Bishopgate church, with an elder also. On the 19th December of the same year an angel was ordained of the congregation in Brighton.
Meanwhile greater things were essayed. For Mr. Drummond was ordained apostle nearly two months before (23 Sept. 1833), already consecrated angel of the church at Albury. For a while both Cardale and Drummond only acted apostolically in the power (Restoration, etc., p. 126), two other apostles being added, Messrs. King, or King-Church, and Perceval. But early in 1834 they were directed to act thenceforward in virtue of their office without control from within or without. In the same year (2 Jan.) a church began at Chatham with its angel. Later in January, the minister of Park Chapel, Mr. H. J. Owen, left the Anglican body. He was consecrated angel of the church in Chelsea, as another clergyman, Mr. Horne, at Southwark.
After Irving's visit to Edinburgh early in 1834, Messrs. Cardale and Drummond went to the same city, and ordained Mr. Tait angel there. Mr. D. returned soon, but Mr. C., with a prophet and evangelist, visited Glasgow, etc., ordaining on his way. During his absence Taplin in the power repeatedly called for "the pitching of the Lord's tabernacle," the 60 pillars of which he made out to be as many evangelists, when of about 200 candidates, 60 were chosen evangelists, with as many coadjutors, 30 being seated in one gallery, and 30 in another the next Lord's day; and Mr. Irving, who had looked for much greater power in the "baptism of fire," preached such a discourse as one might expect from such a man wholly under the system. But lo! a letter from Cardale followed, swiftly denouncing the whole as a delusion, with a rebuke to the angel and the prophet. To this Irving bowed: not so Taplin, who left Newman St. for a while. The prophetesses too became troublesome, though at first in the front rank of honour, till the apostolic command relieved all from obedience to any word coming through the handmaids. Thenceforward apostles must reign as kings.
Those who did not fear to assume the apostolic place, before many mouths elapsed after Mr. Irving's death, were (besides Messrs. Cardale, Drummond) Messrs. King, Church, Perceval, Armstrong and Woodhouse, called before his death, and after it Messrs. Sitwell, Tudor, Dalton, Carlyle, W. Dow, and D. Dow.
But even then a striking hitch occurred. D. Dow, the respected Scotch minister, it will be remembered, who supported Mr. Irving when deposed by the Presbytery of Annan, and this "in the power," was designated apostle, but refused the call. The time had been longingly expected according to Mr. Baxter's interpretation of Rev. 11. "The ever memorable" 14th July, 1835 was to be preceded by a week of waiting on the Lord, "Who at the end of that time would perform His promise." All the angels of churches were summoned as well as the twelve. But Mr. D. Dow, though he came to London, declined, notwithstanding the most earnest appeals. Dr. Norton (Restoration, p. 132) tries to escape the difficulty by pleading the Lord's choice of a traitor among His Twelve. But surely this is lame. The weightiest events turned on Judas' part according to prophecy, which was fulfilled to the letter. The call of Mr. David Dow "in the power" was falsified, and nothing resulted, it seems, more than the proved collapse of the new apostolate from the start. Nevertheless the intrepid men who led the rest were not to be daunted, and on the morning of the 14th proceeded to number Mr. Mackenzie in the vacant place, from two who were put forward, the less favoured candidate being shortly after appointed to an office only second to that of apostle. Can the reader conjecture what? To be "chief of the pastors"! So readily did the system lend itself to unauthorised posts of honour, of which God's word knows nothing. In this atmosphere of vanity they lived; for they had their senior apostle (Cardale), their senior pastor (Thompson), their senior prophet (Taplin), and their senior evangelist (Place), named in the word of prophecy (!) "the four pillars." On the evening of that day the seven angels of London (Messrs. Heath, Miller, Owen, Horne, Seton, Leighton and Wallace) formally separated the Irvingite twelve as apostles in the order of the seniority of their call; and the other angels present stood up as participants in the act.
At Albury, in company with the "prophets" and others, the "apostles" were ordered to give themselves up to the reading of the scriptures with prayer for twelve months. Even then there were some twenty-four churches in Great Britain and Ireland. It is doubtful whether more really exist now, for many are merely nominal. And the number of communicants is small with few exceptions; especially when we bear in mind that they count them from babes over two years old! In the apostles' chapel at Albury, outside Mr. D.'s grounds, there are twenty-four stalls, of which the Irvingite Apostolate occupied twelve. What was the meaning of the other dozen? Has the Union Review (71:41, note) ground for saying that, they were reserved for the Twelve at our Lord's return? It is as hard to doubt that such must be the superstition as to believe that Christian men should be so profane. There is in the council-chamber of this chapel a table of twelve sides made expressly for apostolic deliberation, with space in the centre for secretaries or "scribes," and round the room are seats for the prophets and others who might attend. Unanimity was insisted on. Their twelve-fold unity was the boast.
Only in July 1835 at Albury do we hear of weekly communion; before this it was but once a month. And all was simple as yet, if one except the use of unleavened bread, as Mr. Miller lets us know. This in a small way indicated that Judaising which was about to break all bounds ere long; for what they called "the mystery of the tabernacle" soon appeared, if it was not the mere development of Taplin's prophecy rebuked before Irving's death. The new form had Cardale's sanction: then all went smoothly. Without dwelling on their minute applications, it is enough to say that the sixty pillars were supposed to represent sixty evangelists, with whom they also, compared Cant. 3:7, 8, under five angel-evangelists answering to the five pillars at the entrance. This furnished fresh fuel for that burning love of office which characterises the body and is well illustrated here. Of these five it is a sorrowful reflection that "the centre" was a Mr. Douglas, once known in happier circumstances, succeeded by Sir G. Hewett. Again the forty-eight boards were thought to represent the forty-two elders of the Seven Churches (London), headed by the six junior apostles who answered to the six boards at the farther end of the tabernacle. The five apostles next to the six corresponded to the five bars which upheld the boards. As if this did not suffice, the four pillars between the holy place and the holiest were interpreted as the four seniors of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors, the pillars of each! The angels of course found their counterpart in the seven lamps of the golden candlesticks, and two elders who acted as scribes had a figure in the two corner-boards.
These functionaries and others, notably the prophets, of whom at first were seven (Taplin, Drummond, Cardale, Bayford, Lady H. Drummond, Miss E. Cardale, and Mrs. Cardale), afterwards twelve, formed the council of Zion, ordered to meet on the fourth Tuesday in each month. The order of procedure was most formal. Liberty was unknown. The five apostles next to the senior stated the principles by which the decision was to be drawn, then the five chief evangelists opened the case in the light of those principles; the elders next gave their counsel; and the seven angels summed up. There was a pause for a word of prophecy if any. Finally the apostles delivered judgment through the senior, either on the spot, or after private investigation, or at a future date; of which judgment, formally recorded by the scribes, a copy was given to "the four pillars" for communication to their respective ministries. Where the case pertained to the evangelists, the sixty of London advised; and the substance was summed up by the five angel-evangelists who presented it to the council.
As yet however all was confined to the narrow limits of Great Britain. This could not content souls ever so little awakened to see what, the church is. And a more ambitions ecclesiastical system never was broached than Irvingism in 1835-6. The Council of Zion made them aspire after a Council of Jerusalem to consist of one hundred and forty-four angels from all Christendom. "In every land His purpose should be effected upon the same principle, and in accordance with that pattern" (D.'s Chronicle, p. 24). So far from realising this ecumenical expansion, they gradually dropt even the council of Zion, only to revive with less pretension and a change of name. The grand council proved but a dream. The council of the tribe of Judah alone remained.
The fact is that to deduce the mystery of the church from the Jewish tabernacle and especially from prophecy, though the error of others great and small besides the C. A. body, is not only unwarranted by, but opposed to, direct scripture. Rom. 16:25, 26 lets us know that the mystery had been kept in silence in times of the ages, but now had been manifested, and by prophetic scriptures, according to commandment of the eternal God, made known for obedience of faith to all the nations. "Prophetic scriptures" mean, not the prophetic books of old, but writings of the apostles and prophets who constitute the foundation on which the church is built (Eph. 2). Silence had been kept of old. Now the mystery had been made manifest; which in other generations, as says the apostle (Eph. 3:5), was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit. Clearly this means exclusively the N.T. apostles and prophets, not the prophets of the O.T. and the apostles of the N.T., an unintelligent and perverse misinterpretation, as any christian ought to see the more by comparison with the chapters before and after. Now this explodes the entire basis on which the Irvingite apostles reared their Jewish imitations. The mystery was never before revealed.
As with other spurious outgrowths of Christendom, the Incarnation, blessed and essential a truth as it is, had superseded the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Saviour. This error substitutes the Word made flesh for accomplished redemption, and leaves man still under law, waiting for that atoning work which alone glorifies God as to sin and gives peace to the awakened conscience, with Satan and the world for ever overcome. Short of the cross carnal ordinances were unremoved and prevailed, which could not make the worshipper perfect as touching the conscience. Christ's one offering has changed all; and the worshippers once purged have no more conscience of sins. The priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For there is a disannulling of a commandment going before because of its weakness and unprofitableness (for the law made nothing perfect), and a bringing in of a better hope by which we draw nigh to God (Heb. 7), yea, into the holiest of all by the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10). Judaism is wholly gone, not by Christ's birth, which had rather been its crown if the Jews had received Him, but by His death, the grave of all its hopes and pride and religion, but the basis of christianity, and of the church His body united to Him on high by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven.
To this agrees all Scripture that treats definitely of our proper privileges. See Eph. 2:13-22, Eph. 3, Eph. 4:4-16, Eph. 5:25-27. So in Col. 1 Christ's headship of the church is bound up with His being the first-born from the dead, in distinction from His being firstborn of all creation; and us He has reconciled in the body of His flesh, not when incarnate, but "through death" by which alone our sins were judged before God and borne in His body on the tree. Hence baptism figures, not association with a living Christ, but burial with Him, so that, when we were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of our flesh, we were quickened with Him, having all our trespasses forgiven. This alone is christianity, being founded on Christ's death and resurrection. Putting the Incarnation as the proper basis and ground leaves God not yet glorified as to evil, man still (even believing man) undelivered, and the enemy in power. The Catholic systems of christendom are all guilty of like fatal retrocession from the truth symbolised by their own forms and institutions; but the most exaggerated departure of all seems embodied in Irvingism, whatever of truth, and there is much, may be attested by it otherwise.
Here it may be of interest to note the excessive judaising that appears in the mission and jurisdiction assigned to the new apostles through a prophecy of Mr. Drummond in June, 1836, corresponding in a fanciful way with the twelve tribes of Rev. 7. As England was to be Judah, the chief tribe (the exercise and submission to reasonable rule), so it was confided to Mr. Cardale, "pillar of the apostles." Scotland, being small, had Switzerland annexed, as mountainous lands, stood for Benjamin (dignified patriotism, though in small nations inhabiting small countries), and was assigned to Mr. Drummond. Denmark, Holland and Belgium (contented industry) answered to Issachar and fell to Mr. King-Church. Italy was Manasseh (civil virtues and faithful citizenship), Mr. Perceval's lot. Mr. Armstrong had Ireland and Greece (capacity for intellectual and bodily enjoyment) as Zebulun. Mr. Woodhouse had Austria (the historical head of Germany) and South Germany (intense desire for a united fatherland) as Reuben. Spain and Portugal (chivalrous adherence to an adopted purpose, undisheartened by practical difficulties), or Naphtali, had Mr. Sitwell. Poland with India subsequently, as symbolised by Ephraim (though confessedly it was not easy to trace a resemblance), was for Mr. Tudor. Mr. Dalton had France, as Asher (a yearning after fraternity), while Prussia and N. Germany were for Mr. Carlyle as Simeon (quiet perseverance in accomplishing what is aimed at). Russia or Dan (persistent expectation of the decrees of providence) became Mr. W. Dow's portion; and Mr. Mackenzie was allotted Norway and Sweden as Gad (honesty and passive courage in adhering to what they are, uninfluenced by the opinions of others). America does not appear in this division; but the U.S. at last fell to Mr. Cardale, though Mr. Woodhouse acted there for him.
We may add that the twelve stones on the high priest's breastplate, as well as the encampment, were connected with the tribes thus: — the sardius, emerald, and topaz representing England or Judah, Ireland and Greece or Zebulun, and Denmark, etc., or Issachar; the carbuncle, sapphire, and diamond, Austria or Reuben, Prussia or Simeon, Norway, etc., or Gad; the ligure, agate and amethyst, Poland or Ephraim, Italy or Manasseh, Scotland, etc., or Benjamin; the beryl, onyx, and jasper, Russia or Dan, France or Asher, and Spain, etc., or Naphtali. It is enough to state this imaginative scheme. Basis in truth it has none; but there may be a better opportunity to say more when we examine the doctrines of this strange system.
The time now came for the modern apostles to be put to the test. They had not only studied and conferred together in the pleasant retreat of Albury, but had elaborated "the Great Testimony" to the patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, and others in places of chief rule over the church of Christ throughout the earth, and to the emperors, kings, sovereign princes, and chief governors over the nations of the baptised. This pretentious document forms an Appendix of not less than ninety closely-printed pages at the end of Mr. Miller's vol. 1, to which the reader is referred who desires to consider fully what — the entire college of these apostles, supplemented by such aid as they called in, had to say to those addressed. A smaller testimony, for which Mr. Perceval responsible, had been delivered by him and Mr. Drummond to King William IV. and the Privy Councillors in 1836, as was another under Mr. Cardale's charge delivered to the Anglican hierarchy — and many of the clergy, two apostles waiting or) the Archbishop of Canterbury and several bishops. These, may he examined though not quite in extenso in an Appendix to Mr. M.'s vol. ii.
Furnished with the larger instrument, and each of them choosing as his subordinate companions a prophet, an evangelist and a pastor, to act as heads each over his own province of ministry, the apostles went forth early in 1838, with the injunction to return before the year ran out. Mr. Cardale, as the senior to whom England was assigned, staid at home, as apparently Mr. Tudor also for aught that appears of any visit to Poland or India then recorded. As Scotland and Ireland were at hand, Messrs Drummond and Armstrong were within easy call.
According to the "Narrative" (of authority within the society) three tasks were imposed on each corps of missionaries: — 1st, to spy out the land; 2nd, to dig for gold; and 3rd, to seek gates of entrance. A vivid contrast with the true apostles! Not so did Peter visit all parts of the land, or open the kingdom of heaven to the Gentiles. Not so did Paul and Barnabas fulfil the work for which they were called and separated by the Holy Spirit. They knew that wherever went, it was the valley of deep darkness, but that they carried the true light, yea were seen as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life. They the treasure in earthen vessels, which they sought to communicate, instead of digging for gold; and they looked to the Lord for an opened door. Nor was it in vain; for they were blessed in every way, quite as much in their sufferings, as in what men call sacrifices. Why the modern apostles and their helps were admonished to be "as learners and observers rather than teachers" is passing strange. If it is pleaded that it was now a question of christendom, rather than of Jews and Gentiles, as of old, can we forget to what their own party had long borne witness? That christendom consists, said they, of the various streets of Babylon fore-doomed of God, and, more loudly than anything ever did, demanding the cry, Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues; for her sins have reached unto heaven and God hath remembered her iniquities. Babylon, the great confusion and corruption of the truth, and a persecutor more cruel than Jew or heathen, seems at this time to have risen into no small honour in Irvingite eyes.
To the initiated three dignitaries in particular became the object of the "Great Testimony": the Pope; the Emperor (i.e., of Austria), the then supposed heir of the western power; and the King of the French, as the real continental representative at that epoch of constitutional monarchy. So the "Narrative" informs us. But the modern apostles found others to be no less adepts in ceremony than themselves, and had to content themselves with placing their document in intermediate hands. Some kings and bishops it did reach, perhaps all who were aimed at. Whether in that visit or since, they soon learnt that Romanist countries are uncongenial soil, and where the Greek church prevails, little better. Lutherans and Reformed were more open to their appeal.
It is certain that these envoys carried themselves everywhere as inoffensive gentlemen. They may have been more abundant in labours than their records imply; but of prison, stripes, deaths, none can speak, nor of any approach to such distresses for Christ's sake. Perils of all kinds they studiously and prudently avoided. They knew nothing, as far as one has heard, of toil and travails, of watchings, of hunger and thirst, of cold and nakedness. One apostle of old, ashamed to tell us of himself, was compelled nevertheless through the wrong of others to say how he laboured and suffered, aye, immeasurably more than these all together. This seems peculiar, if they were veritable apostles (weigh 1 Cor. 4:9-13).
The effect of their mission appears to have been disastrous to themselves. Their Judaising tendency, already marked, received immense impulse and material from their spying out the lands; they brought home "gold" as they thought, for circulation. It was really what God's word denounces as the basest of beggarly elements (Gal. 4). On their return the development of Ritual and Liturgy became their passion. In this of course the Eucharist and its offering took up the central place, and, one might say, idolatrous honour.
But dissensions at home hurried them back, though it was agreed at length to not, earlier than June, 1840. It was owing to the preponderance of "the prophets" in the absence of "the apostles," who harped on the fourfold ministry (Eph. 4) to the danger, as Mr, Cardale and his fellows thought, of the supreme place due to the apostolate. It was contended, on the one hand, that the council, where all could act in their measure together, ought to govern as the last resort. For the apostles, on the one hand, to be reduced to an executive was resented, as not only derogatory, but suicidal. The absent envoys were therefore recalled to stem the adverse current; especially as "the angels" (or bishops of the party) sympathised with "the prophets" in their jealousy of "the apostles." It seems likely that the lack of apostolic signs, and of the expected "baptism of fire," as well as comparative failure abroad, may have strengthened the revolt.
The assembled twelve at once sought to hear all grievances, as well as every opposing view about the ministry, themselves included. After mature consideration they set forth their unanimous judgment that the new proposals were incompatible with divine order, and could issue only in that disunion and ruin which had overspread the church, till the modern twelve were restored according to prophecy. Their apostolic position was not of their seeking, but owned by all as immediately of the Lord, however much they realised their own insufficiency. Diotrephes' censure stood a warning to all opposers of an apostle. They should therefore go on as they had begun, and on no other ground would they bear the burden of the churches. This decision they delivered in August, and in September closed the council of Zion which had continued to be held monthly hitherto. In 1847 the council of the tribe of Judah began for the seven churches, as it goes on still month by month; there was also a meeting for their and other angels under the apostle. It appears, if Mr. Miller be rightly informed, that they look for the next council of Zion, as for the universal church, after the Lord's advent: a most irreverent idea of theirs.
But a serious, not to say deadly, blow was given to the prophets; for it was now laid down, move emphatically at least than before, that the state of the prophet modified materially his utterances: error as well as uncleanness might be there; so that the prophet fell under the general rule, and the decision lay with the apostles. How differently speaks God's word in Deut. 18:22.
Thus the twelve prevailed; yet the twelfth could not go with the rest. Mr. Mackenzie, though bowing to the measures, withdrew from active personal responsibility. ("Narrative," p. 83.) All efforts failed to induce him to act the apostle without the power, which he failed to see in any. He doubted them till "they had received a second Pentecostal endowment of power in supernatural manifestations." Here again, as in Mr. D. Dow's case, was a deep wound in the twelve-fold unity, their articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiae. But their eyes were sealed. They were for the most part so committed to their notions, as the voice of God, that most refused the warning. Visits of the churches followed, and general acquiescence with answers of unchanged confidence. Satan does not let off the truth so easily. Yet not a few escaped, and many more stood aloof.
a) Closing Sketch of the History.
This peculiarity belongs to those who here occupy our attention, that the failure of their expectations, which to others may be but a trial end bring correction of haste, is to the Irvingites fatal. The reason is as evident as it is unanswerable. Their edifice rests, first, on the genuine character of their prophets, who committed themselves, with all the leaders as well as the led, to their utterances as of God; secondly, and even more distinctly, on the twelve-fold unity of their apostolate, as raised up to prepare the bride for the returning of the Bridegroom. For they have ever avowed, before and since as well as in their Great Testimony, that "apostles, and apostles alone, are in Scripture declared to be the centre of authority, of doctrine, of unity in all things, to the visible church of Christ on earth, until His second and glorious appearing 'to those that look for Him without sin unto salvation.'" Hence, in flagrant contradiction of scripture, they claim for the apostles what they never claimed for themselves at the beginning who were the foundation on which the church was built. Never did they restrict to themselves the call to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them; never did they assume that the Lord gave this mission, not only to them alone directly and immediately, but to none other except through them. Consequently never in the N.T. do we hear in a single instance of ordaining the evangelist to that work, or of preachers receiving their mission from apostles. Very different in position, they are alike the gifts direct of the ascended Read. Irvingism is here a false witness.
They admit nominally the ruin of the church. "As truly as the angels left their first estate, as certainly as the nations before the flood apostatised and quenched the light given unto them from God through Adam, as surely as the Jews who crucified the Lord rejected the counsel of God against themselves, so truly the baptized have fallen from the glorious standing wherein God placed the church at the beginning." Yet instead of repenting in sackcloth and ashes, and enquiring of God what His word directs as befitting those who desire to do His will, they arrogate to themselves to restore all as at the beginning — an expectation contrary to every analogy in the past, and without any word to warrant it in the N.T. scriptures, not to say wholly opposed to all just inference, and inconsistent with the provision of grace for failure.
The Reformation never so presumed. Indeed the men whom God then used and blessed know little of God's church, being pre-occupied in getting rid of the Papal imposture and its more glaring departures from the truth. An open Bible they did recover and vindicate, though not without an undue reliance on the civil power, which thenceforward crippled the Protestant bodies. Non-conformity again sought and sometimes fought for relief of conscience and a liberty which did not fail to degenerate into self-will; it never rose to the assertion of Christ's rights acting by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven; as the church became less and less known in these conflicts. There was no due sense of ruin. They endeavoured to do the best they could in their various societies. Their ministers were Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Congregational, as the case might be. They pretended not to the apostolate.
Irvingism confessed in word the church's ruin as they did not; and yet pretended to divinely given apostles with so much the graver guilt. For it there was one feature more essentially distinctive of the primitive church, it was those who constitute the foundation. Yet they knowing this, confessing present rain, and avowing faith in a constantly to be expected Lord, claim a full apostolate once more, as if a foundation could be the pinnacle as well as the basis of that building, the church. If this claim be a monstrous error, morally as well as doctrinally, even an Irvingite must own that no claim of theirs is so distinctive. But the apostle Paul, predicting the ruin at hand, never casts the faithful on apostolic succession, still less on restoring the ministry of apostles to the church. This is not the least lie of the enemy that distinguishes the body, which therefore calls itself Catholic Apostolic. Their own effort to set up the church again is a new and more monstrous form of evil than that of any serious christians, and all the more blind and obnoxious to judgment because they professed to see the ruin which Romanists denied, and Protestants saw not. It may be true that the cessation of the apostleship, and the ruin of the church, too sadly coincided; but, without warrant of scripture, for those involved in the ruin to look for apostles and accept twelve men in that capacity, as a remedy for evil and restoration of broken unity, is to fall into presumptuous sin, instead of humbling ourselves for our sins and those of the church at large.
But, even on their own showing, their anticipations have been proved false. Take the Narrative, by the N. German apostle's "permission," where three anointings of the apostles were to answer to David's. Whatever may be pretended as to the first and second, the third has confessedly failed altogether; when it was fondly hoped that the apostles would "receive a power and extent of jurisdiction which they did not then possess." Can the most sanguine say that this day has ever come? Why then do they not take and humble themselves in the dust?
