Discipline and Unity in the Assembly.

Extract from letter by J. S. Oliphant, 1920.

. . . The Spirit and the Word of God remain. Every assembly truly gathered in the name of the Lord and acting upon the truth of the unity of God's assembly is responsible to maintain "in its own sphere" what is due to the Lord, the Head of the Assembly, whether in reception of saints on adequate testimony to godliness, or in the exercise of scriptural discipline with a view to the maintenance of holiness, practical unity and fellowship. That there has been grievous failure in maintaining a true testimony to Christ and the unity of His body on the earth, cannot be denied, and those who are kept abiding in His love will be humbled about it for the rest of their journey. The breakdown of corporate testimony or witness of those amongst so-called Brethren has been complete, and scripture affords no hope of the restoration of parties as such, where the candlestick has been removed through unfaithfulness and departure from the scriptural ground of gathering. This does not imply that the Lord's promise of His presence in the midst of His own, Matt. 18:20, will not continue till His return. It is in truth His provision for His own in sovereign grace and for His pleasure from the commencement to the end of the history of His Assembly, which displaced the Temple as the Jewish centre on earth, for "wherever only two or three are gathered together by Himself, and maintained in the power and truth of His holy name, there He is in the midst of them." There is, consequently, a rallying centre instituted and maintained by Himself, the centre of unity, where individuals may find Him and enjoy with others all the blessings flowing from His presence and the power of the Holy Ghost; and, until the end, the word in Heb. 2:12, will be fulfilled: "I will declare Thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the Assembly will I sing praise unto Thee." But the conditions as to being gathered in His name exclude the notion of the amalgamation of parties, or the rebuilding of the Church, or restoring meetings which have either failed to deal with leaven, or have separated without scriptural authority from any Assembly answering to the conditions ensuring the presence of the Lord, and therefore trusted by other Assemblies acting under the Lord by the Spirit, outside and apart from what answers to the Camp in Heb. 13:13. I have said advisedly "any Assembly answering to the conditions ensuring the Lord's presence," because He is there, the acknowledged Head and Centre, and where He is and His presence realized, there He is paramount, and acts by the Spirit in the midst. Moreover, however feeble, a true Assembly represents Himself and His Assembly everywhere, and acts in His Name for the whole Assembly, Christ and His Assembly being One. But the Spirit is still the witness in Christendom, testifying of Christ, and, "He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches." The address to Philadelphia proves that in the darkest time at the close of the Spirit's day, the hearts and consciences of individuals are exercised by His power, so that the phase therein described as passing under the eyes of the One who says: "I know thy works" is acceptable to Him; but neither Philadelphia nor Laodicea can be regarded as any corporate ecclesiastical organization. They are rather a state or condition of things contrasted, the former being pleasing to the heart of Christ, the Holy and the True, who makes "His own" conscious of what He values, so that a revival is the result, and keeping His word and not denying His Name by those who, though they only have a little strength, use what they possess to please Him; and the latter so nauseous, being lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, that it leads to the professing body, proud of being rich and increased with goods, being spued out of the mouth, or cast off as a false witness by "the faithful and true Witness." This state is rapidly developing, and there is no remedy, for Christ is already outside the condition. But in His longsuffering goodness and mercy, He still gives counsel and stands at the door and knocks; there is therefore still hope for individuals, and if any man hear His voice and open the door, He will enter in and bring such an one into communion with Himself and into the possession of "gold tried in the fire," "white garments" and "eye salve"; and to "Him that overcometh He will grant to sit with Him in His throne, as He overcame and is set down with His Father on His Throne."