from Memorials of the ministry of G. V. Wigram.
Vol. 2, Part 1, Ecclesiastical.
There is but one holy universal Church. It was formed by God at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit (the promise of the Father) was sent down by Jesus (Lord and Christ in heaven) to form it, and to dwell in it. He makes all its parts to be one body, from Pentecost to the Lord's return. He works everything that is of God in them and by them, and is Himself that which makes them to be fitted for the Head glorified on high.*
*It is the promise of God, the Holy Spirit dwelling down here on earth among the quickened sons of God, which fits them and constitutes them the one Church — the body of that glorified Man, born of the Virgin Mary by the overshadowing, to whom it was said, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall he called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35) There is a unity of the Spirit and a unity of the faith. (Eph. 4:3, 13.)
Our marks, as members in particular of Christ, and also as a society or fellowship, are to be both "inclusive" and "exclusive." "Called out from evil and to be filled up with good," is every child of God, and it is such only who are in position in the body.
When first taken up we were all badness, and the good alone in God. But He shined into us the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ, sealing it with His Spirit, who formed in us an incorruptible seed, and made us partakers of the divine nature. The evil was covered and met to faith by Rom. 6; the good found and made ours in spirit by Eph. 2:4-10. The Church, however, is on earth, in a wicked world, and all and each individual in it has the law of sin and death in the vessels into which the treasure has been put. We have to bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus therefore; and are always delivered unto death. For two reasons: 1st, we have sinful flesh, and Satan is near; 2nd, because God would have it hourly tested, and seen that the excellency of the power of keeping us is of God and not of us. His way is the way of resurrection from the dead, in lifelong application. If evil breaks out, He judges it, for He is holy. God separates us from ourselves by forming and keeping Christ in us, who are changed into the same image from glory to glory.
The Church is, then, and each member of it must be, both inclusive and exclusive; and the excluding of evil by the including of the perfection of good, God in Christ, sealed home by the Spirit, as marking us to be Christ's through His quickening power.
God used the Christ in humiliation (Rom. 6) to meet and free us from all that was contrary to us in nature, and to give us power over sin. God used the Christ in Eph. 2:4-10 to separate us unto the very highest blessing in pure goodness. Included and excluded were in God's mind; let included and excluded be in your minds and in mine.
I was an atom, in perhaps the two hundred and fiftieth generation from Adam and Eve; six millenniums nearer the great white throne than was the hour of shutting out from Eden. I am now part of a company fitted for, espoused to, Christ; about to be the Bride, the wife expectant, of the Lamb.
Sin and its torrents of woe saved from! A loving Saviour, my portion and my home! Sin and death judged; righteousness and life eternal gloried in!
In PRACTICE — the first duty down here, as to others, is to own and to confess and maintain the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and the Church as God set it up. According to that I am to include myself and all that are Jesus Christ's, and are walking as saints — as those that are to exclude both all sin, and those that will walk contrary to the blessed truth we have received. The God-made church did so while intelligently under the rule of the Spirit and the Word. Many a man-made church cannot do so. Its self-made laws prevent it; or man-ruled, it sees not why it should do so, or how it can, as having members of its ownself, receive those who are not such.
The Church, object of faith, in the Word, counts that every true child of God is, to God's mind, a member in particular of Christ, that his place therefore is at the table, and that, to God's mind, he is subject to all the discipline of the Church, and of the house of God on earth. We must do likewise; include all such as on the muster-roll of God's Church, and as those who are excluded from sin's and world's and Satan's way.
Unholiness in theory, morality, doctrine, or practice, puts anyone under discipline (various in measures), for the chaste virgin espoused may not walk heedlessly. And discipline comes in correctively.
We cannot give up the faith as to the unity of the Church, nor act as if we did by going there where it has been and is denied; and we are bound by God's rules as to holiness, and can recognise no child of God who is unholy, save as being under the Father's or the Lord's discipline.
It is asked, "Would you receive a godly member of an independent church to 'occasional communion?' or of one of the national establishments?"
Faith answers: "A child of God is a member of Christ, and is of the Church militant. All such we receive, because Christ has received them; they are permanently members of His body, though they know it not. If any such come, who are walking as the Word enjoins, receive them." If they come on that ground, all their own practical inconsistency rests with themselves. If I accepted them on the statement to "occasional communion," I make myself guilty as sanctioning that which the Word does not. It is one's duty, however, to them in love to explain to them, that all who are at the table are equally included under the doctrine and discipline of the written Word. This, I have found, has deterred many. But discipline is of the Lord and the Father, and many shirk owning themselves subject to it.
Again, in the fifty isms of the day there are some, the error and principles of which would forbid, by the fear of the Lord, any one who is of it being received. A Jesuit might be indeed a child of God, and wish to come. Faithfulness would say, "No; your avowed principles justify 'doing evil that good may come.'" So of Romanism. Socinianism denies Christianity.
A congregation ("Independent of the Independents." as its form is called in England) in Bristol acted, and persisted in acting, as if neither it nor its (so-called) members were responsible as believers to avoid indifferentism to the glory of Christ. Faith says, "Touch not the unclean thing, accredit not its letters commendatory, receive none such; they are not clean." Often there is leaven working and making itself manifest in the conduct, and that might exclude; and, alas! often does.
It is very kindly of denominational congregations to receive, or to be willing to receive, to the communion any who, not having their names in the book of "the members of it," might wish or be willing to be there; but they are not consistent in doing so, or if they have a clause in their rules to sanction it, that is a second departure from Scripture, as much as is their constitution.
But faith is consistent; it sees every child of God to be a member of Christ, and if not otherwise disqualified, it can receive him or them without difficulty.*
*Wherever the special membership of a humanly made and arranged church (as in nonconformity and national churches) is owned, the universality of God's Church is ignored so far forth; and their reception (as they say for occasional communion) of one not a 'regular member' is a practical inconsistency with them. Not so with those who, acting in faith of the universal church, can and ought to receive all who are holy. Holiness may not be compromised. Better walk alone all one's days than grieve the Holy Spirit.
This is what one writing against the special membership of dissenting and self-made churches, assigned as one argument against their position: "If I am a member of the whole body, I am a member of the parts of this body, which meet in divers places; it is not a question of becoming such — I am such already. This is the principle I have always maintained, and on which I have insisted and acted. By the very fact that I am a Christian, I have all the claims of a member of the body wherever I may be found. It is not a right which I acquire by joining any particular body; it is a right which I possess as a member of the body of Christ."*
*The Collected Writings of J. N. Darby. (Ecclesiastical.) Vol. 1.
Strong ground for the one who is acting as honouring the holy universal Church of God, and not man-made national, or dissenting churches. But this existent fellowship with the sons of God everywhere in God's Church universal, which forces [Peter saw that he must either accredit Cornelius and the work of God in his house, or give up his own standing, "Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gifts as unto us, who believed on the lord Jesus Christ, what was I, that I could withstand God?" (Acts 11:17)] me to own them, does not obliterate that other word, "Holy." It grows out of it, to say the truth. The holiness is the parent of the universality. Our holiness is our separation from evil by the power of good revealed in us.
Receive therefore, I should say, every child of God who is walking with God.
But do not let your own distinctive position or ground be lost sight of or covered over; to quote a favourite text, "Let them return to thee, but go not thou to them." And insist too, I should add, upon discipline as being over all.