Further, on the face of the facts, the apostolate for the end, which was to usher in the Lord's Appearing, has waxed old and is ready to vanish away. Does this consist with the voices of the accredited prophets and the universal faith of Irvingites? Candour will not dispute the clear inconsistency. For these twelve to die is fatal to all their testimony. Yet they are all deceased save one, Mr. R. Woodhouse, now an aged man, still lives at Albury, and appears occasionally at Gordon Square. Mr. Mackenzie, the last, who withdrew in 1840, was the first of the apostles to die; Mr. Carlyle followed; and Mr. W. Dow, all in 1855. Messrs. Perceval and Drummond died in 1859. Great things were looked for in 1856, and yet more in 1866, when apparently the prophets of error sought to cover over these unexpected deaths by the deceit of carrying on the sealing in the unseen world, which had so conspicuously failed in this world. This fable seems to be accepted, not only by Dr. Norton (pp. 183, 4), but on the testimony of one of these apostles who died expressing his full assurance that God had further work for him to do! in flat contradiction of the apostle's word in Phil. 1:22-25. Besides, as sealing was avowedly to exempt from the great tribulation on this habitable earth, how could it apply to persons defunct? The alleged object is gone. Up to this time Mr. Dalton, one of the Twelve, still stuck to his position as an Anglican presbyter, and in fact not till 1860 gave himself up to apostolic work. Mr. Tudor died in 1862, Mr. Sitwell in 1865, and Mr. King-Church after him. Mr. Dalton died in 1871, Mr. Armstrong, then paralysed, lived some time longer. Mr. Cardale, who had ever been the energetic leader of the Twelve, remained till 1878. The idea of coadjutor apostles, overruled when Mr. Taplin first presented it, seems to have since prevailed: whether it is still in contemplation to add largely in this form, which is not unlike succession, is not certain. But Mr. Miller informs us that the prophetic utterances latterly, instead of addressing the Twelve as of old, have been saying, "O ye Twelve, and O ye seventy." But whatever this may indicate of the dissolving system, it is very certain that the Seventy of Luke 10 were in no way coadjutor apostles. The idea is a fiction, as opposed to their universal expectations founded on utterances in power, as it is fundamentally subversive of their ecclesiastical principle and scheme.
b) CONCLUSION OF HISTORY.
In this closing sketch it is proposed to test briefly the value of their anticipations grounded on their interpretation of Rev. 7, 14, which plays so prominent a part in their thoughts, words, and acts. In 1847, as may be remembered by our readers, their apostles began the imposition of hands on all members above twenty years of age, in accordance, as they pleaded, with Ex. 30! As Dr. Norton explains, "not that any are kept back from the table of the Lord till then; for even young children are admitted to it on all great festivals; and all their youth become regular monthly, and then weekly, communicants, after they duly received the instruction of the pastor, and the blessing of the angels, which is their episcopal confirmation; the laying on of apostolic hands being the further and higher consecration of them, as His sealed ones and first fruits, if they fall not sin and unbelief from this their high estate" (Restoration, p. 175).
Their words seem disingenuous as to sealing before and outside Irvingism. They naturally shrink from the logical result of their position. "We do not pause now to consider when, and in what way, those receive 'the seal of the living God,' who have lived and died in the absence of apostles, but who nevertheless for their pre-eminent faithfulness have obtained a place among the firstfruits; nor what will be the final accomplishment of the apocalyptic vision of the sealed after the appearing of the Lord; but regarding the prophecy in its historical aspect, we would remark that ten of the twelve tribes of the spiritual Israel have been sealed already; and that 'Joseph is now being sealed,' who obtains the birthright and blessing which Reuben, signifying the first century of christianity, failed to secure. And none can tell how quickly that phase of the church may terminate; and none others be sealed except as Benjamin the son of sorrow, born as his mother dies" (Restoration, pp. 175, 176).
It would have been wiser, every thoughtful soul must feel, if the Irvingites had "paused to consider" what they slur over. For it is impossible to allow that "pre-eminent faithfulness" can either gain the seal of the Spirit or dispense with that characteristic privilege. It would follow then that no saints for more than seventeen centuries since the death of John the apostle possessed that distinctive mark of christianity. Shrinking from an inference involving a judgment so extreme, they hint at a loophole of escape so untenable as "pre-eminent faithfulness" drawing a blessing, which they dogmatically restrict to the imposition of apostolic hands. As far as appears, they do not hope so charitably of the present generation. The sealed now at least are those only who come under the Irvingite apostles (not all these indeed, but such as were bold enough to act on the command of the second apostle speaking in the power).
The truth is that it is all ignorance of Scripture and unbelief of His grace. For it is clear from Holy Writ that on the great occasions recorded not a word is said of the apostles laying on their hands in order to the gift or sealing of the Spirit. The first was the day of Pentecost, when He was given to those of Israel who repented and were baptised. The second, yet more striking and to us of the deepest interest, was when the Gentiles also received the like gift in the house of Cornelius. It is certain that the Holy Ghost then sealed the Gentile faithful without the laying on of apostolic hands, though the first of the twelve was there to do that work, had it been requisite. The Scripture is conclusive. "While Peter yet spake, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word," They were not even baptised with water, till after they were thus baptised with the Holy Spirit; and they were baptised not by the apostle but by one or more of the "six brethren" that accompanied him. The basis of Irvingism is therefore destroyed by Scripture, which proves that, on the main occasions of that immense gift — the sealing of the Spirit, imposition of hands is not named in the first and in the other could not have been as the preliminary condition. It is therefore a groundless fiction. We are shown in the inspired history that the Holy Spirit was given to the Gentiles (and such we are naturally) on the hearing of the word by faith; just as another apostle teaches it as indisputable truth (Gal. 3:2). That in the subordinate of Samaria, (Acts 8) and Ephesus (Acts 19), the Spirit was given after apostles laid hands on the faithful, is true; but this cannot annul the typical ways of God with the Jews and the Gentiles who believed the gospel. They were but ancillary cases, it would seem, to counteract Samaritan independence, and to maintain the apostolate of Paul. The general principle abides untouched, thanks be to God Who provided thus indefeasibly for times and places where and when apostles could not be. The Irvingites, not seeing this great truth, have misused the peculiar cases to undermine the standing general truth, denied the special essential blessing of the church, and set up a false pretension.
Nor is this their only nor perhaps most flagrant error in the matter of sealing. It is perfectly clear that Rev. 7 speaks of a future definite act of God. You cannot legitimately embrace within the 144,000 any beyond a contemporaneous body thus favoured on the earth. Now let it be put to their conscience: is it true that "ten of the twelve tribes of the (spiritual) Israel have been sealed already"? As far as can be ascertained, it is doubtful if all the sealed by the modern apostles amount to 12,000, without speaking of the many of their sealed ones who have since renounced it all as delusion! What is meant by "Joseph is now being sealed," it is hard to understand; any more than the dreamy application of Reuben and Benjamin. It is a matter of their phraseology that Manasseh means Italy, which fell to Mr. Perceval's lot, Ephraim means Poland and India which fell to Mr. Tudor. If these constitute Joseph, he is far from being now sealed. Whether the reference to Reuben and Benjamin can refer to Mr. Woodhouse's claim over Austria, S. Germany, and America, and to Mr. Drummond's over Scotland and Switzerland, may be questioned. It looks as if Dr. Norton had forgotten their prophetic apportionment, and was employing the terms in another figurative way familiar only to initiated ears.
When the day comes for the fulfilment of Rev. 7, — there will be no failure: twelve thousand (literally or symbolically) will be sealed out of each and all the twelve tribes. But the divine object is wholly misconceived by their teaching. The 144,000 are not to be "taken away," first or last. In the vision the angel from the sun-rising with a seal of the living God seals those servants of God on their foreheads, in contrast with the action of the four angels whose task it is to hurt the earth and the sea and the trees. Not translation to heaven, but exemption from the proposed judicial scourge is intimated: security from the woes to come. See Rev. 9:4, and compare Ezek. 9.
It is allowed that "those who come out, of the great tribulation form again a distinct body of witnesses" (Restoration, p. 185). And this witness is true. It is in no way a general description of the blessed of all times, but a peculiar and countless crowd out of all the nations at the of the age. This therefore renders it plain that the sealed out of the twelve tribes are Israelites in that day, and distinguished from Gentiles. If "spiritual Israel," the distinction is gone: they are the same in principle. But not so: the more carefully Rev. 7 is studied as a whole, the more evident it is that the sealed of Israel's sons stand over against the innumerable throng that is gathered out of every nation. The later words of (Catholic Apostolic) prophecy, as Dr. N. shows, admit the difference. But if so, it is a state of things quite incompatible with the church, that one body wherein is neither Jew nor Gentile, both being merged with every other fleshly distinction in our union with Christ on high.
Hence, with a better understanding of the Revelation, they would have known that there is no such thing named as "churches" on earth after Rev. 3, and that from Rev. 4 a new symbol is seen in heaven (the twenty-four crowned and enthroned elders, etc.), which points to the promised assemblage above, not of first-fruits only, but of those who are Christ's at His coming, His joint-heirs, before He as the slain Lamb opens the seals that indicate the process of judgment, by which He will be invested with His inheritance. When the church is gone, the faithful on earth are seen as either Israelitish or Gentile; and so we find henceforth in the Revelation.
Again, Rev. 14 is no repetition of the sealed out of the twelve tribes. It is another and yet more favoured company, of Jews proper and of course converted, in special association with the Lamb on Mount Zion. They are like David's personal followers of Judah, faithful when the mass of Jews will return to idolatry and fall under anti-christ, as our Lord warned in Matt. 12 and the prophets also declare. These are purchased from among men and out of the earth, firstfruits to God and the Lamb. They too are not caught up to heaven, but anticipate the blessed harvest of the millennial earth, a company yet more honoured than the sealed Israelites of Rev. 7. Neither company has to do with the church, any more than the Gentiles then saved. As to all this, the prospects of the Catholic Apostolic body are quite wrong, and have beguiled the body into fallacious hopes. They are based on indisputable misinterpretation and glaring perversion of God's word.
DOCTRINE. §1. CHRIST'S SECOND COMING.
If it were a question of setting out Irvingite doctrine in the order of relative gravity, it would be necessary to present in the first place their views of Christ's person. The Epistles of John, as indeed the N.T. word generally, makes us feel that no truth is of equal moment in itself or as a test of divine teaching. But it is proposed here to examine their chief dogmas historically, and therefore to begin rather with that which they themselves now as ever put forward zealously and notoriously through their evangelists wherever they essay to catch the public ear in Christendom and particularly among the English-speaking races. There is some skill in this; for as a rule the denominations, great and small, are dumb for the most part on the Saviour's return in glory; while undeniably Scripture, especially the N.T., everywhere insists on its preciousness as our hope and its practical value for every day. On the face of things therefore the Irvingite emissary comes before the public to render a service which is in general painfully neglected. Thus are not a few drawn speciously into their not of error.
It would be strange, however, if those who have been shown to be the victims of extraordinary and dangerous delusion of the worst kind proclaimed "that blessed hope" in its purity. Error as to fundamentals is apt to weave a web of vast extent, and in no case is this more conspicuous than in Irvingism, especially as it developed after his death who was its only great man. Not that error will be found really consistent with itself; for consistency is only found in Christ, and blessed are they who, in the face of deceivable appearances which is Satan's work, cleave only to Him in the unity of His body, and with whole-hearted subjection to His word by the Holy Spirit.
The fact is that the truth of the Lord's coming again, though asserted prominently, is misused in almost every possible way, being made subservient to the sect without shame, instead of held in the bridal spirit of faith and love and holy liberty, so as to exalt, Christ, fit in with His work, will, and word, and minister a hope as heavenly as is the relationship of the christian and the church.
No one can intelligently read their writings, even the most fully considered and authoritative,* without perceiving how much they are under the influence of passing circumstances. The spirit of the age, as shown in the various French revolutions, and the growing democracy of Great Britain and elsewhere, fire their minds as antagonistic champions. It is quite true that the principles now at work, not only in the world but religiously, are alien and opposed to God's word. But the christian is not of the world; and if he enter the political arena, all must suffer proportionately, his faith, hope, service, and walk. Such a position is radically false, and must lower and darken and pervert all who are drawn aside by it, most of all those who assume that God has spoken to them exclusively by His prophets, and has restored to them apostles who sanction such heart-occupation with the world whilst boasting of their separateness. When they do testify of Christ's coming indeed, who does not know that the real aim at the close (for as ever "The prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail") is to insinuate if not inculcate "the restored apostles" (or "apostolate") as the grand resource in these last days and in view of the Advent? The favourite weapon is, as the originating idea was, terror from present and imminent circumstances in Christendom, supplemented by the Zoar they offer all who seek sealing at their hands.
*Compare the "Testimony to the Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops, etc.," 71,72, etc.
How different is all this from the heavenly peace and holy power of the christian hope! Our Lord Himself represents it in far other guise. Take the virgins in the first Gospel. "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom" (Matt. 25:1, etc.). It was the original call from first to last, the only faithful and ever responsible attitude, due to Christ's love and word, which His own were meant to cherish. It was inexcusable to be found otherwise. What had it to do with distant predicted events, with French anarchy or British liberalism? The true apostles were set in this place, even before the church vas formed at Pentecost by the descent of the Holy Spirit Who gave energy to the words of the Lord; and fresh communications of the N.T. demonstrate and apply as well as confirm all; for the truth is one, no less than the head and the body. Spurious profession is anticipated. The Lord would not have His own surprised. If five were wise, five were to be foolish; and their folly was to be shown in going forth "without oil." The gift δωρέα (not necessarily gifts, χαρίσματα) of the Spirit essentially distinguishes the true confession of the Lord from the false. "The wise took oil in their vessels with their lamp:" in them only did the Holy Spirit dwell, not special energies but His unction. they gave up going forth to meet the Bridegroom, wise as well as foolish; and perhaps the wise mainly through the foolish, though the flesh be ever evil even in the regenerate. Certain it is, as the Lord adds, that while the Bridegroom tarried, they all grew heavy and slept. But grace intervenes: God raises indeed a testimony. "At midnight there was a cry, Behold the bridegroom! Go forth to meet Him." They could not have slept had they adhered to their first call. They, wise and foolish, had gone in here or there to sleep. What a picture of the departure of Christendom! and how true! Decay in the hope practically dissolved the bond, and flesh and world gained the mastery. Nor is unity of value if not in the Spirit. But the cry aroused: "Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps." Even the foolish were excited and busy. The wise possessed of the oil alone could resume the first and only right portion — going forth to meet the Bridegroom. The foolish seek the divine reality, which they have not. The wise do not pretend or dare to give of their oil. As their lamps were going out (for wick without oil could not last) the foolish repair "to them that sell." Vain hope to buy for themselves! And while they went away to buy (exactly what the foolish are doing now throughout Christendom — a time almost unequalled in financial effort and human energy), "the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him unto the marriage feast; and the door was shut." The other virgins were left without. They might cry loud, "Lord, Lord, open to us:" but the answer was, "Verily I say unto you, I know you not." They are so much the more guilty, and surely lost, because they had no more than an empty profession, baptised with water but not of the Holy Spirit.
Look at Luke 12:35, 36: "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when He will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately," The christian hope is quite independent of times and seasons. It is Christ coming in person, and precisely the same now as when the first disciples waited for Him from heaven. Prophecy may confirm our hope, but is quite distinct in its nature. Hence a Christian ignorant of prophecy might he abounding in hope by the power of the Spirit. He waits for Christ, like a true servant his master's return, to open the door immediately when the knock is heard. Such is the right moral state, which Luke gives more than any other.
John 14 presents the hope as ever from the elevation of Christ's person and love and glory. The Son was going to the Father's house on high, no longer to be visible as Messiah on earth, but an object of faith as God always is. This is proper Christian faith. But He is coming as surely as He goes, having. prepared a place for as in those many mansions; "I come again, and will receive you unto myself, that where I am, ye may be also." Meanwhile as loving Him we keep His word, and have the Paraclete with and in us for ever. Christ was all, His love perfect as proved in His death, His provision of the word and Spirit complete, His "coming" for us sure. It is in no way bringing on the accomplishment of this awful change or that; but those events on earth are connected closely with His "day," which is to execute judgment on the beast, and the kings of the earth, on "the king" or Antichrist in the land and temple, as well as on his enemy "the king of the north." But these are the details of prophecy. The hope of the Christian is quite distinct in character as in source, and depends on His loving promise, so as to be always fresh and firm to faith till He comes to receive us to Himself and His heavenly home. Can contrast be more decided with the excited watching of events and dates, renewed and disappointed again and again, to say nothing of the vanities of a modern apostolate (as presumptuous officially as the true twelve were lowly), and of the ravings of prophets so called which practically supplant scripture?
It is all well to study every prophet, and above all the great prophetic book of the N.T., which stands to Christendom similarly related as the book of Daniel to the Jewish nation. They reveal the result of each of these failures respectively. It is certainly for no christian to neglect the Revelation; but the Revelation guards against the error which blinds Irvingism even more grievously than most of the Christian sects. The hope has nothing to do with dates or earthly events: it is the confusion of the hope with prophecy, which has everything to do with them. How could we have such words of assured promise as are found in the conclusion after the visions of judgment, the constant hope to the faithful, if we had to wait for the accomplishment of seals, trumpets, and vials, as so many signs? Revelation is perfectly consistent with the rest of the N.T., which discriminates them, as Peter formally does at the end of chap. 1 in his Second Epistle. We do well to take heed to the lamp of prophecy. But daylight dawning with the Day-star arising in the heart is a better light and the proper christian hope, quite distinct from the lamp of prophecy shining on events in a dark squalid world.
Thus the apostolic teaching, the written word from the beginning, is as sober, sound, and sure, as God could make it; and abides the special resource for the faithful in the last days of self-will and pretentiousness and form without the power of godliness. Irvingism as to the Second Advent, like Millerism in America, is only another form of excitement through prophecy misunderstood, as was found when "the new-prophets"-mania broke out in the early part of the eighteenth century, or earlier still when the Cromwellian rebellion lot loose mind, will, and imagination in religion hardly less than in politics. The Reformation was comparatively free from that excitement, because more urgent wants craved and found utterance, save perhaps among the Anabaptist fanatics of Münster. But even in times when Rome had almost all its own way in Western Europe there were two grand eruptions, as is commonly known, about 1,000 A.D. and some four hundred years before
Yet one great error there was which characterised them all, if they took the ground of Christianity and the church — the dread of the Judge appalled them, instead of "going forth to meet the bridegroom." This, and this alone, becomes him who rests on redemption and is sealed with the Spirit. It was not hope founded on the known grace and truth of Christ; it was alarm and extreme agitation, such as the false teachers sought to infuse among the Thessalonian converts, young in the faith. And therefore is it now ignorant and unbelieving not to profit by the apostle's correction of that early error. For he takes pains to beseech them by reason, or for the sake (ὑπὲρ)*, of that bright hope of Christ's coming and our gathering together unto Him, not to be "quickly shaken in mind, nor yet troubled, neither by spirit or by word or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is present." Next, after having thus shown the hope, he explains that that "day" cannot come in judgment till the evils are fully manifested which it is to judge. The "day" of the Lord is quite distinct, and full of what is most tremendous to man on earth. The hope of being gathered to the Lord at His "coming" is the motive alleged against the disquietude caused by the rumour that His "day" was come. It is not said that His presence must be before the development of the predicted evils, but that His day could not, be before the horrors it is to judge. We must distinguish between His "coming" (ver. 1) and "the manifestation or epiphany of His coming (ver. 8), which last corresponds with His "day," it naturally ought; and we must not invert their relative order.
DOCTRINE. §2. THE REVELATION MISUSED.
What has been already said as to Christ's Second Coming is greatly confirmed by a fuller consideration of the misuse of the Apocalypse which is alike prevalent in, and characteristic of, this society. To state the truth it enunciates is in itself the best disproof of the wrong done, partly in ignorance, partly by party spirit. In the great book of N.T. prophecy there are well-defined landmarks which afford the most seasonable help and yet demand no sustained attention or study, but he may run that reads them. The first and very essential distinction for all right understanding of it as a whole is that laid down by our Lord Himself in Rev. 1:19, "the things which are, and the things which shall be after these," not a vague "hereafter," but what next follows. There are in fact three divisions; "the things which thou sawest," namely, the Lord Jesus as presented after a new sort in the midst of the seven golden lampstands (Rev. 1); "the things which are," or the seven churches shown out in the seven letters respectively (Rev. 2, 3); "and the things which shall be after these," that is, after the church-state closes (Rev. 4-22). The bearing of this on the application of the prophecy, simple as it seems, is immediate and immense, neglected by none more than by Irvingite interpreters. This is the more regrettable as they are among the few exceptional communities that really ponder the Book. For the most part in christendom only individuals here and there appear to pay it any marked attention. As the Catholic Apostolics must be pretty familiar with its contents, they ought to have noted well the divinely registered postponement of the strictly prophetic visions to "the things that are"; especially as their ablest leader, Mr. Irving, devoted the greater portion of his Exposition of the Book (4 vols. 12mo, 1831) to the seven Epistles, and with no small measure of truth. They constitute the mystery of the church-condition, or "the things which are," from the days of the prophet till it vanishes from the earth, the faithful to meet the coming Lord in the air, the faithless to sink into the corrupt or apostate evils that await His day. Of the church, as a recognised object on earth, we never hear again in the Revelation, till the visions of the future are closed (Rev. 22:6). In ver. 16 of the last chapter John is instructed to testify "these things," that is, the sum of these inspired communications, in or for the churches. Also in ver. 17 the church symbolically is shown longing for Christ. But this leaves the fact untouched in all its force, that the outwardly prophetic visions follow the seven-fold picture of the church, till it is no more seen or heard of on earth.
This again is corroborated by the opening vision of "the things that must come to pass after these" in Rev. 4, 5 The scene is transferred from earth to heaven, where the prophet in the Spirit sees a throne set, and One sitting on it, Who is celebrated as Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord God, the Almighty, which was, and which is, and which is to come — the Eternal. But an absolutely new element appears. Around the rainbow-encircled throne were four and twenty thrones, and upon them four and twenty elders sitting arrayed in white, and on their heads crowns of gold. Now, without going into debateable and delicate questions, these elders are admitted, with or without the four living creatures, to represent the heavenly redeemed. It was a new sight for Stephen to see at God's right hand the Son of man. Now in heaven John looks on the symbol of the glorified saints as the chiefs or heads of the royal and heavenly priesthood. Never before had man even in the Spirit beheld them there. Their number is complete, twenty-four elders answering to the four and twenty courses of the Levitical priesthood. Others are called on earth to suffer and blessed subsequently, as we learn (Rev. 6 to Rev. 18); some are seen to go up to heaven (Rev. 11); many sufferers are raised at the last moment, earlier or later in the Book (Rev. 20:4) priests of God and of Christ, to share in His reign for a thousand years; but not one is ever added to the twenty-four elders, or chief priests.
The inference is irresistible. There can be no full complement of the glorified O. and N.T. saints, as we see in the symbol of Rev. 4, till the Lord comes and gathers them to Himself on high. For though the O.T. saints could have none added after Christ's first advent, they are but disembodied till He comes again. Then alone the church His body will also be complete, both being changed in a moment, the dead and the living, into the likeness of His glory, as these demonstrably are here. For separate souls no more sit on thrones than angels do. Here the saints are crowned and glorified, which can only be after He comes for them. They re-appear expressly in Rev. 7, 11, 14, and in the early part of Rev. 19 taking the deepest interest in what is done to God's glory; but they are to the last mention "the four and twenty elders," whatever and wherever the blessing of others; for the book lets us also into no small variety of blessing to come in God's mercy. But the blessed are others, after the church is taken to heaven, and presented separately.
Be it observed again, "out of the throne proceed lightnings, and voices and thunders" (ver. 5). It is not a throne of grace as in Heb. 4 to which the christian approaches boldly now; nor yet is it the throne of millennial glory on high (Rev. 22:1), out of which proceeds a river of water of life, bright as crystal. Most commentators interpret Rev. 4, 5 of the present period, whereas it is only applicable in reality to a transition yet future. The throne expresses such providential inflictions as fill the hour of temptation that is coming, after the church goes to meet the Lord before the appearing. So too the Spirit of God assumes henceforth from Rev. 4 a judicial character ("seven lamps of fire burning before the throne"); for it is no longer sovereign grace gathering into one, the body of Christ. Further, the sea before the throne is as it were "of glass" like unto crystal; for the elders no longer is the washing of water by the word needed, as once necessarily to have a part with Christ, whatever Peter foolishly thought. Theirs is now, not a purifying process, but fixed purity and in its highest form, "like unto crystal." The difference of Rev. 15 makes the meaning all the more striking; for there also we see another company of saints at the close who come off victors over the Beast and over his image and over the number of his name, not by any means characterised as the elders, yet singularly honoured, standing upon the sea of glass, and having harps of gold. But in their case the sea is as it were glass "mingled with fire." These do pass through the fiery tribulation at the end of the age, whereas the saints symbolised by the elders were caught up before; even as the Lord had promised the faithful who were awaiting His advent, to keep them out of the hour of temptation which is about to come upon the whole habitable world (Rev. 3).
Certainly Irving was behind few and not more negligent than most christian teachers, who allow in word the meaning of the elders and living creatures, and yet fail to hold it fast when they proceed to interpret the visions that follow. The consequence is the inevitable confusion which prevails. They almost all overlook that, instead of churches, Jewish or Gentile saints, no longer forming one body, are seen as the object of divine care but of the world's hatred throughout the external predictive visions of the Revelation. Hence in Rev. 6 the cry of the martyrs of the fifth seal takes us back from the grace of Stephen and the church of God as seen in the N.T. to the cry of the righteous in the Psalms and the O.T. The reason is evident. The church must already be caught up, in order that the vision of Rev. 4, 5 should be verified. Hence the saints subsequently called in that hour of trial which succeeds have a relationship, and therefore experience and affections, according to those that preceded the actual heavenly parenthesis of grace, whilst Jews and Gentiles are, gathered in unity. Beyond controversy the holy sufferers, that had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held, are represented as crying aloud, "How long, O Sovereign Master, the holy and true, dost Thou not judge, and avenge our blood on those that dwell on the earth?" They are in unison with a God Who will then be dealing judicially; as we ought to be with His grace, Who is now not only long-suffering but saving and blessing the lost gratuitously to the uttermost. It is a day of salvation; by-and-by it will be one of solemn judgments. Why confound them?
Rev. 7 affords ample and distinct evidence of the change which then will follow, anticipative though it is, as being an evident parenthesis between the sixth and seventh seals, answering to a similar case in the trumpets and the vials. Therein first is pledged a numbered company from each of the twelve tribes of Israel; as next the prophet sees a countless crowd from out of the Gentiles, both blessed, but quite distinct, and declared (of the latter at least) to come out of the great tribulation: in neither case the church, but by one of the elders explained, as far as the Gentile multitude is concerned (for the twelve tribes are so expressly described as to need no explanation), to be a special class of that still future period. The promised blessing suits, not heaven but the millennial earth, where the sealed of Israel are also to be. The church is exalted far beyond either,
In Rev. 8:3-5 further proof appears, indicating that all the saints then on earth are witnesses, not of heavenly grace, but of God's intervention in judgment. For the effect of their prayers is that the angelic high-priest cast from the altar fire on the earth; "and there were voices and thunders and lightnings and an earthquake:" the premonitions, not of the gospel of the grace of God, but of His displeasure and ways that express it unmistakably; and the trumpets follow without farther delay.
The only allusion bearing on this in Rev. 9 is the negative one of ver. 4. The men not sealed on their foreheads are to be smitten. There is not a trace of the church on earth. Other witnesses follow.
So in Rev. 10 it is God's prophetic testimony as to many peoples and nations and tongues and kings, but neither the gospel nor the church as now.
More than this is made plain in Rev. 11, where the witnesses of that day, clothed in sackcloth, have power to inflict judgments such as those of Moses and Elijah, till their brief term of testimony is completed when the Beast kills them. What can be more in contrast with the apostolic witnesses or of the true men in their day who heard God's beloved Son rather than the law and the prophets, however truly they believed both?
Rev. 12 opens what may be called the second volume of the prophecy, and shows a retrogressive vision. For assuredly we err if we fail to see that the seventh trumpet brings us in a general way to the end. Momentous matters which take us back in time had to be particularised; and the birth of the Man-child Who is to shepherd the nations with a rod of iron is mystically before us, in order to link on with God's future designs and ways in Israel. Hence it is not the bride, but the mother here, the clear symbol of Israel according to God before the day of deliverance shines. The remnant of her seed that keep the commandments of God and have the testimony, as it is here, are clearly Jewish, and not what we now know as christian. This book is admirable not only to clear the eyes as to the future, but to enlarge hearts. The church, incomparably blessed as it is, does not cover all the plans that are before God or revealed in His word.
In Rev. 13 those who have their tabernacle in heaven are definitely distinguished (6, 7,) from the saints on earth with whom the Beast makes war. Cf. ver. 8, 9, 10. Not a word hints at the assembly, Christ's body; but there are saints Jewish and Gentile, and separately viewed.
This is palpable in Rev. 14 where we hear of 144,000 with the Lamb on mount Zion, a remnant of Judah, yet more honoured and more closely associated with the earth-rejected Christ than the sealed company out of all Israel in Rev. 7. After this scene, the everlasting gospel goes out to those settled down on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people, but no hint of baptism into one body as now in the church. We have afterwards (12) the endurance of the saints noted who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus — this is indispensable, but the church nowhere on earth; and no wonder if caught up to heaven before the accomplishment of Rev. 4, 5. The blessedness from henceforth of those who die in the Lord is proclaimed (13); and immediately after the Son of man's appearing to judge, whether discriminatively, or unsparingly.
Then comes in Rev. 15 the vision of those who overcome the Beast and sing the song of Moses as well as of the Lamb, owning the King (not of saints but) of nations, as in Jer. 10:6. That these follow on earth the church gathered already to heaven has been fully shown.
In Rev. 16 the vials contemplate the awful hour of man's and Satan's worst evil with God's last judgments, before He sends the Lord in person to inflict vengeance, and then introduce the reign of righteousness and peace. Hence the Lord comes as a thief, unwelcome and unexpected; but blessed will he be who then watches, even if it be not the bridal joy of those caught up before.
Rev. 17 is a description which strictly has nothing to do with the three great series of judgments in the book to occupy the book from Rev. 6 and onward, though we may gather from Rev. 14:8 and Rev. 16:18 its relative place in the last of these dealings of God. But being descriptive it can show us Rome's corruption all through her lofty and false history, as Rev. 12 connected Christ in the past with God's purposes about Israel in the future. The blood of the saints and that of the witnesses of Jesus (6) seems purposely general, as we see most pointedly in Rev. 18:24. But it is certain that the one chapter speaks of the glorified saints coming with the Lord Jesus when He overcomes the Beast and the kings; and that the other gives a final call of God to His people, true in spirit ever since the Roman pseudo-christian Babylon persecuted, but pointedly to the Israel of the future before judgment destroys. "My people" properly designates (not christians but) the elect nation, and the execution of external widespread judgment is the purpose of the warning as usual; The heavenly redeemed have been already caught up and come with the Lamb.
Rev. 19 is another evidence of the same truth; and it is plain, full, and precious. Here the symbols of the twenty-four elders and of the four living creatures appear for the last time after the judgment of the great harlot, the corrupt pretender to that place of holy privilege which belonged to God's church. Immediately follows the announcement of the Lamb's marriage-supper, and His wife has made herself ready, and the guests are called blessed, even if they have not her relationship, the O.T. Saints, in glory as well as the church; to both of whom answers the uniting symbol of "the armies which were in heaven" that follow our Lord when He is seen, not as the Bridegroom though ever so, but for the while as the Warrior in righteousness. To this we must add the weighty fact that the martyred remnants of the earlier and later persecutions during the Apocalyptic hour of temptation are seen raised from the dead in time for the millennial reign in Rev. 20:4: "the souls of those that had been beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God (cf. Rev. 6:8); and such as worshipped not the Beast nor his image, and received not the mark on their forehead and on their hand." The O.T. saints and the church had been already raised or changed, and had followed the Lord out of heaven in the glorified state. Indeed this state was made true ever since Rev. 4 showed them crowned and enthroned. Now they are seen on the millennial thrones, before those slain under the Apocalyptic visions join them in resurrection bodies for the reign with Christ.
If all this evidence be justly weighed, the Irvingite application of the Revelation is seen to be thus far a tissue of mistake. The sealed on their foreheads in Rev. 7 are the "Israel of God" at a future epoch after the translation to the Father's house of the church as well as of the O.T. saints; when the same chapter next reveals an innumerable throng of saved Gentiles unmistakably distinct. This is enough to put to the rout the allegorising view of the twelve tribes in the preceding vision. But what they teach is worse than mere error of interpretation; it is a "strange doctrine," which upsets a cardinal truth and standing privilege of God's church. For every member of Christ is and has been sealed of the Holy Ghost since Pentecost. "He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit." "If any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." "If then God gave unto them (Gentiles) the like gift (δωρέαν) as unto us (Jews), on our having believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?" "By one Spirit were we all baptised into one body whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free, and were all made to drink into one Spirit." These scriptures suffice to prove the indispensable and universal character of that great gift for every christian: without it one cannot be a member of Christ's body. To allow a constant line of such members since the twelve died, and to aver that sealing can only be by the imposition of apostolic hands, such as they and they only have in the Irvingite community, is obviously and unanswerably to contradict themselves.
Here their system is inexcusably astray. It is scriptural to affirm that the gift of the Spirit, and also gifts, were conferred for special ends by the imposition of apostolic hands. It is the grossest ignorance of scripture to overlook the fact that on still greater occasions the Spirit was given, even where an apostle was present, or all the apostles, without any such laying on of hands, as we have already shown; how much more where apostles were not present and could not be? How has so serious a heterodoxy pervaded these men? A snare of the enemy working on the pride or vanity of would-be apostles designated by modern false prophets. These apostles forsooth can seal, they only now: what follows logically, but that none are sealed outside Irvingism? none since the apostles till these men? That there is no mistake about their arrogant pretensions, built on a total misconception of the Scriptural doctrine and facts, will be plain to any upright christian on reading the following statements from their most authoritative document, "The Great Testimony," given in a footnote.*
* "The French Revolution of 1793 was but a partial outbreak of that universal convulsion which is now preparing — the first shock of that earthquake which will throw down every civil and ecclesiastical fabric — corruption in the court and in the church had destroyed the happiness and moral feelings, and supplanted the principles, of the great mass of the people; — and the people, oppressed and exasperated, at last burst through all restraint, and then every evil passion was let loose: wickedness, cruelty, and bloodshed, a diabolical hatred of God, and of religion, and of all government, and of decency and virtue, had their full sway, and unheard of crimes were committed in the palace of the king, and detestable lewdness and outrageous sacrilege revelled even in the temples of God, — murder became the policy, and atheism the religion, of a whole nation.
"But that revolution rose up in the face of better principles then still existing, the which with mighty force it assailed and sought to overthrow, but which ultimately stayed its violence. But now the revolution, of which the former was the type and omen, impends upon christendom leavened throughout with its evil, and sweeps and carries away institutions whose foundations are already sapped; and that infidelity, which flowed darkly and silently its course beneath through the period of Papal corruptions, which gained strength and has burst forth into the light of day in Protestant apostasy, shall swell out into that third and last flood of antichristian blasphemy, which shall carry away both church and state, as visible ordinances publicly witnessing to God, and raise up in their room the ordinance of hell; mischief shall be framed by a law, and every insult against God and His Christ shall be perpetrated, not by the tumultuous acts of infuriated mobs but by legislative measures, with all the pomp and circumstances of government, yet springing from the people, whose will shall be all powerful; the ties of society, formerly burst asunder by the violence of man's passions, shall now be loosed by the impiety of his wisdom; and the bands of God being broken, none other shall bind men together; every man's hand shall be against his brother, and misrule shall be the law of the world, until all are gathered up under that Antichrist who hastens to be revealed (Micah 7:5).
"For we know from God's word that in the last days self-love, covetousness, boasting, pride, blasphemy, disobedience, unthankfulness, unholiness, the want of natural affection, truce-breaking, false accusation, incontinence, fierceness, disrelish of good, treason, rashness, highmindedness, love of pleasure (2 Tim. 3:2-4), cloaked indeed by all the forms of worship and godliness, but denying all power therein, shall not only have their votaries as they ever had, but shall reign triumphant over the minds of men. In one word, lawlessness shall pervade and prevail, tossing man to and fro as the waves of the sea, until it shall bring forth its concentrated energy in that wicked, the lawless one, who shall be revealed, the man of sin, 'who opposeth and exalteth,' etc. (2 Thess. 2:3, 4, 9). And he, must he manifested speedily; for amid the increasing tumults and confusion of all people in every country of Europe, in this distress of nations, with perplexity, the time foretold in God's word rapidly approaches, when the Son of man shall coins in the clouds of heaven to judge the nations, and to act up that kingdom which shall never be destroyed. And when He cometh, that lawless one stands already revealed: for it is written that the Lord shall consume him with the Spirit of His mouth, and destroy him with the brightness of His coming.
"And this is the fearful crisis in the history of man to which the world approaches; and this is 'the hour of temptation,' etc. It is only an holy people who can abide before Him [after citing Mal. 3:2-4], walking as children of light and children of the day (1 Thess. 5:5); it is only a people filled with the Holy Ghost, the servants of God whom He sealeth on their foreheads, before the four winds of heaven let loose the elements of destruction on the earth and on the sea (Rev. 7:3). And that ministry of the Holy Ghost cannot be given, that sealing cannot be affixed, the church cannot be perfected, except through those ordinances which God gave at the first for that end." [Here their unfailing and presumptuous self-assertion betrays itself.] "But they shall be given; all the promises contained in His word of the restoration of His Zion [! the usual ignorance, which robs Israel of their hope and arrogates to the fallen church, without one word of reality for so grievous a misapplication of O. and N.T. prophecy], in the hour of her greatest peril, shall be fulfilled; and that purpose shall be accomplished according to His own counsel, and by no man's devices, God will appear again in the mighty presence of His Spirit" [undoubtedly, but for Israel when broken before the Crucified, and the nations through that chosen people: nowhere in scripture is there to the church a promise of restoration or of a second effusion]; "again shall His gifts, given without repentance at the ascension of His Son, be manifested, apostles, sent forth not of man, neither by man, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers..., shall work the work of God in His church, and minister to the edifying of the body, and the body shall be replenished with life (!); the dead bones (!!) shall be brought together, framed again in their wonted order, and shall stand up a mighty army (Ezek. 37); and the followers of the Lamb, the undefiled," etc., etc. What hotch-potch of scripture, what confusion of christianity with Judaism, needs no proof to any spiritual mind. The citation of these extracts from "The Great Testimony" is drawn from Mr. Miller's Appendix I. Vol. i., 429-434.
DOCTRINE. § 2. THE REVELATION MISUSED.
That the entire groundwork is fictitious is shown by another sure consideration. The "sealing" of Rev. 7 is not employed as we find it in the Pauline Epistles, but a symbolic form of this prophecy, which therefore is said to be "upon the foreheads" of those selected from the twelve tribes of Israel. It is an astounding blunder to confound the sign of a divine exemption from outward judgments, as this will be, with that richest inward privilege which God makes true of every believer in Christ since Pentecost. Its essence is the indwelling Holy Spirit, of which not a trace appears in Rev. 7. Indeed the effusion of the Spirit appears from the Prophets and the Psalms quite inconsistent with the revealed condition of God's ancient people during their future crisis: even the godly, though born of the Spirit, will not have the gift of the Spirit till the Lord appears in glory; just as the disciples, though born again, only received the Holy Ghost after Christ was glorified.
As Rev. 7 did not speak of the Lamb nor of mount Zion, so Rev. 14 says not a word about sealing on their foreheads. There indeed a different lot appears to await a different company of 144,000* from Judah: not protection from the awful tempests of that judicial period, but the Lamb on mount Zion associated with holy sufferers, having His name and His Father's written on their foreheads. It is not here a living God's seal of immunity from hurt, but undefiled ones that refuse idolatrous corruption and follow the Lamb whithersoever He goes. Hence another and higher though clearly not the church, nor even heavenly; for they, and they only, learn the song chanted before the throne, and the living creatures and the elders, i.e., those who symbolise the church and the O.T. saints in glory. They follow, and are associated (in God's mind at least) with the Lamb on mount Zion; no doubt anticipatively, for the Lord has not yet appeared, as we see from the closing visions of this chapter; just as in chapter 7 the 144,000 out of the twelve tribes of Israel are merely marked out and assured by a living God of the general Messianic portion of Israel, the day-spring that will dawn on them foreshown before the dark apostacy at the end of the age. But the elect of Judah who tread in the footsteps of the Lamb stand with Him on Zion where He will sit as King soon, and are near enough to catch the "as it were new song before the throne." This is the highest place on earth and quite distinct from the ordinary blessing of Israel; it was such as had David's companions in sorrow and prowess compared with the people at large. Both visions give the intervention of God earlier and later, for His ways of goodness toward the seed of Abraham; the confusion of which indicates total ignorance of the structure of the Apocalypse, as if Rev. 14 were a mere repetition or at best supplement of what was revealed in Rev. 7. In fact they are just as distinct as those slain under the fifth seal are from their brethren that were about to be killed (further on) as they were, who are distinguished even when raised to reign with Christ (Rev. 20:4).
* It is "the," not "a" Lamb as before, but (not the) 144,000. Those introduced in Rev. 7:4-8 and in Rev. 14 were not mentioned previously, and therefore they each are without the article in the Greek.
The two chapters therefore do not treat of the same subjects, but of different at distinct epochs and — of evidently varied character. The first chapter speaks expressly of those sealed out of the twelve tribes of Israel, in contrast with a still larger complement from among the Gentiles; and both companies wholly apart from the known and acknowledged symbol of the O.T. saints and the church presented in the same chapter. The second chapter does not speak of the twelve tribes, but from the context it is implied to be rather from the Jews proper, mount Zion being the keynote; and here again is the symbol of the heavenly redeemed quite distinct, the four living creatures and the elders (ver. 3).
There is no doubt that those "sealed" in Rev. 7 are supposed to have an appropriate blessing thereby. To apply this to a special time for some of the church, which no christians had enjoyed for ages previously, nor yet do the great mass at that very time (and such is the Irvingite interpretation), is not only infatuation and arrogant self-complacency, but such a subversion of every christian's most essential privilege as could not be entertained for a moment by any soul that understood what the church of God is. For this reason, as for others already given, a living God's seal as in the prophecy cannot be here meant of the church at all, still less at a specific season, and yet less of a mere part. Such notions are incompatible with the seal of the Spirit which is the inalienable mark and joy of the christian (2 Cor. 1:22, Gal. 4:6, Eph. 1:13, 14, Eph. 4:30).
On the whole then, and in every point of view, their accepted and uniform interpretation of the Revelation is unintelligent and unsound; whilst their doctrinal use of sealing is a denial of God's church, of whose unity, catholicity, and apostolicity they falsely claim to be champions, whereas their teaching overthrows each and all. Now the book rightly understood carefully guards from all these errors, confirming the truth elsewhere revealed, instead of undermining anything and confusing all. Mr. Irving was quite right, with Vitringa, Sir I. Newton and others, in giving (besides the mere historical application) a larger and protracted view of the Seven Apocalyptic Epistles, as long as churches exist on earth. The very terms employed by our Lord, "the things which are," might have suggested a continuous sense, especially as the internal contents indicate, and the cessation afterwards of any church-condition clenched the fact. But this being so, where is the consistency of interpolating christians and churches into "the things which should be after these?" The visions of prophecy from Rev. 6 to 18 concern not the church, but the world; and accordingly Jews and Gentiles come before us, not the body of Christ where such differences are effaced. Even those blessed are expressly or by adequate implication Jews or Gentiles, in no case do they rise up to church or christian relationships.
With this concurs the all-importance of Rev. 4, 5 as indicating beyond just question the presence above of the complete company of the heavenly redeemed, risen and glorified as they can only have been by Christ's coming Who introduced them there. His presentation of the saints on high at once makes the way clear for God's ways in putting Christ into actual possession of His inheritance by providential judgments, in the midst of which those to be blessed on earth are gradually prepared; as the heavenly ones from chap. 4 were already in their place. And these heavenly saints are distinguished by the clearest marks from the earthly, however favoured (with differences too) the latter may be. They are enthroned assessors round God's throne, in the intimacy of His counsels, and worshipping with full spiritual intelligence. Further, they have not only a royal but a chief-priestly function altogether peculiar. And when this symbol founded on the heads of the twenty-four priestly elders comes to an end, it is merged for the church in the unity of the Lamb's wife (Rev. 19), with the O.T. saints as the guests or "they that are bidden" at the marriage. Accordingly both these classes of heavenly saints soon after follow our Lord out of heaven, and, when the thousand years' reign comes (Rev. 20), sit at once on thrones for judgment, resurrection not being then predicated of them, the first general class, as they were changed before they were caught up long before; whereas it is said of the two classes of saints subsequently martyred in the Apocalyptic period, "that they lived," being just before seen as "souls" in the separate state till then (ver. 4). Compare Rev. 6:11.
The raising up of these two classes of what may be called Apocalyptic martyrs is a beautiful sample of God's compensating grace. For they only come into the rank of holy witnesses after the Lord will have received the saints at His coming. They do not escape persecution unto death, as others will who are to be delivered when He appears in judgment. Hence they might seem to have lost much. But not so: dying for Christ, even though they may have known very little of the truth, they are destined of God exceptionally to a far higher place than their fellows who survive. For they are raised at the last moment, so to speak, in order to have their blessed and holy part in the first resurrection; whereas those that escaped death are "the people of the saints of the Most High" (or heavenly places). Those dead and risen are "the saints of the Most High" themselves, and reign; whereas "the people" are reigned over. Only we must carefully notice that the first part of Rev. 20:4 sets out the great bulk of the saints in general from the beginning till the Lord comes to change and translate them to heaven. The later clauses embrace the twofold martyrs who only come forward after those symbolised by the twenty-four elders are glorified.
Be it noticed here that the critical form of Rev. 5:9, 10, as approved by the best editors, helps and is helped by seeing this. For the new song celebrates the Lamb because He was slain and did purchase to God with His blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and made "them" to our God a kingdom and priests, and "they" shall reign over the earth. It is not thanksgiving for their own portion. It is the joy of divine love that others are to be blessed highly even in face of that dismal day. It is true that these are not to be made elders or chief priests in the heavenly hierarchy; but they are to be royal priests when the time comes to reign over the earth. In Rev. 20:4 the time is come, and their anticipation is fulfilled. The singers of the new song followed the Lord out of heaven (Rev. 19) as "the hosts that were in heaven," where they had been as the twenty-four elders, ever since the church-state closed, and "the things which must be after these" began as shown to John (Rev. 4). All this while they had been changed; and therefore we read, "And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them." They were in a glorified condition already; whereas those who had suffered for the testimony and for the word of God, before the Beast had developed, and such as worshipped not the Beast but refused every shade of the evil after it was full-blown and in highest power, and were killed even as their earlier brethren were, are now alike raised to reign with Christ a thousand years. So consistently does the word of God shine, and so much the more as it is searched in faith, and as attested by the best ancient evidence.
How the visions of the book fall in with and justify the distinction pointed out between the christian hope and prophecy needs no elucidation. Our hope belongs to "the things that are" or church-period; the lamp of prophecy deals with the judgments, times, seasons, etc., or "the things that shall be after these." The coming of the Lord to gather the heavenly redeemed to Himself is the mystery fully revealed in 1 Cor. 15, 1 and 2 Thess., and elsewhere, which it did not fall within the scope of the Revelation (as being characteristically judicial) to describe; but it is necessarily implied after Rev. 3 and before Rev. 4. As no one pretends that it is portrayed anywhere in the prophecy, there must be a space more suitable than any other for that wondrous event; and what so proper as that which immediately precedes the presence of the crowned and enthroned elders in their completeness on high? The Revelation does predict and describe the emerging out of heaven (Rev. 16:14, Rev. 19:14,); but this is prophecy: not properly our hope of the Lord's coming to receive us unto Himself in the Father's house. The epiphany or appearing of His coming naturally follows His coming; for the measure of the interval between them we are dependent on scripture, mainly the Apocalypse, to decide. In a general way at least this, we have seen, is not difficult.
It may be well to add that the Revelation may be regarded from another point of view, which has its importance and may be here briefly stated. If we look at the seven churches as they existed historically and only so in the apostle's day, "the things which must come to pass after these," or the prophetic scenes that follow, must be allowed their place from that time onward. According to this aspect of the book, Rev. 4, 5 would be the anticipation of the heavenly saints gathered on high, before the revelation of God's dealings with the world in the, seven seals, which announce His unveiling of the great changes in the Roman world from the days of the prophet till the downfall of heathenism, which made way for a vast influx of men from Judaism and the nations, as seen prophetically in the parenthetical Rev. 7.
Then as introduced by the seventh seal the seven trumpets proclaim successive judgments first on the Western Empire (Rev. 8), next woes on the Eastern Empire and from the east (Rev. 9), with another great parenthesis (Rev. 10, 11) which brings before us a mighty cloud-clothed angel, with symbols of supreme power and judicial setting his right foot on the sea and his left on the land, and the full expression of divine majesty, swearing that there should be no more delay but that the seventh trumpet should see the mystery of God finished according to the prophets. Sackcloth prophesying follows, sustained by power like that of Moses and Elijah; and the blast of the seventh trumpet ushers in the, world-kingdom of the Lord and His Christ. Now in the shadowy application or the book, which the Protestant school labours to treat as complete and final, it is admitted that this may foreshow in a vague way the providential work of God in the Reformation. It is not the Lamb or holy earth-rejected Sufferer, as in Rev. 5:7, any more than it is yet the Son of man actually invested with and coming in the kingdom as later on. It is angelic or providential, whether in priestly action first, or in the prophetic announcement of the end of man's day and the coming kingdom of God over the world; in the course of which we see a little open book, not the sealed one as at the first, and prophecy resumes its course before many peoples and nations and tongues and kings. But when we seek the real and minute interpretation of what is said, there is total failure in predicating the two witnesses, and indeed all other details, of pre-reformation times culminating in that great event; and none more forcibly disproves its adequate fulfilment than such an able and intelligent advocate as the late E. B. Elliott. To allow a general application to the past history is the utmost possible. In this vague point of view the seventh trumpet prefigures the closing scene, when God will intervene to reward His own and destroy the destroyers of the earth: a state of things clearly not yet arrived.
Then from Rev. 12 (or rather including Rev. 11:19) we are taken back for a second survey of what is coming, in order to give more special facts not particularised in the visions which compose what we may call the first volume of the prophetic vision.
Here God's purpose in Israel comes out, with a mystic view, not only of Christ the centre and supreme-object of His glorious counsels, but of the translation of those identified with Him to heaven apart from all dates, circumstances, and times, followed when His dealings with the earthly people begin to be developed. The church is the body and bride of Christ, not His mother, which is alone true of Israel, whatever tradition may blunder about it. Every christian moderately acquainted with the more pious commentators on the prophecy knows how they apply the vision to the vindication of Christ's glory against Arianism and the uprising of Satan's antagonism in that Roman empire which had given up paganism and outwardly acknowledged christianity. And this is followed in Rev. 13 by the gigantic instruments of Satan in hostile powers, whether external or ecclesiastical according to the Protestant theory, with the intervention of God's ways in recent times.
The Lamb, it will be noticed, reappears (Rev. 14) with suited followers, testimony unprecedentedly active to the nations, warnings of Babylon's fall and of the Beast's doom for all his party, the blessedness henceforth of those that die in the Lord, and the Son of man's judicial coming for the harvest of the earth, with unsparing vengeance on the vine of the earth. These visions may in the earlier part be applied to what God has wrought, as we are awaiting the later part ripening into its tremendous accomplishment we know not how soon. And so may be regarded the detailed vision of the vials (Rev. 15, 16), with that of Babylon's sad story and fall (Rev. 17, 18), before the Lord appears from heaven (Rev. 19), followed by the glorified saints, both to execute the closing judgment and to bring in the millennial reign over the earth (Rev. 20), and eternity as the sequel (Rev. 21), with a retrogressive vision in Rev. 21:9 - 22:5, and the conclusory appeals for present profit or warning.
If the protracted or historical application of the Revelation be sound, which may be allowed without enfeebling the rapid and exact fulfilment of the book in the future crisis after the church state terminates, and the question of Christ's actual assumption of the inheritance ensues, with the preparation of Jews and Gentiles as His earthly objects, it is plain that the Irvingites err as decidedly in the one view as in the other. It may be said no doubt that too many companions are involved in error among the godly both now and in the past. But they have the unenviable peculiarity of perverting the Apocalypse, as they do almost all the scriptures, to exalt themselves and exclude true members of Christ from their sure and blessed privileges to the deep dishonour of the Lord, the grief of the Holy Spirit, the perplexing of weak ones who differ from them, and their own hurt and shame. If this were not the inevitable effect of their false application of the Revelation, as well as of the divine word generally, it would hardly become a believer to occupy time in the investigation here pursued. But assured that so it is, I am bound in the love of Christ and by His truth to help souls, either within or without their bounds, against that which presents appearances sufficiently attractive to many in a day of increasing confusion and self-will. We have already seen that according to the fulfilment in the future crisis, which is the only accurate and exhaustive accomplishment of the book, there is not the smallest room for their reveries as to Rev. 7 or Rev. 14.
DOCTRINE. §. 3. PROPHETS AND APOSTLES, etc.
The next subject calling for examination is as distinctive a doctrine of the community as any that could be named: their view of prophets and apostles, and pretension to them. The restored apostolate is the unfailing claim in their books and pamphlets, their reaching and conversation. The very posters of their evangelists keep it up before all eyes.
It is remarkable that one is obliged in dealing with this matter to depart from the order of scripture, where on every ground we hear of "apostles and prophets." Such was the order in fact is in position. It is not, that these modern claimants fail in crying up the superiority of their apostles. but beyond doubt prophets in their case preceded apostles and also designated them. Even their first actual apostle, J. B. Cardale, was named by prophecy;* and so were others, not only such as served in that office, but Mr. D. Dow, who refused in the face of all remonstrance — himself a man who spoke "in the power."
* A courteous paper, forwarded by another, intimates, on the authority of printed letters which I have not seen, that I am mistaken in stating (on the late Mr. Baxter's authority) that it, was "the pillar of the prophets" who nominated Mr. C. But it was by the voice of prophecy, and by an inferior, it seems, to Mr. Taplin. I gladly acknowledge the correction; but will they never learn that a dozen errors about names cannot change the principle? Never in scripture were so chosen. — And if Lady H. D., etc., were not of the seven, be it so. But prophetesses did figure in the darkest way, as I shall have occasion to prove. — And does the subsequent return or repentance of Mr. D. Dow affect the gravity of the fact that, though called to the apostolate in power, he declined and in fact never was one? — And what matter if the twelfth (Mr. Mackenzie,) still continued in the Irvingite fellowship? He resigned apostolic duties: as two others, it seems, never would pretend to seal. Is all this nothing, because they did not quit the society? All this effort to correct, where there seems also systematic, secrecy, is but the merest nibbling, even where there is not such scurrility of abuse as comes from another of the party.
Thus the doctrine in the Great Testimony is contradicted by the facts of their history. Their first designated apostle was Mr. R. Baxter, who had been also fully acknowledged as a prophet, like Messrs. Cardale and Drummond afterwards. Of this there is the amplest evidence. But Mr. B., alarmed at the failure of his own prophecies (to say nothing of others), got his eyes opened to the power of evil at work; as he also stood firm in refusing the name without the signs of an apostle. Others were less scrupulous and more ambitious. And Mr. B. discerned in a measure the fatal heterodoxy as to Christ, which lay at the root, and perverted the truth in many ways.
Here is their own statement to the patriarchs, etc., and to emperors, kings, etc., in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Daring men some certainly were, with weaklings carried along for a while. "Without apostles, it is not difficult to understand that prophets should have ceased; for the laying on of apostles' hands is God's ordinary way of bestowing the Holy Ghost, whether in gifts, in administrations, or in operations. Apostles are His gift, direct and immediate; but prophets and other ministries ordinarily are His gifts, mediate and through apostles," etc. On the face of their history the reverse. is true. For prophets preceded in point of time, and named each at of the early apostles, as well as Messrs. Baxter and D. Dow, the last declining, the first utterly rejecting.
The truth is that in scripture the gift of a prophet is no less direct and immediate from Christ than that of an apostle, though they have not the same degree of dignity. Where is there revealed a single case of a prophet mediate and through apostles? They contradict God's word in this, as we have seen they do their own history when they lay down doctrine. No doubt the cautious man of strong will, the bold and energetic pillar of the apostles, saw it needful to put his foot down, after that prophecy had done its part in elevating him. This alone seems to account for his monstrous departure from scripture in ordaining Mr. Taplin as prophet. The N.T. knows of no such thing as ordaining a prophet, or yet evangelists, or pastors and teachers. They were alike "gifts." Apostles no doubt were officers, as well as gifts; and they did choose or ordain elders, and lay hands on deacons, both of which were local officers. But apostles as gifts, prophets, and the rest in Eph. 4, were not only alike direct from Christ, but alike in the unity of His body, not local; though some might hold local office also, as we see in Stephen and Philip, who had gifts quite independent of the diaconal office they exercised in Jerusalem.
Scripturally judged, therefore, all is confusion in the Catholic Apostolic theory of prophets and apostles, and the antagonism to scripture is as evident as complete. The facts and principles are certain as laid down in God's word. The Messiah on earth chose the Twelve in plain relation to the tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28); and when one by transgression fell, the son of perdition, another was in the Jewish way (as the Holy Ghost was not yet given) shown to be chosen of the Lord. Not one was designated by a prophet. But the Lord had farther purposes, and expressly acted outside and beyond the Twelve by the extraordinary and heavenly call of Paul in sovereign grace. He declares himself apostle, not from men nor through man. Those who construe Acts 13:2-4 as either his call or nomination or ordination to the apostolate contradict God's word and play the part of the many adversaries of his ministry. It was solely a separation of him (and Barnabas) to a special work, after being already called and labouring for years. Do men argue that his inferiors ordained him? It was repeated in Acts 15:40; which compare with Acts 13:2-4. His was to be, and in fact was, the apostleship of the uncircumcision, as theirs of circumcision: so it was settled between him and them (Gal. 2). The break with Jerusalem order was no less distinct and intended; so that Popery and all tradition-mongers are not more baseless in tracing up the succession to Peter than the Catholic Apostolics are in seeking and claiming another Twelve. Paul was not one of the Twelve; and it is from him that those called out from the Gentiles ought to derive, if derivative succession were true; as he (not Peter and his fellows) gives the special type of that development which is bound up with the revelation of the body of Christ, which is the true principle with which we have to do ever since, To point to the Twelve, and pretend to reproduce another batch in any measure, is unintelligent and retrograde; it is to abandon the fuller, special, and standing instruction given us through the great apostle of the nations.
Again, according to scripture (Eph. 2:20) we are "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the chief corner stone." Of this (unless the foundation were ill laid, which will not be said by believers) account must rightly be taken in applying the further word of Eph. 4:11-16. "And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers," etc. On the one hand, the Holy Spirit abstains from language implying such a stay for the church on earth as would defer the constant hope of Christ's coming; but on the other adequate provision is assured, whether by the gospel to call souls in, or by guidance and teaching to feed and guard those called. The continuance or restoration of apostles and prophets is therefore in no way implied or admissible, unless we are deceived by him who could wrest "It is written" from its context and learn not from Him Who safeguards us by "It is written again."
As the Catholic Apostolics have not a word in the N.T. even to suggest, still less to warrant, this their favourite but most unfounded and presumptuous hobby (rather have we seen, from comparing Eph. 2 and 4, its exclusion) they are driven here, as almost everywhere, to the wildest falling back on the O.T. to eke out what fails utterly. How absurd for the details of a strictly N.T. institution! Hence their recourse to Isa. 1:26, "I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning."* What deplorable ignorance and unspiritual perversion of God's word! Every word of the chapter concerns the Jew only, their moral judgment, and the execution of divine wrath on the impenitent, but their glorious restoration when they repent and Jehovah avenges Himself of His enemies. It is the same Jerusalem (morally Sodom and Gomorrah) that gave up fidelity to become a harlot, which afterward, when the Lord Jesus appears and we with Him in glory, shall be called Town of Righteousness, Faithful City. But this is not at all under the gospel or the church, but when Zion shall be redeemed with judgment and her penitents with righteousness. It is not at all "this evil age," but the age to come.
* Anyone who wishes to see a peculiarly audacious begging of this question may find it in pp, 154-6 of "Abstract principles of Revealed Religion" (Murray, 1845) by Mr. Drummond, who held together the functions of prophet, angel, and apostle, and therefore speaks with no small authority among his co-religionists. No wonder such a start is followed (p. 157) by the discovery in Isa. 40 of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors! It were surely ludicrous if not sad and profane.
It is evidently the most extreme form of that misapplication, especially of the promises to Zion, Jerusalem, Israel, etc., which since the so-called fathers has been the bane of Christendom, and, even before that, of the Judaising against which the apostle strove mightily in his testimony. Mr. Irving indeed had light on at least the essential difference between Israel and the church; but Messrs. Taplin and Cardale and Drummond "in the power" seem to have most contributed to lead away the society into more fatal depths of this ruinous amalgam than was found then in any sect, though others have followed since still more heterodox. And one of the most mischievous results was the assumption that the promise to Zion of restoring its judges and counsellors in pristine purity, which awaits its fulfilment "in the regeneration," is the adequate scriptural ground for expecting a fresh dozen of Gentile! apostles to put in order what is confessedly Babylon, and prepare the bride to meet the Bridegroom.
Now the N.T. continually sets before us the anticipation of coming ruin in Christendom, as surely as it had been in Israel (Luke 17:26-37; 2 Thess. 2:3-12; 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:1-13; 2 Tim. 4:3, 4; 2 Peter 2, 3; 1 John 2:18-26; 1 John 4:1-6; Jude; to say nothing of the solemnities in the book of Revelation). There is no restoration for corrupt Babylon or Gentilism that bore the Lord's name faithlessly; there will be for poor guilty Israel, beloved for the fathers' sake. This is taught authoritatively in Rom. 11. "Toward thee [the professing Gentile] goodness, if thou continue in goodness. otherwise thou also [no less than the Jew in the past] shalt be cut off;" and not one word intimates restoration, as pledged positively in divine mercy to Israel (ver. 25-32). For the far more favoured Gentile the ruin is irreparable, whatever grace may work meanwhile for individuals and a remnant.
Granted that on the death of the apostles the evils kept in cheek by their holy vigilance came in like a flood ever-growing. So Paul warned; so Peter, Jude, and John, as we have seen. "I know that after my departure grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverted things to draw away the disciples after them" (Acts 20:29, 30). Here surely was the fitting place to have directed attention to any provision of God, if such there were either in the shape of apostolic succession or of a restored apostolate, to meet the imminent ruin. But neither here nor anywhere does the apostle drop one word; nor does any other of the apostles in speaking of the deepening gloom hold out the smallest hint of any such expedients. The word of God's grace, scripture, is the resource and safeguard in the difficult times before them; as they already knew an ever-abiding Paraclete, the witness and energy for enjoying the presence and power of the Lord Jesus. A revived apostolate is a far more daring invention than apostolic succession in Episcopacy. They are alike unscriptural vanities. It is remarkable that even the brothers Macdonald of Port Glasgow, who seem to have been pious men, did not accept the apostolic claims set up in England but mourned "for their very great blindness," and "dared not receive them as apostles." So we are told in their "Lives," pp. 212 and 215. They charged the Catholic Apostolics, even in early days, with "giving the Lordship to the Spirit, and not to Christ" (p. 220).
Of the Irvingite prophets there is no need to say much, though (if one wished to criticise) scarce a subject could be found more inviting or provocative. But this is fur from my aim. Immortal souls, yea, children of God are concerned, not to speak of what is due to Christ and the truth. In the early history of the movement a good deal has already come before the reader in the personal experience and excellent testimony of Mr. R. Baxter; and the darkest page of all is yet to be written in tracing the relation of prophecy to that fatal departure from the faith of Christ's person which has exercised so malignant an influence on Christendom, as well as of course still more nearly on the Catholic Apostolic body.
Mrs. Cardale (wife of Mr. J. B. C.) is said to have been the first to open her mouth in what they called a tongue and in prophesying. But as usual the utterance was only remarkable for its strange mannerism. "The Lord will speak to His people. The Lord hasteneth His coming. The, Lord cometh." This was on the last day of April, 1831.
Mr. Taplin followed, as has been stated already, some time afterwards in public; nor was anyone more remarkable for crash of sound, whether in a tongue or in English. But "Jehovah, hear us!" gives no sign of the Holy Spirit in a Christian; nor can one accept as of God his next utterance, "It is thou, O Britain: thou art the anointed cherub." What sort of interpretation or even application is that? Again, is it to be believed that the Holy Ghost led to say on the following day, "The Lord hath come down"? "He is in the midst of you. His eye hath seen," etc. — What now is any possibly true sense of "The Lord hath come down"? Never does scripture warrant such language among Christians.
We may say little of Miss Hall, who, though she took full part and was recognised by all, at length owned she was not genuine and eventually left the body. But amidst those scenes Mr. Taplin towered over all, with little or nothing in it save what was Jewish and not christian. For the utterances were beyond mistake denunciatory. Grace and truth there was none, as the rule. Miss E. Cardale came into great prominence and the highest account with Mr. Irving and others. All the gifted recognised Mr. Baxter as having the same spirit as themselves, but refused his solemn warning that it was a lying spirit of evil.
But why crowd these pages with the crude and vehement inanities thundered or shrieked out even in Mr. Irving's presence, and taken up by him to clothe with his impassioned thought and feeling in beautiful forms of speech? Even Mr. Drummond, vigorous as a man, was utterly vapid as a prophet, save in an utterance out of all ordinary human experience. Now what has such unearthly loudness to do with true. prophesying? It did characterise the raving prophets or prophetesses of the heathen. Prophecy in scripture revealed new truth from God, or laid bare the secrets of man's heart. It would be strange if any sober unbiassed christian could so testify of these uncouth ejaculatory cries of Irvingite men and women.
Miss E. C. did indeed rebuke Mr. Taplin in the power, and brought him on another occasion to confess evil against the Lord. After Mr. Irving's death, when Mr. Ryerson in Newman Street was thought to be preaching at the same Mr. T. for gift without grace, Miss C. in an "appalling" way, says Mr. Baxter (Irvingism, 41-44), followed this up in power with "he never had it; he never knew it;" Yet Mr. T. remained as he was the chief among the prophets till the end. — The same Mr. T. prophesied of one from America that he was to be a prophet to gather men there into God's church. But the man was soon proved an impostor. — Equally false was the prophecy about an American Indian, who, spite of grand predictions, returned unconverted. — The intimation of a great work to be wrought in Scotland by Mr. Irving himself was notoriously falsified by his death. The baptism of fire too never had the semblance of a fulfilment in any, though promised to all. — Was not the second Napoleon said "in the power" to be the coming Antichrist?
But enough. It is painful to be compelled to speak of the details of such wholesale error. He who desires to know the truth of things has already sufficient evidence.
DOCTRINE. §4. THE INCARNATION.
The subject which now calls for consideration is most solemn, and demands the clearest evidence, not only because one is bound to beware of exaggeration, but because the society concerned are here extremely unwilling to face the facts which condemn them. They refer to the opening words of Mr. Irving's preface to the Orthodox and Catholic Doctrine of our Lord's Human Nature (London, 1830). "It is necessary to inform the reader, ...... that whenever I attribute sinful properties and dispositions and inclinations to our Lord's human nature, I am speaking of it considered as apart from Him, in itself; I am defining the qualities of that nature which He took upon Him, and demonstrating it to be the very same substance with that which we possess. To understand the work which He did, you must understand the materials with which He did it. The work which He did was, to reconcile, sanctify, quicken, and glorify this nature of ours," etc.
Now no one subject to God's word could agree to this, but must reject it as wholly unscriptural. For we read of "reconciling the world," "you ... hath He reconciled," "we were reconciled," "reconcile both unto God." We read also of "reconciling all things," looking onward to the day of glory; but never, nowhere, and in no sense of reconciling human nature. Mr. I.'s idea* is unknown to scripture, and the source of manifold error. If sinful flesh were in Christ, clearly it had to be reconciled to God; and this accordingly Mr. I. teaches habitually and resolutely.
*Listen again to his rash words. "It is no reconciliation of individuals [exactly what it is now only], but a reconciliation of human nature. It is not thine, it is not mine, it is not Christ's, but it is the common unity of our being": a statement preposterously false
Clearly therefore it is not humanity apart from Christ that is in question, as to which no sober christian could hesitate. The horror inspired by this able but misguided man, and not least in the treatise to which we are referred, and by his sermons on Incarnation and in short all his writings on the subject to the last, was through his doctrine on the human nature in Christ's person here below.
Some extracts, spread over the work, will prove it distinctly to a believer or even an upright man.
"If then Christ was made under the law, He must have been made by His human nature liable to, yea, and inclined to, all those things which the law interdicted" (p. 10)! It is vain to attempt unsaying this by the plea that he speaks of His human nature in itself. No one charges Mr. I with meaning that Christ yielded to sin. It is not humanity in the abstract. He means, as he continually speaks of, His fallen or sinful humanity. Hence this fundamental error drove him from the truth of atonement to the falsehood of at-one-ment. For Irving like other heterodox men confounded it with reconciliation and poured contempt even to blasphemy on the cross and sufferings of Christ for our sins. This consequence of sinful humanity was inevitable; for how could a blemished creature be a sacrifice to God? and what could be more so than fallen manhood, even by Mr. I.'s own description as we shall see?
"And in the face of all these certainties, if a man will say that His flesh was not sinful flesh as ours is, with the same dispositions and propensities and wants and afflictions, then, I say, God hath sent that man strong delusion that he should believe a lie" (p. 23)! "Now if there had not been in Christ's mature appetites, ambition, and spiritual darkenings, how, I ask, could the devil have addressed these several temptations to His will?" (p. 24.) It is sorrowful to report such enormities, but truth must be vindicated.
"If His human nature differed, by however little, from ours, in its alienation and guiltiness, then the work of reducing it into eternal harmony with God hath no bearing whatever upon our nature, with which it is not the same" (p. 88). Here again it is the evident consequence of a false start — that atonement means a fallen nature brought into reconciliation with God, by overcoming all its inherent propensities: a different gospel, which is not another, and what is worse, not the Christ of God, but an antichrist.
"Was He conscious, then, to the motions of the flesh, and of the fleshly mind? In so far as any regenerate man, when under the operation of the Holy Ghost, is conscious of them (!). Yea, verily, He knew the evil law of that nature Be was clothed with (!); He knew every point and passage of it (!), and at every point and passage of it He met it with the Spirit, and drave it back and put bonds upon it, and let it forth again tamed and reclaimed(!); a servant, of itself an unwilling servant, and still in all things a servant of God. I hold it to be the surrender of the whole question to say that He was not conscious of, engaged with, and troubled by, every evil disposition which inhereth in the fallen manhood (1), which overpowereth every man that is not born of God; which overpowered not Christ, only because He was born or generated of God; the Son of God that day begotten in flesh when He was conceived of the Virgin" (p. 111). This is bold speaking. Three words of God put it all to shame. He "knew no sin."
There is if possible worse and more blasphemous still. "This is the human nature which every man is clothed upon withal, which the Son of man was clothed upon withal, bristling thick and strong with sin like the hairs of the porcupine I stand forth and say that the teeming fountain of the heart's vileness was opened on Him; and the Augean stable, of human wickedness was given Him to cleanse, and the furious wild beasts of human passions were appointed Him to tame. I believe it to be most orthodox, and of the substance and essence of the orthodox faith, to hold that Christ could say until His resurrection, Not, I, but sin that tempteth Me in My flesh(!); just as after the resurrection He could say, 'I am separate from sinners'" (pp. 126, 127).
It is unnecessary, after such copious and varied extracts from the later treatise to do more than refer briefly to Mr. Irving's earlier sermons in 1828, the first vol. of the three being devoted to the Incarnation. But there too, though not yet so developed, is the same plague-spot. "I shall proceed to open, in the second part of this sermon, how God by uniting. the person of His Son to fallen flesh doth thereby reconcile the whole lump of fallen humanity into Himself," etc., (140) i. "That the Son of God ... should join Himself unto fallen creation, and take up into His own eternal personality the human nature, after it had fallen, and become obnoxious to all the powers of sin and infirmity and rebellion...... That Christ took our fallen nature is most manifest, because there was no other in existence to take ... I believe therefore ... that Christ took unto Himself a true body and a reasonable soul, and that the flesh of Christ, like my flesh was in its proper nature mortal and corruptible," etc., ii. (160) iii. At the same time his testimony to Christ's vicarious sufferings was far simpler and clearer than afterwards, though even here atonement was confounded with reconciliation, and both with Incarnation, which last is misunderstood and perverted, being made a question of human reasoning instead of faith in the word of God. "The human nature is thoroughly fallen; and without a thorough communication, inhabitation, and empowering of a divine substance, it cannot again be brought up pure and holy. The mere apprehension of it by the Son does not make it holy" (140) xiii.
Every simple and sound believer will own that this denies the Incarnation of scripture, yea of the creed of christendom, inferior as this is and must be to God's word. For there it is owing to the action of the Holy Ghost, and to the power of the Highest, that, the Holy thing was to be born of the Virgin and as such called the Son of God. The anointing of the Spirit of God afterward was for power in service. He was the Holy One even in His humanity from first to last: there could be no question of the divine nature. Had there been sin (no one says sins) in His humanity, Immanuel as to flesh would have been no longer holy. Thus the evil doctrine divides as well as defiles the person necessarily; and the flesh of the Lord Jesus was represented, not as so, united as to form one person, but as a fallen thing, surrounding Him like a garment or a pit (Mr, I's own illustrations), from which flesh His life was one series of conflicts to liberate itself victoriously, as an example to us who are really what is here falsely said of Christ. It will be seen too that, as Christ's person is overthrown by unbelief in the true Incarnation, so atonement according to God is denied; and Mr. I. goes so far as to say that "atonement and redemption have no reference to God (!); they are the names for the bearing of Christ's work on the sinner!! and have no respect to its bearing upon the Godhead "!!! This would satisfy an Arian or even a Unitarian. There are statements quite inconsistent with this fundamental falsehood. But there it is; — and no lie is of the truth.
In the preliminary discourse to Ben-Ezra (the copy now before me being a gift to an elder of the Caledonian church "with the tender affections of Edward Irving") Mr. I. spoke after a far more orthodox sort. "Between Him and His people there is no difference in respect to that which is observable; while there is the utmost difference in respect to the principle and cause. in the Son of man the cause was the imputation of the sins of the people, in our case it is indwelling sin, and the sin which is around us" (p. 114). So (in p. 126) he says "the Word of God took flesh of the Virgin Mary, passive humanity He took, obnoxious to every temptation, and begirt with every sinless infirmity." One need not insinuate a fault; but the statement would have been correct, had he predicated sinlessness of every temptation as well as of everything else. This at any rate is done with emphasis and jealousy in Heb. 4:15, Christ apart from sin, χ. ἁμ.: in Him, not only by Him, was none. But Mr. I. probably so believed at that time (1826) without a jibe at "imputation," or contempt for" stock-jobbing theology": this followed his heterodoxy. As yet Christ's person and work were unassailed.
No unsophisticated child of God could read such statements without both rejecting and resenting them as an insult to Christ and the truth. The Incarnation is subverted, the person of Christ belied. What room is left, by this unholy and destructive system for the wondrous message, "That holy thing which shall be born [of thee] shall be called the Son of God"? What has the new birth in our case to do with the wholly exceptional action of the Godhead in the birth of Christ? Beyond doubt the believer is quickened by faith; he has life in the Son. What has this in common with the Son's taking humanity into union with His Deity, That Holy Thing by the power of the Holy Spirit to be born of Mary? When a man is born of God, is his human nature born again? The Irvingite fabric is shattered by the merest touch of scripture. The language about Christ's birth is wholly inapplicable to any other. How could it be otherwise if He is the Saviour and we the saved, He a divine person, however truly deigning to become man and by redemption bring glory to God even where sin was and abounded, impossible in any other way?
In keeping with this defamation of Christ, it is not Irvingites only who misapprehend temptation as spoken of the Christ of God. Mr. I. repeatedly in this treatise misquotes Heb. 4:15 by leaving out the last words, which are essential to the truth. He and all who judge of Christ from themselves, from human nature as it is in us, did not understand its bearing. Christ has been tempted in all things in like manner with us, sin excepted. The sense is not merely that He never sinned when tempted, but that He had been thus similarly tempted in all points "apart from sin," and not merely without sinning. In Him was no sin; in us there is. This characteristic and peculiar difference is here pointed out as an exception of the utmost magnitude qualifying His temptations in contrast with ours. In Him even what was born of His mother was holy, whilst we, the regenerate, no less than others, were shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin. He therefore did not know sin, and never had a lust or passion from fallen humanity. His temptations were exclusively those of a holy being, and full of suffering to Him, because He felt always according to God when the enemy thus tried but found nothing in Him — alas! how much in us, even in the regenerate. Flesh yields to evil temptation and is gratified, instead of suffering.
They talk indeed as if it was necessary to sympathy with us, that Christ should know our unholy temptations, as in Jam. i. 11, 15. But this is most superficial as well as false. He sympathises with us so much the more, because we have an inward traitor which He had not, while He suffering perfectly in keeping out the enemy is undistractedly and perfectly free to feel for us in every trial. In fact, if their principle were at all sound, it ought to go farther; for it would involve His failing under temptation, in order to comfort adequately those bitterly conscious of their failures. But the principle is false and evil. The believer abhors the notion of Christ's sympathy with his evil thoughts, feelings or ways. He hates thorn all and judges himself for them, and finds the true. answer to sin in Christ a sacrifice for it. He socks and obtains Christ's sympathy with the new man in loathing every evil within, and comes not in vain and even with boldness to the throne of grace, to receive mercy and find grace for seasonable help. What he needs for his sins, I repeat, is that propitiation and substitution of Christ which Mr. I's heterodoxy taught him to despise.* Christ died for our sins. This was what was required by God for us — not sympathy, but infinite suffering in atonement; and by that one offering they are effaced, and we are purged for God's presence, condemnation having already been executed on their root, sin in the flesh, when He became a sacrifice for sin (Rom. 8:2, 3).
* "The man who will put a fiction, whether legal or theological, a make-believe into his idea of God, I have done with; He who will make God consider a person to be that which he is not, I have done with. Either Christ was not in the condition of a sinner, was not in that form of being towards which it is God's eternal law to act as He acted towards Christ, or He was not [? not]. If He was, then the point is ceded, for that is what I am contending for. If He was not, and God treated Him as if He had been so: if that is the meaning of their imputation and substitution, or by whatever name they call it, away with it from my theology for ever; for it makes my God a God of fictions," etc., etc., (pp. 116, 117).
To this end God sent His Son, not in "flesh of sin" as this horrible doctrine presumes, but "in the likeness" of it, being born of woman, and thus more fully man than Adam unfallen, but by the power of the Highest born "holy," as no man ever was. Born in sin would have unfitted Him for communion as well as for sacrifice. Likeness of flesh would have been unavailing and useless; but "in the likeness of flesh of sin" was just what was wanted for the divine glory, as well as for our salvation. And thus in the cross was God glorified even as to sin, as Christ had glorified the Father as the obedient man, most holy alike in life and death, holy from first to last in all His being, as in all He did and suffered, He only.
It will be argued, however, that in all this dark antagonism to the truth of Christ's person and atonement it is a question of Mr. Irving, rather than of the Catholic Apostolic body. But these are facts: that Mr. I. was incomparably the most influential teacher they ever had; that no tenet is more characteristic of their one joint organ (the Morning Watch) throughout its seven volumes and by many if not all its contributors; and nowhere more acrimoniously than in the last vol. Thus it is in vain to represent their first angel as an exception instead of being the most prominent and active leader in doctrine. Indeed it is to his credit that none can impute underhandedness or bringing in things privily, the almost unfailing reproach of false prophets. He at least was outspoken; which did not please more prudent men well aware of the umbrage given far and wide to christians by language on this subject so vehement, unmeasured, and profane. Incarnation was not at all that action which works in the regenerate, as he alleged,* but peculiar to Christ; while no one doubts the power of the Spirit in which He invariably walked.
*"It is an heretical doctrine that Christ's generation was anything more than the implantation of that Holy Ghost life in the members of His human nature, which is implanted in us by regeneration" (Human Nature, p. 140). Heterodoxy does not lack boldness when thus destroying the true and special character of the Incarnation which belongs to Christ alone. Our humanity was unholy by birth, His alone was holy. Regeneration is quite another truth, and does not touch the question.
Another plea, by no means candid, is that Irving preached the sinful humanity of Christ before the ordinances, as they call the setting up of apostles, etc. They all know he preached it no less when he was ordained angel by the pillar of the apostles.
But the truth is, as another has acutely observed, that his preaching that Christ took flesh of sin has so much the greater weight because it preceded the gifts and authorities. For, as they alleged, "the power" sealed its truth. No fact is more certain. Mr. Trying himself wrote on April 21st, 1832, to Mr. Baxter, who had testified his unsoundness on the Lord's humanity, on imputing righteousness, and on holiness in the flesh (for the same error asserted sin. in Christ's flesh and the possibility of its absence from ours). In that letter Mr. I. adhered to the evil, and distinctly reported that the spirit in Miss. E. C. laid down that Mr. B. "had been snared by departing from the word and the testimony," and that I. had maintained the truth, and the Lord was well pleased with him for it; that in some words he had erred, and that the word by the spirit in B. was therefore true; that if I. waited on the Lord, He would show this by His Spirit, but that He had forgiven it, because He knew his heart was right before Him; that I. had maintained the truth and must not draw back from maintaining it. They then joined in prayer, among the rest for Mr. Baxter's deliverance from the snare concerning the flesh of Christ and the holiness of the believer. Mrs. I. advised leaving it to the Lord, but Mrs. C. gave an utterance in power that Mr. B. had stumbled greatly, dwelling most on the doctrine of perfect holiness. A third utterance from Miss E. C. taught, Mr. Irving that Satan sought to overthrow his confidence in the truth, and to bring him into a snare, but that he was called upon to maintain it more firmly than ever.
In the same letter Mr. I warns Mr. B. that now he is "brought to oppose that very doctrine which alone can bring the chosen to be meet, for her Bridegroom: — that as He was holy in the flesh, so are we, through the grace of regeneration, brought to be holy — planted in a holy standing — the flesh dead to sin, as His flesh, was dead to sin — and that by the baptism of the Holy Ghost we are brought into the fellowship of His power and fulness, to do the works which He also did, and greater works than these." Mr. I. read his report to his wife, as well as to the two prophetesses,. who said it was a full and exact account. He also reiterated that not the motions of the flesh but the law of the flesh was all present in Christ, only in Him by a holy life put down; and that thus ought we to be and shall be, when the flesh becometh the sackcloth covering. (Mrs. C. had prophesied that the baptism by fire would burn out the carnal mind.) Narrative, pp. 103-108.
Who can wonder that on this rose a doubt in Mr. B.'s mind whether the whole work were not of Satan (Narrative, pp. 116, 117). And it is perfectly clear that it was not only the heterodoxy of Mr. Irving before the alleged restoration of the Comforter, but the spirit, which built up the entire Catholic-Apostolic structure, stands fully committed to Mr. I.'s doctrine in substance, save some unguarded expressions. Just so Mr. I. stated previously that "The way for the coming of the Comforter had to be pre. pared by the preaching of the full coming of Christ in our flesh and His coming again in glory, the two great divisions of christian doctrine which had gone, down in the earth, out of sight and out of mind, and which must be revived by preaching, before the Holy Spirit could have anything to witness unto."
We have now amply seen by his own words what Mr. I. meant by the coming of Christ in "our" flesh; add the spirit which the Catholic Apostolics acknowledged as the voice of God sealed that lie against the Lord, contrary to the faith of God's elect in every age, land and tongue, contrary to every creed of Greek, Oriental or Roman, as well as the articles of faith of all Protestants. But one rests, as all ought, on the unfailing standard of God's word, and cannot but pronounce it an antichrist. On this evil foundation rests the Irvingite body, as surely as the witnesses produced are irrefragable. Nor can they purger themselves from their original error, any more than Papists, who adhere to their dogma of infallibility. So no less but rather more are the Catholic Apostolic adherents bound by most unhappy lot to the sanction of that spirit they own as divine. To judge it a lying spirit means their dissolution; and hence every effort to hide, evade, and explain away, so characteristic of the party.
DOCTRINE. §5. THE ATONEMENT, etc.
Necessarily, as the person of Christ is the truth, if His person is defamed, the very core is corrupted. And such we have seen to be the fact with Irvingism. They are unsound, not on this or that side merely, but in the heart and centre of all revealed truth. The spirit which built up their system throughout, which they accepted as the voice of God, affirmed the doctrine of Christ's fallen humanity. It is therefore an impossibility for the society to purge itself from this root of error as for Popery, when once committed; because it would be to own that their boast of infallible guidance is false and a delusion of the enemy. They are bound, wrapt up, and blinded by this spurious self-security, to persevere in every evil thought into which the spirit of error can drag them.
And so in fact it is found. For, whilst they have a vast deal of truth with which they are occupied beyond the various denominations of Christendom, they are steeped in error beyond ordinary example. What they hold of truth is, so far as I have observed, invariably tainted, so as to exceed in malignity the traditional creeds even of those most mistaken. Again, their pretension to what not even Popery or the Greek system, still less any Protestant body claims, exposes them both to the setting up of lifeless forms and to the snare of a reality of power from beneath which distinguishes them most painfully.
The proof of what is here stated will be apparent from a few citations out of the "Orthodox and Catholic Doctrine of our Lord's Human Nature."
"Now that Christ is a sinless person we all admit, and how then could He reach death? He could not reach it by coming in a sinless and unfallen nature, such as Adam's: for such a nature, not having sinned, could not die, without making death void as the great sign of God's holiness. To reach death there is no other way but by coming in the nature of a sinful creature; in that nature which, having sinned, did underlie the curse of death. If with His holy person He inform this nature, He may die; nay He must die: for when human nature was sentenced in the person of Adam to death, it was all sentenced, every particle of it whatever; and the death of it is the grand demonstration of God's holy hatred and final judgment against sin. And therefore, agreeing that the death of the clean and innocent Lamb of God is the means unto our redemption or atonement, I say it could not be otherwise reached but through His taking humanity, fallen, sinful, and under sentence of death" (p. 91). Any believer ought to see through this poor human reasoning, which disproves itself because it destroys the grace of Christ's death. For if He must die, His death was only at most a little before its time. But to pursue from page 95. "How, it may be said, is this an atonement for me? It seems to be no more than a bearing of the infirmities of His own human nature; it seems to be no more than a righteousness wrought in His own human nature for it. I answer, There is but one human nature: it is not mine, it is not thine, it is not His; it is the common unity of our being. Bare He the infirmities of human nature? He bare the sins of all men. Bare He the infirmities of human nature? He bare the infirmities of all men. Overcame He the enemies of human nature, sin, death, and the devil? He overcame the enemies of all men. Took He them captive? They are at large no more; they are impotent, they are as nothing, and ought so to be preached of. He hath abolished death; He hath taken away sin; 'He hath judged the prince of this world.' Whether this be new doctrine or not, I appeal to the Epistles of Paul; whether it be new in the reformed church, I appeal to the writings of Martin Luther.
"I know how far wide of the mark these views of Christ's act in the flesh will he viewed by those who are working with the stockjobbing theology of the religious world, — that God wanted punishment, and an infinite amount of it; which Christ gave for so many; and so He is satisfied, and they escape from His anger, which flames as hot as ever against all beyond this pale. And this you call preaching the free grace of God, the justice of God, the work of Christ, the doctrine of election, atonement, etc.! Yet one word as to suffering. The atonement, upon this popular scheme, is made to consist in suffering; and the amount of suffering is cried up to infinity. Now I utterly deny that anything suffered but the human nature of Christ; and that could only suffer according to the measure of a man: more, no doubt, than unholy men like us suffer, because He was perfectly holy, and so His soul felt the smart of every pang manifold of what we do; but still it was only according to the measure of a holy man. If more, whence came it? From the divine nature? But this is contrary to all sound doctrine that the Godhead should be capable of passions. Well, let these preachers — for I will not call them divines or theologians — broker-like, cry up their article, it will not do: it is but the sufferings of a perfectly holy man, treated by God and by men as if He were a transgressor." Here every moderately taught christian will feel into what ignorance and contempt of the truth Irving was plunged by his idol dogma, to say nothing of the grossest dividing of Christ's person.
But take another specimen from p. 98, which ought to alarm some too sure of their own soundness: "A very poor wit have they, and a most barbarous idea of God, who will represent this sublime, stupendous action of Godhead as taking place to appease the wrath of Godhead, which verily takes place to manifest the love and grace and mercy of Godhead. Why, what mean they? It is God Who doth the thing. And why doth He it, but because it is godly so to do? Love and grace are in Him; of His essence, of His ancient eternal essence, which is unchangeable. If they are of Him and in Him now, they have been of Him and in Him for ever. And out of the fountain of His love cometh that stream, hiding its head in darkness for a while, that it may wash the very foundations of the base world, and appear in light and glory unpolluted, the life, the beauty, of this redeemed world. but what a system of theology is that which representeth God as in Himself implacable to the sinner, until His Son, by bearing the sinner's strokes, doth draw off the revenge of God? Then God is changed in His being with respect to a few; but with respect to the many His implacable nature worketh on in its natural course. Such a God cannot be the object of love; and upon such a system an object of love He never is. And all this they represent as needful for the glory of His holiness and justice." It is needless to say that this grievous misrepresentation of the truth springs simply from Irving's heterodoxy which made him caricature the divine judgment of sin and cleave to his own exaggeration and one-sidedness.
An extract from p. 99 may be well. "In whatever light these remarks may appear to others, to myself they have brought this solid conviction, That while the present views of atonement continue to be doted on by the church, it is in vain to attempt to carry any point, of sound doctrine." This witness is true, though in an opposite direction. So vital is the doctrine of atonement, that all else is sure to be shaken where it is false, and established where it is true. As the person of Christ is bound up with it, so all the communion, walk, and worship depend on it. In what follows the reader will observe that the same fundamental error reappears as in our day. "Atonement and redemption are the names for the bearing of Christ's work upon the sinner,! and have no respect to its bearing upon the Godhead!, nor upon Christ, the God-man!!; and on that account, instead of occupying the first and highest place in theology, they should occupy the third only, being preceded by the glory of God, and the glory of Christ."
One more from p. 116 must suffice. "The man who will put a fiction [this is the way imputation of sin is treated], whether legal or theological, a make-believe into his idea of God, I have done with; he who will make God consider a person to be that which he is not, I have done with." Compare what the apostle lays down in Rom. 8:3; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13. It is evident not only that atonement and reconciliation are confounded, but that atonement is nullified, and that reconciliation is wholly misunderstood and depraved.
The bearing of their fundamental heterodoxy as to Christ's person on His atoning work is absolutely destructive of its truth. Propitiation is lost as well as substitution, the two essential sides of the truth adumbrated by the great Day of Atonement in Israel. It is in vain to say that Mr. Irving or others did not mean this. The question is, what the enemy meant who beguiled them. They were carried utterly away by a vain dream which shut them out from the healthful working of the word of God, and committed to a torrent of error which can readily find appearances to sanction every wild imagination, and ingeniously bound over the firmest obstacle. The Holy Spirit gives subjection to scripture by keeping the soul in self-distrust looking only to Christ and His glory. But here the essential difference of Christ is ignored. His being personally in the Father, and the Father in Him, they confound with what we may enjoy in the Spirit by faith. So that in general we may say that their system debases the Second man as it exalts the first, and is thus at perpetual and incurable issue with God's mind. In fact, it is the old quarrel of Satan with God.
In the last paper we saw that their doctrinal basis is the Son's assumption of fallen or sinful humanity, and His work victory over it in the Spirit, thereby rendering it holy and acceptable to God. They may say other things which sound fair and good; but this which the spirit among them expressly sanctioned as the truth overthrows both the person and the work of Christ. No doubt some of them learnt to speak more guardedly and condemned more or less the out spoken language of Mr. Irving but the doctrine characterised them as distinctly as the claim of the restored apostolate, prophets, and other gifts in their ecclesiastical polity, not withstanding their desperate efforts after secrecy save with the initiated. Hence the infinite sufferings of the cross are ignored or even decried; hence the railing and ridicule heaped on the substitution of Christ, on the imputation of righteousness to the believer, in short on all that the christian elect of God have found most solemn and precious in and through the Saviour's death. Even if His death or blood be referred to, it is to put all the race upon one level of redemption and forgiveness: as to this the special blessings of the faithful are nowhere.
How could it be otherwise if the Son of God took fallen sinful humanity into union with Himself? Its reconciliation must then supplant propitiation, and reconciliation itself be confounded with atonement; as is verbally done indeed by unhappy errors of the A.V. in both the Old Testament and the New. Another fatal result is that reconciliation is thus rendered altogether vague and impersonal, the reconciliation of humanity, instead of its being the enjoyed and exclusive portion of those who actually believe. Finally, holiness is as much lost by this misbelieving Reheme as righteousness; for it takes as into the falsehood of improving and perfecting by the power of the Holy Spirit that old man which, according to scripture, is irreparably evil, the mind of which is enmity against God and is not subject to His law, neither indeed can be. Now whatever the moral perfection of our Lord in the days of His flesh, it is in resurrection only that He becomes Head of the new creation. Till He died atoningly, He abode alone. Only after sin was judged in the cross is He "the beginning," and bears much fruit. His living relationship is with the sanctified, not with the race.
DOCTRINE. §6. JUSTIFICATION, SANCTIFICATION, etc.
No spiritual mind that sees the antichristian character of the Irvingite community, as tested by the person and the work of Christ, can look for truth in its application. For the centre of all is false and evil; yet it may not be amiss to prove their wanderings from the word of God here also. And the work of Mr. Sitwell, the apostle of Spain and Portugal (or in their strange dialect, of the tribe of Naphtali), "Creation and Redemption," the third edition of which lies before me, furnishes the means of ascertaining their views authoritatively.
The treatment of justification is characteristic of the body, for he professes to combine the disjointed fragments of doctrine, and to put each in its place, as well as to repudiate the falsehoods that have been added to it. Thus he hopes to show how needlessly the high churchman is divided from the low, justification being not only imputed at first but imparted at last. Here is this "end of controversy." "There are, seven ways mentioned in scripture, or which can be fairly deduced from it, whereby a man is justified. These are — 1, Faith. 2, Blood of Jesus Christ. 3, Righteousness of Christ. 4, Word of Christ, by means of the ministers of the church. 5, Sacraments of the church. 6, Works. 7, Resurrection. In each of these seven the double sense and power of justification, viz., imputation and impartation, will be found in operation" (p. 231).
To any intelligent christian this suffices. It is pretentious and deplorable confusion, the effect of which is to darken the truth and perplex every one heeding it. "What saith the scripture?" There is but one way or principle in which a soul is justified. It is by faith (ἐκ π. Rom. 5:1), as the apostle had expressly laid down before, apart from works of law, the only other way conceivable — the very way whereby he had said no flesh shall be justified in God's sight, Rom. 3:20, 28. The blood of Jesus is not another way, but the efficacious ground (Rom. 3:25; Rom. 5:9), for it cleanses from every sin; and His resurrection is the proof and living witness of its, acceptance (Rom. 4:24, 25). Undoubtedly it is God reckoning faith for righteousness, as in Abram's case (Rom. 4), for the soul believing on God that justifies the ungodly (ver. 5), as David also testifies. If we ask the source therefore, it is grace — God's, grace (Titus 3:7), and no desert of man whatever. The gospel meets him as a lost sinner: therein is. God's righteousness revealed, for all is over with man's. But so glorified is God with Christ's work on the cross that He can be and is just and the justifier of him that has faith in Jesus. To say, "Yet the justifier," etc., shows God's righteousness to be unknown.
Nor is this all. The salvation of the gospel embraces God's dealing in the cross with sin, as well as our sins, the root no less than the fruit. What he is troubles the renewed soul as much or more than past evil deeds. Has this been overlooked of God? In no wise. As Adam is the fallen head, Jesus is the living one; for without dying He had abode alone. It is not only that Christ died for us: we who believe are entitled to say that we died with Him. This if we were dumb is the expression of our baptism. We were baptised unto His death; that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. Accordingly this we know, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be slaves to sin. For he that died (the christian) has been and is justified from sin. It is our abiding status since redemption. Nevertheless, as Galatians enables each to say, "I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me" — Christ risen our life. Ours is, as Rom. 5 calls it, a "justification of life." Baptism however is the sign of our death with Christ, the sole efficacy being His work, on which faith rests before God; and as 1 Cor. 10 warns, all is ruin where there is not life. But life is only by the faith of Christ, and therefore through the word and Spirit (John 3:3, 5, 6; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23-25; 1 John 5:1, 4, 5). Indeed this is necessarily implied in faith which cannot be without God's revealed word (Rom. 10:17), of which Christ is the object and centre, and now for the christian His accomplished work also.
What then does James 2 mean? Not at all the justifying of a sinner before God, but that of a true professor as distinguished from a false one before men. Hence says he, "Show me thy faith apart from works, and I by my works will show thee my faith." And this is strikingly confirmed by the samples alleged; for faith alone gave true character to Abram's offering up of Isaac or Rahab's receiving the spies: without it, what had either work been? Murder, or treason, as is clear,
And this entirely falls in with the Epistle of James, which does not, like most of Paul's, bring out the wonders of Christ's blood, death, and resurrection, and ascension. His object is to insist on practical reality in those who professed the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, Lord of glory. Hence he speaks in his first chapter not only of faith and enduring temptation, but of that intrinsic life which grace gives to those otherwise dead. "Of His own will He begat us by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures." A christian walk is the effect, and ought to be the expression, of the life we have in Christ. It is, as the apostle says, faith working by love, the only faith of value in the sight of God. It would seem that there was excessive danger for Israel (a danger now so long prevalent in Christendom) of a merely sentimental or intellectual faith, not insincere but without a real work of the Spirit of God's word in the conscience, a faith resting on evidence or tradition, to which our Lord did not trust Himself (John 2). Man "must be born again." This only produces reality. "He that believeth hath everlasting life." This therefore is what James throughout insists on, rather than Christ's blood, however indispensable this may be for cleansing us from all sin. but even the acknowledgement of Christ's blood might be without living faith, as we see in Heb. 10. Those were not wanting even in early days, who after being thus set apart had given it up and sinned wilfully, counting the blood of the covenant an unholy thing. Good reason there was then for insisting on a new nature in Christ as the basis of practical holiness.
No believer doubts what the portion of the saints will be when changed at Christ's coming. But it will only be the displayed perfection of what grace has now given us, and given us to know by the Spirit. We shall be found in Christ, not having a righteousness of our own, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. Yet are we not waiting for righteousness then; but, as the same apostle tells us, we through the Spirit by faith wait for the hope of righteousness (that is, heavenly glory). The righteousness we have already in Christ entitles us by God's word to look for nothing less, even as Christ is already entered in personally; and we shall be with Him and like Him.
Mr. S. confounds (p. 236) baptism with water, important as it is outwardly, with baptism in virtue of the Spirit, which scripture strongly distinguishes; he surpasses a Jew in his idolatry of the sacraments, but in this hardly worse than millions outside Irvingism. Only it is to be remarked here that the fatal virus peculiar to their company reappears in p. 251: "So our Lord, having come into flesh, always laid down His life as a sacrifice to God.... While our Lord died daily, and we are called to imitate Him in this," etc. Now this is not only misconception in every way, and false, but most evil. Death, death with Christ in His death, is the necessary way of life for us, sinful as we are, even though a new creation in Christ: to make it so for Christ is blasphemy. These statements betray she old heterodoxy as to our Lord's person. What else is the meaning of His always laying down His life and dying daily?
But the truth of revelation is that we died with Christ. So elsewhere we are called to "mortify our members," that is, to put them to death, but never to die, as the mystics think and teach, ignorant of what grace gives us in Christ dead and. risen. Our old man was* crucified with Him. Therefore are we to reckon ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. But that Christ had anything to die to daily is the worst of slanders. Our comfort of faith is that we died with Him when He died. When the apostle speaks of dying daily, he refers to his constant exposure to literal death, and not at all to the christian doctrine which Mr. S. misunderstands, not only for us but, alas! for the Lord, the Holy One of God. They may strive to conceal this deadly wound to the truth and to His glory; but it cannot be hid. The levelling down of Christ and the levelling up of ourselves naturally go together, both wholly in opposition to God's word. The idolatry of ordinances accompanies both, evil enough in a Jew ignorant of the Messiah: how much more terrible is the unbelief, now that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ!
* Nor is it the continuous "was" of the imperfect, but the completed of the aorist.
Of sanctification personally, that first action of the Spirit which sets us apart to God in new birth, before peace and liberty, Mr. S. knows nothing. It is clearly laid down in 1 Peter 1:2, as well as in 1 Cor. 6:11, etc. He only speaks of it, and even so speaks feebly and imperfectly, as one seeing no more than is seen in Christendom generally. He had not learnt that the Holy Spirit invariably works by keeping the eye on Christ. See 2 Cor. 3 and the N.T. as a whole. We are Christ's epistle in the world, and can. only reflect Him aright by walking in the Spirit, as we live in the Spirit, Who is here to glorify Christ.
This is strikingly shown in John 17 "Sanctify them by (or, in) the truth; Thy word is truth. As Thou hast sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world; and for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by truth" (John 17:17-19). There are thus in His mind two especial means of christian sanctification: the Father's word, the truth: and Christ set apart on high as the glorified man Who forms, as the personal model before our faith.
It is accordingly no question now of the law, grave as its function is when used lawfully; nor yet of prophecy unveiling the government of the world. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. The Father sent Him into the world that we might know His word — know it in Him that is true. And now sent into the world by Him Whose death has severed His own from the world, they behold Him in heaven, as the further power of fashioning them spiritually. Both are needed, and both are given. Christ was infinitely more than the obedient man under law; He was the manifestation of God in man. He that had seen Him had seen the Father. The only-begotten Son Who is in the bosom of the Father, alone did, alone could, reveal Him; He manifested the truth about every one and every thing, and this in grace — in a love superior to evil.
But while this was the essential and first want which only He, the Son of God yet a man in the world, could supply, ver. 19 adds more and differently Christ as man glorified according to divine counsel and perfection in heaven before the Father. In the one case it was Christ as the Lord come down and on the earth revealing God the Father; in the other it is the same Christ as man setting Himself apart in glory, and the truth revealed then and there. Both were new and unique, that the truth might be known and work effectively; and the believing Jew no less than the besotted pagan needed to be sanctified practically according to both principles, distinct as they are, yet united in the person of the Lord. It is the revelation of the Father in the Son in grace, and of the Son as glorified man in righteousness, that the mission of His servants might be according to the. truth which separated them from the world according to God's nature and the relationship of His children, though nothing be so foreign and distasteful and hateful to the world as His grace and the objects of it.
But the book commented on scarce rises above the measure of Israel, and is quite short of the truth of that sanctification which the N.T. presents, as we have seen its total deficiency and indeed error about justification. It proves what the new apostolate is worth.
Is it not passing strange that men who have studied scriptural figures and symbols should have failed to see the use made of "water" as compared with "blood" in this very connection? "But ye are washed"; "The washing of water by the word"; "This is He that came by water and blood," etc., are samples; and the types of the O.T. answer to the figures of the New. We all know that in Christendom such things are passed over for the most part without serious thought, perhaps without a word: sometimes they are confounded, oftener all is vague. The difference is that the action of the blood of Christ is once and for ever, as the Epistle to the Hebrews pointedly and repeatedly says, whereas that of the water is not only the dealing with the soul at the start, but whenever need arises throughout the walk (John 13). Thus the propitiation abides in its unchanging value before God for the believer; but the impurities of daily walk need the application of the. word and Spirit continually. To be washed or loosed from our sins by blood is once for all; but, if bathed in water ever so truly, the soiled feet call for fresh washing. It is the answer of the Spirit by the word to Christ's advocacy. Expressly and evidently the notion of repeated application of the blood overthrows the truth of the unity of Christ's sacrifice and of its, efficacy on our behalf. On the other hand the teaching of the constant need of the washing of water by the word is bound up with practical holiness. It is. just because we are brought nigh to God by Christ's blood that we are called to habitual self-judgment lest we grieve the Holy Spirit of God whereby we, were sealed unto the day of redemption. Yet more should we humble ourselves on actual failure.
The propriety of the figure is obvious. Water among other uses is to cleanse. For this the Holy Spirit employs God's word. We are begotten by the word of truth (James 1; 1 Peter 1; 1 Cor. 4), and cleansed by reason of the word (John 15:3). So deep is the original uncleanness that nothing short, of death, Christ's death, can avail us. Therefore He came by water and by blood. He purifies as well as atones by His death; and purifies our hearts consequently by faith (Acts 15:9; 1 Peter 1:22), as scripture declares. Only the washing of the water by the word applies through our entire path, exposed as we are to defilement continually. Not so the cleansing by blood, which takes place once for all. For the blood of Jesus cleanseth from all, from every sin. If He needed to be offered often, He must suffer often, whereas it is but once, once for all, as Heb. 9 insists. But the communion, interrupted by sin, must be holily restored. Hence the need of the water for purification for defilement by the way. Compare Num. 19. And so the Jews by-and-by. It is not enough to look on Messiah-Jehovah pierced (Zech. 12): a fountain also is opened for sin and for uncleanness, a fountain not of blood, pace Cowper, but of water. See Zech. 13:1.
Thus all christians must allow progressive holiness as a matter of growth through the truth and that self-judgment which is the more incumbent on us because we enjoy not only the word and prayer, but the remembrance of Christ in His supper regularly. There is such a thing as deliverance when the soul after toiling under law is brought to give up self and condemn the flesh as utterly and incurably evil. This however is simply the normal state of the believer, no longer striving in vain, to improve what God has condemned in the cross (Rom. 8:3), but, resting on that work of Christ as a sacrifice for sin, sees himself in Christ henceforth; so that he is now to live by the faith of Him dead and risen, and to abhor in himself what he finds not in Christ. This some call sanctification or perfection, and consequently turn it to error by making it a matter of feeling, instead of owning it true of all who submit to the righteousness of God.
Plainly therefore according to scripture we are personally "sanctified" or set apart livingly to God when born of Him by faith of the truth, sanctified by the Spirit unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus. Thereon follows the practical call to holiness, because God, our God and Father, is holy, as we see later on in the same chap. 1 of 1 Peter. Holiness in spirit and ways is a duty flowing from the relationship of saints and children already formed by sovereign grace — not in order to become, but because we are, His and in the nearest way through Christ our Lord.
DOCTRINE. §7. THE CHURCH.
We have seen how shallow is the view of Mr. Sitwell as to Christianity, that is to say, our standing and privilege individually considered, even where it is not plainly erroneous. It is no better as to the church, that is, our corporate place, even Christ's body here below. The entire scheme is faulty from first to last. Thus his "first part" is the calling of the church (pp. 1-36); but in it not a true trace of that calling occurs even accidentally. He confounds the church absolutely with the kingdom; whereas the latter is another relationship of no small moment, as distinct from the former as power is from grace. As christians, we are now after a special way in the kingdom; but we also compose the church, being members of Christ. Following Him in His rejection, we are not mere subjects like Israel by-and-by, but become kings and priests, and shall reign with Him in that day. This is the kingdom, not the church, His body; and the effect of the confusion is inevitably and in every respect mischievous. In this pseudo-apostolic volume the mystery concerning Christ and concerning the church, great as it is declared to be, is not at all understood. The exclusive topic throughout is "the gospel of the kingdom." The immense and eternal purpose of God revealed in Eph. 1, etc., does not enter his mind, the heading up in Christ of all things in heaven and all things on earth, and our association with Christ in both the calling and the inheritance.
Mr, S. does not look above man on the earth. "And the habitation, the dwelling-place of man is the earth, — for ever" (p. 5). We may praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and exult in His glory, no less than own the riches of His grace, that it is far otherwise for the saints, even now blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ. How sad not to have the eyes of our heart enlightened to discern our incomparably higher blessedness! The Epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians, to say nothing of others, are ignored for this. Not that one would depreciate "the kingdom" for a moment. It is meat that the scene of our S2avionr's infinite humiliation should shine in the day of His manifested glory. But it is only a part, and an inferior one, bright as are the visions which prophecy opens about the earth, Israel, and the nations, to the eye of faith. But the New Testament, on the accomplishment of an everlasting redemption in Christ's cross, discloses what had been kept hid from ages and generations — hid in God till Christ ascended and the Holy Ghost came down to dwell in us. This mystery makes known the church in union with the Head; yet as to it all Mr. S.'s book is a complete blank. Surely as one of the new apostles he ought to have been an adequate exponent, when his task was to explain the calling of the church; he seems from his book to have known nothing about it.
Mr. Irving, boldly astray as to the object which ought to be dearest to us, Christ's person, rose far beyond this poverty. Indeed the "part first" unwittingly proved what is justly enough laid to the door of christendom in his "part second" (pp. 37-39), that not only most people, but Mr. S. himself, forgot the church's calling and became earthly. His doctrine, as we saw, makes all who receive it earthly in principle. Amiable approval of certain traits in Rome, Greece, Anglicanism, Presbyterianism and Dissent, shows how all he can say is incompatible with the feeblest faith in the church's calling. He divides the past course into six periods of declension: the apostolic, the episcopal, the imperial, the papal, the reformed, and the revolutionary; but on this we need not dwell now.
The third part is the church recalled to her true standing (pp. 130-254). Here again the same judaising pursues us. Hosea 2 is said to be fulfilled, which is certainly untrue; as the prayer for the outpouring of the Spirit, denies the distinctive abiding privilege of the church. It is a lapse into Israel's need, Tongues and powers, even if true, could have in no measure availed before the ruin of the church: nothing but humiliation, and obedience, sure of blessing in the grace of the Lord. Apostles and prophets constituted the foundation; and such they were in divine power and grace. How out of place and season to have this ever again? or, to meet the objection, by talking of a John Baptist ministry? For Christ's forerunner was no apostle. No! The setting up of apostles was presumption, and as far from God's mind as can be conceived. It was the work of a spirit. All is simply an apology for Irvingism, with its vain misinterpretation of the Tabernacle, the Cherubim, and the Seraphim. Of doctrine we have spoken, but left other points.
The fourth part is the end — its progress and consummation (pp. 255-336). Here they have a little more truth because there is less of the church and more prophecy. But antichrist, the man of sin, is confounded, as usually, with the last Roman emperor, whereas he is the prophet-king in the land; and also with the king of the north, or Assyrian, the enemy of both! And though the two Witnesses (Rev. 11) are allowed to be future, Rev. 14:1-4 as well as Rev. 7:1-5 are applied to the Irvingites, as well as the manchild! Of these puerilities enough has been said before.
The fifth is the conclusion, which still lingers over the society, as the sixth-part consists of answering objections to their work, and especially to apostles. Mr. S. was only like others occupied with themselves, not with the Christ of God; so that the true calling of the church, and the blessed hope, were lost in earthly things.
As to the Irvingite interpretation of Rev. 12 can anything be more out of the way? It is self-evident that, lacking intelligence of the book as a whole, they of course cannot be trusted for any particular part. The woman is seized on for the church, the twelve stars for the new apostolate, and the catching up of the manchild for the party rapture to heaven.
Now in the prophetic visions three women appear with marked differences. The first is the mother, the second the harlot, and the third the bride, the Lamb's wife. This the new Jerusalem is beyond just dispute, the glorified church, as the harlot is the corrupt counterfeit, Babylon. The first needs more care, but is distinct from either, and points to Israel, of whom Christ the Son and Heir was born. The chief difficulty is to account for introducing what was past in a revelation of the future; but this is far from inexplicable.
Rev. 12 (or more strictly 11:19) begins the second part of the prophecy, the first bringing us to the seventh trumpet which unmistakably carries us on in general terms to the end of all. The second part therefore, which explains much in detail and with more precision, must go back; and in the manner of the O.T. prophecy it gives us a mystic view which identifies Christ and the church. It goes indeed beyond Rev. 4, 5 where are the heavenly saints in peaceful session on their thrones round God and the Lamb. Here they are wrapt up as it were in a Son of glory, the Manchild caught up to God and to His throne. The translation of Christ (long before) omits His life and death, and passing over all the intervening times joins with itself those who are to share with Him the rule of all the nations. This, we know, is the promised portion of Christ and the church (Rev. 2:26, 27, Rev. 3:21); so that scripture confirms fully what is here advanced. But there can be no favoured party: what more abhorrent to the mind of Christ? For "we shall not all sleep, but we shall all he changed." The entire church are concerned. Isa. 50 shows how the christian is lost in Christ like a binary star (cf. Rom. 8); as Isa. 63 passes at once to the Second Advent from the First. Indeed both are not uncommon; and the Revelation recurs to the prophetic style. There is this characteristic difference, however, that while O.T. prophecy skips clean over the christian or church parenthesis, from the Lord's birth and rejection to His taking His great power and reigning publicly, the Apocalyptic view here is rather to show us in an enigmatic way God's purpose in Christ and the translation of the heavenly saints found in Him caught up to the throne of God. This, it will be observed, is absolutely dateless: a token not without moment. It is in virtue of the rejected Christ on God's throne that the saints can be caught up and thus seen mystically in Him.
But what of the vision as a whole? "The temple of God that is in heaven was opened." On earth His temple was to be the scene of the most daring rebellion of man and triumph of Satan, the man of sin worshipped there as God. But God's purpose is declared on high before judgment effects it here below. "And there was seen the ark of His covenant in His temple." Israel the covenant people is to be the theatre of His plans for blessing, the church having been proved irreparably guilty and ruined, and no promise of restoration for her, as for the Jews beyond controversy and in mercy that endures for ever. The accompanying signs of divine judgment ("lightnings and voices, and thunders," etc.) still mark that actually it is a time when God's hand is on men in displeasure, the harbinger of wrath to come yet more terribly. It is not yet His day, any more than it is properly the day of grace, but of special judicial dealings in providence. "And a great sign was seen in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon underneath her feet, and on her head a crown [or chaplet] of twelve stars." It is the chosen people of God as in God's purpose, invested therefore with supreme authority, lifted quite above their old servitude to the reflected light of legal ordinances, and adorned with the evidently complete instrumentality of administrative rule in man for the earth. So it will surely be when the Lord reigns in Zion; and this is Apocalyptic intimation of God's purpose in heaven before the conflict with Satan is described. His opposition immediately follows, and this foremost against Christ in every way. But there is this added, "And being with child she crieth, travailing and in pain to bring forth." It is not millennial joy, but the hour of sorrow yet. "And there was seen another sign in heaven; and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his heads seven diadems. And his tail draweth the third of the stars of heaven and did cast them unto the earth." Christ and those one with Him must be in their place first, whatever the dragon's enmity. For though he is seen, not as of old but with characteristics of the Roman empire and casting them down from God's light and order in the west, as I suppose, and with destructive hostility against God's counsels in Christ, all is vain. "And the dragon stood before the woman that was about to bring forth, that when she brought forth he might devour her child. And she brought forth a son a male, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God that there they should nourish her a thousand two hundred and sixty days." Rev. 11:19 - 12:6.
Once the Christ thus mystically regarded (see 1 Cor. 12:12) is caught up, we find ourselves in the latter day; and the rage of Satan under the form of the Roman power is directed against the Jewish people, the true mother of Christ; and set times come into reckoning. They have to do with the earth and the earthly people, not with the church of the heavenlies. This is not agreeable to those who are preoccupied with christendom, which tends to make the practical question one between Romanism. and Protestantism. This was not Mr. S.'s snare, who thought as cheaply as any could, either of the Popish dream about the Virgin Mary in the same woman, or of the historical fancy that the rapture of the Manchild to God's throne means the political elevation of the christian profession under Constantine and his successors. If this were true, the woman might rather have been worshipped, or seated on a throne, than driven into the wilderness: an absurd result of the christening of the empire.
Now we can readily understand that, when God has His heavenly ones with Christ above, His purpose for the earth comes into view; and that a mighty change occurs in the true seat of power — heaven, when those who are Christ's for His glory there are in their place. As long as the church is here below, wrestling with spiritual wickednesses in heavenly places goes on. But after the translation, there is war in heaven; Satan loses his bad eminence and is cast to the earth (Rev. 12:7-12), which fires his wrath the more against those destined to inherit the earth under Christ's reign, the Jews especially. These accordingly have nothing to do with such wrestling as Eph. 6:12 describes, It is thenceforth a dispute for the earth; God forbid it should be so for the church. Satan accordingly is seen, not only in his efforts against the woman and the rest of her seed, the godly Jewish remnant of this transitional time before the millennium (Rev. 12:13-17), but bringing forward his final instruments of blasphemous power and deceit against the Lord and His Anointed (Rev. 13). Matt. 24, etc., and above all the Revelation, furnish N.T. light on this future remnant.
The attempt to make party capital out of Rev. 12: is altogether inferior to what is called the Protestant interpretation, unsatisfactory and even absurd as this has been shown to be, one evil effect of which is the direct countenance it lends to consecrating worldliness in the church. The Popish idea is as childish and profane as their peculiar opinions usually are in divine things. But the Irvingite fancy is a vain essay to catch at symbols in a random way and with gross inconsistency in order to flatter their "Twelve" as well as their adherents. The truth gives all the glory to Christ in Whom the church, not some members but all, is regarded as hidden, its regular place in the prophetic word, its happiest place morally, the joy and boast of hearts true to the Bridegroom Who alone is worthy, whatever His grace to all that are His. The mystic man, Christ and the church, being out of reach, the hatred and last efforts of Satan against God's earthly purpose in Israel ensue without delay, with the measured times which connect all with O.T. prophecy. Daniel in particular, is the prophet of Gentile supremacy on the total failure of the Jews, as John is of the world's judgment on the proved and irreparable ruin of christendom. The church, normally, belongs to heaven which does not like the earth come under times and seasons.
DOCTRINE. §. 8. PRIESTHOOD, AND SACRAMENT
We may now take up a pertinacious system of priestly ordinances which Irvingites share with all the bodies which claim to be Catholic. This assumes. a more than ordinarily virulent character in the modern society, just because they after their manner own N.T. truth and power wholly inconsistent with those "old bottles." In their hands it is no mere confusion, as with some Protestants, but a deliberate and radical error which undermines and destroys fundamental and distinctive privileges which the gospel of God confers on the christian.
There is no question about their views, which they love (in this case at least) to state in bold and open terms. Take the preface to Mr. Drummond's "Abstract Principles of Revealed Religion," p. v. "That without priesthood there can be no sacraments, and without sacraments no spiritual life can be rightly imparted or adequately sustained; that the due worship of God can be carried on only by priests appointed by Himself; that all its parts are definite; forms of buildings in which it is carried on; rites therein performed; furniture appropriate to that end; vestments of those who officiate; hours of celebration, etc.; and that the single act which constitutes christian worship, and distinguishes true from false worship in Christendom, is the offering up of the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, without the eating and drinking of which no one can have part in Him."
Were this a true standard, it would soon and certainly appear that the church of God as built on the foundation of His holy apostles and prophets must be pronounced by this self-constituted judge to have never been conformable to the mind of God! But believing the N.T. history and Epistles, we see that professing Christendom only adopted it as it fell into Babylonish corruption. For scripture demonstrates that, in principle as in fact, the assumption of the party as expressed by one whom they honour as alike apostle, prophet, and angel, is wholly and in every particular opposed to the revealed word as regards the church. One might venture fearlessly to say that the enemy could not, forge an invention more antagonistic to the truth.
The testimony of the N.T. is plain, sure, and decisive. It tells us of Jewish and of heathen priests. But for the circle of the faithful there is a great High-priest, passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God; and none whatever on earth over the saints, for the very blessed and conclusive reason that the christians themselves compose His house and are exhorted to draw near to the throne of grace (Heb. 4), in the old priestly house, the sons of Aaron, could not, and even with confident boldness, which was impossible for Aaron himself who only entered once in the year with atoning blood and incense lest he die (Lev. 16). They are not to be admired nor even endured who speak of a casual expression in scripture. The truth is uniform. It is the same doctrine, only if possible more emphatically enforced in Heb. 10:19 et seqq. after the one offering as well as the high-priesthood of Christ had been fully taught. "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which He dedicated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and [having] a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith," etc. This is unmistakable. The inspired writer couples the brethren as such with himself in equal and perfect liberty of access to God within the rent veil. Such is the habitual title of nearness which the gospel confers now on the believer. An intermediate class of priests on earth is not only unknown but quite excluded. Its assertion is an inexcusable slight of scripture, and a shameless ignorance of the grace of God to us, in answer to Christ's death which for us has brought in eternal reality of acceptance with God, Jewish shadows being now superseded and gone. The notion of intermediate priests between Christ and the christian is apostacy from the gospel and return to Judaism. So bright is the truth in the scriptures that the simplest believer is responsible to see and hold fast his priestly privilege; so inevitable the inference that the subtlest disputer of this age essays in vain to deny it honestly. And Heb. 13:15, 16 cannot be evaded as further proof that the functions of priests are looked for in the offering up sacrifices, whether of praise or of well-doing and communication; not by priests for them, but by themselves as the only true priesthood on earth. He that opposes this is rebelling against the N.T.
But what of other scriptures? Peter is express to the same effect in his First Epistle, (1 Peter 2:5, 9). Christians are a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices, and a royal priesthood to show forth the virtues of Him Who called them out of darkness into His marvellous light. How wretched, how wicked, to imagine a fictitious order of priests in presence of such words of God!
The Revelation of John (the divine so-called) has no other voice, and this not merely in parts that speak of the future, like Rev. 5:10, Rev. 20:6, but in what unequivocally bears on our present relations to God as in Rev. 1:5, 6: "Unto Him that loveth us, and washed [or, loosed] us from our sins in His blood; and He made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father." This is the sole priesthood (besides Christ's) which the gospel owns. There is not a hint of an earthly priest for these priests, as the error assumes. The very idea is incompatible with Christian principles. To confound presbyter with priest is a fraud.
Nor is this all; though such a three-fold cord cannot be broken, save to the self-will which blindly fights for superstition against God's word thus widely in evidence and harmony. For every scripture, which since redemption speaks of its results to the believer, implies a similar standing for the christian. Thus in Rom. 5:2 through Christ we also have obtained and possess (ἐσχήκαμεν) access by faith into this grace wherein we stand. In 1 Cor. 6 not only washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God, but our body the Holy Ghost's temple; and in 1 Cor. 12 ourselves members of Christ, which is yet more intimate and high than priests. So in Gal. 3 we are all one in Christ and sons with the Spirit of God's Son sent forth into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Of Ephesians 3 one might cite a vast deal more and from perhaps every chapter; for the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ from the first is said to have blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ. Suffice it to quote for those not familiar with scripture, not only that we are Christ's body, but words so distinct as Eph. 2:13: "Now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh by [or, in] the blood of Jesus;" and again ver. 18, "Through Him we both have access in one Spirit unto the Father;" and again Eph. 3:12, "In Whom we have boldness and access in confidence through faith of Him." Farther, Col. 1:12 gives thanks to the Father Who made us meet [an accomplished fact] to be partakers of the saints in light, Who delivered us out of the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. What need of more? Of old the greatest privilege of a priest was the right to enter God's sanctuary. This is everywhere now the standing title of every christian, in a measure wholly transcending the degree of a Jewish priest. And this it is which is necessarily undermined by the pretension of a priest on earth between the christian and Christ or God. But it is a baseless figment; whereas the priesthood of all christians, the antitype of Aaron's house (only far surpassed), is the clear and certain truth of God, and of the utmost practical value for every believer every day, of which the fiction would rob him to the deepest dishonour of His grace.
Indeed it is a solemn consideration, for those professedly christian ministers who claim a sacerdotal place, to weigh the warning of Jude 11, lest they perish in the gainsaying of Korah. For his sin, so ruinous to himself and his followers, was proud discontent with Levitical service, and an impious pretension to the priesthood. It was rebellion against Moses and Aaron, types of Christ in this. Christian ministry is the exercise of a gift from the Lord, some, for the good of all, given and sent by Him. But all saints are priests made free equally of the true sanctuary. For some to usurp this nearness to God beyond and in denial of what grace has given to all the saints is without knowing it to misconceive and do away a prime blessing of christianity. It is to deny the grace of Christ and the efficacy of His work and the anointing of His Spirit.
But next the oracle declares that as without priesthood there can be no sacraments (an utter absurdity), so "without sacraments no spiritual life can he rightly imparted or adequately sustained." On this we join issue. They are alike dregs from the cup of "the great whore," and the latter as irreconcilable with God's word as the former has been proved to be null and void. It is the careful object of the apostle Paul, in an epistle devoted to church questions more than any other, to warn unwary souls that the so-called sacraments, far from really imparting or adequately sustaining spiritual life, may be possessed and rested on and gloried in where there is no such life but mere profession. Such is the divinely given admonition of 1 Cor. 10. These institutions of our Lord, Baptism and His Supper, have their weighty place, one as the initiatory mark of the christian, the other as the constantly recurring and corporate feast of the communion of Christ's body and blood. But to erect them into the channel and the sustainer of spiritual life is altogether to misunderstand (not these sacraments only but) christianity itself, and to prove that those who thus pervert them are rather Jews or even heathen in their thought than christians. These worshippers of ordinances ignore and resist and reverse the Spirit's warning. "I would not, brethren, have you ignorant how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples (or types)" (1 Cor. 10:1-6).
The theory of these men, Irvingites, Papists, Tractarians, etc., is that the sacraments are, as the most philosophical of such theologians taught, "extensions of the Incarnation." But first what has baptism to do with the Incarnation? The element is water, which in no way figures Christ's body, as the eucharistic bread does. Yet baptism, they insist, conveys life and is therefore the spring or basis of all! The theory therefore fails fundamentally at the outset. Baptism is not even a sign of the communication of Christ's humanity. There is no semblance of His sacramental presence in it. The truth of scripture is that baptism is burial to Christ's death, the manifest reverse of conveying His life. See Rom. 6; Col. 2; 1 Peter 3. Hence in the Acts baptism in His name is for the remission of sins (Acts 2) and washing away of sins (Acts 22), never for quickening, as these false teachers always assume.
So in the Lord's Supper we proclaim the Lord's death (1 Cor. 11:26), and hence in remembrance of Him we eat His body and drink His blood. Both are therefore sacraments of His death, not of Incarnation, as they wrongly say, wholly departing from God's mind. It is His body given (even if "broken" be rejected), His blood shed. This is not life, but death. And the difference is immense. For till Christ's death there was no bearing of our sins, no glorification of God about our evil, no redemption of the slaves of Satan. Both these divine institutions are grounded on that death of the Saviour which alone has brought us to God and reconciled us by a perfect atonement. The self-styled Catholic idea is essentially false, for it expresses no more than Incarnation at best, when the only work which could blot out our sins righteously was not done, but only in hope. And such is the spiritual experience generated by the error. They do not possess the joy of accomplished redemption. They have, as they say, a humble hope. But this is Jewish, not christian: quite right when our Lord was simply incarnate, and under the law; utterly and unbelievingly wrong now that He has died for our sins and is raised for our justification, having by one offering perfected for ever — without an interruption, εἰς τὸ διηνεκές — those that are sanctified, which all believers are. It is not the open hostile scepticism that denies the Incarnate Word; but it is real incredulity as to our present resting-place on His work as well as person, as set forth in both sacraments.
The fact is that even real christians feebly believe in the true gift to them of eternal life in Christ the Son of God. They lower it for the most part to an action by the Spirit on the mind and affections of man; so that he who was once indifferent, immoral, or hostile, now loves the Lord and devotes himself in repentance and faith to do His will. But this leaves out the all-important truth that we are truly born of God, and so are brought into the relation of His children by believing on Christ's name. "He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." Whatever the value of ordinances (and he who despises them despises His authority Who gave them), they are never in scripture treated as channels of life, but, as we have seen, as symbolic of His death.
Faith alone gives life to the soul that hears God's word. Hence all the O.T. saints were spiritually quickened as truly as we who now believe the gospel. And our Lord lays down in John 3 the necessity of new birth (born of water and Spirit) as the indispensable condition of seeing or entering the kingdom of God. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will surely be there, no less than we. There may be the unintelligent plea of circumcision, as in their case answering to baptism. But it is express that Abraham was justified in Gen. 15 before circumcision was instituted in Gen. 17, and the apostle as a certainty reasons on the importance of this fact in Rom. 4. Circumcision was but a seal of the righteousness of the faith he had whilst uncircumcised. The blessing was neither of the ordinance nor of the law which came in long afterwards but of the promise, and thus of faith that it might be according to grace — God's grace, not man's merit. And so it is now. It is judaising and worse to substitute an institution, however precious, for the Son of God and faith in Him and His work, which both quickens and justifies.
But this school always slights faith. It may be that some of them have no experience of it as a true work of the Holy Spirit in the soul. Others who perhaps are believers have heeded the fond dream of succession and priesthood and saving ordinances, which can never mix with the truth of the gospel, and hence in their blindness disparage faith is well as the power of redemption, though, thank God, they may still cleave to the glory of Christ's person. Solifidianism is an idle slur on those who possess Christ as life and righteousness.
And as John 3 is totally misunderstood, so is John 6 where the Lord sets forth, not an ordinance but His own person, first as the bread of God coming down from heaven, and giving life not to Israel only but to the world (32-50); next, giving His flesh for the life of the world, so that there was no life in themselves without eating the flesh of the Son of man and drinking His blood. It is not His incarnation only but His death; it is communion by faith with that precious death. Over and over again He shows that this is not a rite but to believe on Him and have eternal life. It is not the Lord's Supper, but the infinite truth itself of which the Supper is the sign. Hence, only understood thus, the words are absolutely true; whereas applied to eating and drinking sacramentally they become false every way. On the other hand we who believe in the incarnate Word rejoice with solemn joy in His death, without which neither God could be vindicated nor our sins be effaced; and assuredly one has life and looks for the Lord to raise him at the last day, as he meanwhile abides in Christ and Christ in him. On the other, who can be so infatuated as to say either that it is impossible to have life without the eucharist? or that a man, eating the eucharist, his necessarily eternal life and must be raised for the resurrection of those that are Christ's? The fourth Gospel does not occupy itself with external forms, but what is characteristically vital and bound up with the Father's grace and the Son's glory. Whereas these false teachers, knowing neither the scriptures nor the power of God, still less His sovereign grace and glorious counsels, are blind to the truth and pervert what they can in His word to exalt man, especially their own vain, self-assumed, priestly orders, and the superstitions they have picked up and espoused from the most corrupt streets of "the great city."
It may be added that while the Lord's Supper is in the strictest sense and fullest way the calling of Christ to mind, there is much more to the faithful than a sign or symbol. He vouchsafes His presence to be enjoyed there and then as nowhere else. Call this a real presence if you will; but it is not the grossness of a presence in the bread and wine, a dream worthy of a heathen. Consubstantiation is only less heinous than transubstantiation. There is simply "blessing" or thanksgiving — terms equally used when the Lord gave the bread and fish to the hungry multitudes. Consecration, as a sacerdotal act, is a mere superstition, a prelude to the mass.
There is another antichristian doctrine, common (it is true) to the sacerdotal system of all ritualists, on which it may be well to say a little — the notion of offering up Christ's body and blood to God in the eucharist. No doubt, Popery goes farther in the deadly evil both by the fable of transubstantiation (which naturally if not necessarily leads to direct idolatry) and by claiming for the offering the character of a true propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead. But, even in the most modified shape, any offering to God of the sacrament is not only opposed to all scripture but destroys the truth of its proper nature and aim. The appeal to the original of 1 Cor. 11:24 and Matt. 26:28 ("now" broken and "now" shed) is mere ignorance in Mr. Cardale (Readings upon the Liturgy, p. 32). It is the present participle, not of time, but of character, whenever the time might be, like John 1:29 and crowds of instances. He Whom God made sin for us sits at God's right hand, Who needs no memorial of that perfect and accepted propitiation for our sins. This memorial He has made His Supper to be to us and our forgetful hearts. It is not for a moment to be doubted too that He is in the midst of His own when gathered to His name, and in the happiest way for this holy feast. Such is His true and only real presence. That it is in the bread and the wine is a baseless and base idea, not worthy of a Jew or even a pagan. We are there invited to eat and to drink. It is in no way an offering of His body and blood, but communion with both: just as Jews partook of what had been sacrificed, and Gentiles too in their dark way. But our God is love as well as light, and gives us to sit at a feast on the great sacrifice of Christ's redemption. Thereupon Christ sits on high, because it is done once for all, as its efficacy endures for ever, and even its application. There is no repetition. If there were renewed offering, there must be renewed suffering (Heb. 9:26). But it is finished; and we feast with thanksgiving and praise, doing this in remembrance of Him, and showing forth His death till He come. Presentation before God is a vain addition which spoils the revealed intent; and so does the mixing up our worship with Christ's priestly intercession, which has another and wholly distinct object.
Never in scripture is either the Lord's baptism or Supper treated as a mystery, "the great spiritual mystery," as these men say of the latter. There are mysteries in abundance, once hidden, now made plain, precious, practical. Sacraments are not included in that category. One initiatory, the other constant, they had their wise and good place as His institutions; but, being external forms, they afforded a handle to religious imagination; and Christendom has made them into calves of gold to worship its own handiwork. If divine order is prized by believers, how can they depart from the holy and beautiful simplicity of that feast Christ bequeathed to us, and took care to give in three Gospels, and to reveal afresh to and by the apostle Paul? A more systematic and chilling departure can hardly he conceived than these "Readings" disclose to one imbued with the unworldly order of the scripture accounts. Are we not to believe His will therein reflected for us to follow? Let us bold fast the traditions as Paul delivered them to us.
On the theory put forth to justify as well as explain the sacramental system, insuperable difficulties confront these superficial theologians. They are self-deceived in their thought of effectively opposing rationalism by the truth. They ignore divine grace and scripture. Their own scheme is no better than religious rationalism, as opposed to that of profane sceptics who deny even a mediator, and especially the one Mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus a man. No believer contests that blessed and cardinal truth, the all-importance for God and man of the Incarnate Word. But the sacramentalists reason on the Incarnation simply, and reason wrongly, instead of believing that the Incarnation only presents the Saviour in that condition which was essential to effect redemption, but which in itself by no means did or could effect it. On the contrary the manifestation of God as light and love in Christ was more and more hateful to man, to Israel in particular; because it condemned their dark selfishness and utter insubjection to God, the end of which was the cross. Therein God laid the sole, adequate, perfect, and everlasting ground of deliverance for all that believe. The bloodshedding of Christ vindicated God's long forbearance, and made it righteous, not only to go out with the gospel to every soul, but to justify him that has faith in Jesus. This is certainly not man's righteousness (which was just then proved wholly wanting in Jew or Greek) but God's. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are the divinely given and standing expressions of the Saviour's death, not merely of His Incarnation. Judaism ends with that cross which is the basis of Christianity. The initiatory sign as truly sets before the soul the death of Christ, as does that central feast of thanksgiving which the christian observes, on the Lord's day especially, till He come. Apart from His death the signs have no meaning but a false one. They are founded on His finished work and proclaim His death. Till then the full trial of man was not a fact; nor the complete proof of divine love shown; nor God glorified to the uttermost, any more than man's wickedness consummated; nor sin judged before God and borne away to faith by the only availing sacrifice. Only in the cross was this done and more.
Hence it is evident and certain that the sacramental system stops short of christianity, by its own avowal that the sacraments are extensions of the Incarnation; because, if so, all these essential truths of christianity are not the ground, but only the hope as under the legal system. These men abide on the Jewish side of the cross, not on the christian. They are still under law, and priesthood, and offerings. By their own showing, if the sacraments are but the continuation of the Incarnation, they cannot express the privileges of accomplished redemption. They retrograde. Such is sacramentalism in principle. It is not christianity, but a mongrel superstition.
The whole doctrinal basis, essential to keep up earthly priesthood and worldly sanctuary, stops short of the saying grace of God that characterised the gospel; according to which baptism and the Lord's Supper have their true place and right meaning as expressions of that death which delivers alike from sin and the law and the world by the dead and risen Saviour.
Even on their own ground of religious speculation, which is blind to the force of the rent veil, and shrinks back unbelievingly from that one sacrifice that purges the conscience from dead works to serve the living God, the theory fails at the threshold. For how is baptism an extension of the Incarnation? Whatever appearance there may be in the eucharist, there is none in the water. Again, The theory is that, while Baptism gives life, the Supper sustains it. But this does not agree with John 6; for the eating there is not sustenance but quickening without the smallest reference to baptism. "For the bread of God is He that cometh down from heaven and giveth life to the world" (ver. 33). This contradicts the theory. Still plainer is ver. 51, and ver. 53 most conclusive, where all else is excluded, and eating the flesh of the Son of man and drinking the blood are said to be such, that otherwise "ye have no life in you." In every respect the sacramental theory breaks down at the touch of scripture.
Popery alone can boast complete consistency of error; for to make good the refusal of the cup, they fall back on eating all without drinking; that is, the theory is that the blood is still in the body. Theirs therefore is, with fatal unconsciousness, a sacrament of non-redemption, as another has well shown. How true the Saviour's decision: "By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned"!
DOCTRINE. §8. TITHES, etc.
With an earthly priesthood naturally goes the provision of tithes. No one doubts that it was obligatory on Israel under the law, and that it was paid in patriarchal times (Gen. 14, 28). It is a religious debt from man to God on earth.
But the redemption that is in Christ Jesus changes all things, or, as is said in the Epistle to the Hebrews, the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of law. For the Christian there is no priest but Christ Himself in God's presence on high. In another and real point of view all Christians are themselves priests. Every other notion of priesthood as now subsisting is false. And so for the Christian, for the church of God, any such provision is ignored in the N.T. Nor is this casual, but goes essentially with our heavenly relationship, even while we are personally here below. We are not of the world even as Christ is not. Temple, priesthood, victims, incense, rites, etc., were all alike earthly. The Christian is heavenly though on earth for the present.
Hence it may be observed that all who contend for tithes are wholly ignorant of the true and heavenly nature of the church, and for the most part fall back for support on what was said of old before the Son of God came and brought in all that now characterises His own. If we are subject to the suited revelations of the Holy Spirit, we understand at once that it could not be otherwise without the grossest confusion. For we, believers now, are all members of Christ, and of Christ when exalted and glorified at God's right hand. As such is our privilege, of this nature is our responsibility. The sacrifice of Christ has blotted out our sins, and brought us nigh to God perfectly and therefore equally. A human or earthly priesthood is necessarily excluded, and evidently so, save where the efficacy of His death is clouded. Again, the Holy Ghost, on the ground of that accepted work, was sent down to baptize into the one body of Christ. This in no way sets aside the differences of place it pleased God to establish in the assembly. There are those whom He set first, and others in inferior position. There is all variety of gift; and this in exercise constitutes ministry. Nor is scripture silent that whether in the gospel or among the saints such are entitled to support and honour in the name of the Lord. But that one christian should act as priest for others has no place save in the unauthorised tradition of man. The mere idea offends against the absolute nearness which Christ's work imparts, and the oneness of the body through the Spirit's presence and action. Consistently with this we hear no more of tithes. Any such earthly due to a religious caste nearer to God disappears.
The principle they lay down shows how far they are even from the perception of living christianity. For they distinguish as Jews from voluntary offerings the tithes as due to God in right to dispose of as He thinks good. Now the gospel overturns all this through the surpassing grace of Christ and His fully revealed truth. For we are bought with a price, not our possessions only but ourselves, and are called to glorify God with our body, not merely with tithe and a freewill offering to boot. The Christian slave even is Christ's freedman the Christian master is His bondman. Christ is all and as He elevates the lowest into liberty of the truest and most enduring kind, so he makes the highest that know Him to be His willing slaves. And as to what self would call its possessions, the Lord has ruled (Luke 16) that we are but stewards now in what men view as ours. We do well to follow what was commended in the Unjust Steward. If faithful now in what is Another's, He will in the day of glory give us what He is pleased to call our own, even the true riches which have no wings and where is no thief. Hence the wisdom from above is to make to ourselves friends out of the mammon of unrighteousness, that, when it shall fail, we may be received into the everlasting tabernacles.
We are waiting for the appearing of our Lord. When Christ receives His own things, so shall we. As to all in our hands now, faith makes us disown the title of sense or reason, waiting for the day when with Him God will freely give us all things. For we are heirs of God an joint-heirs with Christ, and are meanwhile to walk by faith, not by sight. Along with this it is of the essence of the gospel that we were called for freedom, only not for the flesh (which we own condemned irremediably and by divine judgment in the cross), but through love servants one to another, because we are His. It is, or it ought to be, clear therefore that the Catholic Apostolic society is so much the more guilty in all this, because they profess to see what the church of God is, as they at any rate know that, and others in general do not see it; and again, because they claim the action of the Holy Spirit whose ministration is in Scripture set in the Strongest contrast with that of the law which could only gender bondage, condemnation, and death. How distressing then to find that no dark traditional system of human thought and will exceeds, if it equal theirs, in turning back to the weak and beggarly elements whereunto they desire to be in servitude over again!
The following extract from the Regulations for the distribution of tithe (as given in Mr. Miller's Vol. ii. Appendix IX) will show, without argument, how far Irvingism is removed from Christian institutions and in principle Jewish, with all sorts of additions devised like Jeroboam's out of their own heart. The hand of lawyers is too plain in all.
" 1. Every ordained priest, being a fixed and regular Minister in a Church, and giving up his whole time to his spiritual duties, receives some proportionate part of the Tithe of the Church. Such proportion (that is, the ratio, not the amount) to be the same in all Churches, and to be subject to arrangement by the elders of the Church Universal in such manner as circumstances may from time to time require. Supernumerary priests do not receive any fixed proportion of tithe, but may receive support from tithe in the manner thereinafter appointed."
" 2. Every called priest, giving up his time to preparation for his spiritual duties, and to such subordinate offices as may be required of him, and every deacon giving up his time to his duties, may lawfully receive support from the tithe of the Church in which he is serving, after providing for the Angel and those already ordained to the priesthood."
" 3. In every Church the number of fixed and regular priests who, under Regulations, are to receive proportionate parts of tithe, is not to exceed the following: namely, one Angel, one Angel's Coadjutor, and such a number of priests as with the Angel and Angel's Coadjutor shall not exceed one to every fifty of the regular communicants. Nor in any Church is the number of fixed and regular priests to exceed the following: namely, Angel and Angel's Coadjutor, six Elders, six assistant Elders, and thirty-six other priests, of whom at least one third should be Prophets and Evangelists. Any other priests employed in the service of the Church are to be considered supernumerary, and not entitled to fixed portions of tithe."
" 4. The precise number and class of fixed and regular priests who are to receive tithe in any Church within the above mentioned limits, will from time to time be decided by the Apostle in charge of the Church (i.e. of Tribe), whose sanction is also necessary of all supernumerary priests."
What need of more, unless it be the opening of the Regulations in 1858, nine years after those cited? God having: given the Tithe of our Increase to be the endowment of His altar, He has placed the particular application of the same under the direction of the Apostles Did it never occur to these persons that we have the Lord preparing the way for christianity and the church in the Four Gospels, but not a hint of Christian tithe! We have a precise and comprehensive history of the gospel and the church, and the chief servants of the Lord for about thirty most eventful and instructive years, written by all inspired hand; but not a hint even here! We have Epistles written by the most honoured in various ways of the apostles, expressly providing divine light, didactic, exhortatory, ecclesiastical, and pastoral; but not a hint in one of them!
We all ought to know how solemnly the apostles spoke of the departure at hand for the Christian profession. So it was, as the Spirit predicted. Even during the earliest generation the testimony of the apostle Paul was very largely a series of conflicts with the inroads of Judaism even more than of Gentile philosophy. When his work closed, the ruin became as rapid as complete; but no one erred so grossly as to advocate tithe any more than priesthood among Christians. No doubt these mistakes and worse evils which defaced Christianity too soon followed.
Nor have any pushed to greater lengths the corruption from the simplicity and the purity that is toward Christ, cloaked under the plea of development. Scripture clearly warrants the use of water in baptism, of bread and wine in the Lord's Supper. How does either give license to bring in the use of lights, incense, vestments, and the like, to say nothing of holy water? It is all impeachment of the fulness of divine wisdom in the written word of God, a presumptious uprising of the church, instead of that single-eyed obedience which is of all price in God's sight. No doubt, the O.T. is also invoked to eke out the desired end. But this is unintelligent abuse, in the face of our authoritative instruction in the N.T. which gives the key of Christ to explain the spiritual meaning of these Levitical symbols, closed for the Christian in His work and offices, as the Epistle to the Hebrews shows us. To introduce them outwardly into the Church is to Judaise in fact, When God tried by law, man rebelled and violated it; when God proved its impotence and nailed it to the cross, man cleaves to it and makes it his idol, consistent only in his antagonism to God's will and glory.
The theory is a return to what was annulled in the cross as God made evident when the veil of the temple was rent from the top to the bottom. What was this but God desecrating what once was holy? As He of old set aside Shiloh, so He did then with His house in Jerusalem, a yet more solemn and evident proof: only that He means to take it up again when the Lord returns to reign over the earth. Meanwhile all is gone for any such thing on earth. The sanctuary which the Lord pitches, and not man, is exclusively in heaven; and the true light which now shines makes manifest to the believing Jew (and of course to all others) that the sanctuary of the law was essentially worldly (Heb. 9:1), as its sacrifices, ritual, and priesthood were but carnal ordinances.
This is what the Catholic Apostolic body, more guilty than others, would resuscitate from the grave of Christ, instead of holding fast the faith of Him dead, risen, and glorified, and drawing near to Him within the Holiest where He is. For this, and nothing less, we are exhorted to do now, though and while we are on earth. And therefore in the Epistle to the Hebrews faith is insisted on, not here so much to get life and righteousness and peace, as to worship and walk in it as a practical principle covering and influencing all our conversation here below. Therefore are those addressed so earnestly Warned against craving after sensible objects and palpable helps, to which they had been accustomed in Judaism. On the face of it too all the church in Apostolic days met in the humblest way. It was not for lack of means or of liberality. There was no compulsion, no iron bond of law; but as many as were possessed of houses and lands sold them, and brought (not tithes, but) the prices of the things that were sold and laid them at the apostles' feet; and distribution was made to each, according as any one had need. It was a bright outshining of devotedness as they looked for the return of the Lord, the grace of Whom made earthly things of no account save to use them in love to each other.
But it never occurred to these saints, still less to the inspired apostles, to use their substance. in purchasing or erecting fine buildings, or in departing from the original simplicity of the Lord's supper by the adornments of gold and silver, of pearls and gems, of purple and fine linen. They were as far as could be from borrowing the rhetoric of the schools to set off the truth, or from imitating in honour of the Father and the Son the musical attractions of Jews or Heathen in their defunct or dark systems respectively. We belong to Him Who is not here but risen and on high.
The ground of this radical difference is as obvious as it is all-important. In Christianity all that is justly boasted is the grace and truth that came by our Lord, and is now enjoyed by the power of the Spirit in the written word. It is no longer the mountain, nor even Jerusalem. As true worshippers we worship the Father. It must be, to be acceptable, in spirit and in truth. God and the Lamb are before the heart, which is led by the Holy Ghost to look on the unseen and eternal, the heavenly things, not the earthly.
As this bright reality faded for the saints of old, they lapsed more and more into Jewish thought and feeling; and natural resources were called in as faith grew feeble and low. Then the O.T. prophecies got misapplied, as the true and heavenly and earth-rejected character of the church was lost; so that baptized men began to dream that Israel was for ever blotted out to make room for the Christian profession to enjoy earthly blessing, honour, and power. Thus was all the characteristic testimony of the church swamped; and the mystery of iniquity wrought into the mystery of Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the abominations of the earth.
There indeed earthly splendour is essential, for grace is unknown and truth is perverted and corrupted, if Babylon is to commit fornication with the kings of the earth and to intoxicate those that dwell on the earth. How sad to see those who used to profess the truth which judges this enormous imposture and unblushing worldliness now fallen in principle and practice into a similar dark pit! Yet who can wonder that, having lost the truth of the cross, they mind earthly things even more than the mass of Protestants?
DOCTRINE. §10. SYMBOLISM.
It remains now to examine the system of symbols, in the sense not of confession of faith, but of sensible forms before the eye, which Irvingites have elaborated in their late history. It is known that this development is due to the prophets so called, notably to their first pillar, Mr. Taplin. Here again we have distinct, undeniable, departure from the inspired authority of the true apostles and prophets to Judaising. The divine institution of Baptism and the Eucharist gives no warrant for the least addition, still less for wholesale invention, unrecognised in the N.T. for the church of God. Wherever introduced by man, it is essentially an alien, as it is a supplanter of faith. Now we walk by faith, not by sight. There is no legitimate adoption of it beyond divine authority. New objects of the kind are but idols; and well it is, if superstition degrade not what the Lord instituted into kindred evil. It is for Him to command, for the church to obey. It is not for us to initiate but to follow. All else is but presumption and indeed rebellion.
But let us hear what these men plead as cited* from "Symbols used in worship." "A type is that which is something absent and future; as for example Adam was a type of Christ; the sacrifices of the law were types of the sacrifice of Christ. A symbol, on the contrary, is something used to set forth and signify things really present, but unappreciable by the senses. It may also present a visible memorial of additional important truth. For instance the light which is kept burning before the altar, when the holy sacrament is there, symbolises to us the Lord's invisible presence; but it is also from its very nature a memorial to us that He who is our life is our light also; and not ours only but 'the light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.' . . . Symbolism is in fact the science of exhibiting invisible truth by visible and appropriate signs, in order that our senses may be made the helps and handmaids of our spirits, and we may be the better able to worship God. If this end be not attained, symbols are useless." Then the brass, the silver, and the gold of the Jewish Tabernacle are referred to, "a gradual increase of costliness from the court to the holy place, and from thence to the most holy. Doubtless these things typified different degrees of spiritual worship; but they also symbolised the truth that the more sacred the place and service the more costly should be the means employed. A palace is not furnished like a cottage; a drawing room is not furnished like a kitchen. We do not appear before a king in mean raiment. . . . It is barely possible for purity of heart to co-exist with voluntary impurity, either of our dwellings or of our persons." To read such effusions of naturalism is painful coming from men professing Christ; but alas! Christendom is so fallen from faith that not a few outside this party accept the sentiment as just in the main and apposite.
* In Miller's vol. ii. 308-311.
John 4 overthrows the system; as does the Epistle to the Hebrews expressly. The hour has come when the ritual of Jerusalem, divinely appointed though it was, is passed away. The rival way of Samaria or of aught else is vain. It is a question of worshipping the Father: His children alone are competent, having received the Spirit of adoption by which they cry Abba, Father. The hour now is, when the true worshippers worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such doth the Father seek to be His worshippers. God is a spirit. and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. The Lord had previously spoken of His giving the Holy Spirit (verse 14), without which Christian worship cannot be. Then, as we have seen, He contrasts it even with Levitical service, and intimates that it alone is now acceptable. For God is no longer hidden as in Judaism, but revealed in His Son which changes all and brings in what is new and eternal; and as God is seeking in fulness of love as a Father, so He can only be worshipped in spirit and truth as suits His nature. It is no longer man tested by law on the ground of what he ought to do. Rejecting the Messiah, the Son, they are proved to be lost and dead, like the poor Samaritan, till Jesus quickens them, and gives the Holy Ghost; and the Father's grace is thus known as seeking even such and making them His own, thenceforth true worshippers.
The Epistle to the Hebrews indicates a similar result in connection with the purifying of the conscience by the blood of Christ and His entrance into heavenly glory, before which the earthly ordinances of Israel fade into nothingness. Yet are they beautiful types if rightly apprehended as shadowing the "better thing" now come in Christ. But it is a retreat from the true light which now shines to set up under the gospel symbols of our own or borrowed from the law. This is to go back to type or symbol where God has given us the blessed anti-types. We are no longer babes needing such pictures. The Christian is of age, as Gal. 4 insists to counteract an analogous turning back to rudiments now discarded, and pernicious when thus misused.
Apostolic practice entirely falls in with this, if we allow for the gracious patience of God in gradually weaning those who had been Jews from the temple and its connected observances. But even from the beginning of the church nothing can be plainer or more certain than the simple and unworldly character of all that was found in "their own company" (Acts 4:23). They broke bread "at home" (Acts 2:46). Years after Pentecost we never hear of grand or beautiful buildings, which assuredly, if in any way an object, they had heart and means to erect. The utmost we hear of is "the upper chamber" to break bread in (Acts 20:7, 8), or of the school of Tyrannus where the apostle daily discoursed, or lectured (Acts 19:9). Not a trace in the inspired record, not a hint, of the earthly splendour of the Jewish temple sought to be imitated or exceeded in the church of God. On the contrary, all the evidence of the N.T. points to a total change of principle, because God was calling out and forming a body on earth to walk and worship by the power of the Holy Spirit in the faith and enjoyment of a Saviour enthroned in heaven, Who gave them each and all to draw near boldly to the throne of grace. Without doubt we are thus as believers, in presence of a glory revealed to us but not to the world, which pales all the pretentious efforts of architecture, or music, or eloquence in Christendom; yea, which is expressly compared with the law given by Moses, (even though this had unequivocally divine sanction for the time and the end then in view), in order to assert its immeasurable superiority.
Christ risen and exalted on high, in virtue not only of His person but of His work on the cross, is the centre of the surpassing glory, a glory with which we have the fullest association assured to us now, and of which the Holy Spirit Who has anointed us is the seal, as He is the earnest in our hearts. No Christian questions that "the annulled" system, the law, was with glory when and as introduced by God; but how much more does the ministration of the Spirit and of righteousness, "that which abides," exceed as it subsists in glory! There is one thing however absolutely needful for appreciating this truth, faith (alas! how rare) in holding fast our present heavenly relationship to Christ, as simply as the burdened conscience looks to Him dead and risen, and finds justification and peace with God. How could brass or silver or gold or precious stones, how could fine linen or blue or scarlet or purple, mingle with such worship? The thought of severing the members of the one body by a greater or less nearness answering to the court and the Holy place and the Holiest demonstrates the blankest ignorance of Christian standing and worship, as well as of the true meaning of their instructive shadows.
So does the argument founded on the symbols of social position, or of the distinctions in a household It is a return to man and nature under divine government, out of which the gospel now takes even Israelites to give a new and unheard-of intimacy by union with Christ, and this to Gentile no less than to Jewish believers. It is, to frame a human analogy, pleasing to the flesh and essentially of the world, when God calls to a heavenly reality even while we are on earth, which is the proper testimony of our faith in an unbelieving and hostile world.
It is the remark of one who wrote before me on this subject, and more forcibly than the author himself knew, that the incarnation is bound up with symbolism. But he ought not to have degraded it by pointing as examples to the Buddhist, or the Moslem, or the Quaker. For we have shown already, that however precious a truth Incarnation is, to stop short there is to stop short of Christianity. "For the love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live to themselves but to Him Who for their sakes died and rose again. Wherefore we henceforth know no one after the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to flesh, yet now we know Him [so] no more. Wherefore if any one is in Christ [there is] a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold they are become new; and all things are of God Who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." This is Christianity. Christ, the Incarnate Word, was still minister of circumcision till He died for our sins and rose and ascended to become Head of the Church by divine counsels. Eph. 1, Col. 1. How few look on the unseen and heavenly objects which give character to worship!
Professed teachers are not entitled to ignore the characteristic truths of Christianity. Hence the doctrinal care in the N.T. to call away from earthly temple, officials, and rites, to the one sacrifice of infinite efficacy, to the one Priest after the Melchisedec order but Aaronic exercise, only far beyond either type, and to the heavenly and the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched and not man. To see the accomplishment of all in Him is the real honour of the ancient types; to reproduce them on earth and by men is the darkness of unbelief. And amazing it is that any bearing the Lord's name can so trifle with such scriptures as Heb. 7:12, 18, 19; Heb. 8:6-13; to refer to no more, though one might well press Heb. 9 and the first half of Heb. 10
What can be more overwhelming than the condemnation poured on symbolism among not only Irvingites but Romanists of every shade (for they differ almost as much as Dissenters, and to talk of their unity is the merest self-deception) by the apostle's word in Heb. 9:1, in speaking of God's house in Israel where the symbolism was divine throughout. In the light of Christ at God's right hand, the sanctuary is pronounced "a worldly one." How much more all imitations, under the direction of Mr. Taplin or any other man since! This is the irrevocable decision of the Holy Spirit for the Christian. So in verse 24, Christ is said to have entered, not into holy places made with hands (like Aaron or his sons): these were but figures of the true. The heavenly things which Moses saw were really the originals which the tabernacle reflected. And now the true assume their place and moment; and Christ, having obtained everlasting redemption is gone into heaven itself now to appear before the face of God for us. The way into the true holies is now made manifest; and we are invited and exhorted to draw near within, for the veil is rent. Not incarnation, but Christ's shed blood alone makes us free by faith to approach boldly. Symbolism in effect denies the cross and leads us back to Judaism. Let every believer take warning: it is an enemy of Christ and a snare to souls, however fair a show in the flesh. Nothing can excuse rebellion against the Lord as He is now revealed in heavenly glory.
What judgment (we think) ought to he formed of the Irvingite movement is not doubtful to anyone who has followed the notices now drawing to an end.
It is not meant that they have not much truth of an important kind, and of truth neglected if not wholly ignored by Protestants (of Romanists we need not speak now). They have a vivid notion, not the reality, of the church of God, and consequently make a great deal of its unity as a principle and fact to be made good on earth before the Lord comes to receive us to Himself and present us in the Father's house. They accordingly and justly insist on His coming to receive us as the one and divinely given object of hope, and discard as false the vain dream of Christendom in general that all the earth is to be gradually brought to His feet by Christian measures, still less by human mixture of a more palatable kind, or even by the operations of God's providential hand. They duly recognise that it is an honour reserved not for a fallen church, but for Christ, yet not in this or in aught else without the work of the Holy Spirit also, but Himself personally present in manifested power to establish the kingdom under the whole heaven, while the risen saints reign over the whole earth with Him; though in this last, as was pointed out, not even their apostles were clear.
Again, they are not blind to the prevalent unbelief that thwarts the effectual working of the Holy Spirit, while owning that grace has not failed to work, spite of the multiplying hindrances from man's self-sufficiency, in an age characterised more and more by that self-exalting spirit in the fatal error of progress and the growing license of self-will, the revolutionism often peaceful, always onward, of today. They confess that all that is for good and God's glory in man must be of the Spirit sent down from heaven to glorify Christ Jesus, the Second Man. Further, the revived hope of the church, and the new interest in prophetic inquiry, drew attention not only to the church's future glory, but to the splendid prospects of Israel and the out-spreading of blessedness for all nations under the reign of the Son of Man. And the earth at any rate was seen to be the destined theatre of the magnificent dealings of God, beyond whatever has been, for the exaltation of His Son and the holy peace, joy, and righteousness of the race, to God's glory.
This could not be without bringing into just prominence the King as well as the kingdom; and the humanity of the Lord was recovered from the neglect which had shrouded it, in the minds of even the most pious, for centuries. It is not that true believers questioned that He was perfect Man as well as God the Word made flesh, or would have in general failed to reject and resent any doubt cast by the Enemy on the Incarnation. Still the discussion, kindled by the really earnest study of prophecy long neglected, made it plain that men of reputed orthodoxy were false to the plenary inspiration of scripture on the one hand, and on the other to the real humanity of the Lord Jesus. The Irvingites took an active part in opposing the unbelief of many Protestants, and even leaders of religious thought and action in Great Britain, as elsewhere.
But soon, immediately one might say, their accredited organ began to betray fundamental unsoundness in the very vital point which they said, not without reason, to be growingly compromised by others that seemed to be Pillars.
If the Evangelicals left in the shade the grand truth of the Lord as Man in all the moral glory of His humiliation, and were absorbed in the efficacy which His work acquires from the Deity of His Person, Mr. Irving and his associates fell rapidly into sentiments, first unguarded and daring in their speculations and inferences, and full soon irreverent, heterodox, and deadly. It was well to recall saints from the dry bones of systematic divinity; but Satan availed himself of many hearts returning to Christ as a really living One with Whom we have to do in the fulness of grace, and of the Father's love incomparably better known in consequence, to dishonour, lose, and in effect deny Him come in the flesh, when they flattered themselves that they most of all were true to His Incarnation. By the flesh in which He came, they taught contrary to scripture and even the ordinary confession of Christendom in its most degraded state, "that the Son of God by birth of His mother was in the condition of a sinner," and this in contrast with the truth that God made Him sin for us on the cross; that He was "conscious of the motions of the flesh and of the fleshly mind, in so far as any regenerate man is conscious of them when under the operation of the Holy Ghost," and that even "He could say until His resurrection, Not I, but sin that tempteth me in the flesh." This is not the faith of Jesus, but antichristian blasphemy. Yet the author of it was their most honoured and cherished teacher, beyond all ever known among them, and, till his death, angel or bishop of their most influential church.
As Christ is the truth, falsehood to His Person, whether on the divine nature or the human, is fatal. The Lord knoweth them that are His, and may discern in the depths those whose hearts are true when their lives are steeped in error. But we can only judge, and are bound to judge, by the confession made. And it is true charity to gloss over no evil imputed to Christ, any more than falsification of His work, if peradventure those ensnared may be recovered, and others may be warned and kept from the delusions of the enemy, to say nothing of what is and ought to be our prime call, the vindication of His honour to Whom we owe everything precious both now and for eternity.
It is a matter of course, therefore, that having allowed this foul aspersion on Christ's humanity, and consequently asserting another than the true Christ of God, every other part of the truth is dragged down into the mire of fallen humanity. They thus exhibit the sad spectacle of combining the acknowledgment of a great deal of truth, rarely found in Christendom and of course nowhere else, with the effects of that error at the core which vitiates the body right through to every extremity.
Hence the church, though nominally a heavenly institution, becomes in their hands the most worldly of societies claiming to represent the Lord here below: an affair of as fine buildings as they can erect, and as near the Jewish model as is possible on any pretence of Christianity, with costly array in most hues of the rainbow, beyond the garments of Babylon itself, with all the pomp of official degree, with incense, lights, and holy water, with priests,. altar, and sacrifice, as if we were not Christians but Jews. And along with this system of meretricious show, so dear and reverent to the natural man, the pretension to prophetic utterances and other displays of assumed power in the Holy Ghost, which they declare is not man, and we are sure is not God; from what source therefore?
For those who have eyes of faith to discern, it is evidently a going back from the unseen objects on which the Christian and the church are taught to look habitually; and as the apostle told the Galatians when adopting not the hundredth part of the weak and beggarly elements embraced by Irvingites, it is a turning again to that idolatrous religion of the world, from which the faith of Christ is meant to deliver once and for ever, as the Holy Spirit is our power acting by the written word. For a religion of form and symbol, which was employed by God's authority as a test of Israel before Christ and His redemption, has another character now that man, Israel in particular, and the world are proved enemies of God in the cross. For a Christian to take up Jewish elements (and nowhere is this so patent as in Irvingism, along with the confessed and utterly incompatible presence of the Spirit), is like a Gentile who had given up his idols returning again to that evil bondage.
Irvingism therefore stands before us to an extravagant degree guilty of a deliberate and elaborate effort to unite the elements or principles of the world with the claims of church privileges and Christian truth. This is essentially and altogether inconsistent, the very principle of that Babylon (the confusion of light and darkness) against which in earlier days there was no end of declamation. No wonder therefore that even truths they teach degenerate, very often losing their true and heavenly character for a Jewish measure and mould. Thus the coming kingdom they set forth simply on its earthly side. They have no real grasp of our intimate associations with Christ on high. They abound with denunciations of judgment; and if they hold out a hope, it is not the proper translation of the whole church of God (and of the O.T. saints also) to meet the Lord on high, and so be ever with Him, but a perverted use of Zoar in Genesis, and of the sealed in Rev. 7, and of those that follow the Lamb on Zion, as an inducement to accept their spurious apostolate and join their party. Alas! what is this but self-deception? It is neither grace nor truth in Christ, but a snare for souls by a false and mischievous abuse of God's word. What kind of unity or catholicity or apostolicity is this? Certainly not of the Holy Spirit.
If these charges are well founded, there is no need of repeating smaller though abundant proof of departure from the truth God has revealed to us. The church, the assembly of the living God, is the basis of the truth. If that which the base sustains, and the pillar proclaims, is not the truth, neither does God acknowledge as His. Christ is the truth; but the church is the responsible witness of it before the world; and what claims to be the church, but is a false witness, God disowns, as we ought also. It is an instrument for deceiving souls the more dangerous in proportion to its pretensions. If false in the main, the more truth it presents along with deadly error, the greater the snare. Unmixed error in fact could not attract the God-fearing; but lofty claims of the church, of apostles and prophets, of pastors and teachers, etc., might be ensnaring to souls weary of vain talk and modern inventions, especially when such claims follow testimony to the evident truth of a speedily coming Saviour, which acts on the conscience and makes souls anxious to do the will of God. In this way many a soul has been attracted from the emptiness of Nationalism and Dissent, ashamed afterwards to leave what was found out little answering to its promise.
Irvingism did not, more than the other sects of Christendom, take its stand on obedience, the only true, humble, and holy principle for such as find themselves in the midst of ruin and departure from God, as scripture predicted was to be. The revealed safeguard then is the written ward. They like others yearned after power, in unbelief that we have power in the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. Hence the cry of unbelief was answered by evil operations of the enemy, which endorsed and sealed antichrist as the truth. Humiliation was and is the due place, self-judgment, but withal confidence in the grace of our God, and absolute subjection to the truth; not pretending to more than He gives us, with deep thankfulness for all that abides. Thus should we as saints, ceasing to do evil, learn to do well, as we await in peace the coming of our Lord. We have indeed little strength: but may we keep His word and not deny His Name.
May grace use the present warning to convince the children of God within, or looking to, it, that the Catholic Apostolic body is to be shunned and abhorred for its anti-christian error, whatever else of truth may be found there.